Adam, the Man: Guardian of the Garden

By: Drew Ham
Scholars are agreed that the Genesis 1 text, the first creation account, is a crescendo from the simple to the complex, or the simple to the most beautiful. For example on day one, God created the light. On day two he separated the land from the water. Leading up to day six, the pinnacle of creation, God created the most beautiful, or the most complex, of all created beings, mankind. The Genesis 2 creation account is an examination of the sixth day in particular, the creation of mankind. It explains that God created the man out of the dust and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). Then, after the creation of the man, it explains that the Lord created the Garden of Eden and placed the man in the garden.

The Genesis 2 account portrays the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary or a temple. In the ancient Near East, temples were often located on the side or top of a mountain. Eden is portrayed as an elevated sanctuary. Notice that the four rivers flow downward implying that the garden was elevated. Ezekiel 28 gives the impression that the Garden of Eden was a mountain sanctuary.
In Genesis 2:15, God took the man and put him in the garden to “work it and to keep it.” Those Hebrew words “work” and “keep” elsewhere in the Old Testament have been translated as “worship” and “obey.” Numbers 3:7-8, and 8:26 uses those verbs to require the Levites to be responsible to “guard” and “minister” to the people. Adam was a royal gardener, the priest in the sanctuary. He was a royal priest, a holy caretaker (see 1 Peter 2:9). Made in the image of God, Adam was God’s representative, His vice-regent, who had dominion over all the created things, and was placed in charge as governor of this majestic Garden (Genesis 1:26-28). His care over the Garden is an act of worship before the Lord. The manner in which Adam “tends the Garden,” or rules over the created order, is worship to God (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).

In verse eighteen of Genesis 2, God says it is not good for man to be alone. So God causes Adam to fall asleep, and creates the woman from Adam’s side. Once again, this idea that the creation account is a crescendo from the simple to the most beautiful lends itself to the suggestion that the woman is the most beautiful of all the created things. She is the crown jewel of creation (see Proverbs 12:4; 31:10). She is the delicate, priceless vase or the “weaker vessel” as 1 Peter 3:17 explains her. She requires the special care, and guardianship of the royal gardener. She is to be cared for and treasured as a beautiful gift. Adam certainly recognizes the goodness of this gift as demonstrated by his joyous poetry in verse 23. The royal gardener’s responsibility is to be sure that this gift is nourished, and that she flourishes.

Let it be stated that the woman, Eve, is not simply an adornment or an ornament to be displayed. She was specifically designed to be Adam’s “helper.”

Perhaps this understanding of Adam as the guardian of the Garden should help us understand why God first approached Adam after “the fall” in Genesis 3. Adam was commissioned with the responsibility to watch over, to “keep” the Garden, and specifically the most beautiful of all the created things, the woman. Since Adam was given dominion over all the created things, why did he permit this conversation between the serpent and Eve to go uninterrupted? Why did Adam not protect his bride? Perhaps Adam’s passivity, his lack of responsibility and guardianship was his first area of failure.

Men, your responsibility to “work” and “keep” has not changed. We are still called to work/keep, worship/obey, to protect/minister. While the implications are many, who are the women in your life that you are responsible to protect? Your wife? Your daughter(s)? Your mother? Your sister(s)? How about the women within your local church? The Bible calls the church “the family of God.” Are not the women within your local church in need of protection and care? Are they not our “sisters” in Christ?

Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 16:13 suddenly seems much more applicable: “Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong.”

Drew Ham is the Director of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Southeastern. The husband of Shelly, and father of four little ones, he is completing an EdD and writing his dissertation on the topic of biblical manhood and sexuality.

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