Alter describes the first creation story as a “harmonious cosmic overview” and the second as a “plunge into the technological nitty-gritty and moral ambiguities of human origins.”
Right off the bat, the Six Days are condensed to One. Instead of deep, dark, wild water as the background, we first have deserted earth, literally a desert. We hear a call for water to sprout seeds latent within Earth and the fashioning of a human to till the earth (already a farmer in anticipation of later being set to plow until their brow sweats). This envelope of Water and Human points to the entirety of the first creation story and focuses on the human component rather than the context for human life.
Instead of separating from water, we seek its presence. In the first tale, G*D hovers, breath-like, to call distinctions into being. In this second look, the call to be imaged becomes tangible with a “making,” a fashioning of humus into a human being—how humorous. James Weldon Johnson’s picture of a mammy bending over her baby is quite apt. This will become a story of a baby maturing and separating instead of the distinguishing between elements coming first.
The resultant ’adam was not latent, needing only water to revive a package of Sea Monkeys. There is a deliberate construction project implying blueprints and penalties for a time or cost overrun. Unrecorded in this shaping is the number of tries it took to get a stable unit capable of holding an animating puff of air. Who knows how many stones had to be sifted from the humus lest they lodge in the heart or head. Who knows how many leaks had to be patched. Who knows how long it took for the learning of language—at what point baby-talk ceased and conversation could be engaged in an attempt to be on the same page.
First water to sprout seeds to become food, then water to make the soil malleable to shape an ’adam, and only then fashioning and inspiring.