Beginnings (8): Genesis 2

And He called

From our discussion of Genesis 1, we know that God’s word was the central part of the whole creative process – and the verb VaYikra (and He called) reflects that. God gave names to what He created, and by doing that He called them into existence.
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night[1].
And God called the firmament Heaven[2]
.
And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas[3]
.
In light of this, it is significant that the very first thing that we see Adam doing (not just commanded to do, but actually doing), is giving names – VaYikra – to all the animals:

And the man gave names (VaYikra ) to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field[4].
Why is that so important? Because here we can see a clear connection between those two seemingly contradictory accounts of creation that we discussed previously: Genesis chapter one and chapter two.  We know that, whereas a man in chapter one is created “in God’s own image,” in chapter two Scripture doesn’t say anything about creating man in God’s image or according to His likeness. One can easily think that we have two different Adams here – the one created in chapter one, and the one created in chapter two. Therefore, this testimony of the very first action Adam performs in chapter two is crucially important. If indeed, the very first  thing this Adam did was actually repeating God’s  action, I suggest we can see that as a proof of the fact that the Adam of chapter two is still the same Adam of chapter one—created in His image and according to His likeness. Once again, these are not two different and contradicting stories, but two different pictures of the very same story and of the very same man, but taken from two completely different angles.

Just an Assistant?

I decided to begin this series because I realize how many important details are lost in translation, specifically in these first chapters of Genesis. And yet these chapters are absolutely crucial; we can learn so many profound things about God’s plan and design for our lives from the original Hebrew words.  In particular, the words that are used to describe the creation of the man and the woman are very important and enlightening. For instance, in English In Genesis 2:20 we read: “but for Adam no fitting helper was found”. What is the meaning of the original Hebrew words behind the expression, “fitting helper”?

Since almost all English translations render these words as “fitting helper”, “suitable helper” or “helpmeet”, a woman has traditionally been understood as a man’s assistant, as a kind of the second-class creature. Most people believe that God created a man for some primary roles and responsibilities, and he then created a woman for some secondary, assisting roles. Is it really true?
The key to the answer to this question is found in the original Hebrew words   כְּנֶגְדּוֹ עזר (ezer kenegdo). The basic meaning of the word neged, is “opposite”; thus, “the helper” (ezer) is supposed to be “opposite” to the man. This very word, kenegdo, means that the creature that God creates for Adam will not be higher or lower – rather, it will be an equal, perfectly corresponding to him.

Can you imagine? The meaning is very different from what most of us have been taught. In these words, we can find not only the Creator’s original plan for a man and a woman, but for their union as well. God designed a marriage to be a union in which husband and wife are equal and complement one another: ezer kenegdo. I believe that, for many husbands and wives, recognition of this original design of marriage might be eye-opening, and even healing.

Naked or Cunning?
We are moving to Genesis 3 now—entering the most dramatic story of the whole Bible, the story of the Fall. But where does this story begin? Did you know that for a Hebrew reader, the beginning of this story is different? The last sentence of the chapter we’ve been dealing so far, chapter two, tells us that Adam and Eve “were naked” and “were not ashamed”. We then move to the story of the Fall in chapter 3 and read that “the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field.” Translated, these verses have nothing in common, and there is no connection whatsoever between Adam and Eve being naked and the serpent being cunning. However, it’s very different when read in Hebrew. “Naked”  in Hebrew is arum (here we have the plural word for “naked”, עֲרוּמִּים  arumim ), and the word “cunning” in Genesis 3:1 is arum, so these words basically come from the same root. Why?
This is yet another example of the amazing depth of the Hebrew language. At first glance, the connections between these words might seem strange and unexpected, however after serious contemplation one can understand how deep and profound these connections are. First, one might wonder: why would the same root mean both naked and cunning? But moving from one stem (binyan) to another, we can discover the hidden inner logic connecting these words: from “to be naked” to “to make naked, to uncover” – hence, “to be impudent, spiteful, cunning.”
Now we understand that it’s not physical, but spiritual nakedness that is first of all meant here—being outside of God’s covering. According to some Jewish commentaries, before Adam and Eve sinned, their bodies were clothed with light, because God Himself was their covering. We will talk more about that when we enter chapter 3. The commentaries say that when they sinned, they placed themselves outside God’s covering and that is why they had to use garments of skin – whereas the Serpent was outside God’s covering from the very beginning.
Thus, for a Hebrew reader the word “naked” (arumim) in Genesis 2:25 immediately connects the first couple with the “cunning” (arum) nature of the serpent. The last sentence of chapter 2 introduces the subsequent story of human disobedience—it’s like a bridge, an extremely important and profound bridge, connecting one chapter to another in Hebrew, but disappearing in translation.

 

 

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

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[5] (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

 

[1] Gen. 1:5

[2] Gen.1:8

[3] Gen.1:10

[4] Gen.2:20

[5] 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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  1. […] doing that He called them into existence.God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night[1].And God called the firmament Heaven[2].And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering […]

  2. David Hereford

    Thank you Julia for sharing your insights as you labor in His Work for you. The description of the serpent is so enlightening as we see his intentions all along Father’s story. Having our LORD as Master and LORD of the present moment is so vibrant here as we live for His glory!
    Thank you

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom David, it’s really nice to hear from you! Glad you are still following the blog. Thank you for your kind words!

  3. Ann Bowyer

    Thanks for that, Julia. So simple – and yet so profound. And for me it clarifies two things in particular. Firstly, the most accurate reading of ‘helper’ being ‘complementary equal’ rather than assistant. And secondly, the close relationship between the words ‘naked’ and ‘cunning’. Spiritual nakedness makes us vulnerable to the enemy, Satan, who is both evil and cunning. Adam and Eve were initially clothed with light (God’s covering) – but once they were outside God’s covering, they became vulnerable to the ploys of Satan. Hence the need for a physical covering, which God graciously provided.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Ann, I am so glad this article has clarified some things for you. it is indeed absolutely crucial for us to understand clearly these first chapters, there is so much we can learn from there regarding God’s plan and God’s intentions for our lives – and also, regarding the dangers of being “naked”, physically and spiritually.

  4. Beth

    Shalom Julia, Thank you so much for these “ beginning” insights. I’ve never been satisfied with the other insights I’ve heard, plus mine. Something was always wrong. I can grasp yours better. Most grateful for all you teach. God bless you and your work.

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Beth, thank you for your kind words. I am really glad you find these insights helpful. Blessings!