Genesis 2:15
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) And the Lord God took the man (the adam), and put him into the garden of Eden.—The narrative now reverts to Genesis 2:8, but the word translated put is not the same in both places. Here it literally means He made him rest, that is, He gave it to him as his permanent and settled dwelling.

To dress it and to keep it.—The first word literally means to work it; for though a paradise, yet the garden had to be tilled and planted. Seeds must be sown and the cultivated plots kept in order; but all this really added to Adam’s happiness, because the adâmâh, as yet uncursed, responded willingly to the husbandman’s care. The other word, “to keep it,” implies, however, some difficulty and danger. Though no unpropitious weather, nor blight nor mildew, spoiled the crop, yet apparently it had to be guarded against the incursion of wild animals and birds, and protected even against the violence of winds and the burning heat of the sun.

2:15 After God had formed Adam, he put him in the garden. All boasting was thereby shut out. Only he that made us can make us happy; he that is the Former of our bodies, and the Father of our spirits, and none but he, can fully provide for the happiness of both. Even in paradise itself man had to work. None of us were sent into the world to be idle. He that made our souls and bodies, has given us something to work with; and he that gave us this earth for our habitation, has made us something to work upon. The sons and heirs of heaven, while in this world, have something to do about this earth, which must have its share of their time and thoughts; and if they do it with an eye to God, they as truly serve him in it, as when they are upon their knees. Observe that the husbandman's calling is an ancient and honourable calling; it was needful even in paradise. Also, there is true pleasure in the business God calls us to, and employs us in. Adam could not have been happy if he had been idle: it is still God's law, He that will not work has no right to eat, 2Th 3:10. - XII. The Command

15. נוּח nûach "rest, dwell." עבד ‛ābad "work, till, serve." שׁמר shāmar "keep, guard."

We have here the education of man summed up in a single sentence. Let us endeavor to unfold the great lessons that are here taught.

Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man. - The same omnipotent hand that made him still held him. "And put him into the garden." The original word is "caused him to rest," or dwell in the garden as an abode of peace and recreation. "To dress it and to keep it." The plants of nature, left to their own course, may degenerate and become wild through the poverty of the soil on which they alight, or the gradual exhaustion of a once rich soil. The hand of rational man, therefore, has its appropriate sphere in preparing and enriching the soil, and in distributing the seeds and training the shoots in the way most favorable for the full development of the plant, and especially of its seed or fruits. This "dressing" was needed even in the garden. The "keeping" of it may refer to the guarding of it by enclosure from the depredations of the cattle, the wild beasts, or even the smaller animals. It includes also the faithful preservation of it as a trust committed to man by his bounteous Maker. There was now a man to till the soil. The second need of the world of plants was now supplied. Gardening was the first occupation of primeval man.

15. put the man into the garden of Eden to dress it—not only to give him a pleasant employment, but to place him on his probation, and as the title of this garden, the garden of the Lord (Ge 13:10; Eze 28:13), indicates, it was in fact a temple in which he worshipped God, and was daily employed in offering the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. Put him, i.e. commanded and inclined him to go. To prune, dress, and order the trees and herbs of the garden,

and to keep it from the annoyance of beasts, which being unreasonable creatures, and allowed the use of herbs, might easily spoil the beauty of it. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden,.... This is observed before in Genesis 2:8 and is here repeated to introduce what follows; and is to be understood not of a corporeal assumption, by a divine power lifting him up from the place where he was, and carrying him into another; rather of a manuduction, or taking him by the hand and leading him thither; so Onkelos renders it, he "led" him, that is, he ordered and directed him thither: hence Jarchi paraphrases it, he took him with good words, and persuaded him to go thither: the place from whence he is supposed by some to be taken was near Damascus, where he is by them said to be created; or the place where the temple was afterwards built, as say the Jewish writers: the Targum of Jonathan is,"the Lord God took the man from the mount of Service, the place in which he was created, and caused him to dwell in the garden of Eden.''And elsewhere (t) it is said,"the holy blessed God loved the first Adam with an exceeding great love, for he created him out of a pure and holy place; and from what place did he take him? from the place of the house of the sanctuary, and brought him into his palace, as it is said, Genesis 2:15 "and the Lord God took", &c.''though no more perhaps is intended by this expression, than that God spoke to him or impressed it on his mind, and inclined him to go, or stay there:

to dress it, and to keep it; so that it seems man was not to live an idle life, in a state of innocence; but this could not be attended with toil and labour, with fatigue and trouble, with sorrow and sweat, as after his fall; but was rather for his recreation and pleasure; though what by nature was left to be improved by art, and what there was for Adam to do, is not easy to say: at present there needed no ploughing, nor sowing, nor planting, nor watering, since God had made every tree pleasant to the sight, good for food, to grow out of it; and a river ran through it to water it: hence in a Jewish tract (u), before referred to, it is said, that his work in the garden was nothing else but to study in the words of the law, and to keep or observe the way of the tree of life: and to this agree the Targums of Jonathan and of Jerusalem,"and he placed him in the garden of Eden, to serve in the law, and keep the commands of it.''And in another tract (w) it is said,"God brought Adam the law, Job 28:27 and "he put him in the garden of Eden"; that is, the garden of the law, "to dress it", to do the affirmative precepts of the law, "and to keep it", the negative precepts:''though Aben Ezra interprets this service of watering the garden, aud keeping wild beasts from entering into it. And indeed the word may be rendered to "till", as well as to dress, as it is in Genesis 3:23 and by Ainsworth here; so Milton (x) expresses it; and some have thought Adam was to have planted and sowed, had he continued in the garden.

(t) Pirke Eliezer, c. 2. fol. 72. 2.((u) Pirke Eliezer, c. 2. fol. 72. 2.((w) Tikkune Zohar, correct. 54. fol. 91. 2.((x) Paradise Lost, B. 8. l. 320.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to {k} dress it and to keep it.

(k) God would not have man idle, though as yet there was no need to labour.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. This verse resumes the subject matter of Genesis 2:9, which has been interrupted by the description of the rivers.

to dress it and to keep it] The Lord God puts man into the garden for a life, not of indolence, but of labour. “To dress it,” that is to cultivate the soil, tend and prune the trees: “to keep it,” that is to defend it from depredation by animals, or from the evils arising from unchecked luxuriance. In other words, he is given, from the first, his work to do by which he is (1) to improve his surroundings, (2) to provide for the necessities of life, (3) to protect from waste or loss that which is committed to his care. This work will exact abundant physical effort; it will exercise his powers of observation and judgement; it will furnish him with food for his body, and with thought for his mind.

Notice, that the garden requires to be dressed and kept; it is not a place of spontaneous perfection. Man in the garden is to work, to take trouble, to practise forethought, to exercise solicitude and sympathy for the objects of his toil. “Paradise” is not a place for indolence and self-indulgence.Verse 15. - Having prepared the garden for man's reception, the Lord God took the man. "Not physically lifting him up and putting him down in the garden, but simply exerting an influence upon him which induced him, in the exercise of his free agency, to go. He went in consequence of a secret impulse or an open command of his Maker" (Bush). And put him into the garden; literally, caused him to rest in it as an abode of happiness and peace. To dress it. I.e. to till, cultivate, and work it. This would almost seem to hint that the aurea aetas of classical poetry was but a dream - a reminiscence of Eden, perhaps, but idealized. Even the plants, flowers, and trees of Eden stood in need of cultivation from the hand of man, and would speedily have degenerated without his attention. And to keep it. Neither were the animals all so peaceful and domesticated that Adam did not need to fence his garden against their depredations. Doubtless there is here too an ominous hint of the existence of that greater adversary against whom he was appointed to watch. After the preparation of the garden in Eden God placed the man there, to dress it and to keep it. ינּיחהוּ not merely expresses removal thither, but the fact that the man was placed there to lead a life of repose, not indeed in inactivity, but in fulfilment of the course assigned him, which was very different from the trouble and restlessness of the weary toil into which he was plunged by sin. In paradise he was to dress (colere) the garden; for the earth was meant to be tended and cultivated by man, so that without human culture, plants and even the different varieties of corn degenerate and grow wild. Cultivation therefore preserved (שׁמר to keep) the divine plantation, not merely from injury on the part of any evil power, either penetrating into, or already existing in the creation, but also from running wild through natural degeneracy. As nature was created for man, it was his vocation not only to ennoble it by his work, to make it subservient to himself, but also to raise it into the sphere of the spirit and further its glorification. This applied not merely to the soil beyond the limits of paradise, but to the garden itself, which, although the most perfect portion of the terrestrial creation, was nevertheless susceptible of development, and which was allotted to man, in order that by his care and culture he might make it into a transparent mirror of the glory of the Creator. - Here too the man was to commence his own spiritual development. To this end God had planted two trees in the midst of the garden of Eden; the one to train his spirit through the exercise of obedience to the word of God, the other to transform his earthly nature into the spiritual essence of eternal life. These trees received their names from their relation to man, that is to say, from the effect which the eating of their fruit was destined to produce upon human life and its development. The fruit of the tree of life conferred the power of eternal, immortal life; and the tree of knowledge was planted, to lead men to the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of good and evil was no mere experience of good and ill, but a moral element in that spiritual development, through which the man created in the image of God was to attain to the filling out of that nature, which had already been planned in the likeness of God. For not to know what good and evil are, is a sign of either the immaturity of infancy (Deuteronomy 1:39), or the imbecility of age (2 Samuel 19:35); whereas the power to distinguish good and evil is commended as the gift of a king (1 Kings 3:9) and the wisdom of angels (2 Samuel 14:17), and in the highest sense is ascribed to God Himself (Genesis 3:5, Genesis 3:22). Why then did God prohibit man from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the threat that, as soon as he ate thereof, he would surely die? (The inf. abs. before the finite verb intensifies the latter: vid., Ewald, 312a). Are we to regard the tree as poisonous, and suppose that some fatal property resided in the fruit? A supposition which so completely ignores the ethical nature of sin is neither warranted by the antithesis, nor by what is said in Genesis 3:22 of the tree of life, nor by the fact that the eating of the forbidden fruit was actually the cause of death. Even in the case of the tree of life, the power is not to be sought in the physical character of the fruit. No earthly fruit possesses the power to give immortality to the life which it helps to sustain. Life is not rooted in man's corporeal nature; it was in his spiritual nature that it had its origin, and from this it derives its stability and permanence also. It may, indeed, be brought to an end through the destruction of the body; but it cannot be exalted to perpetual duration, i.e., to immortality, through its preservation and sustenance. And this applies quite as much to the original nature of man, as to man after the fall. A body formed from earthly materials could not be essentially immortal: it would of necessity either be turned to earth, and fall into dust again, or be transformed by the spirit into the immortality of the soul. The power which transforms corporeality into immortality is spiritual in its nature, and could only be imparted to the earthly tree or its fruit through the word of God, through a special operation of the Spirit of God, an operation which we can only picture to ourselves as sacramental in its character, rendering earthly elements the receptacles and vehicles of celestial powers. God had given such a sacramental nature and significance to the two trees in the midst of the garden, that their fruit could and would produce supersensual, mental, and spiritual effects upon the nature of the first human pair. The tree of life was to impart the power of transformation into eternal life. The tree of knowledge was to lead man to the knowledge of good and evil; and, according to the divine intention, this was to be attained through his not eating of its fruit. This end was to be accomplished, not only by his discerning in the limit imposed by the prohibition the difference between that which accorded with the will of God and that which opposed it, but also by his coming eventually, through obedience to the prohibition, to recognise the fact that all that is opposed to the will of God is an evil to be avoided, and, through voluntary resistance to such evil, to the full development of the freedom of choice originally imparted to him into the actual freedom of a deliberate and self-conscious choice of good. By obedience to the divine will he would have attained to a godlike knowledge of good and evil, i.e., to one in accordance with his own likeness to God. He would have detected the evil in the approaching tempter; but instead of yielding to it, he would have resisted it, and thus have made good his own property acquired with consciousness and of his own free-will, and in this way by proper self-determination would gradually have advanced to the possession of the truest liberty. But as he failed to keep this divinely appointed way, and ate the forbidden fruit in opposition to the command of God, the power imparted by God to the fruit was manifested in a different way. He learned the difference between good and evil from his own guilty experience, and by receiving the evil into his own soul, fell a victim to the threatened death. Thus through his own fault the tree, which should have helped him to attain true freedom, brought nothing but the sham liberty of sin, and with it death, and that without any demoniacal power of destruction being conjured into the tree itself, or any fatal poison being hidden in its fruit.
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