Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis 2:15-25

Genesis 2:15-17

 - XII. The Command

15. נוּח  nûach "rest, dwell." עבד  ‛ābad "work, till, serve." שׁמר  shāmar "keep, guard."

We have here the education of man summed up in a single sentence. Let us endeavor to unfold the great lessons that are here taught.


Genesis 2:15 "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

The Lord God took the man. - The same omnipotent hand that made him still held him. "And put him into the garden." The original word is "caused him to rest," or dwell in the garden as an abode of peace and recreation. "To dress it and to keep it." The plants of nature, left to their own course, may degenerate and become wild through the poverty of the soil on which they alight, or the gradual exhaustion of a once rich soil. The hand of rational man, therefore, has its appropriate sphere in preparing and enriching the soil, and in distributing the seeds and training the shoots in the way most favorable for the full development of the plant, and especially of its seed or fruits. This "dressing" was needed even in the garden. The "keeping" of it may refer to the guarding of it by enclosure from the depredations of the cattle, the wild beasts, or even the smaller animals. It includes also the faithful preservation of it as a trust committed to man by his bounteous Maker. There was now a man to till the soil. The second need of the world of plants was now supplied. Gardening was the first occupation of primeval man.


Genesis 2:16-17 "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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."

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying. - This is a pregnant sentence. It involves the first principles of our intellectual and moral philosophy.

I. The command here given in words brings into activity the intellectual nature of man. First, the power of understanding language is called forth. The command here addressed to him by his Maker is totally different from the blessings addressed to the animals in the preceding chapter. It was not necessary that these blessings should be understood in order to be carried into effect, inasmuch as He who pronounced them gave the instincts and powers requisite to their accomplishment. But this command addressed to man in words must be understood in order to be obeyed. The capacity for understanding language, then, was originally lodged in the constitution of man, and only required to be called out by the articulate voice of God. Still there is something wonderful here, something beyond the present grasp and promptitude of human apprehension. If we except the blessing, which may not have been heard, or may not have been uttered before this command, these words were absolutely the first that were heard by man.

The significance of the sentences they formed must have been at the same time conveyed to man by immediate divine teaching. How the lesson was taught in an instant of time we cannot explain, though we have a distant resemblance of it in an infant learning to understand its mother-tongue. This process, indeed, goes over a space of two years; but still there is an instant in which the first conception of a sign is formed, the first word is apprehended, the first sentence is understood. In that instant the knowledge of language is virtually attained. With man, created at once in his full though undeveloped powers, and still unaffected by any moral taint, this instant came with the first words spoken to his ear and to his soul by his Maker's impressive voice, and the first lesson of language was at once thoroughly taught and learned. Man is now master of the theory of speech; the conception of a sign has been conveyed into his mind. This is the passive lesson of elocution: the practice, the active lesson, will speedily follow.

Not only the secondary part, however, but at the same time the primary and fundamental part of man's intellectual nature is here developed. The understanding of the sign necessarily implies the knowledge of the thing signified. The objective is represented here by the "trees of the garden." The subjective comes before his mind in the pronoun "thou." The physical constitution of man appears in the process of "eating." The moral part of his nature comes out in the significance of the words "mayest" and "shalt not." The distinction of merit in actions and things is expressed in the epithets "good and evil." The notion of reward is conveyed in the terms "life" and "death." And, lastly, the presence and authority of "the Lord God" is implied in the very nature of a command. Here is at least the opening of a wide field of observation for the nascent powers of the mind. He, indeed, must bear the image of God in perceptive powers, who shall scan with heedful eye the loftiest as well as the lowest in these varied scenes of reality. But as with the sign, so with the thing signified, a glance of intelligence instantaneously begins the converse of the susceptible mind with the world of reality around, and the enlargement of the sphere of human knowledge is merely a matter of time without end. How rapidly the process of apprehension would go on in the opening dawn of man's intellectual activity, how many flashes of intelligence would be compressed into a few moments of his first consciousness, we cannot tell. But we can readily believe that he would soon be able to form a just yet an infantile conception of the varied themes which are presented to his mind in this brief command.

Thus, the susceptible part of man's intellect is evoked. The conceptive part will speedily follow, and display itself in the many inventions that will be sought out and applied to the objects which are placed at his disposal.

II. First. Next, the moral part of man's nature is here called into play. Mark God's mode of teaching. He issues a command. This is required in order to bring forth into consciousness the hitherto latent sensibility to moral obligation which was laid in the original constitution of man's being. A command implies a superior, whose right it is to command, and an inferior, whose duty it is to obey. The only ultimate and absolute ground of supremacy is creating, and of inferiority, being created. The Creator is the only proper and entire owner; and, within legitimate bounds, the owner has the right to do what he will with his own. The laying on of this command, therefore, brings man to the recognition of his dependence for being and for the character of that being on his Maker. From the knowledge of the fundamental relation of the creature to the Creator springs an immediate sense of the obligation he is under to render implicit obedience to the Author of his being. This is, therefore, man's first lesson in morals. It calls up in his breast the sense of duty, of right, of responsibility. These feelings could not have been elicited unless the moral susceptibility had been laid in the soul, and only waited for the first command to awaken it into consciousness. This lesson, however, is only the incidental effect of the command, and not the primary ground of its imposition.

Second. The special mandate here given is not arbitrary in its form, as is sometimes hastily supposed, but absolutely essential to the legal adjustment of things in this new stage of creation. Antecedent to the behest of the Creator, the only indefeasible right to all the creatures lay in himself. These creatures may be related to one another. In the great system of things, through the wonderful wisdom of the grand Designer, the use of some may be needful to the well-being, the development, and perpetuation of others. Nevertheless, no one has a shadow of right in the original nature of things to the use of any other. And when a moral agent comes upon the stage of being, in order to mark out the sphere of his legitimate action, an explicit declaration of the rights over other creatures granted and reserved must be made. The very issue of the command proclaims man's original right of property to be, not inherent, but derived.

As might be expected in these circumstances, the command has two clauses, - a permissive and a prohibitive. "Of every tree of the garden thou mayst freely eat." This displays in conspicuous terms the benignity of the Creator. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat." This signalizes the absolute right of the Creator over all the trees, and over man himself. One tree only is withheld, which, whatever were its qualities, was at all events not necessary to the well-being of man. All the others that were likely for sight and good for food, including the tree of life, are made over to him by free grant. In this original provision for the vested rights of man in creation, we cannot but acknowledge with gratitude and humility the generous and considerate bounty of the Creator. This is not more conspicuous in the bestowment of all the other trees than in the withholding of the one, the participation of which was fraught with evil to mankind.

Third. The prohibitory part of this enactment is not a matter of indifference, as is sometimes imagined, but indispensable to the nature of a command, and, in particular, of a permissive act or declaration of granted rights. Every command has a negative part, expressed or implied, without which it would be no command at all. The command, "Go work today in my vineyard," implies thou shalt not do anything else; otherwise the son who works not obeys as well as the son who works. The present address of God to Adam, without the exceptive clause, would be a mere license, and not a command. But with the exceptive clause it is a command, and tantamount in meaning to the following positive injunction: Thou mayest eat of these trees only. An edict of license with a restrictive clause is the mildest form of command that could have been imposed for the trial of human obedience. Some may have thought that it would have been better for man if there had been no tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

But second thoughts will correct this rash and wrong conclusion. First. This tree may have had other purposes to serve in the economy of things of which we are not aware; and, if so, it could not have been absent without detriment to the general good. Second. But without any supposition at all, the tree was fraught with no evil whatever to man in itself. It was in the first instance the instrument of great good, of the most precious kind, to him. It served the purpose of calling up into view out of the depths of his nature the notion of moral obligation, with all the kindred notions of the inherent authority of the Creator and the innate subordination of himself, the creature, of the aboriginal right of the Creator alone in all the creatures, and the utter absence of any right in himself to any other creature whatsoever. The command concerning this tree thus set his moral convictions agoing, and awakened in him the new and pleasing consciousness that he was a moral being, and not a mere clod of the valley or brute of the field.

This is the first thing this tree did for man; and we shall find it would have done a still better thing for him if he had only made a proper use of it. Third. The absence of this tree would not at all have secured Adam from the possibility or the consequence of disobedience. Any grant to him whatsoever must have been made "with the reserve," implicit or explicit, of the rights of all others. "The thing reserved" must in equity have been made known to him. In the present course of things it must have come in his way, and his trial would have been inevitable, and therefore his fall possible. Now, the forbidden tree is merely the thing reserved. Besides, even if man had been introduced into a sphere of existence where no reserved tree or other thing could ever have come within the range of his observation, and so no outward act of disobedience could have been perpetrated, still, as a being of moral susceptibility, he must come to the acknowledgment, express or implied, of the rights of the heavenly crown, before a mutual good understanding could have been established between him and his Maker. Thus, we perceive that even in the impossible Utopia of metaphysical abstraction there is a virtual forbidden tree which forms the test of a man's moral relation to his Creator. Now, if the reserve be necessary, and therefore the test of obedience inevitable, to a moral being, it only remains to inquire whether the test employed be suitable and seasonable.

Fourth. What is here made the matter of reserve, and so the test of obedience, is so far from being trivial or out of place, as has been imagined, that it is the proper and the only object immediately available for these purposes. The immediate need of man is food. The kind of food primarily designed for him is the fruit of trees. Grain, the secondary kind of vegetable diet, is the product of the farm rather than of the garden, and therefore does not now come into use. As the law must be laid down before man proceeds to an act of appropriation, the matter of reserve and consequent test of obedience is the fruit of a tree. Only by this can man at present learn the lessons of morality. To devise any other means, not arising from the actual state of things in which man was placed, would have been arbitrary and unreasonable. The immediate sphere of obedience lies in the circumstances in which he actually stands. These afforded no occasion for any other command than what is given. Adam had no father, or mother, or neighbor, male or female, and therefore the second table of the law could not apply. But he had a relation to his Maker, and legislation on this could not be postponed. The command assumes the kindest, most intelligible, and convenient form for the infantile mind of primeval man.

Fifth. We are now prepared to understand why this tree is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The prohibition of this tree brings man to the knowledge of good and evil. The products of creative power were all very good (Genesis 1:31). Even this tree itself is good, and productive of unspeakable good in the first instance to man. The discernment of merit comes up in his mind by this tree. Obedience to the command of God not to partake of this tree is a moral good. Disobedience to God by partaking of it is a moral evil. When we have formed an idea of a quality, we have at the same time an idea of its contrary. By the command concerning this tree man became possessed of the conceptions of good and evil, and so, theoretically, acquainted with their nature. This was that first lesson in morals of which we have spoken. It is quite evident that this knowledge could not be any physical effect of the tree, seeing its fruit was forbidden. It is obvious also that evil is as yet known in this fair world only as the negative of good. Hence, the tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because by the command concerning it man comes to this knowledge.

Sixth. "In the day of thy eating thereof, die surely shalt thou." The divine command is accompanied with its awful sanction - death. The man could not at this time have any practical knowledge of the physical dissolution called death. We must, therefore, suppose either that God made him preternaturally acquainted with it, or that he conveyed to him the knowledge of it simply as the negation of life. The latter hypothesis is to be preferred, for several reasons. First, it is the more economical mode of instruction. Such knowledge may be imparted to man without anticipating experience. He was already conscious of life as a pure blessing. He was therefore capable of forming an idea of its loss. And death in the physical sense of the cessation of animal life and the disorganization of the body, he would come to understand in due time by experience. Secondly, death in reference to man is regarded in Scripture much more as the privation of life in the sense of a state of favor with God and consequent happiness than as the mere cessation of animal life (Genesis 28:13; Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:32). Thirdly, the presence and privilege of the tree of life would enable man to see how easily he could be deprived of life, especially when he began to drink in its life-sustaining juices and feel the flow of vitality rushing through his veins and refreshing his whole physical nature. Take away this tree, and with all the other resources of nature he cannot but eventually droop and die. Fourthly, the man would thus regard his exclusion from the tree of life as the earnest of the sentence which would come to its fullness, when the animal frame would at length sink down under the wear and tear of life like the beasts that perish. Then would ensue to the dead but perpetually existing soul of man the total privation of all the sweets of life, and the experience of all the ills of penal death.

III. Man has here evidently become acquainted with his Maker. On the hearing and understanding of this sentence, at least, if not before, he has arrived at the knowledge of God, as existing, thinking, speaking, permitting, commanding, and thereby exercising all the prerogatives of that absolute authority over people and things which creation alone can give. If we were to draw all this out into distinct propositions, we should find that man was here furnished with a whole system of theology, ethics, and metaphysics, in a brief sentence. It may be said, indeed, that we need not suppose all this conveyed in the sentence before us. But, at all events, all this is implied in the few words here recorded to have been addressed to Adam, and there was not much time between his creation and his location in the garden for conveying any preliminary information. We may suppose the substance of the narrative contained in Genesis 1:2-3, to have been communicated to him in due time. But it could not be all conveyed yet, as we are only in the sixth day, and the record in question reaches to the end of the seventh. It was not, therefore, composed until after that day had elapsed.

It is to be noticed here that God reserves to himself the administration of the divine law. This was absolutely necessary at the present stage of affairs, as man was but an individual subject, and not yet spread out into a multitude of people. Civil government was not formally constituted till after the deluge.

We can hardly overestimate the benefit, in the rapid development of his mind, which Adam thus derived from the presence and converse of his Maker. If no voice had struck his car, no articulate sentence had reached his intellect, no authoritative command had penetrated his conscience, no perception of the Eternal Spirit had been presented to his apprehension, he might have been long in the mute, rude, and imperfectly developed state which has sometimes been ascribed to primeval man. But if contact with a highly-accomplished master and a highly-polished state of society makes all the difference between the savage and the civilized, what instantaneous expansion and elevation of the primitive mind, while yet in its virgin purity and unimpaired power, must have resulted from free converse with the all-perfect mind of the Creator himself! To the clear eye of native genius a starting idea is a whole science. By the insinuation of a few fundamental and germinant notions into his mind, Adam shot up at once into the full height and compass of a master spirit prepared to scan creation and adore the Creator.


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."

 - XIII. The Naming of the Animals

Here man's intellectual faculties proceed from the passive and receptive to the active and communicative stage. This advance is made in the review and designation of the various species of animals that frequent the land and skies.

A new and final need of man is stated in Genesis 2:18. The Creator himself, in whose image he was made, had revealed himself to him in language. This, among many other effects, awakened the social affection. This affection was the index of social capacity. The first step towards communication between kindred spirits was accomplished when Adam heard and understood spoken language. Beyond all this God knew what was in the man whom he had formed. And he expresses this in the words, "It is not good for the man to be alone." He is formed to be social, to hold converse, not only with his superior, but also with his equal. As yet he is but a unit, an individual. He needs a mate, with whom he may take sweet counsel. And the benevolent Creator resolves to supply this want. "I will make him a helpmeet for him" - one who may not only reciprocate his feelings, but take an intelligent and appropriate part in his active pursuits.


Genesis 2:19 "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."

Here, as in several previous instances (Genesis 1:5; Genesis 2:4, Genesis 2:8-9), the narrative reverts to the earlier part of the sixth day. This is, therefore, another example of the connection according to thought overruling that according to time. The order of time, however, is restored, when we take in a sufficient portion of the narrative. We refer, therefore, to the fifth verse, which is the regulative sentence of the present passage. The second clause in the verse, however, which in the present case completes the thought in the mind of the writer, brings up the narrative to a point subsequent to that closing the preceding verse. The first two clauses, therefore, are to be combined into one; and when this is done, the order of time is observed.

Man has already become acquainted with his Maker. He has opened his eyes upon the trees of the garden, and learned to distinguish at least two of them by name. He is now to be introduced to the animal kingdom, with which he is connected by his physical nature, and of which he is the constituted lord. Not many hours or minutes before have they been called into existence. They are not yet, therefore, multiplied or scattered over the earth, and so do not require to be gathered for the purpose. The end of this introduction is said to be to see what he would call them. To name is to distinguish the nature of anything and do denote the thing by a sound bearing some analogy to its nature. To name is also the prerogative of the owner, superior, or head. Doubtless the animals instinctively distinguished man as their lord paramount, so far as his person and eye came within their actual observation. God had given man his first lesson in speech, when he caused him to hear and understand the spoken command. He now places him in a condition to put forth his naming power, and thereby go through the second lesson.

With the infant, the acquisition of language must be a gradual process, inasmuch as the vast multitude of words which constitute its vocabulary has to be heard one by one and noted in the memory. The infant is thus the passive recipient of a fully formed and long-established medium of converse. The first man, on the other hand, having received the conception of language, became himself the free and active inventor of the greatest part of its words. He accordingly discerns the kinds of animals, and gives each its appropriate name. The highly-excited powers of imagination and analogy break forth into utterance, even before he has anyone to hear and understand his words but the Creator himself.

This indicates to us a twofold use of language. First, it serves to register things and events in the apprehension and the memory. Man has a singular power of conferring with himself. This he carries on by means of language, in some form or other. He bears some resemblance to his Maker even in the complexity of his spiritual nature. He is at once speaker and hearer, and yet at the same time he is consciously one. Secondly, it is a medium of intelligent communication between spirits who cannot read another's thoughts by immediate intuition. The first of these uses seems to have preceded the second in the case of Adam, who was the former of the first language. The reflecting reader can tell what varied powers of reason are involved in the use of language, and to what an extent the mind of man was developed, when he proceeded to name the several classes of birds and beasts. He was evidently suited for the highest enjoyments of social contact.

Among the trees in the garden God took the initiative, named the two that were conspicuous and essential to man's well being, and uttered the primeval command. Adam has now made acquaintance with the animal world, and, profiting by the lesson of the garden, proceeds himself to exercise the naming power. The names he gives are thenceforth the permanent designations of the different species of living creatures that appeared before him. These names being derived from some prominent quality, were suited to be specific, or common to the class, and not special to the individual.


Genesis 2:20 "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."

We find, however, there was another end served by this review of the animals. "There was not found a helpmeet for the man" - an equal, a companion, a sharer of his thoughts, his observations, his joys, his purposes, his enterprises. It was now evident, from actual survey, that none of these animals, not even the serpent, was possessed of reason, of moral and intellectual ideas, of the faculties of abstracting and naming, of the capacities of rational fellowship or worship. They might be ministers to his purposes, but not helpers meet for him. On the other hand, God was the source of his being and the object of his reverence, but not on a par with himself in needs and resources. It was therefore apparent that man in respect of an equal was alone, and yet needed an associate. Thus, in this passage the existence of the desire is made out and asserted; in keeping with the mode of composition uniformly pursued by the sacred writer (Genesis 1:2; Genesis 2:5).


Genesis 2:21-22 "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."

 - XIV. The Woman

21. תרדמה  tardēmâh, "deep sleep," ἔκστασις  ekstasis, Septuagint. צלע  tsēlā‛, "rib, side, wing of a building."

23. פעם  pa‛am, "beat, stroke, tread, anvil." אישׁ  'îysh, "man," vir. אשׁה  'āshah, "be firm, as a foundation;" ישׁה  yāshah, "be firm as a substance;" אנש  'ānash, "be strong;" אושׁ  'ûsh, "to give help: hence, the strong, the brave, the defender, the nourisher." אשׂה  'îśâh, "woman," feminine of the above; "wife."

The second creative step in the constitution of man as the natural head of a race is now described. This supplies the defect that was drawn forth into consciousness in the preceding passage. Man here passes out of solitude into society, out of unity into multiplicity.

Here we find ourselves still in the sixth day. This passage throws a new light on Genesis 1:27. It is there stated that man was first created in the image of God, and then that he was created male and female. From the present passage we learn that these two acts of creation were distinct in point of time. First, we see man was really one in his origin, and contained in this unity the perfection of manhood. It does not appear, however, that man was so constituted by nature as to throw off another of the same kind by his inherent power. In fact, if he had, the other should have been, not a female, but another human being in every respect like himself; and he would thus have resembled those plants that are capable of being propagated by a bud. Besides, he would have been endowed with a power different from his actual posterity; and thus the head would not have corresponded with the members of the race.

The narrative, however, is opposed to this view of man's nature. For the change, by which the woman comes into existence, is directly ascribed to the original Maker. A part of the man is taken for the purpose, which can be spared without interfering with the integrity of his nature. It manifestly does not constitute a woman by the mere act of separation, as we are told that the Lord God built it into a woman. It is needless, therefore, to speculate whether the part taken were literally a rib, or some other side piece designedly put there by the provident Creator, for the purpose of becoming the rudiment of a full-grown woman. It is expressly called, not A rib, but one of his ribs; and this evidently implies that he had other similar parts. This binds us, we conceive, to the literal rib of bone and flesh. And thus, in accordance with the account in the foregoing chapter, we have, first, the single man created, the full representative and potential fountain of the race, and then, out of this one, in the way now described, we have the male and the female created.

The original unity of man constitutes the strict unity of the race. The construction of the rib into a woman establishes the individuality of man's person before, as well as after, the removal of the rib. The selection of a rib to form into a woman constitutes her, in an eminent sense, a helpmeet for him, in company with him, on a footing of equality with him. At the same time, the after building of the part into a woman determines the distinct personality and individuality of the woman. Thus, we perceive that the entire race, even the very first mother of it, has its essential unit and representative in the first man.

The Almighty has called intelligent beings into existence in two ways. The angels he seems to have created as individuals (Mark 12:25), constituting an order of beings the unity of which lies in the common Creator. Man he created as the parent of a race about to spring from a single head, and having its unity in that head. A single angel then stands by himself, and for himself; and all his actions belong only to himself, except so far as example, persuasion, or leadership may have involved others in them. But the single man, who is at the same time head of a race, is in quite a different position. He stands for the race, which is virtually contained in him; and his actions belong not only to him as an individual, but, in a certain sense, to the whole race, of which he is at present the sum. An angel counts only for the unit of his order. The first man counts for the whole race as long as he is alone. The one angel is responsible only for himself. The first man is not only an individual, but, as long as he is alone, the sum total of a race; and is therefore so long responsible, not only for himself, but for the race, as the head of which he acts. This deep question of race will meet us again at a future stage of man's history.

Since the All-wise Being never does anything without reason, it becomes an interesting question, why the creation of woman was deferred to this precise juncture in human history. First, man's original unity is the counterpart of the unity of God. He was to be made in the image of God, and after his likeness. If the male and the female had been created at once, an essential feature of the divine likeness would have been missing. But, as in the absolute One there is no duality, whether in sex or in any other respect, so is there none in the original form and constitution of man. Hence, we learn the absurdity of those who import into their notions of the deity the distinction of sex, and all the alliances which are involved in a race of gods. Secondly, the natural unity of the first pair, and of the race descended from them, is established by the primary creation of an individual, from whom is derived, by a second creative process, the first woman.

The race of man is thus a perfect unity, flowing from a single center of human life. Thirdly, two remarkable events occur in the experience of man before the formation of the woman, - his installment in the garden as its owner, keeper, and dresser; and his review of the animals, as their rational superior, to whom they yield an instinctive homage. By the former he is prepared to provide for the sustenance and comfort of his wife; by the latter, he becomes aware of his power to protect her. Still further, by the interview with his Maker in the garden he came to understand language; and by the inspection of the animals to employ it himself. Speech implies the exercise of the susceptive and conceptive powers of the understanding. Thus, Adam was qualified to hold intelligent converse with a being like himself. He was competent to be the instructor of his wife in words and things. Again, he had met with his superior in his Creator, his inferiors in the animals; and he was now to meet his equal in the woman. And, lastly, by the divine command his moral sense had been brought into play, the theory of moral obligation had been revealed to his mind, and he was therefore prepared to deal with a moral being like himself, to understand and respect the rights of another, to do unto another as he would have another do to him. It was especially necessary that the sense of right should grow up in his breast, to keep in due check that might in which he excelled, before the weaker and gentler sex was called into being, and entrusted to his charge. These are some of the obvious reasons for delaying the formation of the woman to the present crisis.


Genesis 2:23 "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."

Whether the primeval man was conscious of the change in himself, and of the work of the Supreme Being while it was going on, or received supernatural information of the event when he awoke, does not appear. But he is perfectly aware of the nature of her who now for the first time appears before his eyes. This is evinced in his speech on beholding her: "This, now" - in contrast with the whole animal creation just before presented to his view, in which he had failed to find a helpmeet for him - "is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh;" whence we perceive that the rib included both bone and flesh. "To this" counterpart of myself "shall be called woman;" the word in the original being a feminine form of "man," to which we have no exact equivalent, though the word "woman" (womb-man, or wife-man), proves our word "man" to have been originally of the common gender. "Because out of a man was she taken;" being taken out of a man, she is human; and being a perfect individual, she is a female man.


Genesis 2:24 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

These might be the words of the first man (Genesis 2:24). As he thoroughly understood the relation between himself and the woman, there is no new difficulty in conceiving him to become acquainted at the same time with the relationship of son to father and mother, which was in fact only another form of that in which the newly-formed woman stood to himself. The latter is really more intimate and permanent than the former, and naturally therefore takes its place, especially as the practical of the filial tie, - that of being trained to maturity, - is already accomplished, when the conjugal one begins.

But it seems more probable that this sentence is the reflection of the inspired author on the special mode in which the female was formed from the male. Such remarks of the writer are frequently introduced by the word "therefore" (על־כן  kēn-‛al). It is designed to inculcate on the race that was to spring from them the inviolable sanctity of the conjugal relation. In the primeval wedlock one man was joined to one woman only for life. Hence, in the marriage relation the animal is subordinate to the rational. The communication of ideas; the cherishing of the true, the right, the good; the cultivation of the social affections; the spontaneous outflow of mutual good offices; the thousand nameless little thoughts, looks, words, and deeds that cheer the brow and warm the heart; the common care of children, servants, and dependents; the constant and heartfelt worship of the Father of all, constitute the main ends and joys of the married state.

After the exclamation of the man on contemplating the woman, as bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and therefore physically, intellectually, and morally qualified to be his mate, we may suppose immediately to follow the blessing of man, and the general endowment of himself and the animals with the fruits of the soil as recorded in the preceding chapter (Genesis 1:28-30). The endowment of man embraces every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed. This general grant was of course understood by man to exclude the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was excepted, if not by its specific nature, yet by the previous command given to man. This command we find was given before the formation of the woman, and therefore sometime before the events recorded in the second and third clauses of Genesis 1:27. Hence, it preceded the blessing and the endowment. It was not special, however, to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be intended for other purposes than the food of man, as there are very many other trees that afford no proper nutriment to man. The endowment, therefore, refers to such trees as were at the same time nutritive and not expressly and previously forbidden.

This chapter is occupied with the "generations, issues or products of the skies and the land," or, in other words, of the things created in the six days. It is the meet preface to the more specific history of man, as it records his constitution, his provision, his moral and intellectual cultivation, and his social perfection. It brings us up to the close of the sixth day. As the Creator pronounced a sentence of approbation on all that he had made at the end of that day, we have reason to believe that no moral derangement had yet taken place in man's nature.


Genesis 2:25 "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

This is corroborated by the statement contained in Genesis 2:25. "They were both naked, and were not ashamed." Of nakedness in our sense of the term they had as yet no conception. On the contrary, they were conscious of being sufficiently clothed in a physical sense by nature's covering, the skin - and, in a spiritual point of view, they were clad as in a panoply of steel with the consciousness of innocence, or, indeed, the unconsciousness of evil existing anywhere, and the simple ignorance of its nature, except so far as the command of God had awakened in them some speculative conception of it. Hence, they were not ashamed. For shame implies a sense of guilt, which they did not have, and an exposedness to the searching eye of a condemning judge, from which they were equally free. With the sentence terminates all we know of primeval innocence. May we surmise from it that the first pair spent at least the Sabbath, if not some days, or weeks, or years, in a state of integrity?

From what has been said, it is evident that this sentence was written after the fall; for it speaks in language which was not intelligible till after that event had occurred. Contemplated in this point of view, it is the most melancholy sentence in the book of God. For it is evidently placed here to foreshadow the dark event to be recorded in the next chapter.

Two hallowed institutions have descended to us from the days of primeval innocence, - the wedding and the Sabbath. The former indicates communion of the purest and most perfect kind between equals of the same class. The latter implies communion of the highest and holiest kind between the Creator and the intelligent creature. The two combined import communion with each other in communion with God.

Wedded union is the sum and type of every social tie. It gives rise and scope to all the nameless joys of home. It is the native field for the cultivation of all the social virtues. It provides for the due framing and checking of the overgrowth of interest in self, and for the gentle training and fostering of a growing interest in others. It unfolds the graces and charms of mutual love, and imparts to the susceptible heart all the peace and joy, all the light and fire, all the frankness and life of conscious and constant purity and good-will. Friendship, brotherly-kindness, and love are still hopeful and sacred names among mankind.

Sabbath-keeping lifts the wedded pair, the brethren, the friends, the one-minded, up to communion with God. The joy of achievement is a feeling common to God and man. The commemoration of the auspicious beginning of a holy and happy existence will live in man while memory lasts. The anticipation also of joyful repose after the end of a work well done will gild the future while hope survives. Thus, the idea of the Sabbath spans the whole of man's existence. History and prophecy commingle in its peaceful meditations, and both are linked with God. God IS: he is the Author of all being, and the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him. This is the noble lesson of the Sabbath. Each seventh day is well spent in attending to the realization of these great thoughts.

Hence, it appears that the social principle lies at the root of a spiritual nature. In the very essence of the spiritual monad is the faculty of self-consciousness. Here is the curious mystery of a soul standing beside itself, cognizing itself, and taking note of its various faculties and acts, and yet perfectly conscious of its unity and identity. And the process does not stop here. We catch ourselves at times debating with ourselves, urging the pros and cons of a case in hand, enjoying the sallies or sorry for the poverty of our wit, nay, solemnly sitting in judgment on ourselves, and pronouncing a sentence of approval or disapproval on the merit or demerit of our actions. Thus, throughout the whole range of our moral and intellectual nature, memory for the past and fancy for the future furnish us with another self, with whom we hold familiar converse. Here there is the social principle living and moving in the very center of our being. Let the soul only look out through the senses and descry another like itself, and social converse between kindred spirits must begin. The Sabbath and the wedding touch the inner springs of the soul, and bring, the social principle into exercise in the two great spheres of our relation to our Maker and to one another.

Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Previous Part: Genesis 2:8-14/ Next Part: Genesis 3:1-7

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