2:1 “So the heavens and the earth and all their hosts were finished.” – Ramban explains that the ‘host’ of the earth refers to the beasts, creeping things, fish, all growing things, and man; the ‘host‘ of the heavens refers to the luminaries and the stars, as in Deuteronomy 4:19 ‘and when you lift your eyes to heaven and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars: all the host of heaven’. The phrase also alludes to the formation of the angels as part of the work of creation, and the souls of man of all generations, which, according to Ramban were created in the work of creation. (Chavel)
Everything created in heaven and on earth forms one great ‘host’ whose central point is its creator and master…Great and small we all stand on our post with powers given us to accomplish our task, all members of God’s one great host. His is the power and the greatness… ours the obedience, the punctuality, the loyalty… (Hirsch)
2:2 “His work which He had done..” Everything is now in a state of completion. Thus, God concluded His purposeful work so that no further creative or developing action of His would follow others than the maintenance of the existing universe in its existing working condition.
‘Work’ When applied to God, ‘work’ must be understood in this context: not as ‘toil’, a concept inapplicable to God, but as a reference to the result of His creative activity.
2:3 “And God blessed the seventh day and hollowed it.” ‘Blessing’ refers to abundant (spiritual) goodness, for on the Sabbath there is a renewal of physical procreative strength, and there is a greater functioning capacity in the power of reasoning and intellect. He ‘hallowed it’ (made holy, sanctified) it by having no work done on it as on the other days. (Ibn Ezra) What is more – the sanctity of the Sabbath provides the blessing of success for the activity of the week days.
According to Radak, ‘blessing’ is the abundant well-being brought about by the Sabbath. It is the day when, free from mundane worry, man can immerse himself in wisdom and spirituality. God thus blessed this day by commanding the Jews themselves to rest on it and hallow it. He hallowed it by sanctifying and distinguishing it from ordinary days. It is the day during which the Jews abstain from work as a sign between them and God that they are holy by virtue of their observance of the Sabbath which testifies to the divine creation of the world.
Rashi, however, following the Midrash, explains that the verse does not say ‘which God created and made’ – implying a future action, indicating that some parts of Creation should logically have been created on the seventh day (Mizrachi). Instead God created them on the sixth day because as the Midrash states, three things were created every day except for Friday when six things were created: its own quota plus that of the Sabbath.
2:4 “Hashem God” or “Hashem Elohim” – Why use both names in the reference? Hashem refers to God under His “Attribute of Mercy” and also refers to the eternal self existence and continuity while Elohim refers to Him as the “Attribute of Judgement”.
The use of ‘Hashem’ in this verse is commented upon in the Midrash: ‘This may be compared to a king who had some empty glasses. The king said” ‘If I pour hot water into them, they will burst; if cold they will contract and snap. So he mixed hot and cold water and poured it into them and they therefore remained unbroken…
Similarly, God said: If I create the world on the basis of mercy alone (represented by ‘Hashem’), its sins will abound; on the basis of judgement alone (‘Elohim’), it cannot endure. Therefore, I will create it on the basis of both judgment and mercy and may it then stand! Hence the combined expression: Hashem God!
Thus, in telling of the Creation of the Universe as a whole – ‘heaven’ is mentioned first, for, indeed, the celestial beings can endure being governed by Justice alone. But when man is to enter the scene, ‘earth’ is mentioned first and the added use of ‘Hashem’ signifies that His justice must be tempered with mercy (Kli Yakar).
2:5 According to Ramban, the simple meaning of the verse is that the lush green vegetation were indeed created on the third day in their full stature, but that Scripture now tells us that there was no one to further plant and sow them, nor could the earth be productive until the mist ascended and watered it and man was formed to cultivate and guard it.
Hoffman thus perceives the continuity of verses 5-7 as follows: Before anything sprang forth from the earth….mist ascended from the earth and watered the soil….from which God created man.
2:6 “A mist ascended from the earth” This verse describes the preliminary steps of man’s creation: God caused the deep to rise filling the clouds with water to moisten the dust, and man was created. It is similar to a kneader who first pours in water and then kneads the dough. Here, too: First, ‘He watered the soil” and then ‘He formed man’ (Rashi).
“…and watered the whole surface of the soil.” The moistening was only on the surface, unlike rain whose moisture penetrates deep into the soil. The impending creation of man required only surface moisture (Ha’amek Davar).
2:7 Unlike the animals who were brought forth entirely from the earth (1:24), man is distinctive in that God formed him and breathed into his nostrils the soul of life..
Hirsch notes that it does not say that God formed man from the dust of the ground but He formed him of dust from the ground. God formed from the dust, only that which is earthly in man, and which will eventually return to earth. Man’s human life, however, was not taken by God from the earth: God breathed that part into his countenance and only thereby did man become a living creature… For man is unlike animals, in that only the dead material came from the earth to form him, but it was the Breath of God that transformed that lifeless dust into a living being which raises man above the animal forces of physical necessity and makes him free, endowed with the ability to master and rule over the earthly within him.
“...and He blew into his nostrils the soul (or breath) of life;” God thus made man out of both lower (earthly) and upper (heavenly) matter: his body from the dust and his soul from the spirit (Rashi).
Soul is a term that applies to man only. It refers to the uppermost soul that comes from God, and which provides man with his superiority of knowledge, speech, and intellect beyond all animals … and which will one day submit to judgment (B’chor Shor).
Ramban comments that since this soul was breathed into his nostrils by God, it follows that man’s soul was of Divine essence and that Scripture specifically mentioned the Source of man’s soul in order to make it clear that the soul did not come to man from the elements.
“and man became a living being.” Living in Hebrew suggests that a being has attained the highest degree of perfection possible for that particular creature. Animals achieve that state of being entitled, a living soul’ just by existing according to their intended state. Man, however, attains this status only when his rational soul functions perfectly, whereas a Jew reaches this state of living when he perceives his role as a servant of God, for this is the motive of his creation. This fundamental concept is alluded to in Habakkuk 2:4, which according to this interpretation should be given: ‘And the righteous shall, by virtue of his faith, be called, ‘living’.
2:8 The Garden of Eden – “Hashem God planted…” God’s full Name is mentioned in connection with this planting to demonstrate that these were His plantings, the prearranged work of His hands about which He decreed precisely where the garden and each tree would be, unlike the other places on earth where the trees grow without specific order (Midrash; Ramban).
“a garden in Eden..” A place on earth whose exact location is unknown to any human being (Midrash; HaGadol).
“and placed there the man whom He had formed.” God ‘placed’ him there but he was not created there. Hirsch comments that this does not mean merely placing there, but it indicates the position he was to occupy
Had man originated in the Garden of Eden he would have thought that the whole world was like that garden. Instead, God formed him outside the garden so he saw a world of thorns and thistles. Only then did God lead man into the choicest part of the garden (Chizkuni).
2:9-14 These verses describe in detail the garden that was created especially for man. Man’s inhabitation continues in verse 15.
2:9 “..a tree of the knowledge of good and bad” The Midrash discusses what kind of tree it was. Several options are offered: *It was wheat…which at the time grew lofty as the cedars of Lebanon; *It was grapes..; *It was the estrog (citron) tree, as it is written (3:6) ‘and when the woman saw that the tree was good for food’ … For what tree is it whose wood can be eaten like its fruit? None other than the esrog tree; *It was a fig… But it is said that the Holy One Blessed be He did not, and will not reveal to man what kind if tree it was … for He was anxious to safeguard mankind’s honor and His own .. He did not reveal the nature of the tree so that it might be said, ‘through this tree Adam brought death into the world.’
Hirsch says that, as is plain from the chapter, the tree’s fruit was succulent and tempting, yet man was forbidden to eat from it. Because it was against God’s will that man partake of it, its eating was naturally ‘bad’ no matter what the senses might dictate. Thus the tree was there to demonstrate that ‘good and bad’ are concepts that are dependent on the will of God, not the senses of man.
2:10 “..a river issues forth from Eden..” The river in Eden overflows and waters the garden without need of man or his toil. For man was placed there to ‘tend and guard it’ (verse 15) but he did not have to water it; that was taken care of by the river. (Radak)
2:11 – 14 “..Pishon..the one that encircles the whole land of Chavilah..” Rashi and most commentators identify Pishon with the Nile. Chavilah is mentioned twice in the Torah and in order to identify which one, the Torah describes it as the place ‘where there is gold‘. In 2 Chronicles 9:10, it clearly identifies the Chavilah near Ophir as having gold. Since Cush and Ashur do not share their names with any other countries, no further description of them is needed.
The Midrash notes that at this chronological point in time Chavilah, Cush, and Asshur did not yet exist as countries, but the Torah refers to them by the name which those districts would bear in the future (Kesubos 10b).
Gichon – The identity of this river, too, is a matter of uncertainty, for as Rashi notes in Berachos 10b, the Gichon mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32 is ‘not the large river’, which does not lie in Eretz Yisrael, but it is the Siloam pool near Jerusalem referred to in 1 Kings 1:33 – ‘the spring east of Jerusalem’.
Chidekel – Most identify this river as the Tigris.
Euphrates – Rashi comments that this is the most important of the four rivers on account of its connection to Eretz Yisrael of which it was to be the ideal boundary, as in 15:18 ‘To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.’ Rashi also comments that because it is associated with Eretz Yisrael it is called ‘great’ although it was the last river to issue from Eden.