And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads… And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.(Genesis 2:8-15)
Genesis two recounts the special care,that the LORD God took in man’s creation; personally fashioning the body of the man with his own hands, and breathing mouth to nostrils into the man the ‘breath of life’, thus animating the first man, into a ‘living soul’. In the same way, we see the personal Divine attention in the preparation of the appointed home of the first man, for God himself planted for him a garden to dwell in.
The Garden was situated in a place named Eden, “Delight” or “Loveliness”. As Erich Sauer said,”Paradise was the beginning of the ways of God with man here on earth”. The garden itself, was filled with handpicked trees, chosen for beauty and food, and was perfectly situated at the source for four rivers. (Was it on a mountaintop ?) Truly the first home for humanity, was a ‘garden of delights’, a place for the man to work, rest, eat and drink, in satisfaction. It was a spot selected by God for communion with the man, for we will learn that God would take walks with the man and his wife, in the cool of the evening.
Man had a task, he was assigned by the Creator, to “dress and keep” the garden. Never has any man since, ever been so perfectly equipped to do so. The job of dressing and guarding the garden would involve all of man’s God-given faculties; spirit,soul and body.
Adam lived in a simple, threefold reality. His entire world consisted of God, himself and his surroundings, the garden. For the physical part of his task, Adam had been granted perfect senses; sight, smell, hearing,touch,and taste. Adam, a living soul, aware of himself as a thinking, volitional person, possessing an unclouded intellect, and perfectly tuned emotions to deal with all that was abstract, and intellectual. But ultimately Adam was spiritual, that He might fully know, love, and enjoy God.
Thus the first human, was so invested to fulfill the call on his life, to be the head of the race, to “be fruitful” and even to “subdue the earth”, taking the dominion over all creatures, as the representative of God, bearing the image of God. Man is to be ‘ruler of the earth’, his is a royal calling.
But first he must be given a smaller, preparatory task. He must simply dress and keep the garden. For the garden of delights was also a place of probation, that the man might be qualified by testing, for greater responsibilities, and callings to come in God’s purpose.
In the truest sense, and from the start, Adam was given freedom, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…”. Freedom really is man’s natural and original state, for from the beginning, God gave Adam broad latitude; to eat anything he wanted, to have a family, career, children, to rule, to live, laugh, and to worship.No wonder the sons of Adam yearn to live in liberty.
But God didn’t give Adam autonomy, ie unlimited liberty.
There was set forth one commandment for Adam and his wife. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil, on pain of death.
But of course the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn’t walled off, or set somewhere remote and difficult to access, it stood in the garden for them to see.
If Adam would just love God and believe His word, He would honor Him by not eating of the tree. The way to show love, reverence and appreciation to God was to refrain from that one tree. Luther said of the tree,
“This tree of the knowledge of good and of evil was become Adam’s altar and pulpit, from which he was to render due obedience to God, recognize God’s word and will, and give him thanks. Had Adam not fallen the tree would have been like a temple and cathedral!”
The tree was the one sign of God’s absolute authority, and Adam’s loving, believing subjection to it. Every time he said ‘no’ to any thought of eating of it, his inner life would be strengthened and deepened, his spiritual senses would have been trained to know from a position of ‘good’, the ultimate Good, and to live by it, never knowing evil by experience.