Copyright © 1991 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED:
A STUDY OF GEN 2:5-7
WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR GEN 2:4-25 AND GEN 1:1-2:3
MARK D. FUTATO*
In 1958 the Westminster Theological Journal published "Because It Had Not
Rained," an exegetical study of Gen 2:5 by Meredith G. Kline.1 The
article demonstrated that according to Gen 2:5 ordinary providence was
God's mode of operation during the days of creation. Since God's mode of
operation was ordinary providence, and since, for example, light (Day 1)
without luminaries (Day 4) is not ordinary providence, the arrangement of
the six days of creation in Genesis 1 must be topical not chronological. The
current article is complementary to Kline's.2
Why does Gen 2:5 bother to tell us that certain kinds of vegetation were
absent “for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth?" This question has
intrigued and perplexed me for some time. Is the absence of rain mere
geographical decoration or quasi-irrelevant data that sets the stage for the
really important material that follows? Or is this information that is founda-
tional to the narrative and its theology? The answer to this question has
played a major role in my interpretation of Gen 1:1-2:25.
In this article, I intend to examine the logic, structure, and semantics of
Gen 2:5-7, and to draw out several integrated conclusions: 1) It rained at
the time of creation according to Gen 2:5-7. So we should discard the idea
that the Bible teaches that it did not rain until the flood of Noah's day.
2) The structure of Gen 2:5-7 provides the key to understanding the struc-
ture of the whole of Gen 2:4-25, which turns out to be topical not chrono-
logical. 3) The structure and topical arrangement of Gen 2:4-25 in turn
supports the argument that the arrangement of Gen 1:1-2:3 is also topical
not chronological.3 4) These structural considerations lead to new insights
Mark D. Futato is associate professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological in
1 Meredith G. Kline, "Because It Had Not Rained," WTJ 20 (1958) 146-57.
2 My article is also complementary to the more recent article, Meredith G. Kline, "Space
and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony," Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith 48 (1996)
2-15. These two articles often arrive at the same conclusions from different lines of argumentation,
and each contributes details left undiscussed or undeveloped in the other.
3 There may be some chronological sequence in these chapters, but such chronology is
"accidental," i.e., the author's primary intention is to narrate the material topically.
into the polemical theology of Genesis 1-2. Genesis 1-2 serves, among other
purposes, as a polemic against Canaanite Baalism. In sum, Gen 2:4-25 and
Gen 1:1-2:3 are topical accounts that polemicize against Baalism, because it
I. The Argument of Gen 2:5-7
Many of the details of Gen 2:5-7 have been studied and correctly inter-
preted, but in my estimation an interpretation that integrates all parts into
a coherent whole has not yet been set forth. When the parts are interpreted
in the immediate and broader literary contexts, as well as the geographical
context of the Ancient Near East and the theological context of Canaanite
religion, puzzles are solved and a coherent picture emerges. Verses 5-7 articu-
late a two-fold problem, reason for the problem, and solution to the problem.5
Verse 5a articulates the problem: "No siah-hassadeh had yet appeared in
the land, and no ‘eseb-hassadeh yet sprung up." Some commentators make
4 Some might object that there is a methodological problem from the beginning: letting a
latter text (Gen 2:5-7) control the interpretation of an earlier text (Gen 1:1-2:3). I could have
written this paper in the exact opposite order, examining the structure of Gen 1:1-2:3, drawing
out the implications for the parallel structure in Gen 2:4-25, and then using this material to
answer the question regarding "no rain" in Gen 2:5. My starting with Gen 2:5-7 reflects the
point at which I entered the interpretive process some time ago. 2) All Scripture is to be used
to interpret all Scripture. We often know more about the beginning of a story once we have
gotten to the end. An excellent example of this is found in Numbers 19, which describes the
water of purification ritual. Verses 1-6 describe the burning of the heifer; vv 7-10 describe the
removal of the ashes to a purified place outside the camp; vv l l-13 describe the use of the waters
of purification for those who have come in contact with a dead body. At this point the reader
is bewildered as to the relationship between the ashes and the water, since the text makes no
connection between the two. In vv 14-19 it becomes clear, however, that in the ritual some of
the ashes are put in ajar to which water is added, then this water is sprinkled on the unclean
people and/or objects to bring about the ritual cleansing. It is only in the light of the latter
material (vv 14-19) that the earlier material (vv 11-13) is comprehensible. The question is not,
"Ought one to begin in Genesis 1 or Genesis 2?" The question is, "What is the interpretation
that does most justice to both texts?"
5 The NIV, NLT, and NAB treat vv 5-7 as part of the same literary unit, and they begin a
new paragraph at v 8; so too Victor P Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (NICOT;
waw+subject+predicate construction at the beginning of v 5 marks this material as background
information; see Alviero Niccacci, The Syntax of the Verb in Classical Hebrew Prose (JSOTSup,
background information ends and the main action begins. Some scholars take the waw-
relative in v 7 as the marker for the first main action; see Niccacci, Syntax, 39; Gordon Wenham,
Genesis 1-15 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987); and C. John Collins, "Exegetical-theological Notes for
Christian Faith in an Age of Science," unpublished (1997) 10 n50, who follows Niccacci and
Wenham. But this is not necessary, since the waw-relative can be used to represent sequence
within backgrounded material; see, e.g., Gen 47:13-14; Judg 11:1-3; 1 Sam 5:1. That v 7
belongs with vv 5-6 will become clear as the argument unfolds. For now, note the chiastic
arrangement of the clause types that ties v6 (the reason) to v 7 (the solution): verbal (ki lo’
himtir ’lohim + nominal (we’adam 'ayin) + nominal (we’ed ya’aleh) + verbal (wayyisr).
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 3
no attempt to specify the kinds of plants these two phrases have in view, but
take them as general references to vegetation.6 Claus Westermann, on the
other hand, has provided some specificity:
siah describes mainly but not exclusively shrubs or the wild shrubs of the steppe
(Gen 21:15; Job 30:4, 7), and ‘eseb-hassadeh plants that serve for food or
But even greater specificity is attainable. The phrase, siah-hassadeh, refers to
the wild vegetation that grows spontaneously after the onset of the rainy
season, and ‘eseb-hassadeh refers to cultivated grains.
At the end of the dry season, and after five months of drought, the hills
is as hard as iron, so plowing and planting are impossible. Then come the
rains, resulting in the hills of the steppe being clothed with verdure (Job 38:25-
27). The rains also soften the soil and allow the farmer to plow and plant
(see Ps 65:9-10). It is in this geographical context that we must understand
siah-hassadeh and ‘eseb-hassddeh.8
The word, siah, occurs only four times (Gen 2:5, 21:15; Job 30:4, 7). From
the three texts outside Gen 2:5 it is clear that siah refers to desert vegetation,
i.e., to uncultivated vegetation that grows spontaneously as a result of fall
6 E.g., Ronald F Youngblood, The Book of Genesis (Baker: Grand Rapids, 1991), 34.
7 Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11 (Augsburg: Minneapolis,
1984) 199. See also
8 The account in Gen 2:4-5 is being narrated from the perspective of one living in the
Syro-Palestinian Levant, as is clear from v8 where we are told that the garden was planted
the garden was located somewhere in
Levant in general and the
the audience for whom the story was originally written was about to live. In a complementary
fashion, Theodore Hiebert, The Yahwist's Landscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel (New
York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 36, makes the following point: "One key detail
is the reference, in the epic's opening sentence, to rainfall as essential for the growth of
vegetation.... Yet when the beginning of the Yahwist's epic is compared to the beginnings
of origin narratives from other cultures, this mention of rain stands out as a distinctive charac-
of J's narrative. In the great river valley civilizations of the ancient Near
rivers and on irrigation systems related to them, narratives focus on these phenomena rather
on the rainfall that is the ultimate source of the rising rivers. A creation
in just such a series of introductory clauses describing not yet existent realities as those that
begin the Yahwist's epic, focuses on the key phenomena of irrigation agriculture:
In those days no canals were opened,
No dredging was done at dikes and ditches on dike tops.
The seeder plough and ploughing had not yet been instituted
for the knocked under and downed people.
No (one of) all the countries was planting in furrows.
By contrast, J's reference to rain alone reflects the rain-based, dryland farming character-
of the highlands on the shores of the Mediterranean where biblical
being." Hiebert's point is well taken, apart from his views on Pentateuchal sources.
rains. In Gen 21:15, for example, Hagar placed her young son under "one
the bushes (siah)" in the
30:4 and 7 are similar,
3Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4In the brush (siah) they gathered salt herbs,
and their food was the root of the broom tree.
5They were banished from their fellow men,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7They brayed among the bushes (siah)
and huddled in the undergrowth.
The "parched land" and "desolate wastelands" of v 3 make clear that siah
refers to uncultivated vegetation of the desert or steppe.
So Westermann was being too cautious when he said "siah describes
mainly but not exclusively shrubs or the wild shrubs of the steppe." There is no
evidence to suggest that siah refers to anything other than "wild shrubs of
On the other hand, ‘eseb-hassddeh occurs in texts like Exod 9:22, 25 which
have cultivated grain in view,
22Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that
hail will fall all over
in the fields (‘eseb-hassadeh) of
everything in the fields both men and animals; it beat down everything
growing in the fields (‘eseb-hassadeh) and stripped every tree.
Verses 31-32 provide specificity for the more general ‘eseb-hassddeh,
and barley were destroyed, since the
barley had headed and the
flax was in bloom. 32The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed,
because they ripen later.
Here ‘eseb-hassddeh clearly refers to cultivated grains like flax, barley, wheat,
and spelt. Similarly, and closer in context to Gen 2:5, cultivated grains
(‘eseb-hassddeh) are in view in Gen 3:18 where the farmer will eat the grain
that is the result of his arduous labor.10
9 Hiebert, Landscape, 37, is thus correct when he says that siah-hassadeh "is used for vege-
tation that grows in semiarid and arid regions, the low bushes and dwarf shrubs characteristic
of areas that lack enough rain to support intensive agriculture." But his explicit connection
with pasturage of sheep and goats has no support in the context.
10 See Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1994), 169.
The New Living Translation translates ‘eseb-hassadeh in Gen 2:5 as "grain," as does
Hiebert, Landscape, 37; but contra Hiebert, the contrast between siah-hassadeh and ‘eseb-
hassadeh is not
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 5
This proposed contrast in Gen 2:5 between wild vegetation and culti-
vated grain finds immediate confirmation in v 5b.
Verse 5b articulates the two-fold reason for the problem with impeccable
logic: "because the Lord God had not sent rain on the land, and there was
no man to cultivate the ground." There was no vegetation that springs up
spontaneously as a result of the rains, because there was no rain. And there was
no cultivated grain, because there was no cultivator. So that the reader will not
miss the two-fold reason corresponding to the two-fold problem, the Hebrew
text focuses the reader's attention on the two-fold reason, the absence of rain
and the absence of anyone to cultivate the fields, by placing himtir ("sent rain")
and 'adam ("man") in the clause-initial position in their respective clauses.
A coherent picture is emerging: there was no wild vegetation because there
was no rain, and there was no cultivated grain because there was no cultivator.
By this point the author has created an expectation in the mind of the
reader: the two-fold problem with its two-fold reason will be given a two-
fold solution. Yet, here is where virtually all interpretations fail for lack of
Verses 6-7 provide the two-fold solution: "So [God] caused rain clouds
to rise up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground, and
the Lord God formed the man. . . ." Verse 7 says, "the LORD God formed
the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life, and the man became a living being." Here lies the solution
to the second prong of the two-fold problem and reason. The logic is cogent
and the picture is coherent: "no cultivated grain had sprung up ... for
there was no one to cultivate the land ... and the LORD God formed the
man." This is all rather straight forward and uncontested.
The crux is the meaning of the word 'ed in v 6. Scholars have proposed
numerous meanings for ‘ed,11 but "stream" seems to have won the day.12
"Stream" can not possibly be correct for two reasons: 1) The text does not
say that the problem was a lack of water in general, a problem which could
be solved by water from any one of a variety of sources, for instance, a
stream. The problem was a lack of rain in particular, because in the ancient
Syro-Palestine Levant rain was the sine qua non of vegetation, especially wild
vegetation. 2) "Stream" makes nonsense out of such a well-constructed and
tightly argued text. If "stream" is understood, the sense is something like
"no wild vegetation had appeared in the land ... for the LORD God had
not sent rain ... but a stream was arising to water the whole surface of the
land." If a stream was present to water the whole surface of the land, then
between animal husbandry and agriculture, but between vegetation that requires rain only
and that which requires a farmer in addition to rain.
11 See Westermann, Genesis, 200-201, for an overview.
12 See Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 17;
Youngblood, Genesis, 35; Westermann, Genesis, 201; John J. Scullion, Genesis: A
Commentary for Students, Teachers, and Preachers (The Liturgical Press: Collegeville,
MN, 1992), 44.
there was ample water for the appearance of wild vegetation, and the
reason clause ("for the Lord God had not sent rain") is completely irrele-
vant and illogical.13
Though Gen 2:5-7 primarily connects rain with wild vegetation, in real-
ity rain is also the prerequisite for cultivated grain in the life of the ancient
Hebrew farmer (see Deut 11:8-17). Since rain is the prerequisite for ‘eseb-
hassadeh as well as for siah-hassadeh, and since Adam will eventually ‘eseb-
hassadeh according to Gen 3:18, Adam must have experienced rain. Once
again, if "for the LORD God had not sent rain" is to make any logical sense,
rain must have fallen in Adam's experience.14
So v 6 is begging to be interpreted as a reference to rain. The expectation
is for something like, "no wild vegetation had appeared in the land ... for
the LORD God had not sent rain ... so God sent rain." On this point
Mitchell Dahood was right. Stimulated by the association of the obscure
Eblaite NI.DU with rain (ga-sum; Hebrew gesem) and the association of
Hebrew ‘ed with rain (mtr), Dahood proposed reading NI.DU as Semitic
i-du and understanding both the Eblaite i-du and the Hebrew ‘ed as "rain
cloud."15 Whether or not Dahood is correct in his interpretation of the
Eblaite evidence,16 he is correct in taking Hebrew ‘ed as "rain cloud," as
can be demonstrated from the literary and climatic contexts in which ‘ed
occurs in the MT itself.17
The only other recognized occurrence of Hebrew 'ed is Job 36:27,18 which
the NIV translates,
13 Kline, "Space," 12, says, "Gen 2:6 tells of the provision of a supply of water, the absence
of which had previously delayed the appearance of vegetation.... Verse 6 must then be
relating a new development, not something concurrent with the situation described in verse
5. For otherwise verse 6 would be affirming the presence of the supply of water necessary for
the survival of vegetation at the very time when verse 5b says the absence of vegetation was
due to the lack of such a water supply."
14 It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine other biblical accounts of creation that
testify to the presence of rain from the beginning, but see, for example, Ps 104:13 and Prov 3:19-20,
and Mark D. Futato, "Sense Relations in the `Rain' Domain of the Old Testament," in Mark
Smith, ed., Essays in Honor of Aloysius
Association, forthcoming) and idem "Dew," in Willem G. VanGemeren, ed., The New Inter-
national Dictionary of Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 2.363-64.
15 Mitchell Dahood, "Eblaite I-Du and Hebrew 'Ed, 'Ram-Cloud'," CBQ 43 (1981) 534-38.
16 See David Toshio Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters in Genesis I and 2 (JSOTSup, 83;
Semitic etymology. The only criticism offered by Tsumura that has any bearing on my argu-
mentation is his third point, "[Dahood's] translation, `So he made a rain cloud come up' is
not syntactically acceptable" (96); but the consecutive nature of this clause is not an essential
part of the argument, and see my footnote note 29, which counters Tsumura's assertion regarding
17 The biblical evidence can stand on its own and does not need support from comparative
18 Dahood, "Rain Cloud," 537-38, also reinterprets the personal name matred (Gen 36:39;
1 Chr 1:50) as "Rain of the Cloud," with an elided aleph. He cites several theophoric names
with a "rain" component. There is also the simple Hebrew name gesem (Neh 2:19).
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 7
He draws up the drops of water,
which distill as rain to the streams (‘ed).
The NIV translates 'ed here with "streams" in keeping with its rendering
in Gen 2:6. A footnote, however, offers an alternative: "distill from the mist
(‘ed) as rain." The alternative in the footnote is certainly closer to the true
sense. It correctly recognizes the sense "from" for the preposition le,19 but
"mist" ("water in the form of particles floating or falling in the atmosphere
at or near the surface of the earth and approaching the form of rain")
cannot be the sense of ‘ed here, since mist does not "distill as rain (matar),"
especially as "abundant rain" (see v 28). The ancients knew as well as we
that rain distills/drops from clouds, as Eccl 1:3 makes clear,
If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain upon the earth.
Dahood, translates Job 36:27,
When he draws up drops from the sea,
they distill as rain (matar) from his rain cloud ('ed).20
Such a rendering not only makes sense in the narrow confines of the verse
and Syro-Palestinian meteorology, but note how well it fits the context,
27When he draws up drops from the sea,
they distill as rain from his rain cloud. (Dahood)
28The clouds pour down their moisture
and abundant showers fall on mankind. (NIV)
Note how a hinge is formed by v 27b ("rain cloud") and v 28a ("clouds").
This hinge connects the beginning of the cycle (evaporation in v 27a) with
the end of the cycle (abundant rain on the land in v 28b). Clearly, the text
does not picture mist distilling as rain or drops of water distilling to streams,
but abundant rain falling from rain clouds.
Given that ‘ed has the sense "rain cloud" in Job 36:27, where it is collo-
cated with rain (mtr), it is certainly plausible that ed has the same sense in
Gen 2:6, where it is likewise collocated with rain (mtr; Gen 2:5). The plausi-
bility of this conclusion is confirmed by the fact that Dahood was not the
first to understand ‘ed in the sense of "rain cloud;" the ancient Targums
consistently render 'id with Aramaic ’nn ("cloud")!21
19 See John E. Hartley, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) 475, and Marvin
H. Pope, Job (AB 15; Carden City, NY: Double Day, 1965), 273.
20 Dahood, "Rain Cloud," 536.
21 Tsumura, Earth, 94. For Onkelos, see Alexander Sperber, ed. The Bible in Aramaic, Based
on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992), 1.2; for Pseudo Jonathan, see
G. Clarke, ed. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of
the Pentateuch: Text and Concordance (
NJ: Ktav, 1984), 2; for Neophiti I, see Alejandro Diez Macho, ed. .Neophyti 1: Targum
Palestinense Ms de la
Cientifieas, 1968) 1.8.
An immediate objection arises, however, if we translate Gen 2:6, "A rain
cloud came up (qal of ‘lh) from the land," since rain clouds do not literally
come up from the land. So, for example, David Tsumura has said,
On the other hand, ed is described as "coming up" (ya’aleh) from the earth
('eres), either from the surface of the earth or from underground. Thus, ‘ed,
the water from below, is clearly distinguished from rain water, the water
from above, in Gen 2:5-6.22
But consider a text like Ps 135:7,
He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth ('eres);
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
The verb translated "makes rise" in v 7a is the hiphil of ‘lh, and the word
for rain in v 7b is matar. Ps 135:7 thus provides a close parallel for Gen 2:5-6,
showing that clouds do rise from the land, at least in terms of how things
appear to an observer standing on the land. Clouds appear on the horizon,
whether the horizon is a plain or a mountain, and thus give the appearance
of rising from the land. The seventh time Elijah's servant looked out over
from the sea" (1 Kgs 18:44), not literally rising from the sea, of course, but
rising in terms of appearance, since the cloud was rising in relation to the
sea that formed the western horizon. Compare also Jer 10:13 || 51:16,
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
he makes clouds rise (hiphil of ‘lh) from the ends of the earth ('eres).
He sends lightning with the rain (matar)
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
In light of these texts, I am also inclined to agree with Dahood23 when
he takes ya’aleh in Gen 2:6 (used in the context of mtr and 'eres) as a hiphil
with God as the subject for the following reasons: 1) Ps 135:7 and Jer 10:13
use the hiphil of ‘lh + "clouds" as the direct object with God as subject in
the context of matar and 'eres, and thus the legitimacy of collocating the
hiphil of dh + "clouds" is established, 2) God is the subject of the preceding
himtir (Gen 2:5) and the following wayyiser ("formed;" v 7), so continuity of
the subject would result,24 and most significantly 3) God would be the
Pseudo Jonathan says, "But a cloud of glory came down from beneath the throne of glory, and was
filled with water from the ocean, went up again from the earth, and sent rain down and
watered the whole surface of the ground;" periphrastic elements are italicized in Michael Maher,
Targum Pseudo Jonathan: Genesis (The
Liturgical Press, 1992), 1A.22.
22 Tsumura, Earth, 93.
23 Dahood, "Rain Cloud," 536.
24 While continuity of the subject is not required (see 2:21 and Collins, "Exegetical-
theological Notes," 13 n79), such continuity is a consideration along with the other two factors.
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 9
explicit solver of both the problem of no rain and the problem of no cultiva-
tor--God caused the rain clouds to rise and God formed the cultivator.
A second objection to taking ‘ed as a reference to rain (cloud) would be
that Gen 2:10 says a "river" watered the garden, not rain. In fact, the
repetition of the hiphil of sqh in v 6 and v 10 is part of an argument for taking
‘ed as a reference to the river of v 10.25 The repetition, however, can be
explained as a means of connecting the source ("rain clouds;" v 6) with the
result ("river;" v 10). But even if 'ed is defined by the "river," the presence
of rain simply becomes an unargued presupposition of the text. This is so
because the ancients were as well aware as we are that precipitation is the
source of river water (see, for example, Matt 7:25, 27). Moreover, the word
for "river" in our text, nahar, is typically used for perennial rivers like the
surrounding mountains), the presence of a nhr would be proof of the pres-
ence of rain rather than an objection to it. The burden of proof rests
squarely on the one who would wish to argue that something other than a
precipitation-fed river is in view in the use of the word nahar in Gen 2:10,
since the word is never used for anything other than a precipitation-fed
river in the Hebrew Bible. But ultimately the resultant illogical text (as
discussed above) when 'ed is taken as "stream" outweighs all other con-
siderations and precludes understanding ‘ed as a reference to a river or
Meredith Kline has adopted Dahood's interpretation of ‘ed as "rain
cloud" and has further suggested taking the imperfect of '1h in an inceptive
sense,26 "he began to make rain clouds27 arise." Grammatically the incep-
tive sense is possible,28 and contextually the inceptive sense is required, for
if there had been rain clouds previously, there would have been rain and
the reason clause ("for the LORD God had not sent rain") would be irrele-
vant and illogical.
As with the second prong of the two-fold problem and reason, so also with
the first prong, a coherent picture emerges: "no wild vegetation had ap-
peared in the land ... for the Lord God had not sent rain ... so29 he began
to make rain clouds arise from the land and water the whole surface of the
25 See Cassuto, Genesis, 104.
26 Kline, "Space," 12.
27 I am taking the singular as a collective.
28 Bruce K. Waltke, and M.
O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical
Hebrew Syntax (
29 For the use of waw + non-predicate + predicate in a consecutive clause, see GKC §166a;
while most of the examples are of volitives, Prov 30:3b is not, weda’at qedosim ‘eda ("so I do
[not] know the Holy One"), waw+direct object+imperfect. The consecutive nature of the
clause is not essential to the argument; the clause could (with less likelihood) be adversative;
for an adversative clause introduced with waw following a negative clause, see GKC § 163a and
Jouon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of
Biblical Hebrew (Subsidia Biblica 14;
fical Biblical Institute, 1991), §172a.
Gen 2:5-7 is quite logical, highly structured, and perfectly coherent:
Problem Reason Solution
1) No wild vegetation --> 1) No rain --> 1) God sent rain
2) No cultivated grain --> 2) No cultivator --> 2) God formed a cultivator
II. Implications for the
The narrative of Gen 2:4-25 flows at a steady pace, moved along by a
sequence of waw-relative verbs. The "most obvious and frequent" use of
the waw-relative is "that of simple chronological succession."30 "That is,
when a wayyiqtol verb is used, the story usually takes an incremental step
forward along a timeline."31 So, the prima facie reading of Gen 2:4-5 is
chronological. A clear exception to the apparently chronological sequencing of
material is the information provided in vv 10-14, pertaining to the river; this
section is marked as non-sequential and circumstantial in the normal manner:
by the use of the waw + subject + predicate construction (wenahar yose').32
External considerations (comparing Gen 2:4-25 with Gen 1:1-2:3) and
internal considerations (the flow of the narrative in Gen 2:4-25), however,
disallow a strictly chronological reading of Gen 2:4-25.
An external example of dischronology is found in Gen 2:19a, "Out of the
ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of
the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them."33
The Hebrew verbs translated "formed" and "brought" are waw-relatives,
resulting in the prima facie sequence of God's forming (wayyiser) of Adam
(v 7a), followed by God's forming (wayyiser) of the animals (v 19a). A straight-
forward reading of Gen 2:19, in other words, puts Gen 2:4-25 in conflict
with a chronological reading of Gen 1:1-2:3, where the animals were formed
before the man (Gen 1:24-27). One may resort to the use of the waw-
relative for a past perfect in this case to harmonize the two texts,34 but a
30 S. R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew: And Some Other Syntactical Questions
31 Randall Buth, "Methodological Collision Between Source Criticism and Discourse Analysis:
The Problem of ‘Unmarked Temporal Overlay' and the Pluperfect/Nonsequential wayyigtol,"
Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics (ed. Robert D. Bergen; Dallas, TX: Summer Institute
of Linguistics, 1994), 138.
32 See Buth, "Collision," 140, and Niccacci, Syntax, 35-41. See also C. John Collins, "The
Wayyiqtol As ‘Pluperfect': When and Why," TB 46 (1995) 118. Sequence would have been
expressed by the waw-relative, wayyese ; see Jouon and Muraoka, Grammar, § 159d-e.
33 NASB. The same sense is found in the KJV, NKJV, 1901 ASV, RSV, and NRSV
34 See Collins, "Wayyiqtol," 135-40, for a discussion of the issue in general and his appli-
cation to Gen 2:19 in particular. The waw-relative can be used for the pluperfect in a limited
set of environments: when there is lexical repetition or when knowledge of the real world leads
to the conclusion that an explanation of a previous event or situation is being provided; see
Buth, "Collision," 147. Buth, "Collision," 148-49, argues that Gen 2:19 does not meet the
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 11
waw-relative is not the obvious syntactic choice for dischronologized material,
as Gen 2:10 has already shown. The point is that while the prima facie
reading is chronological, a closer reading (aided by an external comparison
with Gen 1:1-2:3) leads us to the conclusion that the prima facie, chrono-
logical reading is not correct. The author is guided at this point by concerns
that are not chronological.35 For, in keeping with the style of the text, had
Moses been concerned about strict chronology and the chronological har-
mony of Gen 1:1-2:3 with Gen 2:4-5, he could have syntactically signaled
the dischronology of Gen 2:19 with the waw + subject + predicate construc-
tion, as in Gen 2:10, or with a relative clause containing a perfect verb for
the past perfect, as in Gen 2:8 ('aser yasar, "whom he had formed").
A key internal consideration confirms that strict chronology is not the
organizational control for Gen 2:4-25. Having formed Adam (v 7a), God
proceeded to place Adam in the Garden (v 8b),
7Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8And the Lord God
planted a garden toward the east, in
He had formed.36
But then in v 15 we read,
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to
cultivate it and keep it.31
Again, the verb translated "took" in v 15 is a waw-relative, that, if taken
to indicate chronological sequence, would result in Adam being placed in
the garden in v 8 and then being placed in the garden a second time in v 15.
I suppose one could argue that Adam was put in the garden in v 8, was
removed from the garden or that he left the garden without our being told,
and was subsequently put back in the garden in v 15, but such straining to
maintain a chronological reading of the text is unwarranted, especially
criteria for temporal overlay. See also Waltke and O'Connor, Syntax, §33.2.3 for a general
35 Using the waw-relative for the pluperfect instead of the usual constructions (waw +
subject + predicate or the perfect in a relative clause) serves to elevate the material to a
main-line situation in the narrative, rather than demoting the material to a subordinate level;
see Buth, "Collision," 148. An author may use the unexpected waw-relative form for a variety
of reasons. Collins, "Wayyiqtol," 139, argues that the communicative effect in Gen 2:19 is to
emphasize the anthropocentric nature of the story. A better explanation seems to be that
introducing the forming of the animals at this point creates dramatic tension by raising the
question, "Will a suitable helper for the man be found among the animals?" The answer is,
"But for the man, no suitable helper was found!" (v20b). Then, after this dramatic delay, the
suitable is helper is made, and the man exclaims, "zo’t (This one [as opposed to the previous
animals])! happa’am (This time [as opposed to the previous parade])!" (v23).
36 NASB. The same sense is found in the KJV, NKJV, 1901 ASV, RSV, and NRSV.
37 NASB. The same sense is found in the KJV, NKJV, 1901 ASV, RSV, and NRSV.
since there is an easier solution, one that is explicable within the conven-
tions of Hebrew style.
Gen 2:4-25 provides an example of the Hebrew stylistic technique of
synoptic/resumption-expansion.38 A Hebrew author will at times tell the
whole story in brief form (synopsis), then repeat the story (resumption),
adding greater detail (expansion). Such is the case in Gen 2:4-25.
Gen 1:1-2:3 is the prologue to the entire Book of Genesis,39 and Gen 2:4
is the heading to Gen 2:4-4:26, the first of ten "toledot" sections that provide
the structure for the Book of Genesis as a whole.40 Gen 2:5-7 provides the
setting for Gen 2:8-25 in particular. Gen 2:8 is a synopsis of the whole that
is resumed and expanded in Gen 2:9-25.
The synopsis has a two-fold nature, in keeping with the two-fold nature
of the introductory vv5-7. First, God planted a garden (v 8a), then he placed
in the garden the man whom he had formed (v 8b). This synopsis with its
focus on vegetation and the man in the garden is clearly integrated with--
and flows from--the preceding concern with the lack of vegetation and the
lack of a man to cultivate the ground. In other words, the coherent picture
that emerged in vv 5-7 continues to manifest itself in the synopsis of v8.
Gen 2:4-25 is not a second account of the creation of the heavens and the
earth, but is rather an account that focuses on the planting of a garden and
human life in that garden (vv 9-25), as the introduction anticipates and the
Verses 9-14 resume and expand v 8a, the planting of the garden. Verses 15-
25 resume and expand v 8b, the putting of the man in the garden.
Verses 9-14 resume and expand v 8a. In v 9a the planting (nt’) of the
garden is detailed in terms of God causing to sprout (smh) from the ground
"every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food." Pleasing to
whose sight and good for whose food? The man's sight and his food, obvi-
ously. In addition, God caused the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil to sprout (v 9b); both of these trees find their meaning in
relation to the man as well. Not only does v 9 pick up the first half of the
two-fold synopsis in v 8a, but it also picks up the first half of the two-fold
problem in v 5a: there was no vegetation. Verses 10-14 go on to describe the
river that waters the garden and that then divides and flows through such
precious stones are of value to the people who would live in these places and
38 Herbert Chanan Brichto, Toward a Grammar of Biblical Poetics: Tales
of the Prophets (
39 Ian Hart, "Genesis 1:1-2:3 As a Prologue to the Book of Genesis," Tyndale Bulletin 46
(1995) 315-36, and Kline, "Space," 11.
40 See Meredith G. Kline, in Donald Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, ed., "Genesis," The New
Bible Commentary (3rd ed.
41 I understand Gen 2:5 as having a global reference that would parallel the situation prior
to Days 3b and 6b, i.e., before God created vegetation (Day 3b) and people (Day 6b); see
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 13
to those with whom they would trade. Gen 2:9-14 describes a garden of
vegetation clearly designed for human habitation.
Verses 15-25 resume and expand v 8b. Verse 15 repeats v 8b with different
vocabulary and adds the explicit purpose for placing the man in the gar-
den: "to cultivate (‘bd) it." Not only does v 15 pick up the second half of the
two-fold synopsis in v 8b, but it also picks up the second half of the two-fold
reason in v 5b: "there was no man to cultivate (‘bd) the ground." Verses 16-
17 explicitly connect the man and the vegetation, as the two were implicitly
connected in v 9. The remainder of the text (vv 18-25) provides the details
of how God created a suitable helper for the man in the garden. By the end
of Genesis 2 the man and the woman are living blissfully in the garden.
Gen 2:4-25 is a highly structured topical account with a two-fold focus
on vegetation and humanity. The two-fold problem of no wild vegetation and
no cultivated vegetation (v 5), owing to the two-fold reason of no rain and
no cultivator (v 6), provisionally solved in a two-fold way by the sending of
rain clouds and the forming of a man (v 7), is roundly resolved in the
two-fold synopsis of God planting a garden and putting the man in the
garden to cultivate it (v 8), and the two-fold expansion with the same focus
on vegetation and humanity (vv 9-25).
III. Implications for the
Gen 1:1-2 and 2:1-3 form a frame around the creation account. The
initial sentences of the opening and closing sections with their repetition of
"the heavens and the earth" form an inclusio.
Genesis 1 begins with the grand affirmation that in the beginning God
created everything. Like Gen 2:5-7, Gen 1:2 provides the setting for the
following material. Parallel to Gen 2:5 with its two-fold problem, Gen 1:2
presents a two-fold problem: 1) the earth was "unproductive and unin-
habited"42 and 2) "darkness was over the surface of the deep." Both of
42 Bruce K. Waltke, "The First Seven Days: What Is the Creation Account Trying to Tell
Us?," CT (August 12, 1988) 43 and Cassuto, Genesis, 22, argue against over interpreting this
phrase as having two distinct referents. But Tsumura, Earth, 17-43, has made a compelling
case for understanding the phrase to refer to the earth as unproductive and uninhabited; note that
at the end of Day 3 the earth is productive ("The earth produced vegetation;" 1:12), and at
the end of Day 6 the earth is inhabited ("And God said, `Let the earth produce living crea-
tures;"' 1:24), and thus the problem of the earth being "unproductive and uninhabited" has
been resolved in a symmetrical way. The topic of another paper would be to trace this
of "unproductive and uninhabited" through the typology of
people in the new fertile land to the eschatology of the new creation inhabited by a people no
one can number.
these problems are resolved in the following material, just as the two-fold
problem of Gen 2:5 was resolved in the text that follows it.
Gen 2:1 signals the end of the account by means of the repetition of "the
heavens and the earth." Gen 2:2-3 then brings us to the telos of the text,
God's Sabbath rest.
Gen 1:3-31 tell the story of God's eight creative acts in six days.43 Day
1 recounts the first creative act ("And God said, ‘Let there be light"'), Day
2 recounts the second ("And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse"'), then
Day 3 recounts the third and fourth ("And God said, ‘Let the water under
the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear"' plus "And
God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation’”). Like Day 1, Day 4 recounts
a single creative act, the fifth ("And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the
expanse of the sky"'); like Day 2, Day 5 recounts one, the sixth ("And God
said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures and let the birds fly above
the earth"'); like Day 3, Day 6 recounts two, the seventh and the eight
("And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures"' plus "And God
said, ‘Let us make man in our image’”). This arrangement of 1 + 1 + 2
followed by 1 + 1 + 2 makes the parallel nature of Days 1 through 3 and
Days 4 through 6 obvious.
The parallels go beyond that of the number of creative events and days,
however. There are other obvious parallels between Days 1 through 3 and
Days 4 through 6. The creating of light on Day 1 parallels the creating of
the luminaries on Day 4. The creating of the waters below and the sky
above on Day 2 parallels the creating of the fish and the birds on Day 5. The
creating of dry land on Day 3a parallels the creating of land animals on Day
6a, and the creating of vegetation on Day 3b parallels the creating of
mankind on Day 6b.
It may seem that the parallelism breaks down at the end, because vege-
tation and mankind may not seem like much of a parallel. But when one
recalls the two-fold focus on vegetation and humanity in Gen 2:4-25, the
parallelism becomes evident. The parallelism between vegetation and people
is not only evident in the text but is highly significant for the theology of the
text (see below).
The first three days find their telos in the creation of vegetation on Day 3b,
and the second three days find their telos in the creation of humanity on Day
6b. Thus Gen 1:1-2:3 has the same two-fold focus as Gen 2:4-25, a focus on
vegetation and humanity. Rather than being two disparate accounts from two
disparate sources, Gen 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-25 form a highly integrated
literary unit. Rather than being a second creation account, Gen 2:4-25 is
properly read as a resumption and expansion not of Day 6 but of Days 3b
and 6b taken together as a unit.
43 For a schematic presentation of this well known point see Henri Blocher, In the Beginning:
the Opening Chapters of Genesis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1984), 54-55.
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 15
Day 3b speaks of the creation of vegetation (dese’) in two broad kinds:
"seed-bearing plants" (‘eseb mazria’ zera’) and "trees that bear fruit" (‘es
peri’oseh peri).44 Day 6b specifies that people are permitted to eat from both
kinds of vegetation: "seed-bearing plants" (‘eseb zorea’ zera’) and "every
tree that has fruit with seed in it" (kol-ha’asaser-bo peri-ha’es). So Days 3b and
6b are bound together by linguistic repetition as well as by thematic con-
ception. So too, the people of Day 6b are bound to the vegetation of Day
3b through the motif of food.45
Gen 1:3-31 is topically arranged. Granted 1) the common focus in Gene-
sis 1 and 2 on vegetation and humanity, 2) the general parallels between
Days 1 through 3, 3) the specific parallels between Days 3b and Day 6b,
4) the fact that Gen 2:4-25 resumes and expands Days 3b and 6b taken
together, and 5) the topical nature of Gen 2:4-25, we should not be surprised
by the suggestion that the coherent reading of Gen 1:1-2:3 (that is, the
reading that coheres internally as well as externally with Gen 2:4-25) is
topical rather than chronological. Such a reading is confirmed by some
further details from Days 1 and 4, as well as by the theology of Gen 1:1-2:25.
The parallelism between Days 1 and 4 goes beyond the general corre-
spondence between the creation of light on Day 1 and the creation of the
luminaries on Day 4. What did God accomplish on Day 1 by means of the
creation of light? "God divided the light from the darkness" (wayyabdel
‘elohim ben ha-‘or uben hahosek), and the result was "day" (yom) and "night"
(layla). So by the end of Day 1, God had successfully divided the light from
the darkness and established the sequence of day and night. Now, what was
God's purpose in creating the luminaries on Day 4? We are given a variety
of purposes, e.g., they will serve as signs and will rule the day and the night.
But what is the overarching purpose? The overarching purpose is indicated
by the repetition of "to divide" (lehabdil) in v 14 and v 18, a repetition that
forms an inclusio around Day 4. In v 14 we are told that God created the
luminaries "to divide the day from the night" (lehabdil ben hayyom uben
hallayld). But God had already divided the day from the night on Day 1!
In v 18 we are told that God created the luminaries "to divide the light from
44 Whereas Gen 1:11-13 divides all vegetation into two general groups (non-trees and trees),
Gen 2:5 divides all vegetation into two other groups (uncultivated and cultivated); both
divisions are based on ordinary observation. It is clear by this point, moreover, that Gen 2:5
interfaces with Gen 1:1-2:3 at the end of Day 3a (when there was 'eres but no vegetation) and
the end of Day 6a (when there was no man); see David Toshio Tsumura, "Genesis and Ancient
Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction," I Studied Inscriptions From Before
the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Gen 1-11 (ed. Richard S.
Hess and David Toshio Tsumura; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), 28-29, who situates
Gen 2:5 at Gen 1:9-10, when the waters were cleared from the land but there was not yet any
vegetation, but does not see the connection with Day 6b.
45 The man and the woman being permitted to eat from the trees in Genesis 1 is an obvious
setting of the stage for Gen 2:16-17, where prohibition regarding eating from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil is added to permission regarding eating from other trees; see Kline,
the darkness" (lehabdil ben ha' or uben hahosek). But God had already divided
the light from the darkness on Day 1! These linguistic parallels between
Day 1 and Day 4 must not be overlooked. Either God's work on Day 4 is
redundant, reaccomplishing the same thing he had already accomplished
on Day 1, or the accounts of God's work on Days 1 and 4 are two different
perspectives on the same creative work.
The forming and stationing of the sun, moon, and stars are attributed to day four.
Their functions with respect to the earth are also stated here, first in the fiat
section (Gen 1:14,15) and again (in reverse order) in the fulfillment section (Gen
1:16-18). They are to give light on the earth and to rule by bounding light/day
and darkness/night, as well as by demarcating the passage of years and
succession of seasons. These effects which are said to result from the
production and positioning of the luminaries on day four are the same effects
that are already attributed to the creative activity of day one (Gen 1:3-5). There
too daylight is produced on the earth and the cycle of light/day and
darkness/night is established.46
The repetition of language binds the work of the Days 1 and 4 together
into a single activity.
In terms of chronology, day four thus brings us back to where we were in day
one, and in fact takes us behind the effects described there to the astral
apparatus that accounts for them. The literary sequence is then not the same as
the temporal sequence .47
But the account of Day 4 adds information to that given on Day 1: the
luminaries are the sources of the light created on Day 1, and there are
subordinate purposes for the creation of the luminaries as well. In other
words, Days 1 and 4 are another application of the synopsis-resumption/
expansion technique employed on a variety of levels in Genesis 1 and 2.
There is a consistent style of narration employed in both texts: just as Gen
2:15 is not chronologically sequential to Gen 2:8b, but is a repetition with
additional information regarding the placing of the man in the garden, so
Day 4 is not chronologically sequential to Day 1, but is a repetition with
additional information regarding the creation of light.48
46 Kline, "Space," 7-8.
47 Kline, "Space," 8.
48 A rarely discussed but important text that bears on the question of a chronological
reading of Gen 1 is job 38:4-7,
4Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
This text assumes the creation of the stars before the founding of the earth and
before the separation of the seas and dry land; see Ps 104:5-9 for this same architectural picture of the
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 17
One might object that had Moses wished to represent Gen 1:14-31 as an
overlay of Gen 1:3-13 he would have begun v 14 with the expected we’elohim
‘amar (waw + subject + predicate), and that the use of the waw-relative
indicates that the events of Day 4 are temporally sequential to those of
Days 1 through 3. But as we have already noted, the waw-relative (here
wayyo'mer) can be used for temporal overlay when either lexical repetition
or knowledge of the real world signals such an overlay.49 Here both criteria
are met: lexical repetitions abound between Day 1 and Day 4, and light
without luminaries is not part of the real world in which the original audience
Gen 1:3-31 is a coherent account of creation that has been arranged
topically to focus the reader's attention on vegetation and humanity. This focus
sets the stage for the sequel, Gen 2:4-25, which resumes and expands upon
this two-fold focus in a variety of ways, one in particular being the role that
rain plays in the production of the vegetation that people eat. These literary
conclusions have significant implications for understanding one key aspect
of the theology of the text.
IV. Implications for the Theology of Genesis 1-2
The literary structure of Genesis 1 and 2 is significant for the theology of
the text in a variety of ways. The primary reason for lifting the event of Day
4 to the main event-line (rather than marking it grammatically as a tem-
poral overlay) and shaping the account after the pattern of a week is clearly
the sabbatical theology of the text. The theology of the Sabbath is certainly
central to the theology of Gen 1:1-2:3. In his self-published work, "King-
dom Prologue," Meredith G. Kline spells out the sabbatical theology of
Gen 1:1-2:3 and its relation to the parallel arrangements of Days 1 through
3 and Days 4 through 6.51 He also articulates the sabbatical theology of
Gen 1:1–2:3 in his recent article.52 Here I
founding of the earth and the separation of the seas and dry land. Job 38-39 should give us
all pause, if we think we fully comprehend God's ways at the time of creation.
49 Buth, "Collision," 147.
50 The objection that supernatural light (e.g., the light of God's glory as in Rev 21:5) is in
view in Days 1 through 3 has been adequately countered by Kline's argument that such an
interpretation "distorts the eschatological design of creation history, according to which the
advent of God's Glory as the source of illumination that does away with need for the sun awaits
the Consummation" ("Space," 9); see footnote 30 where Kline points out that in the con-
summation there will be light from the Glory and not from the sun, but that this is also joined
with the absence of night, a situation that clearly does not pertain to Days 1 through 3, thus
undermining the attempt to use Rev 22:5 to explain the light without luminaries of Days 1
51 Meredith G. Kline, "Kingdom Prologue," 26-32; see also Hart, "Prologue," 315-16,
52 Kline, “Space,” 10–11.
want on focus on a different but vitally important aspect of the text’s theology by
answering the question, “Why the concern with rain and the resultant vegetation
that people eat?”
Who is the presumed original reader of Genesis 1–2? Assuming a late date
of composition, many read Genesis 1 against the backdrop of Mesopotamian
religion with a presumed post-exilic reader in view. Genesis 1 is consequently
read as a theological polemic against Mesopotamian religion. What difference for
the theology of the text would it make, if we presume the original reader to be a
pre-exilic Israelite and the polemic to be against Canaanite religion?
The dominant religious threat for pre-exilic
peoples of the ancient
equation: water = life.” So water played a major role in the theologies of ancient
Eastern peoples. Canaan, however, was not like
agriculture was based on irrigation from rivers.
agriculture was dependent on rain,
The land you are entering to take over is
not like the
which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a
vegetable garden. But the land you are
a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven (Deut 11:10–11).
Canaanite religion was consequently not concerned with river gods, as were the
of Mesopotamia and
Baal, “the rider on
53 I am not the first to suggest a Canaanite background for Genesis 1–2. In God’s Conflict with
the Dragon and the Sea (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1985),
as a demythologized Canaanite Chaoskampf: “In so far as tehom’s mythological background is concerned
this is not Babylonian at all, but rather Canaanite . . .” (50) and “The wind of Gen 1:2 derives ultimately
from the wind of Baal employed against the sea monster” (53). In “The Canaanite Background of Gen I-III,”
VT 10 (1960), F. F. Hvidberg said, “At the back of the narrative is the prophet’s struggle against baal. It is
against him the story fights” (286) and “My aim has been to call attention to what they [Gen 1 and 2]
in common: a glimpse of the life-and-death struggle with Baal of the Canaanites
for the soul of
(294). In “Interpreting the Creation and Fall Story in Gen 2–3, ” ZAW 93 (1981), N. Wyatt said, “We may
then accept F. F. Hvidberg’s general theory that the story is intended as a polemic against Canaanite
religion, with the proviso that it is the cult of El and Asherah and not that of baal which is attacked” (19).
54 John Day, “Baal,” in David
Noel Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible
Dictionary (6 vols.,
Day, 1992) 1.547.
55 Fred E. Woods, Water and
Storm Polemics Against Baalism in the Deuteronomic History (
Peter Lang, 1994).
56 Yehuda Karmon, Israel: A Regional Geography (London:
John Wiley & Sons, 1971), 27, says of
“Rainfall is the decisive climatic factor in the physical existence of population and for plant life and agriculture.”
57 Woods, Water, 1, suggests
that the unpredictable nature of the Tigris and
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 19
the clouds,” the storm god whose rain was considered absolutely necessary for the
growth of crops and hence for life itself.
When the Hebrew tribes left the stable
Baal and his retinue. Such an encounter
created a culture conflict.
by Yahweh through the sea and the desert,
but as she entered the new land,
asked, “Was Yahweh also the god of
they were tempted to ask their Canaanite neighbors, “How does your garden grow?”
Such inquiry was seen by later writers as having led to eventual apostasy and exile as
This struggle against Baalism is part of the fabric of Genesis through
Kings. The contest on
alternatives were clear: “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow
him” (1 Kgs 18:21). The means of determination was clear: “The god who
answers by fire—he is God” (1 Kgs 18:24). When Baal failed to answer by fire
and the Lord sent fire from heaven, the conclusion was clear: “The Lord—he is
God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kgs 18:39).
But this contest was not about which deity controlled fire. The issue at hand
was, “Who controls the rain?” The struggle began with Elijah’s words,
As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew
nor rain in the next few years except at my word (1 Kgs 17:1).
the struggle ended when the Lord God of
The sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on. . . .
(1 Kgs 18:45).
The polemic against Baalism is at the heart of OT covenant theology. Having
quoted Deut 11:10–11 above, let me now quote those verses again in the context of a
few of the verses that follow:
The land you are entering to take over is
not like the
have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable
garden. But the land you are crossing the
mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the
58 Day, “Baal,” 1.545, says that Baal “is clearly the most active and prominent of all the Canaanite
deities . . . the great storm god: the fertility of the land depends on the rain this god supplies. . . .”
59 Woods, Water, 2.
60 Of his own book Woods, Water, 17, says, “this study will demonstrate that the Deuteronomic
History supplied the Israelites with polemical literary material, especially dealing with water and
storm, in order to fight Baalism rather than to conform to it.”
LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from
the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am
giving you today-to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart
and with all your soul--then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn
and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide
grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or
you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.
Then the LORD's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that
it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the
good land the LORD is giving you (Deut 11:10-17; emphasis added).
from the sky. It was a land that drank in rain from heaven because YHWH
rain, vegetation, and life. Worshiping other gods would result in no rain,
produce, and death. Now, what god in particular would
tempted to turn to with a view to procuring rain and the resultant vege-
tation? Baal, of course.
Reading the OT, it becomes clear that it was the Baal cult that provided the
greatest and most enduring threat to the development of exclusive Yahweh wor-
ship within ancient
Canaanites, for whom the worship of Baal
was so important, and that
is a land utterly dependent for its fertility upon the rain, accounts for the tempting
nature of this cult as well as the strength of the OT polemic against it.61
The ubiquitous threat of Baalism provides the theological context in which
Genesis 1-2 is to be read.
Genesis 1-2 proclaims that YHWH, the God of Israel, is the Lord of the
rain, the resultant vegetation, and life. This central aspect of the message
of Genesis 1-2 is embedded in the structure of the accounts. Why the
two-fold focus on vegetation and the people that live on that vegetation?
Why even bring into consideration the lack of vegetation owing to a lack
of rain? Is this simply geographical decoration?
No, for the Book of Genesis serves as the prologue to the history of
Genesis makes the point that the God of the nation of
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12-50), and that the God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Creator of the heavens and the earth
(Genesis 1-11). The God of Israel is the Creator. From the beginning the
God of Israel, not Baal, has been the provider of the rain that is the pre-
of life. YHWH God of
beginning! Redemptive theology, as exemplified in texts like Deut 11:10-17 and
1 Kings 17-18, is rooted in the creation theology of Genesis 1-2. Redemption
is rooted in creation. YHWH God of Israel claims to be the true and living
6l Day, "Baal," 1.547.
66 Youngblood, Genesis, 10-11.
BECAUSE IT HAD RAINED 21
the God whom
Baal in particular. This claim is most deeply rooted in the fact that YHWH
God of Israel created all things by his powerful word (Ps 33:6), including
the sending of the very first rains in the beginning, and has ever since
sustained all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:3), including the sending
of all rains subsequent to the beginning.
One central aspect of the kerygmatic message of Genesis 1-2 is now clear:
Not Baal but "The LORD he is God! The LORD he is God!" This is true simply
because it had rained.63
63 With this article I wish as a student and colleague to express my appreciation to Dr.
Kline for the scholarly service he has rendered and continues to render to the Church.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: