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This article continues the study in the book of Genesis, picking up where the Creation study left off in the previous issue.
4This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up; the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.
After the account of the whole creation in chapter one, emphasis now focuses on man: the circumstances of his creation, the laying out of his purpose, and the foundation of his relationship to God. This, indeed, is the intent of the Bible: to chronicle God's dealing with man and the history of man's relationship to God.
Along these lines, Moses uses the name "LORD" in this chapter in addition to "God", the designation he used in chapter one. The name "God" ("Elohim" in Hebrew) denotes the majesty of the all-powerful God of the creation. Thus, since chapter one chronicles the creation of the universe, Moses used "God" to designate the Creator. The name "LORD" ("YHWH" in Hebrew) denotes the care and concern of the covenant God, the personal God of His people. Since Genesis 2 focuses on the beginnings of man's relationship with God, it is appropriate that "LORD" be used.
"YHWH" (translated "LORD" with all capital letters in the NIV) is actually the name of God. The scribes of the Bible, showing respect for the name of God, would not write His entire name out. They only wrote the consonants "YHWH". Thus, we do not actually know the full spelling and pronunciation of His name. Some pronounce it "Jehovah", some "Yahweh".
Since the locale of this chapter is the Garden of Eden, Moses covers again the creation of plant life, with emphasis on the plants that would make up the garden. He first relates that initially, though presumably the seed was in the soil, no plant life had emerged because there was no irrigation yet. Then, Moses points out that there was no man to tend the plants, implying that, even with irrigation, the emerging plants would not form a true garden. Thus, Moses establishes that there are three necessary elements needed to produce and maintain a garden: good soil (the foundation that allows the existence of the plants), appropriate climate (the environment that determines the abundance of the plants), and cultivation (the care that determines the usefulness of the plants).
I point this out because farming is often used in parables and illustrations in the Bible. Here, by analogy, we can see the elements needed for successful service of God. The first need is good soil, the God-given foundation that makes the service possible. This takes the form of God-given talents and abilities of those involved in the service. The second need is the appropriate climate. This is comparable to the constant involvement and work of God necessary for the success of the service. The third need is the cultivation. This, of course, is the work and care provided by those serving.
Indeed, gardening (or farming) is an appropriate first occupation for man. The farmer is effectively a business partner with God. So much of the farmer's success depends on the cooperation of climate and nature, which are under the control of God. In fact, God, in effect, commanded the Jewish farmers to depend on God's providence by instituting the Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:1-7). Every seven years, the Jews were commanded to let the land rest. Thus, they had to trust God to give them enough reserves during the sixth year so that they could let the land rest for the seventh year.
Farming is often used as an analogy for the work of serving God. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few" (Matt. 9:37). Paul told the church at Corinth: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor" (I Cor. 3:6-8). James, when speaking of the Lord's coming, says that we are to follow the example of a patient farmer and depend on the Lord's providence and timing: "See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near" (James 5:7-8). See also Matt. 20:1-16 and Matt. 21:28-41 for parables that use gardening and farming as an analogy for serving the Lord.
Moses goes on to relate that "God formed man from the dust of the ground". This is clearly incompatible with the theory of evolution. Man here is depicted as being a direct creation of God from the dust, not from the ape. Some Christians hold to the belief that God created man by way of evolution. This is not supported by the Bible.
Man uniquely among the creatures is depicted as being brought to life by the breath of God, rather than by just the word of God. Indeed, there are times when we need to be brought to life again by the breath of God. Without the breath of God, we are just another creature, flesh and bones grinding out an existence, marking time until our days are complete. But with the breath of God, we are truly alive! Jesus said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63). The Spirit of God is able to give us life, just as it brought Jesus back to life: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you" (Rom. 8:11). You need to be alive by the breath of God, full of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord to breathe the breath of life into you!
8Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided; it had four headstreams. 11The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12(The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
So, God prepared a place for Adam. "Now, the LORD God had planted a garden in the east". God always prepares ahead for the needs of His children. He prepares a place for us, and He also prepares the path for us to take to get there. Not only this, but God also prepares us, His children, for the path He desires us to take. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:9). We need only to stay on His path, stay in His will, seeking to do the works He has prepared. Then, eventually, we will reach the ultimate place He has prepared for us. Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3).
Notice that God put the man "in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it". So, man was given meaningful work in accordance with his abilities. Though the work was not painful toil (as would come after the fall), nevertheless, man worked, even in paradise. Likewise, man will work in heaven. Many have the mistaken view that life in heaven will be effectively meaningless, consisting of sitting around playing harps or some such thing. On the contrary, we will be given meaningful work to do in heaven. This is indicated in the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25. The Master (representing the Lord) says to the men who served Him faithfully: "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness!" (Matt. 25:21). This suggests that the responsibility that we will given will depend on how we served the Lord on earth. It also suggests that our work in heaven will be satisfying and enjoyable, for the servant is to share in his master's happiness. I have no doubt that we will be given challenging, meaningful work, perfectly suited to our abilities.
God prepared the garden by planting "all kinds of trees". All of the trees were "pleasing to the eye and good for food", but two of the trees had special significance. One of the trees was the "tree of life". There was no prohibition concerning the tree of life because, originally, Adam, being sinless, was allowed unlimited access to it. For the good of man, however, God prohibited man from eating of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil". Before his fall, man needed only this one commandment because he had no knowledge of other evils.
Knowledge of evil is, in itself, corrupting. After his fall, man, in his sinful nature, had knowledge of evil; thus, God had to provide more comprehensive commandments so that, by the law of God, man would know objectively what God considers evil. Paradoxically, the law itself is corrupting because it teaches us about what is evil and man, in his corrupt sinful nature, is tempted by what he learns from the law. Paul explains this in the book of Romans: "Indeed, I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what it was to covet if the law had not said, `Do not covet'. But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire" (Rom. 7:7-8).
Again, because of our sinful nature, knowledge of evil is corrupting. It is also tormenting to the Christian who is trying to be obedient to the command of God. Dear friends, do your best to remain ignorant of evil! Paul says as much when he exhorts the Romans to "be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil" (Rom. 16:19). If only I could purge my mind of the evil that I have been made aware of during my existence! Try as I may to forget them, evil thoughts come to the forefront, disturbing my prayer life, disturbing my meditation on God's Word, disturbing my worship of the Lord. As Paul laments: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me" (Rom. 7:21).
The world is full of evil. It is difficult to avoid the knowledge of evil. Strive for childlike innocence! Paul exhorts: "In regard to evil be infants" (I Cor. 14:20). I rejoice when I do not understand the punch line of a filthy joke! It means that I have been spared the knowledge of its evil. Certainly, the commandment of God in Eden was in our best interest. If man had heeded it, we would have been spared the knowledge of good and evil, and lived forever righteous and holy.
Since God provided many trees in the garden with fruit that was "pleasing to the eye", the tree with the forbidden fruit should not have been enticing to Adam. Therefore, the motive for breaking the command of God could be nothing but direct rebellion against God. The commandment of God was necessary in order to make the relationship between God and man meaningful. God desires a meaningful relationship with man based on man's obedience to his Creator. God does not force man to relate to him; He gave man a free will in this decision. To prove the relationship, God gave man a clear choice in the form of the commandment.
Note that all of the trees, including the forbidden tree, had fruit that was "pleasing to the eye and good for food". Someone might say, "If God did not want man to eat from that tree, He should have made the fruit distasteful." However, if God made the fruit distasteful, the choice would not have been meaningful, because man probably would not have chosen to eat distasteful fruit, given the abundance of good fruit. If the choice was not meaningful, then man's relationship to God would not have been meaningful and man's obedience would have been based on the distaste of the fruit and not on the desire to obey his creator.
Also now, God desires a meaningful relationship with man. The temptations we face are real and enticing. If they were not, our obedience to God would not be meaningful. To please God, we must deny ourselves many pleasures of the world, with the faith that, in reward for obedience, God has greater things in store for us in the kingdom to come.
The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil", and man's reaction to it, changed the course of mankind. There is another tree that has had as much effect on mankind: Christ "bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness" (I Pet. 2:24). The first tree (the tree of knowledge) brought death, the second tree (on which Christ died) brings life; the first tree brought the knowledge of sin, the second tree brings the deliverance from sin; the first tree caused man to be cast out of paradise, the second tree allows man to enter paradise; the first tree denied us access to the tree of life, the second tree allows us access again to the tree of life.
The punishment for eating from the tree with the forbidden fruit was to "surely die". When man thinks of death, normally he thinks of "physical" death, man's departure from the earth. God views death as "spiritual" death, man's permanent separation from God. In the Bible, what we would consider death is often referred to as sleep. Speaking of Lazarus, Jesus said: "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up" (John 11:11). When Jesus went to raise the ruler's daughter from the dead, He told the crowd: "The girl is not dead but asleep. But they laughed at him" (Matt. 9:24). Indeed, We Christians should have a different view of death than the rest of the world. For them, it is the end; for us, it is our exaltation to glory, the beginning of our eternal existence in heaven. As Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" (Phil. 1:23).
18The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman,' for she was taken out of man." 24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
From the beginning, God made man to be a social animal, for "it is not good for man to be alone". Society can be the best or the worst moral influence. Godly men can encourage one another in spiritual matters and strengthen one another to resist temptation. Ungodly men can drag each other into the mud. Christians should use each other's society as a positive influence, to draw each other closer to God and to obedience of God. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another" (Heb. 10:25).
It is quite possible that God chose to have Adam live alone for awhile so that he would appreciate more the companionship of Eve when she was created. This is supported by the fact that God had Adam study the other animals in Eden to try and find a companion. "But for Adam no suitable helper was found".
The naming of the animals was man's first act of science. In the Bible, names are significant and often denote a characteristic or personality trait. Thus, to name the animals, Adam had to study them in order to determine the appropriate name to give them. So, God encouraged man in science; God encouraged man to study His creation. Science can be a powerful tool in understanding the existence, the magnificence and the wisdom of God. Job says: "But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?" (Job 12:7-9). And David says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Ps. 19:1). And the Psalmist again: "How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps. 104:24).
When Adam realized his need for a more suitable companion than the animals, God performed the most magnificent feat of genetic engineering in forming the woman from Adam's side. I believe that the word that is translated "rib" in verses 21 and 22 is more properly translated "side".[Footnote #1] Verse 23 supports this because Adam says "flesh of my flesh" as well as "bone of my bone". Thus, typologically, Adam paid for his bride with a wound in his side, just as Christ paid for His bride with a would in his side (cf. John 19:34).
"For this reason", i.e. because woman is part of man, "they will become one flesh." Thus, through marriage, a man and a woman become one again. Implicitly, since one woman was taken from one man, God has ordained marriage between one man and one woman. Some people think that the Bible condones bigamy since there are many examples of bigamy in the Bible. However, this just reflects man's impurity, not God's approval. On the contrary, when listing the qualifications for being a deacon in the church, Paul states that "a deacon must be the husband of but one wife" (I Tim. 3:12); thus reflecting God's perfect will concerning marriage.
There are many aspects of marriage implied in the creation account:
1. Biological aspect: Man was told by God to "increase in number" (Gen. 1:28). The marriage is the institution sanctioned by God to carry out this command and to fulfill the biological drives associated with it.
2. Psychological aspect: Marriage fulfills a psychological need, for "it is not good for the man to be alone." Also, a man and a woman have a sense of completeness because they "become one flesh."
3. Societal aspect: The woman was a "suitable helper" for the man. Men need women and women need men in marriage so that they have "a suitable helper" in raising children, making a living, building a home, etc. When marriages are broken, this affects society because it is difficult for one parent to raise children, to make a living alone and to build a healthy home environment. These problems in the broken families become problems for a society where broken families are prevalent. Because it is difficult to raise children, the society incurs the problems that accompany poorly disciplined children. Because it is difficult to make a living, the society incurs the problems sustaining the broken families through welfare programs. Because it is difficult to build a home environment, many children seek to fulfill this need in gangs.
4. Typological aspect: Marriage is a model of Christ's relationship to the church. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul cites Gen. 2:24, but relates it to the marriage relationship between Christ and the church: "`For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32). This is a significant, but often overlooked aspect of marriage. Along these lines, Paul points out in Ephesians 5 that the man's role in marriage is as Christ's to the church and the woman's role in marriage is as the church's to Christ: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church" and "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:25,24). Perhaps it is because of this typology that God in His law punishes adultery so severely, with death. To ruin a marriage is to misrepresent Christ's relationship to His church. This points out how sacred the marriage vow really is.
Satan, throughout the ages, has consistently attacked the institution of marriage in each of these aspects. He has attacked the biological aspect by encouraging the misuse of the sex drive. He has attacked the psychological aspect by infusing the idea that there is no benefit to "becoming one flesh" with only one partner. He has attacked the societal aspect by encouraging divorces and creating a society that accepts divorce, rather than encouraging fidelity. He has attacked the typological aspect by disrupting the institution of marriage so much that it bears no resemblance to the relationship between Christ and the church.
Moses goes on to relate that, at that time, "they felt no shame". Man, in his state of innocence and holiness, felt no shame. The feeling of shame is linked to the knowledge of good and evil. Animals feel no shame in their nakedness because they are not moral creatures; they have no knowledge of good and evil. A dog, cat, cow and frog feel no need to clothe themselves, but all men clothe themselves. Likewise, children, before the age of accountability, feel no shame, because they really do not understand good and evil; they are not yet complete in their moral education, thus, they are not yet accountable for their sin. This is supported in the Bible by God's response to the Jews' rebellion in the wilderness. He did not allow the adults of that time to enter the promised land, but the "children who do not yet know good from bad-- they will enter the land" (Deut. 1:39).
In the next chapter of Genesis, we will see that the knowledge of good and evil brings shame. Sin brought shame, and shame ended peace of mind. Shame pervades our lives. In the holiest of lives, there is guilt and shame; in the holiest of relationships, there is suspicion. Man has tried, by his own means, to return to the peace of mind and purity of Eden. Through therapy, many have tried to rid themselves of shame and guilt, but, in doing so, they are dealing with the symptom and not the root cause of the lack of peace of mind. The root cause is man's guilt of sin before God. There is only one way to deal with this cause and that is through the means provided by God Himself: the cleansing of one's sin by the blood of Christ.
In the previous issue of Scripture Studies, we discussed ways that man was made in God's image (pg. 7): we are spiritual beings, we are reasoning beings and we are moral beings. In this chapter, we have a description of man's environment in Eden, in paradise. Interestingly, God engineered man's environment to take advantage of the ways he was made in God's image. As a spiritual being, man communed directly with God. As a reasoning being, man was given the task of tending the garden and of studying and naming the animals. As a moral being, man was subject to God's commandment. Likewise, God puts each of us in an environment so that we may use the attributes and talents He has given us, according to His purpose. Seek from God the reasons He put you where you are, so that you may fulfill His purpose for your life.
Now, Father, we come to you for guidance in that purpose. Help us to use our God-given talents for Your glory. We thank You for creating us and desiring to use us. We thank You also for the institution of marriage. Help all of us who are married to model accurately Christ's love for the church and the church's honor of Christ. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.
1. The word translated "rib" here is translated "side" 10 places in the Old Testament, including: Ex. 25:12; Ex. 26:20; Ex. 36:25; etc.
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