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THE GARDEN OF EDEN
(SERMON #10 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, August 5, 2007
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8).
It appears that man was created before God “planted” the Garden of Eden, for the creation of man is given in verse seven, followed by our text in verse eight. Thus, it seems that Eden was planted east of where Adam was created. Also it seems to refer to a place which was east of where Moses was when he wrote Genesis by divine inspiration. Exodus 24:4 tells us, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.” Moses was in the Sinai Peninsula, so we may say that it was east of that wilderness. Or it may mean east of Canaan, and be written from the Hebrew standpoint. In any of those three events, it seems to have been located near Mount Ararat, in the general area now known as Turkey and Armenia. Dr. McGee said,
I am sure it [was] somewhere in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley; in fact it may [have been] the entire valley. Originally it was a very fertile place, and it still is for that matter. It is part of the “fertile crescent.” At one time, the peoples inhabiting that region did not even plant grain there; they simply harvested it, for it grew by itself (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, volume I, p. 20; note on Genesis 2:8).
But we should not be concerned with the exact location, because Moses recorded the names and places of things that existed before the great Flood. The whole topography of the earth was changed by the flood. As the Apostle Peter put it,
“The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:6).
Luther gave a good description of Eden, which I will quote at length:
It seems to me that the place was called Eden by Adam, or at least during his lifetime, because of its fertility and great beauty. The name remained known to his descendants even [after] it was lost. When the world was destroyed by the Deluge, then also this beautiful garden was destroyed and lost…Since the garden was appointed for Adam and all his descendants, it cannot be regarded as one [which was] only a few miles square. It was [indeed] the choicest part of the earth. I believe this garden existed until the Flood, but before the Deluge it was guarded by God through an angel, as Moses tells us. As Moses described man as differing from the animals, though the irrational creatures also came forth from the ground, so here he carefully distinguishes man’s dwelling place, which God planted and adorned with far greater diligence and beauty than all other parts of the earth. Moses is greatly concerned to show that man was a much more excellent creature than were all the others…God put man into the Paradise after He had formed him. But Eve was created in the Garden…Although the whole earth was created in such a way that it brought forth trees yielding fruit, and herb yielding seed, yet God bestowed upon the Garden of Eden special care… Moses describes God as a horticulturist who diligently plants a garden according to his choice, selecting some trees which he loves and tends in a special way (Martin Luther, Th.D., Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan Publishing House, 1958 reprint, volume I, pp. 45-46).
Now to comprehend the great beauty and charm of the Garden of Eden we need to keep several things in mind. First, the whole earth was completely different from the way it is now. Turn to Genesis 1:6. On the second day of Creation,
“God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7).
I take the position of Dr. Henry M. Morris, that there was a division of the water on earth from a vast canopy of water above. Dr. Morris said that the waters above the earth had been “transformed into [a] vapor state in order to be separated from the heavier materials and elevated above the atmosphere, where it could serve as a thermal [warming] blanket for the earth’s future inhabitants” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, p. 4, note on Genesis 1:6). The vast water vapor was like a canopy or envelope in the outer atmosphere which provided a greenhouse effect over all the earth. Thus, the whole earth was protected from harmful radiation, as Dr. Morris said, providing “an ideal environment for abundant animal and plant life and for longevity and comfort in human life” (ibid.).
This water vapor canopy surrounding the earth was not clouds, but a very thick body of vapor above the sky, extending far out into space around the earth. That would explain why there was no rain on the earth before the great Flood of Noah’s time. Turn to Genesis 2:5-6, starting halfway through verse five,
“For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man [yet] to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-6).
Rain today depends on the movement of air circulating in the earth’s atmosphere. But there was little circulation of air before the Flood. Thus, there was little change in the weather in various parts of the world. The “mist” that went up refers to “the…daily cycle of evaporation and condensation [brought about] by the day/night temperature cycle” (ibid.). This mist went up “from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6). There were no ice caps at the North and South Poles, and no arid deserts that we have on earth today. The whole world was like the inside of a greenhouse, a lovely paradise, lush with greenery from pole to pole. I believe this accounts for the suddenly frozen wooly mammoths and other animals, with flowers and delicate plants yet in their stomachs, found in northern Siberia, which I believe, were suddenly killed and frozen during the great Flood, when the waters above came down upon the earth centuries later, at the time of Noah (Genesis 7:11-24).
The waters “above the firmament” came down in a torrential rainfall on the earth at the time of the Flood. At the end of the Flood clouds were present for the first time, and today’s hydrologic cycle of evaporation and rain began. Turn to Genesis 9:12-15.
“And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:12-15).
The “bow” or rainbow, that God put in the sky after the Flood was a sign that God would never again judge the earth with a great world-wide flood. The rainbow in the sky after the Flood is another sign that there had never been rain before the great Flood, because the earth had previously been protected by a watery vapor canopy.
But going back to the earth at the beginning, when it was newly created, the whole earth, surrounded by the vapor canopy was a lovely, semi-tropical paradise, with no storms, no rainfall as we know it, with a mist coming up from the ground to water the face of the whole earth.
Then God formed man, as we are told in Genesis 2:7, from “the dust of the ground.” Now turn to Genesis 2:8-9. Please stand and read those verses aloud.
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 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”
You may be seated.
As I said earlier in this sermon, the exact location of the Garden of Eden is not known today because the entire topography of the earth was changed at the great Flood. It is enough to say that the Garden was “eastward,” probably in the area now known as Turkey and Armenia in what is now known as the “fertile crescent.” As Luther correctly said, the Garden must have been quite large, “since the garden was appointed for Adam and all his descendants” (Luther, ibid.). It was, as Luther said, “the choicest part of the earth” (Luther, ibid.).
It was a very beautiful and bountiful Garden. Dr. John R. Rice said,
It is interesting that God “planted a garden.” God took particular delight in preparing the vegetation that would please men. Every plant that would be needed and useful, every plant that would be enjoyed – the texture, the taste, the color, the fragrance – every detail a loving God thought out and put there for man to enjoy in the Garden of Eden…Oh, what infinite capacity for beauty and for attention has our Creator who made and maintains all things.
There were trees in Eden. There was the tree of life. Man could eat freely of that. I suppose it had some marvelous quality that was a vitamin or enzyme for every need of the body (John R. Rice, D.D., Genesis: In the Beginning, Sword of the Lord Publications, 1975, pp. 104-105).
Dr. Rice said that we will see Eden restored one day, by the “‘pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,’ and we will find in the midst of the streets in Heaven and ‘on the side of the river’ the Tree of life which bears ‘twelve manner of fruits’…’and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,’ Revelation 22:1-2” (Rice, ibid., p. 105).
Not only was the Tree of Life providing such nutrients that as man ate of its fruit he would “live for ever” (Genesis 3:22), but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was also in the Garden of Eden. We do not know much about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We do know that this tree was put there to test man’s faithfulness to God. The act of disobedience in eating this fruit was the sin. Dr. Rice said, “Man sinned when he chose [to eat] that which would make him wise in matters of the world, of sinful things and knowledge about things which he ought not to know or care about. Some people have thought that the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden was sex sin. That is foolish. God had already told them they were married. They were to multiply and replenish the earth. Their holy relationship as husband and wife did not displease God. But in eating the forbidden fruit they disobeyed God” (ibid., pp. 106-107).
Then, too, in the Garden of Eden, God created the first woman. Turn to Genesis 2:18.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).
Then we read in verses 21-25,
“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; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 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. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:21-25).
I have no doubt that this was exactly the way the first woman was created, because Jesus said so! Our Lord Jesus Christ said,
“Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4-5).
Jesus quoted the very words of Genesis 2:24, giving them word-for-word in His teaching on marriage in the nineteenth chapter of Matthew. Therefore, from these various passages, we see that there was no sin whatever in the sexual union of Adam and Eve. Their union was from God. God Himself performed that first marriage. And God had told Adam, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). There was no sin whatever in their marriage and sexual relationship. The New Testament clearly says,
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled”
That is also implied in the words we read in Genesis 2:21-25. The last verse in that passage says,
“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
Dr. Morris said, “At this time they were still without sin and thus without consciousness of moral guilt. Later, however, their sin brought an awareness…that the springs of human life had been poisoned, both in themselves and in their progeny [children]. This discovery made them painfully aware of their reproductive organs, and they were ashamed” (Morris, ibid., p. 11, note on Genesis 2:25).
In the next sermon we will see that Satan was the one who enticed them to sin by eating the forbidden fruit, and how the horrible consequences of their rebellion against God, not only brought shame and disgrace to them, but also brought physical death and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. And that curse has descended to the whole human race.
But there is a way back to Eden. There is a way for men and women to be restored one day to its glory. But that “way” is through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Jesus said,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
That may sound narrow to “modern” ears. Today most people think that there are many roads to salvation. But Jesus said that there is only one way – through Him. That may not seem fair to you, but it is the truth.
When you go to Marin County, you must drive north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then you go up the freeway through a rather narrow tunnel, with a rainbow painted over the entrance. There is no other way to get to Marin County. That’s the only way you can get there in an automobile. You can’t get there any other way. And it’s the same with salvation. You can only get there through Christ Jesus. He said, “I am the way… no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is the way to the Father! Christ alone is the way back to Eden!
You must renounce your sinful heart and come to Christ. His Blood will cleanse your sin. His death on the Cross will atone for your sin. His resurrection from the dead will give you life. Only by coming to Jesus can you be converted, born again, so that someday you can enter the restored Eden in the Kingdom of God. May you come to Jesus soon, so you can one day enter the restored paradise of Eden in His coming Kingdom.
There’s a land beyond the river,
That we call the sweet forever,
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree;
One by one we’ll gain the portals,
There to dwell with the immortals,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
When our days shall know their number,
When in death we sweetly slumber,
When the King commands the spirit to be free;
Nevermore with anguish laden,
We shall reach that lovely [Eden],
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
(“When They Ring The Golden Bells”
by Dion De Marbelle, 1818-1903).
Come to Christ by faith. He will wash away your sin with the Blood He shed on the Cross. His bodily resurrection from the dead will give you new and eternal life. Oh, come to Christ and be saved!
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Genesis 2:5-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"When They Ring The Golden Bells" (by Dion De Marbelle, 1818-1903).