Yahweh the Teacher

Yahweh the Teacher April 8, 2015

Genesis 1 presents a macro-creation, Genesis 2 a micro-creation. The latter follows the former, for humanity is micro-cosmic.

The Spirit hovers over waters, and water arises to water the ground. God speaks light into existence, and by the same breath He makes Adam a living soul. Day 1. Yahweh forms a firmament; Yahweh plants a garden east in Eden, a mid-space between the high land of Eden and the lower lands outside. Day 2.

He plants trees in the garden, and the water that flows from the west through the garden, splits, and flows on to the corners of the world. This matches day 3, with the separation of water and land and the creation of fruit- and seed-bearing trees. Yahweh places Adam the light into the firmament-garden. Day 4.

Then Yahweh speaks to Adam, issuing an invitation and a prohibition: Eat from all, but do not eat from the tree in the midst of the garden. Day 5 is the first day of command in Genesis 1: Be fruitful and multiple. The creation of Eve matches the creation of man, male and female, on day 6, and the joy of the first humans in the garden is the joy of Sabbath. It is the Sabbath day.

Now, how does this present Yahweh as teacher? He begins teaching at the “day 5” moment of Genesis 2. That’s when He begins to speak. Adam is placed in the garden to serve and keep it, and simultaneously is taught how to conduct himself in the garden. Teaching does not precede task; it is concurrent with task.

And the teaching doesn’t take the form of indicative truth-claims. Yahweh’s teaching of Adam is first an invitation (“From any tree of the garden you may freely eat”), then prohibition (“but from the tree of knowledge you shall not eat”) and warning (“lest you die”). Satan will deal in interrogatives, probing the truth of God’s warning; Satan will deal in indicatives or predictions (“you shall not surely die”). God’s teaching begins with hospitality and command. Imperative is the first mood of Yahweh’s teaching. It’s not accidental that the invitation is to share a meal: Yahweh’s teaching takes place at Eden’s table.

Finally, as the narrative is arranged, there appears to be an implicit structure of transmission. Yahweh speaks to Adam before Eve is created. Does He reiterate the invitation and prohibition to Eve? There’s no indication that He does, and it seems just as likely (perhaps more) that Adam was supposed to communicate Yahweh’s word to Eve. Having been taught, Adam is to become a teacher.

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