NOTE: This post would typically belong as a callout, rather than a post in the middle of a sequence of posts. But, it’s a very important concept, so here in Genesis 2:4, where we see it for the first time, I think it’s important to cover it. This same page will also be referenced in the other locations of Genesis where one appears.
Genesis 2:4 uses an interesting word for the first time: Hebrew towledah1. It’s usually translated as generations or proceedings. It is a marker for the beginning of what proceeds from the previous passage. In this case, it means that Genesis 2:4 up until the next toledot, which is Genesis 5:1. And it refers back to Genesis 1:1-2:3. It’s sort of like a new chapter heading, if it were being penned today.
There are several toledots used in Genesis2. I’ll highlight them as I proceed through the chapters.
For now, what’s important is to understand what the full meaning of this particular toledot is. It marks the end of God’s description of creation. Because it comes at the end, it also marks the beginning of the information that proceeds from the previous information. Picture a series of stone tablets. At the beginning of a new tablet in a series, the toledot appears. So, Genesis 2:3 would be at the end of the tablet upon which the words of Genesis 1:1-2:3 are written.
In this case, chapter one’s subject (up to 2:3) is Creation. The next section comes from or proceeds from that: creation. What follows is chapter two through four, a retelling of the creation of Mankind, the story of the Fall of Man, the Curse, the first murder, and other information.
I believe it also marks a change in authorship, although that’s not required. If I’m right, Genesis 1:1-2:3 were written by God (possibly with Adam or Moses as editor or transcriber), and Genesis 2:4-4:26 were written by Adam (possibly with Seth or Moses as editor/transcriber). God explained what happened in the first chapter, and Adam will be explaining what happens in chapters 2 to 4.
A change or authorship would imply a change in style, which is exactly what we see. Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a punctuated style, describing things as if written in a list. Genesis 2 is more narrative in the telling.
- I use toledah as an English transliteration of the Hebrew. I think it is pronounced to-leh-da’, with a long o and a short a. I’ll also use the transliterations toledot (singular) and toledoth (plural).
- If you’re curious, the nine toledahs are in Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 24:19, 36:1, 36:9, and 37:2. Source: https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/01-genesis/text/articles-books/woudstra_gentoledot_ctj.pdf. There is a tenth of sorts in Genesis 1:1, but the word itself isn’t used, because what preceded Genesis 1:1 is … nothing (except God Himself).