Genesis 2:15 — Part One

Five or six years ago, in a Sunday school class at our church, we took a course in Genesis from a professor of Bible at a major Christian college. His outline point for Genesis 2:15-25 was “The Responsibility of Man.”

On Genesis 2:15 (And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.), he said something I hadn’t heard before. My notes from that day read as follows:

“Dress” and “keep” are not referring to work as in Genesis 3:23 (Therefore the LORD God sent him [Adam] forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken). The Hebrew words translated “dress” and “keep” should be “obey” and “worship.” Man’s responsibility was to obey and worship God. The word “put” in Genesis 2:15 means “caused to rest.” So, God caused man to rest in the garden for the purpose of obeying and worshiping Him.

I thought that made a great deal of sense, and whenever the subject came to mind I leaned toward this new interpretation.

Just for the record, the new interpretation isn’t the standard one. The NIV has the verse this way: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 

And the NASB: Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

Recently, I wrote a series of lessons on Genesis and I included the new interpretation. My lesson was questioned, and I eventually rewrote it. I’ve done some follow-up study, and thought I’d share what I found.

Throughout my posts on this subject, I’ll use the initials PDK for the traditional “put, dress, keep” interpretation and RWO for the new “rest, worship, obey” interpretation.

Also, when I quote sources, I’m only going identify them if they are published. I’ve been in contact with various people on an informal basis and don’t know if they want their names bandied about. In those cases, you’ll have to take my word for it. I assure you I haven’t changed a thing they’ve said.

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