Genesis 2:8-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:57 mins 51 secs

Perfect Environment; Sufficiency; Volition
Genesis 2:8-17

The environment in which God placed the man, Genesis 2:8-17. “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” This is the beginning of perfect environment and the beginning of the dispensation of perfect environment which extends from the creation of man to the fall. It is in this time period that we see the responsibility given to the man that would be the testing issue for this particular dispensation.

We get the name “perfect environment” because God in His goodness provides a perfect environment for man—perfect in every possible way. We have seen the creation of the man in verse 7, and now God creates a place for the man. He had created the overall environment in Genesis chapter one, i.e. the environment of the earth itself and all of the earth’s systems—the biosphere, the atmosphere—but now God creates a specific environment for man, which is a garden. In Genesis chapter one God created the plants and the trees at the end of the third day. God had created all the tree kinds on the third day, and now He is going to take the seed (it doesn’t say in this text that he created bara or asah) from the trees He had already created and began to design the immediate environment for the human race.

We are told in v. 8 that the action is performed by the LORD God, Yahweh Elohim. He plants a garden, and here the Hebrew word is nata’, which means to plant, to establish, to fix, to stretch out. It is the normal word which was used for planting trees or a vineyard, and it was used metaphorically for the planting of a nation, such as the planting of the nation Israel. Just as He planted the nation Israel He is the one who planted the garden and established the first volitional test in the garden of Eden. “And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east in Eden.” A slightly more literal rendering is “He planted a garden in Eden from the east.” So Eden is a larger area and as a sub-section there is a garden planted and it is designated as being in the east. If we look at the passage in Ezekiel 28, which describes the fall of Satan, it says that “You were in Eden, the garden of God.” So the term “Eden,” then, is tied in that passage to the garden of God, not to what we call the Garden of Eden where Adam and Isha were placed. God has Eden, and this is a place where God dwells on the earth. We can go through a lengthy study on the dwelling of God on the earth. He dwells in the garden. He continues to dwell and places the cherubim outside to guard the path to the tree of life—they prevent man from entering Eden. He finally removes Himself and His presence from the earth before the flood. Remember it is not until after the flood in Genesis nine that God establishes or delegates judicial authority to the human race. If we are correct that the population on the earth prior to the Noahic flood was at least two and a half billion, maybe double that—the reason it was so large is that there were as many as nine generations living at one time—who handled judicial operations. Judicial operations in Scripture are usually indicated by the use of the word “sword.” The only sword in the first three chapters of Genesis is the cherub placed outside the garden. So apparently God directly and through His angels governed and exercised a judicial function before the fall.

That is based on very skimpy evidence but there is the statement in the KJV, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man …” Genesis 6:3. The word translated “strive” in the KJV is a hapax legomenos, a technical term for a word that is used only one time in the literature. It is very difficult to work out what a word means if it is only used one time because word definitions are determined not by a dictionary but by usage. Dictionaries simply reflect word usage. When we look at cognate languages such as Ugaritic, Phoenician or Akadian, the word that is used there in Hebrew and translated “strive” means to dwell. So God says He is not going to dwell with man any more and He removed His presence at the time of the flood. His presence comes back in Exodus when He indwells the tabernacle and is enthroned among the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant. Then His presence leaves or departs when Israel goes negative. Ezekiel sees the vision of the Shekinah (dwelling presence of God) glory depart and it returns at the incarnation. Then at the incarnation there is a departure at the ascension, the Holy Spirit returns, and then in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit He sets up a temple in the believer’s body for the indwelling of Jesus Christ. The indwelling Jesus Christ is going to leave at the Rapture and return at the second coming when He is personally going to rule and reign during the millennial kingdom. 

So God dwelt in Eden, and somewhere on the east side of Eden God plants a garden for the habitation of man. “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, v. 9. Notice that God places the man He had formed in this garden and caused to grow everything that is pleasing to the sight and good for food. They key word there is “every.” God is not skimpy with His resources; He is not one who withholds any good thing from His people; and out of love God provides everything and beyond everything that man needs. This verse forms a basis for developing a theology of aesthetics. Aesthetics is a word for beauty. God is not a God who simply makes things because they are functional, but He creates things that have beauty and are attractive to the eye. He doesn’t just grow trees that are good for food, there is an aesthetic pleasure to the trees and they provide everything that is necessary for food. He goes beyond that. All categories of fruit were available, and vegetables because man was a vegetarian at this point, and He doesn’t just supply a few things; He supplies an abundance.

Then we are told also, “the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” We will come back to this.

The doctrine of sufficiency: God’s provision for man is always sufficient

1)         Sufficiency means there is enough to meet a situation; there is enough to accomplish the purpose or task.

2)         Sufficiency may imply barely enough, but enough is enough. But throughout Scripture God’s grace is always characterized by more than enough, abundance.

3)         Prior to the fall sufficiency came from God’s love. His love provided a sufficient environment for the human race.

4)         Sufficiency after the fall comes from God’s grace. Grace is the expression of God’s love to someone who doesn’t deserve it, someone who hasn’t merited it.

5)         Love is the point of contact, therefore, between God and man before the fall. Justice, then, becomes the point of contact after the fall.

6)         Illustrations. God’s provision of manna to the Jews when they are leaving Israel. He always gave them enough. In the New Testament when we see Jesus feeding the 4000 and the 5000 we see the miracle of the loaves where He feeds them and there were 12 full baskets of food left over. He gave more than enough. God’s grace is sufficient, but it frequently gives an abundance, an excess.

7)         God’s sufficiency is abundant to all in salvation. Salvation is not for believers only, which is a heretical doctrine of hyper-Calvinists called limited atonement. 1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:14. The death of Christ provided salvation for every member of the human race, even those who reject Christ.

8)         The sufficiency of God’s grace extends to believers in all areas of the spiritual life, especially in the arena of testing. 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9.

Our conclusion we arrive at is that God provided a perfect environment that supplied everything that man would possibly need for his daily sustenance and provision. This would include not only the physical environment but also the spiritual environment and the information. God is going to give Adam all the information he needs, which doesn’t mean He gave him everything he could possibly know. There is a lot of information that God could have given Adam but He didn’t. Sufficiency means He gave him everything that he needed so that he could accomplish the task, and then as the Lord visited him every day He gave additional information. But from the very beginning He gave Adam and Isha all the information they needed. That means it wasn’t up to Adam to figure out if what God said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was really true.

In the center of the garden, in the same general vicinity, God planted two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The idea of the tree of life is found in numerous scriptures, e.g., Proverbs 3:18, referring to wisdom personified as a spiritually mature woman. “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” The analogy is between wisdom personified as a woman; wisdom which is Bible doctrine and the application of doctrine, wisdom as a tree of life. So there we have the idea of not simply extension of life, because a believer would have ongoing life, but here it would have to do with the quality of life that comes from the application of wisdom. Proverbs 15:4, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” There it is not talking about the eternality of life but about the quality of life when there is no gossip, no slander, no sins of the tongue. Revelation 22:2, “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The idea there is not healing from sickness but of that which positively promotes strength and health. So the idea here is that there will be a tree of life and somehow that contributes to the quality of life in the eternal state. In Revelation 2:7, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” An overcomer is not someone who believes, an overcomer is a believer who has applied doctrine and advances to spiritual maturity. There is a special reward for mature believers. They have access to the tree of life. Other believers, believers who are failures, do not have this same access. So it has something to do with the quality of life, not simply the extension or eternality of life throughout eternity. “In the midst of the paradise of God,” so this is in a special area within heaven that is open to access from mature church age believers. The tree of life also remains in the cultural and historical memory of the human race and pops up in many different near-eastern cultures. So in the garden the tree of life provided life, but the real test comes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:10, gives us a geographical description of how God provides for the garden. This is, as well, tantalizing in terms of an understanding of the physics involved in the natural environment on the earth. “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” Again we see this distinction between the garden itself and Eden. We see in Revelation 21 that there is a river of life, which flows out from the throne of God in the New Jerusalem. We have the same parallel there; the river flows out of the throne of God and then it divides into four rivers. There is no place on earth today where there is this kind of action. Rivers converge, but what we see in Eden is a diversion: water coming from one source and then splits and goes in four different directions, and it waters the earth. A lot of people spend a lot of time speculating, getting into this passage and trying to figure out where Eden was located. If we believe in a worldwide flood at the time of Noah and we are consistent with understanding the hydrodynamics of such an event, then we have to admit that there is no way that we will ever find the Garden of Eden. The geography of planet earth is radically different after the flood from what it was before the flood. The river of verse 10 divided and became four rivers. “The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.”

We don’t know where Havilah is, we don’t know what river Pishon would have been, but we are told that there was an abundance of gold there. This tells us again that God provided a tremendous amount of natural resources for man—valuable metals and other resources that could be developed and used by the human race as they were exercising the dominion mandate to go out and to control this planet that God put them in charge of. Gold also tells us that apparently there is a value to gold that is implicit and recognized by man as being one of the most valuable commodities we can have. Cf. Psalm 19, which tells us that God’s Word is to be desired more than fine gold. So gold has an inherent value. God has created certain metals and precious stones that are inherently valuable. Ultimately that will form the basis for economics. Verse 12 is a passage which is difficult to translate and understand because we don’t know exactly what bdellium was or what the onyx stone was. The bdellium mentioned could either refer to the resin from a tree or from a jewel. The jewel had an amber tone to it and so the resin from certain trees picked up that name because it reminded them of the color of the jewel. It most likely refers to some form of precious stone but we don’t know exactly what it is. Nobody knows what the onyx stone is either. This is reflecting an environment prior to the flood that is completely foreign to the environment after the flood. The thrust of this is that God provides a beautiful and attractive environment that is filled with a remarkable array of natural resources that the man can develop under the guidance and authority of God as His representative on the earth. The second river is the Gihon, and we have no idea what river that is. It flows around the land of Cush. Cush is the name later on used for Ethiopia, but that doesn’t mean that is what it referred to initially. The name of the third river is the Tigris, and it flows east of Assyria, and the fourth river is the Euphrates. Notice this is translated in the present tense. It is not really in the present tense, it is added to make it look readable in English. It is really talking about the way it was before the fall.

Verse 15, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” God puts man there [it is the word for rest], indicating that man can relax and rest in the perfect environment that God provided for him, and he can relax and rest in carrying out God’s mandate. God’s mandate doesn’t mean that he is going to be a farmer. He is not there to cultivate the garden and farm the garden. There are other meanings to those words that indicate that this is a temple type of environment and they are carrying in a priestly function. These words are loaded with worship overtones and with the overtones of serving in a temple.