Sunday, February 21, 2010

Genesis 2:5-17's dust, "breath of life", and all of those trees

Genesis 2:5c’s “to work/till the ground” is avad, meaning to work and to serve—and related to the word eved meaning servant or slave. Kass observes “even before we meet him, man is defined by his work: less the ruler over life, more the servant of the earth”.

In Genesis 2:7, God is pictured as a potter, taking great care with his creation of man. The term for man here is Adam, related to adamah, meaning ground. (He is not named “Adam” until 2:20.)

Genesis 2:7 also tells that man is made from dust—something which is formless (a la Gen 1:2), so dry (w/ app. to spiritual matters and the springs of living waters), so common (frequent)—and so common (vulgar). Matthew Henry observes: something "despicable...a very unlikely thing to make a man of; but the same infinite power that made the world (out) of nothing, made man (out) of next to nothing." God condescended to make something in His image—out of dirt!

Dust—and God’s "breath of life". The combo speaks to some big realities: we are physical and spiritual, earthly and divine, natural and supernatural. It speaks to our need for humility: God created us, out of dust, and we require His breath. Matthew Henry applies this: "Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him." And Kass observes: “Human troubles are foreshadowed by man’s dual origins: he is constituted by two principles, the first one low, the second one high…Higher than the earth, yet still bound to it.”

Genesis 2:8 says God put Adam in a garden, implying the usefulness of work (our participation) within God’s provision—vs. just picking fruit/nuts—a picture of growth, cultivation, and then fruit.

In Genesis 2:9, we learn about the trees. First, "all kinds of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food". God's good gifts and plentiful provision here includes beauty, usefulness, and variety/extravagance. Two special trees are singled out—the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (more later) and “the tree of life” which signifies or sustains life (whether figurative or nutritional).

In Genesis 2:15, Adam is again “put” (2:8)—this time, he is invited to help God continue His work (Eph 2:10)—“to work and take care of” Eden. For all of the talk about the first “institution” in the Bible (marriage), Kingdom work precedes it in importance. Note also that work is pre-Fall, so it was meant to be a blessing pre-Fall and is meant to be a redeemed blessing post-Fall. Adam is to “work the soil”—something that is congruent with who we are and what we’re made of.

Genesis 2:16 lays out God’s bounty while Genesis 2:17 lays out prohibition and penalty. 2:16 starts with “commanded…you are free”—a very interesting combo! As is common in Scripture, we are given resources first and then responsibilities. (See: Eph 1-3 vs. 4-6.) But this combo also points to defining freedom in light of necessity/constraint and responsibility (Acton). We are human—and thus, face permission and prohibition, opportunities and limits.

Aside from disobedience, the problem of this knowledge is undefined. Adam and Eve already possessed some moral discernment and knew God's general will for them—and they were called to pursue other sorts of knowledge (e.g., ordering the world by naming the animals). Presumably, this is additional/prohibitive moral knowledge or ethical discernment (Dt 1:39, Is 7:15), something akin to the figurative death/loss of a child’s innocence.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home