4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.
Okay, so my NRSV (what I use normally) translates this a little differently from the NIV ( above, 2011 version).
The NRSV says:
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…
There’s some sort of disagreement over where to put the break, but either way, something happens here. There’s a definite switch. Suddenly we’re no longer looking at things from quite the same perspective.
We looked at this with our youth bible study group recently, looking at the two different creation accounts in the first chapters of Genesis. It was, as it often is, a challenging session! They pronounced: ‘It’s totally different!’ and one said: ‘It’s as if they were written by two different people.’ (They then proceeded to tell us which they liked and which they didn’t, in no uncertain terms – as I said, challenging…)
It’s as if they were written by two different people. The style changes, the order changes, and the name changes. Or should I say…the name is more specific.
Which name? The name of God. Check out those capital letters! Now we’re talking YAHWEH – the I am who I am, who announced himself as such to Moses, from the burning bush (we’re not told about that until Exodus – sorry).
The young people in our study reacted in the same way as a lot of biblical scholars: there is more than one writer here.
The perspective of the following verses is rather different from Genesis 1. Unlike some of our youth group (!) I think the two accounts are complementary, not opposed to one another. The editor, or collector of the stories, if you like, has included them both for a reason. The second account is still concerned with the creator, but rather than looking at every aspect, it looks at what concerns it most: humanity. It goes from a wide-angle lens to a close up.
There was no one to work the ground, and there was not yet rain to fuel any plant life. No worker, no water.
The ground lies waiting, and then the water rises.
So…who will fulfil the second requirement? Who will work the ground, and where will they come from?