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.
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; נשמת חיים (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.
There is bdellium (בדלח (bedolach)) and the onyx stone, אבן השהם (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 - מות תמות (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; עזר כנגדו (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,
1.Adam gave names; but how? From an intimate knowledge of the nature and properties of each creature. Here we see the perfection of his knowledge; for it is well known that the names affixed to the different animals in Scripture always express some prominent feature and essential characteristic of the creatures to which they are applied. Had he not possessed an intuitive knowledge of the grand and distinguishing properties of those animals, he never could have given them such names. This one circumstance is a strong proof of the original perfection and excellence of man, while in a state of innocence; nor need we wonder at the account. Adam was the work of an infinitely wise and perfect Being, and the effect must resemble the cause that produced it.
2.Adam was convinced that none of these creatures could be a suitable companion for him, and that therefore he must continue in the state that was not good, or be a farther debtor to the bounty of his Maker; for among all the animals which he had named there was not found a help meet for him. Hence we read,
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 זאת הפאם (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.
1.These two shall be one flesh, shall be considered as one body, having no separate or independent rights, privileges, cares, concerns, etc., each being equally interested in all things that concern the marriage state.
Our Lord quotes these words, Matthew 19:5, with some variation from this text: They Twain shall be one flesh. So in Mark 10:8. St. Paul quotes in the same way, 1 Corinthians 6:16, and in Ephesians 5:31. The Vulgate Latin, the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Samaritan, all read the word Two. That this is the genuine reading I have no doubt. The word שניהם (sheneyhem), they two or both of them, was, I suppose, omitted at first from the Hebrew text, by mistake, because it occurs three words after in the following verse, or more probably it originally occurred in Genesis 2:24, and not in Genesis 2:25; and a copyist having found that he had written it twice, in correcting his copy, struck out the word in Genesis 2:24 instead of Genesis 2:25. But of what consequence is it? In the controversy concerning polygamy, it has been made of very great consequence. Without the word, some have contended a man may have as many wives as he chooses, as the terms are indefinite, They shall be, etc., but with the word, marriage is restricted. A man can have in legal wedlock but One wife at the same time.
1.God pronounces the state of celibacy to be a bad state, or, if the reader please, not a good one; and the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone. This is God‘s judgment. Councils, and fathers, and doctors, and synods, have given a different judgment; but on such a subject they are worthy of no attention. The word of God abideth for ever.
Genesis 2:23, Genesis 2:24 contain the very words of the marriage ceremony: This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone, therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. How happy must such a state be where God‘s institution is properly regarded, where the parties are married, as the apostle expresses it, in the Lord; where each, by acts of the tenderest kindness, lives only to prevent the wishes and contribute in every possible way to the comfort and happiness of the other! Marriage might still be what it was in its original institution, pure and suitable; and in its first exercise, affectionate and happy; but how few such marriages are there to be found! Passion, turbulent and irregular, not religion; custom, founded by these irregularities, not reason; worldly prospects, originating and ending in selfishness and earthly affections, not in spiritual ends, are the grand producing causes of the great majority of matrimonial alliances. How then can such turbid and bitter fountains send forth pure and sweet waters? See the ancient allegory of Cupid and Psyche, by which marriage is so happily illustrated, explained in the notes on Matthew 19:4-6.
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.
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