Project Genesis

The Chumash (Five Books of Moses)

Adam and Eve story

Two Creation Narratives

Question: The verse states in Genesis (1:27), “And G-d created Man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.” Then in chapter 2, verses 21-23, G-d creates woman with the rib of Adam. Can you please explain what is happening here? It seems that “male and female” were already created in Chapter 1, and then again (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden (Chapter 2)!

Answer: Thank you so much for your excellent question. This question was addressed by one of the greatest Rabbis in history, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (lived in France 1040-1105), traditionally known as Rashi, whose commentaries on the Bible and Talmud are considered both sacred and essential to understanding those basic texts in traditional Jewish circles.

The following is translated from Rashi’s comments on Genesis 1:27 – the bracketed material are my explanations, as I have been taught:

Male and Female He created them”: [We see] later [in the scripture that] it says, “And He took one of his ribs, etc.” [or, as we will see later, “sides”] (Genesis 2:21). There is a Midrash Aggadah (homiletic teaching) that says [that God] first created two faces in the original creature and afterwards He divided them (Midrash Bereshith Rabba 8:1). [This means that, originally, the first human was formed similar to a conjoined twin (except that it was both male and female, which does not happen with biologically conjoined twins). Therefore, the Hebrew word tzelah, usually translated as “rib”, would be, according to this source, translated as “side”.] [However], the simple rendering of the Scripture is that He created them both on the sixth day [as chapter one is speaking generally, without many details, then continuing to the seventh day], and it did not explain the details of how they were created, which would be explained to you in another place [The Braitha of the 32 Attributes, #13]. [My Rabbis explained this like we see the style of writing, let’s say, a newspaper article, where the first paragraph is an introduction, and the second goes into details of the important aspects briefly mentioned in the first article. Just the same, God is explaining in brief the seven days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and then goes into the details of the creation of Mankind and their first sin on the sixth day in Genesis 2:7-3:24.]

Therefore there are two answers, possibly both true in some way, as hundreds of commentators have discussed over the centuries:

1. The first human was neither male nor female, but rather embodied both genders. When God saw that it was not good for a human to be alone (for various reasons, one of which the classical commentators mention is that this could bring about arrogance, the human seeing himself as unique, or confusion from the rest of creation, mistaking the human for a deity), He decided to separate this being into two components, male and female, as two separate people. Many often say, based on this, that this is why a man feels incomplete until he is married, because he is only half of a human until he is completed by his wife.

2. The simpler meaning is that Genesis 1 is a quick overview of the seven days of Creation, and the subsequent two chapters addresses some of the major details of the events of the sixth day, as Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of Creation.

I wish you many blessings of happiness and good things,
Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski

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