The question of why we are here is important. Something deep inside us yearns to know where we have come from, where we are headed, and why we exist. There seems to be no shortage of answers to these and other persistent questions concerning our origin and our purpose in life.
Every worldview tries to answer these questions. The answers are important because they deeply influence how we see the world around us, how we interact with our fellow human beings, and our understanding of our purpose in the world.
God did not create humans to be idle or indifferent to Him but to play a role in the fulfillment of His purposes. The Bible affirms that human beings are the intentional and special creation of God. Made in His image and endowed with the capacity to love and worship God, humans are different than the animals.
God, in fact, placed the animal kingdom under the dominion of humans (see Psalm 8). Ruling over the animals and being a steward of the earth is a role reserved exclusively for mankind. God also assigned Adam, the first man, the responsibility of tending the garden of Eden. In the same way, God expects us to be faithful in carrying out our responsibilities as stewards of His creation. Our love and our labor should give evidence that we desire to honor and serve Him above all.
Moses provided additional details about the creation of the first humans and their place in God’s plan. The information in the second chapter of Genesis complements the information in the first chapter. After completing His creative activity God rested and set apart the seventh day as a day of rest (see Gen. 2:1-3).
God prepared a garden in Eden for Adam. Once everything was ready, God placed the first man in the first home. God also gave him the responsibility of caring for and maintaining his new home. In doing so, God dignified work as something good and honorable. Work was not a curse but instead a part of man’s role in caring for the creation.
God also set limits on Adam’s freedom by prohibiting him to eat the fruit of one particular tree in the garden — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God wanted Adam’s obedience. In order to demonstrate his loyalty to God, Adam needed to have a real choice. The presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil made that choice possible.
For the first time in Genesis, God declared that something was not good. It was not good for the man to be alone. Because none of the animals corresponded to or were suitable companions for the man, God created the perfect companion for him. Adam named his new companion “woman” (Gen. 2:34) and later called her Eve (see Gen. 3:20).
God established marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Marriage provides the perfect setting for a man and a woman to meet one another’s need for companionship and intimacy and to fulfill God’s charge to be fruitful and multiply.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
As with the first verse in the first chapter of Genesis, the first verse of the second chapter begins with a summary statement. Once everything God had created was exactly as He wished it to be there was nothing left to do. God had thoughtfully created everything in the universe and everything necessary to sustain life on the earth. His creation was completed.
2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
On the seventh day, God neither spoke nor worked as He had on previous days. Instead, He rested from all His work — not because He was exhausted but because His work was completed and He was pleased with it. God did not fall asleep or walk away after creating the world or leave things to run on their own. The word rested does not suggest inattention or inactivity but instead a change of activity.
Jesus affirmed, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). While God rested from the work of creation, He has continued His work of sustaining creation (Col. 1:17). If God ceased from doing this work, the universe would disintegrate into chaos (Heb. 1:2-3).
2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The seventh day is unique because God blessed this particular day. He declared it holy or set it apart from all the other days as a special day. Israel’s calendar identifies the seventh day as the sabbath, a word meaning rest, because God rested on the seventh day. God set this day apart for the benefit of humanity. He does not want or expect us to become enslaved to the tyranny of endless work. Instead, He wants us to have a day of rest when we can worship Him, enjoy His creation, and be refreshed.
God later instructed the Israelites to remember the Sabbath day, the fourth commandment. The people were to treat the sabbath as holy or set apart from the other days of the week. Remembering the sabbath is more than a cognitive exercise. Remembrance requires action, as in remembering a wedding anniversary. The people, their animals, and any foreigners in their land were to rest on the sabbath day. The phrase used at the conclusion of each of the previous days of creation — Evening came, and then morning — is not used in reference to the seventh day.
2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Moses summarized the records or the account of the start of human history with a description of the earth prior to the creation of human beings. Genesis 2:4—4:25 is the first of several accounts in Genesis that are introduced by similar “these are the records of” expressions.
Moses also introduced a new title for God. In the previous chapter, he identified God as Elohim. In this verse, Moses added the personal word Lord to God’s title. When the term Lord is printed in upper case letters in the Bible, it indicates that it is a translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh. Yahweh is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “I am who I am” and refers to God as “the self-existent one.” This title also stresses that the all-powerful God who created the world relates to humanity in a personal way.
2:5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground,
Moses described the condition of the earth prior to the creation of human beings. He provided additional details of what the earth looked like after God had formed the seas and the dry land. “At that time” (Gen. 2:4) there was no vegetation or plant life on the earth. Moses also added that there was no one to work the ground. This phrase implies that creation was incomplete without mankind and that human beings are necessary for the cultivation of the earth. These words also suggest that God was preparing the earth specifically for the man He would later make out of the dust of the ground.
2:6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.
“At that time” (Gen. 2:4), or in the period when God separated the seas from the earth, “the Lord God had not made it rain on the land” (Gen. 2:5). The first occurrence of rain in Genesis is at the time of the flood. Before then, God made provision for the dry ground to be moistened by water that would periodically come out of the ground. These underground streams bubbled up into springs of water that softened and prepared the entire surface of the land to sustain vegetation.
2:7 the LORD [designates the personal name of God; designation most frequently used in Scriptures; when printed in upper case letters indicates that it is translation of Heb. word often written in English as Yahweh] God formed [to fashion or shape something already created (in this case the dust of the ground); God created the human last (last creative act on sixth day)] the man [Heb. ’adam] from the dust [denotes loose earth; cf. 2:19 re: creation of animals] of the ground [Heb. adamah] and breathed [this not the case in creation of animals; expresses face-to-face intimacy; signified act of giving; Adam alone received breath of God breathed personally into his nostrils] into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being [humanity alone created in God’s image].
God formed the first man out of the dust from the ground. The Hebrew words translated “man” and “ground” are related. Just as a potter fashions the clay in his hands, so God fashioned the first man’s body from dust (see Ps. 103:14). After death, our physical body will return to dust (see Gen. 3:19). Human beings, however, are more than dust. If our bodies were reduced to the various chemical elements of which they are made then they would be worth very little, perhaps only a few dollars. However, because we are made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27), we are of infinite worth to God. According to Psalm 8 we are more prized to God than the planets and greater than all of the galaxies in the universe.
After forming man out of the dust, God did something special that sets human beings apart from all other creatures. He breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, an expression that denotes face-to-face intimacy. God also formed the animals “out of the ground” (Gen. 2:19) but did not breathe the breath of life into their nostrils. When the first puff of God’s divine breath entered into the first man’s nostrils, man became a living being — a living soul capable of having fellowship with the Creator. Saint Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” As a living soul, every human being is destined to live eternally, either with or apart from God.
Note: Because human life comes from God, how should I value my life? How should I value others’ lives? Do you think God cares what you do with the person He created you to be and the body He gave you?
2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east [likely in the area of ancient Babylon (modern Iraq)], in Eden [Heb. word closely related to term meaning “delight” or “luxury”]; and there [the place prepared by God] he put the man he had formed.
The Lord God made provision for the welfare of Adam, the man He had formed out of the dust from the ground. He did so by planting a garden or a place for Adam to call home. This garden was located in Eden, a specific place located somewhere to the east of where the Israelites lived. While we can never know for certain, the garden may have been located in the region that we know as modern-day Iraq near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Every garden requires water in order to thrive and the garden in Eden had an ample supply (see Gen. 2:10-14). The Hebrew word Eden comes from a similar Hebrew word that suggests it was a delightful or pleasant place, a kind of paradise. The word garden indicates a secure enclosure — in this case, a geographically defined place located within the larger region called Eden. Only in this verse is Adam’s home called a garden in Eden. In later verses it is referred to as “the garden of Eden” (see Gen. 2:15). God personally prepared the garden for Adam and placed him in this new home.
2:9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [some trees gave aesthetic beauty to garden] and good for food [some trees provided nourishment to sustain life]. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree [eating fruit from this tree resulted in continuation of life] of the knowledge of good and evil [this tree alone was forbidden to human beings; presence of this tree gave humanity moral accountability].
The garden was a beautiful place — a paradise. God provided trees in the garden that produced fruit to sustain human life. He also planted trees that were pleasing to look at and added to the beauty of the garden. These trees provided food, shade, and shelter for human beings and animals.
God also planted two other trees in the garden. The tree of life may have produced fruit with some quality capable of prolonging human life for an indefinite period. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was located in the middle of the garden (see Gen. 3:3). This tree represented the opportunity for Adam and Eve, the first residents of the garden, to demonstrate their loyalty to God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit of this tree, God no longer gave them access to the tree of life (see Gen. 3:22-24).
2:10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
2:11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.
2:12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin[d] and onyx are also there.)
2:13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.
2:14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to [notice that human existence had a purpose; part of God’s purpose for humanity involved work] work it [Eden was not a place for idleness] and take care of it [involved various agricultural activities necessary to make garden productive].
God took the man and placed him in the garden. The garden was a safe and secure home where Adam could enjoy rest and fellowship with God. However, the garden was never intended to be a place for idleness. God charged Adam with the responsibility of working and watching over his new home. This involved all kinds of horticultural activities necessary to make the garden productive — a key aspect of subduing the earth (see Gen. 1:28).
At that time, there were no thorns, thistles, or weeds to frustrate Adam. The ground would produce these after the fall (see Gen. 3:18). Moses had earlier written that “there was no man to work the ground” (Gen. 2:5), a need that Adam filled. Human existence has a purpose and an important part of that purpose involves work and being good stewards of God’s creation.
Note: What work has God given you to do?
2:16 [enjoy freedom given by God] And the LORD God commanded [first use of this word in the Bible] the man, “You are free [gracious offer] to eat from any [generous provision of good things for the well-being of His creation] tree in the garden;
Note: God is good and offered the best to His creation. God also made His creation free to obey Him or disobey Him.
2:17 [obey limitations placed by God] but [signals one exception] you must not [strong prohibition; two principles behind every negative command: protection and provision; prohibition gave opportunity to demonstrate obedience and devotion to God] eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely [certainty] die [the process of death will begin in human life].”
God made provision for Adam’s well-being by generously filling the garden with a variety of fruit-bearing trees. He gave Adam simple yet specific instructions about which fruit he was permitted to eat. God gave these instructions in the form of a command that included a single yet strong prohibition. God commanded Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the first negative command in the Bible and was intended to protect Adam. This prohibition also gave Adam the opportunity to demonstrate his devotion and obedience to his Creator.
Note: In what ways is a prohibition or a warning a demonstration of love? How have you used prohibitions or warnings to demonstrate your love for others, especially your children? Why do people often regard prohibitions as something negative or not in their best interests?
Choosing to disobey God’s command would have dire consequences. God warned that disobedience would introduce the process of death in human life. Death destroys and separates. God told Adam that the penalty for disobeying His command was that he would certainly die. This particular death is both spiritual and physical. Disobedience would result in a spiritual death that would separate Adam from God. Eventually, death would end Adam’s physical existence.
As humans, we are moral beings capable of choosing either to obey or disobey God’s commands. The most spiritual exercise any of us engage in on any given day is making choices (see Prov. 13:13). All choices have consequences (see Col. 3:25). Our choices either draw us closer to God or distance us from Him. God knows what is good for us and we must obey Him in order to experience and enjoy what He deems as good.
Note: God warned His creation of the serious consequences of disobeying Him. People are responsible for their actions.
2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good [first mention in Genesis of something not good] for the man to be alone [companionship is important]. I will make a helper [a helping counterpart; an indispensable partner; one who comes to the aid of another to help him fulfill a task he could not accomplish alone] suitable [corresponding to; literally “like his presence”] for him.”
Adam needed more than a job and good food to eat in order to find fulfillment in the garden. God had placed Adam in the midst of everything good and yet declared that there was something not good in regard to the man. It was not good, God said, for the man to be alone. Companionship and intimacy are essential to human happiness, enjoyment, and fulfillment. Being alone or being lonely is not good. Loneliness is not the absence of people but instead the absence of meaningful relationships. God designed humans to live in relationship or in community with others.
Note: How has your life been enriched by friendships? Do you know any lonely individual who could benefit from your friendship? If so, what steps can you take to befriend and encourage that person?
God acted intentionally in order to meet the man’s need for companionship. He made a helper who was like him or suitable for him. Adam did not find a complementary helper among any of the creatures God had created because not a single creature corresponded to him. So, God made “a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:22). Adam immediately acknowledged that the woman was the perfect and most suitable companion for him. (Gen. 2:23). God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24). Together, Adam and Eve established the first home, fulfilled God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply, and enjoyed the kind of companionship that keeps loneliness at bay.
2:19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man [God had delegated to humanity dominion over animal life (Gen. 1:28)] to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam [first time in NIV that the man is identified by his personal name] no suitable helper [face-to-face counterpart] was found.
2:21 So [God took steps to change a “not good” situation into a good situation] the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs [literally “side”] and closed up the place with flesh.
2:22 Then the LORD God made [from common verb meaning “to build”] a woman [the final work of His creation] from the rib he had taken out of [side; bone not taken from head to rule over or foot to trample under] the man, and He brought her to the man [signifies the first marriage].
2:23 The man [Heb. ish] said [Adam’s first recorded words; Adam recognized that Eve perfectly corresponded to him and was exactly what he needed], “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman [Heb. ishah],’ for she was taken out of man.”
Note: God created two genders to complement (and compliment) each other.
2:24 For this reason a man [and a woman] will leave [in order to give priority to his wife] his father and mother and be united [permanently glued or adhered; spiritually, emotionally, bodily] to his wife, and they will become one flesh [physical intimacy and more; God’s first command to the first couple was to have children (Gen. 1:28)].
2:25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame [prior to the entry of sin into the world].