Genesis One tells the story of the superlative God of power and goodness who spoke and it was done. It is told in a strong poetic voice with repeated phrases. The picture is literally “larger than life.” A cinema-photographer would need to step way back to film the work of Elohim from a broad, panoramic perspective to get the full effect of the action. But that picture of God is incomplete without the close-up camera work of Genesis Two. Read quickly through Genesis 2:4-17 before completing the study.
Genesis 2:4-17 – Adam and Eve – BibleGateway
Answers at the bottom of the page.
Genesis 1:26 tells us that Elohim made our first parents in his own image. Creatures with minds like his—minds designed to communicate with the mind of God. The second creation account lets us watch the process, up close and personal. The shift in mood is reflected by the name used in these intimate scenes.
1. What new word do you find added to the name “God” (Elohim) in Genesis 2:4?
“. . . the ___________________ God made the earth and the heavens.”
2. What do you notice about the letters of the word “Lord” here?
When this English word is rendered “Lord” or “lord” in the Bible—the “ord” part in normal letters—the original Hebrew word is master or ruler. When we call our God “Lord” we acknowledge his authority over us. But that is not the Hebrew word transcribed “LORD” here in Genesis 2 The final three letters are written in small capitals to let you know that this is the Hebrew word YHVH.
What Kind of Name is YHVH? I Can’t Even Say It!
YHVH has been variously pronounced in English as Jehovah, Yahweh, and Yahuwa. I have chosen to use Yahweh in my books, but we simply don’t know for certain how the name was pronounced. See my notes below if you want to know more about how the pronunciation of the holiest name on earth could be forgotten.
We do know that YHVH is a form of the Hebrew root to be. This word names the God not bound by time, who exists forever. HE IS . . . everything. When we have him, we need nothing else. In Revelation 1:8 we read “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is the God of Bible times, the God of today and the God of our future. Yahweh always shows up in the Old Testament as the saving God. When God was about to redeem his children from slavery in Egypt, he told Moses to announce to the people, as well as Pharaoh, that I AM had sent him. In Arabic, the sister language of Hebrew, Ya huwa means “O He is!” He is the necessary one. All else derives from him.
Observant Jews consider the name so holy that they do not try to pronounce it. It is important to always keep the awe and holiness of God in mind, and yet this emphasizes the distance between the Creator and his created children. YHVH is Everything, but he is not distant. Rabbi Arthur Waskow sheds invaluable light on the pronunciation of the name. It is an expression of Life itself!
It is unpronounceable in my view not because we are forbidden to pronounce it — that understanding is in my view a way of avoiding the deeper truth — but because if one tries to do so, pronouncing these four strange letters (semi-vowels, semi-consonants; linguists call them aspirate consonants) WITHOUT any vowels, one simply breathes.
3. How is the creation of Adam different than all the rest of creation?
After creating all other things, Yahweh leaves off calling things into existence by his word. He bends down—hands in the dirt—to shape this unique creation by hand, tenderly fashioning a body from the clay which he has already described as an image of himself. When it is perfectly formed, he bends closer yet and breathes life into the first man. Genesis 2 tells the story of a Creator who is close and personal, as close as our breath.
The Heavenly Gardener
4. What word begins verse 8?
This indicates action previously done. God prepared a home for Adam ahead of time. You will remember how in Genesis 1, Elohim spoke plants of all kinds into existence. In Genesis 2, Yahweh planted a garden. Like parents furnishing a beautiful nursery for their first child, God designed a garden as a home for the first human.
5. We sometimes name our homes when they have unique characteristics. What name did God give this home?
Eden is Hebrew for pleasure or delight. I used to picture a world-wide woodland garden springing up on the third day of creation with Yahweh later taming one small area into that Eden home. I imagined him shaping shrubbery into walls and vines into doorways, rolling out a mossy carpet, and decorating the whole thing with flowers. However, Genesis 2: 5- 6, 9 suggests that God placed the first of earth’s shrubs and trees in one spot.
What if the rest of the planet was beautiful, but bare. Maybe there were grasses in those river valleys, but no shrubs and trees other than those making up the beautiful Garden of Eden. Verse 12 describes one section of the earth where gold and jewels could be found. We don’t hear anything about God giving Adam the work of mining. Were metals and precious stones just scattered across bare ground? Were they nestled in the grass like Easter eggs waiting to be discovered? Genesis 2 leaves me wondering about that. What do you think?
We do know that Yahweh gave our first parents the job of tending their garden home. What work would that be in a perfect, pest-free world? According to Genesis 1:28 the “fruit” of all seed-bearing plants—from apples to zucchini—was given as food for Adam and Eve. These would never have bird pecks or worm holes because there was a food barrier in that perfect world. The animals could only eat the green parts of plants—grasses, leaves and stems. If birds and animals never ate the seed parts of plants, they would not be spreading new plants over the earth along with their scat as they do now. It must have been up to Adam and Eve and their children to gather and plant seeds. They were made in the image of Yahweh. Their job was to create new garden nurseries for their expanding family, spreading love, plant life, and delight around the globe.
2. All capitals—a large initial capital followed by smaller capitals
3. God handmade him, formed him from the ground
Ancient Hebrew was written in consonants only. When two words had the same consonants, the context would make it clear which word was meant. Take the two English words, TRICK and TRUCK. Leave out the vowel and both words become TRK. However, you would most likely have no problem telling which word to say in the following sentence: He drove up in a shiny new TRK. The problem in the pronunciation of YHVH is that around 300 BC, Jews began considering God’s name too sacred to pronounce. They would not even think the sounds silently in their heads. In place of YHVH, they began saying, Adonai , acknowledging God as the Lord and Master of the universe—or they would simply say HaShem—“The Name.”
Centuries later, scribes added small marks indicating vowel sounds and accented syllables to written Hebrew to aid in pronunciation. When they came to the name YHVH, which they would not pronounce, they added the vowel markings for Adonai. We see that decision reflected today in the transcription LORD. When English-speaking Christians first tried to pronounce YHVH with the vowels of Adonai, it came out “Jehovah” much as the Hebrew name Yeshua becomes “Joshua” or “Jesus” in English. That hard /j/ sound however is not part of the Hebrew language. “Yahweh” is probably closer, but not quite right either as Hebrew does not have the /w/ sound. We really don’t know how YHVH was pronounced.
Perhaps like observant Jews, we would do well to think HaShem, “The Name,” whenever we come to the word LORD, remembering that this is the name of the awesome God who is as close as our own breath.