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Click here for a pdf of Genesis 13 in Redemptive History: 8.5×11″; A4 paper


3) Gen 2:15: The first word describing why God placed Adam in Eden (avadh) means to “work,” “serve,” and “cultivate.”[1]

Meanwhile, the second term (shamar) has the nuances of “keep,” “watch,” “preserve,”[2] and “guard.”[3]

Whenever these verbs appear together elsewhere in the Old Testament, they pertain to people serving the Lord and keeping God’s word (Deut 13:14; Josh 22:5), or they refer to priests who provide for the service of the tabernacle (Num 3:7–8; Num 8:25–26; 1 Chron 23:32; Ezek 44:14).[4]

Once again, Moses alluded to Eden as a sacred space akin to the tabernacle.[5] Consequently, Adam engaged in a far greater task then mere landscaping.[6]

According to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) thinking, those who maintained order in sacred places participated with God in maintaining the stability of the cosmos.[7]



In some respects, the Mesopotamian accounts of people being created to serve the gods align with the reality of Genesis 2. However, in those ANE traditions the gods had deficiencies which had to be met.[8]

For example, one of the gods in Enuma Elish stated this concerning the god Marduk:

Most exalted be the Son, our avenger; Let his sovereignty be surpassing, having no rival. May he shepherd the black-headed ones (humanity), his creatures. To the end of days, without forgetting, let them acclaim his ways.

May he establish for his fathers the great food offerings; their support they shall furnish, shall tend their sanctuaries. May he cause incense to be smelled…A likeness on earth of what he has wrought in heaven.

May he order the black-headed to re[vere him]. May the subjects ever bear in mind their god. And may they at his word pay heed to the goddess.

May food-offerings be borne for their gods and goddesses. Without fail, let them support their gods! Their lands let them improve, build their shrines, let the black-headed wait on their gods.[9]

In contrast to other ANE gods, the Lord has no needs (Ps 50:7–15; Amos 5:21–24; Acts 17:22–26).

Therefore, Moses agreed with the Babylonians that a deity created people to serve him, but not because God tired of laboring to provide for himself (Ps 69:30–31).[10]

Paradise with no demands placed upon humanity never existed. Therefore, we cannot consider work itself a consequence of sin.[11]  

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Gen 2:15. How did the Lord intend for Adam to fulfill his purposes in Eden? What hints do you see indicating that this was priestly service? How does this knowledge affect the way you view your labor?





Go to Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17)

[Related posts include Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); Stewards of the Earth (Gen 1:26 cont.); What Became of the Heavens and the Earth (Gen 2:4–6); The Lord Breathes Life (Gen 2:7); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Author and Date of Genesis; and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 5: A View from the Ground (Genesis 2:4–25)]


[1] Holladay, CHALOT, “עָבַד” (avadh), 261.

[2] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שָׁמַר” (shamar), BDB, 1036,

[3]F. Garcia-López, “שָׁמַר” (shamar), TDOT, 15:279–305, 286.

[4]Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 66–7.

[5]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 67.

[6]Walton, Genesis, 174.

[7]Frank H. Gorman Jr., The Ideology of Ritual: Space, Time, and Status in the Priestly Theology (London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2009), 39–40.

[8]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 67.

[9]E. A. Speiser, trans., “Enuma Elish (The Creation Epic),” in ANET, lines 106–21, 69.

[10] Walton, Genesis, 186.

[11] Hamilton, Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 171.