Posts tagged “Adam

Genesis 2:16-17, A Matter of Abundant Life and Death

And Jehovah God layeth a charge on the man, saying, `Of every tree of the garden eating thou dost eat; and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die. (Genesis 2:16-17, YLT, emphasis mine)

On Genesis 2:15, I saw Adam was to “work” and “guard” the Garden, which is a parallel to labors in the Kingdom of God, and its preservation through the guarding (or keeping) of His commandments. As this passage continues, we now understand Adam was to guard the Garden from perversion by keeping just one commandment (to not eat from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil). Adam’s labor and keeping of God’s commandment was reasonable service for his prototype-of-salvation experience. [Note: The “work” Adam would do is implied throughout several chapters – to gather food, to keep the fruit producing, giving names to animals, and other labors inspired by God]

Today I used Young’s Literal Translation because it is the only English version that captures two similar and glaring linguistic patterns which amplifies our understanding of Adam’s mitzvah (commandment). The phrases “eating thou dost eat” and “dying thou dost die” are translated repetitions of one Hebrew word:

way’tzah yahweh elohim al-ha-adam lemor miKol etz haGan akhol tokhel
wme-etz haDaat tov wara lo tokhal mi-menu kiy b’yom akhal-kha mi-menu mot tamut.

Obviously, this is no accident; it shows a specific choice given to Adam: to feast for eternity, or to experience the long process of dying.

Grain for Sustenance, Fruit for Feasting

We must keep in mind that it wasn’t just fruit that Adam could eat:

Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.” (Gen. 1:29)

The difference is that grains and herbs of the field appear literally “over the face of the whole earth”; they are abundant and designed for sustaining life (sustenance) as they can be produced in a single growing season. Fruiting trees are much rarer and sparse in the wild, and may not set fruit for 20 years! However, it was not so in the Garden – every fruit tree created was present and productive.

As I previously noted, this fruit orchard in the Garden would have been considered a treasure by the ancient Hebrew culture. We may have lost sense of how much our ancestors valued fruit as a delicacy (we’ve been spoiled by the ‘produce section’ of supermarkets), but if we could pick any fruit in his own backyard – at any time of the year – who would complain?

Adam had just seen the land of dust and clay where he was made, but then saw the “pleasant to the eye” Garden, complete with every delectable fruit. God has told him that not only will he eat the grains of sustenance (ref. Gen. 1:29), but he would spend his life eating fruitful delicacies (Gen 2:16).

Therefore, God actually gave Adam the option to feast in a type of abundant, luxurious life that would never end, versus experiencing the process of dying and decay. By stating it through a redundancy of words, God captured Adam’s attention to weigh his options seriously. As we were all in the loins of our common ancestor, God was trying to get our attention as well.

A Matter of Abundant Life and Death

We only have one ultimate choice to make in this life: we partake of God’s blessing, or part ways to death! This is no false dichotomy, but a fact of life. This may be the first time this choice is presented in Scripture, but it’s certainly not the last! Our covenant relationship with God has always been a choice between a blessing of an abundant life, or one that leads to destruction:

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you today, to go after other gods, which you have not known. (Deut. 11:28-29)

“…one who doesn’t enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep’s door… If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture. The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:1-10)

Since the time of Creation, we have been presented with merely one choice: Shall I live life to the fullest, or shall I just wait to die? If we are not walking with God, we are simply “dying until we die”. On the other hand, if we accept God’s salvation, we can have purpose and vision, and feast on all His benefits. The invitation to know God is still open, as is His promise of abundant life. This one choice culminates with the fullness of God found in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), as His death and resurrection is also a blessing and a curse. Just as God took Adam from the land of dust and clay, He can take us from our ‘waiting-to-die’ routine and bring us into an abundant life – one of power, purpose, and joy. Don’t let anyone rob you of your opportunity, make that one and only choice today!♦

 

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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!♦

Genesis 2:4-10 Part II: Putting Man in His Place, in More Ways than One!

In my first post, I developed my own interpretation of Genesis 2:4-10 after showing (in my own way) the differences between translation and interpretation. Now, I defend my interpretation and suggest why we may be missing the real intent of Genesis 2 – to put man in his place, in more ways than one!

This is my interpretation of Genesis 2:4b-10:

In the day Yahweh Elohim made land and sky-
before any shrub of the field was on Earth,
before any plant of the field had sprouted,
when Yahweh Elohim did not bring rain over the Earth,
without a man to work the soil.
Yet fog ascended from the Earth
and watered the entire face of the soil.
And Yahweh Elohim formed “the man of clay” from the soil
and breathed into his face a breath of life.
Then man became a living being.
Now Yahweh Elohim had planted a garden in Eden long ago,
and there emplaced the man whom He formed.
Now Yahweh Elohim sprouted from the soil every tree pleasing to sight,
and good for food-
including a tree of the Life in the midst of the garden,
and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now a river flowed from Eden and irrigated the garden;
but from there it was scattered
and became four heads.

Establishing Author Intent

A common sentiment of commentaries on Genesis 2:4-10 (especially vv. 4-7) is the complete lack of confidence in current versions! Statements such as “what did God mean by this” or “perhaps” or “mystery” are common descriptors. As I demonstrated in my last post, such lack of confidence has led some theologians to accept “contradictions” between Genesis 1 and 2. Lack of confidence is also evidenced by the various translations existing amongst contemporary English Bibles. I think the reason there is no confidence in these interpretations is because there is too much focus on translation of the words, but not enough energy devoted to interpreting author’s intent. However, the key to establishing confidence in any interpretation is to portray the original intent of the author(s). This includes establishing his point-of-view.

I’ll use the very first word of the passage in Genesis 2:4b – b’yom – as a prime example of establishing intent. b’yom is the -b preposition (equivalent to “in/on/among”) followed by yom, the Hebrew word for “day”. Critics argue b’yom could be translated “in a day” thus “in a day Yahweh Elohim made earth and heaven” contradicts the six-day creation account of Genesis 1. In a separate example, an old earth creationist interprets yom to justify his agenda. However, it is doubtful ultra-meticulous scribes (or a culture based on a strict oral history) would have gloriously missed “contradictions”. Secondly, several other scriptures establish the correct context and translation of b’yom as “in the day” – a Hebrew idiom meaning “when”. Here, the correct interpretation is made by comparing the phrase’s use in other scriptures, and understanding the rendering of b’yom as an idiom fits the context of Gen 2:4. As noted, it also does not contradict earlier parts of Scripture, thus truer to the intent of the originating author(s) and culture.

My interpretation of b’yom as an idiomatic “when” underlines the rest of the chapter. Also, we gain insight to intent: the author(s) is romanticizing history, like the way “once upon a time” is an idiomatic, romantic beginning for an epic. Therefore, the next few clauses are also introductory, complimenting the author’s retrospect from the future:

“When God made earth and sky (IT WASN’T ALWAYS AS IT IS TODAY):
-There wasn’t always shrubs or plants in cultivation just anywhere in the Earth (v. 5a-b).
-It didn’t always rain over the Earth like it does today (v. 5c).
-We didn’t always have to work the soil (v. 5d).
-Back then, a fog used to water the soil, not the rain (v. 6).

These introductory clauses “set the scene” for an author writing in ancient Israel. It is well known that ancient Israel was an agrarian culture, a continuous cycle of plowing and reaping cultivated fields (filled with shrubs like pomegranates and herbs like emmer wheat). Perhaps most important to Israel’s agrarian culture was predictable rainfall “in due season”, which was necessary to her survival. Israel is not like Egypt which relies on irrigation from the Nile; Israel’s hilly terrain requires rain from heaven. For this reason, the Hebrews invested many prayers to implore God for rain – a common theme in the Prophets and Psalms.

Therefore, this author contrasted the distant past with his present agrarian culture. That is why he his introduction begins and ends as “when Yahweh Elohim made land and sky… without a man “to work the soil”’. The phrase “to work the soil (laavod et-haadamah)” portrays hard labor of ‘turning the soil’, like when a man ‘puts his hand to the plow’ (cf. Luke 9:62). Contrary to how modern translations read, this is a knock on mankind. It doesn’t romanticize God making man to gently “till” a flower garden- it’s says ‘oh, there was a time we didn’t have to blister our hands, break our bones, and have sweat roll in our eyes!’

Throughout the next chapters of Genesis, the author(s) shows how each of his introductory clauses come to pass as facts of life. First we read “before any herb of the field had sprouted”… but later – after given a fully developed garden he didn’t have to plow (which would have been viewed as a great gift by the agrarian Hebrews) – Adam was banished to plow, seed, weed, and reap his own “herbs of the field” (Gen. 3:18). Instead of living off the land, he had to “work the soil” for himself “in the sweat of his face” (Gen. 3:19, 23). So much for “no man to work the soil”!

Several contrasts are made between the present culture of the author (s) and the pre-Flood world. First, he describes the soil of that time as being watered by ed arising from the earth. [N.B.: There is much speculation about how ed should be defined; I have interpreted it as “fog” though some translate it “streams” or “flows”. In Job 36:27, ed’s only other occurrence, the context seems to portray a fog, or vapor]. In Adam’s terrarium world water came from the ground, not the sky, denoting phenomena totally different from the author(s)’s climate. Additionally, he writes about the “Garden of Eden long ago” stressing an ancient past. Then, he describes the river of Eden as being “scattered” – which I presume happened through a worldwide flood, and redrawn in a new world as four separate rivers. Eventually, he climaxes what he originally said about the world without rain in Genesis 2:5 with the first rain of the Great Flood (cf. Gen. 7:4,7).

[Note: it would be too lengthy to discuss the “curse” of that world here; I’ll write it up in a later post.]

Other nuances through this text tell the “heavy heart” of the author(s). They lament this life of labor, not celebrating it! They describe “the man of clay”. There are many awkward readings of Genesis 2:7 (as shown through this parallel), but the phrase “He formed man from the dust of the ground” is non-existent. It actually says ‘He formed “the man of clay” from the soil’ which biblically makes more sense. It portrays God as a potter and man as clay, a theme in many later biblical parables (e.g. Job 10:9, Isa. 64:8, Jer. 18:1-6). This builds up to the fall of man, a curse on the soil, hardships, the murder, until the fall ends with the Great Flood.

In fact, it appears the author(s) puts “man in his place” before God puts man in any place!

In Conclusion

While Genesis 1 describes God’s creative approach to our heaven and earth, Genesis 2 is an indictment of man from the perspective of author(s) in an agrarian future looking back in retrospect. It does NOT begin a second creation account. If anything, it describes what mankind made- a complete mess! The events described are certainly not in chronological order, but they are not contradictory – which is why theologians should not accept “contradictions” in Genesis, it’s simply a matter of knowing the perspective and intent of the author(s).

But from this perspective, the creation of man isn’t as romantic as we interpret it today. They lamented working the soil as the no-name Adam “the man of clay” was forced to do. They lamented growing their own shrubs and fields. For them, it would have been a much more pleasant life picking apples off of trees than a life of plowing and weeding. And of course, they’re right! Who wouldn’t want that?

As the rest of Genesis proceeds, nothing good happens until the end of the flood, with the promise of its new start. In the meantime, we have to view Genesis from the perspective of a perfect, workless garden, that despite how much man could toil in the soil, he could never duplicate the Garden of Eden. I think that’s the point-of-view we miss, from the perspective of farmers who lost the farm!♦