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“Before the Fall”

Genesis 2:4-25
Bob DeGray
September 11, 2005

Key Sentence

Before the fall, God gave man the blessings of work and marriage.


I. The Blessing of Work (Genesis 2:4-17)
II. The Blessing of Marriage (Genesis 2:18-25)


        What does it take to make a garden? I mean a big garden. Obviously you have to start with land, some earth, hopefully some dirt. And you need water: your garden won’t grow anything without it. And, of course, you need some plants, lots of different plants if you want to make a really beautiful garden. Finally, you need manpower. A beautiful garden doesn’t happen all by itself; somebody has got to maintain it.

        Last week we saw Genesis chapter 1's great summary of creation, the six days in which God made light, waters below and heavens above, dry land and plants, sun, moon and stars, fish and birds, animals and man. Today we’re going to continue to think about creation by spending our time in a garden made by God, the garden in Eden. We’ll see that God knows perfectly well what goes into making a garden. We’ll see him form the man to work the garden, and the garden to provide work for the man. And we’ll also see him form the woman to be the man’s helper. We’ll see that before the fall God gave man two blessings: work and marriage. There isn’t much in our fallen world about which we can say ‘that was part of God’s design from before the fall’ but we can say ‘God gave man the blessings of work and marriage.’

I. The Blessing of Work (Genesis 2:4-17)

        Our text is Genesis 2:4-25. Some have called this a second account of creation, but it’s not - it’s a closer look at parts of what we studied last week. It details the creation of man as male and female in the context of the rest of creation. It shows that God knows what it takes to make a garden, and that he made it to give us the blessing of work. Genesis 2:4-17 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens-- 5and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- 7the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

         8Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12(The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

         15The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 2:4 is a header for what follows: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” When Moses wrote up Genesis he divided it into epochs and generations using headers like this: ‘this is the account of Noah, this is the account of Shem’, etc. There are a total of ten. Moses may have also used these headers to indicate divisions in his source material, this account possibly having been handed down from Adam himself. Note that these verses do not contradict the creation order of Genesis 1: these verses aren’t chronological; they simply show that God knows what goes into a garden. It starts ‘When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’. It’s usually ‘heavens and earth’: I think the reversal emphasizes the making of the dry ground. A garden starts with land.

        By the way, this is the first time in Scripture God is called ‘Lord’. Here he is ‘Lord God’, ‘Yahweh Elohim’. This has led some liberals to say that a different author wrote this than chapter one, where he is just ‘Elohim’. But recognize that ‘Yahweh’ is God’s personal name, and chapter two deals with his personal involvement with people rather than his mighty acts of creation. So it fits. Others have said we shouldn’t find the name ‘Yahweh’ in Genesis at all, because it wasn’t revealed, according to God, until it was given to Moses in Exodus 3. But if Moses wrote Genesis, we can certainly permit him to use that special name God had revealed. And Exodus isn’t necessarily saying that the people of Genesis didn’t know the name ‘Yahweh’ - it’s obvious they did. In Exodus God is revealing the intimate and full meaning of the name.

        Verse 5 tells us about the other parts of creation week needed for a garden: You have to have plants - and at one point no shrub of the field was on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up. Furthermore you have to have water, but no rain had yet been sent. Again, you have to have a gardener, but at first there was no one to work the ground. Verse 6 further explains the rain issue: even after the plants were created, after people were created, rain was not part of the plan. Instead, streams, or possibly a mist, came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Clearly the source of water in these earliest days was subterranean.

        So you have the ground, you have the water: you still need the gardener and the plants. The account describes the creation of Adam first, an amplification of the events of day six of creation week. “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” God used the ‘dust of the ground’ to make the man’s body. The Hebrew word is used for extremely small particles, what we would call ‘atoms’.

        In other words, God made man from the same elements he used in water, dirt and all things. There are about 90 of these naturally occurring elements; but people are made mostly from carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and a few others, the common elements around us. But man, by a miraculous act, is made by God into a living being, a living soul. This soulishness is something shared with the animals, but people were not made from animals. There is absolutely no room for evolution in this verse either, no room for creatures like man that weren’t man that God evolved into men. No, this is a miraculous act. Our resemblance to animals comes simply from the fact that God is a good engineer: a creative designer re-uses good ideas from other designs, but puts them together in unique ways. That’s what God did when he made animals with similar systems; that’s what he did when he made man.

        So Moses has covered the creation of the ground, touched on water, given some detail on the creation of man, but he still hasn’t really provided plants or shown the origin of the garden. Verse 8 begins that: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” Though the whole world was under man’s dominion, a particular region was prepared as the special home for the first man and woman. The region was called ‘Eden’, ‘delight’, and the garden was either to the east, or in the eastern part of this region. Here God had taken the role of gardener, planting a lush garden, with all kinds of trees pleasing to the eye and good for food. Even today, in our fallen world it is possible to make a garden of incredible beauty, using trees and plants that are both pleasing to the eye and, in many cases, good for food. Fruit trees, which display some of the most glorious blossoms imaginable give us a hint of what that garden may have been like.

        In the midst of this wonderful garden were two distinctive trees: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It seems clear these were real trees, but I don’t think the fruit had any special scientific property to impart life or knowledge. I think rather that the fruits of these trees were visible symbols of spiritual realities. I’ve mentioned before that I see much in Revelation that reverts to the conditions in Genesis. Included in that is the tree of life. Revelation 22 says “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. . . . No longer will there be any curse.”

        The tree of life is a physical symbol of innocence in the presence of God. It was material, yet it stood for the eternal life which God would give to Adam and Eve, and their descendants, if they were to pass the test of obedience. W.P, Gadsby , writing on the Answers in Genesis web site, describes this symbolism, and asks “What else in the Bible is real and material, yet at the same time symbolizes the life which is in Christ and points us repeatedly to Him? The Lord’s Supper. I want to suggest that the Tree of Life was there to perform such a symbolic function.”

        But what about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Once again I’m sure it was a real tree with real fruit. But I don’t think the fruit had something in it to poison Adam and Eve or cause them to gain diabolical insight. It was instead the symbol of obedience or disobedience. To refrain from eating it was to know only the good. To eat it was to experience evil firsthand in the act of disobedience. It signified submission to or rebellion against God.

        The account then gives more details about the garden, emphasizing the abundance of water. In a region which in Moses’ day was arid, this would be important. In fact, the garden was watered by a river large enough to divide into four major rivers. Two of these, the Pishon and the Gihon are entirely unknown today, while the other two, the Tigris and Euphrates are the names of modern rivers, but possibly not in the same locations, since they are now rain fed. The flood almost certainly altered the geography of the region, so that we can not now locate Eden by reference to the current Tigris and Euphrates - which is probably what God intended.

        It was to this garden paradise that God took Adam on the sixth day of creation. Verse 15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Notice Adam’s responsibility: to work and take care. The first word is ‘avad’, a word commonly translated ‘serve’. It is related to the word ‘servant’, which meant servant, but was still a term of honor for God’s people: ‘my servant Abraham’, ‘his servant Moses’, ‘David his servant’, and the Messiah, ‘my righteous servant’. Adam is in noble company. The other word is ‘shamar’, most often associated with keeping God’s commands. As the Theological Wordbook says, “The basic idea is ‘to exercise great care over’. So Adam is told to exercise great care over this Garden in which God has placed him. He was to be the steward, someone entrusted with another’s wealth or property and charged with the responsibility of managing it in the owner’s best interests. Adam’s work was to be the steward of the riches and beauty God had made - and ours is not much different.

        I know many for whom work is a struggle; work is boring or meaningless, or impossible to find, their boss unreasonable, their situation stressful. These people would likely say that work is more a curse than a blessing. But the testimony of this Scripture is that work was created by God as a blessing, and a gift. I’ve long appreciated Ben Patterson’s book The Grand Essentials. The title is taken from a Thomas Chalmers quote: ‘The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.” Patterson sees work as the ‘something to do’ that we’ve been given, and says “A common misconception has the Bible teaching that work is God’s curse, or punishment for sin. But the command to work was given as a gift and a blessing before the fall, before sin and punishment entered the picture. In the first chapter of Genesis God himself is seen to be a worker, making the heavens, earth, mountains, lakes, forests and all that lives and breathes. When he comes to the creation of man and woman, he makes us workers too - like himself!.”

        But in addition to the work, God also gave Adam a warning. Verse 16: And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Adam’s obedience was to be willing obedience; Adam’s work was to be willing work. You know I don’t like the categories of free will and predestination - I think you get into unnecessary arguments if you set these two at odds. But I do think the Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign, and governs his universe in exact accordance with his will. I also think that man was created as a responsible agent. The choices Adam made and the choices we make are real and have consequences. Adam was given the choice between trusting God and leaving the fruit alone and knowing only good forever, or of rebelling and knowing evil by his own experience. And with disobedience would come consequences: in that day Adam would go from one destined to physically live eternally to one doomed to die. The Hebrew says ‘in that day, dying you shall die.” Death wasn’t immediate, but it began then and continued after Adam’s physical death. We’ll see it in chapter 3.

        So what have we said? God knows what goes into a garden: land, water, plants, and a gardener to work it. As he created he systematically provided all of these things, and brought them together in Eden. Adam wasn’t created to be idle, but to be God’s steward, taking care of what God had made in order to glorify God. And even though the fall has intervened and brought stress into everything, including our work, we’re still called to be God’s stewards. Work is one of two things God gave before the fall that continues to bless his servants. The other is marriage.

II. The Blessing of Marriage (Genesis 2:18-25)

        Genesis 2:18-25 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

        21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." 24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

        Verse 18 is one of the most striking verses in these chapters. Six times in Genesis 1 God created and then saw that it was good. At the end of chapter 1 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” But verse 18 starts with God, amazingly, creating Adam and saying ‘it is not good’.

        This is the only time in Genesis God says that his creation isn’t good, because it isn’t complete: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Mankind was not made for a solitary existence; the work man was given to do was not work that ought to be done alone; the dominion man was intended to hold was not dominion that ought to be held alone; and the image of God in which man was made was not an image that could be fulfilled alone. Because God is inherently a God of relationship and communication, man in his image was made for relationship and communication.

        So God says “It’s not good for the man to be alone, I’m going to make a helper suitable for him.” Helper is the word ‘ezer’, and as a noun it refers to help brought through a person, usually God. Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? 2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” God is our help, but looking at Adam it seems God wasn’t satisfied to be Adam’s only help. Think of it: Adam has a perfect, unfallen relationship with God. We’ll see in the next verses that he has a certain relationship with the animals, but neither of these, vertically up or vertically down, was all Adam needed. He needed a helper to come alongside; that’s the implication of ‘a helper suitable for him’; a helper ‘corresponding to’ Adam - a person made in the image of God, with whom Adam could have a peer-to-peer, horizontal relationship. Nothing else would be suitable.

        God already knows this, but he wants to show it to Adam. So he brings before Adam “all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” The animals, created earlier on the sixth day, are the only part of the earthly environment not yet mentioned. Now God brings at least some of them to Adam to see and name. The Hebrew words mentioned here don’t imply that every animal was brought to Adam. It was only the birds, the domestic animals, and the beasts not of the whole earth but only of the field. We have no way of knowing the exact number of species Adam saw and named, though it’s easy to calculate that if Adam is very in tune with the creation God made, he could see and know and name a thousand or more kinds of animals in a few hours. But at the end of all that Adam himself apparently came to the conclusion that for him no suitable helper was found. These animals were good, but their relationship with Adam was to be a vertical relationship, not a peer relationship. He was to have dominion over them and steward them on God’s behalf, but none of them was suitable to come alongside and help in these tasks.

        So God, having made the need clear to Adam, put him into a deep sleep and did surgery; took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then he made a woman from the rib. As we saw last week, there is no way the creation of Adam, or especially the creation of Eve can be explained as ‘theistic evolution’: the woman didn’t even exist until God used elements of the man to form her. The text implies that both the flesh and the bone were used as those starting elements - Adam says this is ‘bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.’ They were literally one flesh.

        God made a helper suitable for Adam, and when he brought her, Adam knew it. The NIV says rather unpoetically “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” ‘This is now’ translates a Hebrew phrase that could be taken as ‘this at last’ or even ‘oh wow’. Adam is clearly enthusiastic: she was suitable for him in every way. And he names her, as he had the animals, but recognizes her as like him. He called her ‘ishah’, the Hebrew form of the word ‘ish’, man or mankind. He is not giving her a personal name, but is naming all mankind ‘man, male and female’.

        Now it’s done - God can look at all that he has made and say ‘it’s very good’. And that’s the whole story, except that Moses comments, verse 24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This is another of my favorites that I always use in pre-marital counseling. Moses gives a pattern for all subsequent marriages: leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. Leaving means that when a marriage happens both the husband and the wife are to have new relationships with their old families. Whereas before both had been under the authority of their own parents, now they will form a new family, and they need to make the priorities of that family their highest relational priorities. Too many marriages are crippled because the husband or wife are tied to a parent’s apron strings or purse strings or puppet strings. They haven’t learned to depend on God and one another to make their marriage work. Marriage involves leaving.

        Second, marriage involves cleaving. I take this to be the wholehearted commitment of one man to one woman for one lifetime. God’s pre-fall design for marriage made no provision for failure - the husband and wife were bound with unbreakable bonds, and those bonds are forged in commitment. We’ve been listening to the Phantom of the Opera at home, and the love song says “say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.’ That’s the commitment every marriage has to have, and that’s why so many marriages fail in our day - because there is no expectation of lifelong commitment built in, and commitment is essential to making marriage work.

        Finally, marriage involves becoming one flesh. For Adam and Eve, as for nearly everyone in the history of marriage, this is a physical reality, a sexual relationship, the only legitimate place for a sexual relationship, a relationship created by God, before the fall, to be good - very good. But marriage is more than just knowing each other physically. It’s also knowing each other mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this in pre-marital counseling. The idea is that you become one flesh in all these ways. It’s a process; it takes place over time and requires the effort of both spouses. I describe it as entering a course of study so that you become a Ph.D. in your spouse - literally the world’s foremost expert in the person you marry. Leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh without shame. There was no sin, no embarrassment between Adam and Eve; they were naked before each other, but that nakedness was not tainted by vulnerability, fear, or guilt: they enjoyed each other and enjoyed God with an adult innocence.
        So what have we said? Before the fall God gave man the blessings of work and marriage. The blessing of work is that like God we have something to do, and in working we serve him and act as his stewards in the world. The blessing of marriage is that it is not good for people to be alone - we need relationships, and none more than the marriage relationship in which we leave, cleave, and become one flesh. In fact, this marriage relationship is so important that it becomes the model of the relationship between Christ and his people, Christ and his church.

        Consider that the church was formed by the flesh of Christ: the sacrifice of his body on the cross is the means by which individuals are saved and brought into the church, his bride, which is called ‘the body of Christ’. Christ and the church are one flesh, so Christ can look at the church and say ‘this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’. In fact Jesus perfectly lives out leaving the Father, cleaving to undeserving sinners, and becoming one with them by his sacrifice. And he asks us to leave this world, and cleave to him by faith, and to become one with him.

        Marriage is the God given picture of that relationship, and that relationship is a model for each marriage. That’s why the famous verses in Ephesians 5 say “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” and also “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

        There are two things and really only two left from the pre-fall world: work - someone to serve and something to take care of; and marriage - modeling the love of Christ by laving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for us to take seriously the only things that are left from before the fall - would it?