Genesis 2:15 — Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, I wrote a lesson on Genesis 2:15. Here is the relevant part of that lesson, with slight alterations to make it less “lessony.”

We have a purpose. God made humans for a reason. That reason is given in Genesis 2:15, but we will have to search a little bit to find it.

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.

You might be asking yourself, “What work was there for Adam to do in the garden? God created everything to be good for man? The trees and plants grew all the food he needed. What was it that Adam was supposed to dress and keep?”

And not only that, but in the next chapter, after Adam and Eve have sinned, God curses the ground and tells Adam that from then on he has to work to get his food. So if work was part of the curse of sin, how could Adam have been working before he sinned?

There is another explanation. Words can have multiple meanings. Take, for example, the word “fly.” If I tell you to fly, I might be asking you to travel somewhere by airplane. Or maybe I’m telling you to drive over the speed limit. Perhaps I want you to run as fast as you can. Or if you’re a baseball player, I may want you to hit the ball in the air instead of on the ground. You would know what I meant by the context of our conversation. If I ask you to go get the bag of candy from my car, and fly, you would know that I want you to run as fast as you can. You would also know that I wasn’t telling you to get on an airplane, drive my car or hit a ball into the air.

The Hebrew words in Genesis 2:15 can have several meanings. Let’s take a look at three of these words and see which of their meanings make the most sense in context.

Yanach (pronounced yaw-nakh´) — This word is translated “put” in Genesis 2:15 — … the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden … The Hebrew word yanach can mean “put,” but it can also mean “cast down,” “leave alone,” or “allow” (as I might say, “I would rather you didn’t do that, but I’ll allow it this one time”). None of those meanings make a lot of sense. But there’s another meaning of the word yanach — “cause to rest.” If that is the proper meaning here, the verse should be understood … “the LORD God took the man, and made him rest in the garden.” This makes sense in context because all through the Bible, God tells us that we should rest in Him.

  • Psalm 37:7 — Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him …
  • Matthew 11:28 — Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 — Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Abad (pronounced aw-bad´) — This word is translated “dress” in Genesis 2:15 — put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Abad also has several meanings, including “to treat someone like a slave,” “to work,” and “till” (turn over dirt to get ready to plant.) But abad can also mean “worship.” Does it make sense that God would want Adam to worship Him?

  • Psalm 29:2 — Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in holy array.
  • John 4:23 — But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
  • Revelation 15:4 — Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.

Shamar (pronounced shaw-mar´) — This word is translated “keep” in Genesis 2:15 — put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Shamar can mean “guard,” “protect,” or “observe the rules” as in obeying. God wanted Adam to obey Him. Does this make sense? Can we find other verses that prove God wants obedience?

  • Deuteronomy 13:4 — You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.
  • Daniel 7:27 — Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 — … When the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Which makes more sense? That God “put” Adam in the garden to do some kind of work that wasn’t really needed because the place was already perfect — or that God wanted Adam to rest in Him and to worship and obey Him?

You might ask — “What was there that Adam had to obey? What was God telling him to do or not do? In the very next verse, God gave Adam just one instruction that was so simple that even a small child could understand it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

That was it. That was God’s intended purpose for humans. We were supposed to rest in Him, responding to His wonderful gifts with worship and obedience, knowing that He was taking care of everything we needed. We were to enjoy all the great things He had made for us — a beautiful garden, great food, conversations with Him. We were to worship Him — thanking Him for what He did for us and acknowledging that we needed Him. And we were to obey one simple rule — see that one tree over there? Don’t eat the fruit from that one tree. The entire world is filled with all sorts of incredible things for you to enjoy without limit. Just avoid that one tree.

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