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20 (A)Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. 21 God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, 22 and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.(B) 23 Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

24 (C)Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened: 25 God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. 26 (D)Then God said: Let us make[a] human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

27 God created mankind in his image;
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female[b] he created them.

28 God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.[c] Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.(E) 29 [d](F)God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 30 and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. 31 God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.(G)

Chapter 2

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.(H) [e]On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.(I) God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.(J)

I. The Story of the Nations

The Garden of Eden. This is the story[f] of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens—


  1. 1:26 Let us make: in the ancient Near East, and sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth (1 Kgs 22:19–22; Is 6:8; Ps 29:1–2; 82; 89:6–7; Jb 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). This scene accounts for the plural form here and in Gn 11:7 (“Let us then go down…”). Israel’s God was always considered “Most High” over the heavenly beings. Human beings: Hebrew ’ādām is here the generic term for humankind; in the first five chapters of Genesis it is the proper name Adam only at 4:25 and 5:1–5. In our image, after our likeness: “image” and “likeness” (virtually synonyms) express the worth of human beings who have value in themselves (human blood may not be shed in 9:6 because of this image of God) and in their task, dominion (1:28), which promotes the rule of God over the universe.
  2. 1:27 Male and female: as God provided the plants with seeds (vv. 11, 12) and commanded the animals to be fertile and multiply (v. 22), so God gives sexuality to human beings as their means to continue in existence.
  3. 1:28 Fill the earth and subdue it: the object of the verb “subdue” may be not the earth as such but earth as the territory each nation must take for itself (chaps. 10–11), just as Israel will later do (see Nm 32:22, 29; Jos 18:1). The two divine commands define the basic tasks of the human race—to continue in existence through generation and to take possession of one’s God-given territory. The dual command would have had special meaning when Israel was in exile and deeply anxious about whether they would continue as a nation and return to their ancient territory. Have dominion: the whole human race is made in the “image” and “likeness” of God and has “dominion.” Comparable literature of the time used these words of kings rather than of human beings in general; human beings were invariably thought of as slaves of the gods created to provide menial service for the divine world. The royal language here does not, however, give human beings unlimited power, for kings in the Bible had limited dominion and were subject to prophetic critique.
  4. 1:29 According to the Priestly tradition, the human race was originally intended to live on plants and fruits as were the animals (see v. 30), an arrangement that God will later change (9:3) in view of the human inclination to violence.
  5. 2:2 The mention of the seventh day, repeated in v. 3, is outside the series of six days and is thus the climax of the account. The focus of the account is God. The text does not actually institute the practice of keeping the Sabbath, for it would have been anachronistic to establish at this point a custom that was distinctively Israelite (Ex 31:13, 16, 17), but it lays the foundation for the later practice. Similarly, ancient creation accounts often ended with the construction of a temple where the newly created human race provided service to the gods who created them, but no temple is mentioned in this account. As was the case with the Sabbath, it would have been anachronistic to institute the temple at this point, for Israel did not yet exist. In Ex 25–31 and 35–40, Israel builds the tabernacle, which is the precursor of the Temple of Solomon.
  6. 2:4

    This is the story: the distinctive Priestly formula introduces older traditions, belonging to the tradition called Yahwist, and gives them a new setting. In the first part of Genesis, the formula “this is the story” (or a similar phrase) occurs five times (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10), which corresponds to the five occurrences of the formula in the second part of the book (11:27; 25:12, 19; 36:1[9]; 37:2). Some interpret the formula here as retrospective (“Such is the story”), referring back to chap. 1, but all its other occurrences introduce rather than summarize. It is introductory here; the Priestly source would hardly use the formula to introduce its own material in chap. 1.

    The cosmogony that begins in v. 4 is concerned with the nature of human beings, narrating the story of the essential institutions and limits of the human race through their first ancestors. This cosmogony, like 1:1–3 (see note there), uses the “when…then” construction common in ancient cosmogonies. The account is generally attributed to the Yahwist, who prefers the divine name “Yhwh” (here rendered Lord) for God. God in this story is called “the Lord God” (except in 3:1–5); “Lord” is to be expected in a Yahwist account but the additional word “God” is puzzling.