Showing posts with label Ezekiel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ezekiel. Show all posts

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Divine Council in Psalm 82




Commenting on Psalm 82, verses one, six, and seven, Allen P. Ross1 writes:

God stands up in the divine counsel; in the midst of the gods he judges.
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you. Yet you shall die like a man, and fall like one of the princes."

    A third view accounts for the term "gods" and the reference to morality by including the spirit world in judgment. Accordingly, the human judges, who cannot be excluded from the interpretation of the psalm, are agents of supernatural beings who were assigned to different regions to ensure that justice would prevail (1 Kings 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Dan 7:9-1-, 10:13, 20-21). The psalm may be set against the background of the religions of the ancient world, divine assemblies of lower gods who met to determine the course of worldly events. The psalmist would not have accepted the idea that they were viable gods, but rather that they were supernatural beings, or angels, who formed a heavenly court (meaning an assembly of supernatural beings appearing before God to receive their orders; see Job 1 and 2, in which assembly even Satan was present). These angelic beings were given the responsibility of overseeing the proper functioning of human society (see Deut. 32:8-9).2 However, many of them failed to comply with the divine commission and became the forces of evil of these nations represented by their gods (e.g. Ezek. 28:11-19; and Daniel 10). Their will was administered by human agents; they were responsible for the people they put in place and used. Because their failure to administer justice, they would receive an ungodlike punishment--death. 
    This explanation would account for the idea of a divine council mentioned in the psalm, as well as the judgment that these "gods" would die like humans. The psalm would then form a strong polemic against the pagan world in which the spirits that controlled countries were considered to be divine, and their agents, here human judges, considered to have divine authority.3







1.  For the credentials of Allen Ross and his bio, see http://www.beesondivinity.com/allenpross
2.  Not only do these verses (Deut. 32:8-9) in the Dead See Scrolls agree with the reading, "sons of God", but in the Greek version they agree as well: "When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God; and his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of his inheritance."
3.  Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2013) pp. 715-6, 718-9.







Sunday, November 23, 2014

Separating Sheep From Goats (a homily for Christ the King Sunday)


Last night I noticed that one lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday (Christ the King Sunday) was Ezekiel 34:11-16 and 34:20-24. This immediately struck me as odd because it skips three verses in the middle of Ezekiel's message. Whatever point Ezekiel was trying to make in the middle of his message, the lectionary discards. So I looked at those three verses and decided it would be helpful to write down some notes about it. After a little studying I just decided to write a homily instead.

Ezekiel 34 is a message of salvation through judgment; it's a message from YHWH to his people, Israel, announcing salvation for those of his flock who have suffered under the foolish and sinful leadership of Israel. YHWH speaks against Israel's "shepherds" because they are supposed to be shepherding like David, YHWH's servant, but are not. As shepherds they're supposed to protect YHWH's sheep from the violence of outside predators, gathering those who stray away, and also to protect them from harm within the fold, caring especially for the weak, but also leading them all to good pastures and clean drinking water. But according to Ezekiel, this is not what YHWH's shepherds are doing.

According to Ezekiel, instead of feeding the sheep, the shepherds feed themselves (v. 2); and the ones they do feed, they feed simply to fatten and slaughter for themselves. The Lord reprimands them for eating the "fat" portions of His sheep, which, interestingly, is the portion allotted to YHWH with all the required peace offerings. They fatten the flock to keep the best portions for themselves. They also clothe themselves with the skins of the fattened flock, but they don't care as long as they are warm, as long as they are clothed and covered. Some of them don't realize that in YHWH's sight, they're really not covered at all; they're actually naked and exposed before His eyes; He sees their schemes and He is coming to judge them for their "harsh" rule over the sheep.

This mention of "harsh" rule (in verse 4) is only found in two other passages of Scripture. In Exodus 1:13-14 it describes the way Israel's enemies (the Egyptian rulers) treated them as slaves. In Leviticus 25:43 YHWH even told Israel that it is unlawful to treat another brother in such a "harsh" manner. Both, of course, stand as indictments against these shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel's day. They have become harsh taskmasters like Pharaoh, instead of shepherd kings, like David. 

But they, the harsh taskmasters of Israel, are not the only ones whom YHWH addresses in Ezekiel's message. This brings us to 34:17-19, which are omitted from this year's lectionary reading. That portion (ESV) reads: 
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water of your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?


Notice that this addresses people within the flock, and YHWH is going to judge between them as well, because their sins against others within the flock are just as worthy of judgment as the harsh rulers over the land. In context, these sheep and goats constitute the broader class of leaders within Israelite community, the "under-shepherds" so to speak. YHWH provides a good pasture for them to  feed on, but that's not good enough; they tread down the rest of the pasture without consideration of others who could glean there too. What they did not need for themselves, they left as damaged goods for others. Even though they enjoy drinking from clean and clear water, they leave the rest of the water from which others drink to be murky and muddy. The natural resources are limited, and they use their power to their own advantage; they forsake the responsibilities of caring and considering the well-being of their "weaker" brothers, and YHWH sees this and is abhorred by it. To prevent this from happening again, YHWH says he will intervene, setting one Shepherd--a Davidic Shepherd (vv. 23-24)--in their midst to judge between "sheep and sheep." Simply being a "sheep" of his pasture on that day of YHWH's visitation won't be good enough. Some sheep--the "fat" ones (vv. 16, 20)--will be destroyed. 

All of this message, of course, takes place within a certain historical context. In this case, Ezekiel's message of the Lord coming to judge his people, saving some and separating others for judgment, refers to time of Israel at the end of the books of Kings and Chronicles, the time when we learn about an eclipse of Israel's empirethe destruction of Solomon's Temple, and the exile of God's people to Babylon. All of that, we learn from Ezekiel and prophets, occurred because Israel loved evil deeds; they would not come to the light because their deeds were evil, and they enjoyed that evil as though it were good. At that time YHWH was determined to judge his people for their wickedness because they had become like all the surrounding pagan nations. He would lead a new exodus  of his people and build His house in Babylon for a time (which is what the book of Daniel describes), but his curses would fall upon Jerusalem and its rulers like the nation of Egypt from which He delivered them, the Egypt that Israel had now become. 

However, this is not simply a description of Israel long ago, before they went into exile. In the other lectionary reading for this day, the message of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 speaks the same way, using the same language of separating sheep from goats. In that passage, Jesus was talking about his coming in judgment upon Israel in that generation, and their exile culminating in 70A.D. with the destruction of Herod's Temple. In that message of Jesus, a Shepherd-King like David comes in His glory, with all His angels, to visit Israel. All nations are gathered before the Lord because all nations have been given to Him as an inheritance, and on the day of the His visitation Jesus said there would be separation. Interestingly, the judgment Jesus spoke of is not based on what the sheep and the goats believed per se, but rather on what they did, how they behaved toward one another, whether they trampled down good pastures and muddied waters with their feet (or not). And the same is true regarding the salvation he brings to them. When this Davidic-King of Matthew 25 welcomes those among His flock to inherit the kingdom, He doesn't welcome them based on the imputation of Christ's active obedience, or even their belief in such technical scholarly conjectures (however thoughtful or helpful they may be); instead He welcomes them because they fed His brothers with the good portion of their own pastures. They gave others within the fold clean water to drink. When they saw a stranger destitute, they welcomed him into their homes, and if they were naked, they clothed them with their own wool; if they were sick, they tended to their needs. When their brothers were imprisoned for following Jesus and his apostles, instead of following the Scribes and Pharisees, they visited their brothers in prison. They sacrificed what was their own to provide for their brothers. They didn't use their power to oppress others within the fold; instead they used all their power to do what Jesus did for them. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the sheep of His pasture too. The Church today suffers from the same temptations as Israel in Ezekiel's day and in Jesus' day. And the Lord sees all of it just as he always has. We are all naked and exposed before him. We can't hide our abuse of power. We can't hide our envy of our neighbors. We can't sit idly by and watch our neighbor being oppressed and think that Jesus, the King of kings, is somehow indifferent to it all. Brothers and sisters, He sees it all. He knows it all. And we shouldn't be surprised that many of the judgments we see around us, and around the world, arise as a result of his many visitations upon his people. Jesus comes to His house and inspects his flock every week as we gather together to worship him. Through our assembling together, all of us enter His holy presence in the liturgy, and all of us enter with some sin; all of us enter with some mud or grass on our feet from the good pastures we tread down wrongly. And YHWH sees it. Christ sees it all; which is why, each and every week, we bow down before him on our knees, imploring him for his mercy and forgiveness, so that we can be washed clean, clothed in his righteousness, and welcomed in to His house to feast at his table.

Each and every week the Lord comes to visit us, and He will continue to do this in every place of worship throughout the course of redemptive history; a similar day of visitation awaits this fallen, sinful world too on the last day. Only that day will be a total separation of goats from sheep, evil from good, darkness from light, of muddy waters and trampled fields from a well-watered garden with springs that well up to eternal life. 

Each and every week in the liturgy we gather because the Lord has already separated us from the darkness and welcomed us into His marvelous light. We are gathered together by the Spirit of God to be exposed and judged and shaped by His light, not to hide from it. He gathers us together so that in Christ we become the light of the world. In Jesus' sermon on the mount, Jesus looked at all his disciples and said "You are the light of the world." When you hear God's Word, remember that Jesus is speaking the same message to you, His disciples. As Christ speaks to you, remember that Christ gives light to this world of darkness so that it spreads everywhere. People don't light a lamp and then hide it under a basket. In this same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Good works are what the Body of Christ, the New Israel of God, is called to do. And we do them not simply because the God tells us to--which, if you think about it, should be sufficient for us to respond favorably--but also because God provides everything we need to want to do so.

Earlier in this chapter, chapter 34 of Ezekiel, we learn that because the shepherds of Israel failed to feed the Lord's sheep, the Lord Himself promised to come down and feed them, leading them to rich pastures. He would come down and visit His people, seeking the lost, bringing back those who strayed away, binding up their broken hearts, and strengthening the sick. All of this He promised to do as the greater David, the great Shepherd-King of the sheep. People of God, this Great Shepherd, our Lord Jesus, invites us today to rich pastures here at His Table. It is in this place of worship that He comes to visit us each week, and it is here in this meal where the lost are found, where those who have strayed are brought together, where the broken are restored, the sick are healed, and the weak are strengthened.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.







Saturday, June 7, 2014

Offending our prejudices (Ezekiel 5:5-17)



Commenting on Ezekiel 5:5-17, Robert Jenson challenges a dominant Christian prejudice pertaining to the limitations of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men. He writes:
Is an immanent connection between Jerusalem’s sin and her coming disaster compatible with the proclamation that the Lord himself takes the field to punish her?
Jerusalem is punished by inevitable consequences of sin and is punished by God in person. These are compatible on one condition: if the statutes and ordinances that make the moral order do not obtain independently of God (as often in other religions) or do not function merely as a mediation of divine order from afar (as in yet other systems) but simply are the Lord’s own willing and acting among his creatures.
The supposition that God can be wrathful when rebelled against, and even jealous of his people’s love, further offends our prejudices. We may try to escape by the popular supposition that God in the Old Testament could be wrathful and that the New Testament changes all that. But this notion cannot survive the slightest acquaintance with the texts. Paul is not outdone by Ezekiel: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness” (Rom. 1:18), which he latter catalogues in truly wrathful detail. And for depictions of divinely ordained destruction of the wicked, the New Testament book of Revelation tops all competition.
Modernity expected God to be disinterested; and if a judge, then a disinterested judge, on the model of one behind the bench of a British or American courtroom. But the biblical God is precisely not disinterested; his boundless personal investment in his creatures is his most determining characteristic. His law is not something he devises and administers, it is his active personal will, which thus defines also who and what he himself is. And therefore when it is flouted he must be personally offended. He is a lover and therefore jealous, for there cannot be an actual lover who is not jealous—the great climax of the Song of Songs, “love is strong as death, jealously fierce as the grave,” strictly and knowingly parallels love and jealousy. Christian theology dare not retreat a step from these claims, for as the gospel construes our situation, our only hope is God’s personal stake in the good he wills for us.
How we are to work out the metaphysics is another matter. In the dominant inherited tradition, deity is defined by a set of characteristics—many beginning with “omni”—that add up to an immunity to temporal created events. But if God can in history be moved to wrath by our deeds, and if his wrath can then be “satisfied” by his acts in time, he cannot be timeless or changeless in any naïve sense of these notions. …We must indeed think that God remains himself, come what may in his history with us, but this cannot be because he is unaffected by us or because time is meaningless for him.1




1.  Robert W. Jenson, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible:Ezekiel [Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009], pp. 62-3


Friday, May 9, 2014

The God of binding dilemmas (Ezekiel 14:1-11)




Commenting on Ezekiel 14:1-11, Robert Jenson says:
We encounter again the mysteriously simple relation between the Lord's will and our wills. The antimony appears everywhere in scripture. Jesus tells his hearers that no one can come to him except those whom the Father gives him, and he does this in a speech aimed at bringing his hearers to him (John 6:65). In the case always adduced when theology takes up this matter, the Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart against letting Israel go and then destroys him for not letting Israel go (Exod. 7:3-5; 12:1-16). 
We should ask ourselves: if we find predestination offensive, what would we rather have the Lord do? Let us go the ways of our rebellion, to the destruction that terminates those ways? Or turn history over to our wise rule? Or, as Ezekiel here portrays God's rule, be himself in some mysterious way responsible also in our iniquities? One may of course say that God is surely not bound by such dilemmas. But that would be true only if he withdrew from his history with us; if he soldiers on with creatures who are both finite and fallen, he too faces alternatives. One may say that God should not in the first place create a history that poses such choices. But what other sort of history would we, in our great wisdom, institute?1

Most noteworthy, I think, is Jenson's commitment to God not withdrawing from history with us. That is to say, God is intimately involved in all of history. Then we should ask, what does he reveal about his involvement in history and with us? Is he so transcendent that he is entirely distant, decreeing all things which come to pass a long, long time ago, far, far away (while remaining there), and only "coming down" to visit his people here and there, from time to time, for the purpose of letting us know how distant and transcendent he always has been? 

Or is it because he is transcendent that he is also imminent, decreeing all things that come to pass, including his own personal involvement and interaction with men? If the former, then God is fully responsible in and for all our iniquities. If the latter, then God is only responsible for his choices--both his eternal decree and his personal involvement, moment by moment, with men who make choices freely (that is, by their own volition). When men make sinful choices, God not only responds accordingly, moment by moment, but he also works things out according to his eternally good purpose and pleasure.

Perhaps one way to apply this is to use Jenson's example of Pharaoh. God hardens Pharaoh's heart and God destroys him for not letting Israel go (whom he would eventually command to let go). But the human author of Scripture does not inform us about what volitional decisions of Pharaoh brought about or provoked God's decision to harden Pharaoh's heart, as revealed to Moses in time and space. Instead, the human author of Scripture informs us about one limited aspect of God's eternal decree, one limited aspect of God's over-arching plan for saving his people and glorifying his name in the Earth. 

But if God is intimately involved and deeply committed to his image-bearers, then why not assume that Pharaoh's own sins had provoked or moved the Lord to harden his heart? Yes, I realize that the Lord tells Moses that he would harden Pharaoh's heart before the narrative shows his heart being hardened. But does that really change the historical possibility that Pharaoh had already provoked the Lord to the point of planning a hardening of his heart? Only God knows anyway. It seems that it's entirely likely that Pharaoh was always confronted with alternatives--alternatives which could have kept him from the Lord's hardening. But if that's the case, then the Lord faces alternatives as well, alternatives in time and space among his image-bearers. If that's the case, then the Lord binds himself by such dilemmas and such dilemmas fully comport with the eternal decree of the Father, the provision of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, all of which we only know about in an extremely limited manner anyway, as it has been revealed in Scripture.




1.  Robert W. Jenson, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Ezekiel [Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009], p. 119 




Monday, October 21, 2013

God is not nice




Commenting on I Kings 22:1-40, Peter Leithart makes some interesting observations about Yahweh being a God who challenges our plans in order to reform His Church. Leithart even approaches the story of Micaiah's prophecy and the deception of King Ahab in a very practical, pastoral manner, treating Yahweh exactly as He has revealed Himself. Dr. Leithart writes:

According to Torah, the true prophet is ultimately revealed by the outcome; if he is a true prophet, then what he prophesies will happen (Deut. 13:1–11), and in this story, Micaiah is shown to be the true prophet because Ahab dies in battle. But Ahab and Jehoshaphat have to make a decision before they know the outcome. How can they know which advice to follow? How can they tell a wolf cleverly disguised in sheep’s clothing from a sheep?

Jehoshaphat apparently discerns that something is wrong. When he hears all four hundred prophets in agreement, all agreeing that Yahweh promises success, he still wants to hear a prophet of Yahweh (1 Kgs. 22:7). Jehoshaphat is probably spiritually attuned enough to know that the word of God does not come with the message, “Everything is perfectly okay. You’re okay just the way you are.” As Barth says, dogmatics is the science that tests the church’s proclamation by the standard of the word of God, and if dogmaticians emerge from their study to announce “all is well; steady as she goes,” they have made a mistake in calculations. Or, to put it in the blunt terms that Long uses, “God is not nice” (2004). He does not exist to underwrite our projects, to ensure that our pursuit of money and fame and American empire goes smoothly. He is the “judge of all the earth,” whose word is an instrument for bringing all our projects, intentions, and aims, especially the most pious of them, under scrutiny and judgment.
It is always a temptation to prefer a smooth, self-affirming word over a confronting word, and that temptation has been institutionalized, systematized in many contemporary churches. The word “sin” is avoided as needlessly offensive, especially to wealthy church members. Churches advertise their welcoming, nonjudgmental atmosphere, not so subtly (and viciously) implying that there are harsh judgmental churches out there and we all know which ones they are. American churches mirror consumer culture, offering a range of choices so that everyone can settle back into a Muzak spirituality, confident that they will not be confronted by any demands for radical change. But the word of Yahweh does not affirm us in our plans. It challenges our plans, confronts them, undoes them.1
...Micaiah’s vision of Yahweh asking for a volunteer to entice (פתה) Ahab is one of the most puzzling passages in the Bible and difficult on many levels. The least problematic aspect of this incident is that Yahweh is seeking help from surrogates, though the quaintness of the scene almost seems more at home in Goethe than in the Bible. The more troubling problem is the moral one: how can the God who is truth, whose word is truth, send out a lying spirit to inspire people to lie to Ahab? Is Yahweh ultimately just another trickster God, unreliable and deceptive?2 
...What kind of God is this that puts misleading prophesies into the mouths of the court prophets of Israel? How is this consistent with the New Testament’s affirmations that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18) and that “in him is no variation or shifting shadow” (Jas. 1:17)?
As Davis points out, there is ultimately no deception here or, more accurately, the deception is completely telegraphed (2002, 327). Yahweh’s Spirit inspires the prophets to mislead and lure Ahab to his death, but then Yahweh sends Micaiah to tell Ahab he is being lured to his death. Yahweh sets a trap for Ahab, but politely shows Ahab the trap before he springs it. Yet, Ahab blindly goes to Ramoth-gilead, confident that he can cheat death and escape the word of Yahweh. Further and more basically, this passage makes it abundantly clear that Yahweh is not a great marshmallow in the sky. He is not a God who plays softball. Nor is he the god of the philosophers, a gorgeous but impotent force in heaven. He is a warrior who fights to win, and deception is part of his art of holy war. Elsewhere, Yahweh encourages his people to use deceptive military tactics (e.g., Josh. 7), and on more than one occasion he deploys an “evil spirit” to set traps for his enemies (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10; 19:9; Ezek. 14:9).
Many of the church fathers gesture toward the insight that God is a trickster when they develop atonement theories that suggest the cross is a divine trap laid for Satan. Recent work on the historical Jesus confirms the patristic insight into God’s shrewdness without adopting the “bait theory.” Jesus’s challenging parables, his provocative prophetic actions, his counterintuitive images and exhortations, his shrewdness in debate—all this testifies that Jesus is the incarnation of the God who lured Ahab to the battlefield of Ramoth-gilead.
He is straight with the straight, merciful to the humble, but cunning with the wicked (ועם־עקש תתפתל) (Ps. 18:25–26), the God who catches the wicked in their own devices, who leads his enemies into the very traps that they set for the righteous. This is a God to be loved. But he is also a God to be feared. One should be grateful to be and remain in his good graces, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of this God. Yahweh is the ultimate trickster that outfoxes all human attempts to escape him. Yahweh is not only cunning. He is transcendently, infinitely cunning. The conclusion that God employs deception against deceivers should not lead to distrust or anxiety. There is a simple way to avoid falling into the traps of the infinitely cunning God: humbly trust him, for he is merciful to the merciful, and to the pure he is pure.3








1.  Peter J. Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings [Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006] pp. 160-1
2.  Ibid. p. 162
3.  Ibid. p. 163-4



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adam as the Priest-King of Eden




In The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, G. K. Beale describes the Garden of Eden as the place of God's presence and of God's first Priest-King, Adam. He writes:
  Israel's temple was the place where the priest experienced God's unique presence, and Eden was the place where Adam walked and talked with God. The same Hebrew verbal form (stem) mithallek used for God's 'walking back and forth' in the Garden (Gen. 3:8), also describes God's presence in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14 [15]; 2 Sam. 7:6-7).1  
  Genesis 2:15 says God placed Adam in the Garden 'to cultivate [i.e., work] it and to keep it'. The two Hebrew words for 'cultivate and keep' are usually translated 'serve and guard [or keep]' elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is true that the Hebrew word usually translated 'cultivate' can refer to an agricultural task when used by itself (e.g., 2:5; 3:23). When, however, these two words ...occur together in the Old Testament (within an approximately 15-word range), they refer either to Israelites 'serving' God and 'guarding [keeping]' God's word ...or to priests who 'keep' the 'service' (or 'charge') of the tabernacle (see Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14).2 
  The best translation of Adam's task in Genesis 2:15 is 'to cultivate (work) it and to keep it [the Garden]'. Regardless of the precise translation, however, the preceding observations suggest that the writer of Genesis 2 was portraying Adam against the later portrait of Israel's priests, and that he was the archetypal priest who served in and guarded (or 'took care of') God's first temple. While it is likely that a large part of Adam's task was to 'cultivate' and be a gardener as well as 'guarding' the garden, that all of his activities are to be understood primarily as priestly activity is suggested not only from the exclusive use of the two words in contexts of worship elsewhere but also because the garden was a sanctuary... If this is so, then the manual labour of 'gardening' itself would be priestly activity, since it would be maintaining the upkeep and order of the sanctuary. 
  After telling Adam to 'cultivate' and 'guard/keep' in Genesis 2:15, God gives him a specific 'command' in verse 16. The notion of divine 'commanding' (sara) or giving of 'commandments' (miswot) not untypically follows the word 'guard/keep' (samar) elsewhere, and in 1 kings 9:6, when both 'serving' and 'keeping' occur together, the idea of 'commandments to be kept' is in view. The 1 Kings passage is addressed to Solomon and his sons immediately after he had 'finished building the house of the Lord' (1 Kgs. 9:1): if they do 'not keep My commandments . . . and serve other gods . . . I will cut off Israel from the land . . . and the house [temple] . . . I will cast out of My sight' (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Is this a mere coincidental connection with Genesis 2:15-16?
  Hence, it follows naturally that after God puts Adam into the Garden for 'cultivating/serving and keeping/guarding' (v. 15) that in the very next verse God would command Adam to keep a commandment: 'and the Lord God commanded the man . . .' The first 'torah' was that 'From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). Accordingly, Adam's disobedience, as Israel's, results in his being cut off from the sacred land of the Garden. This is an indication that the task of Adam in Genesis 2:15 included more than mere spadework in the dirt of a garden. It is apparent that priestly obligations in Israel's later temple included the duty of 'guarding' unclean things from entering (cf. Num. 3:6-7, 32, 38; 18:1-7), and this appears to be relevant for Adam, especially in view of the unclean creature lurking on the perimeter of the Garden and who then enters.
  ...Adam's priestly role of 'guarding' (samar) the garden sanctuary may also be reflected in the later role of Israel's priests who were called 'guards' (1 Chron. 9:23) and repeatedly were referred to as temple 'gatekeepers' (repeatedly in 1 and 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah: e.g. 1 Chron. 9:17-27) who 'kept watch [samar] at the gates' (Neh. 11:19, 'so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean' (2 Chron. 23:19). Consequently, the priestly role in both the Garden and later temple was to 'manage' it by maintaining its order and keeping out uncleanness.3 
  There may also be significance that the word used for God 'putting' Adam 'into the garden' in Genesis 2:15 is not the usual Hebrew word for 'put' (sum) but is the word typically translated as 'to rest' (nuah). ...That this verb ...was intentionally chosen is pointed to further by the observation that it is used elsewhere to refer to the installation of sacred furniture (2 Chron. 4:8) and divine images into temples (2 Kgs. 17:29; Zech. 5:5-11) and especially of God's 'resting place' (so the noun form) in his heavenly palace-temple (Ps. 132:7-8, 14; Is. 66:1). Thus, the implication may be that God places Adam into a royal temple to begin to reign as his priestly vice-regent. In fact, Adam should always best be referred to as a 'priest-king', since it is only after the 'fall' that priesthood is separated from kingship, though Israel's eschatological expectation is of a messianic priest-king (e.g., see Zech. 6:12-13).4








1. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2004], p. 66
2. Ibid., pp. 66-7
3. Ibid., pp. 68-9
4. Ibid., pp. 69-70