Tag Archives: Genesis 2

Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 6 – Male and Female Imaging

It’s important that we take a slight detour.

  • We need to explore the relationship between Genesis 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 11 and male and female imaging.
  • To do that, however, we need to review a few things.


Review of Gen 1 & 2:

Genesis 1:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and 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. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


From Genesis 1 we learned the following about “man”:

  • “Man” was made male and female.
  • “Man”, both male and female, was made in the image and likeness of God.
  • “Man”, both male and female, was given dominion over creation.
  • “Man”, both male and female, was blessed.
  • “Man”, both male and female, were to multiply.


We saw that image-bearing’s meaning was functional:

  • Our function as image-bearers is to represent God on earth.
  • This is played out by “having dominion over God’s creation” – TWOT.
  • Mathews sums it up this way, “Mankind is appointed as God’s royal representatives (i.e., sonship) to rule the earth in his place.”


We also found that the text does not reveal what aspect of humanity is physically made in the image of God.

  • “Selem” as representative “merely describes the function or the consequences of the divine image; it does not pinpoint what the image is in itself” – Gordon Wenham.
  • “Although Genesis tells who is created in the ‘image of God,’ both man and woman (1:27; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9), it does not describe the contents of the ‘image.’” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • Hamilton says, “It is clear that v. 26 is not interested in defining what is the image of God in man. The verse simply states the fact, which is repeated in the following verse.”


We then saw in Genesis 2, providing more details for humanity’s creation, that the creation story came to a screeching halt after the creation of the male “man”.

  • Genesis 2:18 tells us that “It is not good that the man should be alone”.


And then curiously, to show the male “man” how necessary a female of his same kind was, God paraded various animals before male “man”.

  • We are told that among the animals none were found that were suitable for Adam – of his kind.
  • God’s solution was to “build” the female “man” from the “sela” of the male “man”.
  • Adam immediately recognized that the woman was  a female “man” to his male “man” – “issa” to “is”.


From this review, we can summarize the differences/similarities between man and woman.

  • In Common – Both are “man”; are image-bearers; have dominion; are to multiply; and are blessed.
  • Difference – Man is made first; made of dust (by extension and death woman is also); alone; and “not good” without woman.
  • Difference – Woman is made second; made from living creature (man); and helper.



Paul’s Take on Gen 1 & 2:

Keeping these things in mind, we now need to look at Paul’s take on Genesis 1 and 2.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3 & 7–12 (ESV) — 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.


Head Covering:

There was cultural issue at play here.

  • We need to take this into account.


“Women’s hair was a prime object of lust in the ancient Mediterranean world” – DPL & DNTB.

  • So frequently, women in public with uncovered heads were seen as licentious and “sexually revealing”.
  • Therefore, it was typical for Palestinian women, Jewish women, and Roman women (& men – vs. 7) to cover their heads in worship as well (apparently Greek women didn’t?) – DPL.

Interestingly, “exposed hair became rare enough that on one occasion women with exposed hair reportedly threw guards into a panic, because the guards thought them night spirits” – DNTB.


There were also differences among classes about this taboo.

  • The upper classes (where most house churches met) were more tolerant of uncovered heads.
  • Lower class women, who embraced the taboo, were also attending these house churches.
  • Tension was bound to exist, and it did so in Corinth (vss. 21-22 show this) – DPL.


Paul and Genesis:

So what is Paul not saying?

  • He is not contradicting Genesis.
  • He is not saying women are not made in the image of God.
  • He is not saying that women are not the glory of God.


So what is Paul saying?

  • He is using creation order to make a rhetorical point.
  • Therefore, Paul basically is saying, “Adam was created before Eve, therefore women should wear head coverings” – DPL.
    • It is a little more complicated than that – but that is the gist.
  • This is in agreement with Gen 1 & 2 – Adam first and then Eve.


So most commentators see Paul’s words as a form of rhetoric to address the tension and restore unity.

  • To restore unity, his view was that women should cover their heads in Church at Corinth.
  • Women were not men; apparently the head coverings were a cultural way to honor the difference.
  • And they also were a way to alleviate sexual tension and lust (perhaps similar to short skirts, etc. today).


Fascinatingly, after making his point about head coverings and man as the head=source, look what he says in verse 11.

  • Nevertheless…
  • Woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
  • After making his point with Gen 1 & 2’s creation order, “he takes it back” – DPL.



  • “He uses this [creation order] only as an ad hoc argument for head coverings, not for everything one might extrapolate from it” – DPL.
  • In other words, a patriarchal view of husband and wife as some are prone to do.

“Paul nowhere in this text subordinates the woman (making her less than man), failing even to touch on that issue” – DPL.


BTW – It must be noted that in Ephesians 5, Paul is clearly speaking of husband as the head=authority over the wife.

  • Importantly, this is a functional difference not a qualitative difference.
  • And taking it up a notch, the husband is to sacrificially love her as Christ loved the Church.
  • Have fun with that!


Paul’s teaching (despite what it seems to moderns) would have been scandalous.

  • He was operating in a context that already belittled women.
  • But with his words he upsets the apple cart and “and modifies it in a more progressive direction” – DPL.


BTW 2 – There are a few competing ways to play out Paul’s teaching on man and woman.

  • (1) An egalitarian view of marriage.
  • (2) A patriarchal view of marriage.
    • Spanking of wives; women educated for homemaking (no college); Dad picks daughters husband; etc.
  • (3) A complementarian view of marriage.


Quick Summary of Complementarian view:

  • This view holds that image-bearing is not just functional (as we reviewed above) but is also a physical  (Bruce Ware).
  • Therefore, male and female are not only “different ways…of being human” but also are physically different ways of image-bearing – Bruce Ware.


This view uses the temporal priority of Adam (as pointed out by Paul) as a basis for this view.

  • “While both are fully and equally the image of God, there is a built-in priority given to the male that reflects God’s design of male headship in the created order” – Bruce Ware.
    • (I think this point is not needed to support this view).
  • Female image-bearing includes acknowledging that God gave man the function of head in his image-bearing.


BTW 3 – Interestingly, “Women may have also been shaving their heads (or cutting their hair short) to prevent men from thinking about them sexually. A woman who shaved her head would have frustrated her husband, since it would have stripped her of her sensuality. Thus, head coverings were the best option” – Mike Heiser.



Why We Misread 1 Corinthians 11 (and Ephesians 5) as Patriarchy:

Hannah Anderson, in “Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image”, makes the following observation.

  • She suggests that our core identity as man/woman, and husband/wife has been derailed by cultural gender roles.
  • Moreover, these gender roles have been divorced from the Bible.
  • She says Genesis 1 makes clear that “our core identity is to be an image-bearer”.
  • It is not found in fulfilling gender roles.


In other words, there is no doubt that men and women image God differently.

  • However, women do so informed by Biblical standards not by informed by June Cleaver.
  • Likewise, men do so informed by Biblical standards not informed by Ward Cleaver.
  • She says the 50’s was “not a fully formed expression of humanity” for men nor for women.
  • A fully formed expression is to be found in the Bible.


Recently, Andreas Kostenberger was asked about this very issue on The Gospel Coalition.

  • “In what ways can evangelical Christians be in danger of confusing conservative cultural expectations [gender roles] with biblical complementarity?”


His answer:

“Scripture doesn’t give a lot of detail as to how God’s design for man and woman is to be worked out, so a traditional division of labor (women in the kitchen, changing diapers; men at work letting women do all household chores) doesn’t square with the biblical design (we’ve discussed the inadequacy of labels here)…There is flexibility within the basic framework, and each couple has unique circumstances in which to work out God’s design and plan for them personally, both leader and partner. The biblical pattern is loving, self-sacrificial complementarity where the couple partners in conscious pursuit of God’s mission. Marriage is part of God’s larger purpose of reuniting all of humanity under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10).”


He goes on to say:

“Succinctly put, the overarching model that many have implicitly understood in recent years has been male leadership and female submission…we believe that this approach may unduly constrain the woman’s role and contribution in marriage and the church. We might rather categorize the biblical teaching in these terms: male leadership and female partnership.”


I would say a more literal Genesis 1 & 2 way to put his term would be…

  • “male image-bearer” and “female image-bearer helper”



Where We Are Headed – Genesis 3:

The Fall presents us with far more questions than answers.

  • We have to be patient and humble as we dig in.


And with respect to our male/female discussion, there are some interesting things to consider going forward.

  • Man was given the sacred priestly duties of obeying and worshiping (priestly tabernacle language).
  • We saw that part of this responsibility was guarding the sacred space.
  • Question…according to Genesis 2, was Eve around when God gave the commandment to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
  • Based on the text in Gen. 3, from who did Eve first learn about the prohibition?
    • Don’t know – presumably Adam.
  • Was Adam there when the Serpent tempted Eve?


Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 5 – With Woman Paradise Is Now Complete


Moses’ intent is to show us “man’s creation ‘in God’s image’ entailed a ‘partnership’ with his wife. The ‘likeness’ which the man and the woman share with God in chapter 1 finds an analogy in the ‘likeness’ between the man and his wife in chapter 2” – John Sailhamer.

  • These types of parallels are not accidents.


How does the creation of woman in Genesis 2 relate to Genesis 1?

  • “Genesis 1:27 simply informed us that when God created two earth creatures who would be his image bearers he created one earthling that was male and another earthling that was female. The verse said nothing about how he created them or when he created them (simultaneously or sequentially) – Victor Hamilton.
  • So most believe that our text today gives more detail about the creation of man and woman.
  • More on this in a moment.



Verse 18:

Genesis 2:18 (ESV) — 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”


This verse is rather startling.

  • As we know, Genesis 1 repeatedly states creation is “good” and ends with creation being “very good”.
  • And out of nowhere we are confronted with the statement that something “it is not good”.
  • What are we to make of this?


Not Good:

We saw in Genesis 1 that declaring that creation was “good” and “very good” could mean a number of things:

  • Wenham says it referred to the “perfection of the final work”.
  • Sailhamer says, “That which is ‘good’ in Genesis 1 is that which will benefit the man and woman”.
    • Specifically, the readying of Eden/Promise Land for mankind.
  • On Walton’s functional approach he says that “good”, “has nothing to do with moral perfection or quality of workmanship” – John Walton.
    • He says “good” means “the functional readiness [order, purpose, function] of the cosmos for human beings”.


So from these views we can speculate about why “not good” would make its appearance.


(1) We need to be reminded of the following:

  • Our guys don’t think, generally, that Genesis 2 is Day Six.
  • However, for those that see Day 6 as specifically Adam and Eve, they do see vss. 18-25 as additional info about the creation of man and woman on Day 6.
  • This would mean, then, that this statement was God’s commentary immediately after creating man on Day Six.


(2) Therefore, the statement “not good” likely means:

  • Wenham – perfection of mankind is not yet attained without woman.
  • Sailhamer – the preparation of the Promised Land was always for man and woman, so without woman the preparations were not fully inhabited.
  • Walton – mankind can’t function as intended (fruitful and multiply and have dominion) without woman.


BTW – This significant focus on the necessity of woman for perfection, preparation, or function is not found in any other ANE creation story – it is unique to the Israelites.

  • This feature alone significantly highlights the importance and necessity of women.



Verses 19-20:

Genesis 2:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.


Here we have the odd appearance of an animal parade.

  • This parade of animals was either a special creation of animals, or was referring to previously created animals that were brought before Adam.
  • The pluperfect tense can be correctly translated “had formed” as in already formed in the ESV, for example.
  • And folks like Hamilton and Sailhamer say, “it refers to the creation of a special group of animals brought before Adam for naming” – Victor Hamilton.


The real question is why would God admit that man alone is “not good” and then respond by commencing the animal parade?

  • It seems a bit out of place.


Most are in agreement here.

  • Sailhamer puts this agreement as follows:

“The author saw the man’s naming the animals as a search for a suitable partner. In recounting that no suitable partner was found, the author has assured the reader that man was not like the other creatures” – John Sailhamer.


The animal parade thus raises the tension around the fact that man is lacking without woman.

  • Man himself is “not good” without woman.


Animal Naming:

Some suggest that the “naming” here is more significant than “robin”, “jack rabbit”, “coyote”, etc.

  • Adam is noting the different “kinds” or categories.
  • And, significantly, “kinds” or categories different from his kind.


In fact, the suggestion is that this is how these verses make the best sense.

  • Adam noted that none of the animals brought to him were “fit for him”.
  • This is not because they had different names, but because they were different kinds.
  • None were mankind.


Mathews puts it this way:

  • “The creatures are named within three broad categories: domesticated ‘livestock,’ ‘birds,’ and ‘beasts of the field’ (cf. 3:1). By this the man could observe that there was none among the creatures who matched him in kind” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • And…

“The fact that the man is expressing his rule over the animal world in the search for an appropriate helper caused him to realize his inadequacy to the task if he continues in the impotent condition of ‘alone.’ In this way God is preparing the man to value his mate” – Mathews.



Verses 21-22:

Genesis 2:21–22 (ESV) — 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.


There are two issues here.

  • The first is the special creation of Eve – from Adam.
  • The second is the ingredient God used to do so – a rib.


Except for John Walton and his functional creation view, our scholars believe Genesis 2 to be the description of an historical material creation event.

  • The event was the special creation of woman out of man.
  • Man, like other life, came from the ground.
  • Woman, uniquely, came from another living being.


Where our scholars differ is on the rib as the material ingredient for this creation.

  • Interestingly, John Sailhamer actually holds the common conservative evangelical view on both matters.
  • “The way this story is recounted shows that its author understood it in realistic and literal terms. When God took one of the man’s ribs from his side, He then “closed the flesh” over the place where He had taken the rib. That detail is not necessary to the sense of the story” – John Sailhamer


So what is the deal with Adam’s rib?


The reason there is dissent on this question is because of the Hebrew word used – “sela”.

  • The TWOT (Theological Word Book of the OT) spells it out for us.
  • “It is an architectural term” referring to a room or side-chamber – TWOT.
  • And it usually is temple or tabernacle related.
  • Exodus 26:35 (ESV) — 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.
  • Exodus 25:12 (ESV) — 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it [ark] and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it.
  • 1 Kings 6:5 (ESV) — 5 He also built a structure against the wall of the house [temple], running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary. And he made side chambers all around.


It is sometimes used to describe a cedar plank used to build the temple.

  • 1 Kings 6:15 (ESV) — 15 He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar. From the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood, and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress.


Mathews agrees with the TWOT.

“As we have already observed, the language of the garden scene is found in the tabernacle description; the term ṣēlāʿ, here rendered ‘ribs,’ appears frequently in the construction setting of the tabernacle, there translated ‘side’” – Mathews.


Walton even points out that nowhere in the OT does “sela” have an anatomical meaning.

  • So where does this leave us in Genesis 2?


Here is the deal.

  • All agree that there is a powerful, sacred symbolic meaning of “rib” in Genesis 2.
  • But not all agree that Eve was literally “made” out of a piece of Adam.


In disagreement that woman was literally made out of a piece of man.

  • Wenham says, “It is certainly mistaken to read it as an account of a clinical operation or as an attempt to explain some feature of man’s anatomy (cf. von Rad, Procksch)” – Gordon Wenham.


In agreement that woman was literally made out of man.

  • Mathews says, “She is taken from the man by a ‘surgical’ act of God.”
  • Hamilton says, “If we translate ‘side’ rather than ‘rib,’ then the passage states that woman was created from an undesignated part of man’s body rather than from one of his organs or from a portion of bony tissue” – Hamilton.
  • Whatever the case, “We need to note that it is not Eve herself but simply the raw material that is taken from the man” – Hamilton.


So what is the symbolic meaning of rib that all agree on?


(1) “The woman was taken from the man’s side to show that she was of the same substance as the man and to underscore the unity of the human family, having one source” – Mathews.


(2) It demonstrates that woman is the same “kind” as man and is thus suitable for him.

  • In other words, woman being of man can remedy the “not good” problem.
  • She can complete the perfection, preparation or function that we discussed earlier.
  • “Paradise is now complete” – Mathews.


(3) “It brilliantly depicts the relation of man and wife. ‘Just as the rib is found at the side of the man and is attached to him, even so the good wife, the rib of her husband, stands at his side to be his helper-counterpart, and her soul is bound up with his’” – Wenham.


(4) “The intimacy and harmony that should support the marriage relationship is captured perfectly with this image” – Bruce Waltke.

  • Mathew Henry captures this take well.
  • “Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved”.


(5) Paul also notes a symbolic significance of the “rib” language.

  • Ephesians 5:28–30 (ESV) — 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.


Paul seems to be saying that the “rib” language sets up the following intimate parallel.

  • The church is in Christ and Christ loves the church.
  • In the same way, woman is in man and man loves the woman.


BTW – It is important to understand one more thing about these verses concerning “deep sleep”.

  • It is a very rare phrase in the OT.
  • It seems to indicate some mysterious form of divine intervention.
  • At the end of the day, this phrase “preserves the mystery of her creation” – Mathews.


John Walton’s Take:

Walton points out that the literal translation of our text.

  • “The Lord built the rib [direct object] for the woman [indirect object]”.
  • But he thinks that this literal translation is grammatically to be understood as follows:
  • “Then the Lord God built up the side he had taken from the man for (the purpose of making) a woman” – Walton.


However, as we mentioned earlier, Walton does not take any of this to be describing material creation.

  • His view is functional creation with the use of archetypes.

“Being drawn from the side of man has an archetypal significance, not an anatomical one. This is the very aspect that the text draws out when it identifies the significance of the detail: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen 2: 24). This is true of all mankind and all womankind. Womankind is archetypally made from the side of mankind. Again we can see that this is a functional discussion, not a material one” – John Walton.

  • In other words, the language describes why man and woman are to function as one flesh.
  • This is functional language for marriage and sexual union.



Verses 23-24:

Genesis 2:23–24 (ESV) — 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.



In verse 23 an important question is raised.

  • Did Adam name Eve?
  • This is important because it speaks to the nature of the relationship between Adam and Eve.
  • Why?
  • In Hebrew culture, to name something is to own it and have a particular kind of authority over it.


Again, scholars are all over the map.

  • Yes – “Though they are equal in nature, that man names woman (cf. 3:20) indicates that she is expected to be subordinate to him, an important presupposition of the ensuing narrative” – Wenham.
  • No – “We would be mistaken to think that Adam names Eve here. He rather indicates what category she belongs in. Here he simply states what she will be recognized as, and she will be recognized on the basis of her relationship to man. He indicates the category she will be recognized as belonging to—that of humankind” – Walton.


Mathews says:

  • Adam is presenting woman saying, “At last, here is one of my own kind.”
  • “He and the woman, indeed, are made up of the same ‘stuff’” – Mathews.


In Hebrew, the text seems to make this clear as well.

  • Woman is “issa” and man is “is”.
  • They are the same kind, “is”.


The “no” view seems to fit better with our above discussion on why God would describe man without woman as “not good”.

  • And it further makes sense of why God would parade the animals in front of him.
  • Adam recognized that the animals were not suitable for him – not because they had different names.
  • But, likely, because they were of a different kind.
  • To be taken out of man is to be of his kind – both literally or symbolically.


BTW – One’s view here, historically, has greatly influenced how we have come to define gender roles.

  • Entire hardcore patriarchal movements are based on how one interprets Genesis 2.
  • These movements go so far as to see the husband as exercising disciplining authority over the wife in the form of spanking.


Marriage Text?

Another point of contention regards how this text relates to marriage – if at all.

  • This is easily answered by looking at Jesus’ words in Matthew.
  • Matthew 19:4–5 (ESV) — 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
  • Jesus makes clear that not only is verse 24 referring to marriage, but it is God speaking – not Moses and not Adam.
  • So, in effect, God has said twice that Genesis 2 speaks of marriage between the “is” and “issa”.


But, even without Jesus’ words, we can confirm this is a marriage text.

  • Why?


The Hebrew language used here is covenant language.

  • “‘Leave’ and ‘cling’ are terms commonly used in the context of covenant, indicating covenant breach (e.g., Deut 28:20; Hos 4:10) or fidelity” – Mathews.
  • Hamilton spells it out even more clearly.
  • The language here is “a covenantal statement of his commitment to her. Thus it would serve as the biblical counterpart to the modern marriage ceremony” – Victor Hamilton.


So their use in context of the man/woman relationship is a covenantal use.

  • And since “the OT viewed marriage as a kind of covenant”, the covenantal joining of a man and woman is marriage – Wenham.


Importantly, these two verses also provide a model for the marriage covenant.

  • “As a model for marriage this passage involves three factors: a leaving, a uniting, and a public declaration” – Mathews.
  • The leaving and uniting we just discussed.


The public declaration comes from the first spoken words of mankind.

  • Verse 23 – Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
  • Adam is declaring his entry into covenant with the woman.


Bruce Waltke summarizes this first marriage as follows:

“This first marriage, set in the sacred temple-garden and designed by God, signifies the holy and ideal state of marriage. God plays the role of attendant to the bride. He gives the man his wife” – Bruce Waltke.


Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 4 – Sacred Space, Sacred Service

Thus far in Genesis 2:

  • We saw the big picture view (the toledot).
  • We dealt with the practical meaning of vss. 5-6.
  • We explored the significance of contrasting dust-man with image bearers.


Today we need to deal with verses 8-17.

  • Put Man
  • The Garden – Sacred Space
  • The Trees
  • The Task – Sacred Service




Genesis 2:8–17 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”



What is the garden?

Why tell us twice God put man in the garden (vss. 8 & 15)?

Are the rivers/water significant?

What does it mean to “work it and keep” the garden?

If God provided the food, how does working and keeping make sense (Day 6 and vss. 9 & 16)?

What are the trees?

Doesn’t knowledge of evil imply the presence of evil in God’s “very good” creation?

Why set up a limitation to Adam’s freedom – prohibition to eat from the tree of knowledge?

Why put the tree there to begin with?



Put Man:

It seems clear that man was not native to the garden.

  • Though he was made in God’s image…
  • And though he was made from the dust…
  • None of this connects him to the garden.


So why put man in the garden?

  • There are at least a couple of reasons.
  • (1) “Man was put into the garden ‘in God’s presence’ where he could have fellowship with God (3:8)” – John Sailhamer.
  • (2) “By this he shows that Adam was formed outside the garden, in order to show that that place is not owed in itself out of nature, but out of grace” – Nicholas of Lyra (from Seth Postell).


This act also foreshadows Israel’s relationship to the Promise Land.

“God graciously brings Adam to this special garden from another place, much the same way he graciously brings Israel of out Egypt in order to place them in the Promised Land” – Seth Postell.



The Garden – Sacred Space:

Genesis 2:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

  • This is not the garden we have in our backyard.
  • The IVPBBCOT tells us that, “The word translated ‘garden’ does not typically refer to vegetable plots but to orchards or parks containing trees”.
  • Wenham says, “Perhaps we should picture a park surrounded by a hedge”.


Mathews says it carries the idea of having “abundant waters, fertile herbage, and beautiful stones”.

  • John Walton agrees, “They were planted with fruit trees and shade trees and generally contained watercourses, pools, and paths. Their arboretums contained many exotic trees and plants and sometimes included animals”.

“Whenever Eden is mentioned in Scripture it is pictured as a fertile area, a well-watered oasis with large trees growing (cf. Isa 51:3; Ezek 31:9, 16, 18; 36:35, etc.), a very attractive prospect in the arid East” – Wenham


And with respect to the “beautiful stones” Mathews mentioned.

  • Our text says, “And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there” – vs. 12.


Sailhamer notes the stones significance.

  • “The purpose of such descriptions is to show the glory of God’s presence through the physical beauty” – John Sailhamer.
  • They do this because they served this same function in the tabernacle.

“The gold and precious stones, much like the materials of the later tabernacle and temple, set it off as a place worthy of divine glory” – Sailhamer.


The prophet Ezekiel puts it like this:

  • Ezekiel 28:13 (ESV) — 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.


BTW – All our scholars agree that the garden was an historical place – though its location remains a mystery.


Sacred Space:

Gordon Wenham makes another observation about that garden that leads us to an important feature.

  • “The garden of Eden is not viewed by the author of Genesis simply as a piece of Mesopotamian farmland, but as an archetypal sanctuary, that is a place where God dwells and where man should worship him” – Gordon Wenham.
  • In other words, the garden is a sacred space.


Sailhamer puts it like this:

“The narrative of the garden of Eden also appears deliberately to foreshadow the description of the tabernacle. The garden, like the tabernacle, was the place where man could enjoy the fellowship and presence of God” – John Sailhamer.

  • He goes on to say the garden was an “early tabernacle within the promised land”.


And in a reference back to the significance of God putting man into the garden…

“God’s ‘placing’ man in the garden strongly resembles the later establishment of the priesthood for the tabernacle and temple” – John Sailhamer.


Sacred Space and Water:

Genesis 2:10 (ESV) — 10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.


So what is up with all the water?

  • The descriptions of four rivers take up a great deal of space.
  • In fact, OT scholar Tsumura argues that eden “refers specifically to an abundance of water supply” – Walton.


The abundant water theme supports the idea of the garden as a tabernacle – a dwelling place of God.

  • Psalm 46:4 (ESV) — 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
  • Revelation 22:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
  • Ezekiel 47:1–12 (ESV) — 1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. 3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”


Eden’s Sacred Space and the OT:

Throughout the OT the sacred space of the garden and Eden itself were used to symbolically represent God’s judgment or eschatology.

  • Mathews puts it like this, “The prophets adopted Eden’s fertility as a sign of eschatological salvation or, by its reversal, divine judgment (Isa 51:3; Ezek 36:35; Joel 2:3)” Mathews.


A few examples:

  • Isaiah 51:3 (ESV) — 3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
  • Ezekiel 36:35 (ESV) — 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’
  • Joel 2:3 (ESV) — 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.



The Trees:

Genesis 2:9 (ESV) — 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


(1) Tree of Life:

The tree of life seems to be the simplest to understand.

  • Mathews, in fact, even says it “is second in significance to the tree of knowledge”.


Adam was not immortal – he was made of dust.

  • However, as long as he was in the garden he had access to the tree of life.
  • Eating the fruit of this tree would sustain his life.

“Ultimately the tree’s power to convey life was due to its Planter, who alone grants or refuses to give of its fruit. The presence of the tree indicates that the garden enjoys life, and the eating of the fruit will result in continued life—a gift that only God can confer (3:22; cp. Rev 2:7)” – Mathews.


This means that the breath of God did not convey immortality upon man.

  • Kenneth Mathews says, “There is a difference between man’s creation, in which he receives life by the divine inbreathing (2:7), and the perpetuation of that life gained by appropriating the tree of life (cf. 3:22). Immortality is the trait of deity alone (1 Tim 6:16)” – Mathews.


So when man was exiled from the garden, he would inevitably return to the dust.

  • Man would die.
  • This fact, as we saw last week, points to the need for Christ and resurrection.


(2) Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:

Interestingly, “No such tree appears in other ancient Near Eastern texts and traditions” – Michael Heiser.

  • This tree is unique to Genesis.


What does the tree not represent?

  • Apparently it doesn’t literally mean knowledge of good and evil, as we understand them.
  • One reason why is because, as we observed earlier, this would imply that a “depravation of good” existed in God’s very good creation.
  • We will deal with the “serpent” issue in Genesis 3.


So what might the tree represent?

  • Like “the heavens and the earth” from Genesis 1:1, “good and evil” seems to represent a merism.
  • The AYBD cites 2 Samuel 14:17 as another example in the OT that demonstrates this use.


So to what does the merism “good and evil” refer?

“‘Good and evil’ is a merism for all moral knowledge: the capacity to create a system of ethics and make moral judgments. The knowledge of good and evil represents wisdom and discernment to decide and effect ‘good’ (i.e., what advances life) and ‘evil’ (i.e., what hinders it) – Bruce Waltke.

  • “Only God in heaven, who transcends time and space, has the prerogative to know truly what is good and bad for life. Thus, the tree represents knowledge and power appropriate only to God (Gen. 3:5, 22). Human beings, by contrast, must depend upon a revelation from the only one who truly knows good and evil (Prov. 30:1–6), but humanity’s temptation is to seize this prerogative independently from God (see 3:7)” – Waltke.


John Piper says, “It represented independence from God”.

“In the creation story, to have ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ means to claim the independent right to decide for oneself what is good and evil (true and false, ugly and beautiful)” – John Piper.


So what does this merism mean for man in Genesis 2?

  • Piper says in the context of Genesis 2 it meant Adam/Eve would be declaring…
  • “I henceforth decide for myself what is true and right and beautiful.”


Gordon Wenham puts it as follows:

  • The implication for Genesis 2 is that man would be declaring they have “moral autonomy, deciding what is right without reference to God’s revealed will” – Wenham.


Victor Hamilton says this:

  • The implication for Genesis 2 is that man would have “the power to decide for himself what is in his best interests and what is not” – Victor Hamilton.
  • Something that “God has not delegated to the earthling”.

He also says this view “also has the benefit of according well with 3:22, ‘the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.’ Man has indeed become a god whenever he makes his own self the center, the springboard, and the only frame of reference for moral guidelines. When man attempts to act autonomously he is indeed attempting to be godlike. It is quite apparent why man may have access to all the trees in the garden except this one” – Victor Hamilton.

  • Wenham agrees with this.


In other words, in Genesis 2…

  • It referred to the power to make choices outside of God’s wisdom.
    • Not literally what was good or evil.
    • But what was wise in all spheres of life.


The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was an opportunity for man to further exalt his status with respect to the rest of creation.

  • In short, it represented acting in the wisdom of the creature instead of the wisdom of the creator.
  • the tree was to be desired to make one wise” – Genesis 3:6.


If the above statement is correct, a significant implication is made.

  • What is at issue here is not primarily the freewill of man but the wisdom of God.
  • Herman Bavinck seems to sense this when speaking about Genesis 2 & 3.

“Genesis is concerned with the question of whether man will develop in dependence on God” – Herman Bavinck (from Robert Vannoy).

  • In other words, will man walk in the wisdom of God the Creator or the wisdom of man the creature.


At this point, it will help us here to have a basic understanding of wisdom.

Generally speaking, wisdom is the “know how for minimizing the risks to our interests” – Kevin Moore.

  • Two ingredients – “know how” and “interests”.
  • The problem – having the “know how” does not mean we will automatically act in our “interests”.
  • Or, even more likely, that we won’t misunderstand or corrupt our “interests”.


Who is in the position to know what is in our best interests, has the know how to pursue them, and has the power to effect them?

  • Clearly, the answer to this question is God the Creator.


But aren’t we to seek the wisdom of God?

  • Yes, but Kenneth Mathews points out this caveat.

“Proverbs indicates, however, that it must be achieved through the ‘fear of the Lord’ and not through grasping it independently. Moreover, there is knowledge that God possesses that man should not seek apart from revelation (Job 15:7–9; 28:12–28; 40:1–5; Prov 30:1–4); to obtain this knowledge is to act with moral autonomy” – Mathews.


Given all this, foolishness plays out as follows:

“Foolishness occurs when (A) we are aware of some threat to our most relevant interests. (B) We know how to minimize the risks to this interest. And (C) we choose in the face of such an awareness and such know how not to minimize such risks”.

  • We will see this play out in Genesis 3.
  • We will also deal much more with the tree of knowledge of good and evil at that time.


Why might God put this tree in the garden in the first place?

  • Only Mathews attempts to answer this question.
  • He gives a nod to freewill.
  • “Freedom has no meaning without prohibition; the boundary for Adam is but one tree” – Mathews.


There are reasons that the freewill justification doesn’t satisfy.

  • It seems to me that freedom finds it’s meaning in God and His decree that creation was “very good”.
  • In other words, like objective morality, objective freedom finds it’s meaning and grounding in God.


To suggest that freedom is only meaningful if it can be corrupted seems false.

  • It speaks poorly of the quality of God as its source and foundation.
  • One obvious reason is simply because there is no indication that the new heavens and earth (and us) will be capable of corruption – there will be no sin.
  • Are we going to mourn our supposed lack of freedom in our resurrection life?


I think the question is not why God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden (either literally or symbolically).

  • In fact, it seems possible (some scholars argue), that as Adam and Eve matured they would have arrived at this knowledge anyway – in the “right” way (through their growth and maturity in God).
  • The real question is why the creature (the image bearer of a “very good” creation) would presume to reject the wisdom of the Creator for creaturely wisdom.


I am convinced more and more that the meaning and beauty of moral freedom is to be found in God, not in its potential for corruption.


Again, more on all this when we get to Genesis 3.

  • Now back to more speculation of why the tree was present.


Mathews also cites D. Bonhoeffer to venture a guess at yet another reason.

  • The two trees were in the center of the garden.

“Symbolically the middle of Adam’s world was not himself but life, the very presence of God; the tree of knowledge as a prohibition signifies that man’s limitation as a creature is in the ‘middle of his existence, not on the edge’ – Mathews.

  • Man is a creature.


I think a very likely meaning behind the tree is that it points forward to the law.

  • For blessing to remain, the law must be obeyed.
  • Wenham puts it this way…
  • “In the garden, the revealed law of God amounted to the warning ‘Do not eat this tree’ on pain of death. In later Israel, many more laws were known, and those who flouted them incurred the divine curse and risked death. Since the law was God-given, it could not be altered or added to by man (Deut 4:2); thus human moral autonomy was ruled out (Josh 4:7). In preferring human wisdom to divine law, Adam and Eve found death, not life” – Wenham.


The law connection is also found in the following:

  • Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
  • Deuteronomy 30:15–18 (ESV) — 15See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.



Sacred Service:

Genesis 2:15 (ESV) — 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it [cultivate] and keep it.


If God provided food, why would man have to work it and keep it?

  • This doesn’t seem to make any sense.
  • And given that working the land is part of God’s curse after the Fall, it really doesn’t make any sense.
  • What is the solution?


It appears that “work it and keep it” are seen by a great many as a very poor translation.

  • The key to understanding the meaning of the Hebrew is this…
  • A Sacred Space requires Sacred Service.


John Walton puts it this way.

  • “It is likely that the tasks given to Adam are of a priestly nature—that is, caring for sacred space.”


The Hebrew phrase, then, conveys the idea of “human service to God rather that descriptions of agricultural tasks” – Walton.

  • Specifically “work” or “cultivate” are often used for “worship”.
  • And “keep” describes the “faithful carrying out of God’s instructions” – Mathews.


Bruce Waltke agrees and says these words describe the activity of priests.

Specifically, “The latter term entails guarding the garden against Satan’s encroachment (see 3:1–5). As priest and guardians of the garden, Adam and Eve should have driven out the serpent; instead it drives them out” – Waltke.


Sailhamer points out that the priestly translation jives with “several early manuscripts”.

  • In them, the phrase means “to worship and obey”.
  • “Man’s life in the garden was to be characterized by worship and obedience. He was to be a priest…” – John Sailhamer.


Sailhamer sums up man’s priestly duty this way:

“To enjoy the good [sacred space], mankind must trust God and obey Him [sacred service]. If mankind disobeys, he will have to decide for himself what is good and what is not good” – John Sailhamer.

  • Something he is ill equipped to do.




In one-way or another, all the observation questions have been addressed.

  • The garden, as with everything else in Genesis 1 & 2, contains an enormous amount of significance.
  • And little, if any of it, has to do with the age of the earth and science.


Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 3 – Dust-Man

Two weeks ago we saw a big picture view of Genesis 2.

  • It points forward to The Fall not backwards (the toledot, vss. 4-6, etc).
  • This means Genesis 2 is not a telescoping of Day 6.


Last week we tried to determine the practical meaning of verses 5-6.

  • Our main help was Sailhamer.
  • Based on his comments we paraphrased 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 in anticipation of this week’s lesson, we did the same for verse 7.

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




Genesis 2:7 (ESV) — 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.


How do we know 2:7 is about Adam the man?

How do we know Day 6 is about Adam the man?

If 2:7 is Adam and Day 6 is Adam, how do we account for the differences?

  • Day 6 man/woman were made in God’s image – vs. 7 Adam is from the dust (something that already existed).
  • These leaves us seeing Day 6 man as majestic, sacred and exalted – vs. 7 seems more mundane, profane and lower.


Sailhamer gets us started as we explore vs. 7 and Day 6.

“The differences between the two accounts were precisely what the author wanted his readers to be aware of. Those differences broaden our understanding of the narrative events” – John Sailhamer.

  • In other words, by the differences, Moses is intended to lead us somewhere – into the dust.


But we first have to answer our first two questions.


Adam or Mankind:

Victor Hamilton identifies the problem this way:

  • “In essence the problem is this: is ʾāḏām to be understood generically (mankind) or is it a proper name? And if in translation we shift from one to another, on what basis do we make the shift?” – Hamilton.


He answers the question this way:

  • “As a general rule, when ʾāḏām appears without the definite article, we may translate it as a personal name, following the rule that personal names are not normally preceded by the definite article. When it occurs with the definite article (hāʾāḏām), we may translate it as ‘man.’”
  • And yet he says, “That this neat rule does not apply to all of the instances of ʾāḏām” – Hamilton.
  • Wenham adds that the “fluidity between the definite and indefinite form makes it difficult to know when the personal name ‘Adam’ is first mentioned” – Wenham.


For example, Genesis 1:26’s, “Let us make man” lacks the definite article.

  • Genesis 2:7 contains the definite article.
  • So one would think that the first is “Adam” and the second is “man”.
  • And yet most translations use “man” in both.


The ESV and the NIV don’t translate “adam” as “Adam” until Genesis 2:20.

  • Some translations not until Genesis 3.
  • So where does that leave us?
  • How do we know 2:7 is about Adam?


Paul may help us:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV) — 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
  • Paul tells us that the “adam” in Genesis 2 is the man Adam.


So is Day 6 also about “Adam”?

  • Why do we teach/believe this?


Under Sailhamer’s “eretz” as Eden view, it is the natural reading.

  • Gen. 1 is about preparing Eden/Promised Land for habitation of the first image bearers.
  • Gen. 2 tells us that the first two image bearers to inhabit Promised Land/Eden are Adam and Eve.
  • So naturally Day 6 is about Adam and Eve (with general application to all mankind).


But under the global views of Genesis 1, it seems much more ambiguous.

  • This ambiguity is one reason why Heiser and others suggest there are two different mankind creation events.


Wenham and Mathews defend a Genesis 1 as “Adam” view as follows.

  • Wenham says, “The very indefiniteness of reference may be deliberate” – Wenham.
  • Why deliberate?
  • The reason is because “adam” in Genesis 1 might serve double duty.


In other words, there is both an individual “man” in view and an archetypal “representative man” in view.

  • If you remember, John Walton advocates this view.
  • Mathew’s puts it like this, “The word ʾādām is theologically convenient since it can mean mankind yet can refer to an individual person (e.g., 2:5, 7) or function as a proper name, ‘Adam’” – Mathews.
  • Wenham speaks of this double duty archetypal view, “Adam, the first man created and named, is representative of humanity” – Wenham.
  • In Paul’s Epistles, Paul also speaks of Adam in the double duty way (it is a valid view).
  • In other words, Moses knew what he was doing – deliberate not confusing.


The point:

  • Day 6 can be both “Adam” specifically and “man” in general.
  • We are all made in God’s image, but we weren’t all created on Day 6.



  • So is Day 6 about Adam? Yes. Is Day 6 about mankind? Yes.
  • Is 2:7 about Adam? Yes. Is 2:7 about mankind? Yes.



The Dust:

We now need to figure out what Moses is trying to tell us by pointing us to the dust.

  • As Sailhamer said earlier, the contrasts between Day 6 and 2:7 lie at the heart of this.
  • This contrast centers on image-bearers vs. “dust-man”.
  • We will look at 4 things the “dust-man” highlights that Day 6’s image-bearer does not.


1) Dust as Raw Material:

  • Mathews tell us it can mean “loose surface dirt of the ground (Exod 8:16–17 [12–13]) or the powder of something pulverized (Deut 9:21)” – Mathews.
  • The TWOT agrees and says it can mean “loose earth”.


“The intent of the passage is [to associate] human life [with] the basic substance of our making” – Mathews.

  • Or as Hamilton says, “God formed earthling from the earth” – Hamilton.
  • But is that all?
  • It is easy to argue that this is not the main thrust of the verse 7.
    • Some say it isn’t at all.


2) Dust and The Fall:

Genesis 3:19 (ESV) — 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

  • “‘Dust’ as constitutive of human existence anticipates 3:19, where the penalty for the man’s sin is his return to ‘dust’” – Mathews.


This connection is reinforced with a Hebrew word play.

The adam/adamah (man/ground) word play is “to emphasize man’s relationship to the land. He was created from it; his job is to cultivate it (2:5, 15); and on death he returns to it (3:19). ‘It is his cradle, his home, his grave’ (Jacob)” – Wenham.


3) Dust as Death:

John Walton’s functional view says this:

  • “In Genesis 2:7 the significance of ʿapar is not that it represents the raw materials found in the womb or has any usefulness for sculpting (which would use clay rather than dust), but it represents what people return to when they die” – Walton.
  • I have to point out that (3) does not necessarily exclude (1) and (2).


We only need to look at the Bible to see this play out.

  • Job 10:9 (ESV) — 9 Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?
  • Psalm 104:29 (ESV) — 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
  • Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV) — 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.


It is clear from these (and others) that “dust” came to represent death.

  • “The human being is linked inexorably with the ground and is limited; because of this limitation the human being is not immortal…” – AYBD.


We might be made in God’s image, but we will die.

  • We are creatures not elohim.
  • We are “earth dust not star dust” – Sailhamer.
  • From Genesis 2’s perspective – The Fall is coming and “man” will be cast out of the Garden.


4) Dust and Christ:

All of the above views of dust ultimately point us to our need for Christ.

  • Genesis 1’s “in the beginning” hints that this is not the end of the story.
  • The beginning awaits a consummation and ending.


The OT uses dust to address this “awaiting”.

  • Isaiah 26:19 (ESV) — 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
  • Daniel 12:2 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.


And Paul brings it all home to Christ.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–49 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.



Dignity in the Dust:

So 2:7 seems to be the skeptic’s view of being an image-bearer leaving us with this sobering reality:

  • “The fact that man comes from the dust of the earth is a reminder of the…insignificance of man…” – TWOT.


And yet, 2:7 gives us back our dignity even though The Fall is imminent.

  • Moses tells us in 2:7 that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”.

“Breathed is warmly personal, with the face-to-face intimacy of a kiss and the significance that this was giving as well as making; and self-giving at that” – Mathews.


God not only made us in His image, He personally and intimately brought us life through His breath.

  • Dust-man became living-man by God’s grace; therein lies his humility and his dignity” – TWOT.


Dwelling on these aspects of our being – a “dust-man” dependent on God’s breath…

  • It doesn’t take long to figure out we think too highly of our ability to discern truth outside of God’s Word.
  • Job 38:4 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.


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”.