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The Coherent Creation Account of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revisited the famous Pillars of Creation, revealing a sharper and wider view of the structures in this visible-light image. Astronomers combined several Hubble exposures to assemble the wider view. The towering pillars are about 5 light-years tall. The dark, finger-like feature at bottom right may be a smaller version of the giant pillars. The new image was taken with Hubble's versatile and sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3. The pillars are bathed in the blistering ultraviolet light from a grouping of young, massive stars located off the top of the image. Streamers of gas can be seen bleeding off the pillars as the intense radiation heats and evaporates it into space. Denser regions of the pillars are shadowing material beneath them from the powerful radiation. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars, which are made of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, a vast star-forming region 6,500 light-years from Earth. The colors in the image highlight emission from several chemical elements. Oxygen emission is blue, sulfur is orange, and hydrogen and nitrogen are green. Object Names: M16, Eagle Nebula, NGC 6611 Image Type: Astronomical Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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Genesis 1 and 2 contain the creation account in the Bible. The problem is, they are quite different. As such, there is a great deal of commentary about how they are supposed to fit together, even though there is great difficulty in making this happen.

The general idea about Genesis 1 and 2 among Christians is usually one of two things. Either Genesis 1 and 2 are believed to be not even close to what REALLY happened (that is, they are “literary constructs,”) or that all of the events in Genesis 2 happen on the “sixth day” described in Genesis 1.

I take a different view. I think Genesis 1 and 2 fit together far more coherently than most people realize. I think they fit together EXACTLY as the text describes. However, I think we have forgotten how to understand what is clearly being described.

What I intend to do is describe how Genesis 1 and 2 relate in a clear and understandable way. I am going to be quoting a lot of Bible sources, a lot of Christian sources, and even go outside of Christian sources to make my point.

That being said, to accept my understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, you will have to accept two principles of interpretation:

  1. Nothing is “created” in Genesis 1 until it is complete and “good.”
  2. The “Waters Above the Firmament” are real, crazy, and way more important than you previously thought.

First, I’m going to prove the two principles of interpretation with the text of Genesis 1 and 2. Then, I’m going to explain how Genesis 1 and 2 fit together. Finally, I’m going to explain some issues that my interpretation raise, because yes, it is very weird and completely unique.

Now, the book of Genesis was written by Moses, and Moses lived between 1526 BC and 1406 BC. He lived – obviously – after the events being described in Genesis 1 and 2. That being said, however, Moses also had very good reason to know what he was talking about. Because this is what we read about Moses in Exodus:

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. (Exodus 33:7-11, ESV)

So, while Moses did not have a very good pedigree to know what was happening in creation, his source certainly did.

Now, you may not believe that passage in Exodus, and that’s fine. But you need to recognize that this is what the book says. If you want to pretend that the whole thing is kooky, then that’s your right. Go ahead. But recognize that on its face, the account is very coherent and supported than mere storytelling and myth. And so with that said, let’s look at the account of creation in Genesis.

The Creation Account of Genesis 1

Let’s get started. Here’s the text of the Genesis 1 creation account:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 1:1-2:3, ESV)

As such, we get a clear order of events in Genesis 1, which we can show in the following picture:


Now, before we move on, I think we can note that just by the text of Genesis 1, one of my principles has already been proven. That principle would be that something is “created” when it is completed, not when it first comes into existence. Notice that “the waters” were present all the way at the beginning, but they were not deemed to be created until the second day, when they were split off from the waters above the firmament, completed, and then named.

Additionally, we get the idea that the “land” was already in existence, but not yet dry. That is why we read that God GATHERED the waters into one place, and then the land “appeared.” With this description, the land is “created” on day 3, even though the raw material seems to have existed beforehand.

As such, one could say certain material “exists” even before it is created. This does not erase the fact that God creates everything “ex nihilo,” or “out of nothing,” but it does go to say that the “out of nothing” is something that happened at the very beginning, not necessarily something that happens on the particular day a thing was created. The raw material seems to have existed from Day 1. Only when the formation is complete does something get “created” in this account.

The Ancient Uniform Acceptance of the Process of Creation

Now, to a modern reader, this order of creation seems to be a little bit strange. Plants before the Sun and Moon? How is that possible? Surely this is mythical, right? Well, it might not seem possible, but there’s something we need to notice: even Moses knew that you needed the Sun to make plants grow.

Additionally, there is something else that we need to recognize. This strange account of the order of creation is not unique to the Bible. In fact, there seems to be a pretty consistent agreement about the general thrust of the creation account centuries after Moses and before the rise of Christianity.

For example, look at the following account of creation by Ovid, a Roman poet who wrote “Metamorphoses” in 8 AD. He doesn’t speak about “six days,” but he does say some rather strange things in his pagan account of creation:

   I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms. You, gods, since you are the ones who alter these, and all other things, inspire my attempt, and spin out a continuous thread of words, from the world’s first origins to my own time.

    Before there was earth or sea or the sky that covers everything, Nature appeared the same throughout the whole world: what we call chaos: a raw confused mass, nothing but inert matter, badly combined discordant atoms of things, confused in the one place. There was no Titan yet, shining his light on the world, or waxing Phoebe renewing her white horns, or the earth hovering in surrounding air balanced by her own weight, or watery Amphitrite stretching out her arms along the vast shores of the world. Though there was land and sea and air, it was unstable land, unswimmable water, air needing light. Nothing retained its shape, one thing obstructed another, because in the one body, cold fought with heat, moist with dry, soft with hard, and weight with weightless things.

  This conflict was ended by a god and a greater order of nature, since he split off the earth from the sky, and the sea from the land, and divided the transparent heavens from the dense air. When he had disentangled the elements, and freed them from the obscure mass, he fixed them in separate spaces in harmonious peace. The weightless fire, that forms the heavens, darted upwards to make its home in the furthest heights. Next came air in lightness and place. Earth, heavier than either of these, drew down the largest elements, and was compressed by its own weight. The surrounding water took up the last space and enclosed the solid world.

 When whichever god it was had ordered and divided the mass, and collected it into separate parts, he first gathered the earth into a great ball so that it was uniform on all sides. Then he ordered the seas to spread and rise in waves in the flowing winds and pour around the coasts of the encircled land. He added springs and standing pools and lakes, and contained in shelving banks the widely separated rivers, some of which are swallowed by the earth itself, others of which reach the sea and entering the expanse of open waters beat against coastlines instead of riverbanks. He ordered the plains to extend, the valleys to subside, leaves to hide the trees, stony mountains to rise: and just as the heavens are divided into two zones to the north and two to the south, with a fifth and hotter between them, so the god carefully marked out the enclosed matter with the same number, and described as many regions on the earth. The equatorial zone is too hot to be habitable; the two poles are covered by deep snow; and he placed two regions between and gave them a temperate climate mixing heat and cold. 

Air overhangs them, heavier than fire by as much as water’s weight is lighter than earth. There he ordered the clouds and vapours to exist, and thunder to shake the minds of human beings, and winds that create lightning-bolts and flashes.

   The world’s maker did not allow these, either, to possess the air indiscriminately; as it is they are scarcely prevented from tearing the world apart, each with its blasts steering a separate course: like the discord between brothers. Eurus, the east wind, drew back to the realms of Aurora, to Nabatea, Persia, and the heights under the morning light: Evening, and the coasts that cool in the setting sun, are close to Zephyrus, the west wind. Chill Boreas, the north wind, seized Scythia and the seven stars of the Plough: while the south wind, Auster, drenches the lands opposite with incessant clouds and rain. Above these he placed the transparent, weightless heavens free of the dross of earth.

He had barely separated out everything within fixed limits when the constellations that had been hidden for a long time in dark fog began to blaze out throughout the whole sky. And so that no region might lack its own animate beings, the stars and the forms of gods occupied the floor of heaven, the sea gave a home to the shining fish, earth took the wild animals, and the light air flying things.

    As yet there was no animal capable of higher thought that could be ruler of all the rest. Then Humankind was born. Either the creator god, source of a better world, seeded it from the divine, or the newborn earth just drawn from the highest heavens still contained fragments related to the skies, so that Prometheus, blending them with streams of rain, moulded them into an image of the all-controlling gods. While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings.

Ovid, Metamorphosis, Book 1 https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Metamorph.htm

This is rather remarkable. There are no “six days,” but if you read this account, you notice that ordinary non-Hebrew and non-Christian Roman accepts some very basic tenants about the creation of the world that is reflected in the “six day” description of creation in Genesis 1. Note that we have:

  1. Chaos and darkness at the beginning
  2. Chaos ended by the creative act of an unknown God
  3. Creation of the heavens, and a mention of the waters above the firmament
  4. Trees mentioned after the creation of land when the unknown God groups the land in one place
  5. The stars in the sky shining forth after plants have grown on the earth
  6. Animals, birds, fish, and land creatures created, with human beings being made last of all

Isn’t that strange? It is one thing to say that Moses “made it up” or that it was a “myth” that Moses picked up from somewhere. But why is Ovid in the 1st century AD repeating this myth 1500 years later?

My explanation for this is that the entire world had a uniform understanding of the creation of the world, before modern humans started to dream up their own ideas about “big bangs” and “primordial soup.” While I don’t have much of a problem with the “Big Bang,” (a.k.a. “Let there be light: BANG”), the way that scientists keep referring to “primordial soup” and lightning bolts and stuff shows that we haven’t gotten very far in the explanation of the world’s origins.

Where Ovid Fits Into the Bible

Also, as a slight bonus, notice that in Acts 17, Paul is wandering Athens, and he runs across an altar to “the unknown God” – ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩ ΘΕΩ  – Paul then goes on to give a speech about this God:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:22-25, ESV)

What few people notice is that the Greeks in Athens are completely following Paul with no objection to this point, where Paul assumes that this “unknown god” is “the God who made the world and everything in it.” Why is there agreement on this? There is agreement on this because both these Greeks and Paul had read Ovid, and Ovid attributes the creation of the world to an unknown God.

Notice that rather than argue with Paul on most everything Paul says, including the fact that all humans descend from the unknown God or that the unknown God created the entire world, the Greeks in Acts 17 only start to disagree with Paul when he starts talking about the resurrection from the dead. That’s because from the perspective of the Greeks, Paul was only giving commentary on Ovid up until that point in his speech.

As you can see, it seems that the Greek and Roman world had a uniform account of creation that mostly agreed with the Jewish version. And that general ancient agreement on the creation of the world is pretty much reflected in Genesis 1.

Technical Points in the Genesis 1 Creation Account

Now, let’s get a bit technical about Genesis 1. There are certain things we need to cover. The first is about the “firmament” and the “waters above the firmament.”

The Expanse That Divides the Waters

You may have heard that in the second day, God created a “firmament.” This is the traditional name for what happens on the second day in English, as the King James Version puts it this way:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. (Genesis 1:6, KJV)

However, this comes from the influence of the Latin language, and it does not come from the original Hebrew. The Vulgate says the following in Genesis 1:6:

dixit quoque Deus fiat firmamentum in medio aquarum et dividat aquas ab aquis (Genesis 1:6, Vulgate)

That “firmamentum” is where we get the English “firmament,” and “firmamentum” means “a means of support.” In other words, it’s some sort of architectural arch or something. The translators said that because this “firmament” separates “the waters” that are above the whatever-you-call-it from the waters that are below the what-ever-you-call-it. That’s why the Latin chose “firmament.”

But that’s not what the Hebrew says. Instead, the Hebrew says raqia (רָקִיעַ), which means an extended surface or an “expanse.” In fact, this “expanse” is even reflected in Jesus’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus when he refers to a great “chasm” that is between the Rich Man after his death (where he is in Hades) and Lazarus who is beside Abraham.

That is why I have chosen the ESV, which accurately describes the thing made on the second day as an “expanse.” However, because of the long history of the word “firmament,” I have decided to call the “waters” that are above the expanse the “Waters Above the Firmament,” just to keep things consistent.

The Waters Above the Firmament

As I said before in my interpretive principles, the Water Above the Firmament are very important. However, here, I’m not going to describe why they are important. Instead, I’m going to describe how they definitely exist, and we need to notice them.

We should note that when the waters are divided by the “expanse,” the waters below get renamed as “the Sea,” but the waters that are above the expanse do not get renamed. These waters are “the Deep” or just “the Waters.” It’s important to note that they never go away.

It is also important to note that these waters above the firmament are not the clouds. These are not waters IN the firmament. They are waters ABOVE the firmament. For example, at the dawn of the modern era in Christianity in 1544, look at what Martin Luther says about these “Waters Above the Firmament”:

It is a circumstance naturally exciting our particular wonder that Moses evidently makes three distinct parts or divisions of this portion of the creation. He describes “a firmament in the midst of the waters,” which “divides the waters from the waters.” For myself I am inclined to think that the firmament here mentioned is the highest body of all; and that the waters, not those “above” the firmament, but those which hang and fly about “under” the firmament, are the clouds, which we behold with our natural eyes; so that by the waters which are “divided from the waters,” we may understand the clouds which are divided from our waters which are in the earth. Moses however speaks in the plainest possible terms, both of waters “above” and of waters “under” the firmament. Wherefore I here hold my own mind and judgment in captivity and bow to the Word, although I cannot comprehend it.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Genesis, Part II https://www.gutenberg.org/files/48193/48193-h/48193-h.htm

In other words, his conclusion is “I have no idea what these waters are, but they are above the stars in the sky, because Moses is quite plain in what he says here.” As such, we should remember that these waters are NOT NORMAL WATERS. Instead, they are something completely removed from what we know as “the universe.” That’s because the universe that we know only extends to what we moderns would call “space,” but “space” is in “the expanse,” and these Waters Above the Firmament are above that expanse.

Additionally, “the Waters” or “the Deep” is not the ocean. Instead, these waters are something UP THERE (wherever “there” actually is). These waters are a special and supernatural thing. It also seems that these strange waters overlap with the earth itself in ordinary (but slightly supernatural) ways. For example, when Noah’s flood comes, note where the waters come from:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. (Genesis 7:11, ESV)

Importantly, as I have written about before here, “the Deep” is not the ocean, and the “windows of the heavens” are not the clouds. Instead, this has language of a very supernatural event that killed all life on earth except for Noah and his family. In other words, the Flood of Noah was seen as a very supernatural occurrence that had direct influence from heaven.

But that’s not all, we get another mention of “the Deep” (which is the Waters Above the Firmament) in another place in the book of Genesis. Look at how Jacob (who is also “Israel,” where we get the name of “Israelites”) describes the womb of women:

“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
(Genesis 49:22-26, ESV)

This is very interesting. In this passage, “the deep” that “crouches beneath” is equated to the “water” that breaks when someone is to be born and the milk that a mother gives to her baby. As such, the Waters Above the Firmament are not necessarily DISTANT from the universe that we know. Instead, the Waters Above the Firmament can OVERLAP with the universe that we know.

This “overlapping” has a very clear example. We know that the waters of the womb is equated with “the Deep,” and the Bible makes clear that it is God who “opens the womb,” and it also makes a point about who is the one acting when a human being is being formed in the womb:

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
(Psalm 139:13-14, ESV)

As such, these “waters” are more than mere waters. They are very clearly identified with something that we might call the raw material of creation. And they surround the earth. And if God desires, then they can overlap and enter this world with creative effect. This is why Jesus, when he meets the woman at the well, says this:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:7-10, ESV)

But this is not just a “biblical” thing. It also affects how the ancients viewed the world. Remember that even Ovid mentions the waters above the firmament. So, ALL of ancient society knew about these waters. However, in our modern world, we have forgotten about them. This is why a modern view of the world will show the following “stuff” surrounding the earth:

But an ancient view of the world, like this one would have the following “stuff” surround the Earth:

Reconstruction of the Map of Hecataeus, available at wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_world_maps#Babylonian_Imago_Mundi_(c._6th_c._BCE)

Something to note is that the ancients knew that the world extended beyond what is shown in this map. But rather than “space” being the stuff that is “up there,” the thing that is “up there” is “Ocean” which is not so much a large body of water, but instead, a representation of “Oceanus,” who was a Titan god. His parents were Heaven and Earth.

While we might view that as “mythological” gobbley-gook, when you realize that there was a generally accepted view of the creation of the world in ancient times, and when you also realize that the “waters above the firmament” only came about when God separated the waters below the firmament on Earth from the waters above the firmament by the sky, you can see how that story sort of fits together.

So, yeah. The Waters Above the Firmament are definitely a thing in the Bible AND outside the Bible in the ancient world, too.

Dispelling the Myth of a Flat Earth Covered by a Dome in Genesis 1

There is a modern myth that the ancients believed that the world was a flat disc covered by a dome. However, this is obviously not true for anyone who reads ancient works. For example, the map of Hecataeus was first described by Hecataeus of Miletus, who lived from 550 BC to 476 BC.

Before his time, Herodotus describes how Thales of Miletus predicted a solar eclipse in the year 585 BC, a feat that is only possible if one pictures the world as a sphere, surrounded by the heavenly bodies. The Greeks would even go on to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth in the 300s BC. Using a mathematical formula THAT ASSUMES THE EARTH IS ROUND, and measurements made by shadows in two different locations, Eratosthenes determined that the world had a circumference of 252,000 stadia, which translates into about 39,060 kilometers or 24270 miles. The “true” circumference of the earth that we have determined today is 24,901 miles or 40,075 kilometers.

Not only that, as I have written before here, individuals in the Bible at least as far back as Job (who was before Abraham) knew that the world was round, as their descriptions of the stars assume a round earth that blocks the constellations in the southern hemisphere (see Job 9:7-10).

The reason that the earth is not described as a “sphere” in the Bible is that the word “sphere” is a Greek word, and the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew language does not have the technical mathematical word “sphere.” Instead, the only word that is used is “circle,” or “ball.” However, a ball is a hollow object filled with air or water. A circle is something that is round. Since the earth is round, and not filled with air or water, the Bible uses the word “circle” to describe the shape of the world.

For example, in Job, look how Job describes the creation of the world:

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
    at the boundary between light and darkness.
(Job 26:10, ESV)

There is another longer creation account in Proverbs 8, written by Solomon. In this passage, “Lady Wisdom,” an angelic being who was present at creation, describes what she saw at creation:

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.
(Proverbs 8:22-31, ESV)

As such, the ancients (even in the time of Moses) knew the earth was a sphere, and they also believed that there were “waters above the firmament” meaning that there were waters beyond the distances of the stars themselves.

These waters above the firmament are going to be very important, but now, we need to go to Genesis chapter 2.

The Genesis 2 Account of Creation

With that, we should go to the account of creation in Genesis 2:

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

When no bush of the field [Footnote: or “open country”] was yet in the land [Footnote: or “earth”] and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist [footnote: or “spring”] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east [Author’s note – Hebrew: qedem (קֶדֶם)], and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east [Author’s note – Hebrew: qidmah (קִדְמָה)] of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat [Footnote: or “when you eat”] of it you shall surely die.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed [Footnote: Or “And out of the ground the Lord God formed“] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made [Footnote: Hebrew, “built”] into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:4-25, ESV)

So, that’s what it says.

The Traditional Interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2

Now let’s talk about the traditional interpretation of how this fits together with Genesis 1. The traditional evangelical view is that this chapter of Genesis 2 matches up to day six, because Genesis 2 concerns the creation of Man. There is a great deal of commentary in various works to describe Genesis 2:5-7, which says this:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:5, ESV)

The summary of that commentary is that it can’t REALLY mean what it says, because that would mean that Adam was created on… what, Day three? That’s crazy, right?

In the same way, note what Wayne Grudem, a young-earth says. He remarks on a “framework theory,” which is basically the idea that Genesis 1 is a “literary framework,” not a reflection of any reality that we can rely upon. The idea is that the “six days” are a poetic interpretation, and not one that it gives any information on the order of creation.

If you’re wondering why this is such a controversy, you should know that the entire purpose of the “literary framework” theory is to allow for long periods of time that allow evolutionary thinking to run its course, despite the Genesis 1 account. Both Wayne Grudem and this author reject “Evolution” as an explanation for the situation we find ourself in today, even though “evolution” on a much smaller scale definitely happens.

That being said, here is what Wayne Grudem says about how Genesis 1 and 2 fit together:

Those who have not adopted the framework theory have seen no conflict in sequence between Genesis 1 and 2, for it has been commonly understood that Genesis 2 implies no description of sequence in the original creation of the animals or plants, but simply recapitulates some of the details of Genesis 1 as important for the specific account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2. The NIV avoids the appearance of conflict by translating, “Now the Lord God HAD PLANTED a garden in the East, in Eden” (Gen. 2:8) and “Now the Lord God HAD FORMED OUT of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” (Gen. 2:19).

Genesis 2:5 does not really say that plants were not on the earth because the earth was too dry to support them. If we adopt that reasoning we would also have to say there were no plants because “there was no man to till the ground” (Gen. 2:5, for that is the second half of the comment about no rain coming on the earth. Moreover, the remainder of the sentence says the earth was the opposite of being too dry to support plants: “streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground” (Gen. 2:6 NIV). The statement in Gen. 2:5 is simply to be understood as an explanation of the general time frame in which God created man. Genesis 2:4-6 sets the stage, telling us that “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up– for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” The statements about lack of rain and no man to till the ground do not give the physical reason why there were no plants, but only explain that God’s work of creation was not complete. This introduction puts us back into the first six days of creation as a general setting — into “the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). Then in that setting it abruptly introduces the main point of chapter 2 – the creation of man. The Hebrew text does not include the word “then” at the beginning of verse 7, but simply begins, “And the Lord God formed man” (Gen. 2;5 KJV).

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Chapter 15, “Creation.” Pp. 302-303.

As such, the view is that Genesis 2 is all taking place on the sixth day of creation, because it would be CRAZY for Adam to have been created at some other point, right?

Well, as you can probably guess if you read this blog, I am going to go the crazy direction. Here is what I am claiming:

Adam was formed on the third day of creation, because the text clearly describes it this way.

That’s right. Adam was formed on the third day, not the sixth day. Man was “created,” however, on the sixth day. Why? Because man was only “complete” and “good” on the sixth day after the formation of Eve.

And because this breaks with almost all previous tradition, this obviously needs some explanation, which I will provide.

Technical Points in the Genesis 2 Creation Account

There are many things that we need to cover in this section. So, let’s get started.

The Location of Eden

The first thing up is the question of the location of Eden. Where is Eden located? The answer seems to be “in the East.” However, that is not as clear as it appears in our English translations.

When you go to the original Hebrew, you see that there are two different words for “east” that are used in Genesis 2, 3, and 4. While both of them CAN mean east, they also are distinct. The two words are as follows:

However, with this in mind, we need to note what the ambiguous definitions of these words mean for the Genesis 2 account.

The Importance of “qedem” in Genesis 2 and 3

Eden might be “in the East” as a direction, but the East of what? We typically think of America as the West, but America is to the East of Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean. For this reason, when you do not have a comparison point for directions, being “in the East” does not mean very much.

On the other hand, “qedem” can also mean “aforetime” or “ancient time” or “everlasting.” Therefore, it is entirely plausible to translate Genesis 2:8 as follows:

And the Lord God had planted a garden in Eden, in ancient or everlasting times, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8, Author’s Interpretation)

Other commentators have noted the possibility of Eden being planted beforehand, but not in relation to the word “east.” Instead, they cover the topic based on the verb tense of “planted” in Hebrew. For example, note what Cornelis Van Dam (a reformed scholar at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary) says in his book “In the Beginning,” a commentary on Genesis 1 and 2:

When did God plant the garden of Eden? There are two possibilities. After verse 7 tells us that God made man, one can translate verse 8 as “the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed,” indicating that the establishing of a garden took place after man’s creation. This would mean that this Edenic vegetation does not refer to the plants made on the third day (1:11-12) but rather to what God said to Adam and Eve after their creation: “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields see; to you it shall be for food” (1:29).

Another possibility is to translate Genesis 2:8 as “now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed” (NIV). This rendering places the planting of the garden prior to Adam’s creation, which means it could have been included in God’s work on the third day. This translation is less widely accepted but is grammatically justifiable and already evident in the ancient Latin translation, the Vulgate (late 4th-early 5th c. AD).

Cornelis Van Dam, In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2, Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2021. pp. 258-9.

Additionally, the ambiguous meaning of the word “qedem” also has an effect of Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden. Here is what we read in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:22-24, ESV)

So, where did Adam and Eve go? They apparently went to the “east” of Eden, which is “east” of an unknown location. So, looks like we are REALLY far east, right? Maybe. But because “qedem” means “everlasting,” we can also translate Genesis 3:24 in the following way:

 So he drove out the man; and he placed from everlasting times at the garden of Eden, Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24, ASV with Author’s interpretation)

Once again, that may sound like mythical gobbley-good, but you should also know that up until the middle ages, it was generally accepted science that a layer of “pure fire” surrounded the earth on all sides and separated the perfect heavens from the mundane world.

Additionally, you should also know about the Garden of the Hesperides in Greek mythology. This garden is in the “far west.” In this garden the Hesperides kept watch over a grove of apple trees which produced golden apples that gave people everlasting youth. It was guarded by a dragon. Since Genesis 3 indicates that Adam and Eve went “east” from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 and that a “cherub” with a “flaming sword” guarded the way back to the tree of life, isn’t this strange?

Remember what I said about all of the ancient world having a generally accepted idea about the creation of the world and the origin of mankind? Things are getting to crazy here to ignore.

The Importance of “qidmah” in Genesis 2 and 4

We can also note that the the word “qidmah” is used and translated as “east” to describe the location of the Tigris River. This is obviously a description of the geographic location of that river, because the Tigris River actually does run to the east of Assyria, just as Genesis 2 describes. However, importantly, the same chapter and the same paragraph uses a different word to describe the location of Eden. As such, I take this use of “east” to be a geographic direction.

However, the second place the word “qidmah” is used is to describe where Cain went after he was marked by God. Here is what it says:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod [Footnote: Nod means “wandering”], east of Eden. (Genesis 4:13-16, ESV)

It is technically possible that Cain went to the “east” of wherever Adam and Eve went, which was to the “east” of Eden, which was “east” of some unknown location. But another way to read that is to say that Cain went “away from the presence of the Lord” and that this idea is more than just geographic. We know that Cain builds a city, and that his descendants were wicked. As such, there is another way to translate Genesis 4:16:

Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Wandering, against or in opposition to Eden. (Genesis 4:16, with Author’s Interpretation)

This is my reading of that verse.

What Exactly Is Eden Anyway?

The next question is “What kind of place is this Eden, anyway?” This is especially an important question, because Eden is describe elsewhere in the Bible. But something you should know is that Eden is NOT a normal place, because it is never described as a normal place.

For example, the following comes from Ezekiel, where a prophesy is given against the king of Tyre. The king of Tyre is compared to someone that exists in the heavenly places: Satan. But in this prophesy that mentions Satan, we also get a description of Eden. And Eden is…. …strange:

“You were the signet of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
    beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
    and crafted in gold were your settings
    and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
    they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
    I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
    in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created,
    till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
    and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
    from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
    I exposed you before kings,
    to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
    in the unrighteousness of your trade
    you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
    it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
    in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples
    are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
    and shall be no more forever.”
(Ezekiel 28:12-19, ESV)

So, from this description, we see that there are “stones of fire” in Eden, which is described as a “Mountain of God.” Mountain? Why not a garden? Well, mountains are places where heaven and earth quite literally overlap. That’s why Eden is described as a mountain. See this YouTube video from the Bible project if you want some background on that. It describes Eden as a place where heaven and earth “completely overlap.”

In that passage, we also see that Satan was a “guardian Cherub” who was thrown from Eden, and he went a long way down to the Earth. And in case you are wondering, do not be fooled by the Renaissance version of “cherub,” which looks like a cute little baby. Instead, an actual “cherub” in the Bible is something like this:

Or this:

In other words, these are not “cute” beings. They are otherworldly beings. Since we later learn in the Bible that Satan is a great red dragon, and that Satan was a “guardian cherub,” it is also possible that “cherubim” look like this:

So…. yeah, Eden is weird.

We also get this description of Eden in a prophesy that uses the same pattern of comparing something in the real world (the Assyrian Empire) to something else in the heavenly places. We get more info on Eden:

“Whom are you like in your greatness?
    Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches and forest shade,
    and of towering height,
    its top among the clouds.
The waters nourished it;
    the deep made it grow tall,
making its rivers flow
    around the place of its planting,
sending forth its streams
    to all the trees of the field.
So it towered high
    above all the trees of the field;
its boughs grew large
    and its branches long
    from abundant water in its shoots.
All the birds of the heavens
    made their nests in its boughs;
under its branches all the beasts of the field
    gave birth to their young,
and under its shadow
    lived all great nations.
It was beautiful in its greatness,
    in the length of its branches;
for its roots went down
    to abundant waters.
The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
    nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
neither were the plane trees
    like its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
    was its equal in beauty.

I made it beautiful
    in the mass of its branches,
and all the trees of Eden envied it,
    that were in the garden of God.

(Ezekiel 31:2-9, ESV)

The tree that is being described in Ezekiel 31 here looks a lot like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It also reveals that in Eden, which is “the garden of God,” trees can “envy” other trees, which is… …weird. That’s because Eden is not a normal place.

We also get a repeated description of what we read in Ezekiel with the fall of Satan in Isaiah 14, using the same description of someone on Earth compared to someone in heaven:

“How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
    to the far reaches of the pit.
Those who see you will stare at you
    and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
    who shook kingdoms,
who made the world like a desert
    and overthrew its cities,
    who did not let his prisoners go home?’
All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
    each in his own tomb;
but you are cast out, away from your grave,
    like a loathed branch,
clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,
    who go down to the stones of the pit,
    like a dead body trampled underfoot.
You will not be joined with them in burial,
    because you have destroyed your land,
    you have slain your people.
(Isaiah 14:4-20, ESV)

That prophesy is definitely referring to the same thing that was above in Ezekiel 28. I have written about it more fully in this description of “Lucifer” in the Bible, which you can read by clicking here. This passage talks about how Satan was cast down to the Earth, and it is using a lot of allusions to the sky and the heavens. In other words, it is ambiguous about whether it is talking about “stars” or actual spiritual beings in the heavenly realm.

But you can also read about Satan being cast down to Earth in Revelation 12:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
(Revelation 12:7-9, ESV)

And it’s not only there. You can also get a mention of this battle in the book of Job:

The pillars of heaven tremble
    and are astounded at his rebuke.
By his power he stilled the sea;
    by his understanding he shattered Rahab.

By his wind the heavens were made fair;
    his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
    and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
    But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
(Job 26:11-14, ESV)

Jesus Christ himself even mentions the downfall of Satan, indicating that he saw it himself:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20, ESV)

If you want a non-biblical description of this event, you can see it in the Babylonian epic, the “Enuma Elish,” which describes a battle between the king of the gods and a gigantic dragon of chaos. That’s got too many coincidences to the Biblical description to be completely unrelated.

However, putting all of these very similar stories together, notice what this means about the location that Satan was and where he was thrown from:

IT MEANS THAT EDEN IS NOT REALLY ON EARTH.

Instead, Eden is a strange place that is a border territory between the place where God resides and the Earth below. It is not separated from earth by “distance.” Instead, it is separated from Earth by DIMENSION.

This will become clearer when we look at the other things we know about that river coming out of Eden.

The Strange River Coming out of Eden

Here’s the point where I need to prove my second interpretive principle, which is that the Waters Above the Firmament are WAY more important than you ever thought they were. To understand this, we need to talk about this river coming out of Eden. Here is what Genesis 2 says about it:

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
(Genesis 2:10-14, ESV)

The rivers that are described are most often associated with the Tigris River, the Euphrates River, the Nile River (as “Cush” is south of Egypt) and either the Indus River or the Ganges river. There is an obvious problem with this description, which is that there is no geographic location that allows for a river from Eden becoming four rivers separated by hundreds and thousands of miles apart from each other.

However, we get some help with Josephus, who describes the rivers coming out of Eden in his book “The Antiquities of the Jews.” Look at what he says:

Moses says further, that God planted a paradise in the east, flourishing with all sorts of trees; and that among them was the tree of life, and another of knowledge, whereby was to be known what was good and evil; and that when he brought Adam and his wife into this garden, he commanded them to take care of the plants. Now the garden was watered by one river, which ran round about the whole earth, and was parted into four parts. And Phison, which denotes a multitude, running into India, makes its exit into the sea, and is by the Greeks called Ganges. Euphrates also, as well as Tigris, goes down into the Red Sea. Now the name Euphrates, or Phrath, denotes either a dispersion, or a flower: by Tiris, or Diglath, is signified what is swift, with narrowness; and Geon runs through Egypt, and denotes what arises from the east, which the Greeks call Nile. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.1.3)

Now, I don’t know if you caught the importance of that, but the river that comes out of Eden RAN ROUND ABOUT THE WHOLE EARTH. Did you catch that? That is HUGELY significant. Because it completely breaks our paradigm of how things work. It means the following about the river coming out of Eden:

The River that Flowed Out of Eden

Yeah… Guys…. Eden is NOT a normal place, and Josephus agrees. And it’s not just Jews and Christians who say this.

If you don’t believe me or Josephus, perhaps you might agree with a pagan Greek, Herodotus, who remarks on the source of the Nile in his book “Histories,” written in 430 BC:

But some of the Greeks, wishing to be notable for cleverness, put forward three opinions about this river; of which there are two that I would not even mention, save to show only what they are. One of these will have it that the etesian winds​ are the cause of the rivers being in flood, because they hinder the Nile from flowing out into the sea. But there are many times when the etesian winds do not blow, yet the Nile does the same as before. And further, if the etesian winds were the cause, then the other rivers which flow contrary to those winds would be affected in like manner even as is the Nile, and all the more, inasmuch as being smaller they have a weaker current. Yet there are many rivers in Syria and in Libya, which are nowise in the same case as the Nile.

The second opinion is less grounded on knowledge than that afore-mentioned, though it is more marvellous to the ear: by it, the river effects what it does because it flows from the Ocean, which flows round all the world.

. . .

The opinion about the Ocean is grounded in obscurity and needs no disproof; for I know of no river of Ocean; and I suppose that Homer or some older poet invented this name and brought it into his poetry.

Herodotus, Histories, Book 2: https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Herodotus/2A*.html

Yeah, that’s right. Herodotus, commenting on why the Nile floods, notes that there is a widespread opinion that the Nile (known as the Gihon in Genesis 2) is fed by OCEANS which is THE RIVER THAT SURROUNDS THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Remember what I said about all of the ancient world agreeing on the basics of creation? Yeah. This is getting weird.

But it doesn’t stop there. Look at what the Hindus say about the source of the Ganges river, as presented to us by none other than a very skeptical Morgan Freeman:

Yeah…. …so, the Ganges River (described as the Pishon in Genesis 2) comes from a source of water in the heavenly places, which is a river that surrounds the world.

This is getting freaky, but I think you can see that this means that Eden is NOT A NORMAL PLACE.

How Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 Fit Together

With this understanding of the background of Genesis 1 and 2, we have a pretty clear way that Genesis 1 and 2 fits together. The way it fits together is EXACTLY AS IT SAYS. Notice the introduction to the Genesis 2 account:

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
(Genesis 2:4, ESV)

There is quite literally a specific place where this is referring to in the order of Genesis 1. When did God make the Heavens? He made it on day 2. When did God make the Earth? He made it on day 3. Therefore, we get a very direct and LITERAL indication of when these events in Genesis 2 take place:

And wouldn’t you know it, guess who actually supports this interpretation (even though I doubt he knew he was supporting it when he wrote it)? Our good pal Wayne Grudem:

Those who have not adopted the framework theory have seen no conflict in sequence between Genesis 1 and 2, for it has been commonly understood that Genesis 2 implies no description of sequence in the original creation of the animals or plants, but simply recapitulates some of the details of Genesis 1 as important for the specific account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2. . . . This introduction puts us back into the first six days of creation as a general setting — into “the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4).

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Chapter 15, “Creation.” Pp. 302-303.

But wait… if we’re going to say that this points us back to the third day, then we’d need some further textual explanation that this was happening on the third day, right? Oh, well I’m so glad you asked.

Explaining the Third Day in Genesis 2

Look at what we read next in the second chapter of Genesis. We get a textual indication (often explained in many ways to get around the obvious implication) that we are concerned with things happening on the third day of creation:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land [Footnote: or “earth”] and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist [Footnote: or “spring”] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— (Genesis 2:5-6, ESV)

What this indicates is that we are still on the third day, because there are no plants on earth. However, something we do see is that certain “springs” were watering the whole face of the ground. But these are not normal “springs.” Instead, these are the same “raw material of creation” that is going over the whole ground. These are “the Deep” or “the Waters” which are associated with the womb coming into play onto the earth.

It is at this time that God makes Adam:

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:7-9, ESV)

Note that God formed Adam FROM the dust of the earth, but he places him IN Eden. But the fact that Adam came from the dust before plants or any fish or any animal also has an important theological point: Adam’s “life” is not “from” any other living thing. He did not “evolve” from plants or animals or fish or birds. Instead, he was made BY God and FOR God in his own unique and non-evolutionary way.

Further, we see that Adam’s home is not Earth, even though he came from the Earth. Instead, Adam’s home was in Eden, and as we learned before, Eden is NOT A NORMAL PLACE. Instead, Eden is a place where heaven and earth overlap. That is where humans belong. And this was noticed even by people like Ovid, who noticed that humanity is directed to what is above:

While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings.

Ovid, Metamorphosis, Book 1 https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Metamorph.htm

Explaining the Fourth Day in Genesis 2

And then we get to that strange river. This is what we read about it in Genesis 2:

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
(Genesis 2:10-14, ESV)

But remember that this is not a normal river. This is a river that is “up there.” It is a place where heaven and earth overlap. However, the ancients (and the Bible as well) knew of a place where the heavens and earth overlapped. That is what we would call “space.” It is the stars and constellations and planets and all of that. This is how we know that in Genesis 2, speaking about the “river” is actually a different way to describe what happens on the fourth day of creation in Genesis 1:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
(Genesis 1:14-19, ESV)

There is an ambiguous relationship in the Bible about “the stars” and “heavenly beings” with a little more personality than flaming balls of gas. For example, notice what Psalm 8 says about the “heavenly beings” in relation to creation:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [Footnote: Or than God; Septuagint than the angels]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
(Psalm 8:3-8, ESV)

And then we get the same language in a Psalm like this one:

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
    your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the heavenly beings [Footnote: Hebrew the sons of God, or the sons of might] is like the Lord,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
    and awesome above all who are around him?

O Lord God of hosts,
    who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
    with your faithfulness all around you?
You rule the raging of the sea;
    when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
    you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
    the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
(Psalm 89:5-11, ESV)

And then, we also get language that is clearly about things “in space” which strangely have attributes like speech and wisdom attached to them:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above [Footnote: Hebrew the expanse; compare Genesis 1:6–8] proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice [Footnote: Or Their measuring line] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-6, ESV)

And in this context, we also get the idea of stars shouting when God speaks about creation in the book of Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

(Job 38:4-7, ESV)

And in that context, look at how Adam is described in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke’s gospel:

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli . . . the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23, 38, ESV)

Those are no accidents. Instead, what we’re seeing here is a deliberately ambiguous relationship between what is in the sky and what is in “the heavenly places.”

To make this clear, perhaps we can go to C.S. Lewis’s series of books “for children,” the Chronicles of Narnia. In the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a character named Eustace (who is a very “modern” person) meets a strange character who quite literally is a star:

“And are we near the World’s End now, Sir?” asked Caspian. “Have you any knowledge of the seas and lands further east than this?”

I saw them long ago,” said the Old Man, “but it was from a great height. I cannot tell you such things as sailors need to know.”

“Do you mean you were flying in the air?” Eustace blurted out.

“I was a long way above the air, my son,” replied the Old Man. “I am Ramandu. But I see that you stare at one another and have not heard this name. And no wonder, for the days when I was a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations ahve changed.”

“Golly, said Edmund under his breath. “He’s a retired star.”

“Aren’t you a star any longer?” asked Lucy.

“I am a star at rest, my daughter,” answred Ramandu. “When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth’s eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance.”

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of. And in this world you have already met a star: for I think you have been with Coriakin.”

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 14

C.S. Lewis was a smart cookie, and this line in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader was meant to cure the very “scientific” way of looking at the heavens. C.S. Lewis was a medievalist, and wrote a great deal of his owrks with a medieval mindset. That is why, in his “space trilogy” of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandria, and That Hideous Strength, he makes each of the planets a spiritual being with immense power that come to earth in the last book. Explaining this relationship and also explaining C.S. Lewis’s writings, Michael Ward quotes the following by C.S. Lewis from his “Selected Literary Essays:

the characters of the planets, as conceived by medieval astrology, seem to me to have a permanent value as spiritual symbols- to provide a Phanomenologie des Geistes which is specially worth while in our own generation. Of Saturn we know more than enough, but who does not need to be reminded of Jove.

Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, Oxford Press, 2008, p. 43.

I would like to make the point that the Bible has a similar ambiguous relationship between “the sky” and “the heavens.” And “the heavens” are reflected as having a watery border between heaven and earth, and as we watch the sky move day by day and night by night, we are seeing that watery river – that surrounds the whole earth – move on its way.

Explaining the fifth and sixth days in Genesis 2

Then the narrative moves forward, explaining what Adam is doing when he is “in Eden,” which is not a normal place:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.” (Genesis 2:15-17, ESV)

As such, Adam had a job. But it was a job that was not good for him to do alone:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
(Genesis 2:18-20, ESV)

As such, we have moved into the fifth and sixth days of creation, as described in Genesis 1. While God named the land and the sea and the heavens and the day and the night, now Adam is participating in “naming” the animals and birds. And the point is made that he has no one who is like him and fit for him.

And that is when we get the description of the creation of Eve:

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:21-25, ESV)

And this is where my first principle comes into being. Adam was formed on day three, but “Man” is only complete when the creation is good, and Adam’s existence was not “good” until he had a helper fit for him. That is when Eve was made. And therefore, the creation is only complete when Adam AND Eve come into existence on day six. This is what “Man” in Genesis 1 is explicitly described as involving both a male and female:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26-28, ESV)

That parenthetical line of poetry in Genesis 1 is a reference to the more complete story of creation in Genesis 2, indicating precisely HOW man was made in God’s image.

And that is how Genesis 1 fits in with Genesis 2 in a complete and coherent version of events.

The Theological Implications of This Interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.

So, now that the explanation is done, let’s try to talk about some of the implications of my crazy ideas.

What the Timing of Adam’s Creation Implies

Let’s start with a theological implication that I actually LIKE. If Adam was made on the third day, before any other living thing was made, this changes the relationship of him to the world. He was “created” on the sixth day, because that is when he was “complete” and “good.” But let’s explore what this implies.

While most Christians realize that the world was “perfect” after creation, because it was “good,” something more happens when Adam is made on the third day. Rather than placing Adam in an “off the rack” world, it seems instead that Adam has a world specially made FOR HIM in days three through six. In fact, Adam’s “naming” of all the animals from a very strange place – the not-at-all-normal Garden of Eden – could mean that he even got to pick things for himself. Why are there no velociraptors and humans existing at the same time? Maybe we should blame Adam.

How Does This Fit With Young Earth and Old Earth and Theistic Evolutionary Explanations of Creation?

Some readers might wonder how this fits in with other explanation of the creation event. Is this a “Day-Age” theory of creation? Is it a “Old Earth” description of creation? Is it a “Young Earth” description of creation? I do not know. But I think the answer is “no.”

I hold this view as a unique view. I think it fits closer to a “Young Earth” creation account than an “Old Earth” creation account, because the Old Earth account is made to provide time in which “evolution” can work. But I don’t “believe in” evolution, in any sense that would explain how things came to be.

Instead, I believe that God literally does things in this world. That’s quite literally the only logically acceptable explanation of how you go from “non-living things” to “living things” on the Earth. Everything else is science-sounding glaze over bad-mythological poppycock. “Primordial soup” my ass.

What Do the Six Days Mean?

And so at this point, we probably need to jump into the question of “six days.” But I’m not going to do that. As my last post explained, the Bible makes clear that TIME does not work the same in heaven as on earth. Time goes MUCH FASTER in heaven than on earth, even though time can be measured in heaven.

The creation account in Genesis 1 marks six “days” in which creation took place. Do I believe it took place in six literal days? Yes I do. But six days as experienced where? A “day” is 24 hours on Earth, 1,408 hours on Mercury, 5,832 hours on Venus, 25 hours on Mars, 10 hours on Jupiter, 11 hours on Saturn, 17 hours on Uranus, and 16 hours on Neptune. And that ambiguity is what exists in this physical universe.

Instead, as the Bible says:

For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
(Psalm 90:4, ESV)

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(2 Peter 3:1-10, ESV)

With that in mind, I do not think that the creation account in Genesis 1 took place in 144 hours (which is 6 Earth days). However, God does not lie, and he said that this universe was created in “six days.” Therefore, I’m going to trust that this is the best understanding of creation, even though I don’t exactly know what that means.

What About Death?

Something many Christians tend to get hung up on is the fact that this might imply that death existed on earth before the fall. After all, if this makes room for an unknown number of earth-years before Adam and Eve come on the scene, how does this not make it necessary that death exists on earth before the fall of Genesis 3?

So, I guess I need to address how it is potentially possible that “death” existed on the earth before the fall.

This theological answer is a bit technical, but important. Something to note is that the Bible never says that “death” was not on the good Earth before the Genesis 3 Fall of Man. While Genesis 3 was the first “sin” of mankind, and possibly the entire cosmic realm, it is not true that the first sin created the first death in all of creation. Instead, the first sin created the first death in MAN.

When you look in the Bible, it says that SIN was not in the world before the fall. Death did not come to “the world” because of sin. Instead, the Bible says that death came to MAN because of his sin. Look at the relevant text:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14, ESV)

The point here is not that Death came into the world at the fall. Instead, the point is that death spread to all men through sin. Instead, death was something that was even recognized as “good” in the animal kingdom, and connected with the created order:

He made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar for their prey,
    seeking their food from God.

When the sun rises, they steal away
    and lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
    and to his labor until the evening.
(Psalm 104:19-23, ESV)

How can “prey” come from “God” if it also does not involve animal death?

Additionally, it was widely recognized by early Christians that “death” was not a disease that man caught from Adam, being passed down from father to son from Adam. That would be the “sin nature,” but not “death.” Instead, death was something that existed in the world, but it was warded off from mankind by the Tree of Life. For example, speaking on this very subject, here is what St. Augustine says about Adam’s body in his pre-fallen state:

The first man, of the earth earthy, was made a living soul, not a quickening spirit,—which rank was reserved for him as the reward of obedience. And therefore his body, which required meat and drink to satisfy hunger and thirst, and which had no absolute and indestructible immortality, but by means of the tree of life warded off the necessity of dying, and was thus maintained in the flower of youth,—this body, I say, was doubtless not spiritual, but animal; and yet it would not have died but that it provoked God’s threatened vengeance by offending. And though sustenance was not denied him even outside Paradise, yet, being forbidden the tree of life, he was delivered over to the wasting of time, at least in respect of that life which, had he not sinned, he might have retained perpetually in Paradise, though only in an animal body, till such time as it became spiritual in acknowledgment of his obedience.

St. Augustine, City of God, Book 13, Chapter 23 – https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45304/45304-h/45304-h.htm#Page_481

This understanding is also reflected in the words of God himself in the fall:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23, ESV)

And this is where things get a bit weird, but I think it’s worth it to struggle through to get to the final point. What we need to recognize in the Bible is that “Death” is not merely a thing that happens on Earth. Instead, “Death” is a spiritual being in the spiritual realm:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  (Revelation 20:11-14, ESV)

Because look at who the Bible says we are fighting in this present time:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12, ESV)

The “authorities” and “powers” are SPIRITUAL beings. And it is in that context that the same person (Paul) who wrote that verse above also says this:

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, ESV)

So, yeah, “Death” is a spiritual being who existed before the creation of the physical world.

So, in this context, why is Death the last enemy to be destroyed? That’s because those “authorities” and “powers” are not human beings. They are spiritual beings. They are “concepts,” or what Plato would call “forms.” Modern Jungian types would call them “archetypes” or something.

And the reason that “Death” is the last enemy to be destroyed is that God NEEDS Death to KILL all of his enemies. And after he does that, then “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” It’s like Thanos in Avengers: End Game. He used the stones to destroy the stones. And God is doing the same thing with evil heavenly beings. He’s going to use death to destroy death.

And after this is accomplished, we are told what will happen afterwards. Notice the different understanding of what the lion will do:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;

    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
    and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy

    in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6-9, ESV)

Why? Because Death is now DEAD. That’s not going back to the original state of the pre-fallen earth. It’s an entirely “new creation.” That’s exactly what Jesus says at the end of all things:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

As such, I do not think there is any problem with “death” existing before the fall of Genesis 3.

CONCLUSION

And that’s my explanation of how Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 fit together. I hope you enjoyed it.

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