How much attention have you paid to the radical and dramatic differences between the account of the creation in Genesis 1 and the creation account in Genesis 2? They’re almost like two completely different stories. The Genesis 1 account is so elegant and orderly. This is the one we have memorized. But Genesis 2 tells us that man was created before the plants and trees. And that messes with us.
The God in Genesis 1 is “Spirit.” His “hovering” implies distance. He speaks creation into existence. Nothing exists that’s not created by him. He is the source of all things. He makes it all work “according to their kinds.”
“And it was so.”
The God of Genesis 1 doesn’t have to touch, or even see, anything. He’s distant from it. All of creation seems to take care of itself once he’s finished. He gives orders and commands. God blesses and provides for his creation and gives it what it needs. But it’s all very matter of fact and general.
Contrast that with the God of Genesis 2. That account shows us a God who forms man and breathes into his nostrils. He performs surgery on Adam and then sculpts Eve with his hands. In fact, he forms every animal and bird from the dust of the ground, not just man. He “plants” the garden. He “brought” man to the garden. He “brought” the animals to Adam. And he provided Eve out of concern for the man.
The God in Genesis 2 gets his hands dirty. This is not the distant God of the first account. This is an involved God, one who cares about his creation and is intimately concerned with it. He has expectations. It’s very personal and very specific. And the story doesn’t have near the order and design of the first story.
Why does Scripture give us two different accounts of the same story? Why are they so different? Is God trying to tell us something about himself? Something about his relation to creation and creation’s relation to him? Why the two different pictures?
Genesis 1 shows us our transcendent God. He is holy and “wholly other.” He is not to be confused with his creation. He is diety. Sovereign. King. And distant.
Genesis 2 shows us our imminent God. He is near to his creation. He’s actively involved. He’s concerned with his creation. He is a Father. Friend.
Those two pictures describe our God perfectly. But we must have both in mind when we reflect on our God. Just one of those pictures won’t do. If we concentrate solely on God’s transcendence, there’s no relationship. And if our relationship with God is all we consider, we lose that sense of sovereignty and holiness. There’s design and purpose and meaning to the two pictures. And I think there’s also a method to the order in which the two pictures are presented. Only those who first know and understand God as holy and “other” and very different from us can then know God as the gentle Shepherd and Friend who gives everything, including his very life, for us.