Saturday, January 24, 2009


And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden…and the Lord God took the man, and put him in the Garden of Eden to dress and keep it.
Genesis 2: 8a-15 (AV)

As we continue to explore man’s lordly role as established by God at the creation, we need to consider three very important aspects of that role which are highlighted in the Genesis narrative: dressing, keeping and (as we shall see later) naming.

First let us turn our attention to the concept of dressing, as the Authorized Version renders the first of man’s two assigned duties. Renderings of other translations include tend (NKJV), work (NIV, ESV, HCSB), and cultivate (NASB). The original Hebrew word indicates labor, husbandry (a somewhat archaic English term for cultivation), service and most interestingly, the idea of compulsion, as in to compel someone or something else to work. Taking all of this together, we get the general picture: Adam (Man, which is the literal meaning of the Hebrew name) is given the task of maintaining the garden. One would presume this to include the garden and everything in it: plants, rocks, soil, streams, beasts and, of course, himself and (later) his wife. And we have to almost pinch ourselves into remembering once again (I will be calling attention to this frequently when dealing with the first two chapters of Genesis) that all of this is in the context of an unspoiled, pre-Fall creation. This leads to some fascinating ruminations.

First we have the very concept of work. Work in and of itself is not a product of or a penalty imposed on account of the Fall. The Fall would drastically alter the nature of man’s work, primarily by ratcheting up its intensity while subjecting it to constant frustration rather than continual blessing, but the pattern of six days of labor and one of rest is established right from the beginning.

Secondly, consider this: God didn’t cause a wild and untamed jungle (or a rainforest, even) to grow up in Eden; he planted a garden in Eden. A garden is something which must be maintained, pruned and cultivated. The soil needs to be worked to maintain ideal growing conditions. The hedges needed trimming from time to time. A tree’s natural and God-given glory might be further enhanced by observing the tree as it continues to grow, perhaps selectively lopping off a few limbs here and there, and perhaps re-training some that remained. The fruit needed gathering.

It is virtually tantamount to gospel truth in the modern world that concepts such as pure, pristine and unspoiled are necessarily equated with untamed, unrefined and untouched by the hand of man, but in the Bible it is not so. When man interacts with nature, exercises his influence upon it, and works thoughtful change upon it and throughout it, he is not thereby necessarily or merely by definition meddling or interfering; he is doing so at the express appointment of God. Note that I said the change wrought should be thoughtful (and even that is not to say that even any duly considered change is necessarily for the best, at least not in a Fallen world), and as noted in the previous post, it should be performed with an ultimate end in mind which is replenishing and nurturing for the earth. Those important qualifications duly noted however, it must be reiterated that man alters his environment with the blessing of Almighty God.

God in the beginning created everything good, and yet, the world still had much which God intended to be made even better through the careful stewardship of man. The original creation was indeed glorious, and yet, God intended it to ascend, through man’s agency, from glory to even greater glory. I believe that, had the Fall never happened, we would still have much that we treasure even in our now corrupted universe. Landscaped vistas. Sculpted shrubbery. Terraced embankments. Wisteria laden arbors. Flagstone walkways and courtyards. Rose-entwined trellises (sans thorns, of course). Ivy-clad brick walls. Bonsai trees.

Or at least things very much like them.

More to come as we have a look at keeping.

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