On Creation Day 6 God planted a garden in the east in Eden (Genesis 2: 8 -9 ). In the ancient Hebrew language, Eden means “delight.” The Garden of Eden was a place of pristine and abundant natural beauty. All manner of plants were present. God placed some plants there to delight the eye, while others were for food.
God took man, his ultimate creation, and put him in the Garden of Eden. The Bible does not record who named plants in the Garden of Eden other than that God named two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is interesting to speculate whether or not God named all the plants in the Garden of Eden. When He made the stars on Creation Day 4, God gave each an individual name, so it would not be out of character for Him to name each plant in the Garden of Eden. God directed Adam to tend, guard and keep the Garden (Genesis 2: 15) and the plants in the Garden.
God brought animals and birds to Adam to name (Genesis 2: 19-20), and God gave Adam dominion over them (Genesis 1: 26, 28). In the Dictionary, dominion is defined as having supreme authority over, sovereignty, or absolute ownership. There is a significant difference between the relationship God ordained for Adam to have with the Garden and its plants versus animals, e.g., tend, guard and keep versus dominion. See Table for complete definitions of these words.
|Words||Meanings from Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2005|
|Dominion||Supreme authority over; sovereignty; absolute ownership|
|Tend||To care for, watch over; apply oneself to the care of; cultivate; to take charge of as a caretaker.|
|Guard (verb form)||To protect from danger through watchful attention; make secure; preserve; protect|
|Keep||To have custody, charge or maintenance over; to be faithful to; to save or reserve.|
Modern Christian scholars do not know exactly where the Garden of Eden was located. The Bible tells us that a river flowed from Eden and separated into four head waters. The names of the ensuing rivers were Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. During the great flood of Noah’s time, the landscape of the earth was changed and the Garden of Eden was destroyed. The rivers Pishon and Gihon were lost. The prophet Ezekiel (27:23) mentioned a region named Eden near the Euphrates River which may or may not be associated with the Garden of Eden’s location. Today, the Tigris and Euphrates remain mighty rivers situated primarily in Iraq.
Although the Garden of Eden was destroyed, the symbolism of the Garden of Eden remained in the minds of Israelites. The prophet Joel (2:3) described the land of Judah before its destruction as similar to the Garden of Eden. Both Isaiah (51:3) and Ezekiel (36:35) promised that after a time of exile and punishment, Judah would be restored like Eden’s garden. Even today in western Christian and secular writings, lush gardens ripe with fruits and flowers are often described as Eden-like or veritable Gardens of Eden.
Most individuals who garden today do not need to plant, cultivate, or raise trees, vegetables and flowers for food and/or beauty. We can buy flowers and produce; yet, many of us elect to garden. We enjoy enriching the soil and nurturing seeds to full growth. We delight to see our flowers grow and bloom. We crave the rich, succulent fruits of trees and yearn to stimulate our taste buds with fresh grown herbs. There is something inherently satisfying and self enriching about gardening.
Our gardening instincts should not surprise us. Our spiritual father, God, was a gardener –the producer of all vegetation on the earth. Gardening is in our genetic makeup. God gave Adam, our forefather, the responsibility to be the caretaker of the perfect Garden of Eden. Unlike Adam and Eve most of us do not live in delightful gardens, however, God plan is for us to live in and with creation. God still wants vegetation — brightly colored flowers and leafy plants and trees — to delight our eyes and soothe our spirits.
When I lived in the northwest, often we drove to the mountains. One Saturday morning we were driving through the mountain ranges and crested a hill. Looking into the distance, instead of seeing acres of trees, I saw a mountain side cut clear of trees. Majestic pines and furs trees were replaced by brown earth. What happened? The owner sold these acres of trees to a timber company. Rather than selectively cutting or thinning trees, the company cut all trees from the mountain side. The owners did not apply themselves to the care of the trees (tend), they did not preserve or protect (guard) them, and they did not acting faithfully (keep) to God’s creation.
I remember telling my brother about this instance of clear cutting. His response was “God made creation to be used by man.” My brother was correct in that God told man to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). In this verse subdue the earth means using all its vast resources in the service of God and man. At the same time, God expects man to act appropriately in relation to His creation and to care for trees and plants.
Reflection: How often do you thank God for the beauty and bounty of the earth? When did you last look – really look – at a blooming flower, appreciating the beauty of its leaves, stems and blossoms? Have you ever fallen in love with a flowering crape myrtle or a majestic blue spruce? Does God’s direction to use earth’s resources in the service of God and man mean we can use forests and natural gardens without respect and veneration?
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright December 4, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.