Genesis 2 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Genesis 2)
Man's relationship with God: the special manner of his creation

In chapter 2 we have man's relationship with God, and his own portion as such. Hence the LORD [1] God is introduced: not merely God as a creator, but God in relationship with those He has created. Hence we have the special manner of man's creation.

The Garden of Eden

Only a word or two is called for as to the garden. It was a place of delights. Eden means pleasure. It has wholly disappeared, and it was meant that it should; only we find, by two at least of the rivers, that it was on this earth substantially as we have it. Jehovah Elohim had formed the man, Jehovah Elohim had planted the garden. The river of God to water the earth had its rise there. The fresh springs of God are found in the place of His delight. Man was set there to dress and keep it. Man and the earth are both now in ruin.

The two trees: man's responsibility in obedience and a sovereign source of life

But we have in this chapter, more particularly, the special relationship of man with God, with his wife (type of Christ and His church), with the creation; and the two great principles, from which everything flows as regards man, established in the garden where man was placed in blessing; namely, responsibility in obedience, and a sovereign source of life—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. In these two things, in conciliating these two, lies the lot of every man [2]. It is impossible out of Christ. It is the question raised in the law, and answered in grace in Christ. The law put life as the result of the perfect obedience of him who knew good and evil, that is, made it depend on the result of our responsibility. Christ, having undergone the consequence of man's having failed, becomes (in the power of a life which had gained the victory over death which was the consequence of that disobedience) a source of life eternal that evil could not reach, and that in a righteousness perfect according to a work which has taken away all guilt from him that has share in it, a righteousness moreover in which we stand before God according to His own mind and righteous will and nature, according to His own glory. His priesthood [3] applies to the details of the development of this life in the midst of evil, and the place of divine perfectness in which we are set by His work, and reconciles our present infirmities with our divinely given place before God. In the garden the knowledge of good and evil did not yet exist: obedience only in refraining from an act, which was no sin if it had not been forbidden, constituted the test. It was not a prohibition of sin as at Sinai, and a claim of good when good and evil were known.

Man in contrast with every other creature

The condition of man, in contrast with every other creature here below, found its source in this, that, instead of springing from the earth or water by the sole word of God, as a living being, man was formed and fashioned from the dust, and God places him in immediate relationship, as a living being, with Himself; inasmuch as he becomes a living being through God Himself's breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.

Man by his derivation of life in immediate relationship with God

All animated creatures are called living souls, and said to have the breath of life; but God did not breathe into the nostrils of any in order to their becoming living souls. Man was, by his existence, in immediate relationship with God, as deriving his life immediately from Himself; hence he is called in Acts 17 the offspring of God, and in Luke it is said "the [son] of Adam the [son] of God."

Adam's relationship with God, his wife, and the inferior creation

It is important to consider this chapter as laying down, in a special manner, all the principles of the relationship of man, whether with God, with his wife, or with the inferior creation. Here were all things in their own order as creatures of God in connection with the earth; but man's labour not the means of their growth and fruitfulness. Nor did rain from heaven minister fruitfulness from above. The mist that watered it rose from the earth, drawn up by power and blessing, but not coming down. Yet man was, as to his place, in a peculiar one in reference to God. Man did not dwell in heaven; God did not dwell on earth. But God had formed a place of peculiar blessing and delight for man's habitation, and there He visited him. Out of this garden, where he was placed by the hand of God as sovereign of the world, flowed rivers which watered and characterised the world without. Upon Adam reposed the duty of obedience. The image of God upon earth, in the absence of evil from his nature, and as the centre of a vast system around him and in connection with him, his own proper blessing was in his immediate connection and intercourse with God, according to the place he was set in.

Adam's blessing secured by dependence on and intercourse with God

As soon as God had redeemed a people, He dwelt among them. His abiding presence is the consequence of redemption and through it only (Ex. 29: 46). Here He created, blessed, and visited. Adam, created the conscious centre of all around him, had his blessing and security in dependence on and intercourse with God. This, as we shall see, he forfeited, and became the craving centre of his own wishes and ambition, which he could never satisfy.

The position of the first and innocent Adam

Earthly nature then in its perfection, with man, in relationship with God by creation and the breath of life that was in him, for its centre; enjoyment; a source of abiding life, and a means of putting responsibility to the test; the sources of universal refreshment to the world without; and if continuing in his created condition, blessed intercourse with God on this ground such was the position of the first and innocent Adam. That he might not be alone here, but have a companion, fellowship, and the enjoyment of affection, God formed—not another man, for then the one were not a centre—but out of the one man himself, his wife, that the union might be the most absolute and intimate possible, and Adam head and centre of all. He receives her, moreover, from the hand of God Himself. Such was nature around man: what God always owns, and man never sins against with impunity, though sin has spoiled it all; the picture of what Christ, the church, and the universe shall be at the end in power in the obedient man. As yet all was innocence, unconscious of evil.

[1] That is Jehovah Elohim, a personal name as well as Godhead. It was important too that Israel should know that their God was the original Creator of all. Still it is only used when special ways and connection with man are introduced. The distinction of Jehovistic and Elohistic documents is the merest child's play, and flows from entire ignorance of the ways and mind of God. There is always a reason for one or the other. Elohim is simply God; Jehovah is the acting governing person in time though self-existing, who abides ever the same and having to do with others, who is, and was, and is to come.

[2] In Eden the two principles were there, obedience and life; man failed, incurred death, and was excluded from life there. The law did not treat man as lost, though it proves him so, but takes up the two principles and makes life dependent on obedience. Christ takes the consequence of failure for us on the cross, and is the source of divine life to us, and that in a new resurrection state.

[3] The difference between priesthood and advocacy will be treated in its place in John and Hebrews. I only remark here that priesthood refers to help and access to God, advocacy to failure.