Monthly Archives: September 2014

Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 2 – Practical Meaning of Text (5-6)

Last week we saw a great deal of consensus and clarity concerning the big picture take on Genesis 2’s relationship to Genesis 1.

  • Woudstra, Wenham, Mathews, Hamilton, Waltke and Sailhamer all agreed that given the toledot and other features, Genesis 2 was looking forward to The Fall and not looking back to Genesis 1.


And they aren’t alone.

  • John Walton says the toledot structure doesn’t look back, but serves as an introduction.
    • One that can be paraphrased “developments that arise out of…” Genesis 1.
  • Similar to Woudstra’s, “this is what came of” the creation of Genesis 1.
  • Seth Postell summarizes John Calvin’s view as saying Moses’ intention was to underscore “man’s totally depraved nature” so as to “point to the coming of the redemption provided by Christ”.
  • And Postell summarizes Sailhamer’s view, “Thus, Genesis 2-3 serves as a commentary oh how God’s ‘very good’ creation (1:31) has become a place where the reader experiences the curse, exile and death (see 3:6; 6:2)”.


Postell also notes that OT scholars Otto and Stordalen also come to the same conclusions.

  • Eckart Otto says that the toledot “always introduces the following section” – Postell.
  • Terje Stordalen says the toledot introduces “the story of the progeny, the ‘product’ of heaven and earth, not the story of the genesis of these two themselves”.
    • Chapter 2 presupposes Chapter 3.


And, as we have said, this looking forward serves as an apologetic for Israel’s condition.

“The question then arose, What is man in his essential original being, as also his degenerate present and whole future, and how may the glaring contradiction be explained, that a creature raised so high above all others could nevertheless sink down even deeper than all the others” – Heinrich Ewald.


The above cited view is established primarily from verses 1-6.

  • But what we didn’t do is figure out the practical meaning of these verses – especially 5-6.


So having established this view of Genesis 2, what are the implications for the details of the text.

  • How are we to read the text itself?
  • What is its practical meaning?




At this point, our scholars seem unwilling to clearly state their take on the practical meaning of the text.

  • They express views that raise more questions than they answer.
  • Wenham identifies the root of the problem.
  • “If there was such an abundant water supply for the land (v 6), why did v 5 convey the impression of an arid wilderness barren through lack of rain?” – Gordon Wenham.
  • Wenham’s answer – “…put down the lack of vegetation on the land to man’s absence. Without man to irrigate the land, the spring was useless.”
  • This makes no sense at all.


And of course, all this raises more questions.

  • For example, what does it say about God’s good creation from Genesis 1 if arid wilderness that isn’t producing food still exists after the creation of mankind?
  • Or that is dependent on man to produce food?
  • Additionally, if vs. 5 is dealing with arid land not producing food, how again does that square with God’s good creation from Genesis 1:29-30?
  • Genesis 1:29–30 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
  • And if verse 6 is talking about the presence of water (underwater springs), how does that square with an arid wilderness?


And Michael Heiser is surely right when he states that:

  • “The clear, face-value reading of this passage [vs. 5] informs us that before God created ‘the man’ there were no ‘small plants’ (‘eseb) on the earth (‘erets) – precisely the opposite of what we read in Gen 1:11-12”.


This is one reason why Heiser and others advocate seeing Genesis 2 as a new creation event.

  • Another reason is that he adopts the traditional view of Genesis 1 (global) and then slides into a local view for Genesis 2.
  • This means that the creation of mankind in Gen. 1 is a different creation than the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.


But, if one starts with a local view in Genesis 1, as Sailhamer does, it seems to me that the practical meaning of the text in Genesis 2 is much easier to grasp w/o having to take Heiser’s view.

  • This might be the reason that the only commentator to appear to flesh out a practical meaning of the text is John Sailhamer (other than Heiser, that is).
  • As we said before, if Genesis 2 is a local view and it is connected to Genesis 1, it makes sense (when weighted with all the other reasons we have discussed) that Genesis 1 is a local view.



Practical Meaning of Text:

Although the toledot functions to point us to The Fall, Sailhamer says Genesis 2 is connected to Genesis 1.

  • They are not separate unconnected events.
  • In other words, we don’t have a separate creation event (Michael Heiser’s view).
  • “It seems clear that the author intended the second chapter to be read closely with the first and the events in each chapter to be identified as part of the same event” – John Sailhamer.



  • Moses connects 1 and 2 with the merism “heavens and the earth”.
  • Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Genesis 2:4 (ESV) — 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that [when] the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.


The importance of this is that we have a foundation from which to understand a practical meaning of the text.

  • One not based on Genesis 2 as a new creation of mankind, but as connected to Genesis 1.


Genesis 2, practically speaking, is about the preparation of the Garden.

  • The Garden that God placed in the Eden/Promised Land he prepared in Genesis 1.


Sailhamer’s Take:

Sailhamer breaks it down as follows:

  • Genesis 2:5–6 (ESV) — 5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—


(1) Genesis 2:5 provides a (another) connection to Genesis 1.

  • Specifically, it parallels/repeats Genesis 1:2.
  • The earth was without form and void”.
  • So Genesis 2:5 is summarizing the state of the Land before the six days.
  • The land (eretz) in which the Garden (Gen. 2) will soon be created began as uninhabitable for mankind – “without form and void” – uninhabitable.


Derek Kidner is basically in agreement with Sailhamer about Gen. 2:5-6.

  • “These preliminary verses are saying from the special angle of this chapter [Genesis 2] what was declared in 1:2”.
  • Kidner does not hold, however, Sailhamer’s view of Genesis 1.


(2) At the same time Moses is pointing forward/foreshadowing The Fall.

  • Significantly, he is doing so in context of God’s creation of the Garden.
  • “The text focuses on those parts of the land that were to be directly affected by the Fall (3:8–24)” – John Sailhamer.
  • In other words – the Garden is a huge blessing, but the curse is coming and it resemble the “without form and void” of Genesis 1.
  • Adam and Eve will sin and God’s work will be reversed.


This is also buttressed by Jeremiah’s use of “without form and void”.

  • Jeremiah 4:23 (ESV) — 23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.


(3) As we saw last week, the foreshadowing of The Fall is done by:

  • The Toledot.
  • The “plant of the field” language.
  • The “man to work the ground” language.


Yet, there is one more way this is done.

  • The comment from Moses – “the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the Land”.
  • This is flood language from Genesis 7:4.
  • Seth Postell agrees and says, “this phrase is found only in the Flood Narrative” (with one exception for Job 38:26)
  • The identical Hebrew phrase in both verses is “matar al ha eretz”.


(4) Finally verse six alludes back to Genesis 1 and, once again, the provision God made to prepare the earth – “the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” (Gen. 1:6).

  • But, by using the phrase “face of the land/ground” Moses continues to give a nod to the coming squandering of God’s provision and grace.



  • Genesis 6:7 (ESV) — 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
  • Genesis 7:4 (ESV) — 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
  • Genesis 7:23 (ESV) — 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.


The Hebrew phrase used by Noah – “face of the land/ground” – clearly carries with it connotations of judgment.

  • Seth Postell says use of this phrase reveals “the author’s concern with the ‘land’ and what became of it after Adam’s transgression.”




Summing all this up, Sailhamer says the practical meaning of verses 5-6 is this:

“Thus, as an introduction to the account of man’s creation, we are told that a ‘good’ land had been prepared for him: ‘streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground’ (2:6). Yet in the description of that land, we can already see the time when man would become an alien and stranger in a foreign land” – John Sailhamer.


In effect, Moses is telling us, “This is how the land started and this is where the land is headed”.


The “started” was due to God’s good creation.

  • God showed grace and favor to His image bearers by preparing the land for their habitation.
  • He even, as we will see in the coming weeks, created a special Garden in Eden for them.


The “headed” will be due to man’s rebellion.

  • God’s good creation will be cursed by man’s sin.
  • Man will have to work the land for food.
  • Man will return to the dust.


Given Sailhamer’s view, one could almost paraphrase Genesis 2:5-6 as follows:

  • “Before Adam sinned, before the flood, and before we had to work the ground, God blessed us with a very good creation”.


And as preparation for next weeks lesson the paraphrase can continue to verse 7.

  • “Though Adam bears God’s image, God made Adam out of the dust – the dust to which he would return”.



Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 1 – A Second Creation Story?

We are going to begin our handling of Genesis 2 with a big picture approach.

  • So before we dig into much of the text, we need to answer a few questions.


What is going on in Genesis 2?

  • Is it simply a rehash of Genesis 1?
  • If so, doesn’t it contain some obvious contradictions?
  • And if it is a rehash of Genesis 1, it is difficult to see how it meshes with it.
  • Is it a second creation story?
  • If so, what does that say about mankind’s origins?
  • Or is there a third option?


There are a few pieces of the Genesis 2 puzzle that we can put together to get at these answers.


Toledot – 1st Piece:

The first piece of info we need to answer these questions involves understanding a toledot.

  • Genesis 2:4 (ESV) — 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
  • The above is a Hebrew toledot.


What is a Toledot?

  • Toledot is the Hebrew word for “generations”.
  • Toledot simply means “begettings, generations, genealogies; hence, story, descendants, family [progeny] history” – AYBD.
  • Genesis contains 10 toledots.
  • The toledot of Adam, Noah, Noah’s sons, Shem, Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob and “the earth and the heavens” from our text.
  • Each toledot begins a new section in Genesis.
  • It sets each section off from its counterparts.


Genesis 2’s usage is strange if the purpose is to only deal with offspring.

  • It seems fairly obvious that the universe didn’t have any babies between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
  • So what is Moses trying to convey?
  • What is the purpose of a toledot?


Some clues are found in how toledots are used in Genesis.

  • Genesis 6:9–13 (ESV) — 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
  • Genesis 25:19–22 (ESV) — 19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
  • Genesis 37:2–4 (ESV) — 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.


In each of the above examples, the toledot announcement is putting what in the reader’s sights?

  • There is a connection made to the father (progenitor) who may still be part of the story.
  • However, what is in view are the children (progeny) and their origins or actions.
  • The text is concerned with events taking place in the progeny’s context and frame of reference.
  • It is not concerned with the origins/history of the father (progenitor).
  • In other words, it is looking forwards not backwards.


Perhaps this is why Martin Woudstra suggests that the best way to think of toledot is as follows:

  • “This is what came of it” (Calvin Theological Journal 5 1970).


In other words, for our purposes – this is what came of “the heavens and the earth” from Genesis 1.

  • Even better – This is “the story of Adam and Eve, the fall into sin, and the story of Cain and Abel” – Martin Woudstra.


Others agree:

  • Victor Hamilton notes that, “…the phrase the generations of the heavens and the earth describes not the process by which the heavens and the earth are generated, but rather that which is generated by the heavens and the earth”.
  • Wenham says the toledot, “announces a new section of narrative, which makes it natural to suppose that it fulfills the same function here [in Genesis 2]”.


Given the meaning of a toledot, Genesis 2:4 announces new business.

  • And that new business of Creation, what came of Creation as Woudstra says, is the The Fall.


So Genesis 2:4ff is a new story.

  • It is a toledot set apart from what came before it (the first of 10 as we said earlier).
  • Primarily looking forwards not backwards.
  • Showing us what became of creation from Genesis 1.
  • Announcing the how the good became ugly – what came of Creation.
  • Importantly, the “what came” is another clue to help us answer the questions raised at the beginning.


Kenneth Mathews sets this up beautifully.

“The purpose of this tōlĕdōt section [Genesis 2-4] is its depiction of human life before and after the garden sin; the condition of the ‘land’ after Adam’s sin is contrasted with its state before the creation of the man”.


BTW – This toledot view is a problem for AiG’s view that Genesis 2 is only a detailed handling of Day 6.



Looking Forward to The Fall – 2nd Piece:

As we mentioned in our Moses’ Message lesson, Creation of Genesis 1 can be seen as an apologetic.

  • It provides the rationale for God’s covenant faithfulness and His power to deliver Israel out of the hands of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
  • These are extremely important pieces of Redemptive History – Covenant Faithfulness and Promised Land themes.


Given the implications of Moses’ use of the toledot, Genesis 2 transitions to another aspect of Redemptive History – sin and God’s judgment.

  • As we just saw from Mathews above, Genesis 2 transitions between God’s good creation and The Fall.
  • This is the second piece or clue to help us answer our earlier questions.


Other than the toledot, are there other reasons that support this take?

  • How do we know this is what Genesis 2 is doing?


We have to look at verses 5-7 for the clues.

  • Genesis 2:5–7 (ESV) — 5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.


Plant of the Field:

The idea that Genesis 2 is looking forward to The Fall hinges on a Hebrew phrase.

  • In English, the phrase is “plant of the field”.
  • In Hebrew, the phrase is “eseb ha sadeh”.


Why is this phrase so significant?

  • Mathews puts it like this…

“The ‘shrub’ and ‘plant’ of 2:5 are not the same as the vegetation of 1:11–12. ‘Plant (ʿēśeb) of the field’ describes the diet of man which he eats only after the sweat of his labor (3:18–19) after his garden sin, whereas ‘seed-bearing plants’ (ʿēśeb mazrîaʿ zeraʿ), as they are found in the creation narrative, were provided by God for human and animal consumption (1:11–12). These plants reproduce themselves by seed alone, but ‘plant,’ spoken of in 2:5, requires human cultivation to produce the grains necessary for edible food; it is by such cultivation that fallen man will eat his ‘food’ (3:19)” – Kenneth Mathews.


In other words, verses 5-6, by their language, look forward to Genesis 3, not backwards to the creation of Genesis 1.

  • The “eseb ha sadeh” did not exist until after The Fall.
  • It was a food produced by “the sweat of your face” (Gen 3:19).
  • It is after-Fall food and not Pre-Fall food.
  • Genesis 3:18–19 (ESV) — 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field [eseb ha sadeh]. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread [comes from the eseb ha sedah], till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”


This differs from the type of “eseb” God gave for food Pre-Fall.

  • Genesis 1:29 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed [ʿēśeb mazrîaʿ zeraʿ] that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.


Sailhamer, Wenham and Hamilton all agree with Mathews.

  • “The ‘shrub of the field’ and ‘plant of the field,’ for example, are not referring to the ‘vegetation’ of chapter 1. Rather, they anticipate the ‘thorns and thistles’ and ‘plants of the field’ which were to come as a result of the curse (3:18)…The reference to ‘no man to work the ground’ (2:4b–5) points us to the time when the man and the woman would be cast from the garden ‘to work the ground’ (3:23)” – Sailhamer.
  • Wenham calls it a contrast between man’s food before The Fall “with that after his creation and disobedience (3:17–24)” – Wenham.

“We suggest that the reference to shrub and plant in 2:5 is anticipatory and is explained further by 3:18, where God says to Adam: ‘thorns and thistles [the śîaḥ?] it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants [ʿēśeḇ] of the field.’ The ‘plants’ referred to in Gen. 1 must be those that grow wild, those that reproduce themselves by seed alone. The plants referred to in Gen. 2 must be those that grow only as a result of human cultivation through planting and artificial irrigation. Neither of these kinds of growth appears in the fields until after the creation of man and after man’s transgression” – Victor Hamilton.


So the fact that Genesis 2 speaks of a food that doesn’t exist until after The Fall demonstrates that Moses is using Genesis 2 to look forward to The Fall – to “what came” of the Creation of Genesis 1.

  • The Fall is in effect the progeny of Genesis 1.
  • It is the “what came”.


The Point:

“As an introduction to the account of man’s creation [in Genesis 2], we are told that a ‘good’ land had been prepared for him: ‘streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground’ (2:6). Yet in the description of that land, we can already see the time when man would become an alien and stranger in a foreign land” – John Sailhamer.


In light of all this, it might be helpful to clarify verses 5-8:

  • A possible summary translation could be…
  • “Before sin changed creation, and man had to work the land for food, creation was good and God created man and put him in the Garden”.


Interestingly, this fits beautifully with our lesson last week on God’s Temple Rest.

  • We saw then that Day 7 marked a change into a new state of affairs.
  • God had taken His seat in creation and was at the controls of a new period of Redemptive History.
  • This new state of affairs was about to involve The Fall of image bearers.



Answers to our Questions:

Given what we have just learned, we can now suggest what Genesis 2’s relationship is to Genesis 1.

  • It appears that we neither have a rehash of Genesis 1 (especially just Day 6) or a new creation.
    • Though certainly many argue for each of these options.
  • Genesis 2 stands on its own, and looks forward to show how God’s good creation begins to splinter.


Genesis 2:1-3 – Seventh Day of Creation

The six days of creation are finished.

  • Whether it is Sailhamer’s preparation of the Promised Land creation.
  • Whether it is Walton’s assigning purpose, order and function creation.
  • We now have to dig into the seventh day.




Genesis 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.


Creation began with the merism “heavens and the earth” and ends with it as well.

  • It seems a fitting ending.


Interestingly, one would have expected that God finished his “bara”.

  • But curiously, the text uses the “ordinary word for human work” (melaka) – Wenham.
  • A word that is translated throughout the OT as “work”, “task” or “business”.


There is the idea that the use of “work” is to parallel Exodus 40:33.

  • Exodus 40:33 (ESV) — 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.
  • More on this later.


It is also interesting that the word for Sabbath is not used though the seventh day clearly points to it.

  • It appears that the introduction of formal Sabbath observance was not introduced until Exodus 16.


The repetition present in these three verses should jump out at us.

  • Seventh day” is used three times.
  • Work that he had done” is used three times.
  • We are told he “rested” two times.


The seventh day is also completely different from the other six.

  • It lacks the “And God said” formula.
  • It lacks the evening and morning wording.
    • The seventh day continues?
  • Mathews says this indicates, “Creation was intended to enjoy a perpetual rest provided by God, although that rest was disrupted by human sin”.



What then is the purpose of the seventh day?

Why the focus on “work that he had done”?

What does it mean that God rested?

What does it mean to bless a day and make it holy – blessing is usually given to living things?

What is God doing now – are we all deists?


The Basics:

The plain meaning of the text is fairly basic.

  • John Sailhamer puts it this way…
  • “The reader is left with a somber and repeated reminder of a single fact: God did not work on the seventh day.”
  • Moses clearly wants us to see that God rested after the six days were done.
  • Rested means “to sever, to put to an end” (TWOT).
  • Obviously the thing that came to an end was the “work that he had done” – creation.


A significant question that arises is did God then remove Himself somehow since he rested?

  • In other words, this seems to support deism.
  • We will deal with this with Walton’s take.


Why focus on rest?

  • Given that the sixth day established mankind as God’s image bearers/representatives…
  • And given that the thing ended was described using the normal word for human activity…
  • It is obvious to all that mankind is also to follow suit and rest from work on the seventh day.
  • More on rest in a moment.


What about the blessing?

  • The seventh day (later known as the Sabbath) was set apart for worship of Yahweh.
  • We are to acknowledge and celebrate “the sense of completeness and well being God had accomplished at creation in behalf of all human life” – Mathews.


Additionally, rest from creation is the basis and foundation upon which the fourth commandment rests.

  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  • This commandment, “united the ‘word’ of creation and the regulating ‘word’ of the religious order for the newly created Israel” – Mathews.


Moreover, the blessing is also an ANE polemic.

  • By blessing the “cessation of a completed work” on the seventh day a couple of things occur – Mathews.
  • (1) God “expresses his mastery over time by sanctifying it” – Mathews.
  • (2) And this creates “the observance of Sabbath [which] was unique to ancient Israel” – Mathews.


Rest Redux:

Much more could be made of the “rest” theme.

  • In fact, we covered some aspects of it in Joshua.
  • Joshua 1:13 (ESV) — 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’
  • BTW – this language once again screams support of Sailhamer’s thesis.
  • Rest and “eretz” echo Genesis 1 and day Seven.


Suffice it to say that the idea of rest is at its core eschatological.

  • Remember, theologically speaking the seventh day of rest is ongoing.
  • “The Sabbath rest of God is eternal” – Mathews.
  • Yet, we know that the rest established on day seven will soon be shattered by sin.
  • A cycle we see over and over in the OT – rest/sin/exile.


Jesus’ Rest:

This cycle points forward to the need for a sustained and unbreakable rest.

  • Jesus agrees.
  • Luke 24:44 (ESV) — 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
  • John 5:46–47 (ESV) — 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”


This rest is to be found in:

  • 1) The Gospel work of Jesus Christ at His incarnation.
  • 2) And ultimately in the everlasting rest to be fully inaugurated at His second coming.


Hebrews puts it like this:

  • Hebrews 4:3–11 (ESV) — 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.



Divine Rest as a Temple:

John Walton sees, on his functional view, Day Seven as the most important day of the seven.

  • He suggests that a purely material account of creation fails to recognize the powerful functional significance of Day Seven.
  • The functional view also answers the question about what God’s work was/is during His rest.

“Without hesitation the ancient reader would conclude that this is a temple text and that day seven is the most important of the seven days. In a material account day seven would have little role, but in a functional account, as we will see, it is the true climax without which nothing else would make any sense or have any meaning” – John Walton.


Why would this be seen as a temple text?

  • In the ancient Near East, “deity rests in a temple, and only in a temple” – Walton.
  • So, from a functional standpoint, the temple functions as a place for divine rest.


So how does this relate to Genesis and Yahweh?



To answer this question, we have to understand the ANE concept of divine rest.

  • “In the ancient world rest is what results when a crisis has been resolved or when stability has been achieved” – John Walton.
  • With this rest in place, “normal routines can be established and enjoyed” – Walton.
  • So the work doesn’t cease from a divine perspective.


What the rest signifies is a change of context for divine action.

  • One state of affairs is ended and a new state of affairs begins.
  • Old activity is replaced with a new activity in a new context.


The OT tells us that this new state of affairs/context is the Sabbath – God’s Temple Rest.

  • Exodus 20:11 (ESV) — 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  • According to Walton, this text succinctly shows the transition from the state of affairs of the six days to the state of affairs that accompany God’s Temple Rest – a blessed and holy rest.
  • Psalm 132 will help us here.


Psalm 132 also captures this idea and hints at the purpose of this new state of affairs.

  • Psalm 132:7–8 (ESV) — 7 “Let us go to his dwelling place [temple language]; let us worship at his footstool! [ark language]” 8 Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
  • Psalm 132:13–18 (ESV) — 13 For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. 16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. 17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. 18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”


So Day Seven tells us that God has taken up residence in his “dwelling place” to actively administer a new state of affairs in creation.

  • These affairs involve worship, blessing, provision, salvation and dealing with Israel’s enemies.
  • All activities related to the image-bearers who are living in the context/state of affairs of God’s Temple Rest.


But notice in verse 17 that within the context of this new state of affairs – God’s Temple Rest – we also see the coming horn of David.

  • Jesus
  • As we saw earlier, God’s dwelling in the temple and His rest all point to Jesus.


The White House?

Walton says God’s Temple Rest is, in modern terms, God taking up residence in the White House.

  • This means that God’s activity is ongoing.
  • The president doesn’t (or at least is not supposed to) enter the White House and do nothing.
  • God (like the President) “is in the control room from where he runs the cosmos that he set up.”


This means that God’s Temple Rest “is the ongoing work of creation” – John Walton.

  • In other words, on this functional view creation continues under a new set of circumstances/context.
  • When “the work that he had done” ceased, a new work began.
  • God’s Temple Rest symbolizes this new work.
  • The work of Redemptive History can now ensue under the order God has established.


Does this view add to our understanding of the fourth commandment?

  • Perhaps our way to observe this “rest” is to participate in God’s redemptive history.


Walton sums up his take like this:

“God…has taken up his rest in the center of this cosmic temple. Through him, order is maintained, and nonfunctional disorder is held at bay – through him all things cohere. Genesis 1 is thus an account of the functional origins of the cosmic temple…”


In fact, the rest of the OT can be seen through this lens.

  • God’s functionaries – the elect of Israel – routinely bring disorder by sin and disobedience.
  • In grace and mercy, God always seeks to restore them.
    • To restore order to His cosmic temple.


Importantly, this restoration takes its final form in Jesus/Spirit fulfilling Jeremiah 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.


And with our new life in Christ, the temple motif continues.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
  • Where is the temple now?
  • Why does the temple reside there?


A Way to Look at It:

God’s Temple Rest described on day seven is administered through God’s covenant in all its form – Sinai, Abrahamic, etc.

  • This is seen, as we hinted earlier, in Exodus 40:33.
  • Exodus 40:33 (ESV) — 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.
  • “Moses ‘saw’ all the work the people ‘had done,’ and he ‘blessed’ them” – Mathews.


This text points to a link “between creation-sabbath and Moses’ tabernacle” – Mathews.

  • This link “binds God’s first work at creation with his newly directed work among Israel” – Mathews.
  • This work is God’s Temple Rest work.


And with Jesus, God’s Temple Rest is administered through the Holy Spirit.

  • The Spirit regenerates the heart.
  • The Spirit administers God’s grace to us.
  • The Spirit seals our salvation.
  • With these, God’s Sabbath rest is replaced in Jesus and the Spirit with resurrection rest.
  • A reason we moved the day of rest to Sunday.


“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God’s presence” – John Walton.

  • A presence that serves “as the defining element of existence”.
  • In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God!!