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What was Adam’s garden work?

Are you imagining it right now?

What was Adam's work according to Genesis 2?

Well verse 15 says he was rested in the garden to serve it and keep it.  What's that going to look like?

Well we're all thinking of hoes and ploughs and honest labour and thank God for Genesis 2 and the Protestant work ethic etc, etc,.

Now clearly there's a time and a place for all of that and certainly Adam is made a co-creator with the LORD, a co-gardener too (v5).  None of what follows should be read as anti-physical labour or anything of the sort.  But probably our picture of Adam's garden work is massively distorted by the fall.

Just for starters, we probably imagined him clothed.  And we probably imagined him sweating.  (cf Gen 3:17-19).  It's actually very hard to disentangle our thinking from the all-pervasive effects of the fall.  But let's try to do it...

According to what we read in Genesis 2, what does Adam actually do in his pre-fallen state?  He preaches (v19-20).  He doesn’t just talk to the animals, he names them.  Not at a distance but all the animals are brought to him to find their true identity.  As head of the old creation, Adam graciously speaks their true Adam-determined identities into existence.  And in this pre-fallen state, they simply receive his verdict and are constituted as who they are by his powerful word.  By his effective speech-act he declares who they really are – he preaches to the whole creation (cf Mark 16:15).

You could even say that all Adam does in his pre-fall work is preach.  He preaches to all creation and then 'dies' for his bride!

Through his words in Genesis 2, creation is brought under his feet.  Through his silence in Genesis 3, creation unravels.

People often talk about God's creation agenda in a way that divorces it from His redemptive agenda.  They talk of His cultural mandate in a way that divorces it from the great commission.  But right from the beginning proclamation is at the very heart of all God's ways and works.

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2 thoughts on “What was Adam’s garden work?

  1. pgjackson

    Nice.

    Cultural work understood as naming the creation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I like it.

    And I think there's still room for the lighthouse man.

    ;)

    That said, he is trying to find a partner for the cultural mandate in Genesis 2 isn't he? The preaching and the dying gets him his bride and so Gen 2 leaves us ready for them to get to it and do Genesis 1:28 - filling and subduing, which at the very least involves sex, babies, child-rearing, parenting, cooking, botany, discovering fire, writing songs, telling stories, explaining new experiences and phenomena, etc. etc.
    [lots of which is more of the 'preaching,' but not all, all of which would be shaped by and in accordance with the word though of course]

    So, if ALL Adam does in his pre-fall work is preach then that's because the story gets cut off before it really gets going as it 'should.'

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