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 either 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 was participating 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]

In contrast, 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).[9]

Paradise with absolutely no demands placed upon humanity never existed. Therefore, we cannot consider work in itself a consequence of sin.[10]  

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


[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, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1036/mode/2up.

[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] Walton, Genesis, 186.

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