Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis 2:4-7

Genesis 2:4-7

 - Part II. The development

 - Section II - The Man

 - X. The Field

4. תולדות  tôledôt "generations, products, developments." That which comes from any source, as the child from the parent, the record of which is history.

יהוהyehovâh. This word occurs about six thousand times in Scripture. It is obvious from its use that it is, so to speak, the proper name of God. It never has the article. It is never changed for construction with another noun. It is never accompanied with a suffix. It is never applied to any but the true God. This sacred exclusiveness of application, indeed, led the Jews to read always in place of it אדוני  'adônāy, or, if this preceded it, אלהים  'ĕlohîym, to intimate which the vowel points of one of these terms were subscribed to it. The root of this name is חוה  chāvâh, an older variety of היה  hāyâh, which, as we have seen, has three meanings, - "be" in the sense of coming into existence, "be" in that of becoming, and "be" in that of merely existing. The first of these meanings has no application to God, who had no beginning of existence.

The last applies to God, but affords no distinctive characteristic, as it belongs equally to all objects that have existence. The second is proper to God in the sense, not of acquiring any new attribute, but of becoming active from a state of repose. But he becomes active to the eye of man only by causing some new effect to be, which makes its appearance in the world of sensible things. He becomes, then, only by causing to be or to become. Hence, he that becomes, when applied to the Creator, is really he that causes to be. This name, therefore, involves the active or causative force of the root from which it springs, and designates God in relation with the system of things he has called into being, and especially with man, the only intelligent observer of him or of his works in this nether world. It distinguishes him as the Author of being, and therefore the Creator, the worker of miracles, the performer of promise, the keeper of covenant. Beginning with the י  (y) of personality, it points out God as the person whose habitual character it has become to cause his purpose to take place. Hence, אלהים  'ĕlohîym designates God as the Everlasting, the Almighty, in his unchangeable essence, as he is before as well as after creation. יהוה .noitaer  yehvâh distinguishes him as the personal Self-existent, and Author of all existing things, who gives expression and effect to his purpose, manifests himself thereby as existing, and maintains a spiritual intercourse with his intelligent creatures.

The vowel marks usually placed under the consonants of this word are said to belong to אדוני  'adonāy; and its real pronunciation, which is supposed to be lost, is conjectured to have been יהוהyehovâh. This conjecture is supported by the analogy of the supposed antique third singular masculine imperfect of the verb הוהhāvâh, and by the Greek forms ΙΑΩ  IAW and ΙΑΒΕ  IABE which are found in certain authors (Diod. Sic. i. 19; Macrob. Saturn i. 18; Theodoret, Quaest. xv. ad Exod.). It is true, indeed, when it has a prefix all its vowels coincide with those of אדדי  'adonāy. But otherwise the vowel under the first letter is different, and the qamets at the end is as usual in proper names ending in the Hebrew letter ה  (h) as in others. יהוהyehovâh also finds an anology in the word ירחם  yerochām. In the forms ΙΑΩ  IAW and ΙΑΒΕ  IABE the Greek vowels doubtless represent the Hebrew consonants, and not any vowel points. The Hebrew letter ה  (h) is often represented by the Greek letter α  (a). From יהוה  yaheovâh we may obtain רהוּ  yehû at the end of compounds, and therefore, expect יהוּ  yehû at the beginning. But the form at the beginning is יהוyehô or יו  yô, which indicates the pronunciation יהוה  yehovâh as current with the punctuators. All this countenances the suggestion that the casual agreement of the two nouns Yahweh and Adonai in the principal vowels was the circumstance that facilitated the Jewish endeavor to avoid uttering the proper name of God except on the most solemn occasions. יהוהyehovâh, moreover, rests on precarious grounds. The Hebrew analogy would give יהוה  yîhveh not יהוהyehovâh for the verbal form. The middle vowel cholem (o) may indicate the intensive or active force of the root, but we lay no stress on the mode of pronunciation, since it cannot be positively ascertained.

5. שׂדה  śādeh "plain, country, field," for pasture or tillage, in opposition to גן  gan, "garden, park."

7. נשׂמה  neśāmâh "breath," applied to God and man only.

We meet with no division again in the text till we come to Genesis 3:15, when the first minor break in the narrative occurs. This is noted by the intervening space being less than the remainder of the line. The narrative is therefore so far regarded as continuous.

We are now entering upon a new plan of narrative, and have therefore to notice particularly that law of Hebrew composition by which one line of events is carried on without interruption to its natural resting-point; after which the writer returns to take up a collateral train of incidents, that are equally requisite for the elucidation of his main purpose, though their insertion in the order of time would have marred the symmetry and perspicuity of the previous narrative. The relation now about to be given is posterior, as a whole, to that already given as a whole; but the first incident now to be recorded is some time prior to the last of the preceding document.

Hitherto we have adhered closely to the form of the original in our rendering, and so have made use of some inversions which are foreign to our prose style. Hereafter we shall deviate as little as possible from the King James Version.

The document upon which we are now entering extends from Gen_2:4 to Gen. 4. In the second and third chapters the author uses the combination אלהיםיהוה  yehovâh'ĕlohîym "the Lord God," to designate the Supreme Being; in the fourth he drops אלהים  'ĕlohîym "God," and employs יהוהyehovâh "the Lord," alone. So far, then, as the divine appellation is concerned, the fourth chapter is as clearly separable from the second and third as the first document is from the present. If diversity of the divine name were a proof of diversity of authorship, we should here have two documents due to different authors, each of them different also from the author of the first document. The second and third chapters, though agreeing in the designation of God, are clearly distinguishable in style.

The general subject of this document is the history of man to the close of the line of Cain and the birth of Enosh. This falls into three clearly marked sections - the origin, the fall, and the family of Adam. The difference of style and phraseology in its several parts will be found to correspond with the diversity in the topics of which it treats. It reverts to an earlier point of time than that at which we had arrived in the former document, and proceeds upon a new plan, exactly adapted to the new occasion.

The present section treats of the process of nature which was simultaneous with the latter part of the supernatural process described in the preceding document. Its opening paragraph refers to the field.

 

Genesis 2:4 "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,"

This verse is the title of the present section. It states the subject of which it treats - "the generations of the skies and the land." The generations are the posterity or the progress of events relating to the posterity of the party to whom the term is applied (Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 37:2). The development of events is here presented under the figure of the descendants of a parental pair; the skies and the land being the metaphorical progenitors of those events, which are brought about by their conjunct operation.

It then notes the date at which the new narrative commences. "In their being created." This is the first or general date; namely, after the primary creation and during the course of the secondary. As the latter occupied six days, some of the processes of nature began before these days had elapsed. Next, therefore, is the more special date - "in the day of Yahweh God's making land and skies." Now, on looking back at the preceding narrative, we observe that the skies were adjusted and named on the second day, and the land on the third. Both, therefore, were completed on the third day, which accordingly is the opening date of the second branch of the narrative.

The uniqueness of the present section, therefore, is, that it combines the creative with the preservative agency of God. Creation and progress here go hand in hand for a season. The narrative here, then, overlaps half the time of the former, and at the end of the chapter has not advanced beyond its termination.

אלהיםיהוה  yehovâh'ĕlohîym "the Lord God." This phrase is here for the first time introduced. אלהים  'ĕlohîym, as we have seen, is the generic term denoting God as the Everlasting, and therefore the Almighty, as he was before all worlds, and still continues to be, now that he is the sole object of supreme reverence to all intelligent creatures. Yahweh is the proper name of God to man, self-existent himself, the author of existence to all persons and things, and manifesting his existence to those whom he has made capable of such knowledge.

Hence, the latter name is appropriate to the present stage of our narrative. God has become active in a way worthy of himself, and at the same time unique to his nature. He has put forth his creative power in calling the universe into existence. He has now reconstituted the skies and the land, clothed the latter with a new vegetation, and peopled it with a new animal kingdom. Especially has he called into being an inhabitant of this earth made in his own image, and therefore capable of understanding his works and holding conversation with himself. To man he has now come to be in certain acts by which he has discovered himself and his power. And to man he has accordingly become known by a name which signalizes that new creative process of which man forms a prominent part. Yahweh - he who causes the successive events of time to come to pass in the sight and in the interest of man - is a name the special significance of which will come out on future occasions in the history of the ways of God with man.

The union of these two divine names, then, indicates him who was before all things, and by whom now all things consist. It also implies that he who is now distinguished by the new name Jehovah (יהוה  yehovâh) is the same who was before called 'Elohiym. The combination of the names is specially suitable in a passage which records a concurrence of creation and development. The apposition of the two names is continued by the historian through this and the following chapter. The abstract and aboriginal name then gives way to the concrete and the historical.

The skies and the land at the beginning of the verse are given in order of their importance in nature, the skies being first as grander and higher than the land; at the end, in the order of their importance in the narrative, the land being before the skies, as the future scene of the events to be recorded.

This superscription, we see, presupposes the former document, as it alludes to the creation in general, and to the things made on the second and third days in particular, without directly narrating these events. This mode of referring to them implies that they were well known at the time of the narrator, either by personal observation or by testimony. Personal observation is out of the question in the present case. By the testimony of God, therefore, they were already known, and the preceding record is that testimony. The narrator of the second passage, therefore, even if not the same as that of the former, had to a moral certainty the first before his mind when composing the second.

 

Genesis 2:5 "And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground."

This verse corresponds to the second verse of the preceding narrative. It describes the field or arable land in the absence of certain conditions necessary to the progress of vegetation. Plant and herb here comprise the whole vegetable world. Plants and herbs of the field are those which are to be found in the open land. A different statement is made concerning each.

Not a plant of the field was yet in the land. - Here it is to be remembered that the narrative has reverted to the third day of the preceding creation. At first sight, then, it might be supposed that the vegetable species were not created at the hour of that day to which the narrative refers. But it is not stated that young trees were not in existence, but merely that plants of the field were not yet in the land. Of the herbs it is only said that they had not yet sent forth a bud or blade. And the actual existence of both trees and herbs is implied in what follows. The reasons for the state of things above described are the lack of rain to water the soil, and of man to cultivate it. These would only suffice for growth if the vegetable seeds, at least, were already in existence. Now, the plants were made before the seeds (Genesis 1:11-12), and therefore the first full-grown and seed-bearing sets of each kind were already created. Hence, we infer that the state of things described in the text was this: The original trees were confined to a center of vegetation, from which it was intended that they should spread in the course of nature. At the present juncture, then, there was not a tree of the field, a tree of propagation, in the land; and even the created trees had not sent down a single root of growth into the land. And if they had dropped a seed, it was only on the land, and not in the land, as it had not yet struck root.

And not an herb of the field yet grew. - The herbage seems to have been more widely diffused than the trees. Hence, it is not said that they were not in the land, as it is said of field trees. But at the present moment not an herb had exhibited any signs of growth or sent forth a single blade beyond the immediate product of creative power.

Rain upon the land - and man to till it, were the two needs that retarded vegetation. These two means of promoting vegetable growth differed in their importance and in their mode of application. Moisture is absolutely necessary, and where it is supplied in abundance the shifting wind will in the course of time waft the seed. The browsing herds will aid in the same process of diffusion. Man comes in merely as an auxiliary to nature in preparing the soil and depositing the seeds and plants to the best advantage for rapid growth and abundant fruitfulness. The narrative, as usual, notes only the chief things. Rain is the only source of vegetable sap; man is the only intentional cultivator.

 

Genesis 2:6 "But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground."

As in the former narrative, so here, the remaining part of the chapter is employed in recording the removal of the two hinderances to vegetation. The first of these is removed by the institution of the natural process by which rain is produced. The atmosphere had been adjusted so far as to admit of some light. But even on the third day a dense mass of clouds still shut out the heavenly bodies from view. But on the creation of plants the Lord God caused it to rain on the land. This is described in the verse before us. "A mist went up from the land." It had been ascending from the steaming, reeking land ever since the waters retired into the hollows. The briny moisture which could not promote vegetation is dried up. And now he causes the accumulated masses of cloud to burst forth and dissolve themselves in copious showers. Thus, "the mist watered the whole face of the soil." The face of the sky is thereby cleared, and on the following day the sun shone forth in all his cloudless splendor and fostering warmth.

On the fourth day, then, a second process of nature commenced. The bud began to swell, the tender blade to peep forth and assume its tint of green, the gentle breeze to agitate the full-sized plants, the first seeds to be shaken off and wafted to their resting-place, the first root to strike into the ground, and the first shoot to rise towards the sky.

This enables us to determine with some degree of probability the Season of the year when the creation took place. If we look to the ripe fruit on the first trees we presume that the season is autumn. The scattering of the seeds, the falling of the rains, and the need of a cultivator intimated in the text, point to the same period. In a genial climate the process of vegetation has its beginnings at the falling of the early rains. Man would be naturally led to gather the abundant fruit which fell from the trees, and thus, even unwittingly provide a store for the unbearing period of the year. It is probable, moreover, that he was formed in a region where vegetation was little interrupted by the coldest season of the year. This would be most favorable to the preservation of life in his state of primeval inexperience.

These presumptions are in harmony with the numeration of the months at the deluge (Genesis 7:11), and with the outgoing and the turn of the year at autumn (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22).

 

Genesis 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

The second obstacle to the favorable progress of the vegetable kingdom is now removed. "And the Lord God formed the man of dust from the soil." This account of the origin of man differs from the former on account of the different end the author has in view. There his creation as an integral whole is recorded with special reference to his higher nature by which he was suited to hold communion with his Maker, and exercise dominion over the inferior creation. Here his constitution is described with marked regard to his adaptation to be the cultivator of the soil. He is a compound of matter and mind. His material part is dust from the soil, out of which he is formed as the potter moulds the vessel out of the clay. He is אדם'ādām "Adam," the man of the soil, ארמה  'ădāmâh "adamah." His mission in this respect is to draw out the capabilities of the soil to support by its produce the myriads of his race.

His mental part is from another source. "And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." The word נשׁמהneshāmâh is invariably applied to God or man, never to any irrational creature. The "breath of life" is special to this passage. It expresses the spiritual and principal element in man, which is not formed, but breathed by the Creator into the physical form of man. This rational part is that in which he bears the image of God, and is suited to be his vicegerent on earth. As the earth was prepared to be the dwelling, so was the body to be the organ of that breath of life which is his essence, himself.

And the man became a living soul. - This term "living soul" is also applied to the water and land animals (Genesis 1:20-21, Genesis 1:24). As by his body he is allied to earth and by his soul to heaven, so by the vital union of these he is associated with the whole animal kingdom, of which he is the constituted sovereign. This passage, therefore, aptly describes him as he is suited to dwell and rule on this earth. The height of his glory is yet to come out in his relation to the future and to God.

The line of narrative here reaches a point of repose. The second lack of the teeming soil is here supplied. The man to till the ground is presented in that form which exhibits his fitness for this appropriate and needful task. We are therefore at liberty to go back for another train of events which is essential to the progress of our narrative.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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