Beginnings (7): Genesis 2

The Literary Bridge 

As we saw last time, Genesis 2:4 is the opening verse of the second account of Creation: it begins the second “story of heaven and earth when God created earth and heaven”. This verse is very interesting for several reasons: first of all, it occurs several times in the Torah, opening some major divisions in Genesis. Secondly, elsewhere in Genesis it’s always translated as “These are (the records) of the generations…”, so maybe here too it should be translated: “These are the generations of heaven and earth…”. Finally, this sentence often serves as a   literary bridge, connecting and holding together two parts of a story; the best example would be Genesis 37:2 where, after the sentence: “These are the generations of Jacob,” the story moves entirely to Joseph. Here, this verse holds together two parts: the story of Jacob, before this verse, and the story of Joseph, which starts right after.

In the light of this, we can clearly see the significance of the almost identical opening sentence of the New Testament: “The record of the generations of Jesus Christ”[1]. This sentence is also like a bridge connecting and holding together two very important parts of Scripture: the Tanach and the New Testament. The point that the writers of the New Testament make, is very clear: these parts relate to each other in the same way as the story of Jacob and Joseph, or the two creation stories, relate—the second part cannot be read without the first. And even though there is a clear division between the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” in every Christian Bible, the words “Old Testament” are actually very misleading. One might think it unnecessary to read the Old in order to know the New: this is not true at all – and this beginning, one of the most Jewish beginnings you can imagine, proves it! We would not read Genesis 2 without first reading Genesis 1, would we? In the same way, we can’t rightly understand the New Testament without reading and understanding Tanach.

 

The Vertical and the Horizontal

In the previous article, we spoke about two accounts reflecting the dual nature of man. There is no doubt that the Adam of chapter two differs significantly from the Adam of chapter one. However, we assumed that the explanation of this dual account has to be sought in a dual nature of humankind rather than in two different sources. Along with the Jewish sages, I claim that these two accounts are not two different and contradicting—rather, they are two different pictures of the very same story, but taken from two completely different angles.

Let’s take a closer look at Adam in both accounts. The first chapter presents Adam’s horizontal projection—the role and the functions he would have on the Earth and towards those living with him on this Earth. This Adam has to successfully play his social role and successfully fulfill his social functions in his relationship to the others; not only that, however, but in all these relationships and functions he is to reflect God’s image!

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”[2]

The man we see in the second chapter is still the same Adam – and in our next reflection, we will see the amazing proof of that statement – but now the picture is taken from a completely different angle, now we see the vertical projection: we see Adam in his relationship with heaven, in his communication with God.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [3]

Last time, we saw that even the order of the words in the two accounts was completely opposite: whereas the first chapter begins with the famous “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, it is said in chapter two: “the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. The account of chapter 1 starts with the heaven and proceeds to the earth and those inhabiting it, whereas the account in chapter 2 starts with the earth and those belonging here. And it is in this second account that we see that this Adam, who is “formed… of the dust of the ground”, is destined to – and longing to – be part of the heaven. Each one of us has these two Adams – these two projections inside of us: the one, that plays a social role and fulfills all the social expectations and functions (and may God help us to bear His reflections and His image in all these relations with the others  – that  they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven),  and the one,  that longs to  be in God’s presence and to be part of the heavenly realm.

 

Two Yods

Is there anything in the Scripture that makes this dual nature evident? In Genesis 2:7, we see God forming (vayitzer) man from the dust of the ground. Of course, all the words of this fascinating verse are spelled perfectly correctly when read in translation. However, when reading it in Hebrew, one immediately notices a very unusual spelling of this word (vayitzer) – instead of one “yod” at the beginning of this word, there are two consecutive “yods” here.

According to Jewish understanding, every word and every letter of the Scriptures are significant. There is no such thing as repetition by mistake: if a letter or word is repeated, there is an underlying message to be recognized and understood. Thus, the Jewish commentators see each of these “yods” as standing for the word “yetzer,” meaning ‘inclination’. The Yetzer HaTov (good inclination) is the moral conscience, the inner voice that reminds us of God’s law when we are about to break it. The   Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination) is the selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs; it’s not a bad thing by itself, but if left unchecked or unlimited, it can lead to evil. According to Judaism, the very presence of these two “yods” indicates that, from the very beginning, humanity was formed with these two impulses, with both good and evil inclinations—that God has created man with a dual nature.

 

[1] Matt.1:1

[2] Gen.1:27,28

[3] Gen.2:15-17

 

The insights you read on these pages, are typical of what we share with our students during DHB (Discovering the Hebrew Bible) or WTP (Weekly Torah Portion)  classes. If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying  in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding  eTeacher courses[1] (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

If you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them  from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/  . My last book “Unlocking the Scriptures”, with the Hebrew insights into the Torah and  Jewish Background insights   into NT,  is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=unlocking+the+scriptures+by+julia+blum&crid=2IHYED6W7ZVYI&sprefix=julia+blum+%2Caps%2C689&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_11

[1] At this point, we offer WTP course only in English, while DHB course exists both in Spanish and Portuguese.

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Join the conversation (6 comments)

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  1. Luis

    Thank you. Your articles explain so much and answer questions in our minds, yet they lead to many more questions to ponder. It’s the reason I await your articles.

  2. Michael Toliver

    Hello Professor,
    I wrote this reply in number 4, but it was late. Your insight on the Hebrew is outstanding, especially the part on the shadow. Certainly, the English does not give us that understanding but I found it to be enlightening! Thank you for taking the time to post some of your knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew language in relation to the Bible.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Michael, I so appreciate your kind words and am so glad you find these articles interesting and helpful! Blessings!

  3. Nick

    Thanks for explaining the origin of the two “Yetzers”. Beautiful! The original sin idea is perhaps too heavy handed.
    Sincerely, Nick

  4. Donald Ashton

    Julia,
    You are completely right that we have one complete Bible with four connected parts – Torah, Prophets, Writings and the Apostolic writings. Everything is built on the foundation of Torah, without which we cannot correctly understand anything.

    I love your description of the ‘toledot’ phrases.joining sections of the scriptures together. They are clearly not an introduction to the following section, as some would suggest, but neither are they just a termination of the previous section.

    Your comment on the two yods in 2:7: were you thinking of the first yod with a dagesh chazak being doubled to make two, or was the second one the mater for the hireq-yod long vowel?

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words Donald, I am glad you find my articles helpful. As for your question regarding two “yods” in Genesis 2:7: this is not my specific area of expertise, and I don’t think I should offer my comments or answers in this area. My apologies!