Andrews University Seminary Studies 32.1-2 (Spring-Summer 1994) 47-56

                                Copyright © 1994 by Andrews University Press.



                 THE GREAT REVERSAL:



                               ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC

               Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies

                                  Silang, Cavite, Philippines


The break between Gen 1 and 2 has been discussed at length by

many scholars.1 Umberto Cassuto, for example, has made a clear

distinction between the story in Gen 1 and the one recorded in chaps.

2 and 3.2 Cassuto argues that the first chapter relates "The Story of

Creation" to teach us "that the whole world and all that it contains

were created by the word of the One God, according to His will, which

operates without restraint."3 The second section, more precisely Gen

2:4-24, is part of the "Story of the Garden of Eden," which stretches to

the end of chap. 3; its purpose is "to explain how it is that in the Lord's

world, the world of the good and beneficent God, evil should exist and

man should endure pain and troubles and calamities."4

On the other hand, the unity of chaps. 2 and 3 is generally

recognized, although different reasons are given in support of this

conclusion. Cassuto bases his argument for the unity of this passage on


     1 For example, G. von Rad notes: "The difference is in the point of departure:

Whereas in ch. 1 creation moves from the chaos to the cosmos of the entire world, our

account of creation [chap. 2] sketches the original state as a desert in contrast to the sown"

(Genesis: A Commentary [London: SCM, 1972], 76). Likewise, Claus Westermann states:

"The narrative of Gen 1 is characterized by its onward, irresistible and majestic flow that

distinguishes it so clearly from the drama narrated in Gen 2-3" (Genesis 1-11: A

Commentary [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984], 80). David J. A. Clines posits that "while

ch. 1 views reality as an ordered pattern which is confused by the flood, chs. 2-3 see

reality as a network of elemental unions which become disintegrated throughout the

course of the narrative from Eden to the flood" (The Theme of the Pentateuch [Sheffield:

JSOT, 1978], 75).

     2 A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1978), 1:84-94.

      3 Cassuto, 7. For a different view see von Rad, 46: "Faith in creation is neither the

basis nor the goal of the declarations in Gen., chs. 1 and 2. Rather, the position of both

the Yahwist and the Priestly document is basically faith in salvation and election."

      4 A Commentary, 71.



48                                ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC


noticeable similarities between certain elements found in the beginning

of chap. 2 and at the end of chap. 3.5  Claus Westermann holds that the

idea of the two chapters as an independent and separate narrative was

"one of the most important and decisive results of literary criticism."6

The presence of thematic links between the two chapters has been

proposed also by von Rad.7  David J. A. Clines points to four areas of

harmonious relationship in chap. 2 that are disrupted in chap. 3.8

In addition to being a literary unit, as seen by the structural and

thematic links already noted,9 these two chapters also show a unity of

purpose. The two come together to present the first of many reversals

in the Bible.10 The purpose of this article is to explore this reversal

theme in Gen 2 and 3.


      5 Ibid., 159, 169-171. Cassuto argues for linking some passages through common

terms; for example, Gen 2:7, 17 to 3:19; Gen 2:25 to 3:7, 21; Gen 2:5, 7 to 3:23; Gen 2:8,

15 to 3:24. Considering the two chapters as a unit, E. A. Speiser calls them "the brief

Eden interlude" (Genesis, AB [New York: Doubleday, 1981], 18), while G. W. Coats uses

the term "Paradise Tale" (Genesis, with an Introduction to Narrative Literature [Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 28). In their respective studies Derek Kidner (Genesis: An

Introduction and Commentary [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1967], 58) and John Skinner

also treat the two chapters as a single unit (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on

Genesis, ICC [Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1951], 1:51.

      6 Westermann notes that in consequence "it is but logical to use this same method

as a tool for a more exact interpretation of the passage" (186).

     7 'The serpent 'which God had made' in ch. 3.1 points back to the creation of the

animals in ch. 2.18. The theme of shame in ch. 3.7 ff. is taken up and attached (almost

abruptly) to the narrative about the creation of man (2.25)" (von Rad, 100). Also

contributing to the discussion is J. T. Walsh, "Genesis 2:46-3:24: A Synchronic Approach,"

JBL 96 (1977): 161-177.

     8 "In ch. 3 the relationship of harmony between each of these pairs [man and soil,

man and animals, man and woman, man and God, all in chap. 2] is disrupted. The

communion between God and the man who breathes God's breath (2:7) has become the

legal relationship of accuser and defendant (3:9ff); the relationship of man and woman as

"one flesh" (2:24) has soured into mutual recrimination (3:12); the bond of man (adam)

with the soil (‘adamah) from which he was built has been supplanted by 'an alienation.

. .' (3:17 ff.); the harmonious relationship of man with beast in which man is the

acknowledged master (2:19 ff.) has become a perpetual struggle of intransigent foes (3:15)"

(Clines, 75).

      9 0n the structure of Gen 2 and 3 see the whole issue of Semeia 18 (1980).

     10 See Zdravko Stefanovic, "Daniel: A Book of Significant Reversals," AUSS 30

(Summer 1992): 139-150.

LINKS BETWEEN GENESIS 2 AND 3                                          49


The Content of Genesis 1:1-2:3


According to von Rad, Gen 1:1 is the "summary statement of

everything that is unfolded step by step in the following verses."11 The

language of the chapter is simple, yet decisive: God's powerful word

created the world in such a way that "it was firm, or well established."12

The creative activity of the first three days parallels that which ensued

on the following three, while the Sabbath rest, established on the

seventh day, had no counterpart. The structure of Gen 1 follows the

pattern: introduction + 3 pairs + climax or conclusion. This structure

is visualized in Figure 1.13 The seventh day, rich with God's blessings,

was the climax of God's creative work. In the words of Abraham

Heschel, "Last in creation, first in intention, 'the Sabbath is the end of

the creation of heaven and earth."'14 Everything was declared to be

"very good" and no shade of disorder can be traced in the complete

Creation Story.


     11 He also says that the "hidden grandeur of this statement is that God is the Lord

of the world" (49). For Westermann the same verse is "a heading that takes in everything

in the narrative in one single sentence" (94).

     12 Cassuto derives ken (1:30) from the root kwn and translates the phrase "and it was

firm or an established thing" (34).

     13 On this idea, see Jacques B. Doukhan, The Genesis Creation Story (Berrien Springs,

MI: Andrews University Press, 1978). See also W. H. Shea, "The Unity of the Creation

Account," Origins 5 (1978): 9-38. A structure similar to that proposed in Figure 1 is found

in other biblical passages. In Matt 1 the disputed number of 14 generations can best be

explained as 7 x 2.

     14 The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young,

1951), 14. Further describing the uniqueness of the Sabbath, V. Hamilton notes: "Silence

and stillness once again enter the atmosphere. The mood of the prologue now resurfaces

in this epilogue. There is no activity, no noise, no speaking. All that God has willed and

designed for his canvas of the universe is now in its place" (The Book of Genesis: Chapters

1-17 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990], 141). Von Rad contends that "the declarations about

a Sabbath at creation contain one of the most remarkable and daring testimonies in the

entire priestly document" (61). For Westermann, "the sanctification of the Sabbath

institutes an order for humankind according to which time is divided into time and holy

time, time for work and time for rest. The work of creation began with three acts of

separation" (171).

50                                ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC



   (Gen 1:1-2)

Summary of the Story


A. FIRST DAY (1:3-5)                                 A: FOURTH DAY (1:14-19)

      1. Creation of light                                       1. Creation of luminaries

      2. Light described as good                          2. Luminaries described as good

      3. Light separated from darkness                3. Times divided by luminaries


B. SECOND DAY (1:6-8)                            B: FIFTH DAY (1:20-23)

     1. The Expanse created (heaven)      1. Creatures fly toward heaven

     2. Waters divided from waters (seas)          2. Creatures move in the seas

     3. Heaven named                                           3. Creation blessed


C. THIRD DAY (1:9-13)                              C: SIXTH DAY (1:24-31)

     1. Dry ground appears (earth)                      1. Earth population created

     2. Grass, plants, and trees created                2. Livestock, ground creatures, and

      3. Vegetation yields seeds according                animals made

to their kinds                                            3. God creates man in His image

                                                                                    and likness




            Unparalleled Blessing


Figure 1. A Structural Outline of the Creation Story in Genesis 1:1-2:3.

The Content of Genesis 2:4-25


After introducing the sinless and fully blessed life on the newly

created earth, the Genesis narrator describes the creation of man in

retrospect. This crown of all creation was placed in the beautiful garden

of Eden, whose main source of blessing was a four-branched river

carrying fertility to all the earth, both inside and outside of Eden.

The privileges and responsibilities of the first human being in the

garden are stated. The immediate responsibility was to make an

inventory of all the animals and give to each a name. This action

emphasized man's loneliness. The Creator provided a solu-tion to this

problem, and man's pleasant surprise at receiving this gift is recorded.

The first part of the story climaxes in the closing verses of chap. 2

with the description of a happy life of intimacy and innocence. Verse

24 speaks of the union between Adam and Eve which perpetuated their


LINKS BETWEEN GENESIS 2 AND 3                              51


The Content of Genesis 3


Gen 3 opens with a new character in the story, one not necessarily

unknown to the Genesis narrator's audience. The tempter described as

"serpent" deceives the humans in a subtle way.15

The lengthy persuasion to taste the forbidden fruit culminates in

quick action: both Eve and Adam sin.16  The tragic outcome of the

transgression was increased by Eve's expectation of becoming a divine

being, according to the serpent's promise. Realizing the first results of

sin, the couple tried to hide from God.

God informs the man and the woman of the terrible consequences

of their fall. His pronouncement of the sentence commences with the

serpent, then moves to the woman, and finally to the man. This order

of the sentence is reversed from the order of the narrative, forming a

small-scale reversal in the story. Then judgment is pronounced and man

is expelled from the garden. Von Rad notes that "the penalties go in

reverse order to the trial proceedings."17  Finally a celestial guardian is set

"to keep the way" to the life-giving tree.


Relationship Between Genesis 2 and 3


A close study of Gen 2, and 3 discloses a carefully-crafted structure.18

The structure is chiastic, since the content of chap. 3 contains a reversed

order of similar elements and events found in chap. 2. For the sake of

comparison, the two chapters can be divided into four logical parts,

each containing distinctive themes. The parts of chap. 3 are in fact

reversals of those in chap. 2. Following is a detailed analysis of the

structure and meaning of both chapters, stressing the chiastic art of the

narrative and showing the great reversal in the story of the Garden of

Eden. (The same information is summarized in Figure 2.) When viewed


     15 Hebrew, wehanndhas. The subject in this sentence precedes the predicate for


     16 The lengthy dialogue between the serpent and the woman (3:1-6a) is in sharp

contrast with the swift action expressed by a succession of four consecutive verbs: took,

ate, gave, ate (3:6b), all four preceded by waw consecutive.

     17 Von Rad, 92. The order of subjects in the beginning of chap. 3 is serpent-woman-

man. Then in the trial one finds man-woman-serpent. Lastly in the sentence the order is

again serpent-woman-man.

     18 The Hebrew root ‘rm found in 2:25 and 3:1 is the best discernible lexical link

between two chapters. Says J. T. Walsh: "On a literary level Gen 2:46-3:24 is a highly

structured unit" (177).

52                                ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC


this way, Gen 2 has no independent structure of its own. If this fact is

overlooked, the plan of the chapter can be chronologically misleading.19


Gen 2:4 An Introductory Verse Alluding to the Reversal


This introductory verse reminds the reader that God is the Creator

of heaven and earth. The emphasis on this fact is expressed by a double

repetition. Everything which follows in the first part of the story

reported in chap. 2 is traced back to the Creator who is the protagonist

of the first part of the drama.

The words in Gen 2:4 are marked by the use of double chiasm. Not

only is the subject/verb order reversed ("heaven/earth" and "created" is

reversed to "made" and "earth/heaven"), the "heaven/earth" is reversed

to "earth/heaven." One should see in these rever-sals, especially in the

second one, an allusion to the reversal on a larger scale in the story as

a whole, called in this study "the Great Reversal." The verse further

matches the introductory statement of the Creation story in Gen 1:1.


Part One: A.  Created and Settled (Gen 2:5-8);

     A’. Judged and Expelled (Gen 3:22-24)


The very beginning of the story of Gen 2 and 3 speaks of innocent

and carefree life on earth before man's creation. There was no toil, "no

bush of the field," "no plant," no "rain on the earth" (2:5-6). The end

of the story (Gen 3:22-24) stresses the opposite. Because of the entrance

of sin the man knows both "good and evil."

Whereas before there were "streams" coming up from the earth to

water the ground (2:6), after the sin, blessings do not come

automatically and man's responsibility is increased (3:23). Thus the

beginning of the story declares that "there was no man to work the

ground" (2:5), while the end of the story ironically reveals that after the

act of sin, man must work the ground (3:23).


     19 Westerrnann finds in "Gen 2-3 repetitions, lack of agreement, lack of balance, gaps

in the line of thought, contradictions. One could not expect anything else." These he

attributes to "the many-sided process of the formation of this text" (190).

LINKS BETWEEN GENESIS 2 AND 3                              53




                  Gen 2:4


A. CREATED AND SETTLED (2:5-8)             A'. JUDGED AND EXPELLED (3:22-24)

1. Innocent, carefree life: no toil, no                   1. The man knows good and evil

plants, no rain

2. Streams water the ground                              2. The man's responsibility increased

3. No man to work the ground                            3. There is a man to work the ground

4. Through breath becomes a living                     4. The man is prevented from eating

being the tree of life and living                            of the tree of life and living

forever                                                             forever

5. God plants a garden in the east                       5. God places cherubim in the east

6. The man settles in the garden                         6. The man expelled from the garden


B. BLESSINGS AND ORDER (2:9-17)                         B'. CURSES AND DISORDER (3:14-21)

1. Trees and plants pleasing to eye and               1. Thorns and thistles grow out of the

good for food planted in the grow                       ground

out of the ground in the garden               2. Curses related to four subjects:

2. Blessings related to a river and its                               animals, woman, man, ground

four head-waters                                   3. Serpent's 3-fold curse: being cursed,

3. Havilah's 3-fold blessing: gold, resin,                            crawling on belly, eating dust

onyx                                                     4. In sweat the man tills the cursed

4. The man to work in the garden and                             ground and eats of it

care for it                                              5. Verdict: Return to the dust

5. On the day man eats he will die


C.WOMAN CREATED (2:18-23)                     C'. WOMAN TEMPTED (3:1-13)

1. God's concern: Man is alone                           1. Man hides from God who still looks

                                                                                    for him

2. The man needs a helper                                 2. Together with helper, man is helpless             

3. God provides a helper                                    3. The man blames his helper

4. Man's lordship over                                        4. Man is afraid, naked, hiding

5. All animals in harmony with man                    5. An animal deceives the man

6. Woman taken from the man                           6. Woman takes fruit and gives to man

7. Man's admiration for the woman                     7. Woman's admiration for fruit

8. Happy intimate relationship                             8. Fear and shame of naked body




Happiness in sinless and

innocent human relationship


Figure 2. The Chiastic Structure of Genesis 2 and 3

54                                ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC


The same man who through the breath of life "became a living

being" (2:7) is now rendered unable "to reach out his hand and take also

from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (3:22).

Lastly, the same God who "planted a garden in the east, in Eden"

(2:8) now places "on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim to

guard the way to the tree of life" (3:24). Thus the man, who had been

created by God and placed in the garden (2:8), is now judged and

expelled from it by God (3:23).

Following is a list of the Hebrew words and expressions shared by

both sections in the story: yhwh ‘elohim, "the Lord God"; ha'adam,

"the man"; la ’abod et-ha'adamah, "to work the ground"; hayyim, "life";

gan-be’eden miqqedem, "a garden in the east in Eden"; sam, "there."


Part Two:       B.  Blessings and Order (Gen 2:9-17);

B’ . Curses and Disorder (Gen 3:14-21)


The story continues in section B of Gen 2 (vv. 9-17) with a detailed

description of the garden of Eden and its blessings. The trees that God

made to grow out of the ground "were pleasing to the eye and good for

food" (2:9). After the sin, in section B' of Gen 3 (vv. 14-21), the narrator

reports that the ground produced "thorns and thistles" displeasing to the

eye. Thus, two kinds of weed plants take the place of the two trees in

the perfect garden.

The blessings of the garden are related to a river flowing from Eden,

and its four "headwaters." After the sin, the curses have to do with four

subjects: animals (3:14); woman (3:16); man (3:17-19); and ground

(3:17).20 In Gen 2 "the land of Havilah" was decorated with a threefold

sign of blessings; "good gold," aromatic resin, and onyx (2:12). In

contrast, Gen 3 reveals one of the animals, the serpent, carrying a

threefold sign of curse: being cursed above all creatures, crawling on the

belly, and eating dust (3:14).21  The reversal occurred because the human

beings once had freedom of eating from any tree except one (2:16-17),

yet they dared to eat from the single forbidden tree (3:17); they could

eat from only one of these two trees at a time.

Section B closes with a prohibition against eating from that single

tree lest one die (2:17), while in section B', after the sin, the verdict is

pronounced: Man will return to the ground out of which he was taken


     20 Even though the text does not explicitly state that the woman and the man were

cursed, the two were deprived of many blessings.

     21 "To eat dust" is a Biblical idiom relating to an utmost humiliation and curse (see

Psalm 72:9).

LINKS BETWEEN GENESIS 2 AND 3                              55


(3:19). The section, however, closes with a ray of hope. First, assurance

is given that the line of living human beings will continue (3:20);

second, God takes care of the immediate needs of the man and woman

by clothing them (3:21).

The following is a list of the Hebrew words and phrases found in

both sections: smh (hiphil imperfect), "grow out"; yhwh 'elohim, "the

Lord God"; ha'adamah, "the ground"; ‘kl... 'es, "eat ... tree"; ro‘s,

"head"; sem, "name"; hlk, "walk"; lqh, "take"; swh, "command"; ‘adam

... 'mr, "man . . . said"; lo'  to'kal mimmennu, "you shall not eat

from it."


Part Three:    C Woman Created (Gen 2:18-23)

C. Woman Tempted (Gen 3:1-13)


Section C of Gen 2 (vv. 18-23) focuses on God's concern for man's

social needs. The Creator declares that "it is not good for the man to be

alone" (2:18). After the sin, however (Section C' of Gen 3:1-13), that

same man wants to be alone and hides from God who still looks for

him (3:9). Thus the man who had no helper suitable for him (2:20) is

now helpless, in spite of having a helper (3:10). God states that he "will

make a helper" (2:18), yet now the man blames that very helper whom

he affirms God "put here with me" (3:12).22 Man's superiority and

lordship over the livestock, birds, and the beasts (2:20) stands in sharp

contrast to the man who is afraid, naked, and trying to hide (3:10).

Whereas part C says that all animals were in harmony with man and

subject to him (2:19-20), part C' speaks of the man and the woman

deceived by an animal and in conflict with it (3:13).

Section C describes the woman as the being "taken out of the man"

(2:22), while C' speaks of the same woman in an active role, taking

some fruit and giving to the man (3:6). Man's admiration for the woman

(2:23) is replaced by her admiration for the forbidden fruit (3:6).

Whereas before the man was in an intimate relationship with the

woman-bone to bone, flesh to flesh (2:23)--now man and woman are

ashamed and afraid (3:7-8).

The following is a list of words and phrases common to both

sections: yhwh 'elohim, - "the Lord God"; ha'adam, "the man"; ‘sh,

"make"; qr' ... ha'adam lo, "the man called it"; lqh, "take"; issah,

“woman"; is, "man."


     22 Hebrew ‘ezer k’negdo is found twice in section C (2:18, 20).

56                                ZDRAVKO STEFANOVIC


The Climax of Sinless Life (Gen 2:24-25)


The climax of the Story of Creation was reached when God rested

on the seventh day (2:2-3). The climax of the story of the Garden of

Eden focuses on man's relationship to other human beings, beginning

with the family unit. The climax speaks of a sinless, harmonious and

happy human life in all its innocence.23 A supernatural unity is related

here in which two beings are able to become basar 'ehad, "one flesh"





A structural study of chaps. 2 and 3 of the book of Genesis reveals

the presence of a chiasm in the narrative and strongly suggests the unity

of the story as argued by scholars. The theme of the story of the

Garden of Eden is the Great Reversal brought about by the entrance of

sin into the world created by God.24 Clines affirms that “the flood is

only the final stage in a process of cosmic disintegration which began

in Eden."25

The presence of the chiastic structure or reversed parallelism

presents the literary beauty of Genesis through a story that teaches how

God was the source of creation in all its perfection, while the disorder

was brought about by man's act of sin. Elsewhere the Bible teaches that

the last cosmic reversal in history will be God's reversal.


     23 Ibid, where v. 25 is called "The climax of the creation."

     24 "Expressed more concisely, Gen. ch. 3, asserts that all sorrow

(von Rad, 101).

comes from sin"

     25 Clines, 75.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:
       Andrews University
       Berrien Springs , MI 49104

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: