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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 2

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. II.

God ceasing from all his works, blesseth the seventh day: plants the garden of Eden: interdicts man from the tree of knowledge: and forms Eve from the side of Adam.


Verse 1

Genesis 2:1. Host of them All the creatures in the heavens and the earth are called their hosts, for their multitude, variety, order, power, and subjection to the Lord of hosts. Nothing remained farther to be done; the whole was finished to the utmost perfection, and regulated in the exactest order.


Verse 2

Genesis 2:2. Rested This word ( ישׁבת ishboth) is not opposed to weariness, but to work, or action. And therefore all the idle sarcasms which have been cast upon Moses and his God, are built upon ignorance and misunderstanding of the fact. God, an Almighty and Omnipotent Spirit, can neither faint nor be weary: but he may cease from exerting certain operations of his power; as here he ceased to exert his divine energy in the formation of new productions. This is all that is intended: He ceased not from his work of Providence, and superintendence of what he had created.

It should be observed here; that in this account of the creation, the Deity is in many particulars represented κατ ανθρωποπειας, after the manner of men. In many parts of scripture, he is represented with human parts, and human passions: not that this is by any means the case, but only to give us the best idea possible of such actions in the Deity as we could have no idea of at all, except from this method of analogy. It will be sufficient to have made this remark once.


Verse 3

Genesis 2:3. God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it Blessed, i.e.. says Mr. Locke, appointed it to be kept as a day of holy rejoicing; and sanctified it, i.e.. separated, or set it apart, for his own use; that, upon it, men might cease from their work, as he had ceased from his; and employ their time in worshipping and thanking him for his mercies and benefits conferred upon them.

The word שׁבעי shebei, seventh, comes from שׁבע shabang, which signifies sufficiency, or completion, because God on that day completed, or finished, all his work, and made it sufficient for the purposes intended by it. The seventh day was thus sanctified, or set apart, from the beginning, as a religious sabbath, or rest, to remind believers of that rest which God then entered into, and of that שׁבע shabang, completion, or fulness of joy, which is in his presence for evermore.

REFLECTIONS.—1. The sabbath is of divine appointment. One day in seven God claims wholly for himself, to remember him in the works he hath wrought. Whether the day we observe, answer exactly to that seventh which was at first appointed, is perhaps dubious. Mr. Kennedy, in his Scripture Astronomy, has, in the judgment of many, proved that it does. But this we know, that it is the day when the Redeemer entered into his rest, after perfecting the work of our redemption, and is now ordained to perpetuate not only the remembrance of the old, but also of the more glorious new creation.

"'Twas great to raise a world from nought, But greater to redeem." WATTS.

2. It is a holy day. Every day of our life should be devoted to God's service; but one in seven is more peculiarly to be set apart for the Lord, to be withdrawn from worldly occupations, and to be spent in the delightful work of prayer and praise, of meditation and mutual conference, tending to raise up our minds to him, the great Author of every blessing, and to prepare us for the rest, which remaineth in the eternal world for the people of God.—How impious then and profane, to pollute it with works of common labour; and how much more profane, to prostitute it to the purposes of pleasure, vain company, idle amusements, or works of wickedness! Shall he not visit for these things?

3. It is a blessed day. God will meet those who spend it with him, who call the sabbath a delight; and he will fill them with his consolations. They will find it is good for them to be with him; and every such day spent on earth will quicken their desires after, and increase their relish for, the eternal sabbath, when he shall take them to himself, as his blessed children, to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.


Verse 4

Genesis 2:4. Generations תולדות Toldoth, sometimes signifies the origin of the thing treated of, and sometimes the posterity of those who are mentioned. Here it means the origin, or successive production, of the world; as much as to say, "this is the true and faithful account of the origin," &c.

Lord By this word our translators have chosen to render, throughout their translation, יהוה Jehovah, the peculiar and appropriated name of God; which first occurs here, but will be explained more suitably when we come to the third chapter of Exodus, and the 15th verse. It is joined with אלהים Elohim here, Jehovah Elohim, by apposition, says Le Clerc, to shew, that the God (Elohim) who created the world is the same Jehovah whom the Israelites worshipped. The Hebrew Doctors observe, that Jehovah Elohim, Lord God, is the full and perfect name of God; and therefore fitly reserved to this place, when the works of God were perfected.


Verse 5

Genesis 2:5. And every plant of the field, before it was in the earth That is, God when he made the heavens and the earth, made also, by his immediate power, every plant in its state of perfection, with its seed in it; before the several plants, thus produced, grew and increased in the natural and regular method by which they now grow and increase: and which method he appointed for that end, when things were regularly constituted, when the sun was appointed to shine, and the rain to fall upon the earth; and man was formed to cultivate the earth, and its produce. As yet it was otherwise: the vegetables were created and sustained by his power exerting itself in a peculiar manner: especially by causing a mist, vapour, or steam, to arise from the earth to water them. The sacred writer, by remarking that yet there was no man to cultivate the ground, nor any rain to water it, both which are necessary to the produce of vegetables, assures us, that vegetables were not, at first, produced in the ordinary method.


Verse 7

Genesis 2:7. Formed man of the dust of the earth Having given us a general account of the formation of man, and of the dignity of his species, in that he was made in the image of his Maker; Moses proceeds to give us a more circumstantial account of his formation; his first station, Genesis 2:8 employment, Genesis 2:15 obligations, Genesis 2:17 and union in the marriage state: particulars all of great importance, the information whereof could not fail to interest all mankind. His body, we are told, was formed by the Almighty Creator, out of the dust of the earth. As a potter hath power over, and forms the clay into what vessels he pleases; so the Lord God formed (for such is the import of the original word יצר iatzar) Adam from the clay or dust. The Hebrew is expressive, God formed man, dust of the earth. There is no particle before dust. He is, as to his corporeal part, mere dust and clay.

REFLECTIONS.—1. Man in innocence had much to humble him, when he could look upon the earth under his feet, and call it mother. He was but dust of dust. But how much more cause hath fallen man to be humble, when he is not only of the dust, but must return to the dust again. It is ignorance of our original, and forgetfulness of our end, which lead us to high thoughts of our vile and sinful selves. And yet it must be acknowledged, that the body of man is curiously wrought. Materiem superabat opus. "The workmanship excelled the materials." Let us then present our bodies to God as living sacrifices, and as living temples, and, vile as they now are, they shall shortly be new formed like Christ's glorious body.

And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life The original words חיים נשׁמת nishmath chiim, signify the breath of lives, including the vegetative, sensitive, and rational life of man.

And man became a living soul Consider here, the high original, and yet the admirable serviceableness of the soul of Prayer of Manasseh 1:1. It takes its rise from the breath of heaven, and is produced by it! It is pity then it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. It came immediately from God. Hence God is not only the Former but the Father of Spirits. Let the soul, which God hath breathed into us, breathe after him; and let it be for him, since it is from him. 2. It takes its lodging in a house of clay, and is the life and support of it. The body would be a worthless, useless, loathsome carcase, if the soul did not animate it. Since then the extraction of the soul is so noble, and its nature and faculties so excellent, let us not be of those fools who despise their own souls, by preferring their bodies before them.


Verse 8

Genesis 2:8. Planted a garden It pleased God to provide for man, when formed, a proper place of reception, a garden. The Hebrew word גן gan, which we render garden, and frequently, paradise, signifies, properly, a fenced or enclosed garden: eastward, must be taken in reference to the situation of Moses when he wrote this, which being generally supposed to have been in the wilderness of Arabia, eastward must be understood to refer to the east of that wilderness, or of Judaea. This garden was planted in Eden, בעדן beeden. The Hebrew word עדן eden, or Eden, signifies pleasure: accordingly the Vulgate renders it, paradisum voluptatis, a garden of pleasure.

REFLECTIONS on the garden of Eden (from Genesis 2:8-15). 1. It was a garden. When no inclement sky had yet begun to lour; when storms and tempests had not learnt to roar; when nature, ever-blooming, filled the eye with pleasure, and the air with fragrance, a palace of gold had been a confinement, and beds of ivory mean, compared with the delicious groves of Eden, and those couches of amaranthine flowers which decked this happy place. The starry canopy of heaven was extended over them; the wide earth around served as the courts to grace the temple; while this secluded spot, the blest abode provided by their bounteous Maker, shone with brighter beauties than ever adorned the house of Solomon, though overlaid with gold. Imagination could not conceive, nor desire wish for a greater profusion of delights.

2. The situation. The choice of the spot was from God, and the furnishing it his work. It was no doubt the best of that which was all very good. No traces of it however now remain: as sin drove man out, the deluge swept it away:

To teach us that God attributes to place No SANCTITY, if none be thither brought By men who there frequent, or therein dwell.

3. Its produce; every thing pleasing to the eye, and good for food. God consulted the pleasure, as well as the profit of his creatures.

4. Its peculiarities. Many were the trees which adorned the garden, but two there were of wonderful efficacy. The first was the tree of life; whether so called, because of some property contained in it of preserving the human body from decay, or because appointed of God as the pledge and seal of man's immortality, whilst he continued in a state of obedience. 2. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so called, from its design to point out the knowledge of good and evil to man; forasmuch as it was to stand as a test of his obedience or disobedience to the positive command of God, enjoining him to abstain from it: and further, as it eventually served to convince him, when, contrary to the command, he dared to eat of it, of the good he lost, and of the evil, which else he had never known.

But even in Paradise man was not to be idle: though it was made ready to his hands, he was to dress and keep it. Hence we may observe, 1. That if Adam was created to work, it can be the prerogative of none of his descendants to plead exemption from it. To waste therefore our time in indolence, or to squander it away in vain pleasures, will bring a dreadful reckoning, when the Master of the vineyard shall come and visit the slothful servant. 2. That secular employments very well consist with a life of communion with God. The sons and heirs of heaven have a province to fill up on earth, which must have its share of their time and thoughts: and if they do it with an eye to God, they are as truly serving him in it, as when they are upon their knees. 3. The gardener and husbandman may comfort themselves in their laborious employment, that it is the first trade God taught to man, and affords abundant matter of meditation to lead us up to him.


Verse 16-17

Genesis 2:16-17. Of every tree, &c.— Rich in his bounty, and free in his donations, the liberal Creator of all things here gives a large and extensive grant to his creature, allowing the free use of all those various excellencies with which he had furnished this garden. In this case surely it was but reasonable, that he should constitute some test of his creature's gratitude and obedience; that thus he might derive from him, as a free and rational creature, a free and rational service. Had there been no restraint upon man in this happy state; had good only been set before him, and all possibility of evil removed, his fidelity and allegiance could never have been tried; nor could he have been capable of virtue or reward, as having it not in his power to choose. For all virtue and all reward imply choice; and to choose, there must be freedom. Accordingly, man being created a free agent, the Almighty proposed to try his obedience, and constituted a certain tree the test of it, enjoining him, on pain of death, not to eat of that tree. Whatever sceptics and infidels may have urged concerning this matter, unprejudiced reason certainly will allow, that this was as proper a test of man's obedience as any other. For the truth of the case is, it was in itself immaterial what should be constituted the test. God, as Sovereign Lord, was to appoint some test; and therefore whatever he should appoint, proper to prove man, must have been right; and appointing this tree of knowledge we are bound to conclude, that no test could have been more proper; especially as man at first could not transgress in any of the social or relative duties.

Thou shalt surely die With a threefold death. 1. Spiritual, by the guilt and power of sin: at that instant thou shalt be dead in trespasses and sins. 2. Temporal, or the death of the body; which shall then begin in thee, by decays, infirmities, terrors, dangers, and other harbingers of death. 3. Eternal; which shall immediately succeed the other.

God had fully provided for man's happiness; and the restraint so trivial, was a new instance of his kindness. For what less could have been contrived? How gracious all his dealings and designs! And what an aggravation to man's guilt should he after all prove false and faithless, and wantonly transgress a covenant so easy in its terms, so glorious in its promises, so terrible in its threatenings!


Verse 18

Genesis 2:18. It is not good, &c.— Though man was possessed of all the bliss of Paradise, one thing was still wanting to his felicity. He was alone; nor amidst the various orders of creatures could find any like unto himself. Angels were rational spirits, but incorporeal; beasts corporeal, but irrational. God saw and pitied him. With the affection of a kind Father, unsolicited he consulted his necessities, and resolves to supply him with a help-meet of his own species. In the Hebrew it is, כנגדו עזר ezer kenegdo, a help or aid, as his co-relative or correspondent to him.

Learn here, 1. Solitude is not suited for man. In his state of innocence society was needful. 2. Celibacy was never an ordinance of God: he who made man, knew what was best for him. 3. In the choice of a wife, a help-meet is to be sought: a companion, a friend, whose presence at home may be to us more than all the world beside. The reason why so many are miserable in the marriage state, is, that they have married the face or the portion instead of the woman.


Verse 19

Genesis 2:19. And out of the ground God formed, &c.— Had formed beast and fowl; see remarks on Genesis 2:20; Genesis 2:1 : It seems probable that this account of the review of the creatures taken by Adam, was appointed by God, among many other reasons, for the end of shewing him, that there was among them none which could be a proper mate or co-relative to himself, and consequently that he must owe the production of such a being to the still increasing beneficence of that Creator from whom he received every thing: the clause at the end of the 20th verse, corresponding to that at the end of the 18th, seems to confirm this opinion. Other wise and good ends, no doubt, were designed by this review, which acquainted Adam at once with the nature of the several creatures, and his dominion over them; a knowledge highly necessary, and which doth not seem easy to have been attained by any other method than this which the Creator took, of causing the several species of animals to pass before Adam. In which there appears neither difficulty nor absurdity: for certainly it could be no difficulty for him who created them, to cause every species of animals to pass along in any order he should choose: nor is it at all absurd to suppose, that he would present these works of his hand to the view of that superior creature, to whom he had given the dominion over them. If two of each species only were at first created, those two only might pass before Adam; or if more were at first created, even in that case two of each species were quite sufficient for the end designed. And if by any means the Lord made Adam acquainted with the nature of the several creatures, he would doubtless give them names agreeable thereto in that language which was the primaeval one, and with the power of speaking, which we must necessarily suppose him endued with at the beginning. For, as created in a state of perfection, he must have been capable of conversing and communicating his ideas: and there appears no more difficulty in believing this, than in believing what we see every day, that the brute animals are born with their several distinct voices, and modes of expressing their ideas, how few or many soever they have. Man, therefore, may easily be imagined, as endued with superior faculties, to have been formed capable of expressing his ideas in regular language: a power wherewith God can endue his creatures, as was abundantly proved on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples of our Lord received the gift of tongues, and were enabled to speak in languages to which before they were utter strangers.


Verse 21

Genesis 2:21. Caused a deep sleep Adam having, by the Divine assistance, surveyed the creatures, whom he found corresponding according to their species, and in all respects adapted to each other, became fully sensible that there was none like himself, none that could be a proper mate and companion to him, endued with like reason, and in whom he might delight. He must, therefore, have been desirous of such a companion; and consequently felt an increase of love and thankfulness towards his Divine Benefactor, when he informed him that he would create him such a companion. For that God revealed to Adam the method of Eve's creation, there can be no doubt from Genesis 2:23 and, as I conceive, he revealed this before her creation; however, if others think it most probable to have been done afterwards, they may freely and safely enjoy their opinion.

During the deep sleep or trance, which God caused to fall upon Adam, he took out one his ribs, as we render it, and closed up the flesh again; and from this rib, he formed, or built up, the woman. The substance which he had thus taken, increased under his forming hands, as on another occasion the bread and fishes increased in the hands of the Saviour. The word rendered rib, צלע (tzelang) signifies properly the side, whether of an animal or any other thing; see Job 18:12. 1 Kings 6:15-16. and consequently might as well have been so rendered in this place, and took part of his side. He who had created man out of the dust, could certainly have created woman with as much ease from the same materials: but as the connexion of husband and wife was to be the most intimate and tender, it seems to have been the great Creator's design to have inculcated the lesson of perfect love and union, by the forming of woman out of man's body, and from a part of it so near the heart: as well as to make woman of a more refined and delicate nature, by thus causing the original clay to pass, as it were, twice through his refining hands.


Verse 23

Genesis 2:23. Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, &c.— Adam here begins to be used as a proper name; not as the general name of man. The several genera of beasts and birds had already passed before Adam, to which he gave names expressive of their respective natures and properties: but among all these, there was not כנגדו (kenegdo) his counter-part found: but when the woman was brought in her turn to pass in review, he said הפעם זאת (zoth hapaam) this turn, this which passes now in review, is flesh of my flesh, &c.; which words may be either understood in a literal sense, referring to the manner of Eve's formation; or in a general sense, expressing only nearness of relation and proximity of blood: in which sense Laban says to Jacob) Surely thou art my bone and my flesh, my near relation.

She shall be called woman i.e.. She shall partake of my name as she does of my nature; she shall be called אשׁה ishah, from אישׁ ish, man, from whom she is taken. I may again observe, that this agreement of the names of persons with the names of things from which they are derived, is one of the main arguments which are offered in proof of the Hebrew's being the original, or, at least, a dialect of the original language.


Verse 24

Genesis 2:24. Therefore shall a man, &c.— It is evident, that Adam, before he expressed these words, had been instructed by God in the nature of that institution to which these words refer, and the nature of which they so aptly and fully express; teaching to us the close union of the marriage-state; an union nearer and closer than that of any other relation; a state in which one only was formed for one.


Verse 25

Genesis 2:25. And they were both naked—and not ashamed "Shame," says Mr. Locke, "is an uneasiness of the mind upon the thought of having done something which is indecent, or which will lessen the valued esteem which others have for us." It was impossible, therefore, that our first parents, in their state of perfection, could have known or felt any thing of the passion of shame. Like little children, unconscious of shame, their nakedness gave them no occasion of uneasiness. Mr. Saurin observes, that "if it be still hard for us to comprehend this circumstance of the sacred history, it is because the greatest part of our judgment is false and vitiated since the fall, and because we have equally lost the notions of true shame, and those of true honour."

GENERAL REFLECTIONS on Chap. I. and II.

Who can read this account of the creation of the world and of man, and not immediately perceive and gratefully acknowledge the high benefits derived from REVELATION? Without this divine indulgence we must for ever have remained in the dark respecting points of the deepest importance: ignorant alike of the TRUE GOD, of the original of the world, and ourselves. To feel this argument in its full force; contemplate only for a moment, what strange and confused apprehensions they had of these great points, who lived secluded from the light of that heavenly information which we enjoy, and which, would to God, we duly valued!

The only rational account of the creation is this which Moses gives; an account which leads us to the first Fair, first Powerful, and first Good; the Author of all order, excellence, and perfection! which necessarily infers, what infidels have been so prone to deny, revelation, or communication from the Deity: without which, in various instances, it is impossible to conceive the first pair in any capacity to exist as rational creatures, or to have preserved the life which was given them; much less to have paid any acceptable homage to their Almighty Father and Lord.

What an august, as well as pleasing, idea of God doth the survey of these his works raise in the contemplative mind: works so great in themselves, so beneficial to that race whom he has been pleased to appoint his vicegerents below! And what gratitude should warm every human heart, which reflects on his benignity and stupendous magnificence, who was pleased to furnish a world with so many beauties and conveniences for the accommodation of a creature favoured in the highest degree, though formed of the dust of the earth! favoured so highly as to be made in the image of the Creator; with a soul capable of resembling him in purity and holiness; of participating with him in everlasting happiness! O man, think of thy original, and be humble: think of thy dignity, and assert, by a life of holiness, the glorious prerogative of thy nature!

He who caused this system to exist, and to be perfected in six days, could doubtless have formed it with as much ease in one. But he was not only willing to inform man of the regular process of his beautiful creation, but by ceasing from all exertions of his power on the seventh day, to lay a solid and rational foundation for the due observance of that day through all generations: a day which he claims as his own, which, under every dispensation, has been consecrated and observed: the observance of which is attended with the most beneficent effects to man in every respect; which, separate from the divine appointment, it would be of the utmost consequence for the human race to keep holy: but which considered as his appointment, who is the Giver of all time, becomes the most rational of duties, as it is enforced by every argument of gratitude and religion. If, therefore, O man, thou wouldst desire a blessing from thy God on thyself, thy family, thy undertakings, thou wilt carefully hallow the Sabbath, and conscientiously dedicate that day to the service of thy God, and the contemplation of that rest which remaineth for all his faithful people!

Observe with what paternal tenderness the Almighty Father provides for man! He not only forms him in his own image, and gives him dominion over all the inferior creation; but he provides a place of delight, a paradise abounding with all pleasures, for him. And that he might enjoy it in sweet and blest society, he forms a companion adapted to all his wishes, and capable of affording the most perfect satisfaction! He joins the happy pair in the closest union, an union productive of the truest joys; and which, while sin and shame were yet unknown, must have been indeed a perpetual fountain of domestic sweets only! And, surely, amidst this profusion of blessings, it was but reasonable, that some test of obedience and gratitude to the Divine Benefactor should be appointed. And when no moral duties could be broken; when adultery, theft, covetousness, &c. could not be known; what more proper, and, at the same time, what more gentle restraint could have been imposed, than that which the Sovereign Jehovah was pleased to fix upon! A service free and voluntary was necessary to constitute man a moral creature. Behold, therefore, life and death were set before him. Happy, thrice happy, had he chosen wisely! but who can fathom the depths of the Divine Will! Suffice it for us, that God is good, and certainly desireth the felicity of those whom he brings into being.

When we consider the paradisaical happiness of man, however we may lament its loss, we cannot but with pleasure contemplate that this paradise and this happiness, highly augmented, are reserved for, and will be restored to those who are the faithful children of a second and better Adam! And, in this view, we may pleasingly contemplate what we expect through faith to enjoy: and may well say, "O Adam, happy, beyond all imagination happy, with uninterrupted health and untainted innocence to delight thee! no perverseness of will or perturbation of appetite to discompose thee! a heart upright, a conscience clear, and a head unclouded to entertain thee! a delightful earth for thee to enjoy! a glorious universe for thee to contemplate! an everlasting heaven for thee to expect! and, in the mean time, the Author of that universe, the King of that heaven, and Giver of that glory, thy God, thy Creator, thy Benefactor, to see, to converse with, to bless, to glorify, to adore, to obey!—Divine Restorer, adorable Jesus, all praise be to Thee, who hast mercifully repaired the errors of the first man, and given us again the happy power to be reinstated in these superlative blessings!"

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-2.html. 1801-1803.

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