“The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” Genesis 2:8
This is probably a verse we read without much thought. Consider what it is saying however: First, that God planted a garden. Chapter two introduces us to God handcrafting things – the garden, man, woman, and all the animals. This is a bit of a contrast to chapter one in which God spoke light into existence, and moved water and land with mere words. Also in the first account of creation (Genesis 1), the word “created” was used a lot, which I think we interpret to mean God snapped His fingers and it happened (and quickly at that) but here we see God, perhaps on His hands and knees, planting a Garden. Was He planting seeds or transplanting trees He already created as full-sized?
One reason we probably don’t dwell on this thought of God planting a garden is that the very act of planting a garden implies time is needed to allow the garden to grow, and that does not fit well with the literal six-day view of creation which gives us more of a bullet-point list in our mind of what happened on what day. Plants – Day three, check! There are many arguments for and against the literal six-day creation. The vagueness of the original Hebrew word for “day” doesn’t help matters.
My position is that A) I don’t know and I’m okay with that, bearing in mind that B) I do acknowledge God is all-powerful and in control of nature in every way — so certainly He could have created everything in six days if He wanted to, so please don’t consider me a heretic 🙂 Personally I wonder if the only reason we hang on to the literal six-day view is because it fits in with our concept of a week. I find myself torn between the plain understanding of the text (which implies six actual days) and the fact that God chooses to take nine months to form a baby in the womb. The latter, along with details given in chapter two, imply that God likes to take His time, much like an artist, with his sculptures.
Where did Adam come from?
The other part of the text to dwell on in this verse is how Adam was placed in the garden — that is to say, Adam was not created in Eden, nor was the dirt from the ground of the garden used; but rather, the dirt outside of Eden. This is also evidenced by verse 15: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”
I tend to wonder if this has any implications. For instance, it could be a picture of how man is separated, or apart from God, until He is reconciled, and that the reconciliation is done by the hand of God. Had the dirt been taken from Eden directly, I don’t think the same argument could be made.
Also worth noting is that Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate and keep it. Likewise, in our relationship with God, we find we must cultivate it. Relationships in general must be cultivated; they require regular maintenance. In that sense, our relationship with God is no different than our relationship with our Mother or Brother or friend. If it is one-sided and there is no dynamic, the relationship doesn’t flourish, it slowly dies, just like a garden.