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Bible Commentaries

Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Genesis 2

Verses 1-25

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

GOD’S SABBATH (Genesis 2:1-3 )

The first three verses of this chapter belong to the preceding as a summary of its contents. Of what day do they treat? What did God do on that day? How did He regard it? In the light of the fourth commandment, these verses seem to countenance the thought of creative days of twenty-four hours each; that is, God’s Sabbath seems to be set over against man’s Sabbath, but the two should not be confounded. The latter was made for man and fitted to his measure (Mark 2:27 ). Therefore while the proportion of time may in some sense be the same, the actual time may be different.

MAN’S NATURE (Genesis 2:4-7 )

“The generations of” in Genesis 2:4 , frequently repeated in this book, forms the dividing line between the various sections of it, or as Dr. Urquhart puts it, “the heading of the various natural chapters into which the whole book was divided by its author. It refers not to what goes before but what comes after.” In this case it is not the story of the heaven and the earth which we are to have repeated, but an account of the transactions of which they were to be the scene, the things which followed their creation.

Notice the new name of God used here: Lord God. The first of these words printed in capitals translates the Hebrew “Jehovah,” while the second translates “Elohim.” Elohim is the far-off name, that which distinguishes God as creator, hence its uniform employment until now. But Jehovah is the nearby name which distinguishes God in relation with man, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God, hence its employment here where man is to be especially considered. Later on when both Jehovah and Elohim are used in connection with human affairs, the former seems to be generally reserved for God’s dealing with His own people as distinguished from the unbelieving nations.

Genesis 2:5 should be read in the Revised Version, where a certain condition is described and the reason is given. What were the condition and the reason? What interesting fact of natural history is stated in Genesis 2:6 ? It will be especially interesting to recall this when we reach the first mention of rain at the flood. Of what was the body of man formed? What did the Lord God do with the formation He had made? And what was the production of these two elements according to the last clause? Here is the starting-point of the psychology of the Bible, which seems to speak of man as a trichotomic being having body, soul and spirit (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ; Hebrews 4:12 ). Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, used to call the flesh the body of the soul and the soul the body of the spirit, an opinion which has maintained among psychologists to the present. Others have called the body the seat of our sense-consciousness, the soul the seat of our self-consciousness, and the spirit the seat of our God-consciousness.

Before leaving this verse note:

(1) that the word formed in Hebrew is practically the same as potter (Job 10:9 ; Jeremiah 18:1-6 ; Romans 9:20-21 ); that the word for ground is adamah, which means red earth, and that from it the proper name Adam is derived; and

(2) that the reference to the spiritual life which man received by God’s inbreathing is that which is the common property of all men, and which should be distinguished from the new life in Christ Jesus which becomes the possession of those who, as fallen creatures, receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in them through faith in His name. For the common spiritual life see Job 32:8 ; Pro 20:27 ; 1 Corinthians 2:11 ; and for the life of the Holy Spirit in the believer see Ezekiel 36:26-27 ; Psalms 53:1-6 ; John 14:16-17 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19 .

THE GARDEN LOCATED (Genesis 2:8-14 )

What name is given to the locality of the garden? In which section of that locality was it planted? What expression in (Genesis 2:9 shows God’s consideration for beauty as well as utility? What two trees are particularly named? Where was the tree of life planted? What geographical feature of (Genesis 2:10 accentuates the historical character of this narrative? Observe how this is further impressed by the facts which follow, viz: the names of the rivers, the countries through which they flow, and even the mineral deposits of the latter.

Note:

(1) the use of the present tense in this description, showing that the readers of Moses’ period knew the location; it must have been an elevated district, as the source of mighty rivers; and

(2) it could not have been a very luxuriant or fruitful locality, else why the need of planting a garden, and where could there have been any serious hardship in the subsequent expulsion of Adam and Eve? It used to be thought that Eden was a Hebrew word meaning pleasure, but recent explorations in Assyria indicate that it may have been of Accadian origin meaning a plain, not a fertile plain as in a valley, but an elevated and sterile plain as a steppe or mountain desert. Putting these things together, the place that would come before the mind of an Oriental was the region of Armenia where the Euphrates and the Tigris (or Hiddekel) take their rise. There are two other rivers taking their rise in that region, the Kur and the Araxes, thence uniting and flowing into the Caspian Sea, but whether these are identical with the Pison and Gihon of the lesson cannot yet be determined. Science now corroborates this location of Eden in so far as it teaches that the human race has sprung from a common center and that this center is the table-land of central Asia.

THE MORAL TEST (Genesis 2:15-17 )

For what practical purpose was man placed in the garden (Genesis 2:15 )? What privilege was accorded him (Genesis 2:16 )? And what prohibition was laid upon him (Genesis 2:17 )? With what penalty? Some test must be given a free moral agent by which his determination either to obey or disobey God may be shown, and it pleased God, for reasons He has not been pleased to entirely reveal, to select this test. It was an easy one in the light of Adam’s condition of sinlessness and the bountiful privileges otherwise bestowed upon him: “The forbidden tree was doubtless called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because through the eating of it mankind came to the experience of the value of goodness and of the infinite evil of sin.”

The phrase “Thou shalt surely die” is translated a little differently in the margin. The nature of this death was twofold. It was a spiritual death, for “in the day” Adam ate thereof he was cast out from the garden and cut off from the communion with God theretofore enjoyed. It was physical death, for in the end Adam returned unto the dust whence he was formed. It would seem from the ensuing record that it was his exclusion from “the tree of life in the midst of the garden” which ultimately resulted in death: It seems to have existed to confer the gift of immortality, perhaps to counteract sickness, repel bodily ills of every kind, and keep the springs of activity and enjoyment preserved in abounding fullness.

MAN’S HELPMATE (Genesis 2:18-25 )

What further evidence of God’s consideration is in Genesis 2:18 ? What occurred as a preliminary to its expression (Genesis 2:19 )? How does Genesis 2:20 illustrate the intelligence of Adam and in so far disprove the theory of man’s ascent from a lower level than the present? Note the five steps on God’s part before the helpmate is introduced to Adam (Genesis 2:21-22 ). How does Adam express his recognition of the helpmate? What name is given to her, by whom is it given, and why? Do you suppose Genesis 2:24 is the record of an expression of Adam, or a later one of Moses, the human author of this book? Of course, in either case, it is God speaking through the human agent, but which agent is it? (Compare also Ephesians 5:22-23 , but especially Ephesians 5:30-31 .) Speaking of the formation of Eve from Adam, one of the older commentators has remarked that “she was not made out of his head to surpass him, nor from his feet to be trampled on, but from his side to be equal to him, and near his heart to be dear to him.”

The last verse of the chapter indicates that in their state of innocence modesty did not require clothing as a covering for shame and that the climate of the garden did not require it for protection. Of God it is said, “Thou coverest Thyself with light as with a garment” (Psalms 104:2 ), and some have thought that in man’s state of innocence a similar shining may have served him in the same way, an outer light which he lost when sin robbed him of the inner one.

QUESTIONS

1. What relation do the first three verses of chapter 2 bear to the preceding chapter?

2. What significance attaches to the phrase “the generations of”?

3. How would you distinguish the names of God in this lesson?

4. What is the nature of man, threefold or twofold?

5. Give some evidences of the historicity of Eden?

6. Where may it have been located, and what reasons are there for so thinking?

7. What made Adam’s moral test an easy one?

8. Why was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” probably called by that name?

9. In what two ways was the penalty executed on Adam?

10. What shows that Adam was not a savage but rather the noblest type of the race?

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Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 2". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-2.html. 1897-1910.