Who was Adam?

This is part two of a series called “The Backstory.”  Backstory is a reference to the sequence of events which form the backdrop to “The call of Abram” and the unfolding of God’s mysterious plan of redemption. 

Review of Two Stories

In our last conversation we discovered that the Hebrew name for God in Creation Story One is Elohim.  In Creation Story Two he is revealed as Lord God or YHVH Elohim in Hebrew. These two names become important later when we meet the snake. But for now, recall the attributes of the Creator displayed in each story.

In Creation Story One it seems that God’s power and nature are expressed by what he does.  In story two things happen naturally and organically and the Creator’s essence shifts from what he “does” to who he “is.” The world builds on the foundation from story one. God who was awe inspiring, omnipotent, judge and distant now steps into the story and begins to interact with creation.  The power and might of Elohim are now expressed by the presence of YHVH Elohim. Creation Story One seems to be more about “doing,” while Creation Story Two is more about “being.”

The events in these stories reflect the dual nature of the Creator. But the real beauty occurs in story two as the elements of nature begin to interact with each other and YHVH is present to join in the experience with Adam.  See if you can notice the differences between both stories.

Creation Account One – Notice the Separations, Boundaries and Raw Power

  • Heaven | Earth ,  Light | Darkness , Waters Above | Waters Below , Seas | Dry land , Evening | Morning , Sun | Moon , Male | Female

Creation Account Two – Notice the Relationships and Connectedness

  • Plants spring up from the land. Mist waters the earth. The Lord God forms man from dust. Lord God breathes into man to give him the breath of life. God planted and placed man in the garden. A river flowed from Eden and then divided. Man names the animals. Woman is created from Man.

Chiasm – How Does this bring Understanding?
With a clearer picture of God as revealed in creation, the next question is, “Who is man as revealed in these stories?”  To begin, there is a literary tool called a chiasm.  A chiasm is a two-part sentence or phrase, where the second part is a reversal of the first. Here are a few examples:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
“And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them.” (Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)
“Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy.

This literary device is often used in the Scriptures, with Gen. 1:27 being one of the most famous passages.

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

What was the image of himself that he made? Can you see it? He defines image right in the verse; it is male and female.

Is this just an elegant literary device that God employs or is something much deeper being communicated? The central idea (image) of the chiasm is expressed by the funnels neck.  Man is to be God’s image on earth, made in the image of the one who creates. But then he defines what this man is; he is male and female. So, we (male and female) are made in the image of God (the Creator). We are his “mini creators,” made to create in the same way he created. 

If we take time to consider the creator in both stories, we find that he creates by bringing order out of chaos, separating things, judging things as well as relating to his environment, establishing relationships between elements of creation, and improving things. Maybe there is a larger chiasm at work – two stories of creation that reflect off each other. And this verse about image is the focal point of both. Both stories provide a picture of what it means to create, and we are given the same charge (to do as he has done).

Think of the beauty in these stories, a chiasm inside another chiasm for the purpose of telling us the great questions of life:

  • who we are – we are image bearers.
  • what we are to do – we are to be as he is.
  • how are we to live – we create in the way he creates.
  • where – we will look at this in the section below.

Just as the chiasm of verse 27 above reverses God and man, so Story Two reverses “heavens and earth” to “earth and heavens.” 

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. Gen. 2:4

Creation Story One | “Heavens and Earth” – “Earth and Heavens” | Creation Story Two

This illustrates that earth is the place given to man for him to represent God as mini creators, creating as he did in the domain assigned to us.

Purpose or Image
We often wonder what our life purpose or our reason for living.  Maybe that is the wrong question. The underlying assumption is about work and effort.  Don’t we really mean, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” Maybe the right question is not “What am I supposed to do?” rather “Who am I supposed to be?”

Image bearing is about “being”, not “doing” – to be as he is. We need to focus on how to be like our creator (living out the image he imprinted in us), then what we do will flow out from that changed life.

Garden = Laboratory?
As humans, in what state can we embrace both concepts of God and understand image? Maybe it’s only possible in the place where Adam interacts with YHVH Elohim – in the garden, a place of intimacy.  Eden was a place where God and man connected.  It was the garden of God, a place on earth where God could hang out with Adam. The relationship between God and man was one of God gifting the garden’s resources to man and man tending and caring for those resources which belonged to God.  They would often walk together as they talked about these things.

Is it possible that the Garden of Eden was like a laboratory, not a sterile lab, but a place of human and divine intimacy? It was a place for us to understand Elohim and YHVH, learning what it means to create and bear the image as we follow the example he gave us. Personally, I think the place of Eden is still possible, a place of human and divine connectedness where we truly learn what “image” (not purpose) is about. 

The only question remaining is why – why does God do all of this and extend us an invitation to join him? I suspect you can readily answer this on your own, but if not begin with that question as you talk with the “lover of your soul.”

Questions for Reflection

  • What does it mean that his image is fully expressed by both male and female.  In other words, YHVH is not complete without Elohim.
  • How do you see yourself as a mini creator as you carry his image?
  • As you consider the differences between “doing” and “being” what practical steps will you consider taking?

One comment

  1. Hi Aaron. When reading this post I immediately thought of Jesus being the perfect image of the Father. Could there be a chiasm between the story of Adam (man) in Genesis to what Jesus (the second Adam) did in the gospels? He restored the image of man and gave us a way back to that image. It seems much of the New Testament is instructing us in how to partner with the Father to return to the original image. I also liked the concept of being rather than doing. In the second story of creation, YHVH is content with a relationship with Adam/Eve. There was no expectation that they needed to do something to please Him. Those walks ‘in the cool of the morning’ taken together say a lot. That definitely speaks of rest to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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