June 28, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe


PART: I A GENERAL HISTORY FROM ADAM TO ABRAHAM—Gen. 1:1-11:9.


Topic #B: The Primeval State of Man and His Fall. Gen. 2.8-3.4




Lesson I.B.1: A Home Provided for Man. 

Scripture: Gen. 2.8-14


Gen. 2.8-14. (KJV)

8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 

9 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. 

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 

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

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 

14 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. 



Commentary


8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 



God prepared the earth for the man. The garden where He placed the man was designed to be his home, and it was apparently lush and perfect. This original habitat was a delightful shelter, containing everything the man needed: food (v. 9), beauty (v. 9), water (v. 10), fellowship with God (v. 16; see also Gen. 3:8), and human companionship (Gen. 2:22–25). Although the word ‏Eden signifies pleasure or delight, it is certainly the name of a place which is mentioned in several places in the Bible—Genesis 4:16; 2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12; Ezekiel 27:23; Amos 1:5. In several Old Testament passages Eden is used as a symbol of beauty and fruitfulness, the place blessed by God (Is. 51:3). Revelation 22:1–2 alludes to the Garden of Eden by picturing a “river of water of life” and “the tree of life” in the heavenly Jerusalem. 



In the Septuagint this verse has been rendered in a very picturesque way: “God planted a paradise in Eden.” I cannot tell you where the Garden of Eden is. I am sure it is somewhere in the Tigris–Euphrates Valley; in fact it may be the entire valley. Originally, that valley was a very fertile place, and it still is, for that matter. It is part of “the fertile crescent.” At one time, the people inhabiting that region did not even plant grain there; they simply harvested it, since it grew by itself. It is probable that this area will someday become the very center of the earth again. Some of the suggestions offered for the location of Eden include Babylonia (in Mesopotamia), Armenia (north of Mesopotamia), and an island in the Indian Ocean. The statement in Genesis 2:10 that four “riverheads” divided from the river that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14) support a location somewhere in Mesopotamia. Two of the rivers are clearly identified: the TIGRIS, which ran along the east side of Asshur (Assyria), and the EUPHRATES. The Pishon (“Spouter”) and Gihon (“Gusher”) rivers are hard to identify. The Gihon may have been in Mesopotamia, since Genesis 2:13 says it encompassed the whole land of “Cush” (possibly southeast Mesopotamia). Some think Pishon and Gihon represent the Indus and the Nile, respectively, suggesting that Eden included the whole of the Fertile Crescent from India to Egypt.



The Garden of Eden represented God’s ideal environment for man. Some of the special characteristics of Eden were its wide variety of trees (Gen. 2:9; Ezek. 31:8–9), its precious stones and metals (Gen. 2:11–12; Ezek. 28:13–14), and its rivers (Gen. 2:10–14; Rev. 22:1–2), all of them give a picture of its richness and fertility. Eden is also sometimes referred to in the Bible as the garden of the Lord (Gen. 13:10; Is. 51:3) or the garden of God (Ezek. 28:13; 31:8–9). 



The Garden of Eden included many kinds of beautiful and fruit bearing trees, including “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9). Man was to tend and keep the garden (Gen. 2:15), which, in addition to trees, could have contained other vegetation such as grain crops and vegetables (Gen. 1:11–12). The garden was also filled with all kinds of birds and land animals (Gen. 2:19–20), probably including many of the animals created on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:24–25). It was well-watered (Gen. 2:10), insuring lush vegetation and pasture. After Adam and Eve sinned against God (Gen. 3:1–19), the Lord banished them from the garden. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, is said to have lived “east of Eden” (Gen. 4:16).



Man consisted of a body and a soul, a body made out of the earth and a rational immortal soul, and in these verses provision was made for the happiness of both; He that made him took care to make him happy; if only he could but have kept himself happy and known when he was well off. That part of man by which he is united with the natural world was made happy; because he was put in the paradise of God: that part by which he is united to the world of spirits was well provided for; because he was taken into covenant with God. 



The Lord God planted this garden, that is, He had planted it—on the third day, when the fruits of the earth were made. We may well presume that it was the most ideal place for pleasure and happiness that there has ever been, in view of the fact that the all-sufficient God himself designed it to be the home of his beloved creature, man. No pleasures can be as agreeable and satisfying to a soul than those that God himself has provided for it; no true paradise, but one which God has planted. The whole earth was a paradise compared with what it has become since the fall and since the flood; the finest gardens in the world are a swamp compared with what the whole face of the ground was before it was cursed for man’s sake: yet that was not enough; God planted a garden for Adam. God’s chosen ones will always receive favors from Him.



Human history involves three gardens: the Garden of Eden, where man took of the tree and sinned; the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Savior took the cup and went to the tree to die for our sins; and the “garden city” of glory where God will take all His children to live forever (Rev. 21–22).



9 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. 



God caused every kind of tree that was both pleasant to the eyes and good for food to grow in the garden. But two trees in particular were designed especially for man. These two trees were “the tree of life” … “and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Both trees were destined to serve a very definite purpose. It appears from Genesis 3:22 that the tree of life would have served its purpose in the event that man had been victorious in the first temptation and therefore man would not have fallen. Its existence shows that God had made ample provision for man’s good. It was not primarily a natural means to preserve or prolong life; but it was chiefly intended to be a sign for Adam to assure him of the continuance of life and happiness, and even immortality and everlasting bliss, through the grace and favor of his Maker, upon the condition of his continuing in this state of innocence and obedience. Since, however, it was never used, it promptly recedes into the background after the first time it is mention and it is alluded to only after the Fall in Genesis 3:22—“Then the Lord God said, “Humans have become like one of us; they know good and evil. We must keep them from eating some of the fruit from the tree of life, or they will live forever.” 



The trees with which this garden was planted were the best and choicest trees as were the grasses, flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. It was beautiful and adorned with every tree that was pleasant to the eye; it was decorated with every kind of fruit tree that was good to eat. God, as a tender Father, was concerned not only for Adam’s good health, but also for his good pleasure; there is an inspirational kind of pleasure in innocence. God delights in the prosperity of his servants, and He wants them to live easily; it is their fault, if they are uneasy. When Providence puts us into an Eden of plenty and pleasure, we ought to serve Him with joyfulness and gladness for the abundance of the good things He gives us. 



The Lord God made “to grow every tree,” and the trees, as we have already mentioned, were pleasant to look at and were also good for food. There was the beauty of them and the practical side of them; both were combined in them. Perhaps it can be compared to going into a furniture store and having the salesman say, “This article of furniture is very beautiful, but it’s also very functional.” That was the important thing in the Garden of Eden—they had some beautiful trees, but they were also functional. In fact, they were very practical—they were good for food (All kinds of fruit-bearing trees, whether of the pulpy fruits, such as apples, etc., or of the kernel or nut kind, such as dates, and nuts of different sorts, together with all edible vegetables. On this earth on which we live, we still see something of its beauty. In spite of the curse of the fall of man which is upon the earth—the fact that it brings forth the thorn and the thistle—there is still a beauty here. I can still remember my first trip to the Appellation Mountains. It was the fall season and there was such a variety of colors to the leaves that it was absolutely beyond beautiful!


It is likely that the “tree of life” which was placed in the midst of the garden was intended as a symbol of that life which man would live eternally, provided he continued to be obedient to his Maker. And probably the use of this tree was intended to be twofold; first, as the means of preserving the body of man in a state of continual vitality; and second, as an antidote against death. This seems strongly indicated from Genesis 3:22 (see above). Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had free access to the tree of life; after their act of rebellion, two CHERUBIM guarded the way to its fruit. I do not believe this tree exists anyplace on earth today, but that God removed it after Adam and eve sinned. Now Christ is our tree of life—“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” (Rev 2:7; KJV); and the bread of life—“I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:48-53; KJV).



“The tree of knowledge of good and evil” was placed in the Garden to test their obedience, whether they would be good or bad, obey God or break His commands. Actually, it could have been anything. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17; KJV).What was important was the command; He could have said “do not touch it” or “Do not drink from that stream “or “do not pick the roses.” The test that God made for Adam was that He was not to eat from this one particular tree. Adam and Eve’s inability to eat from this tree after their sin showed that they failed to gain immortality, or eternal life. Because of their sin, they were subject to death and dying. This condition lasted until the coming of Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who offers eternal life to all who believe in Him—“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12; NKJV). (Also see John 3.16).


“The tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” was given that name, not because it had any virtue in itself which would produce or increase useful knowledge (if it did, surely it would not have been forbidden), but, First, Because there was a positive revelation of the will of God concerning this tree, so that by eating of it he might know moral good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree. What is evil? It is evil to eat of this tree. The distinction between all other moral good and evil was written in the heart of man by nature; but this, which resulted from a positive law of God, was written upon this tree. Secondly, Because, it had in it the ability to give Adam an experimental knowledge of good by losing it and of evil by the awareness of it. Just like the covenant of grace has in it, not only Believe and be saved, but also, Believe not and be damned (Mk. 16:16), so the covenant of innocence had in it, not only "Do this and live,’’ which was sealed and confirmed by the tree of life, but, "Fail and die,’’ which Adam was assured of by this other tree: "Touch it at your peril;’’ so that, in these two trees, God set before him good and evil, the blessing and the curse, Deu. 30:19. We will cover this tree further in the next chapter.



10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 


Most readers are amazed by the vast variety of opinions that are held by different commentators concerning the location of the Garden of Eden. Some put it in the third heaven, others in the fourth; some within the orbit of the moon, others on the moon itself; some in the middle regions of the atmosphere, or beyond the earth's gravitational attraction; some on the earth, others under the earth, and others within the earth; some have placed it at the north pole, others at the south; some in Tartary (a historical region with indefinite boundaries in Eastern Europe and Asia, inhabited by Bulgars until overrun by the Tatars in the mid-13th century: extended as far east as the Pacific under Genghis Khan), some in China; some on the borders of the Ganges, some in the island of Ceylon; some in Armenia, others in Africa, under the equator; some in Mesopotamia, others in Syria, Persia, Arabia, Babylon, Assyria, and in Palestine; and others have argued that it either does not exist, or is invisible, or that the whole account is to be spiritually understood! There is no reason to doubt that there was once such a place; the description given by Moses is too specific and dependent to be capable of being understood in any spiritual or allegorical way. 


The most probable location of Eden has been suggested by Hadrian Reland. He theorizes that it was in Armenia, near the sources of the great rivers Euphrates, Tigris, Phasis, and Araxes. He thinks Pison was the Phasis, a river of Colchis, emptying itself into the Euxine Sea, where there is a city called Chabala, the pronunciation of which is nearly the same with that of Havilah, or ‏Chavilah, according to the Hebrew. This country was famous for gold. He thinks the Gihon is the Araxes, which runs into the Caspian Sea, both the words having the same meaning, namely a rapid motion. He supposes the land of Cush, which was washed by the river, to be the ancient country of the Cussaei. There is general agreement that the Hiddekel is the Tigris, and the other river Phrat, or Perath, is the Euphrates. All these rivers have their beginning in the same region of mountainous country, though they do not begin from a single source.



These rivers brought water that contributed so much both to the pleasantness and the fruitfulness of this garden. The land of Sodom is said to be well watered every where, as the garden of the Lord, (Ge. 13:10). Notice that that which God plants he will make sure to keep watered. The trees of righteousness are set by the rivers—“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:3; KJV). In the heavenly paradise there is a river substantially surpassing these; for it is a river of the water of life, not coming out of Eden, as this does, but proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb—“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1: KJV); a river that “makes glad the city of our God” (Ps. 46:4: KJV). 



11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 

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

Two rivers may have connected the Tigris and Euphrates, which run parallel to each other. One was the “Pishon” and the other was the “Gihon” (v. 13), and both may also have been tributaries of the Nile. We are told here that the “Pison,” flowed around the land of “Havilah.” 


“Havilah” was probably situated in Armenia or Mesopotamia; however, there was another territory with the same name, which is mentioned in Genesis 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7, that could also be this Havilah. It is said about the land of Havilah, “The gold of that land is good,” and “there is bdellium and the onyx-stone.” Havilah had gold, and spices, and precious stones; but Eden had something which was infinitely better, the tree of life, and communion with God. 


There is not much mentioned in scripture about this land, except that King Saul’s army attacked the Amalekites “from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt” (1 Sam. 15:7).


The riches of the land of Havilah—


BDELLIUM. [See Num. 11:7]. Bdellium is a liquid with a fragrant odor that oozes from a tree which is native to Arabia.


GOLD. Gold was known from the very earliest times. At first it was used chiefly for ornaments, etc. (Gen. 24:22). Coined money was not known to the ancients until a comparatively late period; and on the Egyptian tombs gold is represented as being weighed in rings for commercial purposes (Gen. 43:21). Gold was extremely abundant in ancient times (1 Chron. 22:14; 2 Chron. 1:15; 9:9; Dan. 3:1; Nah. 2:9); but this did not decrease its value, because of the enormous quantities consumed by the wealthy in furniture, etc. (1 Kings 6:22; Esther 1:6; Song. 3:9, 10; Jer. 10:9). The chief countries mentioned as producing gold are Arabia, Sheba, and Ophir (1 Kings 9:28; 10:1; Job 28:16).


ONYX. A precious stone (Job 28:16; Ezek. 28:13) used in erecting the temple (1 Chr. 29:2). It is seen in the foundations of the city of the New Jerusalem in John’s apocalyptic vision (Rev. 21:20). It was contributed by Israelites (Ex. 28:9–12, 20; 39:6, 13), and used in the breastplates of the Hebrew priests (Ex. 25:7; 35:9).



13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 


There were two rivers that may have connected the Tigris and Euphrates, which run parallel; the Pishon (v. 11), and the Gihon which flowed around the whole land of Ethiopia. They may also have been tributaries of the Nile. The river in Ethiopia would be the Nile. 


There was a spring outside the walls of Jerusalem, called Gihon, where the city obtained part of its water supply—“This same Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works” (2 Chron 32:30; NKJV). King Hezekiah channeled the water more elaborately when he constructed the famous SILOAM tunnel in 701 B.C. as part of the city’s preparation against the siege of the Assyrians.  The Canaanite inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem, or JEBUS, had used and protected the spring with their fortifications. When David and his soldiers conquered Jebus, they entered it through the water shaft that led from the spring into the city (2 Sam. 5:8). Israel continued to use Gihon and its water channel. Gihon was the site where Solomon was anointed and proclaimed king (1 Kin. 1:33, 38, 45). Some scholars believe it later became customary for the new king to drink from the waters of Gihon during his coronation ceremony (Ps. 110:7). Gihon, in the Hebrew means “gusher” — the name of a river and a spring in the Old Testament, and there is good reason to believe that the Gihon River had its beginning in the spring with the same name.


Gihon was one of the four rivers that brought water to the Garden of EDEN. Some scholars believe the name refers to the NILE River. Others, however, believe it refers to a smaller river in the Euphrates Valley system—perhaps a major irrigation ditch or canal


14 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. 


The first two rivers mentioned are not as well-known to us today as the Hiddekel [the modern Tigris; “And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (Dan 10:4; KJV).] and the Euphrates. It is entirely possible that these four rivers are no longer in existence and that the topography of the entire earth was transformed by the Flood. Should that be the case, Noah may have named the present Tigris and Euphrates rivers after two of the rivers he remembered before the Flood. Hiddekel and Euphrates are rivers of Babylon, which we read about elsewhere. The captive Jews sat down beside these rivers and wept, when they remembered Sion (Ps. 137:1); but it seems to me they had much more to weep about (and so have we) at the remembrance of Eden, since Adam’s sin wrecked paradise and turned the world into a prison. 



It is futile to try and identify the exact location of the Garden of Eden, out of which these rivers flowed. However, it is now generally agreed that the oldest known civilization was centered in and about the region of Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers. Beyond this, an identification of the location of Eden is impossible.


“Assyria” possibly refers to the city of Asshur itself rather than the empire that emerged later.


ASSYRIA [as SIHR ih ah] — a kingdom between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that often dominated the ancient world. After defeating the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., the Assyrians carried away thousands of Israelites and resettled them in other parts of the Assyrian Empire. This was a blow from which the nation of Israel never recovered.


The early inhabitants of Assyria were ancient tribesmen (Gen. 10:22) who probably migrated from Babylonia. They grew powerful enough around 1300 B.C. to conquer Babylonia. For the next 700 years they were the leading power in the ancient world, with their leading rival nation, Babylonia, constantly challenging them for this position.


Tiglath-Pileser I (1120–1100 B.C.) built the Assyrian kingdom to the most extensive empire of the age. But under his successors, it declined in power and influence. This decline offered the united kingdom of Judah, under the leadership of David and Solomon, the opportunity to reach its greatest limits. If the Assyrians had been more powerful at that time, they probably would have interfered with the internal affairs of Israel, even at that early date.


After the Assyrians had languished in weakness for an extended period, Ashurnasirpal (844–860 B.C.) restored much of the prestige of the empire. His son, Shalmaneser III, succeeded him, and reigned from about 860 to 825 B.C. Shalmaneser was the first Assyrian king to come into conflict with the northern kingdom of Israel.


In an effort to halt the Assyrian expansion, a group of surrounding nations formed a coalition, of which Israel was a part. Ahab was king of Israel during this time. But the coalition eventually split up, allowing the Assyrians to continue their relentless conquest of surrounding territories.


During the period from 833 to 745 B.C., Assyria was engaged in internal struggles as well as war with Syria. This allowed Israel to operate without threat from the Assyrian army. During this time, Jeroboam II, king of Israel, was able to raise the Northern Kingdom to the status of a major nation among the countries of the ancient Near East.


EUPHRATES [you FRAY tease] — the longest river of Western Asia and one of two major rivers in Mesopotamia. The river begins in the mountains of Armenia in modern-day Turkey. It then heads west toward the Mediterranean Sea, turns to the south, swings in a wide bow through Syria, and then flows some 1,000 miles southeast to join the Tigris River before it empties into the Persian Gulf.


The Euphrates is about 2,890 kilometers (1,780 miles) long and is navigable for smaller vessels for about 1,950 kilometers (1,200 miles). The ruins of many ancient cities are located along the river in Iraq. Among them are Babylon, Eridu, Kish, Larsa, Nippur, Sippar, and Ur.


In the Bible the Euphrates is referred to as “the River Euphrates,” “the great river, the River Euphrates,” or simply as “the River.” It was one of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:14). The Euphrates formed the northern boundary of the territories promised by God to Israel (Gen. 15:18; Josh. 1:4).


The biblical writer declared that the fathers of Israel had lived on “the other side of the River” (Josh. 1:2–3, 14–15; “beside the Euphrates,” REB), where they served other gods. But God took Abraham “from the other side of the River” (v. 3) and brought him to the land of Canaan. David attempted to expand the boundaries of his kingdom to this river (2 Sam. 8:3). The Euphrates also was the site of the great battle at Carchemish (605 B.C.) that led to the death of King Josiah (2 Chr. 35:20–24). “The great river Euphrates” is also mentioned in Revelation 9:14 and 16:12.





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