Reader Thoughts and Questions
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With the glory of God’s creation complete, this chapter teaches us three divinely ordained institutions that are fundamental to the entire existence of humanity. Namely, sabbath, work, and marriage.
We also learn of Eden. The perfect environment God made for man in which to experience and enjoy God’s goodness to him.
God puts man in a world that has everything he needs. Some note that Eden seems to function as a kind of temple environment. It is here that heaven meets earth and where man experiences the presence of God. The garden imagery within the Solomon’s temple would seem to support this.
v. 2 - Man’s first full day is a sabbath. The sabbath has two primary functions; to rest and rejoice. God teaches Adam that his highest employment is not his own work, but to stop and acknowledge God and His work.
v. 4 - this is our first introduction to the structure of Genesis. It is a book of generations. We have the generations of Creation (Genesis 2:4). Adam (Genesis 5:1). Noah and his sons (Genesis 6:9; 10:1, 32). Shem (Genesis 11:10). Terah (Genesis 11:27). Ishmael (Genesis 25:12–13). Isaac (Genesis 25:19). Esau (Genesis 36:1, 9). Jacob (Genesis 37:2).
v. 9 - Two trees stand in the garden. There has been much discussion about why God put them there. In basic terms, they function as two signs or seals. One a sign of life through obedience and the other a sign of death through disobedience. The tree of knowledge of good and evil taught Adam that what is good is good because God says so. And what is evil is evil because God says so. It is not a matter of human assessment. The tree of life functioned to signify to Adam what God promised as long as he obeyed. But the most important thing about the trees is that they indicate that God deals relationally and covenantally with man. It is establishing a principle of fellowship. Man is a rational creature able to respond to God. God creates the relationship through an arrangement of obligation and promise. It also taught man that man is subject to God.
vv. 10–14 - the four rivers flowing out from the place where man meets with God, typifies the reality that all life finds its source in God.
v. 15 - Adam is called to engage in gainful employment: work that will provide for him and those under his care.
v. 21ff - gives us greater detail of the making of woman and the marriage of our first parents. Matthew Henry remarks, “That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor 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.”
We also see from v. 23 why the woman takes the man’s name when they marry. And from v. 24 that marriage creates a distinct family unit. Though not all marry, parents should prepare their children to desire and flourish in marriage. This is best done by example before precept.
Man’s longing is to return to an Eden-like environment. Thus, because of the work of Christ, the Bible ends in Revelation 22 with reference to the symbols of life in Eden: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life.”
Children, there is no joy in idleness. There was work before sin in the world, and there will be work in a curseless eternity. Every family member must find their work and do it with an eye to the glory of God. Adam is given two types of work: long term (v. 15) and short term (v. 19).
But God requires us to punctuate our work with a weekly sabbath. This is true recreation (re-creation). And it is a gift for us, not to wash the car, write essays, revise for exams, or to engage in excessive physical exercise. It is to rest from our work and rejoice in God’s work; both in creation and redemption. We cannot underestimate the importance of a weekly day of rest for the proper use of and rejoicing in God’s works. Is there any practice more ancient than this? Instituted to celebrate God’s created works. But we are now doubly obligated so that we might rejoice in Christ’s redemptive work, and have our souls rest in His finished work.
Just as the rivers flow out of Eden to influence the world, they teach us that man’s positive influence upon the world depends upon getting to God to seek Him for the fulness of His Spirit.
The language “dress and keep” also has the idea of serving and guarding. The language is used of the Levities in the tabernacle. This is a priestly work, and reminds us that while Adam failed to serve and guard, Christ, our great high priest, perfectly serves and guards his Church.
There is subtle imagery here of Christ’s work for His bride, the Church in v. 21. Christ will step into death, and by the wounds of His body will bring life to His bride.
Whether or not we marry, the Church is taught that she is to serve the last Adam, Jesus Christ. Do not underestimate Him as our primary refuge. We have been brought to Him by divine appointment, and will help us throughout life and its struggles.