Contradiction #5 – Which First; Beasts or Man?

GEN 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
GEN 1:26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

GEN 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
GEN 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Simple answer: Beasts.

Long answer: In one way it is a shame that Chapters, Verses and Subheadings were inserted into the bible after the original authors had finished their works. Here is a good example of a chapter division falling in a pretty awful spot. The Hebrew text would read much smoother if chapter 1 was extended to include 2:1-4. That being said, it doesn’t change much, especially if we understand that 2:4 is in fact a marker for a change in topic.

Chapter 1 is commonly thought of as the historical chapter. While this does hold some other implications if it is taken 100% literally, the common consensus, and the author’s intended reading, is most probably a literal one. Although the author has written with a historical genre, historicity is not his primary concern. What is certain from reading Genesis 1 is the author is concerned with the hierarchical structure of Creation. Using common terms, that structure is: God rules over everything. Man has responsibility for Woman, and Man and Woman rule together over the animals and the earth. This seems to be the primary concern for the author.

From chapter 2:4 the author changes his angle. Confident that the audience now has a clear understanding of the hierarchical structure, he can move on and elaborate on some of the details which ‘he’ finds important. (Note that the details are the things that he finds important, not us, him).

2:4 contains the word  תּולדה  (pronounced toldah). This Hebrew word means family ‘decent’ or historical ‘generations’. It is clear that the authors intent in chapter 2 is to tell the story of mankind in more detail and from a different perspective to chapter 1.

It could be argued (I don’t know how convincingly) that chapter one has a concern with God and creation of the world because this is what it starts with. Following this line of thought, the author would start with the generations of mankind if this were in fact his concern in chapter 2.

Hence, chapter 2 skips the first 5 days of Creation and lands firmly onto man in the 6th day. So it is safe to assume that man is the key character in this chapter’s story. The story of man is fixated on his relationships and vocation.

God’s concern isn’t with the order of creation. And having already introduced his main point of emphasis which is MAN, the author focuses in on man’s relationships. God created animals for man to rule over. He showed man that they were unsuitable for companionship, so woman was created. We can assume (by studying the bible and other ANE literature) that to an ANE (ancient near eastern) Hebraic mind, introducing man first, animals second and woman third led the original audience to understand the relationship between himself, woman and animals.

For a 21st Century audience, it only takes a little intelligent thinking, and a desire to seek the truth to see that the beasts were created first, humans second. There is no contradiction. But I’m sure if you were able to ask the author who was created first, he would look at you with a blank face and reply… “Who flippin’ cares? The whole point I wrote Genesis 1 and 2 was to show that God is our King, and we are here to worship him with our work”.

Could someone you know benefit from seeing this?

5 thoughts on “Contradiction #5 – Which First; Beasts or Man?

  1. I would disagree to some extent, though I think many of your conclusions are valid.
    To an ANE mind, they would have seen the connections between Genesis 1 and the Egyptian and Mesopotamian cosmologies. This is not to suggest that the author “stole” the creation narratives, but rather that he used an already understood cosmological framework as a tool to teach theological truths about God. The key things which would have stood out are the ways these narratives deviate – that there is one God, that He is superior, that all those things which were seen as gods in other cultures are instead mere creations, that chaos is overcome by order, and the motif of a cosmological temple.

    I reference an essay by PhD candidate Joseph Lam when I address some of this here: http://ofdustandkings.com/2012/03/16/idols/

    In addition, the variations between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are identified in the inclusio structure within each. Genesis 1 is enveloped by God: He creates in the beginning and rests at the end. In an oral culture, this would serve to signal that everything which falls between is to be understood in light of how that represents God. Genesis 2, however, is enveloped by the creation of humanity: it begins with the creation of man, and ends with the creation of woman. Thus, everything which falls between is seen in light of what that means for the role of man and woman in the midst of creation. From this perspective, there is no conflict between whether man or beast came first, as the order serves as a framework to convey theological truth, not scientific information.

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    1. thanks for your comment.
      on the whole i completely agree with you.
      i think maybe i haven’t been clear enough.
      probably becuase these are things that i am think about and wresting with for the first time.
      the essay you linked was quite helpful and relevent.
      when writing on chapter 2 i was trying to highlight the emphasis on humanity and his relationship with the rest of creation. i see alot of ‘relationship’ language in Gen 1+2 and feel that the rest of the bible reveals the plan to restore that relationship as God had originally intended.
      thanks again for your insight and clarity.
      JOSH

      Reply

      1. I would absolutely agree, especially chapter 2. Chapter 1 speaks profoundly to our role in the midst of creation as the image of God bearing dominion, but chapter 2 emphasizes profound intimacy. Even the imagery of God giving us life by breathing into us, like a sacred kiss. And in the Hebrew, we see a deliberate shift in the wording for God. Genesis 1 uses ‘elohim’, a generic term for ‘god or gods’. Genesis 2, however, refers to the God of Israel by name – Yahweh. This is what is translated LORD in the english. Another great example of intimacy. 🙂

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