Barry Newman's Blog

March 15, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:06 pm

Genesis 2: 8, 9 – the garden            

 “The Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  Out of the ground the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  (New American Standard Bible)

By way of explanation, the matter of the placing of man in the garden will be considered later when the account resumes at verse 15 making again that statement.

Where and what is “Eden”?  We know it is east of some point of reference that the author adopts.  It was suggested earlier that perhaps the reference point is Canaan or thereabouts, given the mention of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers and their being east of Canaan.

There is a reference to the “Eden” of Genesis 2: 8, 9 twice more in Genesis 2, two times again in Genesis 3, a further time in Genesis 4 and another ten or so times in the rest of the Old Testament – featuring seven times in Ezekiel.  Outside of Genesis 2 and 3 it is mentioned in association with the garden, or the trees of the garden, seven times.  Although Eden appears to be a locality of greater area than the garden, the locality itself may have been considered luxurious, just as the garden was.  Genesis 2: 8 refers to “the garden in Eden”, but the phrase, “the garden of Eden” appears in Genesis 2: 15, 3: 23 and 24 and Ezekiel 36: 35.  Ezekiel 31: 16, 18 (2x) refers to simply the trees of Eden though earlier in that chapter Ezekiel had referred to “the trees of Eden that were in the garden”.  The difference between “of” and “in” may not be significant.

One of the striking references to the garden of Eden outside of Genesis is the last text mentioned – Ezekiel 31: 9 where the reference is to “all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God (Elohim)”.  That is, among other things, the text is indicating that it is God’s garden.  And Gen 2: 8 states that  Yahweh Elohim planted it.  If God were like an earthly monarch he would not have planted it himself.  He would have had others do that for him but in Genesis it is clear that it is God himself who plants it.  It is his both by virtue of his own activity and by right of ownership.

What sort of a garden was it?  It had beautiful trees and trees that were good for food and of course two extraordinary trees. Only God could create such a collection of trees.   As the account unfolds there is a suggestion that a great variety of animals roam the grounds of the garden.  This is not a garden as we tend to envisage a garden. This is a garden that is very reminiscent (except for the two extraordinary trees) of the great gardens that great rulers of the ancient world had created for themselves.  Walton (pp. 166, 167) refers to a work by Gleason which gives details of such gardens, mentioning rulers such as the Assyrians Tiglath-pileser I, Ashurnasirpal II and Sennacherib and the Babylonian ruler Merodach-Baladan II. Their gardens “were planted with fruit trees and shade trees and generally contained watercourses, pools and paths. Their arboretums contained many exotic trees and plants and sometimes included animals.” (Walton, p. 166)  Understandably they could be enclosed by walls or other types of enclosures.

However, that God planted the garden and that it contained the two extraordinary trees sets the Garden of Eden quite apart from the special gardens of these monarchs.  It is reminiscent of these gardens but different. We will look at these extraordinary trees later.

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