Barry Newman's Blog

February 23, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part II)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 12:47 am

Genesis 2: 4 – These are the generations of the heavens and the earth …

Verse 4 of chapter 2 is where we begin.  And it is not easy to discern what is being said here.  To what does the word, “these” refer and what is meant by “the generations of” (Hebrew: toledoth)?  Toledoth occurs 11 times in Genesis and there has been considerable debate about whether, when it occurs, a reference is being made to what has been written before or afterwards.  In what follows some in depth discussion will centre on the significance of “toledoth”.  This is because such discussion is considered potentially helpful in understanding the verses that follow and also suggestive of how Genesis might have been written.

The occurrences of “toledoth”

Apart from its occurrence in 2: 4 all instances in Genesis refer to a man’s name and seem to be associated with developments that follow on from that person.  Indeed Walton in Genesis, (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001; the commentary referred to in this blog series as Walton) suggests that it refers to, “developments that arise out of” (p. 40).  There are however some interesting features to its usage in Genesis. Sometimes what follows either immediately or soon afterwards is mainly genealogical but on other occasions what follows is mainly narrative.  In 5: 1 there is a reference to the “book of the toledoth”.  There are two references to the toledoth of Esau (36: 1, 9).  There is a reference to the toledoth of Shem, Ham and Japheth (10:1) but what follows is limited to Ham and Japheth.  Shem’s toledoth actually occurs in 11: 10 ff.  Though there are references to the toledoth of Ishmael (25: 12), Isaac (25: 19) and Jacob (37: 2) as well as Esau, as already noted, there is no toledoth of Abraham.  Instead there is a toledoth of Terah (11: 27), Abraham’s father.  There is a toledoth of Noah (6: 9) but not of Abraham!

The coverage of a “toledoth”

Walton sees the coverage of each toledoth as extending to the next toledoth (or to the end of Genesis in the case of the toledoth of 37: 2) (Walton, p. 40).  For example, the toledoth of Terah is considered to cover the text from 11: 27 to 25: 11 – material mainly associated with Abraham. What then is the toledoth of 2: 4 intended to cover? According to Walton its coverage would take us from 2: 4 to 4: 26 and extend beyond the Garden of Eden account to material associated with Cain and Abel.  This makes some sense since 5: 1 which refers to the toledoth of Adam, is followed by Seth and his descendants without any reference to Cain and Abel.  Walton further suggests that the use of toledoth in association with the heavens and the earth may have a polemical purpose created through irony.  Given that toledoth often introduces a genealogical account and recognising that the cosmologies of surrounding cultures often refer to the gods producing other gods, the writer may be saying that to the contrary, the heavens and the earth bring forth “the provision of God for the people he created and the plan of God in history” (Walton, p. 163). However what is still noteworthy is that unlike the toledoth of all other occurrences, the toledoth of 2: 4 does not refer to a person’s name; rather it refers to “the heavens and the earth”. This identical phrase occurs in 2: 1 and an almost identical phrase in 1: 1.  One can understand why there has been a debate about whether a toledoth refers to what comes before or after.

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