We’ve seen the big picture of creation. Now, it’s time to focus in on the detail. As we do, we begin to see something about God’s providential care for us.
Read Genesis 2:4-14
The phrase often translated as “These are the generations” punctuates Genesis and marks the beginning of different stories within the subplot. It has the idea of “this is the story of” or “this is what became of…” So it’s a little bit more than a family tree. We see similar language at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel suggesting an intentional echo. Her, rather unusually, we are given the generations, or story, not of people but of “the earth and the heavens” (v4).
Some people have seen Genesis 2 as offering a rival creation account to Genesis 1 with a potentially different order to things. I would suggest that is better seen as focusing in on the events of day 6. At this stage, whilst there may have been wild plants, there is not yet cultivated vegetation because there isn’t someone to cultivate, someone to fill and subdue the land. Note too that rain will not come until later, until the flood (v5-6).
So, God makes man. He is formed from the ground, as animals are. In fact the word for man, adam could be rendered as “groundling”. This suggests shared DNA with other creatures and a relationship to the ground he is made from (v7).
God places the man in a garden which he has planted. The language of planting is fascinating. God makes people from the ground and does the hard work of planting. He is not a God at a distance, wanting nothing to do with his creation. This God stoops down and gets his hands dirty. Fascinatingly, there are some geographical clues. It’s to the east, Eden is named -and perhaps this suggests a known location. Note too the reference to rivers. We are perhaps looking at the Fertile crescent. So, I don’t think we are meant to think of a lost garden somewhere to be found today. Rather, here is a place that has been lost to time in other ways. God cultivates the garden with fruit trees (v8-14).
As we read Scripture, we realise more and more that place and time matter. We are not given a book of abstract principles but a story, a history with people, events and conversations. These are all set in specific times and places. God meets with Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David at specific places and gives them particular promises. The Gospel is all about Emmanuel, God dwelling with his people at a specific time and place. Here we see that the creation of mankind happens in a particular location.
This reminds us of God’s providential care for us. Jesus would talk about how God knows the hairs on our heads and how we are worth more than a couple of birds. When teaching us to pray, he told us that God knew our needs before we asked.
Here in Genesis 2, we see God in planting this garden in Eden providing for Adam, food to eat, meaningful work to carry out and the imagery of a garden suggests safety too. There is provision, protection and purpose. We ultimately find all of those things in Christ.