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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 2

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 1

Genesis 2:1

The heavens and the earth were finished when God created man in His own image. Then the universe was what He designed it to be; then He could look, not upon a portion of it, but upon the whole of it, and say, "It is very good."

I. We are told: (1) "God made man in His own image; male and female created He them;" and (2) "He made man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life," The two accounts are distinct. If we had the first only, we should have the description of an ideal man, without being told that there was an actual man. The Creation in the highest sense must mean the bestowing, under whatever limitations, of a portion of God's own life, that which corresponded with His own being. It must denote, not What we understand by putting together a material thing, but the communication of that inward power and substance without which matter is but a dream.

II. When we hear of the earth bringing forth grass, the herb yielding seed, the fishes or beasts being fruitful and multiplying, we are told of living powers which were imparted once, but which are in continual exercise and manifestation; the creative word has been uttered once, it is never for a moment suspended; never ceases to fulfil its own proclamation. Creation involves production. (1) Creation is not measured by the sun. The week was especially meant to remind the Jew of his own work and God's work; of God's rest and his own rest. (2) It was to bring before him the fact of his relation to God, to teach him to regard the universe not chiefly as under the government of sun or moon, or as regulated by their courses, but as an order which an unseen God had created, which included sun, moon, stars, earth, and all the living creatures that inhabit them.

III. From the first chapter of Genesis we are taught more clearly than any words can teach us what man becomes when he is a centre to himself, and supposes that all things are revolving around him. But, most of all, these chapters prepare us for the announcement of that truth which all the subsequent history is to unfold, that the Word who said, "Let there be light," and there was light, who placed the sun, and moon, and stars in their orbits and called all organised creatures into life; and who is, in the highest sense, the Light of men the Source of their reason, the Guide of their wills is the Head of all principalities and powers, the upholder of the whole universe.

F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 33.

References: Genesis 2:1 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 136, Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xviii., p. 79. Genesis 2:1-3 . S. Cox, Exposi tions, 1st series, p. 366; Parker, vol. i., p. 127; A. Pott, Sermons for the Festivals and Fasts, p. 1.Genesis 2:2 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 369; G. Dawson, The Authentic Gospel, p. 176; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 76. Genesis 2:2 , Genesis 2:3 . E. Irving, Collected Writings, vol. iv.,p. 515; G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 61.

Verse 3

Genesis 2:3

I. Whether the patriarchs were or were not commanded to keep the Sabbath is a thing which we can never know; it is no safe foundation for our thinking ourselves bound to keep it, that the patriarchs kept it before the Law was given, and that the commandment had existed before the time of Moses, and was only confirmed by him and repeated. For if the Law itself be done away in Christ, much more the things before the Law. The Sabbath may have been necessary to the patriarchs, for we know that it was needed even at a later time; they who had the light of the Law could not do without it. But it would by no means follow that it was needed now, when, having put away the helps of our childhood, we ought to be grown up into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. So that the words of the text neither prove us right in keeping the Sunday, nor would they prove us wrong if we were to give up the observance of it.

II. The real question, however, is, Are we right in keeping the Sunday, or are we not right? We are bound by the spirit of the fourth commandment to keep holy the Sunday because we are not fit to do without it. As the change of the day from the seventh to the first shows us what God designed for us, shows us the heavenly liberty to which we were called, so the long and unvaried practice of the Church in keeping the first day holy shows us their sad feeling and confession that they were not fit for that liberty; that the Law, which God would fain have loosed from off them, was still needed to be their schoolmaster. The bond of the commandment broken through Christ's spirit was through our unworthiness closed again. We still need the Law, we need its aid to our weakness; we may not refuse to listen to the wisdom of its voice because the terror of its threatenings is taken away from the true believer.

T. Arnold, Sermon, vol. iii., p. 184.

An allegory lies in this history. Every week has its Sabbath, and every Sabbath is to be a parenthesis between two weeks' work. From the beginning of the world a seventh of time was set apart for rest. The command to keep it holy was embodied in the ceremonial law, and began with the retrospective word "Remember!" The rest of the Sabbath must be (1) real, (2) worthy, (3) complete. It must be refreshment to body, mind, and soul; it must not infringe upon the rest of others. The rest of a holy peace must be combined with the loving energies of an active body and an earnest mind.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 204.

References: Genesis 2:3 . R. S. Candlish, The Book of Genesis, p. 18; H. F. Burder, Sermons, p. 369. Genesis 2:4 . F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 16. Genesis 2:4 , Genesis 2:5 . H. Macmillan, Bible Teachings in Nature, p. 130. Genesis 2:5 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 465. 2:4-3:24. J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 77.

Verse 7

Genesis 2:7

(with Genesis 1:27 ).

In studying these chapters carefully, we find some degree of difficulty in the form of the sacred story itself. There appear to be, and in a certain sense there are, three different narratives, three distinct records of creation. We have one in the first, one in the second, and one in the fifth chapter. Why is the narrative of the creation repeated three times over?

Because man needs an account of the creation from a physical, from a moral, and from a historical point of view. The physical account we find in the first chapter of Genesis. It tells us that matter is not eternal that, go back as far as you will, at last the world which God created came from its Maker's hand. It stands alone in its sublimity, alone in its impressive greatness, alone in its Divine and miraculous reserve. We must cling to the truth contained in the text: (1) for the answer it gives to the questions which are pressed upon every one of us by the mystery of existence; (2) for the solid hope which it gives to every one of us of a distinct, a personal and individual immortality; (3) in order to guard ourselves from the great peril of desecrating that nature which God Himself gave to us.

Bishop Alexander, Man's Natural Life ("Norwich Cathedral Discourses," 4th series, No. 1).

References: Genesis 2:7 . S. R. Driver, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, Oct. 25, 1883; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 108; J. Laidlaw, The Bible Doctrine of Man, p. 48; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 323; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 134; H. J. Van Dyke, The Reality of Religion, p. 49; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, p. 293; Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words to Children, p. 29; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 76. Genesis 2:8 . T. Chamberlain, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 265; W. E. Boardman, Sunday Magazine (1876), p. 676; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 406.

Verses 8-9

Genesis 2:8-9

(with Genesis 3:22-24 )

I. Our first parents are discovered in a state of innocence, beauty, and blessedness, which is broken up utterly by the transgression of the Divine command. (1) To Eden, as the first condition of human existence, all hearts bear witness. Two hymns are babbled by the echoes of the ages "the good days of old," "the good days to come." They are the work-songs of humanity; the memory of a better, and the hope of a better, nerve and cheer mankind. That memory, Genesis explains; that hope, the Apocalypse assures. (2) We shall err greatly if we treat Adam's history in Eden as nothing more than a fabled picture of the experience of man; rather is it the root out of which your experience and mine has grown, and in virtue of which they are other than they would have been had they come fresh from the hand of God. We recognise the law of headship which God has established in humanity, whereby Adam, by his own act, has placed his race in new and sadder relations to Nature and to the Lord. (3) The origin of evil may still remain a mystery, but this history of Eden stands between it and God. Eden is God's work, the image of His thought; and man's spirit joyfully accepts the history, and uses it as a weapon against haunting doubts about the origin of evil. (4) The sin of Adam is substantially the history of every attempt of self-will to counterwork the will of God. Every sin is a seeking for a good outside the region which, in the light of God, we know to be given us as our own.

II. This narrative presents to us the Father seeking the sinful child with blended righteousness and tenderness, assuring him of help to bear the burden which righteousness had imposed on transgression, and of redemption out of the spiritual death, which was the fruit of sin.

III. God not only, fatherlike, made wise disposition for the correction of His child, but He cast in with His child's lot of toil and suffering, His own sympathy and hope; He made Himself a partaker in man's new experience of pain, and, that He might destroy sin, linked the sufferer by a great promise to Himself.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 1.

Verse 9

Genesis 2:9

I. We call the Scriptures a revelation; in other words, an unveiling. The Bible records were given to us to take away the veil which hung between heaven and earth, between man and God. Their purpose is to reveal God. The actual revelation which has been made to us is of God in His relation to the soul of man. We are not to demand, we are not to expect, any further revelation. Of the secrets of God's power and origin we are told not a word. Such knowledge is not for us. But it does concern us to know of God's moral nature to know that He is all-powerful, all-good, all-loving; and of God's power, goodness, and love, the Bible is one long and continuous revelation. The self-declared object of the Scriptures is that men should know God and know themselves.

II. But the condition on which such an object may be accomplished is this: that the Book of God should appeal to men in a form not dependent for its appreciation upon any knowledge which they may have obtained independent, that is, of the science of any particular age or country. The setting forth of scientific truth in the pages of the Bible would have been as much a difficulty and stumbling-block to some former ages of the Church as what we call its unscientific account of natural phenomena has been to some at the present day.

III. "The tree of knowledge of good and evil." Here, so early in the sacred books, is revealed the fact of the two opposing forces of right and wrong. Take away the reality of this distinction, and the Bible and all religion falls for ever. Make its reality and importance felt in the soul of man, and you have at once whereon to build. Righteousness is the word of words throughout all Scripture. The righteousness which the Scriptures reveal is the knowledge of a communion with God. When our earth has played its part in the economy of the universe, and is seen by the few spheres which are within its ken to pass away as a wandering fire, right and wrong will not have lost their primeval significance, and the souls which have yearned and laboured for rest in the home of spirits will find that rest in Him who was and is and is to be.

A. Ainger, Sermons preached in the Temple Church, p. 280.

References: Genesis 2:9 . E. H. Plumptre, Sunday Magazine (1867), p. 712; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year (Holy Week), p. 446; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. ii., p. 147. Genesis 2:10 . C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 151.

Verses 10-14

Genesis 2:10-14

Attempts have been made to find out what rivers are here spoken of by Moses, and where they are to be found. But the description in Genesis was purposely intended to baffle and defy any geographical identification. Paradise was never meant to be trampled by the feet of them that travel for pleasure or write for gain. There is no river on earth that parts itself into four heads. Are these words, then, but solemn trifling with the natural curiosity of man, affecting to tell him something, yet really telling nothing? What are we taught by this mixture of the straightforward and matter-of-fact with the (geographically speaking) impossible?

I. They teach us by a very simple parable that Paradise is real, most real; that it is intimately connected with earthly realities, but that it is not to be realised itself on earth, not to be discovered by worldly knowledge or inherited by flesh and blood.

II. The myths of the nations, entangled with false ideas of cosmogony, are broken against the hard facts of modern lore: the record of Genesis, shaking itself free from a merely earthly geography, retains its spiritual teaching and consolation for all generations. To the simple Christian this region is very real and very clear: it is his own inheritance in Christ not, indeed, to be sought on this earth, but to be expected in that better world.

R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 1.

Reference: Genesis 2:10-14 . Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v. p. 201.

Verse 12

Genesis 2:12

I. If men so willed, gold might be won and no soul lost. And therefore we must take care to distinguish between gold and the thirst for gold. Gold is like the rest of God's gifts, a good thing or a bad thing, according to the use made of it. And so it is no wonder that Scripture has recorded that near to Paradise was a land of gold. The land of Havilah may exist still; the fine gold and the bdellium and the onyx stone may now lie buried deep beneath its surface, or perhaps may yet be lying disregarded, like the treasures of California or Australia not many years ago.

II. Be this as it may, there is another land whose gold is good, a land farther off than the far West and the islands of the sea, and yet ever close at hand, approachable by all, attainable by all, where no rust corrupts and no thieves break through and steal. The gold of that other land is good, simply because, though the words sound like a contradiction, it is not gold. It has been changed. In the world above, that which stands for gold is more precious than gold itself, for even gold cannot purchase it, though gold may serve it.

III. The treasure of heaven is love. Love is the true gold. All else will tarnish and canker and eat into the souls of them that covet it; but Love never. It is bright and precious here in this world: fraud cannot despoil us of it; force cannot rob us of it; it is our only safe happiness here, and it is the only possession we can carry with us into the world beyond the grave.

F. E. Paget, Sermons for Special Occasions, p. 167.

References: Genesis 2:15 . B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 486. Genesis 2:16 , Genesis 2:17 . A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, p. 1; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 136.

Verse 17

Genesis 2:17

These words comprehend the whole of humanity in their application; every man and woman that ever has existed or shall exist on the face of the earth. This was not a positive law, but a negative one; the law of which Adam and Eve were transgressors was a prohibition, and to that prohibition was attached a penalty.

I. Look first at the prohibition: "Thou shalt not eat of it." It is perfectly obvious, from God's character and conduct with man up to this time, that the intention of this prohibition was somehow to confer a great benefit on man himself; otherwise, why should God have given the prohibition? In the case of all perfect beings a test is necessary if they are to attain the highest possible state of perfection. This test was put before Adam and Eve, and the prohibition was enforced and was in order to that result.

II. Look next at the penalty: "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (1) We must determine death by the nature of the subject to which it is applicable. Death is not necessarily the mere cessation of existence. Man's life is physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual; death is the converse of life in regard to each of these particulars. Life implies the giving up of the whole man to God; death is exactly the reverse, it is the man losing all this becoming dead, as we read, "in trespasses and sins." (2) It is said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam and Eve died by becoming subject unto death. The elements of mortality were introduced, and they died spiritually by being estranged from God. In view of the redemption, in view of that Lamb who should come to die for man's sins, the curse was thrown into abeyance, the execution was necessarily deferred. It was deferred in order that an opportunity might be given to man to become acquainted with Christ, and that Christ might accomplish the work of redemption.

C. Molyneux, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 136.

These words were fulfilled at the time they were spoken; they have been fulfilled ceaselessly thereafter. We live in a universe of death. The phenomenon is common to us, but no familiarity can rob it of its dreadfulness; for the dead, who are the more in number, have kept their awful secret unrevealed, and the child who died yesterday knows more than can be guessed at by the thousand millions of living men. Yet this death is the least and the least dreaded part of that other, that second, that spiritual death which God meant in the warning of the text.

I. Notice first the certainty of that death. Let us learn to be early undeceived about the tempter's falsehood, "Ye shall not surely die." If a man will serve his sin, let him at least reckon upon this, that in one way or other it will be ill with him; his sin will find him out; his path will be hard; there will be to him no peace. The night of concealment may be long, but dawn comes like the Erinnys to reveal and avenge its crimes.

II. Not only is this punishment inevitable, but it is natural; not miraculous, but ordinary; not sudden, but gradual; not accidental, but necessary; not exceptional, but invariable. Retribution is the impersonal evolution of an established law.

III. Retribution takes the form which of all others the sinner would passionately deprecate, for it is homogeneous with the sins on whose practice it ensues. In lieu of death God offers us His gift of eternal life. While yet we live, while yet we hear the words of invitation, the door is not shut, and we may pass to it by the narrow way. To Eve was given the dim promise that her seed should bruise the serpent's head; for us Christ has trampled sin and Satan under His feet.

F. W. Farrar, The Fall of Man and other Sermons, p. 27.

References: Genesis 2:17 . Bishop Woodford, Sermons preached in Various Churches, p. 50; Parker, The Fountain (May 9th and May 23rd, 1878), Hidden Springs, p. 275; H. J. Stephens, Literary Churchman Sermons, p. 621.Genesis 2:18 . A. Monod, Select Discourses from the French and German, pp. 17, 47; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 421; G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to my Friends, p. 163.Genesis 2:23 , Genesis 2:24 . J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 84.

Verse 24

Genesis 2:24

I. The gift of speech to Adam was in itself a sublime prophecy that man was not to remain alone and without a companion in the garden where God had placed him. Glorious as man's condition was, there was yet a want the shadow of some yearning hung upon his brow. The sleep that fell upon Adam was no common sleep, like that of wearied humanity; it was something higher. The old Greek translation has it "an ecstasy." It was a prophetic sleep. While he slept, the Lord God built for him a woman, like some great architect, before whom the ideal of a glorious building has floated, until at last the time comes to pile it up visibly, and to rejoice in its exceeding beauty. When Adam awakes his language swells into a hymeneal first, and then into a prophecy.

II. The idea of wedded life involves three things: unity, companionship, subordination.

III. In the old classical world, woman was incredibly degraded; but corruption and false principles on this point were directly attacked by the Gospel of Christ. The tender ties of home and family were not for Him who moved in His loneliness among the sons of men; and yet He breathed with that infinite purity of His upon the flushed and passionate cheek of woman in her home, until it grew pure again. Our homes themselves repose upon the idea of marriage, which was given to man in Eden and renewed by Jesus Christ, the Second Adam.

Bishop Alexander, Norwich Discourses, 4th series, No. 3.

References: Genesis 2:24 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 77. Genesis 2:0 , Genesis 3:0 . S. Leathes, Studies in Genesis, p. 31.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Genesis 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/genesis-2.html.
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