A Bible Lesson on Genesis 2:4-25

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

At this point, Moses goes back to fill in some details of the creation that were not included in the grand overview of Chapter 1, particularly details that relate to the condition of man.  This focuses in on the place of man in creation history.

Genesis 2:4 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.

The “LORD God” made.  This is Yahweh (Jehovah) Elohim, the personal name and title of the God of the Bible.  (The far more common “Lord GOD” of the Old Testament is literally “Lord Yahweh,” something different.)

5 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,

6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—

7 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.

There is in this verse a wonderful statement of our condition.  God formed Adam’s body from the earth.  We’re made of dust.  The word “formed” carries the picture of a potter forming clay.  We are in one way “earthlings.”  But beyond that, He breathed into Adam the breath of life. That is we are more than dust, more than just creatures of planet earth.  The LORD God “mouth-to-mouth” breathed life into our first father!

Human beings have life because God gives it, and we die when He chooses to take it away.  It is His.

Psa 104:29  When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

Job 27:3  as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,

We are creatures, but unlike other creatures we specially have life from God’s intimate act of giving it through His Spirit.

8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

The tense in verse 8 is probably better rendered “had planted.”  Apparently, a careful study on the use of the word here rendered “put” elsewhere in Genesis shows that it is associated with both “rest” or “safety” and “dedication” (to God).  Man is put into the garden for rest and safety and where he is in God’s presence and can have relationship with Him. That was God’s purpose for humanity from the very beginning.

Note, by the way, that the mention of Eden and other details like the names of real rivers clearly put this in time and space.  This is not a fairy story, myth, or legend.

9 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.

Atkinson points out that it wasn’t man that was in the center of the garden, but rather the trees of life and the knowledge of good and evil.  They served as reminder to man that he isn’t God, that there are bounds on his activity.

Kidner (regarding the forbidden tree) says “As it stood, prohibited, it presented the alternative to discipleship: to be self-made, wresting one’s knowledge, satisfactions and values from the created world in defiance of the Creator.”

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.

11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.

12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.

13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush.

14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

This rendering makes the “it” refer to the garden.  Linguists will us that there is a problem with that, in that the gender of the “it” doesn’t match the gender of “garden.”  If the rendering is correct, this is a picture of man as God’s gardener/caretaker.  But it’s quite possible that the rendering really ought to be more like “to worship and obey” instead of “work it and keep it.”  Man was in the garden originally as God’s priest, not simply as His gardener.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,

17 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.”

This is the fundamental fact of our existence.  God is God and we are not.  He is Creator and Lord.  We are created, and His rightful subjects.  We can’t turn that upside down without insanity.  Limited freedom is the only true freedom for human beings.  That’s the way things are.  For the first man Adam, and for us, freedom without boundaries and without restraint quickly produces bondage and death.  There is real freedom only within the bounds of God’s divine Word and revealed will for our lives.  Outside of that is not enhanced life, but a diminished one, in fact death.

There is nothing in these verses that makes the tree to be physically unusual or somehow magical.  But it had fundamental meaning in putting a definitive statement of God’s will before Adam and Eve.  Kidner said “The fruit, not in its own right, but as appointed to a function and carrying a word from God, confronts man with God’s will, particular and explicit, and gives man a decisive Yes or No to say with his whole being.”  The tree set before our first father the choice whether to love and obey and have fellowship with His benevolent Creator or to be a rebel.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

As God has looked at His creation in Chapter 1, all has been “good,” even “very good.”  Here is a first “not good.”  It is not good for man to be alone.  From eternity past, there was in the Godhead, relationship.  There was plurality.  There was the Father in harmony with the Son and the Holy Spirit.  That pattern is part of the way things are and how we were made.  We kid ourselves when we think that we’ll do fine as lone rangers, or that “just us and God” is all we need.  The fact is that we need other human beings in our lives.  Adam did, and we do too.

God made a helper “fit” or suitable for him.  A helper provides support for what is lacking in one.  The word translated “fit” (or in older versions, “meet”) is one that primarily indicates correspondence or likeness.  God provided a companion who stood/was fit to stand before Adam, opposite him, his counterpart and complement in his honored place as God’s appointed overseer of the earth.

19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

The naming here indicates man’s God-given authority over the earth.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

Matthew Henry is often quoted regarding the rib being the part God uses.  It was not a skull bone, not a foot bone but a rib, near Adam’s heart.  God made Eve neither above Adam, nor below him, but on a plane with him, near to his heart.

22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

This is hardly popular reading in our time.  The evolutionist and liberal theologian mock this passage. Feminists react with rage.  But truly Christian people must embrace it as God’s revelation of the space and time creation of our first parents.  The plain statement is that far from evolving, mankind began with the creation of Adam and the making of Eve from Adam.  The hope of the Gospel rests on this literal description of the first two people, without sin, living in the garden in space and time.  If Scripture is not to be trusted on this point, it is not to be trusted at all.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

It is worth reflecting on what is really to be heard in verse 23.  I hear Adam whooping for joy!!!  Contrary to feminist attack on the name “woman,” there is nothing degrading in Adam’s use of the term.  It is a term of complementation.  God has provided a companion that is his equal.  He is overjoyed that there is really someone on the scene who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone!  He says “this at last.

The word rendered “called” is in the passive and doesn’t include the notion of naming.  Adam isn’t naming, he’s enjoying their simultaneous likeness and their differences.  (The relationship between these two people is much different from that between humans and the animals … that Adam did name.)

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Here’s the Bible’s first instruction on marriage.  It is intensely practical.  There are all kinds of examples of much trouble caused by parents that wouldn’t let go, and children that wouldn’t understand that marriage means that one’s first human allegiance must be to one’s spouse.

They shall become one flesh.  That’s much more than a statement about the physical.  They will share all of life: goals, pain, joy, work, blessing … They will be of one heart and mind.

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

There is here a moral innocence and perfect harmony between the humans and between them and their Creator.  That will soon be shattered by the fall.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

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