I’d like to begin with a question today. Which blade on these scissors is most necessary? On the surface it might seem like a foolish question because, of course, both blades are equally necessary for these scissors to succeed at the job they were made for. I ask that question in order to highlight an important point. Each week before the sermon, we pray. Have you ever asked why we do that? Do we pray before the sermon because it’s what pastors do? Do we pray before the sermon because prayer is good and we should pray? Do we pray before the sermon because prayer is just what we do when we come to church? Or, is there a far higher and more urgent reason to pray before preaching? I submit that there is indeed a high reason to do so. You see, the sermon I’m about to preach now might be a good one, it might be doctrinally sound, it might even present a correct view of the text before is. But if we don’t plead with the Lord to drive it home to our hearts, to open our ears to the truth, and our eyes to the God of this truth, this would remain an intellectual endeavor only. So prayer isn’t just a good idea for this moment, it’s essential for this moment! We want God to not only be known rightly, we want God to be loved for what we see of Him in this text. That is our deepest need in this moment, and Church, no one in this room can produce such a result. But God can, and God often does. So we plead with Him in prayer before preaching to renew our minds, revive our hearts, and renovate our souls. Prayer and preaching, are like the two blades on these scissors. Let’s not so major on one that we forget the other.

The passage before us is Genesis 2:4-17, there are three headings to work our way through in our time together.

A Transition (v4)

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

When we come to v4, we come to a transition in the flow of Genesis. The cue we’re given that we’ve entered something new is the word ‘generations.’ Remember I mentioned a few weeks ago about the Hebrew word (toledoth) repeated ten times to mark off different sections of Genesis? Well, generations in v4 is that Hebrew word, this is the first use of it in Genesis, and its presence is the signal that we’re entering into a new section of Genesis.[1] But the rest of the verse shows us this as well. Notice how it begins speaking of the “heavens and the earth” and it ends speaking of the “earth and the heavens.” See the order is reversed there? This shows us that while God gave us the grand 100,000 foot view of creation in chapter 1, we’re now zooming in to see further detail about one aspect of creation, that is, the creation of man in chapter 2. Which means chapter 2 is not a new creation story that contradicts chapter 1, as some say. Rather chapter 2 is an extended commentary on one part of the creation story in chapter 1.

This verse also contains the word day, which is the same word as is used all throughout chapter 1, but this time it refers to the entire creation account. So while day is mainly used to refer to a 24 hour period, it is also used to refer to a longer period of time as well.

Before we leave v4, see also the change in how God is spoken of. Thirty-five times in chapter 1 we read that God is Elohim. Now as chapter 2 launches out, the name used for God changes, to LORD God, or Yahweh Elohim. The change is intentional, and we’re meant to notice it. While the name Elohim displays God in His majesty as the Creator of all things, the name Yahweh displays God in His intimate covenant relationship with His people. Which is entirely appropriate because in chapter 2 God is intimately involved with Adam. With his making, with his work, and with the creation of his bride. So that the two names of God used so far, Yahweh and Elohim, are put together here shows us that God is both Creator and Covenant Lord.[2] Curious though, this dual name LORD God is used throughout chapter 2-4, except when the serpent and Eve are talking with one another in the beginning of chapter 3. There it’s just ‘God’ in view. Why so? Well many think, and I tend to agree, the serpent avoids using the intimate name of God with Eve because he’s tempting her to think of God not as He truly is but as something He is not.[3]

More on this when we get to chapter 3.

A Man (v5-7)

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

v5-6 here show us what creation was like before man was made. There was no bush, no plant, no rain, and no man. And then in v6 we see that a mist, or spring, is described that waters the whole face of the ground. What’s going on here? There’s a parallel to see here. In 1:2 we saw the state of creation as empty and void, then we saw God remedy that throughout chapter 1 in His work of forming and filling. Now in chapter 2, we similarly begin with the state of creation as barren: no bush, no plant, no rain, why? No man. But, as before, we then see man remedy this state in his own work of forming and filling the earth. As it was with God in chapter 1, so too it is with man in chapter 2.

Then, v7 comes. And though it might seem simple, it is stunning in scope and powerful for the rootedness of our identity. What do I mean? Adam’s creation highlights that we are as natural as we are supernatural.[4] That our nature is both low and lofty.[5]

See it in v7. God formed Adam of the dust. There is a word play in the Hebrew here to see. We don’t see it in English but in Hebrew it’s clear. The man (adam) was formed of dust from the ground (adamah). His very name is what he was formed from. This shows our low nature. Our origin is dust. Here today, gone tomorrow, we are a vapor. After the fall of man God tells Adam he will die one day by saying he is dust and to dust he shall return (Gen. 3:19). Abraham emphasizes this as he pleads with God in prayer before Sodom and Gomorrah saying, “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). Hannah will later praise God for hearing her plea and giving her a child saying God has raised the poor from the dust (1 Sam. 2:8). Psalm 103:14 teaches us that God remembers our frame, that we are dust. On dust John Calvin commented, “The body of Adam is formed of clay and destitute of sense; to the end that no one should exult beyond measure in his flesh. He must be excessively stupid who does not here learn humility.”[6]

We must know who we are Church, we are low, we are dust. But not only so. Yes, but see also how…God breathed into Adam the breath of life. As dust shows our low nature, the breath of life shows our lofty nature. Adam was a creature formed of dust, and he was entirely void of life until the moment God breathed into him. This is intimate, God coming close to give life. This is also very like what will happen far later on in Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, as God breaths into the vast dead host and creates an innumerable people for Himself. And even more, this is very much a preview of salvation. How dead sinners are reborn in Christ. God gives life and the once dead sinner awakens.

See then how v7 ends. Because of the breath of life entering him, Adam became what he was not before, a living creature. God did this. Adam was only recipient here.[7] And by God’s gracious work Adam is not only alive, he knows he’s alive, and he knows it was God who gave him life.[8]

A Garden (v8-17)

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

After God formed Adam, we see God plant a garden and put Adam within it. Before hearing why God put him there we get many details about this garden.

We learn the garden is in within a larger place called Eden. We learn the garden is in the east. We learn there are many trees there, trees that are pleasing to the sight and trees that are good for food. We learn there are two trees especially prominent, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. More on those in a second. We learn there are rivers. Seems to be one river that becomes four rivers later on: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. We learn that around these rivers there are precious stones: gold, bdellium, and onyx. Then we learn why God put the man there in v15, to work it and keep it. We learn of God’s kind permission in v16, that Adam was free to enjoy and eat of any tree he desired to, whenever he desired to. Lastly, in v17 we learn of God’s one prohibition. There’s only one tree you cannot eat from, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why? The warning given is that when Adam eats of it he shall “surely die” (Hebrew = die die).

Many speculate why God forbid this, but I think the reason God makes this one tree off limits is given in the name of the tree. It’s called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not because God didn’t want man to be knowledgeable, but because what is forbidden from man is the power to decide for himself what is good or evil.[9] If they took fruit of this tree and ate they would in effect be acting as God, determining for themselves what is good for them. This is something they must learn only from God and not take into their own hands. Which is exactly what we’ll see play out in the next chapter. Seen in this light, I think the trees are sacramental. They were the means by which Adam and Eve would come to know, and be confronted with God’s will.[10] Would they submit, or would they rebel? So the trees were to Adam and Eve what the Law of Moses was to Israel.

You might think we’re now done with our passage, and many have stopped here at this point rhroughout the history of the Church. And from stopping here they simply view Eden as a kind of Mesopotamian farm, view Adam as a farmer, and conclude with a simple work-ethic only. That man working is a pre-fall activity, therefore work is good. This is right, I’m not saying it’s wrong. Work is a pre-fall invention and reality.[11] Work for Adam would’ve required effort and skill, there was zero frustration about Adam’s work pre-fall. How glorious? No anxiety to his work, no frustrating co-workers, no bad bosses, no deadlines, no headaches, and no nervous wondering about whether or not he’d be fired. Adam’s work was a joy, through and through. This is true, we were made to work and not be idle.

But to stop here and not go further is simply not saying enough about this passage. So the for the rest of our time I want to make one statement, and then prove it’s truth to you. 

Statement: Adam wasn’t merely a farmer on the first farm, no. He was the first priest working in the first temple, and in his work we see a glimpse of Christ.[12]

Let me try to prove this.

Note the eastward location of the garden. v8 mentions that God planted a garden in Eden in the east. So what? In Ezek. 11 Ezekiel has a vision where he’s brought to the east side of the temple, and there Ezekiel watched the glory of the Lord depart to the east. Years later in Ezek. 43 Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord return to the temple through the eastern gate. If Eden was indeed the first temple, it would make sense to see the eastward garden within Eden as the holy of holies and the garden as the rest of the first temple.

Note the elevation. There’s no explicit statement here that the garden in the east of Eden was higher in elevation than the surrounding land, but there are clues. v10-14 states that rivers flowed out of Eden, and that rivers flow from high elevation to lower elevation, this is evidence that Eden sat atop a mountain. So what? Throughout Scripture there are many references to God’s temple and God dwelling on top of mountains. God made His presence known on top of Mt. Horeb (Ex. 3:1), Mt. Sinai (Ex. 18:5), Mt. Zion (Ps. 48:1-2, Heb. 12:22), and the Mount of transfiguration in the gospels. And in Revelation 21 we see the holy city Jerusalem, a great and high mountain, coming down out of heaven from God. Taking all this together, Scripture makes an important connection between God’s presence in His temple, and the temple’s location being on top of mountains. That a river flowed out of Eden means it was on top of a mountain, and is further evidence that Eden itself was the first temple.

Note the rivers. Psalm 46 mentions the connection between the presence of rivers or water and temples. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Also, a river flows out of the temple Ezekiel saw in Ezek. 47, healing everything it touched. God’s presence is likened to moving waters that bring healing in Jeremiah, where God is also called God is called “the fountain of living water” (Jer. 2:11-13). Joel 3 and Zechariah 14 mention that “a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.” Jesus Himself spoke of His followers, that out of their hearts “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38-39). And John’s vision at the end of Revelation (22:1) also shows “a river, with crystal clear water, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.” All this is evidence that Eden was the first mountain top throne or temple with a river flowing out of it.

Note the precious stones. v11-12 mention gold, bdellium, and onyx. Other temples throughout Scripture also have precious gems in them. Particularly on the chest of the high priest’s garments, twelve of them symbolizing the twelve nations of Israel, that he would wear while going into the Holy of Holies, to visibly display him taking all the people in with him. Stones also show up in the temple visions of Ezek. 28 and Rev. 21.

Note the trees. v9 says there were trees in the garden. Trees were present in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-39), they were present in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18), they were present in all of Ezekiel’s visions of the temple (Ezek. 31:8-9, 41:18-26, 47:12), and they are going to be present in the new heavens and new earth. And Revelation 22 says the tree of life will line the banks of the river of life. This is Psalm 1 language teaching us that the trees in glory won’t be actual trees but will be the saints themselves which are likened as trees that drink deeply from the river of life, making them evergreen for all eternity.

Lastly, note Adam’s tasks. v15 says Adam was to do two things in the garden, “work it and keep it.” This is why people have said Adam was merely a farmer. Yet, the only other place these two Hebrew words (work and keep) are used together again in Scripture is when Moses describes the priestly duties within the tabernacle in Numbers 3-4. As Adam was called to work and keep the garden, Moses calls the priests to work and keep the tabernacle. Conclusion? Adam was the first priest, in the first temple, and his role in it was far more priestly than agricultural.

Conclusion:

When you take all the features of the garden and place it next to the duties Adam received from God, it becomes evident that Eden was not a farm, but was the first temple. This means God created and called man to dwell within His own temple forever, to minister to Him as priests. This garden temple sets the stage and prepares us, as Bible readers, for the Second Coming of Christ when He brings not, a giant city-farm descending from heaven, but a city-temple. God planted a temple in Eden to prepare us for the greater temple; and within it placed the first priest to prepare us for the faithful and greater High Priest, Jesus Christ. Even here, we see all of Scripture pointing to Him.


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 150.

[2] Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 1996), 193.

[3] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 49–50.

[4] Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 65.

[5] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1982), 116–118.

[6] Calvin, quoted in Hughes, Genesis, 52.

[7] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 159.

[8] Boice, Genesis 1-11, 120.

[9] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 166.

[10] Kidner, Genesis, 66.

[11] Kevin DeYoung, A Glorious World and A Good Design (sermon, 9.20.2020) accessed 9.9.2022.

[12] All of what follows comes from J.V. Fesko’s Last Things First.

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