MoM Genesis 2:15 — Why are We Here? — Part 2 of 2

Previously I note that God purposefully placed humanity in a context where they could live their lives in His Presence.  But Genesis 2:15 also tells about His purpose for humanity:

Gen. 2:15     The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (NIV)

But a Better Translation of this verse is ( see below for details):

The LORD God took the man and purposefully put him in the Garden of Eden so that he could live his life in His presence to worship and obey.

John Sailhamer and William Dumbrell  initially drew my attention to the reasons for the above translation (see references below).

Sailhamer noted that in the following

“. . . in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

the two pronouns “it” refer back to the word “Garden.”  This of course is expected, but what is also expected is that the pronominal suffixes (in the original Hebrew) should agree with what they refer to in gender and number.  In fact the pronominal suffixes, “it,” are singular FEMININE while the noun that they refer to, “Garden,” is MASCULINE singular.  To solve this problem, Sailhamer proposed that in the Hebrew the final pronominal suffixes were just part of the verbal forms and that the “it”s were not in the text.  But he also noted the following.

The Hebrew word translated “to work” is also used as “to serve (God)” (= to worship)—as in the tabernacle and/or the temple (like Priests or Levites).

Ex. 3:12     And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

2 Kings 21:3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.

In addition, the Hebrew word “take care of” is also used of “guarding” and “observing/keeping.”

Both words are used together with reference to duties in the Tabernacle in Numbers 3:7–8 and 8:25–26 (Dumbrell below).

Thus humankind was placed in the Garden to live their lives in the Presence of God, with the expressed purposes of worshiping Him and obeying His commands.  This was/is the destiny of humans and is a big part of the answer to the age old question: “why are we here?”

For some of the technical details of this argument, including the Hebrew words and syntax Click Here.

John H. Sailhamer,   “Genesis.” Pages 1–284 in volume 1 of Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Gaebelein, F. E. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984, pp. 44-45.

Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002, pp. 21–22.

Churns and Liquid Containers

Animal skins with the openings (orifices) sealed have been used for over 5,000 years for the drawing of water, transportation of liquids (water, wine, milk, etc.) and for the “churning” of milk products.

Modern/Ancient Churn Filled With Milk

Mary is on the “business end” of a live churn in the Arab village of Mukmas (biblical Michmash, ca. 1974), located 7.5 mi. [12 km.] north of Jerusalem.  This type of churn is an animal skin that has its orifices sealed and that has been filled with goat’s milk.  It is then rocked back and forth as it is suspended on the tripod.

Churn/Liquid Carrier

Here is a modern animal skin displayed at the open-air museum at Katzrin on the Golan Heights.

Pottery Churn from the Chalcolithic Period (fourth millennium B.C.) — Amman Citadel Museum

In ancient times even pottery vessels were modeled after these churns/liquid carriers.

MoM — Genesis 2:15 — Part 1 of 2

Gen. 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Although I typically do not have time on the Mount of Olives to discuss this verse it does form a nice introduction to the theme of (spoiler alert) of humankind living their lives in the Presence of God.  It is at this point in the Genesis narrative that the writer informs us that God placed humans in the Garden of Eden that He had prepared for them.  The Hebrew word for “put” that is used here has a variety of meanings and I would like to submit that here, and in some other places, it conveys the purposeful placing of something in the Presence of God.  Consider the following passages—all with the important Hebrew word highlighted in red.

Deut. 26:1    When you [Israel] have entered the land …,  2 take some of the firstfruits … and put [this is a different word for "put"] them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name …  4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.  …  10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him.

When there was a question regarding Aaronic priestly leadership staffs were placed in the presence of God:

Num. 17:1    The LORD said to Moses,  2 “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff.  3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe.  4 Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you.  5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

And when the Israelites were given manna as food

Ex. 16:33     So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.”

Note also, that in the garden context humans are described as being in communion with the Divine Presence.

Gen. 3:8     Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Thus I would like to suggest that God purposefully placed humanity in a context where they could live their lives in His Presence.

As the brilliant John Sailhamer put it commenting on Genesis 2:15:

. . . the author uses a term (wayyannihehu) that he elsewhere has reserved for two special uses: God’s “rest” or “safety,” which he gives to man in the land and the “dedication” of something in the presence of the Lord . . . both senses of the term appear  to be behind author’s use of the word in v. 15.  Man was “put” into the garden where he could “rest” and be “safe,” and man was “put” into the garden “in God’s presence” where he could have fellowship with god (3:8).

John H. Sailhamer,   “Genesis.” Pages 1–284 in volume 1 of Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Gaebelein, F. E. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984, pp. 44-45.

Okay, if this is true, what are we supposed to do in His Presence?  More next Monday.

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.


Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

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What Did the Ancient Israelites Look Like?

About 13 years ago the brilliant Anson Rainey suggested that Shasu pastoralists were depicted on a well-known relief of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (1209 BC) featured on one of the walls of the temples at Karnak in southern Egypt.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah Crushing His Shasu Foes (1209 BC)

At least four Shasu are pictured as being trodden under by legs of the horse of Merneptah.  Note their headdresses and pointed beards.

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MoM — Introduction (MoM = Monday on the Mount)

One of my favorite passages about Jerusalem is found in Psalm 132:

For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling:
“This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it—
I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor will I satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her saints will ever sing for joy.

“Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.” (NIV)

For the ancient Israelite/Judean this passage must have given them much comfort in the face of ancient enemies who confronted them.  But how is a “modern,” especially a Christian who takes the word of God seriously, to interpret such a passage.  In this series we will explore the theological significance of passages such as this both to the ancients and to moderns.

Each Monday I would like to mention those authors who have helped me along the way—especially in regard to biblical theology.

Especially important was Walter C. Kaiser Jr. who was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the late 1960’s  and early 1970’s when I was there.  His early work, Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) that treats the “promise theme,” has had a great influence on the thinking of many, including myself —the revised version is called The Promise-Plan of God.  I will return to his work in many places, but especially with regard to the “Patriarchal Promise” (Genesis 12:1-3; etc.).

Next week I will treat Genesis 2:15.


Running the Race

In seven  passages the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to running a race.  The athletic games, that were initiated by the Greeks consisted of running, discus, jumping, javelin, boxing and fighting events.  Not to mention musical, oratory, and drama contests.


The Stadium at Nemea in the Peloponnese of Greece — One of the four pan Hellenic Games was held here, the other places being Olympia, Isthmia (near Corinth) and Delphi — The stadium at Nemea was 161 yards long — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A variety of foot races were held but the basic one was the length of the stadium—close to 200 yards.  The length of the stadia varied from place to place.  The stadium at Nemea above is well–preserved.  Notice the starting area in the foreground and the embankments on both sides where the male spectators sat.

Paul wrote (also in other places):

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

It is interesting that Jesus, in his Judean/Galilean context never uses the image of running the race—but Paul, in a Greco-Roman context does.


Two bronze runners from the villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum (near Pompeii) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The races took place in the nude.  The above are first century A.D. copies of third century B.C. statues.

And the writer of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.


A “krater” (jar used for wine) — Found at Olympia — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above is a representation of a runner prepared for the start of the race.  the pole in front of him may represent a turning pole or a finish line at the far end of the stadium.  Between the runner and the turning pole is a strigil—a scraper that was used to remove olive oil, sand, dirt, and sweat.

To view more images of Nemea Click Here.