Posts tagged “Eden

Genesis 3:22-25, Answering Uncomfortable Questions

“The LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—” Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24, WEB)

I admit it. This passage provokes me to ask so many uncomfortable questions. Who is the “us” that God addresses? Why put the cherubim in the East – couldn’t someone enter through the other three directions? What exactly is “a flaming sword of itself returning” (as the awkward Hebrew reads)? And how long was Paradise guarded?

Who is this “us”?

On God saying “Behold, the man has become as one from us”, a great deal of Christian commentaries exclaim something like ‘It’s the Godhead!’ but I’m afraid that these are merely confirmation biases to promote Christian doctrines of the Trinity. However, I think there IS evidence that this refers to the cheruvim that would guard Eden shortly thereafter. This becomes apparent when we compare other supernatural utterances of God in the first-person plural (“we”, “us”, etc.).

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) once heard the voice of YHVH saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8) Upon closer inspection of the context, YHVH says this when surrounded by seraphim (“flames”, denoting fiery angels). He also uses the first person plural at the Creation of Mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26), and from other Scriptures, it’s clear that angels were in fact present at Creation (i.e. Job 38:27).

So, there IS a biblical precedent for God using first-person-plural speech with various manifestations of angels. In the case of Genesis 3:22-24, the context points to cheruvim. This is further evident by the use of the –ha proclitic, Hebrew’s definitive article. In other words, it says “the cheruvim” (hacheruvim), as opposed to just “cheruvim” (as some English translations drop the definitive article completely). So, if one sees “the cheruvim”, he might ask, ‘which cheruvim?’ The answer would be, ‘the ones God was just speaking to when He said, ‘Behold, man has become as one from us…

The cheruvim are the same as the Four Living Creatures (cf. Ezekiel 1:1-15, 10:10-14, and Rev. 4:6-8) who appear on and off again for the same reason as they appeared in Eden – judgment. They are often associated with fire, whether they pass coals of fire to “the Man in Linen” to be scattered over Jerusalem (cf. Eze. 10:2), which is a symbol for passing on the wrath of God from Heaven to the dimension of Earth (Rev. 15:7). Therefore, I make the argument that the placement of the cheruvim at Eden is a result of God’s judgment on Adam.

Why Put the Cherubim in the East? 

The use of the word qedem does mean “East”. However, it also means “ancient”, “long ago”, or “in front of”. I believe the latter “in front of” is the intended meaning.

It is possible that qedem means “East” to denote direction, but it proffers the question, ‘East of what?’ Where Adam was created, or East of Israel? Secondly, it may be adding to the story to suggest that Adam was driven out toward the East (where the cherubim were supposedly placed). I’m slow, but I would think that God would not just protect one side of Eden!

Let’s consider that qedem was first used when God planted the Garden (Genesis 2:8) to which the context says “a river flowed from Eden to water the Garden”. In this case, the Garden is “in front” of the greater land of Eden. Later – here in Genesis 3:24 – we read how the cheruvim were placed “in the front” – the same place Adam entered into and was later expelled from Paradise.

“The Sword that Turned Itself Back”

However, though the cheruvim were in “the front” of the Garden, they had that flaming sword which “turned itself back” to cover everything behind them. This means there wouldn’t be any way to circumvent the cheruvim to connive a way back to the Tree of Life. The text suggests that the cheruvim were first placed between Adam and the Garden, and then immediately burned Paradise with a consuming fire.

Just as Ezekiel saw the cheruvim move as one unit with a wheel, that “when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them… for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels (Ezekiel 1:20)” the sword of flames returned on itself with the cheruvim who directed it. In other words, the cheruvim were placed at the front, and turned back with the sword to completely burn the Garden to a crisp. Thus the cheruvim preserved the way back to the Tree of Life.

So the cheruvim were not guarding it but for a brief moment in time – they were not there to preserve the Garden, but the “way”, meaning they were meant to keep Adam from “stretching forth a hand to take from the Tree of Life.” Thus, Adam was there to see it go up in smoke, and completely erased from the Earth forever.

Sometimes, it’s a hard lesson to learn that best way to preserve something is to completely destroy it, and then to start anew.

From hereafter, cheruvim would keep guarding the Way to the Tree of Life – on the mercy seat of the Ark that no one was allowed to open, the Glory of the Temple that no one could enter, and the Great Throne that no one could stand upon… until that time when Someone proved worthy enough, and become caretaker of the Tree of Life in Heaven. Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:17-19, Adam’s Intentions Led to his Downfall

“And to Adam he said: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, which I commanded you, saying ‘you shall not eat from it’, cursed is the ground in your cause. In stress will you eat from it all the days of your life. Brambles and thorns will it sprout to you, and you will eat the crop of the field. In the sweat of your face will you eat bread, until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken, because dust you are, and to dust will you return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Let’s remember how this scene was originally set. At the beginning of Genesis 2, the writer offers a preamble which basically says ‘when God made heaven and earth, and before any shrub was cultivated, and any crop had grown… no man had ever tilled the ground…’ (ref. Gen. 2:4-5) Finally, the writer has brought us full circle, explaining why men share their lives with back-breaking physical labor – especially in the fields.

The author also reiterates why it happened, but first, there are two minor points which can help us understand the context a little better:

1) Stress. I think ‘stress’ is the emphasis to humans, in order to contrast the stress-free Eden with the post-rebellion world. God speaks the Hebrew itzavon to both Adam and Chavah (Eve). Read this post to understand why I think itzavon = “stress”.

2) Brambles and Thorns. We shouldn’t focus on the physical aspect of “brambles and thorns”, but rather the stress it causes. Yes, these two words are associated with the verb for “prick”, but the aggressive nature of these types of plants is the real focus, i.e. Hosea 10:18, where they are depicted as rapidly overtaking the altar of an idol. Every plant with stingers and thorns – such as blackberries, nettles, thistles, etc. – sprouts rapidly from seed, and can aggressively take over a disturbed field if left to its natural devices.  The main takeaway is that though man cultivates a field, thorny weeds would also “sprout”, causing frustration and many man hours to eradicate in the “sweat in his face”… and unnecessary stress.

Aside from these minor points, there is one specific phrase that seems to jump off the page:

“arurah ha-adamah ba-avurekha”

This is an obvious rhyme meaning “cursed is the ground in your cause”. Though the majority of Bible translations read “sake” in place of the Hebrew “abur”, this is a confusing choice. In modern English “sake” is synonymous with “benefit”, which is the exact opposite of a curse! Secondly, abur usually means “cause” or “intent” elsewhere, as in the following examples:

  • “And yet for this I have caused thee to stand, so as to show thee [Pharaoh] My power… (Exodus 9:16, YLT)
  • “For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.” (2 Samuel 17:14, KJV
  • In order to bring round the appearance of the thing hath thy servant Joab done this thing… (2 Samuel 14:20)

The ground was cursed not for man’s “sake” or “for his own good” as some commentators have suggested, but for Adam’s intentions – chief among them his desire to be his own, autonomous god separate from the Most High’s sovereignty. Adam became carried away with the luxurious fruit of Eden, its running (living) waters, the gemstones, and a physical body continually in its prime – in other words, Adam lived like a god long enough to think he was one! Now, he would find it more difficult to think that way, when he fought aggressive weeds, the sweat in his eyes, and of course, the aging process leading to an eventual death. Real “gods” do not experience any of these stresses of life.

This specific word abur solidifies a lesson reiterated throughout the Word of God: that what we do in rebellion is only sequential to the original intentions within us. This is exactly the same as Messiah Yeshua taught:

“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies. (Matthew 15:18-19)

God has always emphasized from the Beginning that mankind’s intentions are what actually lead to his downfall. Nevertheless, though God seems to be harsh here, I find grace in these songs to both Adam and Chavah, especially in light of the rest of Genesis.

Forsaking today’s political correctness and its lies about gender expectations, the truth is that men and women are better off in intimate marriages. In fact, it’s the only way for society to preserve itself. Genesis 3:16-19 is not just a poetic judgment, it contains commandments designed to set Mankind on a course back to God! Because as soon as we turn the pages of Genesis, what do we see? Instead of the one-man-one-woman pattern of marriage, man “corrupts his way” (cf. Gen. 6:12). Harems were formed by the celebrity-like “Nephilim”, who eventually learned that the easiest way to feed their clans was through violence and unjust gain (cf. Gen. 6:1-13). Presumably, they robbed and killed other clans who grew crops (a serious commodity in times of a curse) “in the sweat of their face.” In the end, God says something similar to what He previously had said about Adam’s “cause”:

And YHVH said… I will not alter again the ground for the intentions of man, though the conceptions in the heart of man is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21)

Yes, the Hebrew for “intentions” is once again abur, and is synonymous for what we imagine in our minds. It’s the same intentions that led to our expulsion from Paradise, to drown in the Great Flood, and by any and every other course leading to our demise.  By that time our intentions will have destroyed us in the End of Days will have destroyed us countless times since the Beginning of time. This is what God says to Adam, and what He’s also telling all of us. Ω

Liberal Christian Beliefs and the Genesis Accounts – Embracing the Future of a Non-Existent Past?

And [the serpent] said to the woman… (Genesis 3:1)

I’ll be the first to admit, the talking snake’ used to make me uncomfortable, so much so that I avoided it, wondering if it were some kind of metaphor. Eventually though, I came to the conclusion that I must face ‘the talking snake’. I realized that it was impossible to claim ‘the Bible is the inerrant Word of God!’ but then substitute metaphor for history when its stories disturbed my modern sophistications.

There are many liberal Christians (and for that matter Jews) who explain Genesis 1-3 as poems or metaphors, but what is the end of such reasoning? Figures like Moshe, David and even Yeshua quoted Genesis as actual history – do we know better than these unenlightened ones? And why not stop at Genesis – why not just explain the Exodus, the words of the Prophets, the nation of Israel, and the Resurrection of the Dead as additional moral metaphors, just like Aesop’s Fables?

So before I dive into Genesis 3 as historical fact and the lessons that transpired, I want to challenge these liberal beliefs. After all, if you cannot picture humanity in the Garden of Eden, then you also can’t picture yourself in the Kingdom of God, can you? …Now what do I mean by that?

Consider Adam’s creation. Let’s say you’re a liberal Christian, and you accept man’s proposal that evolution is the true anthropologic history of human beings. If that’s the case, then you could not literally believe that “Yahweh Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). But my question is, if you cannot believe the beginning, how can you hope for the end: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2). Did not Adam also awake from the dust? What’s the difference between his creation and your resurrection?

Herein lies my point. Every fulfillment that we hope for in Messiah Yeshua – which includes all the promises of God for the olam haba, are prototyped in Genesis. If we expect to enter the Kingdom of God, we must also embrace our ancestry in the Garden… for our salvation is seen through our past.

Taking another example, if the Tree of Life is a myth andwhich never existed, how then can it grow in the age to come (cf. Gen. 3:24, Rev. 2:7)?

Or, if an orchard of ever-bearing fruit is chalked up to an old farmers’ tale, how could God be expected to plant a tree “offering different fruits each month” (cf. Rev. 22:2)?

Even taking the example of my own faith nemesis, the talking snake – if I couldn’t believe God once gave animals the ability to speak (which would include Bilaam’s donkey -cf. Numbers 22:28), then it stands to reason that four living creatures in Heaven “having voices” would be just as ludicrous (e.g., Rev. 6:1).

So is this Genesis story a fairy tale, or not?

If you call it a myth, and you deny God created and sustained what Genesis portrays… then using the same logic, you must reject what the Bible calls “the restoration of all things” (cf. Acts 3:21)… for how can God restore what never happened?

Can’t you see, that ever-bearing fruit, thornless trees, healing waters, cherubim, gemstones, lush gardens, the Tree of Life, perfect climates, incorruption, even talking animals and ETERNAL LIFE, as well as anything else promised through the mouths of both prophets and apostles… is not new to the earth? Can’t you see when you reject your past you reject your future?

Just believe! The earth as we never knew it may be lost, but you must realize that you’re not waiting for anything new – you’re waiting for things to be re-newed. So, examine yourselves, you quasi-believers, you liberal theologians and cowards in spirit. Get past your insensibilities and comfort-levels. Accept that the Almighty was as powerful as He claims… lest you find your faith to be weak and meaningless when you need it the most.♦

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!♦

 

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 2:14 — Was Eden a forerunner of the “New Jerusalem”?

“A river went out from Eden to irrigate the garden; and from there it was scattered, and became the source of four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Chavilah. The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Kush. The name of the third river is Chiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:14)

It is impossible to pinpoint the locations of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers with absolute certainty. In order to propose a theory on these locations, I assume the following:

1) As I previously proposed, the original water source of Eden was scattered (not “parted”) in accordance with the common meaning of the Hebrew word yiPared. The four rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:14 became four new “heads” after the Great Flood. There are other references to the pre-Flood world from a post-Flood perspective throughout Genesis 2, including Genesis 2’s introductory sentences.

2) I assume there was both a greater region of Eden, and a lesser “Garden in Eden”. I assume the four rivers which came from a now-defunct original source filled the greater region of Eden, which would make Eden a fairly sizable place.

3) I condone the scholarship of Farouk El-Baz and James Sauer, the former of whom discovered the now-defunct river system of the Wadi al-Batin and Wadi Al-Rummah, and the latter of whom argued for this ancient river as the Pishon. This river, which flows through Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, passes through a land in which is found gold, gemstones (including onyx), and indigenous trees having bedolach (gum resin). Additionally, it fits the geographic disposition described in Genesis 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7, as both sources cite a “Chavilah” situated between Egypt and ancient Assyria (modern-day Iraq). This area corresponds to modern-day Kuwait.

4) I also agree with Juris Zarins’s conclusions associating Iran’s Karun River with the Gihon. There are two “Kush” families mentioned in Scripture; one is in Ethiopia and the other is in Mesopotamia – where lived the Kassites, who originated from the ancient civilization of Elam. Associations with Ethiopian “Kushites” lead many to associate the Gihon with the Nile; however, the Nile is far removed from the Tigris and Euphrates, while the Karun empties into the Euphrates delta. Additionally, known communities of dispersed Jews still live beyond the Karun, which matches descriptions in Isaiah 18:1-7 and Zephaniah 3:10. Therefore, the “Kush” described by these verses must lie between Israel and Persia, the latter being the known site of the Babylonian Diaspora. Even today, the cities of Hamadan and Susa both lie “beyond the Karun” with respect to Israel, and host the shrines of Esther and Daniel, respectively. When all the facts are weighed, the Mesopotamian “Kush” – the Kassites – is the only civilization which had a dynasty in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates, and was situated between modern-day Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

If these assumptions are correct, I imagine that Eden was a sizable place filled with rivers – perhaps a delta teeming with life, as each of the four rivers previously identified still have several tributaries feeding them. In fact, the three extant rivers comprise the lush “Fertile Crescent” as it’s known today. This area is still filled with gold, gemstones, trees which produce aromatic resin, and edible fruit. This area, at least at one time, also contained fertile soil from nearby volcanic activity.

Interestingly, the distance between the head of the Pishon (Kuwait River?) – located near Medina, Saudi Arabia – and the head of the Karun – located in Bakhtiari Province, Iran – is only about 950 miles. The distance from the northernmost head of the Euphrates – near Erzurum, Turkey – to the southernmost tips of the Karun or Kuwait Rivers is just shy of 1,100 miles (no matter which waypoint is used).

Even if I assume the borders of Eden lay at the northernmost points of the Euphrates in Turkey, the Eastern and southernmost points of the Wadi-al-Rummah in Arabia, and at the westernmost point of the Karun River in Iran – the entire area could lie within a 1,200 mile square wall. In actuality, the entire Fertile Crescent, stretching from the Eastern Persian Gulf to West of the Nile, could fit into a 1,400 mile square, perhaps looking something like this:

Photo Credit: tourofheaven.com

Photo Credit: tourofheaven.com

What’s interesting is that the above photo was a 1,400 mile scale not of the distance around Eden or the Fertile Crescent, but of “New Jerusalem”- as measured in Revelation 21:16. This 1,400 mile-scale is a conservative estimate, as other interpretations determine a 1,500-mile measurement!

The eerie thing to me is the similarities in descriptions of Eden and the New Jerusalem. Both areas contain gold, gemstones including “onyx”, rivers, trees of life, new names, trees for food, and most importantly, the Presence of the One True God. If that were not enough, both areas seem to be comparable in size, at least when assuming the boundaries of Eden’s four rivers.

This may all be my vivid imagination at play, but I like to believe that the description of New Jerusalem is a picture of a type of ‘Second Eden’ – perhaps larger than the first, but nevertheless a Paradise with plenty of room. Perhaps what God is saying through His word is that His Paradise is a place where everyone can have a spot on the river, surrounded by resins smelling like frankincense and myrrh, a perfect climate, with fruiting trees and fellowship among all peoples.

This past year (2014-2015) has seemingly been the exact opposite of this promise: There is no healing of the nations, though there have been plenty of riots among the races! There is no new titles given to anyone, though plenty have their good reputations tarnished! I don’t read about perfect climates anymore, although today I read news about heat waves and floods claiming many lives! I only read about gold and gemstones when they’re robbed or sold swindled, so I don’t know about you, but going home to a Second Eden sounds pretty good right about now!

So be it! King Yeshua, maranatha! (O Lord, Come!)♦

Genesis 2:10-14, The Extent of Eden’s Loss

In Genesis 2:10-14, the lost but not forgotten Eden is described in a post-Flood landscape contemporary to the author. It seems no one knew the whereabouts of the Garden, and the author gave a “best guess” of where Eden was last known to exist.

Looking closer at the passage, there are two lines that don’t fit the rest of the story. Without them, the passage reads something like this:

A river went out from Eden to irrigate the garden; and from there it was scattered, and became the source of four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Havilah. The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

Without the missing passage, this is simply a geographical description. However, the missing phrase further describes Chavilah, “where gold is, and the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and onyx are also there.” This seems a strange “nugget” of information. No other land in the passage is described by anything other than its name. Chavilah, on the other hand, is described as a land full of gold, bdellium (bedolach – an aromatic resin from tree sap like frankincense and myrrh), and the shoham stone (onyx). [N.B.: There are alternate interpretations of shoham and bedolach. Shoham might be the generic term for ‘gemstone’ and bedolach may be another type of stone, but I think the evidence agrees with the general consensus: shoham is onyx and bedolach is an unknown type of fragrant resin.]

Previously, I surmised that Eden was buried by the Great Flood, somewhere in the region of these four new rivers (vv. 10-14). According to verse 12, gold and onyx were in the same region, as were indigenous trees which produced bedolach. Assuming indigenous trees survived the Flood, it appears gold, shoham, and resin were abundant in the territory of Eden. Furthermore, other scriptures hint that these treasures were abundant in Eden:

You were the seal of full measure, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and beryl. Gold work of tambourines and of pipes was in you. They were prepared in the day that you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers. Then I set you up on the holy mountain of God. You have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until… (Ezekiel 28:12-15)

The above lamentation was directed against the king of Tyre, but it made several references to “Paradise”: the Garden of Eden, beauty, full measures, wisdom, gemstones, gold, music, anointing oil, and volcanoes. All are symbols of perfection. (N.B., volcanic activity produces gemstones and rich soil for crops.) Within Yizqiyahu’s (Ezekiel’s) description of “Paradise” were references to the three treasures found near Eden: gold, onyx, and the resin-based anointing oil (ref. Exo. 30:23-24).

According to Ezekiel’s description, it just may be that Eden was more than just vegetation, it may have been surrounded by gates, walls, and ready-made constructions containing gold and gemstones!

I don’t believe in coincidences, especially with the Word of God, so the “aside” of Genesis 2:12 is a clue. These materials DO have something else in common – they are associated with the presence of God! Gold, onyx, and resin-based perfumes (specifically, anointing oil and incense) are always near the Presence; this has been true since Eden, where YHVH walked in the cool of the day (ref. Gen. 3:8). For this reason, these treasures were found together in the Tabernacle of Meeting. God commanded these resources – gold, gems, and aromatic resin – as offerings for the Tabernacle (ref. Exodus 25:3-7). Immediately afterward He says, “and make me a sanctuary, and I will reside in the midst”, for the Tabernacle/Temple was designed to be a place of God’s Presence. Specifically, these three treasures passed through the veil to the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement): golden braces held the onyx memorial stones worn on the high priest’s shoulders, while resin-based incense emanated from his censer (cf. Exo. 28:9-14, 3o:34-35, Lev. 16:3-4, 12).

The last line of Exodus 25 reads “See that you build (the tabernacle) according to the pattern that I show you…” If this is a reflection of the true Tabernacle in Heaven (ref. Heb. 8:5), we’d expect the Presence to also be accompanied by gold, gemstones, and incense in Heaven. This is exactly what the Apostle Yochanan (John) recorded in Revelation – on the throne, God continually surrounds Himself with incense, golden crowns, and precious stones (Rev. 4:4-6, 8:3-4).

There are two differences between the earthly and heavenly Tabernacles; the first is of course that the earthly Tabernacle had a veil, where the heavenly tabernacle did not (see Rev. 11:9). In places of eternal life, there is no veil to protect from death because death is a non-entity. However, the relationship of sin with death required a veil; God does not entrust sinners “who know the difference between right and wrong” (Gen. 3:22) with the same freedoms we might enjoy in eternal life. Therefore, the veil was necessary to prevent death.

The second obvious difference is that the Temple in heaven is ready-made. There are implications that mankind will one day enter the Heavenly Temple (Rev. 15:8), but we do not lift a finger to build it. Similar to how Eden was planted without work, we await to enter a Temple made without the offerings of men. However, in this life, all materials to build the earthly temple have to be bought, sought, or caught! Gold, onyx, and resins are among those that are sought – these treasures are hidden, they must be found in scattered ore deposits (gold), veins of volcanic lava (onyx), and stands of trees (resin). These materials must be found.

Due to these treasures being association with the Divine Presence – especially within the Tabernacle, God hints at the extent of what was really lost in the Garden in Genesis 2:12. Mankind lost fellowship with the Divine Presence, when we – in the loins of our common ancestor Adam – met God in the cool of the day, when He “tabernacled” among us and was our God. Today, this is our destiny we await, as one day God will again meet us at “Eden 2.0”, a place watered by a river and hosting the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:1-2), a city adorned with gold and onyx (Rev. 21:18-20), and the sweet smelling incense around His throne (cf. Rev. 4:4-5, 22:1).

Conclusion

Eden wasn’t just a garden of trees and fruit – the scriptures indicate there were many more assets. “Paradise” is gone and buried, but God reveals through an “aside” that His Presence was available in Eden. By hinting at the treasures common to the tabernacle and Holy of Holies, it is as if God shows that Eden itself was the Most Holy, the chosen place of a whole planet God called “good” (Gen 1:27). Without the consequence of sin and death, we could have enjoyed a continual, unveiled Presence of God!

If we read to the end of the story we can see obvious comparisons to Eden in the book of Revelation, but none more important than “God Himself will dwell among them and be their God (Rev. 21:3)”. However, without Revelation, what would we know? We would have known we had free access to the Presence but lost it, and the closest replication to Eden was a veiled sanctuary in the Tabernacle that no one could enter!

However, we who know Messiah Yeshua will find the way back to “Eden” in the world to come. Yeshua is the way back to the Tree of Life, and a future paved with gold, gemstones, and sweet incense! Like the hidden materials of Genesis 2:12, He must be “found”. When He is found, there is confidence knowing that all the materials needed for the Presence of God are acquired.♦

Genesis 2:10-14, What Happened to the River of Eden?

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14, NIV)

In my last post I proposed that the writer of Genesis 2:4-6 wrote from a perspective in his then-present agrarian Israel, which compared and contrasted thousands of years of human history. In it I deduced that the original author contrasted the pre-Flood and post-Flood worlds. Today I set out to further reprove his writing style, because the author does it again four lines later!

In Genesis 2:10-14, the original author compares the pre-Flood landscape of Eden with a post-Flood geography of four “headwaters”.

Obviously, Eden existed pre-Flood, but the lands surrounded by the four headwaters were named after Noach’s (Noah’s) decendants. Chavilah son of Yokthan (Gen. 10:29), Kush (N.B. it’s debatable which Kush – the one from Africa or the one from Mesopotamia – though the context seemingly points to the Kush from Mesopotamia), and Asshur (Gen. 10:11) are patriarchs of post-Flood civilizations. While it’s possible the writer used his contemporary geography only for illustrative purposes, it’s doubtful the landscape of Eden was preserved during a worldwide flood… intact.

The text also begs a “pre-Flood to post-Flood” interpretation. The two key words in verse 10 are sham and the verb parad. First, though sham is translated “there” it can be defined as “(as an adverb of time) then.” Parad is often translated as “it parted”, but both these translations occur under the presumption that Eden’s river and the four headwaters co-existed! The verb appears as yiPared – in passive form and imperfect tense. The imperfect tense of yiPared demonstrates an action not yet complete, as over the passage of time, with the completed action being “became four headwaters.” Therefore, reading Gen. 2:10 as “and a source went from Eden to water the garden. From then (mi-sham) it would parad and become four headwaters” is perfectly reasonable. The problem is, I believe translating parad as “it would part” as in ‘a man parts his hair’ is a mistake.

In examples where the verb parad used elsewhere in the Bible, it means something much different than a simple “parting” of water:

  • “The old lion perishes for lack of prey. The cubs of the lioness are scattered[Job 4:11. The lions did not separate through their normal coming of age, but because their parent-providers died. Therefore, the original den of lions ceased to be.]
  • “Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom…” [Esther 3:8. Haman used parad as a synonym of “dispersed” to negatively describe the Jews as ‘gypsy troublemakers’ at a time when their original homeland was desolate.]
  • “I am poured out like water. All my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; it is melted within me.” [Psalm 22:14. In these examples, everything once whole- a pitcher of water, intact bones, and a whole heart, have been dissipated. Here the specific use of parad describes bones once in socket, becoming dislocated and isolated from the joints.]
  • Behold, your enemies shall perish. All the evildoers will be scattered.” [Psalm 92:9. This is the context that ‘hits the nail on the head’. It describes an entity (evildoers) that becomes no more.]

From the above examples, we see a verb used in contexts of adversity, used in context with non-existent entities. Therefore, parad is better understood as “scattered” because it means much more than its usual translation of “parted”, “divided”, or “separated”. It’s not that these translations are incorrect, but parad’s negative undertones describing some lost association are well, lost! Parad describes bones yanked from its joints, the enemies of God forever scattered in eternity, and the Jews’ Diaspora from Haaretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel). It is also used in the context of the scattering of the nations after the Flood (Gen 10:32, scene-setting the Tower of Bavel), Eliyahu (Elijah) eternally separated from Elisha in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), and Ruth crying that only death will parad her from Naomi (Rut 1:17). All examples indicate that parad describes a ‘once-and-for-all’ separation of two entities!

With this evidence, I propose a re-interpretation of Genesis 2:10. I think that the use of parad indicates that the rivers were eternally detached one from the others, like the dislocation of bones from the marrow, and a race of people uprooted from their homeland. I think the original water source in Eden was scattered into four new sources (over a wide area) via a great worldwide flood, when “the fountains of the deep were broken up” (Gen. 7:11). The author could only describe the location of Eden in terms of his current geographical makeup, because the Garden and the heavenly atmosphere it represented could no longer be found. ♦

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!♦

Genesis 2:4-10 – Part 1: Run Down on the Run-On

Genesis 2 is admittedly a difficult passage to understand. The author uses ambiguous words, wordplays, idioms, grammar rules foreign to English speakers, and did not record events in a chronological order. In some places, the author(s) appear to leave incomplete sentences!

After interpreting Genesis 2:4-10, I found that I did not arrive at the same conclusions as the mainstream, but that’s fine, because I didn’t discover any common trends in its translation. At any rate, I feel that we are missing the point because we are so preoccupied by what the author said that we don’t consider what the author intended.

This first post is a study in the awkwardness of translation versus interpretation using Gen. 2:4-10 as an example, which concludes with my own interpretation of the text. Hopefully, it will also conclude with YOUR interpretation as well! The second post will be my apologetic explanation of why I think in Genesis 2, God puts man in his place, in more ways than we realize!

Translation Vs. Interpretation

Translation is difficult enough, but interpretation is an attempt to convey foreign thought into modern grammar and culture – which is far more challenging. As an example, the word-for-word, literal translation of Gen 2:4b-Gen 2:5d reads:

in day made yahweh elohim earth and sky and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every herb of the field before it sprouted when did not send rain yahweh elohim over the earth and man no to work the ground

You see, this is translated, but how do we interpret this!? Which words must we add (for it) to make sense in English? Should we insert ‘a’ or ‘the’ modifiers for the sake of ‘flow’? Do we translate words like shamayim by its practical term “sky” or by its more bias meaning of “Heaven?” What words should I capitalize? What about punctuation? How do I distinguish commas from periods; do I need brackets and/or parentheses?

However, the most important question of all is, ‘how do I determine the original author point-of-view and intentions!!?’

If I reading the above translation word-for-word, it may seem that Yahweh make heaven and earth, along with every shrub and plant before they even appeared on the earth… which is exactly how some interpret it! A certain religion headquartered in Utah interprets Genesis 2:5 to justify a “prior spirit creation“. In a similar vein, the 19th Century Methodist theologian Adam Clarke explained that this statement “describes how God made everything in maturity before placing it on the earth.” [N.B.: For the sake of brevity, I did not include other sources that support a similar interpretation, though there are several more.]

However, what if the statement “every shrub of the field before it was in the earth” is just an awkward way (for us) to say “before every shrub was in the earth”? Translated, this grammar confuses us Westerners, but it is just fine in Hebrew. You see, this second interpretation is vastly different than what some religions and theologians were inclined to believe because it accounts for the ancients’ style of writing. Now it’s true faulty interpretations could be nefarious, like say to satisfy a doctrinal agenda, but most of the time misreadings of the text miss something, like the context and culture of the ancient manuscript.

Returning to the translation of Gen. 2:4b-5, did shrubs and plants not sprout because there was no rain? Did God withhold rain because there were no men to work the ground, which suggests that all men were created to be farmers?

Furthermore, the translation “as is” suggests God delayed the creation of vegetation until He made man to cultivate the ground… sooooooo was mankind created before plant life? Isn’t that a contradiction of Genesis 1, where plants sprouted three days before mankind (cf. Gen. 1:11-13, 27-31)!? As exemplified at the 3:54 mark of this video, some theologians have just given up trying to harmonize Genesis 1 and 2, all because Genesis 2:4-7 is interpreted as if humans preceded vegetation.

I raise these thematic questions because all of them are subjects of commentaries and articles internal and external to the Kingdom of God. However, all such arguments have one thing in common: they are interpretations. While interested parties should investigate Genesis 2’s many interpretations for themselves, I also challenge readers to compare parallel translations of Genesis 2:4-10 and observe the differences in punctuation, sentence division, and to consider what these readings imply from the text.

Let’s Run Down the Run-On

With so many different interpretations of Genesis 2, why not try it ourselves?

The first difficulty is getting past its form, which is similar to an English run-on sentence. The “run-on” has a clear break in verse 10, but in actuality continues to verse 25. My focus will be on Genesis 2:4b-10.

Thoughts of the author(s) are separated by clauses, which are introduced by vav (-v; often transliterated -w) conjunctions. –v/w is usually translated “and” but can also mean “and therefore, also, then, or yet.”

Though -v is often used in a continuative sense, it can also be adversarial (and vs. but, respectively). It may also introduce circumstantial clauses, causal clauses, comparative clauses, purpose clauses, etc.1

The lone exception is the Hebrew kiy. Like –v, it also introduces clauses, such as “object clauses, clauses introducing direct narrative, causal clauses, conditional clauses, confirmatory clauses, adversative and exceptive clauses, temporal clauses, or result clauses.”2 It has about two dozen translations in biblical texts.

To demonstrate the run-on, I’ve transliterated Genesis 2:4b to Genesis 2:10 (where the run-on clearly breaks), separating each clause containing its own verb, while leaving every conjunction as is.

As you read, YOU will be responsible for identifying each kind of clause (conditional, causal, etc) which will determine how YOU translate each conjunction (and, because, but, then, yea, etc.). Additionally, YOU will be responsible for punctuation, and the insertion of any words conducive to “flow”. Therefore, modifiers such as a/an/the will be marked by (?). Additionally, hads/haves may be required – even if the verb form is active yet the context implies a passive event. YOU will simply have to judge if the context warrants it. Yes, there will be some words requiring an extra English word or verb to work; I did not translate these but hyperlinked them so YOU may pick the translation and verb combination to make it work. Don’t worry, you can italicize such inserts, but YOU will also have to omit any words you deem unnecessary. For ambiguous words having two or more possibilities, I simply used hyphens and translated all possibilities… all for YOU. You are encouraged to read further in the Bible to find contextual clues, or to compare usage of terms elsewhere. You may even use other Bible translations if you do not like my listed options, but your final translation must be easy-to-read, which means YOU must rearrange the word order as they originally appeared.

Fear not! All of the rules I’ve just levied on YOU, dear reader, are used by all translators of every holy book, everywhere! Now, YOU get to play by the same rules. Have at it!

2:4b b‘yôm ásôt y’hwäh élohiym eretz v’shämäyim [in (?) day yahweh elohim made (?) earth/land vav (?) sky(ies)/Heaven]

2:5a w’khol siyach haSädeh terem yih’yeh äretz [vav every/any shrub of the field before it was/became in (?) earth/land]

2:5b w’khäl ësev haSädeh terem yitz’mäch [vav every/any plant/herb of the field before it sprouted]

2:5c kiy lo him’tiyr y’hwäh élohiym al-hääretz [kiy did not himitiyr yahweh elohim  over/upon the earth]

2:5d w’ädäm ayin laávod et-häádämäh [vav man/Adam ayin to work/till the ground/soil]

2:6a w’ëd yaáleh min-hääretz [vav mist/fog/river ascended from the earth]

2:6b w’hish’qäh et-Käl-P’nëy-häádämäh [vav watered/irrigated (?) entire face of the ground]

2:7a waYiytzer y’hwäh élohiym et-häädäm äfär min-häádämäh [vav formed yahweh elohim the man of clay from the ground/soil]

2:7b waYiPach B’aPäyw nish’mat chaYiym [vav breathed in face/nose (?) breath of life(ves)]

2:7c way’hiy häädäm l’nefesh chaYäh [vav was/became the man to being of life]

2:8a waYita y’hwäh élohiym Gan-B’ëden mi-Qedem [vav yahweh elohim planted a garden in eden from East/long ago]

2:8b waYäsem shäm et-häädäm ásher yätzär [vav emplaced/gave there the man whom he formed]

2:9a waYatz’mach y’hwäh élohiym min-häádämäh Käl-ëtz nech’mäd l’mar’eh [vav yahweh elohim sprouted from the ground/soil every tree delightful to sight]

2:9b w’tôv l’maákhäl [vav good to eat]

2:9c w’ëtz hachaYiym B’tôkh’ haGän w’ëtz haDaat tôv [vav (?) tree of the life(ves) in center of the garden vav (?) tree of the knowledge of good vav evil]

2:10a w’nähär yotzë më-ëden l’hash’qôt et-haGän [vav river sprang from Eden to water/irrigate the garden]

2:10b vmi-SHäm yiPärëd [vav from there it parted/divided/scattered/separated]

2:10c w‘häyäh l’ar’Bääh räshiym [vav was/became four heads.]

So, did you get something similar to me?

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 whole 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.

In my interpretation, the clauses are variable, the -vav conjunctions do not always begin continual clauses, and I’ve used “now” to denote clauses which are clearly not chronological. I used scare quotes to carry over an intricacy of the text. Additionally, I used hyphens and different translations for some of the words, including where I think verbs are better understood in a different tense!

If you’ve played along you may have arrived to a different conclusion. Hopefully, I’ve at least demonstrated how difficult translating versus interpreting can be, especially with awkward readings in Hebrew. Once again, I invite enquiring minds to read parallel versions of this passage, to see how many scholars can reach different conclusions.

In my next post, I will defend my own interpretation by establishing the author’s point-of-view and thus, proper context.♦

¹ Mickelson, A Berkeley. “Interpreting the Bible”. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1972; p. 141.
² ibid.