• He Answered Them

Short Exegesis Of Genesis 2


This is a short exegetical essay of Genesis 2:1-3. The verses here mark a conclusion to Genesis chapter 1, therefore should be considered as inclusive to that text. The passage comprises a neat epilogue to the creation work by God through the initial six days of creation and introduces us to the creation ordinance of resting on the seventh day; this theme will be later expanded upon as the institution of the Sabbath in Exodus 20. Although the passage appears to be of a narrative form, we can note a chiastic structure (A,B,C,B,A) which creates a subtle poetic symmetry to the passage. The triple use of “seventh day” highlights the eloquence of the writing which gently leads us into verse 2b and draws us back out again as below:

(A) [1] Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.

(B) [2a] By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done,

(C) [2b] and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

(B) [3a] Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,

(A) [3b] because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.


Conservative scholars would hold that Moses wrote the book, under inspiration, in B.C 1450-1410 during the time of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. More modern scholarship would suggest a later compilation date of circa B.C 1060, during the reign of King David. However, the literary complexity within the Pentateuch may place the final date as late as circa B.C 600 with the “unknown redactor”. Furthermore, it may be helpful to note that scholars who attest to the documentary hypothesis, have suggested the P source as a possible origin.


Exegetical Detail

2:1. Thus God finished His work, indicating all labour had occurred and completed. The verse frames a new subject matter within the preceding text; perhaps this explains the decision to mark a new chapter which does not quite sit appropriately given the thematic continuation: the theme of “yom” or days. Important here to stress the Hebrew word “Kalah” which is used throughout Genesis to indicate total completeness of an action, a later example arising is Noah’s completion (Kalah) of The Ark in Gen 6:16. So, there is to be no more creation from this point onwards; God had already passed His judgement in Gen 1:31, when He surveyed all He has made, and declared it “very Good”.

The use of “hosts” is interpreted by the NIV translation, amongst others, as “in all their vast array”. The Hebrew word “tsaba”, which is in use here, normally comes with a militaristic meaning within scripture. Perhaps most widely understood in the context of “the heavenly hosts” it infers a multitude, which goes some length to justify the NIV choice. What is trying to be conveyed here, after all, is the entirety of denizens of Heaven and Earth. Certainly, the connotation of military force is not fitting. The NASB translation avoids it completely by using “all their heavenly lights”. Yet this translation brings up a theological flaw, in that, science tells us stars are still being formed today (heavenly lights refer to stars); thus, God’s creation work must still be ongoing and presents a contradiction within the text. Heavenly lights must therefore be made from existing, previously created, material to fit the logic of this verse.

2:2. We encounter an issue here which the Septuagint and the Syriac Bible sought to address with a substitution of “seventh day” for “sixth day”. A literal reading of the Hebrew text can lead one to the conclusion that God performed some work on the seventh day: “and ended God on the day seventh His work”. However, the use of the Hebrew “asah” shifts this slightly by forming what is almost a tautology: “and ended God on the day seventh His work He had made” The implication that His work had been undertaken prior to the seventh day is backed by v 2:1. Further to this, Bible authors consistently use repetition to highlight importance, by substituting sixth day with seventh day this would alter that pattern and thus reduce the significance. The NIV translation avoids any confusion by using tense to clarify that “by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing”.

“And He rested”, here we have the first occurrence of the Hebrew word “shabath”. This would go on to be divinely mandated within the Sinai covenant, but its usage here is merely that of God ceasing to work; elucidated in John 5:17 that it is not all work he desisted from, only that of creation works. In the passage of John’s gospel Jesus states “My Father is always working, and so am I”. Several biblical commentaries draw attention to the fact that ceasing of work by God does not stem from a weariness from labour, more a satisfaction with the product of it. In Isaiah 40:28 the prophet speaks of the eternity of God and how He does not grow tired or weary.


2:3 If we are to include these verses as part of Genesis 1 as previously posited, the blessing of God occurs for the third time, marking an approval and denoting its significance by the triple repetition. The animals of v22 and the humans of v28 are blessed in their fruitfulness and multiplicity for perpetuity. With the implication that blessings are perpetually observed, then so too is the idea of a divine instituting of a rest day. Moreover, the day is “Qadash”, sanctified or consecrated, bestowing a particular honour upon it which sets it apart. Here we see the beginning of a “Kingdom of Grace” as God transfers His favour, indicating that it can be given to others or as a judgement passed to things. A notable translation variance is found with the use of “on it He rested” to “in it He rested”. The implication of the latter is that God rested within the blessing and sanctity of the seventh day, as opposed to on the day in of itself.


Conclusion


As noted in several commentaries, and my introduction, these verses illustrate the divine will of God to have His creations rest one day out of seven; by being made in the imago dei, it follows that we should also observe a day free of work by lead of His example. This creation ordinance predates the Mosaic Law therefore it justifies the theological significance of Sabbath keeping for both Jews and Christians.


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