Have you ever noticed there are two stories of creation in the Bible? Both tell the story about creation from God’s perspective, but vastly different vantage points. But why two stories, why not combine them? Perhaps, God knows that humans have great difficulty holding in balance divergent perspectives; he presents two stories of the same event to show the separate but unified aspects of the creator. We see a similar use of this literary tool in four gospels retelling the same events.
Regardless, it’s important to understand that God (as creator) is one who brings order out of chaos, he’s powerful, omnipotent, a king and judge. But at the same time, he is one who brings oneness, he’s relational, redeeming, improving things, and bringing meaning and beauty into the world. As we look at the two creation stories, this should become clear.
Understanding these two aspects of God’s nature(revealed in each story) are foundational for a Christian. This first glimpse of the godhead forms the bedrock to discovering the beautiful harmony within the Godhead.
For an unbeliever, their view of God (if they believe in a god at all) is dominated solely by the character of God in story #1: power, authority, judge, etc. In this understanding, God is not a relational being but rather one to be feared and avoided if possible. As we move forward in our study will see how the snake uses this knowledge against the woman.
If you have not done so already, please use the scripture references below to read both creation accounts using the side-by-side comparison as a opportunity for thoughtful meditation.
|Story 1 (Gen. 1:1 – 2:4a)||Story 2 (Gen. 2:4b – 2:25)|
|Elohim-Hebrew name for God used in story 1. Elohim is translated as “God” in english. It is the plural form of Eloah; the root of which is “El” meaning judge or power in ancient Canaanite religions.||YHVH Elohim(1)-Hebrew name for Lord God used in story 2. YHVH Elohim(i) is translated as “Lord God” in english. “YHVH” is the personal name of God, sometimes translated as Adonai or Ha Shem (“the name”)|
|Creator – Story 1||Creator – Story 2|
|“Heaven and earth”||“Earth and heaven”|
|God operates in space and time; notice day 1, day 2, etc.||Story 2 appears timeless; chronology does not matter|
|World is neatly ordered. God separates and divides things, creates boundaries||Lord God brings oneness, connectedness, relational aspects to creation|
|God creates three domains with middle managers over each. (Heavens | Sun, Moon); (Seas | Great fish); (Land | Adam)||Lord God narrows focus to earth and how Adam is to interact with the earth.|
|God creates self-replicating systems, maintenance free. ex) seed bearing plants and trees||Creation is organic & natural; there is no command to “be fruitful and multiply”, life just happens|
|Operates in time, space – Day 1, Day 2, etc.||Timeless – chronology does not matter|
|Order – separates and divides things, creates boundaries||Brings oneness, connectedness, relationships to creation|
|Three domains: heavens, seas, land Middle managers over each – Sun, moon | great fish | Adam||Narrows focus to earth. Adam’s interaction with the earth.|
|Creates self-replicating systems, maintenance free. ie) seed bearing plants and trees||Creation is organic & natural; there is no command to “be fruitful and multiply”, life just happens|
|God is known by his omnipotentence, perfection, excellence, understanding, knowledge and his commands to creation||Lord God brings meaning and beauty into the world; steps into creation; plants a garden and then shares his delight with Adam.|
|Not relational – no interaction with creation; takes a “hands off” approach after creation.||Intimate, mystical, not as easy to understand but more relatable.|
|God is not relational; takes a “hands off” approach after creation.||Lord God is both relational and interactive with creation. He improves Adam’s situation, interprets the world for man.|
|In story 1 God judges his creation like an artist or sculpture – this is good, and he stops. In story 1 we seem to have “good” and “bad”||In story 2 Lord God saw that it was “not good” that Adam was alone; this seems to indicate a third option (“not good”) leaving room for improvement|
Questions to consider
- When you consider creator God in each story what emotions do you feel?
- Which story are you most drawn to and why?
- How do these two creation accounts inform your understanding of God?
- Since we are made in the image of the creator, what does it mean for humans to create?
- In my life which storyline am I pursuing; do I need to integrate more of Elohim or YHVH Elohim into my life?
- Is it possible to reconcile these two very different understandings of God? Consider the Jewish Shema.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Footnote ……YHVH Elohim – First revelation of “The Name”
(i)Ancient cultures around the Mediterranean used the name El to refer to the chief god among a pantheon of lesser gods. The plural of this name “El” was Elohim often referring to God and his son(s). This is Gods’ name revealed in the first creation account. In the Bible, El was the deity worshiped by the Hebrew patriarchs, but he was different from the divine pantheons of the surrounding cultures.
Later in the second creation account, Elohim revealed his personal name as YHVH Elohim. YHVH is known as the tetragrammaton or simply Ha-Shem, “The Name”. As the Biblical revelation of God continues, he reveals other aspects of his nature such as: El Shaddai- “God Almighty”, El Elyon–“God Most High”, etc
Part of the larger story of God is the continued revelation of who he is, done by the progressive revelation of his name. This is challenging for humans to comprehend because we know people by their physical bodies, and we attach a name to them. This is how we know one another. God is not like this; he does not have a body (at least in the Old Testament) and so he deposits his nature and character in his name. Here in the opening chapters of Genesis we get a glimpse of God’s nature as revealed in his name which God will continue to develop as his story unfolds.