GENESIS 02: DIVISION AND ORDER
This chapter begins with the Sabbath day, on which the Creator rested and refrained from creation. I want to point out the verb “and He rested” [vayanach]. The root verb is [nachah], meaning to rest or to be contented, and we’re going to see it again.
The narrative then seems to begin again at the beginning, with a second account of the creation of the heavens and earth. There are some tantalizing details about the climate and landscape: there’s mist but no rain, and four rivers are named.
And He set him in the Garden of Eden:
The verb here is [vayanichehu], literally “set to rest”; it’s that root again.
The tree of knowledge, good and evil:
Robert Alter correctly translates this as “the tree of knowledge, good and evil” (and not “… knowledge of good and evil”). The definite article here is attached to [ha-da’at], knowledge, and therefore by the rules of Hebrew grammar it cannot be “knowledge of” something else. “Good and evil” therefore describes the ambivalent nature of the tree and its fruit – both good and evil.
It is not good for man to be alone:
Notice that the solution is not to create a second Adam from scratch; rather, the single, unitary man must give up his completeness – just as (so to speak) the Creator must self-limit and withdraw to make room for man and free will.
When woman is created as a separate entity, man exclaims, “This one shall be called woman, for from man she was taken.” Notice that he does not address her directly. Who’s he talking to? His words – the first recorded human speech in the Bible – are spoken in the third person, and there isn’t even a third person in the world yet!
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife” – here is a moral imperative, a commandment, explicitly linked to the Garden of Eden. The message is that our instinct to seek union and wholeness cannot be fulfilled by staying in our parents’ home. The way home is forward.
And notice that here the narrative voice of the text exhorts the reader directly for the first time. Up until now, the text has been declarative and expository: this happened, and then that happened. Here for the first time the text says: you shall do this.