Work and Keep

Studies in Genesis 2

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

God “took” the Man He created by laying hold of him, or fetching him from one place and depositing him in another. God carried man with deliberate intent from where ever he was initially created and brought into existence and placed, not just in the Garden, but in his home. God “put” man down, settled him into his own place.

This is not the first time we see the function of Man to “work” the garden. God tells us that part of Man’s purpose is to “work the ground”. “When … there was no man to work the ground” (Genesis 2:5 ESV). In these verses “work” is a verb and means to till, or turn the ground and make it ready and productive. By implication, God wants the ground to serve Man. “Keep” is another verb and means to watch over, to be attentive, wait for that which grows from the ground. Thus, man is to work by preparing the ground to produce and then to attentively watch what grows in order to learn how to make future growth better. Just as God fully participates in His creation, so man fully participates in a world over which he has authority and dominion.

God’s use a different word to describe His “work” of creation. Three times in Genesis 2:2-3 He uses a word which means that which He does as a natural consequence of who He is. Work is more than an occupation or simply something done. His work is integral to who He is.

Man’s work is evidence of the image of God and the design, purpose and intent of God for him. Part of the image of God given is the ability to think and reason and then to act willfully on the decisions and conclusions drawn. Man is able to learn and grow in knowledge and ability. One of the implications of working and keeping the garden is man’s ability to patiently observe and be aware of what is occurring, to experiment and make changes to the place, process in order to achieve a different outcome.

Man’s work is a direct representation of God’s work. In creation God took that which He created out of nothing and formed matter into perfectly useful stuff intricately designed to sustain life. Life is minutely complex and balanced. Creation is good, perfect, moving toward fullness and completion, beautiful and useful, infinitely varied yet understandable by those with the image of God. Man grows in a knowledge of God as man keeps and fashions, observes and learns how to imitate what God has done by fashioning that which is useful and beautiful. This is Man’s work.

Man was created to do that which is integral to the image of God and is natural and inherent. Man does that which God designed him to do.


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