In the Beginning… God Is Lonely

God creates man as a way to make up for His own incapacities and limitations

The Bible opens with two stories of creation. The first one, described in the first chapter of Genesis, is of a majestic, energetic, productive God (referred to as “Elohim” throughout the chapter) who creates the universe soup-to-nuts in six days (and then, satisfied with His work, takes a day off, creating Shabbat).

The second, more interesting story of creation, described in the second chapter of Genesis, is from the perspective of a more emotionally-accessible, close to “human” God (referred to as “Adoni-Elohim” throughout the chapter) who creates man, and then goes on to center all His efforts around him.

In this story, it seems as if God is creating man as a way to make up for His own incapacities and limitations. In the act of creating man, God is making up for his inability to have children. God’s treatment of man is very much that of a parent towards child: God gives Adam a home in the form of the Garden of Eden to sustain him: “to work it and to preserve it.” God sets up basic rules of conduct, and later goes on to punishing Adam when he breaks those rules – though, characteristic of a parent, with a lesser punishment than originally threatened.

Right after creating man and giving him a home, God goes on to compensate for another of His own traits: his aloneness. He does not want the same for man.  On the face of it, it is quite odd that the Bible deals with the notion of being alone so early on in the story of creation. But that is because we tend to look at the Bible from the perspective of man; looking at it from the perspective of God, the issue of aloneness is paramount to His existence and therefore necessarily features prominently in His act of creation. (I say aloneness and not loneliness though I am not sure we do justice by delineating between the two and I’m not sure that there isn’t a measure of loneliness in God’s aloneness – and hence His motivation to make sure man does not experience the same).

Creating a partner for man could have been easily remedied as it was in the first story of Genesis – by God creating man and woman at the same time. But in this story God deliberately wants man to feel a void – because it is critical for God that man experience and appreciate first what it is to be alone.  To this end, God goes to the elaborate effort of creating animals, evidently male and females, gives them to Adam to name – all with the goal of having Adam realize that only he is without a partner. Only then does God create a counterpart for man – not from the dust from which man was created, but from man himself, so that man would see and feel a reflection of himself in his partner. Just as, perhaps, God sought a reflection of himself when he created man.

This all-too-human approach helps us understand God’s “motivation” for creating the world as he did, creating it in a way that would make up for the things he doesn’t have – offspring and partnership/companionship of a kindred being, like parents making sure their children have the things they lack.

There are drawbacks to His Oneness and in the act of creation God is trying to make up for these limitations.

It is strange to say, but this gives us a certain sympathy for God, the Bible character. And it will shed light on the evolving story of the Bible, as God reacts to and interacts with his “children” as they grow up, make mistakes, are of great disappointment and occasional gratification to Him. The story that will unfold will see both man and God evolve as they interact with one another.

Introduction to this series. Of all the characters in the Bible, the most omnipresent but the least analyzed is God Him/Her/Itself. Traditional people (which most Bible readers are) shy away from analyzing “God’s character” as we would human characters because we consider God non- or extra-human. The Jewish tradition holds that any human characteristics attributed to God are solely euphemistic or metaphorical; “the Torah speaks in the language of man” in order to make it more accessible for the reader, not, God forbid, to actually ascribe to God any human characteristics.

But if we put that aside for a moment, there is so much to learn about God, the character. It may also be useful to reject that adamancy of someone like Maimonides who believes that it is forbidden to mistake any Biblical anthropomorphizing of God as an indication that God has thoughts, feelings, etc. Thou doth protest too much. For, if that were the case, why would the Bible describe God as it does? There are simply too many occasions where the Bible goes out of its way to describe God’s emotion, when it could easily have toned down the emotional nature of God.

I believe it is deliberate and this “making it more accessible to people” argument holds only so much weight. God as a character is there for a reason, and if we ignore it, we lose an important dimension of the Biblical story. But more importantly, we lose important insight as to Who it is that we are in conversation and interaction with.

 

About the Author
Jacob Dallal, who lives not far from where Jonah set sail in Jaffa to escape God, is writing on the Bible portion, focusing on its characters, especially on the character of God.
Comments