The Man in the Garden

We previously finished walking through the week of creation. Moses took broad strokes and used inexact language in order to show that there is one God, no chaos, and that people were not created in order to give any god power or support through service like the Ancient Near East legends claimed. He is using a genre of his time to speak truth about who God really is. Today, we begin a new section, the second account of the creation of humankind.

Genesis 2:4-17

4 אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם׃

5 וְכֹ֣ל׀ שִׂ֣יחַ הַשָּׂדֶ֗ה טֶ֚רֶם יִֽהְיֶ֣ה בָאָ֔רֶץ וְכָל־עֵ֥שֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה טֶ֣רֶם יִצְמָ֑ח כִּי֩ לֹ֨א הִמְטִ֜יר יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאָדָ֣ם אַ֔יִן לַֽעֲבֹ֖ד אֶת־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

6 וְאֵ֖ד יַֽעֲלֶ֣ה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁקָ֖ה אֶֽת־כָּל־פְּנֵֽי־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

7 וַיִּיצֶר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃

8 וַיִּטַּ֞ע יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים גַּן־בְעֵ֖דֶן מִקֶּ֑דֶם וַיָּ֣שֶׂם שָׁ֔ם אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָצָֽר׃

9 וַיַּצְמַ֞ח יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה כָּל־עֵ֛ץ נֶחְמָ֥ד לְמַרְאֶ֖ה וְט֣וֹב לְמַאֲכָ֑ל וְעֵ֤ץ הַֽחַיִּים֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַגָּ֔ן וְעֵ֕ץ הַדַּ֖עַת ט֥וֹב וָרָֽע׃

10 וְנָהָרּ֙ יֹצֵ֣א מֵעֵ֔דֶן לְהַשְׁק֖וֹת אֶת־הַגָּ֑ן וּמִשָּׁם֙ יִפָּרֵ֔ד וְהָיָ֖ה לְאַרְבָּעָ֥ה רָאשִֽׁים׃

11 שֵׁ֥ם הָֽאֶחָ֖ד פִּישׁ֑וֹן ה֣וּא הַסֹּבֵ֗ב אֵ֚ת כָּל־אֶ֣רֶץ הַֽחֲוִילָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם הַזָּהָֽב׃

12 וּֽזֲהַ֛ב הָאָ֥רֶץ הַהִ֖וא ט֑וֹב שָׁ֥ם הַבְּדֹ֖לַח וְאֶ֥בֶן הַשֹּֽׁהַם׃

13 וְשֵֽׁם־הַנָּהָ֥ר הַשֵּׁנִ֖י גִּיח֑וֹן ה֣וּא הַסּוֹבֵ֔ב אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֶ֥רֶץ כּֽוּשׁ׃

14 וְשֵׁ֨ם הַנָּהָ֤ר הַשְּׁלִישִׁי֙ חִדֶּ֔קֶל ה֥וּא הַֽהֹלֵ֖ךְ קִדְמַ֣ת אַשּׁ֑וּר וְהַנָּהָ֥ר הָֽרְבִיעִ֖י ה֥וּא פְרָֽת׃

15 וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃

16 וַיְצַו֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַל־הָֽאָדָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר מִכֹּ֥ל עֵֽץ־הַגָּ֖ן אָכֹ֥ל תֹּאכֵֽל׃

17 וּמֵעֵ֗ץ הַדַּ֙עַת֙ ט֣וֹב וָרָ֔ע לֹ֥א תֹאכַ֖ל מִמֶּ֑נּוּ כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם אֲכָלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת׃

Prerequisites (v. 4-6)

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

After telling the creation story in the six-day format he did, Moses begins his very next section by clarifying, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” I though Moses already provide the account of creation in Chapter 1. It seems odd for Moses to put two creation accounts back-to-back. There are some who believe that Chapters 1 and 2 were accounts written separately and compiled into Genesis 1-11 through the early years of literature. This is why they call Mosaic authorship into question. The accounts are different. If Moses wrote them both, he seems to have contradicted his own claims in the first two chapters. If the two accounts really are contradictory, if the story is disjointed because it was compiled over time rather than written by a divinely inspired individual, then we have no reason to believe Genesis 1-11 at the least. I want to remind us about Moses’s methodology, here. He is writing in the genre of his day in order to convey certain truths about God and people. He neglected using precise language in Chapter 1 on purpose. Now, he gives a second account of creation in order to employ more Ancient Near East imagery to convey more truths about God and people in light of the Ancient Near East legends of his day. If in Chapter 2 we see the same methodology and purpose for writing, then we can be confident it is by the same author and not disjointed from Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, Moses painted with broad, inexact strokes. Now, he is going to tell the account of creation in detail and be more exact with his language. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. Here, Moses is not talking about a first creation day. He is using this language much like we would to say, “in the day of Moses.” He is referring to the time, an age, when God was creating the heavens and the earth—before He completed them (cf. v. 1-2)

In Chapter 2, Moses also introduces the proper name of God, Yahweh. When we read “Lord” in the english, know that the Hebrew is God’s proper name. From Chapter 2 onward, God desires to be known by the name He has given Himself. Yahweh is the name of the essential, transcendent essence of God. The Lord God, or Yahweh God, indicates one essence, Yahweh, and a plurality of persons, God (אלהימ, plural for “God”). Yahweh is a singular, proper nown. Elohim is a plural improper noun. One essence, plurality of persons—what we refer to as the Trinity.

Moses takes us back to a time when no plant has sprouted. No plant has sprouted for two reasons; There was no rain and there was no one to cultivate the ground. Moses knows what it takes to get plants to grow. Plant growth requires water and cultivation. When there is no water, growth is impossible from the seed. When there is no cultivation or care, growth is not optimal. Plants need water and people to grow well and produce fruit. Moses is aware of natural economy. When an ecosystem develops, it must develop in close proximity. Plants need animals and people. Animals and people need plants. Everything needs water. Animals supply nutrients for plants. Plants then supply nutrients for animals. One form of life cannot exist without the others. Life thrives under the right cultivation of ecosystems. This is why, in both of Moses’s accounts, creation of everything happens in close proximity—not over billions of years absent ecosystems that make life possible.

Even though there is no rain at this juncture, there is a mist that covers the whole surface of the ground providing moisture. If we use this detail to claim that there was no rain until Noah, we read too much into the text that is not there to read. Moses is providing a detail about the early earth prior to the creation of plants and people. There was no rain, but there was a mist—high humidity in a consistent state. Moses’s description sets the stage for the creation of plants and animals. It does so in a way quite different from the Ancient Near East legends, which have the earth perpetually existing in the past as their authors perceived them in their present. There is chaos, the sea. Some god forms land and people to serve so he or she can keep order. Everything in Ancient Near East legends is highly mythical and legendary—mystic creative powers at work. Conversely in Moses’s account, God is causing things to happen very naturally. Somehow, contrary to what he was taught about the origins of the earth, Moses describes an early earth that is quite different from what the earth is in his day. There is no rain. Instead, he somehow knows to describe high humidity conditions. No one does that without some kind of observation. We have geological data in the strata of the earth’s rock to observe. Moses does not. This story is, however, being revealed to him by the One who created the world. Creation was not mystic like the Ancient Near East legends describe. It is very natural. There are prerequisites to life. Why? God created an ordered universe and there is no chaos.

A different order (v. 7-9)

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Yahweh God forms man of the dust from the ground and breathes life into him. Yahweh God also plants a garden toward the East, in Eden, a word meaning luxury or place of luxury. Notice, the creation of man and plants happens after there are no people or plants according to the story. In relation to each other, Moses here does not provide details about which was created first. That’s not his purpose. God forms the man outside of Eden and places him in Eden. This first adam (Hebrew, meaning “man”) sees the barren earth before entering the luxury of God’s garden.

God brings every kind of tree from the ground. It looks good and is nutritious and tasty. Moses names two of the trees. God brings for the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the garden. The Tree of Life is designated because it is an important part of the story, as is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

The first rule (v. 10-17)

Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Moses is being much more precise about the details than he was in Chapter 1. He gives a location for the Garden of Eden. Eden is right at the head of the four great rivers of the earth: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates. Today, we call that piece of land the Fertile Crescent, just north of the Persian Gulf. We still refer to that area of the world as the Cradle of Civilization. Moses’s account, here, corresponds to what we know from history and archaeology and the observation of the earth’s strata. This makes the story even less likely to have been made up for religious or political purposes. Moses did not cite the land of Abraham as the Cradle of Civilization. Instead, he describes the Cradle as somewhere to the east, in Eden—950 miles east of Hebron, a journey that would take more than 300 hours on foot. The Ancient Near East legends always described the center of creation as the city or region of the people writing it or telling the story. Moses gives a different location—a location in modern day Iraq.

Instead of describing the riches of Hebron, the place he is trying to lead the Hebrew people home to, Moses describes the great riches of the lands surrounding what was once the Garden of Eden. It is almost as though Moses is letting the Hebrew people know that Hebron is a temporary home, and there is much more to look forward to. There is the promised land, Hebron in Canaan. Then, there is a New Eden. Don’t get fixated on the material promised land of Canaan. The journey is about more than that. God is doing something bigger. Pay attention to the first 11 Chapters. As we see the rest of the Bible unfold, we see the fulfillment of a New Eden and the kingdom of God overtaking the whole world, not merely Hebron in Canaan.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

God puts the man into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. God gives the man permission to eat from any tree in the garden except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If the first adam eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he will surely die according to God’s command.

Why? Is there anything inherently evil about eating from this tree? Probably not. God only creates good things. The tree probably doesn’t have some mystical power to grant knowledge about good and evil. God names a tree and creates a law for a purpose. We will learn more about this purpose when we get into Chapter 3.

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