The account of the origin of heaven and earth converges in the first chapter of Genesis upon the creation of man. The creation of the other creatures, of heaven and earth, of sun and moon and stars, of plants and animals, is reported in brief words, and there is no mention made at all of the creation of the angels. But when Scripture comes to the creation of man it lingers long over him, describes not only the fact but also the manner of his creation, and returns to the subject for further broad consideration in the second chapter.
This particular attention devoted to the origin of man serves already as evidence of the fact that man is the purpose and end, the head and crown of the whole work of creation. And there are various material details which also illuminate the superior rank and worth of man among the creatures.
In the first place, there is the special counsel of God which precedes the creation of man. At the calling into being of the other creatures, we read simply that God spoke and by His speaking brought them into existence. But when God is about to create man He first confers with Himself and rouses Himself to make men in His image and likeness. This goes to indicate that especially the creation of man rests on deliberation, on Divine wisdom and goodness and omnipotence. Nothing of course came into existence by chance. But the counsel and decision of God is far more clearly manifest in the making of man than in the creation of the other creatures.
Moreover, in this particular counsel of God, the special emphasis is placed on the fact that man is created after the image and likeness of God and therefore stands in an entirely different relationship to God than all other creatures. It is said of no other creatures, not even of the angels, that they were created in God’s image and that they exhibit His image. They may possess hints and indications of one or several of God’s attributes, but of man alone it is affirmed that he is created after God’s image and in His likeness.
Scripture further emphasizes the fact that God created, not one man, but men, according to His likeness. At the conclusion of Genesis 1:27 they are designated as male and female. It is not man alone, nor woman exclusively, but both of them, and those two in interdependence, who are the bearers of the image of God. And, according to the blessing that is pronounced upon them in verse 28, they are such image bearers not in and for themselves alone. They are that also in their posterity, and together with their posterity. The human race in each of its parts and in its entirety is organically created in the image and likeness of God.
Finally, Scripture expressly mentions that this creation of man in God’s image must come to expression particularly in his dominion over all living beings and in the subjection to Him of the whole earth. Because man is the child or offspring of God, he is king of the earth. Being children of God and heirs of the world are two things already closely related to each other, and inseparably related to each other, in the creation.
The account of the creation of man in the first chapter of Genesis is elaborated and amplified in the second chapter (Gen. 2:4b-25). This second chapter of Genesis is sometimes mistakenly designated the second creation story. This is erroneous because the creation of heaven and earth is assumed in this chapter, and is referred to in verse 4b in order to introduce the manner in which God formed man from the dust of the earth. The whole emphasis in this second chapter falls on the creation of man and on the way in which this took place. The big difference between the first and second chapter of Genesis comes out in these details which are told us in the second concerning the forming of man.
The first chapter tells of the creation of heaven and earth and lets these lead up to the making of man. In this chapter man is the last creature called into existence by God’s omnipotence. He stands at the end of the series of creatures as the lord of nature, the king of the earth. But the second chapter, from Genesis 2:4b on, begins with man, proceeds from him as starting point, sets him at the center of things, and then relates what happened in the creation of man, how this took place for the man and for the woman, what dwelling place was appointed for him, with what vocation he was entrusted, and what purpose and destiny was his. The first chapter speaks of man as the end or purpose of the creation; the second deals with him as the beginning of history. The content of the first chapter can be comprised in the name creation, and that of the second chapter in the name Paradise.
There are three particulars which are told us in this second chapter concerning man’s origin, and which serve as the elaboration of what is contained in the first chapter.
In the first place there is a fairly broad treatment of the first dwelling place of man. The first chapter simply stated in general terms that man was created after God’s image and that he was appointed lord over the whole earth. But it gives no hint as to where on the face of the globe man first saw the light of life and where he first lived. This we are, however, told in the second chapter. When God had made the heaven and the earth, and when He had called the sun, moon, and stars, the plants and birds, the animals of the land and those of the water, then no specific place had yet been set aside as a dwelling for man. Hence God rests before He creates man and prepares for him a garden or Paradise in the country of Eden, east of Palestine. That garden is arranged in a particular way. God lets all kinds of trees come up out of the soil there — trees beautiful to see and serviceable for food. Two of these trees are designated by name, the tree of life planted in the middle of the garden, and also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The garden was laid out in such a way that a river which had its point of origin higher up in the territory of Eden flowed through it, and then forked out into four streams, the Pison, the Gihon, the Tiger, and the Euphrates.
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