Adam Clarke Commentary
The seventh day is consecrated for a sabbath, and the reasons assigned, Genesis 2:1-3. A recapitulation of the six days' work of creation, Genesis 2:4-7. The garden of Eden planted, Genesis 2:8. Its trees, Genesis 2:9. Its rivers, and the countries watered by them, Genesis 2:10-14. Adam placed in the garden, and the command given not to eat of the tree of knowledge on pain of death, Genesis 2:15-17. God purposes to form a companion for the man, Genesis 2:18. The different animals brought to Adam that he might assign them their names, Genesis 2:19, Genesis 2:20. The creation of the woman, Genesis 2:21, Genesis 2:22. The institution of marriage, Genesis 2:23, Genesis 2:24. The purity and innocence of our first parents, Genesis 2:25.
And all the host of them - The word host signifies literally an army, composed of a number of companies of soldiers under their respective leaders; and seems here elegantly applied to the various celestial bodies in our system, placed by the Divine wisdom under the influence of the sun. From the original word צבא tsaba, a host, some suppose the Sabeans had their name, because of their paying Divine honors to the heavenly bodies. From the Septuagint version of this place, πας ὁ κοσμος αυτων, all their ornaments, we learn the true meaning of the word κοσμος, commonly translated world, which signifies a decorated or adorned whole or system. And this refers to the beautiful order, harmony, and regularity which subsist among the various parts of creation. This translation must impress the reader with a very favorable opinion of these ancient Greek translators; had they not examined the works of God with a philosophic eye, they never could have given this turn to the original.
On the Seventh day God ended, etc. - It is the general voice of Scripture that God finished the whole of the creation in six days, and rested the seventh! giving us an example that we might labor six days, and rest the seventh from all manual exercises. It is worthy of notice that the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Samaritan, read the sixth day instead of the seventh; and this should be considered the genuine reading, which appears from these versions to have been originally that of the Hebrew text. How the word sixth became changed into seventh may be easily conceived from this circumstance. It is very likely that in ancient times all the numerals were signified by letters, and not by words at full length. This is the case in the most ancient Greek and Latin MSS., and in almost all the rabbinical writings. When these numeral letters became changed for words at full length, two letters nearly similar might be mistaken for each other; ו vau stands for six, ז zain for seven; how easy to mistake these letters for each other when writing the words at full length, and so give birth to the reading in question.
And God blessed the seventh day - The original word ברך barach, which is generally rendered to bless, has a very extensive meaning. It is frequently used in Scripture in the sense of speaking good of or to a person; and hence literally and properly rendered by the Septuagint ευλογησεν, from ευ, good or well, and λεγω, I speak. So God has spoken well of the Sabbath, and good to them who conscientiously observe it. Blessing is applied both to God and man: when God is said to bless, we generally understand by the expression that he communicates some good; but when man is said to bless God, we surely cannot imagine that he bestows any gifts or confers any benefit on his Maker. When God is said to bless, either in the Old or New Testament, it signifies his speaking good To man; and this comprises the whole of his exceeding great and precious promises. And when man is said to bless God, it ever implies that he speaks good Of him, for the giving and fulfillment of his promises. This observation will be of general use in considering the various places where the word occurs in the sacred writings. Reader, God blesses thee when by his promises he speaks good To thee; and thou dost bless him when, from a consciousness of his kindness to thy body and soul, thou art thankful to him, and speakest good of his name.
Because that in it he had rested - שבת shabath, he rested; hence Sabbath, the name of the seventh day, signifying a day of rest - rest to the body from labor and toil, and rest to the soul from all worldly care and anxieties. He who labors with his mind by worldly schemes and plans on the Sabbath day is as culpable as he who labors with his hands in his accustomed calling. It is by the authority of God that the Sabbath is set apart for rest and religious purposes, as the six days of the week are appointed for labor. How wise is this provision! It is essentially necessary, not only to the body of man, but to all the animals employed in his service: take this away and the labor is too great, both man and beast would fail under it. Without this consecrated day religion itself would fail, and the human mind, becoming sensualized, would soon forget its origin and end. Even as a political regulation, it is one of the wisest and most beneficent in its effects of any ever instituted. Those who habitually disregard its moral obligation are, to a man, not only good for nothing, but are wretched in themselves, a curse to society, and often end their lives miserably. See Clarke's note on Exodus 20:8; See Clarke's note on Exodus 23:12; See Clarke's note on Exodus 24:16; and See Clarke's note on Exodus 31:13; to which the reader is particularly desired to refer.
As God formed both the mind and body of man on principles of activity, so he assigned him proper employment; and it is his decree that the mind shall improve by exercise, and the body find increase of vigor and health in honest labor. He who idles away his time in the six days is equally culpable in the sight of God as he who works on the seventh. The idle person is ordinarily clothed with rags, and the Sabbath-breakers frequently come to an ignominious death. Reader, beware.
In the day that the Lord God made, etc. - The word יהוה Yehovah is for the first time mentioned here. What it signifies see the note on Exodus 34:5, Exodus 34:6. Wherever this word occurs in the sacred writings we translate it Lord, which word is, through respect and reverence, always printed in capitals. Though our English term Lord does not give the particular meaning of the original word, yet it conveys a strong and noble sense. Lord is a contraction of the Anglo-Saxon, Hlaford, afterwards written Loverd, and lastly Lord, from bread ; hence our word loaf, and ford, to supply, to give out. The word, therefore, implies the giver of bread, i.e., he who deals out all the necessaries of life. Our ancient English noblemen were accustomed to keep a continual open house, where all their vassals, and all strangers, had full liberty to enter and eat as much as they would; and hence those noblemen had the honorable name of lords, i.e., the dispensers of bread. There are about three of the ancient nobility who still keep up this honorable custom, from which the very name of their nobility is derived. We have already seen, Genesis 1:1, with what judgment our Saxon ancestors expressed Deus, the Supreme Being, by the term God; and we see the same judgment consulted by their use of the term Lord to express the word Dominus, by which terms the Vulgate version, which they used, expresses Elohim and Jehovah, which we translate Lord God. God is the good Being, and Lord is the dispenser of bread, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who liberally affords the bread that perisheth to every man, and has amply provided the bread that endures unto eternal life for every human soul. With what propriety then does this word apply to the Lord Jesus, who is emphatically called the bread of life; the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and which is given for the life of the world! John 6:33, John 6:48, John 6:51. What a pity that this most impressive and instructive meaning of a word in such general use were not more extensively known, and more particularly regarded! See the postscript to the general preface. I know that Mr. H. Tooke has endeavored to render this derivation contemptible; but this has little weight with me. I have traced it through the most accredited writers in Saxony and on Saxon affairs, and I am satisfied that this and this only, is its proper etymology and derivation.
Every plant of the field before it was in the earth - It appears that God created every thing, not only perfect as it respects its nature, but also in a state of maturity, so that every vegetable production appeared at once in full growth; and this was necessary that man, when he came into being, might find every thing ready for his use.
There went up a mist - This passage appears to have greatly embarrassed many commentators. The plain meaning seems to be this, that the aqueous vapours, ascending from the earth, and becoming condensed in the colder regions of the atmosphere, fell back upon the earth in the form of dews, and by this means an equal portion of moisture was distributed to the roots of plants, etc. As Moses had said, Genesis 2:5, that the Lord had not caused it to rain upon the earth, he probably designed to teach us, in Genesis 2:6, how rain is produced, viz., by the condensation of the aqueous vapors, which are generally through the heat of the sun and other causes raised to a considerable height in the atmosphere, where, meeting with cold air, the watery particles which were before so small and light that they could float in the air, becoming condensed, i.e., many drops being driven into one, become too heavy to be any longer suspended, and then, through their own gravity, fall down in the form which we term rain.
God formed man of the dust - In the most distinct manner God shows us that man is a compound being, having a body and soul distinctly, and separately created; the body out of the dust of the earth, the soul immediately breathed from God himself. Does not this strongly mark that the soul and body are not the same thing? The body derives its origin from the earth, or as עפר aphar implies, the dust; hence because it is earthly it is decomposable and perishable. Of the soul it is said, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; חיים נשמת nishmath chaiyim, the breath of Lives, i.e., animal and intellectual. While this breath of God expanded the lungs and set them in play, his inspiration gave both spirit and understanding.
A garden eastward in Eden - Though the word עדן Eden signifies pleasure or delight, it is certainly the name of a place. See Genesis 4:16; 2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12; Ezekiel 27:23; Amos 1:5. And such places probably received their name from their fertility, pleasant situation, etc. In this light the Septuagint have viewed it, as they render the passage thus: Εφυτευσεν ὁ Θεος παραδεισον εν Εδεν, God planted a paradise in Eden. Hence the word paradise has been introduced into the New Testament, and is generally used to signify a place of exquisite pleasure and delight. From this the ancient heathens borrowed their ideas of the gardens of the Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit; the gardens of Adonis, a word which is evidently derived from the Hebrew עדן Eden ; and hence the origin of sacred gardens or enclosures dedicated to purposes of devotion, some comparatively innocent, others impure. The word paradise is not Greek; in Arabic and Persian it signifies a garden, a vineyard, and also the place of the blessed. The Mohammedans say that God created the Jennet al Ferdoos, the garden of paradise, from light, and the prophets and wise men ascend thither. Wilmet places it after the root farada, to separate, especially a person or place, for the purposes of devotion, but supposes it to be originally a Persian word, vox originis Persicae quam in sua lingua conservarunt Armeni. As it is a word of doubtful origin, its etymology is uncertain.
Every tree that is pleasant to the sight, etc. - If we take up these expressions literally, they may bear the following interpretation: the tree pleasant to the sight may mean every beautiful tree or plant which for shape, color, or fragrance, delights the senses, such as flowering shrubs, etc.
And good for food - All fruit-bearing trees, whether of the pulpy fruits, as apples, etc., or of the kernel or nut kind, such as dates, and nuts of different sorts, together with all esculent vegetables.
The tree of life - חיים chaiyim ; of lives, or life-giving tree, every medicinal tree, herb, and plant, whose healing virtues are of great consequence to man in his present state, when through sin diseases of various kinds have seized on the human frame, and have commenced that process of dissolution which is to reduce the body to its primitive dust.
Yet by the use of these trees of life - those different vegetable medicines, the health of the body may be preserved for a time, and death kept at a distance. Though the exposition given here may be a general meaning for these general terms, yet it is likely that this tree of life which was placed in the midst of the garden was intended as an emblem of that life which man should ever live, provided he continued in obedience to his Maker. And probably the use of this tree was intended as the means of preserving the body of man in a state of continual vital energy, and an antidote against death. This seems strongly indicated from Genesis 3:22.
And the tree of knowledge of good and evil - Considering this also in a merely literal point of view, it may mean any tree or plant which possessed the property of increasing the knowledge of what was in nature, as the esculent vegetables had of increasing bodily vigor; and that there are some ailments which from their physical influence have a tendency to strengthen the understanding and invigorate the rational faculty more than others, has been supposed by the wisest and best of men; yet here much more seems intended, but what is very difficult to be ascertained. Some very eminent men have contended that the passage should be understood allegorically! and that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means simply that prudence, which is a mixture of knowledge, care, caution, and judgment, which was prescribed to regulate the whole of man's conduct. And it is certain that to know good and evil, in different parts of Scripture, means such knowledge and discretion as leads a man to understand what is fit and unfit, what is not proper to be done and what should be performed. But how could the acquisition of such a faculty be a sin? Or can we suppose that such a faculty could be wanting when man was in a state of perfection? To this it may be answered: The prohibition was intended to exercise this faculty in man that it should constantly teach him this moral lesson, that there were some things fit and others unfit to be done, and that in reference to this point the tree itself should be both a constant teacher and monitor. The eating of its fruit would not have increased this moral faculty, but the prohibition was intended to exercise the faculty he already possessed. There is certainly nothing unreasonable in this explanation, and viewed in this light the passage loses much of its obscurity. Vitringa, in his dissertation Deuteronomy arbore prudentiae in Paradiso, ejusque mysterio, strongly contends for this interpretation. See more on Genesis 3:6; (note).
A river went out of Eden, etc. - It would astonish an ordinary reader, who should be obliged to consult different commentators and critics on the situation of the terrestrial Paradise, to see the vast variety of opinions by which they are divided. Some place it in the third heaven, others in the fourth; some within the orbit of the moon, others in the moon itself; some in the middle regions of the air, or beyond the earth's attraction; some on the earth, others under the earth, and others within the earth; some have fixed it at the north pole, others at the south; some in Tartary, some in China; some on the borders of the Ganges, some in the island of Ceylon; some in Armenia, others in Africa, under the equator; some in Mesopotamia, others in Syria, Persia, Arabia, Babylon, Assyria, and in Palestine; some have condescended to place it in Europe, and others have contended it either exists not, or is invisible, or is merely of a spiritual nature, and that the whole account is to be spiritually understood! That there was such a place once there is no reason to doubt; the description given by Moses is too particular and circumstantial to be capable of being understood in any spiritual or allegorical way. As well might we contend that the persons of Adam and Eve were allegorical, as that the place of their residence was such.
The most probable account of its situation is that given by Hadrian Reland. He supposes it to have been in Armenia, near the sources of the great rivers Euphrates, Tigris, Phasis, and Araxes. He thinks Pison was the Phasis, a river of Colchis, emptying itself into the Euxine Sea, where there is a city called Chabala, the pronunciation of which is nearly the same with that of Havilah, or חוילה Chavilah, according to the Hebrew, the vau ו being changed in Greek to beta β . This country was famous for gold, whence the fable of the Golden Fleece, attempted to be carried away from that country by the heroes of Greece. The Gihon he thinks to be the Araxes, which runs into the Caspian Sea, both the words having the same signification, viz., a rapid motion. The land of Cush, washed by the river, he supposes to be the country of the Cussaei of the ancients. The Hiddekel all agree to be the Tigris, and the other river Phrat, or פרת Perath, to be the Euphrates. All these rivers rise in the same tract of mountainous country, though they do not arise from one head.
There is bdellium (בדלח bedolach ) and the onyx stone, השהם אבן eben hashshoham - Bochart thinks that the bedolach or bdellium means the pearl-oyster; and shoham is generally understood to mean the onyx, or species of agate, a precious stone which has its name from ονυξ a man's nail, to the color of which it nearly approaches. It is impossible to say what is the precise meaning of the original words; and at this distance of time and place it is of little consequence.
Put him into the garden - to dress it, and to keep it - Horticulture, or gardening, is the first kind of employment on record, and that in which man was engaged while in a state of perfection and innocence. Though the garden may be supposed to produce all things spontaneously, as the whole vegetable surface of the earth certainly did at the creation, yet dressing and tilling were afterwards necessary to maintain the different kinds of plants and vegetables in their perfection, and to repress luxuriance. Even in a state of innocence we cannot conceive it possible that man could have been happy if inactive. God gave him work to do, and his employment contributed to his happiness; for the structure of his body, as well as of his mind, plainly proves that he was never intended for a merely contemplative life.
Of the tree of the knowledge - thou shalt not eat - This is the first positive precept God gave to man; and it was given as a test of obedience, and a proof of his being in a dependent, probationary state. It was necessary that, while constituted lord of this lower world, he should know that he was only God's vicegerent, and must be accountable to him for the use of his mental and corporeal powers, and for the use he made of the different creatures put under his care. The man from whose mind the strong impression of this dependence and responsibility is erased, necessarily loses sight of his origin and end, and is capable of any species of wickedness. As God is sovereign, he has a right to give to his creatures what commands he thinks proper. An intelligent creature, without a law to regulate his conduct, is an absurdity; this would destroy at once the idea of his dependency and accountableness. Man must ever feel God as his sovereign, and act under his authority, which he cannot do unless he have a rule of conduct. This rule God gives: and it is no matter of what kind it is, as long as obedience to it is not beyond the powers of the creature who is to obey. God says: There is a certain fruit-bearing tree; thou shalt not eat of its fruit; but of all the other fruits, and they are all that are necessary, for thee, thou mayest freely, liberally eat. Had he not an absolute right to say so? And was not man bound to obey?
Thou shalt surely die - תמות מות moth tamuth ; Literally, a death thou shalt die; or, dying thou shalt die. Thou shalt not only die spiritually, by losing the life of God, but from that moment thou shalt become mortal, and shalt continue in a dying state till thou die. This we find literally accomplished; every moment of man's life may be considered as an act of dying, till soul and body are separated. Other meanings have been given of this passage, but they are in general either fanciful or incorrect.
It is not good that the man should be alone - לבדו lebaddo ; only himself. I will make him a help meet for him; כנגדו עזר ezer kenegdo, a help, a counterpart of himself, one formed from him, and a perfect resemblance of his person. If the word be rendered scrupulously literally, it signifies one like, or as himself, standing opposite to or before him. And this implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself. As man was made a social creature, it was not proper that he should be alone; for to be alone, i.e. without a matrimonial companion, was not good. Hence we find that celibacy in general is a thing that is not good, whether it be on the side of the man or of the woman. Men may, in opposition to the declaration of God, call this a state of excellence and a state of perfection; but let them remember that the word of God says the reverse.
Out of the ground, etc. - Concerning the formation of the different kinds of animals, see the preceding chapter, Genesis 1 (note).
And Adam gave names to all cattle - Two things God appears to have had in view by causing man to name all the cattle, etc. 1. To show him with what comprehensive powers of mind his Maker had endued him; and 2. To show him that no creature yet formed could make him a suitable companion. And that this twofold purpose was answered we shall shortly see; for,
The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, etc. - This was neither swoon nor ecstasy, but what our translation very properly terms a deep sleep.
And he took one of his ribs - It is immaterial whether we render צלע tsela a rib, or a part of his side, for it may mean either: some part of man was to be used on the occasion, whether bone or flesh it matters not; though it is likely, from verse Genesis 2:23, that a part of both was taken; for Adam, knowing how the woman was formed, said, This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone. God could have formed the woman out of the dust of the earth, as he had formed the man; but had he done so, she must have appeared in his eyes as a distinct being, to whom he had no natural relation. But as God formed her out of a part of the man himself, he saw she was of the same nature, the same identical flesh and blood, and of the same constitution in all respects, and consequently having equal powers, faculties, and rights. This at once ensured his affection, and excited his esteem.
Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, etc. - There is a very delicate and expressive meaning in the original which does not appear in our version. When the different genera of creatures were brought to Adam, that he might assign them their proper names, it is probable that they passed in pairs before him, and as they passed received their names. To this circumstance the words in this place seem to refer. Instead of this now is הפאם זאת zoth happaam, we should render more literally this turn, this creature, which now passes or appears before me, is flesh of my flesh, etc. The creatures that had passed already before him were not suitable to him, and therefore it was said, For Adam there was not a help meet found, Genesis 2:20; but when the woman came, formed out of himself, he felt all that attraction which consanguinity could produce, and at the same time saw that she was in her person and in her mind every way suitable to be his companion. See Parkhurst, sub voce.
She shall be called Woman - A literal version of the Hebrew would appear strange, and yet a literal version is the only proper one. איש ish signifies man, and the word used to express what we term woman is the same with a feminine termination, אשה ishshah, and literally means she-man. Most of the ancient versions have felt the force of the term, and have endeavored to express it as literally as possible. The intelligent reader will not regret to see some of them here. The Vulgate Latin renders the Hebrew virago, which is a feminine form of vir, a man. Symmachus uses ανδρις, andris, a female form of ανηρ, aner, a man. Our own term is equally proper when understood. Woman has been defined by many as compounded of wo and man, as if called man's wo because she tempted him to eat the forbidden fruit; but this is no meaning of the original word, nor could it be intended, as the transgression was not then committed. The truth is, our term is a proper and literal translation of the original, and we may thank the discernment of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors for giving it. The Anglo-Saxon word, of which woman is a contraction, means the man with the womb. A very appropriate version of the Hebrew אשה ishshah, rendered by terms which signify she-man, in the versions already specified. Hence we see the propriety of Adam's observation: This creature is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bones; therefore shall she be called Womb-Man, or female man, because she was taken out of man. See Verstegan. Others derive it from the Anglo-Saxon words for man's wife or she-man. Either may be proper, the first seems the most likely.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother - There shall be, by the order of God, a more intimate connection formed between the man and woman, than can subsist even between parents and children.
And they shall be one flesh - These words may be understood in a twofold sense.
We have here the first institution of marriage, and we see in it several particulars worthy of our most serious regard.
They were both naked, etc. - The weather was perfectly temperate, and therefore they had no need of clothing, the circumambient air being of the same temperature with their bodies. And as sin had not yet entered into the world, and no part of the human body had been put to any improper use, therefore there was no shame, for shame can only arise from a consciousness of sinful or irregular conduct.
Even in a state of innocence, when all was perfection and excellence, when God was clearly discovered in all his works, every place being his temple, every moment a time of worship, and every object an incitement to religious reverence and adoration - even then, God chose to consecrate a seventh part of time to his more especial worship, and to hallow it unto his own service by a perpetual decree. Who then shall dare to reverse this order of God? Had the religious observance of the Sabbath been never proclaimed till the proclamation of the law on Mount Sinai, then it might have been conjectured that this, like several other ordinances, was a shadow which must pass away with that dispensation; neither extending to future ages, nor binding on any other people. But this was not so. God gave the Sabbath, his first ordinance, to man, (see the first precept, Genesis 2:17;), while all the nations of the world were seminally included in him, and while he stood the father and representative of the whole human race; therefore the Sabbath is not for one nation, for one time, or for one place. It is the fair type of heaven's eternal day - of the state of endless blessedness and glory, where human souls, having fully regained the Divine image, and become united to the Centre and Source of all perfection and excellence, shall rest in God, unutterably happy through the immeasurable progress of duration! Of this consummation every returning Sabbath should at once be a type, a remembrancer, and a foretaste, to every pious mind; and these it must be to all who are taught of God.
Of this rest, the garden of Eden, that paradise of God formed for man, appears also to have been a type and pledge; and the institution of marriage, the cause, bond, and cement of the social state, was probably designed to prefigure that harmony, order, and blessedness which must reign in the kingdom of God, of which the condition of our first parents in the garden of paradise is justly supposed to have been an expressive emblem. What a pity that this heavenly institution should have ever been perverted! that, instead of becoming a sovereign help to all, it is now, through its prostitution to animal and secular purposes, become the destroyer of millions! Reader, every connection thou formest in life will have a strong and sovereign influence on thy future destiny. Beware! an unholy cause, which from its peculiar nature must be ceaselessly active in every muscle, nerve, and passion, cannot fail to produce incessant effects of sin, misery, death, and perdition. Remember that thy earthly connections, no matter of what kind, are not formed merely for time, whatsoever thou mayest intend, but also for eternity. With what caution there fore shouldst thou take every step in the path of life! On this ground, the observations made in the preceding notes are seriously recommended to thy consideration.
Sunday, February 19th, 2017
the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Search This Commentary