Dress and keep the Garden of Eden. In Biblical Hebrew, the verbs are worship and observe. That’s what God desired of Adam.
Dress and keep the Garden of Eden has focused readers on the physical aspects of caring for a garden; that is secondary. Primarily, God’s Plan calls for Adam to worship Him and observe what He tells him; this is the all-important spiritual emphasis. God is not narcissistic; there’s an excellent reason for this necessity.
(Origin of Humankind, chapter 3.5)
A quick resume of Genesis 2. God creates man and endows him with consciousness and mind. He puts him in the most splendid garden beside a river of life with a tree of life and one representing the knowledge of good and evil. Then the Bible narrative tells us WHY God put the first representative of humankind in the Garden.
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it (H5647) and to keep it (H8104).
The scenario brings us back to the man in the Garden; this is one of these short verses that carries reams of overlooked meaning. To start with, an emphasis on a key element coupled with verse 8, God placed the first man specifically in the garden (not someplace in or out of Eden), why this repetition?
Because, this is God’s garden, His House on earth, which He shares with humans.
Previously we talked about parents preparing the room for baby’s arrival, and that’s what God did with the entirety of earth, except for this garden. He intentionally waits until after creating man, and He’s personally and very directly implicated in that “… the Lord God planted a garden…” He was responsible for all the creation, but here it’s as if He’s doing it with His own hands. There’s an extraordinary relationship between God and His hands-on planted Garden precisely to place and situate man in this choice spot. Remember, God with man; we see this is a recurrent theme.
There are numerous references to the Garden of Eden in the Bible, in Ezekiel 31.9 referring to a magnificent kingdom, God says, “I have made him [Lucifer] fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” Notice the use of the definite article, the garden, not just any garden; it’s God’s garden in God’s location.
A few verses before the above, in Ezek. 28.13-14 discussing an anointed cherub (a high ranking angel – Lucifer), obviously in an out of this world setting, we read, “You have been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of your tabrets and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created. You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.”
For now, I draw your attention to Eden, the garden of God associated with the holy mountain of God. These are high-level quarters where God lives and governs. Just as we saw in Ezek. 1:10, some of our earthly animals were cast after heavenly forerunners; likewise, the physical garden of Eden (and the precious stones in the land of Havilah) into which Adam was placed is the physical counterpart of the spiritual Garden of Eden.
Remember in Gen. 1:28, God told the couple to subdue the earth and have dominion over all creatures on earth. God put the man in His garden to signify He’s giving humans a seat, which is human HQ, from which to rule all the earth! As God rules the universe from His heavenly Garden of Eden, so humanity is to subdue and dominate – rule – from His earthly Garden of Eden.
As we put the puzzle together, this concept of man created to govern is one of the critical pieces. How to govern one’s own life, family, children, occupation, employees, business, association, organization, city, state, country and all the different methods promoted to do this, is the crux of learning to live together in peace and prosperity. The garden of Eden and subdue and dominate plunge us directly into one of the biggest challenges man has ever faced. What is more crucial to the 21st-century state of the world than the question of government?
The real question is, how is humanity going to govern? Are there prerequisites and rules? Is there a proper way to guide?
Dress and Keep
Step back a second for the overview. To this point in Genesis 2, it’s been give, give, give. God has given it all; an incredible garden, a watering system, it’s little paradise. We could elaborate on the big lesson here about God’s relationship with humankind.
Now, for the first time, God is going to ask something directly of the (hu)man; to dress and keep.
To be a gardener! Really! Is that all it is? Think. God created, God waters, God landscaped, He can weed and manicure the garden! And, in counterpart for all God’s done, is His goal limited to creating professional gardeners?
Bible students and teachers tend to stop at that, with no further input. We read over this verse, grasping nothing of its vital importance; this is the FIRST verse where God asks Humankind, through Adam, to DO something. What is this something?
We’ve already established God’s goal for humankind: rulership and social relations. Gardening is an itsy-bitsy part of rulership, but that would only be a minute part of the picture. Logic should tell you that.
What does government have to do with gardening?
At first glance, gardening is the reason God placed Adam in His Garden of Eden; maybe He needed a gardener! I have a garden, and I do agree, there’s work to be done, but God had just recently planted this Garden, so it was proper and trimmed, and weeds (assuming that there were any!) don’t grow that fast. Maybe this is referring to bamboo which can grow 30 cm a day and needs constant tendering, but I doubt that.
Think about it; God has just created man, He’s planted a magnificent garden, He places man there and says, “put on your dungarees and clogs, here’s a hoe, get to work,” uh uh. The creation context, the opening scene of refurbishing earth and populating it with humans possessing a powerful, deep, thinking neshama mind. Also, consider the following verse 16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat”; the sole subject of gardening just doesn’t fit in this context.
There’s much more to this verse than the translations of dress and keep reveal. By now, you know how to dig it out: Strong’s Biblical Hebrew over at UnlockBibleMeaning.com. We are going to look at two words from verse 15, dress and keep, and see how other contexts render these same Hebrew words. First, dress.
עָבַד ʻâbad aw-bad’; a primitive root; to work (in any sense); by implication, to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.:
KJV – ⨯ be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, +husbandman, keep, labour(-ing man, bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve(-ing, self), (be, become) servant(-s), do (use) service, till(-er), transgress (from margin), (set a) work, be wrought, worshipper,
עֲבַד ʻăbad ab-bad’; (Aramaic) corresponding to H5647 (עָבַד); to do, make, prepare, keep, etc.:
KJV – ⨯ cut, do, execute, go on, make, move, work.
עֲבַד ʻăbad ab-bad’; (Aramaic) from H5648 (עֲבַד); a servant:
KJV – servant.
The basic comprehension of abad is work, of any nature, at the beginning of Genesis often associated with agricultural occupations (2:5, 3:23, 4:2) but when we dig a little deeper we also find serve, servant and even worshipper revealing an adjacent spiritual nature of this word; the figurative takes on a life of its own and far outweighs the physical meaning. See the spiritual usages in these verses:
For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name H8034 of the LORD, to serve (H5647) him with one consent.
14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve (5647) him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served (5647) on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve (5647) you the Lord.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve (5647) the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; (5647) whether the gods which your fathers served (5647) that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve (5647) the Lord.
16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve (5647) other gods;
In this short section of Joshua’s discourse to the Israelites, abad is used eight times with the meaning of proper or improper worship; choosing whether to serve the right or wrong god.
Yahveh is NOT talking to Adam about gardening. He’s telling Adam about serving and worshipping. Doesn’t that make sense?
You’ve already understood that an identical principle characterizes the second word in this verse, shamar: a physical and spiritual meaning with the translators emphasizing the former at the expense of the latter, far more important in the long run.
שָׁמַר shâmar shaw-mar’; a primitive root; properly, to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e., guard; generally, to protect, attend to, etc.:
KJV – beward, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep(-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch(-man).
Shamar carries the meaning of being circumspect, beware, taking heed to and observing, in the sense of keeping (not watching) something. In the Bible context, this refers to God’s way,
Psalm 119.4-5 says, “You have commanded us to keep (8104) thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep (8104) your statutes!.” This Psalm uses the Biblical Hebrew root shamar no less than 21 times.
Leading up to the giving of the Ten Commandments, in Deuteronomy 5:1, “Moses called all Israel, and said to them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that you may learn them, and keep, (8104) and do them.” Moses uses shamar in verses 10, 29, 32 and it’s doubled’ (denoting emphasis in Biblical Hebrew) in Deut 6.17, “You shall diligently (8104) keep (8104) the commandments of the Lord your God…”
How can I emphasize to you the importance of what this physical orientation, incompletely translated verse, is telling us? Biblical Hebrew plays a capital role in understanding. Your native language renders only the surface aspects, hiding from view, the arch-important spiritual meaning.
I’m sure your mind is racing, mine certainly was when I understood the meaning of this verse. And then the realization sinks in; this is so simple and so clear.
We find both dress and keep, abad and shamar together in the same Ten Commandment context, “Then beware (8104) lest you forget the Lord, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall fear the Lord your God, and serve (5647) him, and shalt swear by his name,” Deut. 6.12-13. Let me add this thought. When you’re in someone else’s house, how should you act? Especially if it were God’s House, His Garden? That’s where the man was, and the premier point here is not gardening, it’s being circumspect and serving the Master of the House.
In the New Testament, numerous Apostles like Paul, James, John never hesitated to refer to themselves as servants of God (Rom 1.1, James 1.1, Rev 1.1), this is anything but derogatory,
For those who might be a little turned off by concepts such as keeping rules, sticking to the straight and narrow, being a servant, this next verse brings together the cause and effect: “You shall observe (5647) to do therefore as the Lord your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well (tov the same word pronounced by God on completion of the creation this is the state of peace and prosperity God and man are ultimately seeking) with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess,” Deut 5.32-33.
The man was a guest in God’s House, the Garden of Eden, he was to maintain the right relationship with his Host, and all would’ve been for tov, the best. The New Testament clearly states what God had in mind with dress and keep. Ephesians 6.1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour your father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.
There are other verses that present abad and shamar (dress and keep) together, see Further Study below. You understand the principle here.
Worship and serve God in the Garden; this is the first order of business God gave Adam. That is New Testament theology,
Christ said the First Commandment is to love God with all your heart and mind (Mark 12:30); this confirms what Yahveh had and has in mind for all humans in His Garden. The basis of the so-called Old and New Testaments and Covenants are identical; this is coherent completeness. Can you see the pieces of the puzzle coming together?
This blog post is an excerpt from chapter 3.5 of the book Origin of Humankind.
How to find instances of abad and shamar together. Go to UnlockBibleMeaning.com and locate Genesis 2:15. Switch to Strongs and click on H5647. At the bottom of Strong’s entry click on Hebrew Concordance for H5647. All the verses with abad – H5647 will display on the left. Now, do a search (ctrl + F in Windows) for H8104 (shamar). You’ll find all the verses where these two words are associated: Deut. 13:4, Joshua 22:5 and many others.
The Hebrew letter hay – ה
I do not doubt the meaning of Genesis 2:15 and its spiritual nature of worshipping and serving. But, I would be amiss not to point out a Hebrew particularity about this verse. See the image of the Biblical Hebrew.
In English, we read, “…put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” and consider it refers to the Garden of Eden. But if we use the translations worship and serve with garden, you see that it not only sounds but is strange, and is anti-productive.
Well, there’s a twist with the grammar here. In Hebrew, every noun has a gender as I’ve explained, it is either masculine or feminine. In Hebrew garden is masculine. However, it in Hebrew is hay () which is feminine!
I asked my Hebrew teacher about this, and he replied that sometimes nouns change genders. I suppose that can happen, but this grammatical anomaly has always intrigued me. I offer you another viewpoint as an IDEA. Other words use the letter hay (הּ) in an intriguing way.
In Jonah 2:1 we see, “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,” The word fish, הַדָּגָֽה, includes a ה at the end (on the left). However, the Hebrew word fish does NOT have an ending ה, as you can see in verse 10.
The ה is of special interest in particular in these three names.
Abram > AbraHam
H85 אַבְרָהָם ʼAbrâhâm ab-raw-hawm’; contracted from H1(אָב) and an unused root (probably meaning to be populous); father of a multitude; Abraham, the later name of Abram:
KJV – Abraham.
There’s no real indication as to the meaning of the new name with the additional ה. I submit to you that it might be showing the father of the faithful’s relationship with God; this is just an idea.
Sarai > SaraH
H8297 שָׂרַי Sâray saw-rah’-ee; from H8269 (שַׂר); dominative; Sarai, the wife of Abraham:
KJV – Sarai.
H8283 שָׂרָה Sârâh saw-raw’; the same as H8282 (שָׂרָה); Sarah, Abraham’s wife:
KJV – Sarah.
Aaron, as we say in English, is, in Hebrew, AHaron. You can see from H175 below Strong is UNcertain of its derivation.
H717. אָרָה ʼârâh aw-raw’; a primitive root; to pluck:
KJV – gather, pluck.
אַהֲרוֹן ʼAhărôwn a-har-one’; of uncertain derivation; Aharon, the brother of Moses:
KJV – Aaron.
I’m not able to go any further with this study at the moment. My theory is that the hay used in these instances represents YHVH. These events where we find the הּ grafted to the vocabulary are crucial moments in biblical history; associated with the direct intervention of God. I shall leave that idea with you for now. God does NOT want humanity worshiping and serving the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, it is clear; the first commandment is to worship and serve God which fits perfectly well with the hay (הּ) at the end (left side) of לְעָבְדָ֖הּ and לְשָׁמְרָֽהּ.
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