Day 2Genesis 2 ... Human Close-up 

The Bible begins and ends with the same setting: a garden watered by a river,  the Tree of Life, human beings in the actual presence of God.  Eden, where the  first human being lived, was paradise in the fullest sense of the word, and the last book, Revelation, promises that God will someday restore that Paradise.  The two scenes are like brackets of perfection around the history of a badly scarred planet.

After presenting the cosmic view in chapter 1, Genesis 2 repeats the story of creation, narrowing the focus to human beings.  They alone, of all God’s works, are made “in God’s image.”  People have disagreed over the years on what, exactly, that made “in God’s image” means.  Is it immortality?  Intelligence?  Creativity?  Relationship?  Perhaps the best way to understand is to think of “the image of God” as a mirror.  God created human beings so that when he looked upon them he would see reflected something of himself.

Genesis makes the point that human beings are profoundly different from all of God’s other creations.  We recognize that difference instinctively:  You won’t go to jail for running over a dog or cat, but you might go to jail for running over a man or woman.  Human life is somehow different, more “sacred.”  Alone of all creation, human beings received the breath of life from God himself.

Human history is just getting underway, and in a compact space Genesis 2 tells the origin of much of human activity.  marriage begins here.  Even in a state of perfection, Adam felt loneliness and desire, and God provided woman.  From then on, marriage would take priority over all other relationships.

Work begins here, too.  Adam was set in a role of authority over the animals and plants.  he names them and tended to the plants and creatures of the Garden.  Ever since, humans have had a kind of mastery over the rest of creation.

Only the slightest hint of foreboding clouds this blissful scene of Paradise.  It appears in verse 17, in the form of a single negative command from God.  Adam enjoyed perfect freedom-with this one small exception-a test of obedience.

Throughout history, artists have tried to recreate in words and images what a perfect world would look like, a world of love and beauty, a world without guilt or suffering or shame.  Genesis 1-2 describes such a world.  For a time, the universe was at peace.  When God looked at all he had created, he paid humanity its highest compliment.  “Very good,” he pronounced, satisfied.  Creation was now complete.

Point to Ponder: If you could design a paradise, what would it look like?