Barry Newman's Blog

March 6, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 5:33 am

Genesis 2: 5-7 – Setting the Scene (cont)

The man made from the soil

The second solution to the “problems” was the formation of man.  Here the text is fairly unambiguous. Yahweh Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground (Hebrew: adamah) and breathed into his nostrils what was required for life and man became a living creature.  Walton refers to Akkadian texts which “speak of people being made out of clay, sometimes mixed with blood and the spittle of the gods”, and further comments,  “This concoction is believed to approximate to appearance of the placenta, which Babylonians considered the leftover raw materials after a baby was made in the womb.” He adds,  “In Egyptian texts Khnum, or alternatively Ptah, the craftsman deity, fashions people out of potter’s clay.” (p.165). That the Hebrew text does not refer to clay, but rather to the “dust of the ground” or “soil”, may well be significant.  The text could have referred to clay and made the obvious point that Yahweh Elohim made man not some pagan god.  Yet on the other hand by avoiding the word for “clay, the writer may have been making an even stronger point that Yahweh is not at all to be confused with the pagan gods although employing some similar method of formation.  It may be that in this part of the text there is a reference to the soil that man becomes upon death but at this point in the narrative there is no mention of “death”.  Perhaps the writer is making the reference to soil in anticipation of “death” becoming a feature of the drama later on.

The breath of life

What of the “breath of life”?  Walton comments that “this concept is found in Egyptian texts but not in Mesopotamian. In the Instructions of Merikare, the god Re ‘made the breath of life for their nostrils.’” (p. 166).  While the Egyptian text links the action of Re with the idea of man being made in the divine image, the reference in Gen 7: 22 to animals having the breath of life in their nostrils, tends to negate that idea as being an idea underlying Gen 2: 7.  As an alternative, the close association of Gen 2: 7 with the image of God texts in 1: 26, 27 may have been purposeful at this point in the account.  Certainly Gen 2: 7 makes it clear that it was Yahweh Elohim who made man a living being.


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