Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 03 (“Man’s Habitation and Responsibility”)
[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 05 November 2017)]
The previous time that we looked at Genesis, I said that our exegetical outline for the rest of Gen.2 and Gen.3 can be summed up as follow:
” Man – His image (2:5-7).
” Man – His habitation (2:8-17).
” Man – His responsibility (2:18-25).
” Man – His rebellion (3:1-24).
We saw last week that God and God alone created man and that man was created after God’s image. We also saw that the name which was used when God created the universe was “Elohim,” but when He created man, Moses used the name Yahweh, indicating God’s personal relationship to man. Man was created from the humblest of beginnings, because our origin is that of dust, but on the other hand, man was also the crown of God’s creation and that resulted in the fact that man was imparted with the “breath of life.” Which brought more than just animation to man – it brought spiritual understanding. Man was indeed something very, very special – crown of the creation – man stood in an undeserved very, very special relationship to God.
Today, we will only be looking at:
” Man – His habitation (2:8-17) and
” Man – His responsibility (2:18-25).
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Gen.2:8-25 (ESV) ~ “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
3. MAN – HIS HABITATION (vss.8-17):
The record of the creation of human beings includes God’s provision for them and their responsibility to Him.
The first man and woman (Adam and Eve) were placed in the context of beauty and fruitfulness, that is the garden of Eden. Currently there has been much debate about where geographically Eden may have been. While the mention of certain rivers may suggest a location within the Persian Gulf, that is not the primary concern of the author of the book of Genesis.
The important fact that we must learn from vs.8, is that the garden was located in the east. There are many passages in Scripture and specifically in the prophecy of Ezekiel that give “the east” special significance in connection with God’s presence. Just to name one – Ezek.11:1a ~ “The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the house of the Lord, which faces east” and vs.23 ~ “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.”
In addition to the imagery of the glory of the Lord from the east, there is also the imagery of the sun, which rises in the east, a favourite Biblical metaphor for Divine revelation (Luke 1:78-79).
More important than where Eden is, is what it represents. Eden represents a closed and fertile area for cultivation. In other parts of Scripture, it is described as an oasis with large trees (e.g. Ezek.31:9 ~ “I made it beautiful in the mass of its branches, and all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God”). Furthermore, it seems as if Eden was located on a mountainous plateau ~ “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers” (Gen.2:10). Further evidence emerges in the prophet Ezekiel, who pronounces a judgement against the king of Tyre and incorporates and incorporates imagery from the garden ~ “…you were on the holy mountain of God…” (Ezek.28:14) and vs.16 ~ “…so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God…” Ezekiel identifies the location of the garden of Eden on the mountain of God. Throughout the rest of the Bible, one finds that God dwells atop mountains: Horeb (Ex.3:1) or Sinai (Ex.18:5), and Zion (Ps.48:1-2). The New Testament authors continue this theme and identify the eschatological dwelling-place of God and His people as a mountain top ~ “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Hebr.12:22). We read in Rev.21:10 the following ~ “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…”
It is clear that the garden of Eden sat atop a mountain or mountain plateau – a place which represented the dwelling place of God and His people.
Gen.2:10 states that… ~ “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.” While within the original context the river serves the purpose of providing the garden with some of the necessary irrigation for the growth of vegetation, there are undoubtedly connections between this river and subsequent temple imagery in the Bible. Water, of course, is a powerful symbol of life throughout Scripture and one often connected with divine sanctuaries. Scripture makes this river-temple connection, for example, in Ps.46:4 ~ “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” A river also flows out from under the threshold of the temple in Ezekiel’s temple vision (Ezek.47:1) and heals anything with which it comes into contact (Ezek.47:8). Just remember, that this river imagery found in Ezekiel’s vision, should be understood, however, to be symbolic.
Confirmation that the reference to water and rivers are symbolic imagery can be found in a number of places throughout Scripture. Jeremiah calls God, “the fountain of living waters” (Jer.2:13). In Rev.22:1 we read ~ “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…”
John in John 7:38-39a speaks of the Holy Spirit as… ~ “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit.”
The Hebrew root word for garden means “to be closed, fenced off” – a protected area where the flora flourishes. It represents territorial space in the created order where God invites human beings to enjoy bliss (a state of perfect happiness – Afrikaans = “saligheid”) and harmony between themselves and God, one another, animals, and the land. God is uniquely present here. The garden of Eden is a “temple-garden,” represented later in the tabernacle. We also see in Rev.20-21 that the eschatological temple is compared with Paradise (garden of Eden).
The garden of Eden was a wonderful and perfectly created place of God’s presence. This is also confirmed by the three kinds of trees in the garden. Apart from two specific trees, there were all kinds of other trees. These trees were both aesthetically pleasing and practical. Man could eat from these trees and there was an abundance of food for him to enjoy. At the centre of the garden, we also find the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Gen.2:9).
Trees were associated with life, and within Scripture are often symbolic of the life of God. We find a beautiful example of this in Jer.17:8 ~ “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
It is interesting to note that man was allowed to eat of the “Tree of Life.” Only one tree was specifically forbidden to eat from in the garden and that was the “Tree of Knowledge.” The consequence of anyone eating from this tree, is that he will surely die (vss.16-17).
We read in Deut.1:39 ~ “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” In a manner of speaking, man was himself a child totally dependent on the Creator God, his heavenly Father, for wisdom and understanding. God is the all-wise and righteous God who alone has the right to determine what is good and evil. The tree represented the ability to be morally autonomous (Afrikaans: “onafhanklik”). By refusing man the right to eat of this tree God was indicating that He alone is autonomous. Human beings are not to live independently from Him. He is the Lawgiver, and all moral choices are to be made with reference to God. By not taking of this tree’s fruit, man would be expressing his faith in God and God’s right to order man’s life.
- 4. MAN – HIS RESPONSIBILITY (2:18-25):
A warning is attached to the command ~ “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (vs.17).
Obedience: Obeying God is life; disobeying God means death. Adam was made aware that fellowship with God and partaking of God’s life involved obeying God. The call to obedience forecasts the Mosaic covenant, where God’s people are summoned to keep His commandments, thereby showing their devotion to Him – man has the responsibility to obey!
- Work: Apart from the fact that man was not allowed to eat of the “Tree of Knowledge,” God also told man to work and keep the garden of Eden. We see that this resembles a partnership between God and man – God planted the garden and man cultivated it. The nature of work is thus good – not evil. Perhaps the most powerful argument that dispels the idea of work as a curse or being evil is the fact that the work God gave man to do was given before the Fall, and hence before the curse. Therefore, work cannot be the result of the curse – it is not a punishment.
Human beings are provided with responsible work by God Himself. God put man into the garden (vs.8) in order to work it and take care of it (vs.15). This is the initiative of and gift from God. The word to describe the work done in the garden, is the same word used in a religious sense of serving God (Deut.4:19). And in tabernacle duties (Num.3:7-8). To cultivate the soil (or to do any other work for that matter) is to serve God. To take care of the garden has the sense of guarding it from harm. The word used has the sense of taking care of observing God’s commandments, or guarding the tabernacle from desecration (Afrikaans: “ontheiliging”). We are given responsibility for wise stewardship and use of the creation, but at the same time we must humbly take care of it; we must keep it. What a blessing to be involved in God’s creation.
- Marriage: We read in vs.18 ~ “…the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Man is alone and that state is not good in God’s eyes. Man needs a helper. Because there was no such helper among the animals, God created the woman to help Adam.
In vss.18-22 we see that the woman was by no means a “lesser creature.” The same God who made Adam also made Eve and created her in His image (1:27). Both Adam and Eve exercised dominion over creation (vs.29). This implicates that Eve was not made to be a slave to Adam. The Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote: “She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.” Paul wrote that ~ “…the woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor.11:7 – NIV), for if man is the head (1 Cor.11:1-16) then woman is the crown that honours the head.
God had at least four purposes in mind when He performed the marriage in the garden of Eden:
o First, He wanted suitable companionship for Adam, so He gave Adam a wife.
o Second, marriage provides the God-given right to enjoy physical unity and have children. The Lord commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen.1:28). This does not imply that intimacy is only for procreation, because many people marry who are beyond the time of bearing children, but the bearing of children is an important part of the marriage union (1 Tim.5:14).
o A third purpose for marriage is to encourage self-control ~ “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Cor.7:1-7). And vs.9 says ~ “…it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” A marriage that is built only on fleshly passion isn’t likely to be strong or mature. Intimacy ought to be enriching and not just exciting, and marriage partners need to respect one another and not just use one another.
o Finally, marriage is an illustration of the loving and intimate relationship between Christ and His church (Eph.5:22-33).
We are told in vs.25 that… ~ “…the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” This verse prepares us for the next chapter and reminds us that shame has to do with sin. Adam and Eve’s lack of shame was not a moral weakness but an indication of their sinless perfection – of their openness and trust.
- Covenant: Another part of Adam’s responsibility is based upon a covenant that God made with him – a covenantal relationship. This relationship is also called a covenant of works.
This is a very important aspect that needs our attention, for the sake of a full understanding of the rest of the Word of God and the Gospel message and we will look at that along the following lines.
A covenant is a treaty, an alliance, or agreement between God and men or man. There are two major types of covenants that are found in the Old Testament: those between human parties and those between God and His people. An example of a covenant between human parties is the one between David’s and Jonathan (1 Sam.18:3). An example of a covenant between God and His people is that of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen.15:18; 17:2), a covenant between God and Abraham which included Abraham’s posterity, land, and a continuing relationship with God, with the ultimate goal of blessing of the nations.
There were also covenants with Noah (Gen.9:8-17); with Moses (Ex.19-24); David (2 Sam.7:8-17), etc. Marriage – the permanent union between a man and woman – off course is also a covenant (Mal.2:4 – also see Ezek.16:8).
Why is it important to understand why Adam was in a covenantal relationship with God? Because the curse of breaking this covenant has important and long lasting ramifications for mankind – all descendants of Adam ~ “In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die” (Gen.2:17).
Adam’s responsibility was to adhere to this covenant, but Adam could not – he was disobedient to this covenant and he and all of his descendants were doomed to die – an eternal death. Adam as head and representative of his race was casted out of the garden of life (Eden) and no man remained behind in the garden and is therefore also doomed and sentenced to death.
As I’ve mentioned last week – this is one of the foundation stones for understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because Jesus the Christ is the head and representative of His people ~ “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom.5:17).
5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The fertile area of Eden is what we as Christians should represent – in the parable of the seed we learn that God’s Word fell on different kinds of soil. The seed that fell on fertile soil bore 30, 60 and 100-fold fruit. Are you baring fruit beloved? Are you a place where the Spirit of God dwells? Eph. 4:16 Paul prays that the Holy Spirit will dwell richly in the lives of the believers.
We have also touched on the fact that water – the rivers in Eden is a powerful symbol of life. In John 7 more specifically we read that out of the heart of the believer there will flow rivers of living water. Do you experience that the Holy Spirit is working in and through you as living water? And what about the symbol of the tree that should resemble a believer’s life according to Jer.17:8? A tree that is planted by water and doesn’t fear when heat comes and is not anxious in the year of drought? A tree that ALWAYS bears fruit because of its deep dependence upon God?
When it comes to the responsibility of man we have been reminded of the importance of obedience to God and our responsibility to work to the glory of God. In marriage, we have the responsibility to honour and respect each other, to enjoy our physical relationship and to have self-control. We must remember that marriage is an illustration of a loving and intimate relationship between Christ and His church. A covenantal relationship that Adam could not and we can’t adhere to, which made it detrimental for Jesus Christ to earn it for us through the cross and His resurrection. He became our head and sole representative.