Two Accounts of Creation: Bereshit 1–2



Both Chapters 1 and 2 of Sefer Bereshit describe the creation of the world.  While the stylized narrative of Chapter 11 provides a day by day account of the world's origins, Chapter 2 reads more like a story, depicting the formation of Adam and his environs in a much more personal manner.  Why does the Torah find it necessary to include two distinct accounts of the same event?  How can the difference in style be understood?

Contradictory Portraits

Even more troubling than the repetition, though, is the fact that the two accounts appear to differ from each other regarding a number of points:

  • Order of creation – In the first account of Creation, man is created last, after the light, firmament, land and water, vegetation, celestial spheres, birds, fish, and animals.  In Chapter 2, in contrast, man appears first, followed by the vegetation, birds and animals, and finally woman.
  • Names of God – The name "אֱ-לֹהִים" is used throughout the first account, whereas the name "ה' אֱ-לֹהִים" is found throughout the second.  In addition, Hashem of Chapter 1 seems very distant, whereas He is much more personal in Chapter 2, not merely creating, but also interacting with His creation.
  • Creation of man – In Chapter 1, man is created in the image of God.  This is not mentioned in the second account, which instead describes man being formed from the dust of the earth and Hashem breathing into him a living soul.
  • Man and woman – In Chapter 1, the two humans are created simultaneously, ("זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם"), while in Chapter 2, man is created first, and only later is woman created from his ribs.
  • Tasks given to man – After creating Adam in Chapter 1, Hashem blesses him to be fruitful, fill and conquer the earth, and to rule over the birds, fish and beasts.  In Chapter 2, in contrast, Hashem places him in the garden "to work and guard it", admonishes him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and instructs him to name the animals.
  • Manner of creation – The role of Hashem's speech is highlighted only in Chapter 1.  In addition, the roots "עשה" and "ברא" are quite prominent in the first account, while in the second, the verb "יצר" is preferred.2