Genesis 2:15

15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

As you can see from my index, several years ago I spent a lot of time looking into the meaning of this verse. After much study, and after talking with some theologians and language-experts, I came to the conclusion that the way this verse is translated in almost all Bible versions is wrong.  It should, in fact, read something like this:

God caused man to rest in the garden for the purpose of obeying and worshiping Him.

I’m not going to dig into it deeply again. But since I wrote the study, Wechsler, who is the professor who led me to this translation, has written a commentary on Genesis, so I thought it would be useful to include what he wrote.

With respect to the purpose of man this is the “course-setting” verse of Scripture. It contains the only purpose statement associated with man in these two opening chapters that describe the ideal state of pre-Fall Creation and, as we should rightly expect, sets before the answer to the most fundamental question of theology and philosophy: “Why do I exist?” That answer, however, is not to serve as a gardener, as the traditional reading in order to cultivate it and keep it (the “it” being the garden) would seem to suggest. Indeed, this verse also presents us with a prime—though unfortunate—example of how the level of attention paid both to the grammar of the Hebrew text as well as the canonical meaning of Hebrew words (i.e., how they are used elsewhere in Scripture)—not to mention the immediate context of the verse—will dramatically affect how one understands and translates the text before them.

To begin with, the expression “put him” in the first part of the verse requires a closer look. Though apparently a repetition of the same action described in v.8, a look at the Hebrew text reveals that the verb used in v.15 is different. Of course, this might simply represent stylistic variation, yet when one considers how the verb in v.15 is used elsewhere with God as the subject a quite different idea begins to emerge. The verb in question, literally translated, would be “(and) He set him at rest” which can, on occasion, be understood as a more figurative description of the action of “putting” or “placing” something down. yet this is not the usual meaning of the verb (for this idea the usual verb is the one used in v.8). In fact, when God is the subject (i.e., the “doer” of the action), as He is here, this verb is typically intended to denote the rest that God promises to give His people when they are in the land (in all of which instances it is literally translated, “I/He will give you rest”; cf. Deuteronomy 3:20; 12:10; 25:19; 2 Samuel 7:11). Moreover, as clarified in Hebrews 3–4 (following David in Psalm 95), this divine promise of “rest”—which is one of the “golden threads” that runs throughout Scripture, refers not merely to physical rest and the cessation of warfare, but ultimately and more completely to the all-encompassing rest of faith—that is, the spiritual rest, or salvation, that comes from accepting by faith what God has provided (see esp. Hebrews 4:3-10). Consistent with this canonical usage of the verb, therefore, the point being made in the first half of this verse is that, after creating man and placing him in the garden (so per v.8), God immediately (and sovereignly) then placed him in that state for which man was originally intended—to wit, the state of being in full relationship with God; the state of being at spiritual rest.

It is from this state of spiritual rest, consequently, that man is to live out his intended purpose as described in the second part of v.15. And because of the markedly spiritual tone set by the first part of the verse, it is both natural and necessary that we understand the purpose of man in the second part in a similarly spiritual sense—and not in an exclusively physical sense, as suggested by the usual translation “to cultivate and to keep it.” This usual translation, in fact, contains a crippling grammatical problem—namely, that the object of both verbs—the “it,” which is an English adjustment (to reflect our concept of gardens as gender-neutral) of the Hebrew feminine pronoun “her”—does not agree with the actual gender of the biblical noun “garden,” which is masculine (as is clearly evident from the masculine Hebrew modifiers and referents in, inter alia, Song of Solomon 4:12, 16; Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 31:11). There is, moreover, no feminine noun at any reasonable distance before this clause to which the “her” could be referring. There is, nonetheless, a perfectly grammatical solution to this dilemma—and one which, unlike the usual translation, is perfectly consistent with the spiritual context set up by the first part of the verse. This solution is to construe the Hebrew element usually translated “it” (literally “her”) not as a pronoun object, but rather as the otherwise attested alternative ending of a verbal noun—that is to say, as part of the infinitive verb itself—in which case we remove the problem of gender disagreement by removing the pronoun from our translation. This further informs the way in which the infinitive verbs themselves are to be understood, since the same two Hebrew verbs translated “cultivate” and “keep” may also be translated worship (or “serve”) and obey (or “keep charge”)—as in fact they are typically translated when, as here, they aren’t followed by an object and when the context bears a clearly spiritual/theological aspect. Indeed, the simple fact of the matter is that whenever the two verbs here translated “cultivate” and “keep” are used together elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, they are always intended in the sense of worshiping/serving (God) and obeying (see, e.g., Numbers 3:7-8; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 28:45-47; Joshua 22:5).

Thus, the proper translation of the second part of the verse, and the purpose for which man was fundamentally created, is “to worship and to obey.” Further underscoring the propriety of this reading, it should also be noted, is its perfect consistency with the following verse. In other words, whereas the usual reading of vs. 15 and 16 presents us with two fairly distinct ideas—i.e., tending the garden (v.15) and obeying God’s command not to eat from the one restricted tree (v.16)—the reading that we have here presented presents us with one consistent idea—i.e., that our purpose is to worship and obey God (v.15), which obedience is expressed by keeping His command (v.16). This latter reading is also perfectly consistent with the purpose of man as taught throughout the rest of Scripture, such as in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, where Moses asks rhetorically: “What does the Lord your God require from you, but … to worship the Lord your God with all your hear and will all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments …?; and in Ecclesiastes 12:13, where we are told that the only thing man can do that will have any lasting value at all is “to fear [a biblical synonym for “worship”] God and keep His commandments”; and as Jesus Himself concisely states in John 14:15: “If you love [again, a biblical synonym for “worship” Me, you will keep my commandments.” — Wechsler, pages 81-84.

I’m convinced, and I don’t think I’m open to further debate on the issue.

So why do all the major Bible translations get it wrong? Why are so many Christians unwilling to allow this translation?

I think it’s because most people want first, to think that it is possible to earn God’s favor and, second, that they are in fact doing what’s required to earn His favor. In order to accomplish this, they pick and choose various activities that they feel they do pretty well and consider them the things that will please God.

For example, when I was a kid, most Christians thought drinking alcohol was a sin. So, if they didn’t drink, they felt like they were pleasing God, and they felt good about themselves. Now, drinking has become vogue among Christians, so they look to other behaviors—being tolerant, celebrating diversity—as the litmus test for earning God favor.

Of course, all of the verses that they use to support there position come from the Old Testament, Gospels, or early chapters of Acts, when the economy of the Law was in effect and works were required, or they’re from the kingdom epistles (Hebrews–Revelation) when God’s law will be written on peoples’ hearts and to break the commandments will be deliberate and intentional rejection of the Holy Spirit.

In the grace epistles of Paul, works are a response to God, not a requirement (Colossians 3:1-4). Christians are urged to act in a way that reflects their reality—eternally, unconditionally saved by Christ’s death and resurrection with no requirements except faith. Paul makes this clear at the beginning and end of Romans when he refers to “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

In fact, Paul make it clear that the law was given for the express purpose of proving that there is nothing humans can do to earn God’s favor. The idea that God created man in perfect fellowship with Him with nothing that man had to do to please Him drives people crazy. Hence, “dress and keep.”

In every age, salvation comes through faith in whatever God says is necessary at that time. In the garden, it was to not eat the fruit. Under the law, it was to obey the moral laws and observe the ceremonial laws, in the kingdom economy it’s to keep the law that the Holy Spirit writes in people’s hearts. And under grace, it’s simple faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, most people will say, “You can’t expect people to live without laws and guidelines. They’ll use that as license to do whatever they want.” The people who say that—and the people who do use grace as license—both don’t understand grace.

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Genesis 2:8-14

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

Eden (v.8) = delight

Here reference is made for the first time to “the garden of Eden”—though a careful reading bears out that “Eden”—meaning “delight” in Hebrew—is not in fact that name of the garden, but rather of the larger are within which the garden was planted. The idea thus emerging from these verses is that of increasing benefit or “good” as one draws closer to the center—that is to say, to the center of the garden at which were located the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., the ability to make moral distinction), both of which find their exclusive source in God.  Indeed, it is in the garden, in the proximity of trees, that God later manifests Himself in order to “stroll” with the first couple and instead finds them hiding behind the trees (3:8). Not surprisingly, this pattern of what may be called “concentric circles of increasing benefit” also appears in the layout of the Temple, for just as one there draws closer to the center (i.e., the Holy of Holies), so too does one draw closer both to the locus of priestly work (i.e., the altar and sanctuary proper/holy pace) and, at the same time, to the presence of God (i.e., the “cloud” of “glory” which would “rest” over the Holy of Holies; cf. Exodus 40:34). So too, we are told, the garden was planted toward the east, which phrase in Hebrew is literally “from the east,” the idea being that the entrance to the garden was “toward” the east, and thus to go into the garden you would walk in from the east (i.e., heading west) whereas to leave you would walk out from the west (i.e., heading east, as in Genesis 3:24)—which orientation is precisely reflected in the Temple, in the manner in which one enters and draws further into the Sanctuary and its inner recesses (see also Ezekiel 43:4, where we are told that the “glory” of the Lord will return “by the way of the gate facing toward the east”). This pattern culminates, finally, in the new heavens and new earth (i.e., the new Creation) as presented in the last two chapters of Revelation, where the New Jerusalem takes the place of Eden, with God the Son there at its “center” in place of the Temple. We are thus presented with yet another biblical “frame,” or inclusio, intended to highlight the purpose of redemption history intervening [between?] the Fall and the Final Creation—to wit, to bring mankind fully back to that which we lost: intimate access to the presence of God, and not just for only a short time (such as the Levites, and in particular the High Priest, during their term of service), but for each one of us who are God’s children, forever. — Wechsler, pages 78-81. 

It seems likely that the man (Adam=man) had been created somewhere in the world outside of Eden, but was able to observe God in this special work preparing this beautiful garden for his home. The garden was planted “eastward” (Adam’s location at that time being somewhere west of Eden) in the land of Eden, and then God placed Adam there in the garden. Adam’s firs knowledge of his Creator thus would be on one who loved him and carefully and abundantly provided for him. — Morris, page 87.

The next thing we see is that God put two special trees in the garden. They are the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the first mention of evil in the Bible. The tree of life is so powerful that even a mortal man eating of it would live forever. It is interesting that the fruit of the tree of life will be available to us again one day, in the New Jerusalem that God puts in His new heaven and new earth.

It is very difficult to understand the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is not possible that the tree could itself actually be evil or contain harmful substances. Otherwise, God could not have looked at the world and said it was very good. — Taylor, page 88

In general, it is evident that the geography described in these verses does not exist in the present world, nor had it ever existed since the Flood. The rivers and countries described were antediluvian geographical features, familiar to Adam, the original author of this part of the narrative. They were all destroyed, and the topography and geography completely changed, when “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).

This means, in turn, that the names which seem to be postdiluvian (Ethiopia, Assyria, Tigris, Euphrates) were originally antediluvian names. The names were remembered by the survivors of the Flood and then given to people or places in the postdiluvian world, in memory of those earlier names of which they were somehow reminded later.

It is worth noting that the primeval land of Havilah was said to be a land rich in gold, precious stones (though the exact nature of the so-translated “onyx stone” is uncertain), and a precious gum called bdellium (likened to the miraculous substance called “manna” in Numbers 11:7). Havilah later was a name given to a son of Cush (Genesis 10:7) and a son of Joktan (Genesis 10:29), the first a descendant of Ham and the other of Shem. Evidentally both these sons were named after the antediluvian Havilah (a name believed to mean “Sandland”); so it seems that this rich primeval land had made a great impression on the sons of Noah.

Since this account was written in both the past tense (v.10, referring to the garden) and the present tense (vs.11-14, describing the rivers and regions), there is at least a hint that, when Adam wrote this account, the garden in Eden had somehow already been removed. — Morris, pages 89-90.

bdellium (v.12) The word is found only in Genesis 2:12 and Numbers 11:7 and as the translators did not translate, we may safely conclude that they did not know what it was. The Septuagint translates the latter by “krystallos,” which means “ice,” but there is no reason to think that it refers to a mineral at all. Some treat it under the minerals and some under the botany of the Bible. While some regard it as a precious stone, others regard it as the gum of the Balsomodendron. Josephus and the Vulgate think of a sort of aromatic gum. Scholars do not know the etymology of the word “bedolach.” In all probability it is from the verb “badal,” divide, separate. Modern medical science speaks of “Bdellium” as a gum, resin from a tree of India, and another kind from a palm of Africa. It, therefore, must have some medicinal value, and this also points to a plant. — Bultema, page 9.

The purpose [of the description of the garden) is to further emphasize the parallels … between the garden, the Temple, and the New Jerusalem—and thus to further emphasize Israel’s calling to live out the “garden” ideal of humanity and, ultimately, the attainment of this ideal when the “Sons of God”—redeemed Jew and Gentile—are finally redeemed in body and purified in mind, and “creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Romans 8:21). As in the garden, we see precious gems and stones concentrated in the Temple (Exodus 25–27), and as in the garden, where the source of the four rivers present an emphatic symbol of life and abundance (especially to a Middle-Eastern reader), so too did water play a central role in facilitating the ritual service of the Temple—and as a symbol of life especially in the “water-libation” ceremony of the great concluding day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is almost certainly when Jesus Himself stood up at one point and, carrying over the symbolism of this ceremony, declared that “he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living (i.e., unending) water'” (John 7:38); and in connection with the Third Temple we read that, in actuality, a true river of living water would flow out “from under the threshold of the sanctuary” and bring life to the Dead Sea and the wilderness around it so that it would once more be like “the garden of the Lord” (see Ezekiel 47:1-12 with Genesis 13:10). and in the New Jerusalem, finally, precious gems are likewise present in abundance (Revelation 21:10-21), as are the waters of the river of Life that flows out “from the throne of God,” flanked on either side by the overspreading branches of the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:1-2). — Wechsler, pages 80-81. 

As I work through Genesis, I’m noticing that many of the commentary writers seem to be on the defensive. They’re trying to interpret Genesis in a way that contradicts the arguments of evolutionists and skeptics. Whether that’s the reason that their commentaries feel largely superficial or not, I don’t know. But then there’s Wechsler, who dives in so much deeper and makes his arguments strictly from Scripture and (for the most part) without reference to opposing views.

For example, in this study, both Morris and Taylor interpret “eastward” in verse 5 as simply meaning that Adam was created somewhere to the west. But that would seem, at best, to be trivial information. Wechsler, by digging into the meaning of the word, compares the garden to the Temple and the New Jerusalem, which not only makes much more sense but is much more satisfying.

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Genesis 2:7

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

First, then, we are told that the Lord God formed man, that is, moulded his bodily shape as the potter does the clay. Indeed the meaning of the Hebrew verb is so decided that its present participle, used as a substantive, is the ordinary word for a potter. To this first act of God, Job refers when he says, “Remember, I beseech Thee, that Thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt Thous bring me into dust again?” — Pember, page 103.

God used the “dust of the ground” to make man’s body, a remarkable phrase conveying the thought that the smallest particles of which the earth was composed (in modern terminology, the basic chemical elements: nitrogen, oxygen, calcium, etc.) were also to be the basic physical elements of the human body. “the first man is of the earth, earthy” (1 Corinthians 15:47). — Morris, page 85

Whereas 1:26-27 refers generally to the fact that God created mankind and underscores the distinctive gift of God’s “image”—i.e., the soul—that He granted them, this verse presents us with a detailed description of the process by which He did so. Extremely significant among the details that we are here given are 1) the proximity of God to that which He is here creating, and 2) the imparting of a “soul” to man from God’s own self.  The first point, concerning God’s proximity to man, is emphasized in this verse by the use of the verb formed, which, when not applied to God’s creation of man (cf. Isaiah 49:5; Zechariah 12:1), is typically employed—especially as a verbal adjective—to describe the role and work of a potter, which perhaps more so than any other human activity, requires the direct, constant, careful, and gentle use of the potter’s own hands. Since God could unquestionably have created man in any other way He chose—such as by simply calling him into being (as He did for everything else up to this point)—the question naturally (and necessarily) arises: Why did He create man in this way? And the answer to which we are inevitably led: to demonstrate His special care (i.e., love) for man and desire to relate to him in an intimate way.

As to the second point, concerning the imparting of a soul to man—it is this that constitutes the “image” of God and which allows us, uniquely among God’s living creations, to commune or “relate” to God at a level that transcends material creation. In other words, as far as the evidence of Scripture itself, it was only into mankind that God breathed that which derives exclusively from Himself—not simply “breath,” though this is often the word employed in translation, but in fact the soul, which is the proper meaning of the term here used (i.e., neshama). Of its 24 occurrences in the Hebrew Bible, this term is applied only to God and man, and hence describes that which is uniquely shared between us and our Creator—the capacity for spiritual relationship, which is fulfilled when we cease from our own attempts to find spiritual “rest” and instead enter that permanent Rest which has been provided for us in Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 4:10). — Wechsler, pages 77-78.

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Genesis 2:4-6

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;

but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

Genesis 2 isn’t a separate account of creation, but an expanded account of the creation that took place on day 6. This makes sense if Adam wrote the portion beginning with v.4 (see next comment), as he would be primarily concerned with his own origins.

Morris believes, and it’s an interesting thought, that the words “This is the history” (v.4) or “These are the generations” in the KJV, record changes in authorship in the Bible. Morris believes that, since no man was around to observe or record until day 6, the first section was written by God Himself. Adam, then, would take over with verse 5. Whether that was the case, or whether instead the Holy Spirit revealed the early history of the world to Moses, doesn’t really matter. In either case, what we have is what the Lord wants us to have—His infallible Word.

“This is the account of” … is regularly used throughout Genesis to introduce major new narrative sections (see 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1; 37:2), and in which the word account—literally, “generations”—always refers, not to the history of that which is named in the title (in this case the heavens and earth—i.e., the sky and the land), but rather to the human generations(s) that come from that which is named in the title (in this case, therefore, Adam—who came from the land—and Eve, as well as their own children). — Wechsler, page 75.

The second half of v.4, therefore, begins the narrative proper, and, in a clear parallel to the opening of the general introduction to Creation in chapter 1, introduces a series of dependent (i.e., “background”) clauses intended to “set up” the main event—in this case, the creation of man in v.7. The purpose of these “background” clauses comprising vs. 4-6 is to underscore the perfection of the environment into which God is about to place man, not by reiterating what was included in pre-Fall Creation, but by telling us, from the opposite perspective, what was excluded from pre-Fall Creation. — Wechsler, page 76.

Consistent with both the grammar and context of the Hebrew text, the word “day” in v.4 refers to the sixth day of Creation, whereas the verb translated “were created” refers to what had already been done and accomplished by that sixth day. — Wechsler, page 76.

Lord God (v.4) — Prior to this the general name “God” (Elohim) has been used. In v.4 the name Jehovah (LORD) is used for the first time.

As to the expressions “shrub of the field” and “plant of the field,” these properly refer not to plants in general, but specifically to inutile, “troublesome” plants, such as thorns and thistles, that inhibit man’s easy access to the good vegetation he was given to eat from—which “troublesome” plants only entered Creation after the Fall, as we clearly see in the very next occurrence of the phrase “plants of the field,” in 3:18, where it is indeed paralleled (i.e., equated) with “thorns and thistles.” That the “good” vegetation created on the fourth day in 1:11-12 was indeed already present in 2:4-5 is also evident from the reference to the mist in v.6 that we are told would “water the whole surface of the land,” which would make little sense if there were no plants to be watered (in Scripture the expression “to water” is consistently used for plants and animals, not bare land).

Likewise indicative of what was excluded from pre-Fall Creation are the remaining two statements in v.5—to wit, that “the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth,” which clearly alludes to the Flood, a post-Fall consequence of depravity, seeing that the next time that this specific phrase is used (and the first time that rain actually enters Creation) is in 7:4; and that there was no man to cultivate the ground, which statement—though seemingly neutral at first sight—likewise bears a specifically post-Flood consequence-of-depravity connotation, since the next time that we see this precise expression used is in 3:23, where it clearly refers to the “toil” and hard labor which came with the punishment for man’s sin. (This is not the same phrase used in 2:15.) — Wechsler, pages 76-77.

The original hydrologic cycle was drastically different from that of the present day. The present cycle, which began at the time of the great Flood, involves global and continental air mass movements, and annual and seasonal temperature changes. … This cycle centers around the solar evaporation of ocean waters, transportation to the continents in the atmospheric circulation, condensation and precipitation in the form of rain and snow, and transportation back to the ocean via rivers. in the original world, however, there was no rainfall on the earth. As originally created, the earth’s daily water supply came primarily from local evaporation and condensation. There was also, as noted later, a system of spring-fed rivers. 

The inhibition of true rainfall was probably … accomplished by the great vapor canopy, “the waters above the firmament.” Maintaining and approximately uniform temperature worldwide, no great air mass movements were possible under the canopy, and the necessary conditions for rainfall unsatisfied. — Morris, pages 84-85.

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Genesis 2:1-3

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

all the host of them (v.1) — the stars (Deuteronomy 4:19; Jeremiah 33:22)

The actual Hebrew verb used here [for “rest’ in v.2]—i.e., vayyishbot, which shares the same root as the noun “Sabbath”—does not properly mean “to rest” in the sense of physical recuperation from physical exertion (for this idea in the Hebrew Bible the proper verbs are yashen, “to sleep” (which we are told God does not do) or nuah, “to rest,” as in the name “Noah,” but in fact means literally “go cease,” “to abstain,” or “to not work”—that is to say, it denotes simply the absence or cessation of activity that would otherwise be classified as “work,” or “labor.” — Wechsler, pages 73-74. 

sanctified (v.3) = “set apart,” made holy

There is no evening to the Sabbath day; it has no evening, it is eternal. It foretells Christ, the true Sabbath, in whom God rests and in whom believers rest. This is “God’s own rest” of Hebrews 4. — Williams, page 9.

It is extremely significant that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. Blessing, as we have already noted, fundamentally concerns the expansion of life, whereas sanctification—literally, “making holy”—concerns the sovereign granting by God of that quality which most distinguishes Him from all Creation (cf. Isaiah 6:3) and which, when granted to human individuals, is that which fundamentally enables us to commune or “relate”—that is, to “connect”—with God. What God is here doing, therefore, is establishing the crucial and unchanging paradigm of holiness—and hence the “relationship” with God that it enables—being inseparably connected with cessation from work. It is, indeed, precisely this point that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes, after quoting this very passage, when he concludes that “the one who has entered His rest (is the one who) has himself likewise ceased from his works, just as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10). In establishing this paradigm God is once again demonstrating both His omniscience as well as His gracious love for man, since the need for this paradigm—which is in essence (and as clearly treated in Hebrews) a paradigm of how to get back into relationship with God—only became felt after the Fall of man in chapter three. The Sabbath observation, in other words, as based upon this passage in Genesis 2:1-3, was meant to be “a shadow of what is to come, the substance (of which) is in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). — Wechsler, page 74. 

What Wechsler said. The Sabbath isn’t about humans needing a day to recover from their work. It’s about humans needing to be reconciled to God so they can enter into the “rest” of Christ.

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Genesis 1:28-31

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.

30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The First Dispensation: Innocence. Man was created in innocence, placed in a perfect environment, subjected to a simple test, and warned of the consequences of disobedience. He was not compelled to sin but, tempted by Satan, he chose to disobey God. The woman was deceived; the man transgressed deliberately (1 Timothy 2:14). The stewardship of Innocence ended in the judgment of the expulsion from Eden (Genesis 3:24. — Scofield, page 4.

God’s blessing of man, as His blessing on the animals in v.22, is fundamentally concerned with the expansion of life. Unlike the animals, however, the life of man is not just physical, or biological, but also spiritual, centered in the divine Image—i.e., the soul—that was uniquely imparted by God to humanity. This blessing, therefore, as ideally intended by God, is expressed not just by the man being created and placed in a state of physical “perfection” or “wholeness” (both concepts are expressed by the same Hebrew word: shalom), but also in a state of spiritual “wholeness”—that is to say, in unbroken and complete relationship with His Creator-Father. — Wechsler, page 72.

subdue (v.28) — Man began with a mind that was perfect in its finite capacity for learning, but he did not begin knowing all the secrets of the universe. He is commanded to “subdue,” i.e., acquire a knowledge and mastery over his material environment, to bring its elements into the service of the race. — Scofield, page 4.

God instructed man to “subdue” the earth, and to “have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” These are military terms—first conquer, and then rule. In context, however, there is no actual conflict suggested, since everything God had made was pronounced “good.” The “cultural mandate,” as some have called it, is clearly a very expressive figure of speech for, first, intense study and, then, utilization of this knowledge. … This twofold commission to subdue and have dominion, to conquer and rule, embraces all productive human activities.

This command, therefore, established man as God’s steward over the created world and all things therein. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou has put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea” (Psalm 8:6-8). However, as the writer of Hebrews says, commenting on this passage: “But now we see not yet all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8). The problem is, of course, that man has failed in his stewardship. Instead of using the earth for good, under God, he has denied God and abused his stewardship.—Morris, pages 76-77.

The same command to subdue the land, moreover, is given by God to the Israelites with reference to the land of Canaan—a parallel which is unquestionably intended to strengthen the perception of Jacob’s descendants not only that the land of Canaan (as finally and most specifically delineated in Numbers 34) is theirs by divine right, but also that they are to live out the ideal of what pre-Fall humanity was meant to be and do. — Wechsler, page 73. 

It is clear from this passage that, in the original creation, it was not intended that either man or animals should eat animal food. As far as man was concerned, this was changed at the time of the Flood (Genesis 9:3). Whether some of the antediluvians ventured to do this against God’s command, we are not told, although it is a possibility (Jabal introduced cattle raising, Genesis 4:10). As far as carnivorous animals are concerned, their desire for meat must also have been a later development, either at the time of the Curse or after the Flood. — Morris, page 78.

In v.30 reference is also made to a third group of vegetation—i.e., the green plant—which is mentioned here for the first time, not because it was here created, but because it is only  now relevant for man—that is to say, relevant to his knowledge of what sustenance was necessary for the animals he was commanded to “rule” in v.28. — Wechsler, page 73. 

God had now completed His work, but, before settling down to “rest” in contemplation of what He had produced, as it were, He first surveyed it all and pronounced the whole creation to be “very good.” Six times before,  he had seen that what He had made was “good”; but now that it was complete, with every part in perfect harmony with every other part, all perfectly formed and with an abundance of inhabitants, He saw with great joy that it was all “literally) “exceedingly good.” On each previous day, the account had concluded by saying (literally) “the evening and the morning were a fifth day,” and so on; but now it says, “the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (the definite article occurring for the first time in this formula), thus also stressing completion of the work. — Morris, page 79.

This verse concludes the first chapter of Genesis but … this first chapter should really not have been marked as this point, but in the middle of verse 4 of Genesis 2. It is there that the first toledoth subscript appears: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created.” It is likely … that this statement represents the subscript, or signature as it were, of the author of the section that has bone before. In this case, since there was no human author, no man having been present to observe the creation, no human name is attached as in the case of the other ten “toledoths” that occur later in Genesis. — Morris, page 80.

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Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Man was made in the “image and likeness” of God. This image is found chiefly in the fact that man is a personal, rational, and moral being. While God is infinite and man finite, nevertheless man possesses the elements of personality similar to those of the divine Person: thinking (Genesis 2:19-20; 3:8); feeling (Genesis 3:6); willing (Genesis 3:6-7). That man has a moral nature is implicit in the record and is further attested by the New Testament usage (Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 3:10). —Scofield, page 3.

Whereas previous acts of God have followed immediately the phrase “And God said, Let there be …,” in this verse God speaks, as it were, to Himself: “And God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” 

He was not speaking to the angels, because man was not going to be made in the likeness of the angels but in the likeness of God. Thus God could only have been speaking to Himself; one member of the uni-plural Godhead was addressing another member or members.

This fascinating type of exchange within the Godhead appears in a number of other places in the Old Testament (e.g., Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 48:16; Psalm 45:7; Psalm 110:1). Similarly, in the New Testament, such fellowship between Christ (before His human birth) and the Father is noted in such passages as Matthew 11:27; John 8:42; John 17:24; and others. 

Man was to be in the image and likeness of God Himself! Therefore, he was also “created” (bara) in God’s image. He was both made and created in the image of God. — Morris, pages 72-73

We can only say that, although God Himself may have no physical body, He designed and formed Man’s body to enable it to function physically in ways in which He Himself could function even without a body. God can see (Genesis 16:13), hear (Psalm 94:9), smell (Genesis 8:21), touch (Genesis 32:32), and speak (2 Peter 1:18), whether or not He has actual physical eyes, ears, nose, hands, and mouth. Furthermore, whenever He has designed to appear visibly to men, He has done so in the form of a human body (Genesis 18:1-2); and the same is true of angels (Acts 1:10). There is something about the human body, therefore, which is uniquely appropriate to God’s manifestation of Himself, and (since God knows all His works from the beginning of the world—Acts 15:18) He must have designed man’s body with this in mind. Accordingly, He designed it, not like the animals, but with an erect posture, with an upward gazing countenance, capable of facial expressions corresponding to emotional feelings, and with a brain and tongue capable of articulate, symbolic speech. 

He knew, of course, that in the fullness of time even He would become a man. In that day, He would prepare a human body for His Son (Hebrews 10:5; Luke 1:35); and it would be “made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7), just as man had been made in the likeness of God. 

Both in body and in spirit, Christ was indeed Himself the image of God (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4). It does not seem to much to infer that God made man in the image of that body which He would Himself one day assume. In this sense, at least, it is true that, physically as well as spiritually, man was both made and created in the image and likeness of God the Son. — Morris, pages 74-75.

the word “man” is actually adam, and is related to “earth” (Hebrew adamah), since man’s body was formed from the elements of the earth (Genesis 2:7). it may be noted that man was to have dominion not only over all animals but also over the earth (v.26) from which he had been formed. — Morris, page 75.

Because of Adam’s sin, the image of God within us is tarnished. Seth, who Eve rightly prophesied was to be the carrier of the promised seed, was begotten in the image of Adam, whereas Adam was created in the image of God. To labor the point a moment, Seth was born in the image of a man who was in the image of God.

The fullness of the image of God was not to be seen again in mankind until the birth of Jesus, the Last Adam. It is interesting to note that Jesus could be perfect, and still be perfectly human. This is because there was a model of perfect humanity in Adam. — Taylor, pages 74-75. 

The presentation of mankind’s creation in v.27 as a single collective event (i.e., And God created man … male and female He created them) does not contradict the more specific description of the two-stage process in chapter two, but is rather intended to emphasize here that the image of God imparted to man in equally presented in both sexes. — Wechsler, page 71.

The only theologically and grammatically viable explanation of this plural language is that it is an expression of the Trinity, and thus the image must pertain collectively to all three persons of the Trinity (since the image is qualified in v.26 as “our” not “my” or “his”). Logically, therefore, this image is that which most defines the Trinity per se—to wit: the capacity for spiritual relationship—or, in a word, the soul. It is the soul, accordingly, which most distinguishes us—humanity—from the rest of created life (including, perhaps, even the angels), for it is only into man that Scripture tells us God breathed in a “living soul” (see 2:7), and it is only human individuals—regardless of their mental capacity, physical ability, or material circumstances—who, by virtue of having a soul, can experience spiritual communion, or “relationship,” with God. — Wechsler, pages 71-72.

There’s a bit of disagreement on what it means to be in the “image” of God. Wechsler says it’s the soul. I think there’s truth to that. Some commentaries say that animals also have a soul in the sense of self-awareness, but it’s obvious that mankind’s soul is of a different sort. Some say the “image” is the capacity to have a relationship with God, which is also obviously part of it. But I think Morris’s take is most compelling—that God created us in the form that He knew He would one day send His Son. 

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Genesis 1:24-25

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

creature (v.24) — “Creature” (Heb. nephesh) is usually translated “soul,” as in 2:7. In itself nephesh or soul, implies conscious life, as distinguished from plants which have unconscious life. In the sense of conscious life an animal also has a soul. — Scofield, page 2.

It is noteworthy that the record says that God “made” (Heb. asah) these land animals; whereas He was said to have “created” (bara) the air and sea mammals. It would seem, if anything, that the land animals were of a higher order than the others and therefor they should have taken a higher category of divine activity.

The reason for this apparent anomaly undoubtedly is that the act of creation (v.21) was that of “every living soul,” not only of sea and air creatures. Since this “soul” principle was created on the fifth day, there was no need to mention it again on the sixth day. The formation of land creatures merely involved new types of organization of materials already in existence, including the nephesh as well as the physical elements. There was no intrinsic difference in the actual “making” of land animals from that of the marine animals or, for that matter, of the making of plants. All involved the same fundamental biochemical structure and reproductive mechanisms. — Morris, pages 70-71.

The land animals made during the early part of the sixth day are categorized as “cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth.” this description is evidently intended to be comprehensive, in so far as land animals are concerned. Very likely, the term “cattle” refers to domesticable animals, “beasts of the earth” refers to large wild animals, and “creeping things” refers to all animals that crawl or creep close to the surface of the ground. 

This classification has no correlation with the arbitrary system of man-made taxonomy (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects), but is a more natural system based on the relation of the animals to man’s interests. — Morris, page 71

All these land animals were said to have been “brought forth” from the earth, or ground. That is, their bodies were composed of the same elements as the earth; and when they died, they would go back to the earth. — Morris, pages 71-72.

… Contrary to modern scientific theory—there are a certain number of animal species that have always been “tame” and of a nature lent to husbandry by man. This further underscores the human-focused nature of Creation in this chapter. — Wechsler, page 71.

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Genesis 1:20-23

20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”

21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

living (v.20) — The word “life” occurs for the first time in this verse (Hebrew nephesh). Actually, this is the word also for “soul,” and is frequently used to refer to both the soul of man and the life of animals. In the Biblical sense, plants do not have real life, or soul (or consciousness); but both animals and men do. — Morris, page 69.

face of the firmament (v.20) — This indicates that the firmament can sometimes refer to the atmosphere. Not for one moment do we suppose that there were creatures that could fly in space. It is perhaps significant that they do not fly in the firmament, but across the face of the firmament. The atmosphere can be said to be across the face of the sky. Stars, on the other hand, were placed in the firmament. — Taylor, page 65. 

great sea creatures (v. 21) — The first animals specifically mentioned as the product of this act of creation were the “great sea-monsters,” [thought by many to be whales]. It is significant, however, that this same word is most frequently translated “dragon.” Evidently the term includes all large sea-creatures, even the monsters of the past that are now extinct. The frequent references to dragons in the Bible, as well as in the early records and traditions of most of the nations of antiquity, certainly cannot be shrugged off as mere fairy tales. Most probably they represent memories of dinosaurs handed down by tribal ancestors who encountered them before they became extinct. — Morris, page 69.

Animal life was not simply “brought forth” from the earth or water, as was true for plant life. The principle of consciousness was not capable of development merely by complex organization of the basic physical elements; and so it required a new creation. God had created the physical elements of the universe on the first day and here He performed His second act of true creation … The “living creature” is the same as the “living soul,” so that this act of creation can be understood as the creation of the entity of conscious life which would henceforth be an integral part of every animate being, including man. — Morris, page 69.

fruitful (v.22) — In this case, God not only declared that His work was good, but also pronounced a blessing on the animals He had created. Though not an object of God’s love as man would be, animals nevertheless are objects of His care and concern … the blessing included both a command and a provision for the continued multiplication of the animals he had created, so that they would soon occupy all parts of the world. It is interesting that a similar command was given later to the animals emerging from the ark after the Flood (Genesis 8:17). — Morris, page 70.

I think “sea monsters” or “sea creatures” in v.21 could certainly include whales and dinosaurs, although there’s no way to know for sure. The dinosaurs, anyway, may have been created on day six. Or maybe some were created on day five and some on day six.

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Genesis 1:14-19

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 

15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 

16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 

17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 

18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 

19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

The sun and the moon are … timekeepers. The moon orbits the earth once every 28 days. … It’s 28-day orbit is seen from the earth in the form of phases, from new moon, through quarters (crescents and half-moons) to full moon and back again.

The sun also gives us time scales. The orbit of the earth around the sun takes about 365.3 days. This is the length of our year. The earth’s orbit is elliptical, rather than circular. If the earth’s orbit were circular, and the earth’s axis not tilted away from the perpendicular, then we would notice no seasons. The ancient time scales, plotting the year’s course by the seasons, is entirely astronomical in nature. The earth’s rotation about its own axis takes about 24 hours. This is the length of the day.

This brings us to the second reason that these lights are in the sky. They are there to give life to the earth. — Taylor, page 52. 

The words “created” and “made” … should be distinguished when it is being read. … For example, [God] “created” the sun, moon, and stars at some unknown period of time “in the beginning” (v.1), and afterwards, when preparing the earth for man, He “made,” i.e., appointed them in relation to the earth as light-holders, as measurers of time, and as vehicles of revelation (Psalm 19). — Williams, page 9.

The lights were set in “the firmament of heaven,” but this was not the same firmament as formed on the second day. The latter is the “open firmament of heaven” where birds were to fly (v.20). As noted above, the term “firmament” may apply to any particular region of space, as determined by context. In verse 8, we were told that “God called the firmament Heaven.” Evidently “firmament” is the common term and “heaven” is the formal name for any firmament (or space) which has been designated as a particular sphere of God’s creative or purposive activity. — Morris, page 67.

Since the heavenly bodies were to be used to denote the “seasons” (as well as “days and years”), it is obvious that there were to be distinct seasons through the year, and this implies that the earth’s axis was inclined as it is at present. —Morris, page 67

In addition to marking the passage of days and years, God indicates that [the stars] are foremost intended for signs and for seasons (not, as some read, “as signs for marking seasons, etc.”), both of which terms underscore God’s omniscience and preemptive redemptive focus in Creation itself. This is evident from the fact that the Hebrew word translated signs is commonly employed in Scripture to denote a miracle—i.e., a testimony to God’s active involvement in human history, usually in connection with a redemptive purpose (as in Exodus 4:8ff. & Deuteronomy 34:11); and the word translated seasons is typically employed to denote the “appointed times,” or “holy days,” of Israel (as in Leviticus 23), which are likewise intended to serve as testimonies to God’s redemptive activity in human history—specifically, in fact, to God’s plan of messianic redemption, as Paul writes in Colossians 2:16-17, that the festivals of Israel (i.e., each of the yearly festivals, the monthly new moon festival, and the weekly Sabbath) are fundamentally “a shadow of what is to come, the substance of which belongs to Christ.” In other words, knowing full well that man would sin and thus stand in need of redemption, God graciously and lovingly wove into the fabric of Creation itself—even before man was created—those elements that would serve as post-fall “signposts” of redemption, intended to help point man’s way back into “relationship” with his Creator-Father through the specific redemptive work of His Son, Jesus Christ. — Wechsler, page 68. 

I’ve only copied out a tiny bit of what my commentaries had to say on this passage. All of them believe with complete conviction that God created the universe and everything in it, as do I. But none of them agree with each other as to exactly how He did it. In this passage, the issues are 1) whether or not the sun, moon, and stars that we can see were created earlier in Genesis 1:1 (before the “gap”), and 2) if the stars were created during the six days, how can their light possibly have reached the earth by this time.

I have my own theories that are nothing more than speculation. But I wonder if the universe at large was created in Genesis 1:1, before the gap. If there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 and the six days, we have no idea how long that might have been. It may even have been before time, as we know it, began. If so, the apparent age of the universe offers no problems. (Because there is so much disagreement on this point, let me rush to state, once again, that I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION TOOK PLACE DURING THE GAP. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS PLANET WAS CREATED MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF PRE-ADAMIC MEN WITHOUT SOULS.

Wechsler’s point of view, that the creation account is specifically focusing on the aspects of God’s creation that were for the benefit of humans, makes sense to me. In that light, perhaps the “making” (the word “creation” isn’t used here) of the sun, moon, and stars is referring only to those heavenly bodies that factor as signs. I have no problem with the concept that distance stars and galaxies were created before time as we know it and that the closer stars and planets were created on day four for us.

But that’s just pondering.

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