When I sent the lesson on Genesis 2:15 to my review team, I received several responses from people who preferred the PDK interpretation. Here’s the first:
I see where you are going with this, but I have never seen a commentary or heard any teaching before that there was no work in the garden. The fact that Adam had to work here is evidence that work was not a result of the fall. It’s a God ordained beautiful thing. After the fall, work would be harder, but nonetheless he had to work; naming the animals, keeping the garden etc. We work six days a week and rest on the 7th, as God intended pre-fall. We worship God by working.
I think your point of needing rest and the worship of God can be done without using a word that most translations don’t. This article proved helpful to me — especially the 14th-15th paragraphs relate to work.
First of all, it seems to me that the entire basis for Adam having work in the garden rests on Genesis 2:15. And Genesis 2:15 is the verse in question, so to use it as proof of the point is rather circular reasoning. It’s saying “We know Adam had to work in the garden because Genesis 2:15 says so. And we know Genesis 2:15 must prove that Adam had work in the garden because it’s the only verse that says so.”
Second, let me say that I don’t think Adam didn’t have anything to do in the garden. There was stuff to keep him occupied. There just wasn’t anything he had to do except avoid the fruit of the one tree. He was already in fellowship with God, worshipping Him. As for obeying, it all came down to the fruit.
Look at it this way. What if Adam had never eaten the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he didn’t mow the lawn or trim the trees or plant seeds or whatever it is that the PDK proponents think it was that he had to do? Would the garden have degenerated and become weedy and unpleasant? Of course not — the world was still uncorrupted by sin. And it wouldn’t have been sin for Adam to not work because he didn’t have any knowledge of good and evil.
To move on: Adam did name the animals.
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field … (Genesis 2:19-20).
But that was a one-time deal and the verse doesn’t even say that God instructed Adam to do it. It just says that God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call them. Maybe God knew it was something Adam would want to do as part of his rule. Back in Genesis 1:26, we read: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The word “rule” in this verse means “to have dominion” or to “be in charge.” It’s not a work, particularly not in a perfect garden. It’s a designation of standing or rank — Adam was top dog, the boss, the king. It wasn’t something Adam had to do, it was something he was. Naming the animals was simply an offshoot of his rule.
So much for that. Now let’s take a look at the Moody site that this reviewer referred to. It’s an article titled Party in Paradise, by: Keith Krell BA Th.; M Div (Bio). Here’s what it says in paragraphs 14-15.
In 2:15, Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. After God made the beautiful garden, fully stocked with its full-grown vegetation, He placed Adam in it. The Hebrew word translated “put,” in 2:15, is not the same one rendered “put” in 2:8. The latter term is the normal one for putting something somewhere. However, the former one connotes rest and safety as well as dedication in God’s presence. God put man in the garden where he could be safe and rest and where he could have fellowship with God (cf. 3:8). He then gave Adam three mandates. The first two were mandates of responsibility and the third one was the mandate of access to garden privileges. The first area of responsibility is indicated by the word “cultivate” (abhad), which means “to serve.” It means, then, to do whatever is necessary to keep the garden esthetically attractive. The details of this service are not provided but we do know that, before Adam was created, there was no one to do it (2:5). We also know that the nature of the service did not involve the kind of activity that Adam had to do after the fall, when he was kicked out of the garden (3:23). There, he must serve the ground from which he was taken, cursed with the “thorns and thistles” of agricultural disharmony (3:17-19). God placed man in Paradise for the purpose of serving Him. Interestingly, this word is also translated “worship” elsewhere in the Old Testament. This indicates that Adam served and thereby worshipped God by tending the garden.
God ordained work. All kinds of work — paid and unpaid — are necessary in the world for us “to subdue it” according to God’s will (1:28). Even if your daily responsibilities may seem dull and unimportant, or cause you to associate with and support worldly, God-hating people, remember, “the Lord takes pleasure in His people”. (Psalm 149:4) And He takes pleasure in us not just at church, but at work too. He’s as attentive to us in our work routines as He was to Joseph in his service as Potiphar’s slave, to Jesus in the carpentry shop, and to the apostle Paul when he was making tents. Enlarge your vision of your spiritual life to include your daily work. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:23-24). Present your work to God. You are working for Him.
Interesting, isn’t it? He totally sees the RWO interpretation, but then backs off and takes the standard PDK line. Rather than a rebuttal, I saw this as confirmation of the RWO interpretation.
He refers back to Genesis 2:5: Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
The word “cultivate” here is our old friend abad, which even Mr. Krell agrees means “worship” many of the times it is used in the Old Testament. It can also mean to “serve” or “keep in bondage.” Could this verse simply mean that the plants that would be useful to man hadn’t been made yet because God hadn’t sent rain and there was no man — who would rule — yet created for them to be useful to?
Mr. Krell also refers to Colossians 3:23-24 — Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. First of all, this verse is written for us today when work, as part of the curse, is decidedly part of the world. Secondly, even so, it refers to our focus on God and not to the work itself.