THE FIRST WEEK Gen 1-2:4a
CONTEXT: A creation story allows a narrator to illustrate the nature of the world and how it works. Order and purpose stand out in “The First Week.” In remarkable contrast, “The Garden” opens a string of stories about trial-and-error steps and a chaotic sort of causality. In the former, the seven day week, ending in Sabbath, exemplifies the teachings of the postexilic, priestly writer, “P,” in perhaps the late sixth century BCE. In the latter, complexities of human relations, especially sex, are the interests of “J,” the “Jawhist” narrator of the tenth century BCE.
Gender language is unavoidable in Hebrew verb forms and pronouns, and the verbs and pronouns for God are masculine, singular. The character of the divine protagonist differs in the creation stories. In “The Garden,” the character of Yahh seems distinctly male but “The First Week” states the point that God is neither (or both) male or female. Hence I depart here from the simple rendering of “He/His,” rendering the pronoun as definite article, “the.”
Note instances of “spontaneous generation” (Aristotle’s term for an earlier notion of how life came to be) in which, by divine word, the land gives rise to plants and later to animals, and the waters to living creatures.
In the Shabbat section, most translations read וַיְכַל as a form of √כלה, same as וַיְכֻלּוּ in the preceding verse. This would say that God “completed” the work on the seventh day, though the last of creation took place on the sixth. Could Shabbat be said to have been created on the seventh? Yes, but that seems to me a stretch. Notes penciled into the margins of my Kittel Bible recall some long ago lecture or reading where I learned that Tur Sinai suggested reading וַיְכַל as a form of √כול , meaning “measure” as in Isaiah 40:12. The root also denotes “contain,” suggesting that God “took it all in.” A rabbi might be forgiven for understanding God’s Shabbat activity to be the archetype of the Jewish practice of taking a walk and just looking, particularly when the reading has Tur Sinai on its side.
1IN THE BEGINNING
God created the sky and the land.
2The land was all formlessness and chaos: darkness over the face of the depths, with God/wind, hovering over the face of the water.
3And God said: “There shall be light!” And light came to be. 4And God saw the light as good. And God distinguished between the light and the darkness: 5God called the light, “day,” the darkness, “night.” And evening came to be and morning came to be, day one.
6And God said: “There shall be a plate in the middle of the water, that it be a distinguisher between water and water.” 7Thus God made the plate. It distinguished between the water that was under the plate and the water that was above the plate. 8And God called the plate, “sky.” And evening came to be and morning came to be, second day.
9And God said: “The water that is under the sky shall gather into one place and the dry shall appear.” And so it came to be. 10And God called the dry, “land,” and the gathering of water, “seas.” And God saw it as good. 11And God said: “The land shall sprout shoots of self seeding, grain bearing grass, fruit trees producing fruit by species, each containing its seed for the land.” And so it came to be. 12The land sprouted shoots of grain bearing grass, by species, and fruit bearing trees each containing the seed of its species. And God saw it as good. 13And evening came to be and morning came to be, third day.
14And God said: “There shall be lights in the plate of sky to distinguish the day from the night. And they shall be indicators for sacred seasons, for days, and for years. 15And they shall shine on the land.” And so it came to be, 16that God made the two great lights: the greater for governing the day, the lesser, and the stars, for governing the night. 17And God set them in the plate of the sky to shine on the land, 18to govern by day and night and distinguish between the light and the darkness. And God saw it as good. 19And evening came to be and morning came to be, fourth day.
20And God said: “The waters shall swarm a living, breathing swarm; and fowl shall fly over the land and within the spread of the sky.” 21And God created the great sea monsters and every living, breathing thing that moves, so that the water swarmed with their species, and every winged fowl by its species. And God saw it as good. 22And God blessed them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and the fowl multiply on the land. 23And evening came to be and morning came to be, fifth day.
24And God said: “The land shall put forth living, breathing things by species, beast and mobile, land living animals by species.” And so it came to be, 25with God making land living animals by species, the beasts by species and all that moves on ground by species. And God saw it as good.
26And God said: “We shall make humanity in our image, as our likeness. They shall dominate the fish of the sea, the fowl of the sky, the beast: the whole land and everything mobile that moves on the land.”
27And God created the human in the image –
In the image of God, created,
Created them male and female.
28And God blessed them:
“Be fruitful and multiply.
Fill the land and conquer it.
Dominate the fish of the sea, the fowl of the sky,
And all life that moves on the land.”
29And God said: “See, I have given you every self seeding, grain bearing grass over the face of the land and every fruit bearing tree, self seeding. They shall be yours for food. 30And for all land living animals and all fowl of the sky and all that moves on the land, for all that lives and breathes the green grass shall be for food.”
And so it came to be. 31And God saw all that was done: Yes! It was very good! And evening came to be and morning came to be, sixth day.
2:1And complete now were sky and land and all their hosts. 2God surveyed on the seventh day the labor that was done and desisted from all labor. 3And God blessed the seventh day and made it kodesh, “special,” for on it ceased all the labor that God had done in creation.
4This is the story of the sky and the land in their creation.
To hear this story read:
© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/