Bible Commentary

Genesis 2

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Genesis 2)

Verses 1-3

[1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. [2] And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. [3] And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

We have here, (1.) The settlement of the kingdom of nature, in God's resting from the work of creation, Genesis 2:1,2. Where observe, 1. That the creatures made both in heaven and earth, are the hosts or armies of them, which speaks them numerous, but marshalled, disciplined, and under command. God useth them as his hosts for the defence of his people, and the destruction of his enemies. 2. That the heavens and the earth are finished pieces, and so are all the creatures in them. So perfect is God's work that nothing can be added to it or taken from it, Ecclesiastes 3:14. 3. That after the end of the first six days, God ceased from all work of creation. He hath so ended his work, as that though in his providence he worketh hitherto, John 5:17. preserving and governing all the creatures, yet he doth not make any new species of creatures. 4. That the eternal God, tho' infinitely happy in himself, yet took a satisfaction in the work of his own hands. He did not rest as one weary, but as one well-pleased with the instances of his own goodness. (2.) The commencement of the kingdom of grace, in the sanctification of the sabbath day, Genesis 2:3. He rested on that day, and took a complacency in his creatures, and then sanctified it, and appointed us on that day to rest and take a complacency in the Creator; and his rest is in the fourth commandment made a reason for ours after six days labour. Observe, 1. That the solemn observation of one day in seven as a day of holy rest, and holy work, is the indispensible duty of all those to whom God has revealed his holy sabbaths. 2. That sabbaths are as ancient as the world. 3. That the sabbath of the Lord is truly honourable, and we have reason to honour it; honour it for the sake of its antiquity, its great author, and the sanctification of the first sabbath by the holy God himself, and in obedience to him, by our first parents in innocency.

Verses 4-7

[4] These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, [5] And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. [6] But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. [7] And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

In these verses, 1. Here is a name given to the Creator, which we have not yet met with, Jehovah. The LORD in capital letters, is constantly used in our English translation, for Jehovah. This is that great and incommunicable name of God, which speaks his having his being of himself, and his giving being to all things. It properly means, He that was, and that is, and that is to come. 2. Further notice taken of the production of plants and herbs, because they were made to be food for man. 3. A more particular account of the creation of man, Genesis 2:7. Man is a little world, consisting of heaven and earth, soul and body. Here we have all account of the original of both, and the putting of both together: The Lord God, the great fountain of being and power, formed man. Of the other creatures it is said, they were created and made; but of man, that he was formed, which notes a gradual process in the work with great accuracy and exactness. To express the creation of this new thing, he takes a new word: a word (some think) borrowed from the potter's forming his vessel upon the wheel. The body of man is curiously wrought. And the soul takes its rise from the breath of heaven. It came immediately from God; he gave it to be put into the body, Ecclesiastes 12:7 as afterwards he gave the tables of stone of his own writing to be put into the ark. 'Tis by it that man is a living soul, that is, a living man. The body would be a worthless, useless carcase, if the soul did not animate it.

Verses 8-15

[8] And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. [9] And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. [10] And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. [11] The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; [12] And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. [13] And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. [14] And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. [15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Man consisting of body and soul, a body made out of the earth, and a rational immortal soul, we have in these verses the provision that was made for the happiness of both. That part of man, which is allied to the world of sense, was made happy, for he was put in the paradise of God; that part which is allied to the world of spirits was well provided for, for he was taken into covenant with God. Here we have, 1. A description of the garden of Eden, which was intended for the palace of this prince. The inspired penman in this history writing for the Jews first, and calculating his narratives from the infant state of the church, describes things by their outward sensible appearances, and leaves us, by farther discoveries of the divine light, to be led into the understanding of the mysteries couched under them. Therefore he doth not so much insist upon the happiness of Adam's mind, as upon that of his outward estate. The Mosaic history, as well as the Mosaic law, has rather the patterns of heavenly things, than the heavenly things themselves, Hebrews 9:23. Observe, (1.) The place appointed for Adam's residence was a garden; not an ivory house. As clothes came in with sin, so did houses. The heaven was the roof of Adam's house, and never was any roof so curiously cieled and painted: the earth was his floor, and never was any floor so richly inlaid: the shadow of the trees was his retirement, and never were any rooms so finely hung: Solomon's in all their glory were not arrayed like them. (2.) The contrivance and furniture of this garden was the immediate work of God's wisdom and power. The Lord God planted this garden, that is, he had planted it, upon the third day when the fruits of the earth were made. We may well suppose it to be the most accomplished place that ever the sun saw, when the All - sufficient God himself designed it to be the present happiness of his beloved creature. (3.) The situation of this garden was extremely sweet; it was in Eden, which signifies delight and pleasure. The place is here particularly pointed out by such marks and bounds as were sufficient when Moses wrote, to specify the place to those who knew that country; but now it seems the curious cannot satisfy themselves concerning it. Let it be our care to make sure a place in the heavenly paradise, and then we need not perplex ourselves with a search after the place of the earthly paradise. (4.) The trees wherewith this garden was planted. [1.] It had all the best and choicest trees in common with the rest of the ground. It was beautified with every tree that was pleasant to the sight - It was enriched with every tree that yielded fruit grateful to the taste, and useful to the body. But, [2.] It had two extraordinary trees peculiar to itself, on earth there were not their like. 1. There was the tree of life in the midst of the garden - Which was not so much a natural means to preserve or prolong life; but was chiefly intended to be a sign to Adam, assuring him of the continuance of life and happiness upon condition of his perseverance in innocency and obedience. 2. There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - So called, not because it had any virtue to beget useful knowledge, but because there was an express revelation of the will of God concerning this tree, so that by it he might know good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree: what is evil? To eat of this tree. The distinction between all other moral good and evil was written in the heart of man; but this, which resulted from a positive law, was written upon this tree. And in the event it proved to give Adam an experimental knowledge of good by the loss of it, and of evil by the sense of it. (5.) The rivers wherewith this garden was watered, Genesis 2:10-14. These four rivers, (or one river branched into four streams) contributed much both to the pleasantness and the fruitfulness of this garden. Hiddekel and Euphrates are rivers of Babylon. Havilah had gold and spices and precious stones; but Eden had that which was infinitely better, the tree of life, and communion with God. 2. The command which God gave to man in innocency, and the covenant he than took him into. Hither we have seen God; man's powerful Creator, and his bountiful benefactor; now he appears as his ruler and lawgiver.

Verses 16-17

[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Thou shall die — That is, thou shalt lose all the happiness thou hast either in possession or prospect; and thou shalt become liable to death, and all the miseries that preface and attend it. This was threatened as the immediate consequence of sin.

In the day thou eatest, thou shalt die — Not only thou shalt become mortal, but spiritual death and the forerunners of temporal death shall immediately seize thee.

Verses 18-20

[18] And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. [19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. [20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

It is not good that man — This man, should be alone - Though there was an upper world of angels, and a lower world of brutes, yet there being none of the same rank of beings with himself, he might be truly said to be alone. And every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air God brought to Adam-Either by the ministry of angels, or by a special instinct that he might name them, and so might give a proof of his knowledge, the names he gave them being expressive of their inmost natures.

Verses 21-22

[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

This was done upon the sixth day, as was also the placing of Adam in paradise, though it be here mentioned after an account of the seventh day's rest: but what was said in general, Genesis 1:27, that God made man male and female is more distinctly related here, God caused the sleep to fall on Adam, and made it a deep sleep, that so the opening of his side might be no grievance to him: while he knows no sin, God will take care he shall feel no pain.

Verse 23

[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones — Probably it was revealed to Adam in a vision, when he was asleep, that this lovely creature, now presented to him, was a piece of himself and was to be his companion, and the wife of his covenant - In token of his acceptance of her, he gave her a name, not peculiar to her, but common to her sex; she shall be called woman, Isha, a She-man, differing from man in sex only, not in nature; made of man, and joined to man.

Verse 24

[24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

The sabbath and marriage were two ordinances instituted in innocency, the former for the preservation of the church, the latter for the preservation of mankind. It appears by Matthew 19:4,5, that it was God himself who said here, a man must leave all his relations to cleave to his wife; but whether he spake it by Moses or by Adam who spake, Genesis 2:23 is uncertain: It should seem they are the words of Adam in God's name, laying down this law to all his posterity. The virtue of a divine ordinance, and the bonds of it, are stronger even than those of nature. See how necessary it is that children should take their parents consent with them in their marriage; and how unjust they are to their parents, as well as undutiful, if they marry without it; for they rob them of their right to them, and interest in them, and alienate it to another fraudulently and unnaturally.

Verse 25

[25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

They were both naked, they needed no cloaths for defence against cold or heat, for neither could be injurious to them: they needed none for ornament. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Nay, they needed none for decency, they were naked, and had no reason to be ashamed. They knew not what shame was, so the Chaldee reads it. Blushing is now the colour of virtue, but it was not the colour of innocency.

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