Barry Newman's Blog

March 25, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:56 pm

The man’s role in the garden

Understandably Walton contends that the object of the verbs, “work” and “take care of” is the garden.  However he points out that the Hebrew verbs behind these translations, Hebrew words of unusual morphology (a feminine suffix attached to a masculine noun), “are most frequently encountered in discussions of human service to God rather than descriptions of agricultural tasks.”   Furthermore he points out that when “work” is associated with service or worship, the object of “work” is an indirect object and is usually “what or whom is being worshipped.” One works for God.  The object is not a direct object like “garden”.  Additionally, he points out that the Hebrew for “take care of” “is used in the contexts of the Levitical responsibility of guarding sacred space, as well as for observing religious commands and responsibilities.” (pp. 172, 173).

In concluding his deliberations on understanding man’s role in the garden, Walton believes that “it is most likely that the tasks given to Adam are of a priestly nature – that is caring for sacred space.” (p. 173) and furthermore argues that in the ancient world one of the responsibilities of gods and men was to keep from deterioration and collapse the world that had originally been created as a world of order (p. 173).

Let’s put all these ideas together. Given the unusual morphology of the two words and the possibilities exhibited by their usage elsewhere, it is quite possible that writer intends that the role of man in the garden was both to tend the garden in an agricultural sense and also to serve God in so doing but with the understanding that this was a “sacred” place.  The idea might be that it needed to be kept in good order, preserving it from any deterioration, given that the world outside the garden was or could become, a “wild” place, a place, for example, of thorns and thistles (Gen 3: 17, 18), a place which typified disorder.  But additionally, recognising that this is God’s garden – he especially planted it, the man’s role in tending the garden was living within it in a way that treated it as a sacred place – in fact in a way that treated the God who owned the garden, appropriately, worshipping  him appropriately, obey him in all matters.  The subject of obedience is raised in the very next verse!

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