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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 2

Verse 1


1. All the host of them That is, all the things, animate and inanimate, which made up the several works of creation .

Verse 2

2. On the seventh day God ended his work “The completion or finishing ( כלה ) of the work of creation on the seventh day (not on the sixth, as Sept . , Samuel, Syr . , erroneously render it) can only be understood by regarding the clauses which are connected with ויכל by Vav consec . as containing the actual completion, that is, by supposing the completion to consist, negatively, in the cessation of the work of creation, and positively, in the blessing and sanctifying of the seventh day . The cessation itself formed a part of the completion of the work . For this meaning of שׁבת , see Genesis 8:22; Job 32:1. As a human artificer completes his work just when he has brought it to his ideal and ceases to work upon it, so, in an infinitely higher sense, God completed the creation of the world with all its inhabitants by ceasing to create any thing new, and entering into the rest of his all-sufficient eternal Being, from which he had come forth, as it were, at and in the creation of a world distinct from his own essence.” Keil. God did not rest because he was weary, but because he had finished his work; and his rest was the divine refreshment of holy contemplation. Exodus 31:17. The fact that there is no mention of the morning and evening of the seventh day is no evidence that that day, as here intended, continues still .

Verse 3

3. Created and made Hebrews, created to make . That is, created for the purpose of moulding into such forms and putting to such uses as are here described .

Verse 4

4. These are the generations This verse is the heading to Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 4:26, and, of course, refers to what follows, not to what precedes. In every other passage of the Pentateuch where this formula occurs, it serves as a heading to what follows, and never as a summary of what precedes. Compare Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:12; Genesis 25:19; Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:9; Genesis 37:2; Numbers 3:1. “This would never have been disputed,” says Keil, “had not preconceived opinions as to the composition of Genesis obscured the vision of commentators . … Just as the generations of Noah, (Genesis 6:9,) for example, do not mention his birth, but contain his history and the birth of his sons; so the generations of the heavens and the land do not describe the origin of the universe, but what happened to the heavens and the land after their creation.” He further observes, that “the word תולדות , generations, which is used only in the plural, and never occurs except in the construct state, or with suffixes, is a Hiphil noun, (from הוליד , Hiphil of ילד ) and signifies, literally, the generation or posterity of any one, then the development of these generations or of his descendants; in other words, the history of those who are begotten, or the account of what happened to them and what they performed. In no instance whatever is it the history of the birth or origin of the person named in the genitive, but always the account of his family and life.”

Accordingly, it should be particularly noted that what follows is not the generations of Adam, though Adam and his immediate progeny are the subject of this section. The generations of Adam are given at Genesis 5:1, ff., and consist of his outgrowth and development through Seth; but vegetable growths, and the forming of Adam and Eve and paradise, and the narrative of the temptation and fall and expulsion from the garden, and of Cain and Abel and the progeny of Cain, are all treated as generations of the heavens and the land.

When they were created Hebrews, בהבראם , in their being created . That is, in their condition as having been created; or, upon their being created. To define this more fully we have the following immediately added:

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens That is, the historical terminus a quo of the following generations is the day in which JEHOVAH-GOD made land and heavens. The word day is not to be taken here as denoting the whole period of the creative week, as most commentators have supposed. Such a construction of the word misses the great controlling idea of this whole section. It grows out of the notion that the word generations refers back to what precedes, and so controls the exegesis of some writers who deny such reference of the word. We understand the word day here to denote the day in which God completed the land and the heavens, planted the garden of Eden, and formed Adam and Eve. The land and the heavens were not fully made until that day the sixth day of the preceding narrative. Here comes out the great distinction between ברא and עשׁה . This making עשׂות of the land and the heavens by Jehovah-Elohim is a different conception from the creation ( ברא ) of the heavens and the land by Elohim in Genesis 1:1. It points rather to a purpose for which the land and heavens were made . It denotes not so much their origin as their subsequent moulding into definite forms, and putting to definite uses . Compare note on Genesis 2:3 above, where both words occur together . Then note that the word land here precedes heavens, and, having the more emphatic position in the sentence, denotes that it now becomes the prominent scene of events . We are now to be told of generations, processes of birth, growth, and development, and the word ברא does not occur in this whole section . Accordingly, the terminus a quo of this section is the sixth day of the creative week, and so, according to the uniform usage of the Book of Genesis, the narrative here laps back upon the preceding section, and takes its start from the day in which God is conceived of as having made (completed) the land and heavens. We must notice, too, that land and heavens are here mentioned without the article, as being in themselves less definite than the idea of their being made by Jehovah-Elohim. Creation, so to speak, began with the Almighty and Pluripotent God, Elohim; its completion was wrought by Jehovah, the Personal God of revelation, of moral law, and of love. But these are not two different Beings. “In this section the combination Jehovah-Elohim is expressive of the fact that Jehovah is God, or one with Elohim. Hence, Elohim is placed after Jehovah. For the constant use of the double name is not intended to teach that Elohim who created the world was Jehovah, but that Jehovah who visited man in paradise, who punished him for the transgression of his command, but gave him a promise of victory over the tempter, was Elohim, the same God who created the heavens and the earth.” Keil.

Verses 4-25

The Generations of the Heavens and the Land, Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 4:26.

In chapters 1, and Genesis 2:1-3, the sacred writer gives us his account of the creation of the heavens and the land; he now proceeds to give us their generations, תולרות . His historical standpoint is the day from which these generations start; the day when man was formed of the dust of the ground, and of the breath of life from the heavens. So the first man is conceived of as the product of the heavens and the land by the word of God. Hence, Adam was the son of God, (Luke 3:38,) and the day of his creation was the point of time when Jehovah-God first revealed himself in history as one with the Creator . In chapter i, which narrates the beginning of the heavens and the land, we find mention of Elohim only, the God in whom (as the plural form of the name intimates) centres all fulness and manifoldness of Divine Powers . At the beginning of this section stands the name יהוה , Jehovah, the personal Revealer and Redeemer, who enters into covenant with his creatures, and places man under moral law .

The information supplied in this chapter is fundamental to the history of redemption. Here we learn of man’s original estate; the conditions of the first covenant of works; the sanctity of the family relation; and the innocency of the first human pair. Without the information here supplied the subsequent history of man and of redemption would be an insoluble enigma.

Verse 5

5. And every plant… before it was in the earth The common version is utterly wrong in connecting this verse with what precedes, and so punctuating it as to make plant and herb grammatically the objects of made in Genesis 2:4, the same as earth and heavens of that verse . Literally this verse reads: And every shrub of the field not yet was ( יהיה , future form, involving the idea of becoming, arising, growing, in the land, and every herb of the field not yet was sprouting, for Jehovah-God had not caused it to rain upon the land; and no man to work the ground . This exhibits the Hebrew idiom, but a more proper translation would be: And no shrub of the field was yet arising in the land, and no herb of the field was yet sprouting . The future form יהיה , will be, taken in connexion with the future יצמח , will sprout, shows that a process of growth is contemplated, not the simple fact of existence. Hence the meaning is, (not that there was yet no plant or herb existing in the land, but,) none of the plants or herbs of the fields of Eden had as yet entered upon the processes of growth. A reason for this is given in the statement that rain had not yet fallen. The dry ground had been made to appear, (Genesis 1:9,) and grass and herb had been produced by the Almighty fiat, (Genesis 1:11-12,) but the ground was not yet watered with rain, and the processes of vegetation were not yet in progress .

Not a man to till the ground Here note that the conceptual standpoint is previous to the formation of man; and the whole narrative naturally reverts to what we may suppose to have been the condition of things on the morning of the sixth day. Nevertheless the exact order of events in this chapter is not definitely stated, as in chapter 1.

Verse 6

6. A mist אד , a mist, a vapour . This first watering of the whole face of the ground was accomplished by an ascending vapour . Here is no mention of rain falling; but rather of mist going up. Perhaps, however, the one thought is designed to imply the other. The sacred writer thus also intimates how the vast reservoir of “waters above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7) were thenceforth to be supplied.

Verse 7

7. Formed man Here occurs for the first time the word יצר , to form . The production of man is here viewed not so much as a creation, but rather as a formation. Comp . note on Genesis 1:1. It is viewed from the standpoint of the generation of the heavens and the land, and conceived as a process: dust… breath of life… living soul. Having passed from the narrative of creation to a narrative of generations, the sacred writer would have us think of man as not merely created by miracle, but also as brought forth into form and activity by a gradational process of creation. First, God “formed man of dust from the ground.” עפר , dust, is here grammatically the “accusative of the material,” and denotes the ground as the source of the primeval generation of man’s body. Hence mortal man is from the earth, (Psalms 10:18,) and we speak of “mother earth . ”

Breathed into his nostrils the breath of life So man is not only earthborn, but heavenborn . As to his body, he is from the dust; but as to his soul he is, as the Greek poet and Paul affirm, the offspring of God. Acts 17:28-29. God breathed out of himself into the body of the first man the breath of life, נשׁמת חיים , breath of lives . Some have held that the plural, lives, in this Hebrew expression, was designed to denote the twofold life of man animal and spiritual; or perhaps the various powers and operations of the human soul . But the frequent use of the same plural form in other connexions ( as tree of life, Genesis 2:9; ways of life, Proverbs 2:19) is against such an interpretation . In Genesis 7:22, we have the expression breath of the spirit of life applied to the whole living animal creation . And (the) man became a living soul This is the third stage, and the outcome of the creative process . Man thus became a self-conscious, living creature . The expression חיה נפשׁ , soul of life, or living soul, is used also in Genesis 1:20-21; Genesis 1:24; Genesis 1:30, of fishes, birds, and other animals. But the divine process by which man comes to be such a living creature is what we are to note. His soul-endowed nature is the result of an extraordinary divine inbreathing; an “inspiration from the Almighty.” Job 32:8; Job 33:4. Hence we incline, with Delitzsch, to regard the breath of life in this verse (and which occurs nowhere else in this section) as denoting the spirit as distinguished from the soul of man . Accordingly, while discarding the low mechanical anthropomorphic conception of God as a workman, fashioning a clod of earth with his hands, and then standing near it to breathe into it a breath from without, we nevertheless discern in this narrative a divine process in the creation of man . “It begins,” says Delitzsch, “with the constitution of the body, as the regeneration ( palin-genesia) of man shall one day end with the reconstitution of the body . God first formed the human body, introducing the formative powers of entire nature into the moist earth taken from the soil of Eden, and placing them in co-operation; whereon he then breathed into this form the creative spirit, which, because it originated after the manner of breathing, may just as well be called his spirit as man’s spirit, because it is his breath made into the spirit of man . This spirit, entering into the form of the body, did not remain hidden in itself, but revealed itself, by virtue of its likeness to God, as soul, which corresponds to the doxa (glory) of the Godhead, and by means of the soul subjected to itself the corporeity, by combining within the unity of its own intrinsic vitality the energies of the bodily material, as they reciprocally act on one another in accordance with the life of nature.… For the soul, as Tertullian says, is the body of the spirit, and the flesh is the body of the soul.” Biblical Psychology, p. 102.

Verses 7-25


The foregoing narrative of the beginning of human history is singularly simple and free from numerous characteristics of the myths and legends of other nations, as well as from their pantheistic and polytheistic conceptions. “According to the ideas commonly prevailing among the peoples of antiquity,” says Lenormant, “man is regarded as autochthonous, or issued from the earth which bears him. Rarely, in the accounts which treat of his first appearance, do we discover a trace of the notion which supposes him to be created by the omnipotent operation of a deity, who is personal and distinct from primordial matter. The fundamental concepts of pantheism and emanatism, upon which were based the learned and proud religions of the ancient world, made it possible to leave in a state of vague uncertainty the origin and production of men. They were looked upon, in common with all things, as having sprung from the very substance of the divinity, which was confounded with the world; this coming forth had been a spontaneous action, through the development of the chain of emanations, and not the result of a free and determinate act of creative will, and there was very little anxiety shown to define, otherwise than under a symbolical and mythological form, the manner of that emanation which took place by a veritable act of spontaneous generation.” Beginnings of History, p. 47.

Which, now, is the more reasonable and probable hypothesis, that this biblical account of man’s origin is the true and genuine tradition of the most ancient times of which the legends of other nations are the degenerate outgrowths, mixed with various pantheistic and polytheistic notions or, that the ethnic myths are the source of this unique theistic record, which was compiled by some ancient sage who aimed to purge the floating traditions of their heathenish features, and to express them in consistency with the doctrine of a personal God? In other words, is this narrative a development out of pantheistic myths, or are the myths and legends a perversion of the true account of man’s origin, of which this biblical record is the most ancient historic monument?

The answer to this question will be mainly governed by the belief or non-belief in the existence of a personal God, who is concerned with man and with all things of this world. The doctrine of the Omnipotent and Omniscient Deity is the logical basis of all belief in the supernatural creation of man, and that belief is of the nature of an intuition rather than the result of any process of reason.

Accepting, therefore, as we do, the Scripture doctrine of the personal God and Father of us all, we also believe that these Scriptures contain his own revelation of the beginning of human history. Portions of the record may be regarded as symbolical or parabolic in form, from the necessity of thus accommodating the record to the capacity of man’s understanding. The anthropomorphism of these ancient narratives, far from being a ground for discrediting them, is rather a mark of their genuineness. The concept of creation must be given, if given at all, in harmony with human modes of thought and feeling. The central fact revealed is, that God produced man partly from the earth and partly from himself his body from the dust, his soul from the divine breath. All we can comprehend is, the idea that he was formed by Him who had all power in heaven and earth. As no man can tell how Jesus made the water wine, so can no man tell how God made dust and breath into a living soul, or how he builded the man’s rib into a woman. The great fact revealed is, that “Adam was first formed, then Eve,” and “the man is not of (or from) the woman, but the woman of the man.” 1 Timothy 2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8.

Accepting this great fact as matter of divine revelation, we of course reject the evolution hypothesis of a naturalistic development of man from some extinct race of pithecoids, like the gorilla or the orang-outang. We reject this hypothesis, not only because it seems in conflict with the biblical narrative, but also because its main positions do not commend themselves. In such a struggle for existence as the current doctrines of evolution assume, we would naturally suppose that the terrible gorilla, according to all known analogy, would develop into a still more ferocious animal. The struggle with a cold climate after the glacial era, and with the mighty animals of that period, would certainly seem to have produced something very diverse from the tender skin and comparatively frail mechanism which the genus homo everywhere presents to our observation. By what process of “natural selection” a ferocious orang-outang, fighting for existence, would come to lose his thick hairy hide, strong jaws, and sharp claws, is more than we can rationally conceive. But it appears, rather, that the apes are man’s contemporaries, not his predecessors. If allied at all by flesh and blood they are man’s cousins, or brothers, not his ancestors.

The Darwinian theory of evolution must fill up many wide gaps before it can be accepted as accounting for the origin of man. The distance between man and the most highly developed monkey yet discovered is immensely great. “Zoologically,” says Dawson, “apes are not varieties of the same species with man; they are not species of the same genus, nor do they belong to genera of the same family, or even to families of the same order.” Nor should we forget that the regions most favourable for apes are least favourable for human life. A great gulf lies between the low animal nature of the ape, or of any other beast, and the reasoning moral nature of man. Another gap which Darwinians have not been able to bridge is, that between any two species of animals. Great varieties of species appear, but no real transmutation of species has yet been shown. Another gap back of these is, that which separates vegetable and animal life; and even if this were covered, there would be another, still broader, between any living thing and inert matter.

The notion that man was originally a savage, and elevated himself into civilization by the pressure of his own necessities, is also destitute of any evidence that commends it to the thoughtful mind. The most ancient nations of which we have any trustworthy history were highly civilized. Witness the monuments along the Euphrates and the Nile. There is no shadow of proof that these nations raised themselves out of a previous barbarism. On the other hand, it is well known that tribes and colonies, once separated from a civilized state, have deteriorated, and become savage and barbarous. Indo-European philology enables us to trace many a rude western people to an oriental source. “Within a century or two,” writes Whedon, “a large number of Caucasians excluded by slavery from a suitable place in the social system, have, even within hailing distance of what claimed to be a high civilization, changed in color, diminished in size, and forgotten letters, mechanic arts, and religion.” But no one can point as a matter of fact to a single savage tribe which became civilized and enlightened otherwise than by coming in contact with other and higher forms of civil life. Only moral forces, connected with an elevating form of religion, have lifted savage men up to higher modes of life. Left to themselves they sink lower and lower. Geology, also, sustains the doctrine of degeneracy in types of life. According to Dawson, the laws of creation, as illustrated by the record of the rocks, are these: “First, that there has been a progress in creation from few, low, and generalized types of life to more numerous, higher, and more specialized types; and, secondly, that every type, low or high, was introduced at first in its best and highest form, and was, as a type, subject to degeneracy, and to partial or total replacement by higher types subsequently introduced. In geological times,” he adds, “the tendency seems to be ever to disintegration and decay. This we see everywhere, and find that elevation occurs only by the introduction of new species in a way which is not obvious, and which may rather imply the intervention of a cause from without.” Story of the Earth and Man, p. 235.

Some modern writers have fallen into the habit of using the terms “stone age,” “bronze age,” and “iron age,” as if the entire human race had developed in civilization according as they had used implements of these various qualities. Rude tribes, indeed, naturally make use of stone from ignorance of the manufacture of better material. But to assume that nations, or races, or mankind generally, have passed by regular gradations from a stone age to a bronze age, and from a bronze age to an iron age, is utterly fallacious and misleading. Other circumstances than those of savagery and ignorance may oblige a people to use stone or wooden implements. Compare Judges 5:8, and 1 Samuel 13:19-22. Nothing is better known than that some tribes have employed stone utensils at the same time that others have used brass and iron . In the old Chaldean tombs flint, bronze, and iron implements are found mingled together . In Xerxes’s great army were found all sorts of weapons made of wood, bone, flint, bronze, and iron. In the trenches of Alesia, where Caesar fought his last battle with the Gauls, stone, bronze, and iron weapons were mixed together in one promiscuous bed. Schliemann’s excavations on the site of ancient Troy discovered stone and bronze in the lowest relic bed, representing, as he thinks, an age anterior to the Homeric Troy. Above this was another bed in which the relics were stone and bronze; and in another, still higher and more modern, he found no traces of metal at all. But in a fourth and later bed, stone and bronze again appeared. Here, it would seem, two bronze ages preceded a stone age, and then followed another age of bronze. While, therefore, the use of stone, bronze, or iron may serve to indicate the degree of civilization to which a people has attained, it can furnish no evidence of the age of man on earth, or of his primitive condition.

From all the confusing speculations of those who, from most meagre data, rush to the conclusion that primeval man was a rude savage, self-evolved from a still more savage brute, we turn with inexpressible satisfaction to the ancient Scripture doctrine that “God created man in his own image.” He did not first involve him in savagery in order that he might evolve himself into a higher life, but he made him upright, and gave him “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” That first period was his golden age, and afterward he “corrupted his way” upon the earth. This biblical account of man’s primitive condition and subsequent degeneracy is confirmed by the traditions of many nations, and is entirely compatible with reason and all the well-established facts of human history. This unique account we do well to accept until it is clearly shown to be false, and something better and more rational is given us in its stead.

As to the perfection, mental capacity, and knowledge of the first man, speculation is idle, and extreme views are to be avoided. While we may well hesitate to believe, with Knapp, that at the time of his first consciousness he was as destitute of ideas as a new born child, we should also repudiate such extravagant assumptions as those of Dr. South, who says of Adam, that “he came into the world a philosopher; he could perceive the essences of things in themselves, and read forms without the comment of their respective properties; he could see consequences yet dormant in their principles, and effects yet unborn, and in the womb of their causes; his understanding could almost pierce into future contingents; his conjecture improving even to prophecy, or the certainties of prediction. Could any difficulty have been proposed, the resolution would have been as early as the proposal; it could not have had time to settle into doubt.” Sermons, vol. i, pp. 24, 25. This is being “wise above what is written.” It is sufficient to know that man’s original estate was one which his divine Creator pronounced VERY GOOD.

In marked contrast with all the cosmogonies and traditions of other nations are the doctrines of these first two chapters of Genesis. Aside from any special significance in the names Elohim and Jehovah, we legitimately deduce from this record of creation the doctrine of an infinite God, a personal Creator, an all-sufficient First Cause, almighty, wise, good, condescending to the tenderest care for his creatures; a God of order, of law, of righteousness and holiness. He is a self-revealing Spirit and communicates instruction to his created intelligences. Here, also, is the doctrine of man created in the image of God, good, upright, in a state of perfect innocence, with unspeakable possibilities before him. He is the lord of the lower creations, but is himself under law. The woman is his fitting companion, and the marriage relation is to be regarded as sacred, and even more binding than other ties of human kinship. The spiritual nature of man is emphasized; he is a moral being, capable of acquiring great wisdom, and also capable of sin. The animate and inanimate creation, the land, the heavens, the sun and moon and stars are all God’s work. To sum all up in a word, here we read the doctrines of a lofty Theism and a rational and ennobling Anthropology.

Verse 8

8. Planted a garden eastward in Eden The word Eden is here first introduced, and without any explanation . It seems most natural to understand it as the proper name of the land ( ארצ ) of the preceding narrative . The word signifies pleasure, delight, and thus corresponds with the Greek ηδονη . The Septuagint and Vulgate translate גן , garden, by the word paradise, (a park,) and the word came at length to be used as a proper name for the garden of Eden, and also for the abode of disembodied spirits. Compare Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4. The Vulgate never renders Eden as a proper name; and the Septuagint only here, in Genesis 2:10, and in Genesis 4:16. Accordingly some translate:

God planted a garden in a delightful region. But the word eastward ( מקדם , from the east, or, on the east, that is, in the eastern part) serves to put on Eden the character of a proper name. And a most suitable name it was for the land where man first appeared, created in the image of God. That land, from the dust of which Adam was formed, in which every tree and shrub and herb was very good, being supernaturally produced by the power of God, might well be called Eden. The garden was planted in the eastern section of this Eden-land.

There he put the man whom he had formed These words, taken in connexion with Genesis 2:15, are supposed to imply that Adam was created outside of paradise, and afterward transported thither. But the word שׂום , here used, and נוח , in Genesis 2:15, both convey the idea of establishment in some place without any necessary allusion to a previous state . We might say of Eve, as well as of Adam, that God took her and placed her in paradise, without necessarily implying that she was created outside of the garden . The order of the narrative would indicate that man was formed before the garden was prepared for him . But the order of the narrative by no means implies, or requires us to assume, a corresponding chronological sequence of the things narrated .

It would require volumes to chronicle all the opinions and discussions relative to the location of the garden of Eden, and the four rivers mentioned Genesis 2:11-14. Three theories have been particularly urged one which locates the garden near the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, or somewhere between that junction and the Persian Gulf; another which locates it in the highlands of Armenia, near the sources of these rivers; and a third which places it in the far East, in the mountainous highlands of Central Asia, near the sources of the Indus, the Helmend, the Oxus, and the Jaxartes rivers. All these theories become worthless the moment we allow that the deluge may have borne the family of Noah far away from the primeval home of man. The notion that the rivers and countries subsequently known as Hiddekel, Euphrates, Havilah, Cush, etc., are identical with the lands and rivers of Eden is also destitute of any sure foundation. For we must remember the universal habit of migratory tribes and new colonies to give old and familiar names to the new rivers, mountains, and countries which they discover and occupy. Nothing could have been more natural than for the sons of Noah to give to new objects names from the old fatherland. Prof. W.F. Warren, in his Paradise Found, the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole, Boston, 1885, adduces a variety of arguments to prove that the primitive Eden was at the Arctic pole. Nothing in the legitimate interpretation of this Scripture is inconsistent with such an hypothesis; but we make no attempt to determine the site of paradise, inasmuch as we find nothing in this narrative that appears sufficient to solve that problem. It is, however, very probable that the original Eden of the human race was submerged and obliterated by the deluge.

Verse 9

9. Out of the ground… every tree These growths of the garden may be regarded as special creations; a part of the special work of fitting up the garden for man: or they may be understood as a general statement made without reference to time . The context makes the former supposition the more probable one .

The tree of life A tree of special value and significance, the eating of whose fruit perpetuated life forever . Genesis 3:22. Prof. Warren cites the singular agreement of many ancient religions in associating their paradise-tree with the axis of the world, and observes: “If the garden of Eden was precisely at the North Pole, it is plain that a goodly tree standing in the centre of that garden would have had a visible and obvious cosmical significance, which could by no possibility belong to any other. Paradise Found, p. 263.

In the midst of the garden As if it were to be the most conspicuous object there, and a constant prophecy to man that he was made for immortality. Comp. Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2.

And the tree of knowledge of good and evil The notion that the tree of life and the tree of knowledge were identical is not the most natural meaning of this language. This tree, says Jacobus, “was so-called not merely as a test for proving man, and showing whether he would choose the good or the evil; nor merely because by eating it he would come to know both good and evil, and the evil so that he would know the good in the new light of contrast with the evil. Both these are involved. But it was set also as a symbol of the divine knowledge to which man should not aspire, but to which he should submit his own judgment and knowledge. The positive prohibition was to be a standing discipline of the human reason, and a standing symbol of the limitation of religious thought.”

These two trees being named in immediate connexion with the other trees of the garden, are to be understood literally of two particular trees, and not allegorically, as if they were merely symbols. See more on Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:7.

Verse 10

10. A river went out of Eden This river, like the trees just named, constituted a part of the perfection of the earthly paradise . Comp . Revelation 22:1-2.

From thence From the garden . The verse clearly implies that the river had its source in the garden, and from that place, as a centre, divided itself off, was parted so as to become the fountain heads of four different streams . Hence by river we may understand river system, set of rivers, all identified as to their origin, but whether flowing from four neighboring fountains or from one may be left undecided . Some suppose the river flowed as one stream through the garden, and after leaving it became divided into four heads or beginnings of rivers .

Verse 11

11. Pison… Havilah After the views above given as to the site of paradise and the land of Eden, it would be idle to enumerate the diverse speculations and conjectures touching the rivers and lands designated in this and the following verses . The name Pison occurs nowhere else; but Havilah appears in Genesis 10:7, as the name of a son of Ham, and in Gen 2:29 as that of a son of Shem . Nothing would have been more natural than for the sons of Noah to transfer antediluvian names to their children . In Genesis 25:18, and 1 Samuel 15:7, the name appears as that of a country south-east of Palestine probably because settled by the descendants of a patriarch of this name .

Where there is gold The land of Eden was rich in precious metals and other costly substances .

Verse 12

12. Bdellium The word הבדלח occurs only here and in Numbers 11:7. The Septuagint renders it by ανθραξ in this passage, and by κρυσταλλος in Numbers . Gesenius, following Bochart and the rabbins, takes the word collectively in the sense of pearls . The English version, bdellium, follows Josephus, the Vulgate, and the Greek versions of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and is as probably correct as any . Bdellium is a transparent, waxlike resin, now found on the trunks of trees in India .

Onyx stone Some render beryl; others, sardonyx . Some precious stone is meant, but it is impossible to determine its identity .

Verse 13

13. Gihon This name occurs again only as denoting a fountain near Jerusalem . 1 Kings 1:33; 1Ki 1:38 ; 1 Kings 1:45; 2 Chronicles 32:30.

Compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia The attempt to explain this as referring to any of the lands subsequently known as Ethiopia, or Cush, are, perhaps, the best possible refutation of the notion that the rivers of Eden are identical with any rivers now known . Cush was evidently the name of a region or country in the land of Eden, and it was very natural for Ham, the son of Noah, after the flood to name one of his sons in memory of this ancient country. Genesis 10:6. The same considerations apply to the names Hiddekel, Assyria, (or Asshur; compare Genesis 10:11; Genesis 10:22,) and Euphrates, or Phrath, in the following verse . There is no sufficient reason for the belief that the original rivers and countries of Eden remained traceable after the flood.

Verse 15

15. Took the man See note on Genesis 2:8.

To dress it and to keep it The world was made for man, and it became his noble intellect and skillful hand to give direction to its growths . Man was made for work, and labour was honourable in the primitive Eden . God himself is revealed as working, and furnishing a divine example . Hence the commandment: “Six days shalt thou labour,… for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth . ” Exodus 20:9; Exodus 20:11. To dress, that is, to work and cultivate the garden, was one means of keeping it, for its vegetation might grow wild, and suffer also from the beasts of the field . The man was placed in paradise to keep it, ( שׁמר , guard, preserve,) not to lose it . Perhaps the word may indicate that an evil enemy was lurking near.

Verse 16

16. The Lord God commanded the man The Hebrew form of expression, ויצו על האדם , and put a commandment upon the man, suggests the thought of an authoritative law coming down upon him from above . The word man is to be understood here as in Genesis 5:2, of the man and his wife, and not as excluding the woman from the obligation of the law . The woman herself acknowledges this in Genesis 3:2-3. The commandment might, indeed, have been given first to the man, and afterward repeated to the man and his wife together, thus intensifying in them both a sense of its importance . An exact chronological order of particular events is evidently not exhibited in this chapter . Here is the first revelation of moral law . The divine commandment appeals to man’s intellectual and moral nature, recognising him as a thinking religious being . The commandment is simple, specific, positive, and so adapted to test the free and responsible nature of the being to whom it was addressed .

Observe that the first great commandment, which served to test man’s moral life, was of a negative form a prohibition. See next verse.

Freely eat The intensified form of expression (Hebrews, eating thou mayest eat) confers the most unrestricted enjoyment of all the fruitage of the garden. Many understand from this reference to the fruit of trees, as also from Genesis 1:29, that man at first subsisted on the fruit of trees alone. This, taken in connexion with the absence of any allusion to the use of animal food in these first records of the race, may be a legitimate inference, but is nowhere clearly asserted.

Verse 17

17. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil It is idle to speculate on the physical nature of this mysterious tree; and the supposition that its fruit contained a natural poison, which must sooner or later have resulted in the death of the eater, is without warrant in the Scripture . Nordo we see sound reason in classing this account of the tree of knowledge with the myths and traditions of prophetic trees, or in seeking to identify it (or the tree of life) with the sacred plant or branch which appears so noticeably on Chaldean, Assyrian, and Persian monuments . All that clearly appears in this narrative is, that the fruit of a particular tree (or, perhaps, class of trees) was designated as not to be eaten, and the name seems to have been given in anticipation of what would result from eating the forbidden fruit . Its name, therefore, indicated the moral purpose which it served rather than any natural or physical character of the tree itself . The design of the prohibition of this particular fruit was to test man’s moral nature, to develop his love for his Maker by deliberate choice of the good and deliberate rejection of the evil . Thus would he come to distinguish clearly between good and evil by acquiring a godlike permanence in the good, and like steadfast opposition to all evil.

By disobedience he came to know good and evil in the Satanic way, becoming experimentally identified with the evil, and thus opposed to God.

The disposition which some have shown to ridicule the literal interpretation of this narrative, and to assume that it was unworthy of God and incompatible with the dignity of man’s original state to make his and his posterity’s happiness depend upon the non-eating of a certain tree, springs from notions of God and of man which are unscriptural. The simplicity, clearness, and positive character of the prohibition are conspicuous marks of its fitness as a moral test. The newly created Adam, with great possibilities, was yet undeveloped and undisciplined. His mental and religious nature, like that of a child, would be best trained by a positive commandment, which rested in the authority of the Creator rather than in the reason of the creature whose love and loyalty were to be tested. Moreover, as food was a natural want of man, the most convenient and suitable form of the first law given for his moral guidance was one in which a broad permission and a single prohibition related to the matter of eating.

In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die Solemn and startling words to be uttered in the bowers of paradise! What all this terrible penalty involved was doubtless a mystery to the man, and no subsequent revelation has fully cleared the awful mystery. The comments of Muller ( Christian Doctrine of Sin, vol. ii, page 291, Edinburgh, 1868) furnish an excellent statement of the doctrine of the ancient Scripture: “If we compare the penalty of death threatened Genesis 2:17, with the fulfilment of the sentence after the first transgression, (Genesis 3:16-22,) two things are manifest . On the one hand we find that the death which was to follow the commission of sin included not only physical death, but the various ills that flesh is heir to the manifold pains and miseries of our earthly lot; and these are represented as resulting from sin, which ends in death . Thus the well known difficulty involved in the word ביום , in the day, is at once obviated. In the very day of disobedience a life begins which is at the same time a death. It thus appears, too, that when the serpent in his subtlety said to Eve, ‘Ye shall not surely die,’ this was not a bare lie, but a half truth, and therefore a double deception. But, on the other hand, we find by comparing the two passages that physical death is the real kernel and gist of the punishment. For the sentence pronounced concludes with the prophecy of death, making this the most important element, by emphatic repetition; (Genesis 3:19;) and the account of the execution of the sentence lays stress chiefly upon the fact of man’s exclusion from the means of imperishable life . ” See Genesis 3:22; Genesis 3:24.

Verse 18

18. Not good that the man should be alone He was designed to be a social being, capable of holding intercourse with other beings like himself, as well as with God and angels .

Help meet Hebrews, I will make for him a helper as over against him, כנגדו , corresponding to him that is, a suitable companion; one who can assist him in his labours, share his counsels, and reciprocate his feelings .

Verse 19

19. Every beast of the field That is, representative animals of the garden; not, as some would understand, (and thence erect a skeptical objection to the history,) all the genera, species, and individuals of the animal creation of all climates throughout the world . The apparent design of the writer in introducing here this statement of the animals of Paradise was to show that among all these lower orders of animal life there was no proper companion for the man. He gave these several creatures names according to their natures; but for Adam was not found a helper corresponding to him (Genesis 2:20) among them all. It required no very long time for God to cause the animals of Paradise to pass before Adam and receive their names from him. This was a very proper prelude to the formation of the woman, for it served to awaken in the man a consciousness of his need of a companion.

Verse 20

20. Adam gave names to all cattle Adam was the first great scientist . For what is all natural science but a discovery of the objects of nature, observing, discriminating, and giving them names? Adam, by a lofty intuition, and a judgment and inspiration unrivaled by any of his sons, first gave facile expression in names to the qualities of the creatures he observed . “Still we are not to suppose that Adam’s insight into the character of the animals was a perfect comprehension of the secrets of nature; it is rather to be regarded as the pure, simple, lively view of an innocent child full of undeveloped depth of mind . ” Gerlach . And yet we may suppose that he uttered the names by means of a divine impulse acting vigorously on his human powers, and giving them a normal development. “The man sees the animals, and thinks of what they are and how they look; and these thoughts, in themselves already inward words, take the form involuntarily of audible names, which he utters to the beasts.” Delitzsch. And to this we may add the words of Keil: “The thoughts of Adam with regard to the animals, we are not to regard as the mere results of reflection; but as a deep and direct mental insight into the nature of the animals.”

Verse 21

21. Caused a deep sleep to fall תרדמח , deep sleep, not an ordinary slumber, but a profound sleep in which all self-consciousness was suspended .

One of his ribs Hence the force of the old proverb: The part of which woman was made was not taken from his head, as if she were to be a lord over him, nor from his feet, as if he might tread upon her, but from his side, to show that she was to be his companion and equal.

Verse 22

22. Made he a woman Hebrews, Built… the rib which he had taken from the man into a woman . This is a simple statement of fact, and skeptical speculation and jest respecting it are idle and absurd . “The woman was created, not of the dust of the earth, but from a rib of Adam, because she was formed for an inseparable unity and fellowship of life with the man, and the mode of her creation was to lay the actual foundation for the moral ordinance of marriage.” Keil.

Brought her Not that she was formed at a great distance from him, but as soon as he awoke from his deep sleep, she was brought to his notice, that is, stood before him.

Verse 23

23. This is now bone Hebrews, This the time bone of my bones, etc. הפעם , the time, is here equivalent to the adverb now. Comp . Genesis 30:20. The words are an exclamation, and indicate the joyful surprise with which he recognises this time, after having looked hitherto repeatedly among the lower animals in vain, a suitable companion for himself .

Shall be called Woman He gives her at once her proper name, and he does it by means of the same deep insight into her nature as that by which he named the living creatures of Paradise . Thus now has the sacred writer completed a fuller description of the creation of man, male and female, than it was his design to give in the previous section, Genesis 1:27. That was creation, this formation. See above on Genesis 2:7. On the proper name of the woman, see Genesis 3:20.

Verse 24

24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh Some interpreters (Delitzsch, Lange) regard these as the words of Adam, spoken as by a prophetic impulse from God; while others (Keil, Gerlach, Turner) regard them as the words of the inspired historian . The latter is the more probable view . In Matthew 19:3-6, Jesus showed from this passage that the marriage tie is most holy and inviolable . Says Otto von Gerlach: “There will be times and circumstances when a man is permitted, nay, is commanded, to leave his father and his mother, but his wife he is never permitted to leave they both shall be one . This is not said of the woman, because she already, by her marriage, has left father and mother, and become subject to her husband. Here it is not spoken of leaving father and mother for the sake of marrying, but of a leaving after marriage.”

Verse 25

25. Not ashamed For where there is no sin, but a heavenly consciousness of perfect innocence, there can be no sense of shame .

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.