Not long ago, I sat down and did a slow reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Despite how well I would have said I knew the creation story, only as an adult did I realize that the entire order of creation is different in chapter 2 than it is in chapter 1. (Seriously, that’s not a joke. Go look.) My guess would be that this is because as a child I memorized the days of creation from chapter 1 and no one ever talked about that part of chapter 2.
Despite gaining that knowledge over the recent years, I would have still claimed to know the story well. And yet, when I sat down only a week ago, reading slowly, I noticed two things that I hadn’t before. I think I need to stop claiming that I know anything well.
I have heard people teach about the theme of separation in Genesis 1: day and night, light and darkness, earth and water, etc. It’s a story of binaries, opposites. Then frequently, man and woman are included in that list. The idea would be that as earth and water are different, so man and woman are different too. The problem is that the text presents man and woman as similar, corresponding. The separation is between animals and humans. In Genesis 1, God made all the animals and then shifted gears to make another type of creature in God’s own image. Being made in God’s image both separates humanity from the animals and joins women and men. In fact, after making humanity, God commissioned them to “be fruitful and multiple and fill” just as God commissioned the animals (compare Genesis 1:22 with the opening of 1:28). But then, he gives humanity a separate calling as well: rule creation. Humanity was to steward God’s project; they were created to be God’s partners (see also Genesis 2:15). Humanity is to represent God; the animals are not. There is no separation made between woman and man in this story.