Second Creation or That’s No Way to Treat a Lady (Gen. 2-3)

Apparently one holey creation story isn’t enough. Genesis 2:4-25 covers the Bible’s second creation story. Here we’re introduced to our protagonist, Adam, God creates a couple magic trees, all the animals (again), and eventually gets around to creating the first woman.

The significance of the order argument I made in my last post holds true here as well. God creates the earth and heavens (Gen. 2:4), but holds off on plants because there was no one to work the ground. (Gen. 2:5). This is where the two accounts diverge. Instead of working a few days to create fish and birds, critters and livestock, and finally man as depicted in Gen. 1, God skips to the good stuff and creates Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7). Then, looking to give Adam some help he creates the rest of the animals (Gen 2:19). After failing to find him a proper companion out of what I imagine to be a parade of helper monkeys, God creates a woman (Gen. 2:22). Since this account doesn’t use time as a plot device, it fits in better with our current understanding of the universe and how life evolved on Earth. That is, if you ignore that the first human was created before any other life with no means of reproducing.

The creation of the woman is, amazingly, an afterthought. In the first creation account, man and woman are created at the same time after the creation of all other animals and are encouraged to procreate (Gen. 1:28). In the second creation, God makes the woman only after he and Adam exhausted their search for a helper in all the animals. It’s as if God created Adam with the intention that the two of them would be best friends forever and failed to foresee the obvious problem of giving Adam genitalia and nothing but sheep and goats for company.

The translators seem to have interjected their thoughts on the matter as well. Adam is Hebrew for man, and is readily used in its place throughout the text, but the Hebrew word for woman isn’t. The English translation makes it a point to not create a name out of the Hebrew word like it has for Adam. If not read carefully, this could give the impression that Adam simply named her as he did the animals.

A belief that was long thought to be true, and probably still floats around as a sort of urban legend today, is that because the woman was created from Adam’s rib, men have one fewer rib. This is simply not true. In 1543 the anatomist and cadaver dissectionist extraordinaire Andreas Vesalius published De humani corporis fabric, which notes his discovery that men and women both have 24 ribs. Of course this doesn’t prove much of anything. Genesis never mentions how many ribs Adam started out with, which means this belief is founded on the assumption that Adam had 25 ribs (or maybe 13 pairs) at creation. Another assumption that you have to make is that by taking Adam’s rib, God altered Adam’s Y chromosome, making this rib quantity trait something that’s passed down to Adam’s male descendants. Basically, there’s no real evidence supporting this story. My point is, it’s not the ribs that make the man; let’s not go around blaming women for stealing ribs.

Where Genesis 2 is used to establish women as second to men, Genesis 3 is used to assign them blame for all sin. The woman is persuaded by a talking snake (more on that next week) to disobey God and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-6), but who can blame her? Without knowledge of good and evil, how can God expect her to know that disobeying him is evil? This shows that God is either naive by not being able to foresee this problem, or sinister by designing this situation so that it was inevitable. The latter suggests that it was in God’s plan to blame the woman (and Adam and the serpent) for something that was completely out of their control and completely under his.

On a positive note, the woman’s punishment is to be the mother of all the living . She also gets a proper name in the English translation, Eve (Gen. 3:20). Though naming her only after she’s capable of bearing children seems a bit anti-feminist. But with this whole book, what isn’t?

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