Genesis 2:15, A Message of Salvation
“The LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15, ESV)
First and foremost, this verse might proffer the question, ‘why not create man in the garden in the first place?’ A fair question, but the answer lies within the text itself!
On the surface, this verse seems simple. Most English translations opt for common verbs “take” and “put”, which rank an estimated 10th and 26th among the most common English verbs, respectively. “Work” and “keep” are two words we’d expect to see associated with a garden. These four words are not mistranslated, but we can miss the takeaway – literally – occurring in the Hebrew:
w’yiqach Yahweh Elohim et-haadam w’yanichehu v’gan-eden l’avdah w’l’sham’rah
From left to right, the above transliteration highlights four key words translated in English above: yiqach (“He would take”), yaniche (“He would put”), avdah (“to work”) and shamrah (“to keep”). Like their English translations, these Hebrew terms are fairly common; their most accurate meanings are easily verified throughout the Scriptures.
yiqach (fm. laqach). The verb “yiqach” is the most important in the passage because everything else hangs on this initial action. Appearing in many forms, qach is used 965 times in the Scriptures “in the widest variety of applications”. “marrying (as in “Avram and Nachor took wives…” Gen 11:29) and even the buying of goods! Common to any use of qach is the act of removing an entity from its original place or owner, such as the taking away sheep from the flock (as Rachael instructed Yaakov, “fetch me from two kids of the goats… Gen 27:9) buying a field or grain from the market (e.g. Proverbs 31:16, Nehemiah 5:3), and even marriage (e.g. as in “Avram and Nachor took wives…” Gen 11:29). In all contexts, qach describes the act of “taking away” something to a new owner or new place, as in the context of Gen. 2:15. YHVH Elohim takes Adam away from the place he was formed to the newness of the Garden.
Why Adam was Created Outside the Garden
Therefore, God didn’t create Adam inside Eden because Adam had to see his roots with his own eyes, in order to appreciate the beauty of a better life. He came from a land of clay and dust, but after seeing the beauty of the garden – its topography, its perfect climate, and its lush vegetation, he appreciated the gift of God when he received it.
yanich (yanach). The “put” in Gen. 2:15 (yanach) differs from the “put” of Gen. 2:8 (yasem) – yasem being closest to the generic and oft-used “put”. However, in Gen. 2:15, yanach entails an act of establishment, or rest, which usually follows a transference – sometimes upheaval – of one position to another. Biblical examples include the placement of Lot outside Sodom by the angels’ hands (ref. Gen. 19:17) and the placement of pots before the altar (throughout Deut. 26), and several examples of holding one’s position in warfare. Therefore, yanach describes objects and persons being left, set, or established in a fixed position. In Gen. 2:15 this makes perfect sense because it is paired with laqach (as described above). In other words, God takes Adam away from the mire in order to establish him in the Garden.
Avad and shamrah. After Adam’s establishment in the Garden, “avad” and “shamrah” describe Adam’s response to God’s gift of a well-established garden, but not surprisingly, these terms also describe pious and godly lifestyles. While avad literally means “work”, it also means “to serve”. Yeshua often described the Kingdom of God by terms associated with working a field- such as sowing and reaping, the planting of seeds, and plowing. These parables relate to our service in the Kingdom of God. Like Adam was expected to enhance the Garden, God expects His followers to advance His Kingdom.
“Shamrah” (to keep or guard) is most often used in conjuction with keeping God’s commandments (called mitzvot). It is also used in the context of a soldier keeping watch over a wall or tower. In other words, the preservation of God’s commandments are ensured as they are “kept” from perversion and nothingness. It’s more than just fulfilling the letter of the commandment – it’s the mindset to also guard His words from corruption. The takeaway from this context however, is that just as Adam was charged to preserve the Garden for future generations, we are expected to preserve the legacy of God through the keeping and preservation of His commandments.
A Prophecy of Salvation
In this verse, there is deep prophetic significance in the language. Adam wasn’t just saved from a birth in mud, muck, mire, and clay, he was rescued! He had no knowledge, he had no direction or purpose in the mud. Yet Yahweh Elohim took Adam away, and “took” is the same word used elsewhere used in Scripture to describe purchasing, marriage, and personal gains. Not surprisingly, similar terminology is used to describe our salvations in Messiah Yeshua who represented God Himself:
“You were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).
“For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Messiah and of the assembly.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)
God takes us, then establishes us in His Kingdom, and in return, we are grateful. Our eyes have seen the mire that we call “the world”, or the “evil age” (olam hazeh), but when we see His kingdom, we appreciate the Kingdom’s newness and abundance of life in contrast to our former life, and how mundane, boring, and sinful it was. In appreciation and love for so great a rescue – which the salvation of our souls – we aim to live a life of guarding his commandments, and advancing the Kingdom of God:
“Whoever believes that Yeshua is the Messiah has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5)
God’s rescue can await any of us, so believe in Him today! He will take you away as one of His own child kidnapped into a world that wants you to return to dust. God wants to take you from that place, into a life that abounds with joy, and peace, and perhaps most importantly, a purpose for life! His work is purposeful but light, and His commandments are not burdensome. Everything was designed to favor you, so let Him take you away in His salvation today!♦