4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 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.” [i]
Genesis 2:4 marks the beginning of a new section in the primeval history of the creation. In six days, God had formed and filled the earth and created Adam and Eve as his royal rulers of this new and perfect world. On the perfect seventh day, God ceased his creative activity and declared it to be a spiritually-fruitful day upon which humans would be able to enjoy God as both creator and (after the fall) as redeemer. Because Moses does not end the seventh day with the formula, “And there was evening and there was morning,”[ii]he intends to show us that Sabbath Rest is a never-ending gift from God to humanity. After Adam’s rebellion, that rest is only available by trust into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial death of the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Seed of the Woman – Messiah Jesus.
Verse 4 reads, “These are the generations / of the heavens and the earth when they were created, / in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”[iii]It reads very simply, but it’s an important verse for understand what follows. Some students read it as a conclusion to the previous creation story. Others read it as an introduction to the material that follows. The reason that’s important is that there are ten more appearances of the phrase “these are the generations of” in Genesis (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). With the exception of the verse before us, each of the other ten references involve a proper name: the account of Adam, the account of Noah, etc.
The NIV renders the Hebrew word, toledoth, as “account.” The Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to bear” or “to beget.” So, the English word “generations” is more accurate. The idea conveys the descendants of the person named. So, strictly speaking, the sentences in which this word occurs introduce descendants. “The reference in2:4 introduces the descendants of earth. The reference in 6:9 introduces Noah and his descendants (bothbeing taken together since theirstories are linked by the flood). The reference in 10:1 introduces the descendants of Shem, Ham, Japheth.”[iv]
Understanding that the word toledoth deals with descendants helps us see that what follows 2:4 is not a second and contradictory creation account added by another author, but the account of what came from the creation of the cosmos, namely man. From this point on, Moses’ perspective will concern God’s covenant with Adam and Eve, their breaking of the covenant, and the problems created by their sin and their descendants’ sins. So, this second account of creation is not a contradictory story, but the same story centered on man’s perfection, fall, and redemption. Chapters 2 through 4 deal with man’s nature, position, and covenant responsibility to God in creation.
LORD GOD (4)
You might notice that in the final line of verse 4, Moses adds another name for God. Up to this point, he has used the word Elohim 35 times (5×7, the number of perfection). It’s translated into English as simply “God.” It conveys God’s divine majesty as omnipotent Creator. But now, he adds the title LORD– which, you may notice is completely capitalized in your translation. This is the name YHWH, often translated as Jehovah – a kind of relatively-modern guestimation of what the name might sound like, since no vowels were ever added to this holy name in Hebrew until the 12thcentury A.D.[v] So, why does a new name for God, YHWH Elohim, appear in the narrative at this point?
“Yahweh-Elohim is the dominant name from here to the end of chapter 4, which concludes this second section of the creation account. The reason for this is that Yahweh is the personal covenant name of God who relates to and redeems his people (cf. 15: 7 and Exodus 3: 14, 15).”[vi]The only one place in this narrative where JHWH Elohim is not used is 3:2-5, when Satan is speaking of God and trying to lead Eve away from the notion of God as the personal covenant-making deity and toward the notion that he is at best disinterested and at worst malevolent. JHWH Elohim is the Creator and Covenant-Redeemer God, immeasurably powerful and immensely personal – as deeply involved in the lives of his people as he is in the most minute details of his creation. When you see the name “the LORD God” in your Bible, it encompasses the entire story of creation, fall, and redemption by the blood of Jesus. It is a profound testimony from God to you about who He truly is.
EARTH’S CONDITION (5-6)
Moses writes in verses 5-6, “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….”[vii] The better translation in verse 6 is that a spring(not “mist”) was coming up from the land and watering the ground. Most ancient and modern translations use “spring.”
What does Moses mean that there were no small plants and bushes in the lands? Had not God already produced those on the third day (1:11-12)? “The ‘plants’ referred to in Gen. 1 must be those that grow wild, those that reproduce themselves by seed alone. The plants referred to in Gen. 2 must be those that grow only as a result of human cultivation through planting and artificial irrigation. Neither of these kinds of growth appears in the fields until after the creation of man and after man’s transgression.”[viii]Prior to the fall, Adam had no need to tend the fields and cultivate his own food. All the fruiting trees of the garden were available for food.
“Thus, bushes and small plants are post-fall phenomena that occurred when Adam began to tend the earth. Indeed, after the fall of Adam, the Lord told Adam regarding the land, ‘thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field’ (3: 18).”[ix]Moses describes the condition of the pre-curse world outside the garden paradise in verses 5 and 6. The mention of streamswatering the earth (2:6) probably references subterranean springs. The point being that without man to irrigate the land, the rising streams were useless. All this— the lack of rain and shrubs and plants— points to the untended condition of the earth. Moses is telling us the missing ingredient was man. Untended creation needed man to subdue it and rule it.[x]
MAN’S CONDITION, CREATION (7)
In chapter 1, Moses wrote a poem about Adam and Eve’s creation (1:27). In chapter 2, Moses elaborates on his poem using powerfully-descriptive prose. “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.”[xi]Here, we begin to see something of what being created in the image of God means. God, the craftsman, forms man from dust. “The Hebrew uses assonance here: God formed hāʾāḏām [man]… min-hāʾaḏāmá [dust from the ground]”. It is hard to capture this play on sounds in English, but it is something like ‘God formed earthling from the earth.’[xii]The word dust is part of Adam’s name. And, since Adam is not just his proper name but the Hebrew word for man, dust is in our name as well.
The word translated formedindicates careful design. The same word in 6:5 is translated as the intentionof our thoughts. So, there is divine intentionality in man’s creation. This word is latter used by the prophets to describe the work of a potter working with mud or clay (2 Sam. 17:28; Isa. 29:16; Jer. 18:2, 3, 4, 11) when God speaks of forming Israel as a nation. Here in 2:7, God does not use clay as his medium; he uses dust. Dust elsewhere in scripture indicates “pre-royal status (1 K. 16:2), poverty (1 Sam. 2:8; Ps. 113:7), and death (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). To ‘be raised from the dust’ means to be elevated to royal office, to rise above poverty, to find life. Here man is formed from dust to be in control of a garden.” [xiii]The emphasis on the dust in Gen. 2:7, affirms chapter one’s view of man’s royal nature as part of creation. He is raised from the dust to reign. Conversely, when Adam sins, he returns to the unroyal status of the same impoverished dust the serpent is condemned to “eat.”
Moses writes, “God …breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”[xiv]Derek Kidner, in his commentary, writes that “breathed is warmly personal, with the face-to-face intimacy of a kiss and the significance that this was an act of giving as well as making; and self-giving at that.”[xv]He points to John 20:22, where Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit “as the animating breath of the new creation, the church. Even at our making, then, the pattern ‘God so loved … that he gave …’ is already visible.”[xvi]This breath of life is pictured by Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones:
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.[xvii]
Here the picture of shared “breath” produces a connection between Adam and his Maker that Genesis 1: 27 expressed in the language of “image.” This man of dust is the royal image of God! Only he of all creation can hear the word of God. Under God, he is to rule creation itself. God’s breath makes man a living creature, the same term used to describe the living creatures in 1:20,24. All are from the earth, dependent upon their environment, and draw breath in some form or fashion. But, unlike the animals spoken into being by the Creator, Adam is molded by God and receives God’s spirit-breath. Man alone is immortal, morally responsible, and imbued with potential for great glory or great disaster.
MAN’S ENVIRONMENT (8-14)
Verse 8, “8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.”[xviii]Moses is writing to Israel as they wander in the Sinai wilderness. He names the area as if it would be known to his original readers. The most likely spot for the land of Eden would be in the area of Mesopotamia. Eden was a geographical area, perhaps in or around modern-day Iraq. Eden was not the garden, but the area where God constructed his garden-temple where God and man could fellowship, and Adam and Eve could flourish.
If verse 7 pictured God as the potter forming Adam, verse 8 shows God to be the planter. As a horticulturalist, he planted a garden and then planted Adam in the garden. What is sure is that “in Eden, in the east,” Adam was in paradise! The presence of a great river flowing from Eden (10-14) typifies the life-giving presence of God (cf. Psalm 46: 4 and Ezekiel 47: 1-12). Later in Genesis it is called “the garden of the LORD” (13: 10). God’s presence was connected to the garden. In fact, God’s presence is what makes the garden paradise. Moses shows this by telling his readers that things sinful mankind considered precious (good gold and precious stones, 11-12) were outside the garden.
The common Hebrew meaning of Eden is ‘delight,’ and the sound play of the word ‘Eden’ suggests even by its name that the garden was luxuriant. Verdant, luscious trees were the signature of the garden. …Naked Adam lacked nothing. He was made in the image of God. God had kissed life into him. He was perfect. He was the human sovereign of creation. He had the blessing of God and the unparalleled presence of God.”[xix]Adam speaks and walks with God because he was created to belong to God and with God.
With Adam’s exalted position came great responsibility. The last part of verse 9 says, “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” [xx]Through these two trees, mankind’s destiny would be decided. Calvin writes of the tree of life:
He gave the tree of life its name, not because it could confer on man that life with which he had been previously endued, but in order that it might be a symbol and memorial of the life which he had received from God. For we know it to be by no means unusual that God should give to us the attestation of his grace by external symbols. He does not indeed transfer his power into outward signs; but by them he stretches out his hand to us, because, without assistance, we cannot ascend to him. He intended, therefore, that man, as often as he tasted the fruit of that tree, should remember whence he received his life….[xxi]
The tree of life was a sacrament, a sign and seal of God’s conditional promise of life to Adam upon condition of Adam’s perfect obedience to God. The tree of life was a visible testimony from God that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The tree of life was a promise of Christ. As John wrote, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” Jn. 1:4). After their rebellion, Adam and Eve were excluded from participating in this sacrament of obedient life. But, as we saw in Revelation, the tree of life reappears in the new earth where our fellowship with God through Christ’s perfect obedience becomes perfect and eternal. Jesus promised, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” [xxii]
God made a covenant of life with Adam. “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.” [xxiii]God’s covenant was first permissive: all the trees of the garden were Adam’s food. Everything he could possibly want was there for him.
God’s covenant was also prohibitive. Adam’s perfect obedience required him not only to tend the garden and enjoy its benefits, but also to abstain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Disobedience would bring death – separation from God’s good presence. As we will see, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil also become a sacrament, a sign and seal of man’s acceptance of Satan’s lie that God is bad and self-determination is good. It was the tree of judgment – man’s judgment substituted for God’s.
As James Boice noted, “Genesis was originally written, not to those who live in lush climates, but to people who lived in extremely arid or desert countries and for whom a garden was therefore an exquisite delight—virtually a symbol of heaven. To say that God prepared Adam a special garden complete with trees (not merely shrubs) and rivers (not merely brooks) was to say to the near-eastern reader, clearer than anything else could possible say, that Adam was beloved of God and was the receiver of his bounty.”[xxiv]
It’s easy for us to rush past this section because we all know Adam’s great rebellion is on the horizon. But if we rush past, we miss God’s love lavished upon his royal priest. Everything about this garden spoke of Adam’s special status as God’s unique son: abundant water, gorgeous and lush plants, fruiting trees of many varieties. Above all, there was God himself present to walk and talk with Adam face-to-face as a man speaks with his friend. The garden-temple was heaven and earth, God and man, joined together in perfect love and harmony.
That perfect love of God displayed in the garden will be seen again when Christ hangs upon the tree of judgment at Calvary. There, the tree of judgment and the tree of life meet in the sacrificial death of the resurrected and ascended Last Adam. Because of these trees merge at Calvary, all things Adam had conditionally become yours unconditionally if you are resting in Christ’s perfect obedience and perfect payment for your judgment. Adam had all things, conditionally. You may have all things unconditionally.
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[xxv]
[i]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:4–17.
[ii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:31.
[iii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:4.
[v]The Hebrew vowel points of Adonaiwere added to the Tetragrammaton by the Masoretes, and the resulting form was transliterated around the 12th century as Yehowah.The derived forms Iehouahand Jehovahfirst appeared in the 16th century. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah
[vi]Hughes, p. 49. Kindle Edition.
[vii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:5–6.
[ix]Hughes, 51. Kindle Edition.
[xi]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:7.
[xiv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:7.
[xvii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eze 37:9–10.
[xviii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:8.
[xix]Hughes, 54. Kindle Edition.
[xx]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:9.
[xxi]Calvin, Ge 2:9.
[xxii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 2:7.
[xxiii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:16–17.
[xxv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:32–34.