The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Genesis 2:8
Placed – One of the biggest problems we have with reading the Bible is that we know the stories. That usually allows us not to read what the text actually says, but to read what we think that the text says. We have been corrupted by our Sunday school images, cultural paintings, Hollywood depictions and bad sermons. It takes tremendous effort to remove these almost-automatic blinders and actually read the words of the text, without embellishment or preconceived ideas. This verse is a good example.
God placed Adam in the garden. The Hebrew verb is siym. It has a very wide umbrella of meanings. To appoint, to bring, to call, to put, to change, to charge, to commit, to consider, to convey, to determine. Wow! One word covers all that ground. There are a lot of implications in the use of siym for God’s action with Adam. But that isn’t the part that we usually miss. The part that we miss is that Adam was not created in the Garden. He was created somewhere else and placed in the Garden. That’s what the text says, but my guess is that you never thought of it that way.
Why is this important? Who cares if God created Adam inside or outside of Paradise? Oh, by the way, our conception that the Garden of Eden was paradise is also an addition to the text. But that’s another story.
What is implied by this action: placing Adam in the Garden? First, we discover that Adam was not part of the original Garden. He is placed there for a purpose. God is in charge of even his geography. Second, we realize that the place where Adam was created is not the idyllic paradise we thought it to be. We are not told anything about his original geography. His story begins with God’s placement. From the very beginning, Adam is all about God’s plans. Next, we see that placing Adam in the Garden shows us what it is like to have a full, untainted relationship with God. In spite of the fact that the Garden is not what we usually think of as paradise, it is a place where Man is nourished by everything that God provides. It is also a place where Man can exercise free choice. The Garden is both satisfying and dangerous, but it is only dangerous because it contains the possibility of disobedience.
Now this raises a serious question. God planted the Garden. That means that there is nothing in the Garden that God didn’t want there. It also means that God planted the very tree that becomes the vehicle of Man’s downfall. Why would God do that? If God wanted a perfect relationship with His creation, a relationship unstained by sin – just as it is described before the Fall – then why would God plant such a tree in the first place? Why not just leave it out? Then God could have walked in the cool of the evening with His creation Man every day for eternity. There is something very odd about this. God plants the tree that can lead to sin and then He puts the Man in the very place where sin can happen. This story isn’t quite like the comic book version we have come to accept. It is much, much deeper. Don’t you agree?
What is it about planting and placing that is essential to the purposes of God?
Topical Index: place, siym, purpose, Garden in Eden, Genesis 2:8