What Was Adam’s Job In Eden?

According to most English translations, Genesis 2:15 says that God took “the human” (האדם; ha’adam) and “put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it (לעבדה ולשמרה; le’avdah u’leshamrah). On this rendering, the first human being is put into the garden to work the soil and care for its produce. However, an alternative translation of the Hebrew words for “cultivate” (עבד; avad) and “keep” (שׁמר; shamar) would be “worship and obey.” Based on the context of Genesis, it’s reasonable to assume that both pairs of meanings are at play: God places Adam in the garden not only to help the land flourish, but also to maintain a worshipful and obedient relationship with the Lord.

God intended the first human to oversee creation and the idea of “cultivating and keeping” the garden dovetails with the notion of worshipping and obeying the Creator of it all. As an act of service, Adam not only cultivates the garden, but he also enriches the bond between himself and God. The terms לעבדה ולשמרה are also used of the Levitical task of ministry in the Temple (cf. Numbers 3:8). The similar use of language in both Genesis 2:15 and Numbers 3:8 suggests that the Garden of Eden could be seen as a temple of God in which the first human being served in a priestly role.

Thus, Adam was tasked with maintaining an environment in the Garden of Eden that was conducive to both his spiritual and physical wellbeing. In other words, both “cultivate and keep” and “worship and obey” are appropriate translations as they reveal the first human’s critical role in developing and maintaining the divine-human fellowship.

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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Chris wilson

    Excellent, I love the picture of the Garden of Eden as the Temple of God, and Adam as His priest!