4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams[b] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 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.
you can’t really understand our world unless you understand the very beginning of the Bible, the account of creation found in Genesis chapters 1-3.
Some people think that you can take or leave those early chapters; they think they are just fables, Adam and Eve and the snake and the fruit tree, but if don’t understand what the Bible is saying in these chapters, you’ll never understand why life can be so wonderful, and at the same time, so difficult and depressing and terrible. You’ll never understand why, if God is so loving, he allows pain and suffering and tragedy. You’ll never understand God’s plan for family relationships either.
These first 3 chapters of the Bible set the scene for the rest of human history and God’s part in it. It forms the foundation on which the rest of the Bible rests.
We have here in Genesis chapter 2 a second account of creation, this time from a relational perspective. The words in verse 4 don’t sum up chapter 1 but introduce chapter 2. We know this because the same phrase is used at least ten times in Genesis and each time it introduces what follows [E.J. Young “In the Beginning” pg. 62]. So, we have in chapter 2 right through the end of the book the account if what happened to God’s creation.
In chapter 2 we get a picture of a relational God. He interacts with his creation. He talks with Adam and Eve. He feels. He has plans and expectations. He is not some impersonal force.
God forms mankind from the very substance of creation and in chapter 3 we read that man will return to the dust. He is created. Then God breathes life into Adam. We don’t read this about the other animal life on the planet. This God puts man in the very best of places – the garden in Eden. This is a place prepared for mankind, both aesthetically pleasing and with food in abundance. Mankind is to tend the garden and look after it. We are to work the ground [2:5]. Notice that not all the land is a garden. God brings the garden out of the wilderness, as he brought order out of the primordial chaos.
What are the implications for us today of our God being concerned with order? What are the implications for the conservation movement? What are the implications for the move towards assisted suicide when we consider it is God who breathes life into us?
Father, you brought creation into being by speaking it. You gave us our being. Show us what respect for your creation and the sanctity of human life means. Amen
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The 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[d] and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.[e] 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. 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 take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’
The geographical markers indicate that the garden was real in space and time. Furthermore, Jesus referred to Genesis 1 and 2, and particularly the Adam and Eve story, to explain the role or marriage, relying on some of the details in the account to make his point. In his Gospel Luke traces the ancestry of Jesus back to Adam. He obviously believed that Adam was a real human being. The Apostle Paul says that sin came into the world through one man, Adam and in I Corinthians Paul uses the order of creation to make a point about marriage. There is no doubt that both Jesus and Paul thought that the Genesis account was true.
God puts Adam into the garden to “work it and take care of it”. The garden is not to be left to its own devices. Taking care of the garden implies working along with God’s intentions for it. It supplied food and was meant to be pleasing to the eye. The garden was meant to feed the body and the soul. It seems to me that in our care of the world God has entrusted to us the balance must be kept between fruitfulness and beauty. Our world needs protection from those who want to exploit it for their own ends on the one hand and those who want to take it back to wilderness on the other. The balance can only come as we realise it is God’s world, that he loves what he has made and that we are to both use it and care for it for him. Even believers will not agree on what that looks like in particular cases but it is a great head start and the fact that we must give an account to the creator will keep us honest in this regard.
God has expectations of us as his image-bearers. He is no “watchmaker” god who has wound the universe up and is letting it run its course. He gives us a role in his universe and he gave his first image-bearers a rule. Why was the tree there in the first place? We’re not told. Maybe it has something to do with the ability to bring glory to God by remaining faithfully obedient to him, which would not be possible if there was no rule. Maybe it was part of God’s plan for Adam and Eve that they grow in faith through trusting his word day by day as the tree was ever present and they needed to trust God’s goodness. It might be like the issue of suffering which we’re told that our suffering produces godliness [James 1:2-4] The story of Job is one of commitment in faith when the temptation to deny God is great.
Lord God may my obedience to you not be mere duty, but a delight that brings you glory. Amen
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’
As is often pointed out there was just one rule in the Garden. They were free to eat of any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is a lot of debate about what it actually was, but we know that it was deadly. Satan said that it would give Adam and Eve the ability to know good and evil. This really is a test of love. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” [John 14:15] Could it be that there was nothing intrinsically evil about the tree or its fruit but the act of disobedience itself that gave them an experiential knowledge of good and evil? As they disobeyed they experienced evil for the first time.
In the Bible obedience to God’s law is couched in terms of love. We see that in the book of Deuteronomy where the ten commandments are given in chapter 5 “So that you enjoy long life.” [Deut 6:2-3, 5:33]. As in Genesis 2 the law is given for our good. And notice what immediately follows in Deut 6 – “Hear o Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Obedience is about love.
The death and resurrection of Christ have meant that the law doesn’t bind us [Rom 3:21] but it is there to show us how to love our God. I can well remember the evangelist John Chapman saying that the commandments for the Christian are, in effect, God saying “I love it when you honour your parents.” “I hate it when you bear false witness against your neighbour.” “I love it when keep my name holy.” “I hate it when you covet what doesn’t belong to you.”
Wonder of wonders – Christ did that on our behalf! He fulfilled the law. But that doesn’t mean it has no place in our lives.
Father of all, thank you for your law that shows me how to honour you, and thank you for my Lord Jesus who dealt with my failing to love you as you deserve. Amen.
18 The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. 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. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So 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[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
Back in chapter 1 Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Here in chapter 2, we go back over the same ground from a different perspective, one that focuses the creation account on the relationships between God’s image-bearers and himself, and between his image-bearers. In chapter 1 we got the big picture, the drone view, and now we zoom down to take a more detailed look at one particular part of the creation story. This is the first time we find something that is “not good” about creation. As image bearer mankind was made for relationships. So God creates woman. The word “helper” has often been misused and misunderstood. It is not a description of woman that was influenced by the culture of the day, where women were often seen as second rate and even sub-human in some cultures. God is described as our helper over and over again in the Bible [e.g., Isaiah 41:10, Deut 33:29, Heb 13:6] and the Holy Spirit is called the paraclete, someone called alongside to help [John 14:26]. In the Bible the powerful are often the helpers. That in no way implies an inferior role. In fact, the role of helper is seen as a goal to aspire to [Heb 6:10, Phil 2:4, Gal 5:13 and many more passages]. Why is it that we all nod our heads in agreement about the goal of serving others but some strenuously fight the idea of being “the helper.”? Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” [Matthew 23:11]. This teaching about the roles of men and women is reinforced in the New Testament in Eph 5 and Col 3, and it is not cultural because in Eph 5 we’re told that marriage has been given to us to teach us about the roles of Jesus and the church [Eph 5:32].
Matthew Henry, the great early eighteenth Century theologian, wrote, “Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.”[ Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament Volume 6] Any person who uses the Bible to treat women in any way as “lesser” does not understand the Bible. Men and women are completely equal, they are just different.
This does not mean that without a spouse men and women are somehow incomplete. The Bible talks about the gift of singleness [1 Cor 7:32-35]. It means rather that human beings cannot function fully as God’s image bearers in the world without both sexes doing their part. We know that to function well in our world we need the input of both men and women: we need both perspectives.
Tragically, mistreatment of women is as much a problem for the people of God as it is for the world around us. That must not be. We must speak out against it and we must do what we can to change things.
Our father who made us male and female in his image, we pray that you will help us to put a stop to the mistreatment of women, especially in our midst. May your church be a place where right relationships are modelled for all to see. Amen
22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he 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”,
for she was taken out of man.’
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
We often talk about “our own flesh and blood” and that “blood is thicker than water”. What we are saying is that our family is our treasure and that our commitment to our family is absolute. Adam is saying that very thing here. Eve is his own flesh and blood. She is “Bone of my bones a flesh of my flesh.” They are now in a committed “one flesh” relationship. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife. Part of Adam is taken to make Eve and now that part is returned to him in the “one flesh”. That is why monogamy is so important in the Bible and why divorce is so serious a matter. It is akin to disowning your children. One flesh is not just a euphemism for sex, but a description of a new unity. They are not two but one, says Jesus [Matthew 19:6].
A man will leave his father and his mother. For a married couple the primary bond is now with their spouse. If it comes to a choice it must be for the other person in the marriage. Parents are to love and support but not interfere.
When someone goes through a Christian marriage ceremony they are not becoming “partners” but husband and wife. That involves a commitment made clear by oaths, there is no back door if “things don’t work out”. There is now a one flesh that does not come about by sexual intimacy but rather loving commitment for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame”
This in contrast to the situation after the fall in chapter 3:7 where it seems that shame enters the relationship between the man the woman.
John Piper, with Eph 5 in mind, helpfully says, “Marriage was designed from the beginning to display Christ and the church, and the very essence of the new covenant is that Christ passes over sins in his bride. His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect, but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her with her sin. This is why the doctrine of justification is at the very heart of what makes marriage work. It creates peace with God vertically, in spite of our sin. And when experienced horizontally, it creates shame-free peace between an imperfect man and an imperfect woman.” [John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/stripped-in-shame-clothed-in-grace]
Before the fall there was no place for shame. There were no put-downs about body image. It was not until self-interest entered the world [that is essentially what caused the fall] that man and woman could no longer trust the other to treat them completely unselfishly.
What a wonderful thing the gospel is that restores us to a state of no shame before our God and, as we put into practice our gospel loving-obedience, restores us to the other in a marriage where there is no shaming. All praise to our wonderful saviour.
Lord and Father, help me to treat all who come across my path with loving service. Amen