If we’ve already established that everything was made for man and that he is the crown jewel of creation, we now arrive at chapter 2, where after a brief description of how all life was formed from the ground up, God gives man purpose on earth.
This is the kind of stuff that should fascinate us about God’s Word. In Genesis 1, we are told that man was to “subdue” creation and have “dominion” over it. We all have our own ideas I’m sure of what that might look like, I would imagine many of them might not be good. These are terms that we perhaps equate with ancient kings and their tyranny over the people they rule. If we stop at Genesis 1, we might get the impression that God wants us to show plants and animals who’s boss, and not give much thought about their part in our ecosystem.
However, Genesis chapter 2 paints a very different picture of man’s relationship with creation. First, recognize that God makes a point in chapter 1 to say that plants and animals were here before man (which, by the way, science agrees with). Not only that, but here we are told that we were all formed from the same ground. I believe he does this to rightfully setup the next big “ah-hah” moment. It may sound a little like “tree-hugger” stuff, so get ready…
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (v. 15)
Let’s have a look at those words for a moment. First, the word translated for “work” is the Hebrew word “abad“. This word’s meaning is to work for something or better yet, to serve. In fact, as you read the earlier portions of the chapter, you see that plants and trees were designed to be in need of man’s care…
“…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.” (v. 5)
Second, the word for “keep” is the Hebrew word “shamar” which means to keep, watch or preserve. It is used elsewhere in the Bible in reference to bodyguards, gatekeepers and watchmen.
No matter what side of the political aisle you are on, God’s word is clear in these few words that we are to serve and to protect our planet with the utmost care. It also supports us by way of food, oxygen, etc. Perhaps the best word to summarize God’s intention for the relationship between man and creation is harmony.
We are given another purpose at the end of the chapter in the creation of woman. Adam had noticed that other creatures were not alone, but until then he had been. He put it best saying,
“This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (v.23)
While this goes on to specifically speak of marriage, if you keep it in the context of God’s command to multiply in chapter 1, we realize here that we are to continue to grow as a human race and the best way to do that is to recognize that we are all human, as Adam did. That we were created equal, and that we need to live in relationship to each other.
In summary, it is here we find 2 of the 3 great purposes for man: to live in harmony with creation and in fellowship with each other. Perhaps now the next time you bring flowers home to your wife, it will have much more meaning!