By Tim Miller
First Baptist Church of Roxana
This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. I have tried my best to express it in non-technical language for the casual reader. The contextual summary that concludes the article is of extreme importance, highlighting the importance of this chapter within the larger context of Genesis, the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole. The sermon series can be found here.
The addition of chapter and verse numbers have been a great aid for students of the Bible, but sometimes the chapter breaks seem to be in odd places. The first three verses of this chapter finish out the account of Creation Week:
2:1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Having finished the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, God rested on the seventh day from all the work He had been doing. God set the pattern for a week: six days of work and one day of rest from that work.
After the account of Creation Week, Moses returns to the sixth day for a closer look:
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. 5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.
Plants of the field (cultivated plants and grains) had not yet appeared on earth, because there was no rain or man to cultivate the ground. Shrubs of the field (thistles (cf. Job 30:7)) were “not yet in the earth,” because this is Pre-Fall. Since there was no rain in the time before the Flood, it seems that subterranean water would spring up in several places on the earth and water would flow all around the earth.
7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God formed a man from the dirt and breathed into him the breath of life. He planted a garden in which the man would dwell, causing fruit trees to grow, of which also were two special trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The Garden of Eden had a spring that watered the garden and flowed out of it as a river. There was so much water produced that it split into four rivers that flowed around rich lands.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
God placed the man in the garden to tend to it, giving him unlimited access to every tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If the man transgressed this one restriction, he was told that he would “surely die.” The man was not wanting for trees that were “pleasing to the sight and good for food,” for there was an entire garden of such trees. God’s restriction of this one tree was a test of obedience. The tree itself was not evil, for God observes at the end of the day that everything was “very good.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
For the first time, there is something that is “not good.” God formed a pair of each living creature of the field and sky and paraded them before the man. He allowed the man to name the creatures (demonstrating the man’s authority over the creatures), but what the man realized from this (and what God already knew) is that there was no corresponding mate for him. So God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep so that He could take part of the man’s side and fashion from it a woman. God brought her to the man, who spoke a poem, the first recorded words of man, naming her “woman” because she was taken from his own flesh and bone.
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Moses comments that this is the origin of the institution of marriage. A man and woman shall leave the shelter of their parents to be joined together into one flesh. He closes with a note that the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed. They had nothing to hide. They had no sinful impulses they needed, so there was no need of concealment.
The Pre-Fall world depicted in Genesis 1 and 2 is utterly different than the world that exists after the Fall brought sin into the world and the Flood changed the topography of the earth. This Paradise was rich with life and beauty. It was a world that God was able to say, “It is very good.”
Throughout Genesis, we are awaiting the redemption and reappearance of this perfect and sinless creation. However, the book ends without a return to paradise. Instead, the family of promise will flee the Promised Land because of famine and become enslaved by a godless people.
Even by the end of the Old Testament, the redemptive plan of God seems to be on hold. The Jews have returned to the land, but their hearts are far from God. They do not possess or inhabit the entire Promised Land. There is no king on the throne of David.
The New Testament opens with the seed of the woman, the Promised redeemer and king, Jesus Christ. For a time, it looks as though He is going to bring about the restoration. But He is cut off, crucified. He is raised by God from the dead, and ascends into heaven. His apostles are sent into the world to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom, calling all people to repent and believe that Jesus is the Promised Messiah. The New Testament closes with the Revelation of Jesus Christ, foretelling that He will come again to conquer the earth and restore it to Paradise, where He will reign forever in fulfillment of the Creation Mandate of Genesis 1:26-28.