Genesis 2 is typically known as the chapter where God commands Adam not to eat of the fruit of one of the trees in the Garden of Eden. This is sometimes thought of as when morality begins. In fact the name of the tree itself seems to have a moral connotation, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thank God that there is a lot more to goodness than commands. Let me talk about that.
Yes, verse 16 starts, “And the LORD God commanded the man…” But let’s take a look at what God provides in the context. Chapter 1 was mainly about the beginning of the existence of things, and along with that some of the essence of things, like man being made in the image of God. Chapter 2 adds to the existence with provision.
Notice all of the things God does to bring life to things in Chapter 2. In particular notice the life-giving verbs, like “formed from”, “breathed into”, “planted in”, “put in”.
“a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground” (verse 6)
“then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (verse 7)
“the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (verse 8)
“out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (verse 9)
“A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden…” (verse 10) In fact it tells of a whole system of life-giving rivers.
“Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them” (verse 19)
God is the source of goodness, or “sources goodness” to use it as a verb, both the initial seed and the resources and process by which things live and grow into what they are. Not just what they are, but what they are meant to be. With a personal God, things not only have existence, they have meaning. And they were meant to have everything they need to fulfill that meaning.
Meaning is very intentional. It takes a person who intended something. We see this in the statements, “there he put the man whom he had formed… The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (verses 8 and 15).
Likewise, in a similar manner that God formed man from something (the dust from the ground), God formed woman, “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman” (verse 22). Again, in addition to life, there is a lot of intentionality here. There was a need, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (verse 18). And the need was met in a very specific and intentional way. Just as God put man in the garden, he took the woman and “brought her to the man”. She was perfect for him. They were perfect for each other. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (verse 23). God provides for needs in a very specific and perfect way.
It is very interesting to notice the use of the word “good” in Genesis 1 and 2, even before there was any sin. In chapter 1 God pronounces what He created as being “good”, and “very good”. Here in chapter 2, notice that God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone”. We have lost most of what goodness is all about.
In this modern day, we like to try to define everything, to think of things consisting solely of a list of their properties. We have a whole notion of goodness that is relegated to the category of morality, and we have made it rather impersonal. Morality is looked at as just a list of do’s and don’ts. A robot could obey such a thing (in fact better than a human).
Even we Christians have bought into this. Our “relationship” with God is reduced to God commanding us what to do or not do (mostly not do), and us trying to follow the commands, and failing in it. Our concept of God, and our concept of goodness, is many times, sadly, essentially limited to His commands (an example is Divine Command Theory).
But look at what God calls “not good” in Genesis 2. For man to be alone. For there to be something that is needed for life, and for that need to be unmet. For there to be a disconnect in the relationships among things, especially with humans made in the image of God. In fact, that is the larger meaning of death, that there is a separation or disconnect.
In his book Iron John, Robert Bly says, “When a father and son do spend long hours together, which some fathers and sons still do, we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older boy to the younger.”
This “substance” is love. This is what we see emanating from God in Chapter 2, and being caused to be passed from one part of creation to another.
I’ve seen it debated by Christians, which is more important, truth or love? The conundrum is caused by our buying into the limited, modern, atheistic view of truth. But in reality, truth cannot be relegated to a list of statements. Truth is a Person. God. And that Person is Love. Love relationships consist of more than just commands or statements. It isn’t enough to say to a wife, “I told you when we got married that I love you, and it hasn’t changed.” It isn’t enough to say to a child, “I told you when you were born that I love you, and it hasn’t changed.”
Life can’t be defined by a bunch of statements and rules. Even in the realm of biology, the science of life, one of the foremost biologists, Carl Woese, argued for the need for a biology that is non-reductionist in his seminal paper, “A New Biology for a New Century”.
So we see in Genesis 2 a reality that completely blows apart the box of commands and rules that we try to stuff reality into. This is a reality pulsating with life. A reality that we cannot step outside of and observe as an objective outsider.
Ironically, in trying to step outside of reality, we box ourselves into an overly narrow view of reality. The view of reality without a God of love is a view that ultimately does not have the resources it needs to live. When we stand across the divide and call for God to prove Himself solely in terms of logical statements that we can objectively assess with our intellect alone, we are not talking to the real God.
We receive a father’s love by finally giving in and taking the father’s hand and receiving it, like ingesting food, like the osmosis that happens when a father or mother’s body is actually in contact with the body of a child. We are inextricably connected to the creation around us, and to the Creator, the Father of all. That’s something that can’t happen solely in the intellect. This reality is something that cannot be assessed by the brain as being a logically true or false statement. It is not a statement. It is love.