Showing posts with label I Kings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label I Kings. Show all posts

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Trinitarian Emperor

In 1 Kings 1-10 Solomon is set up to be a great ruler in the land, a greater Joseph whom Yahweh raises up to glorify His name in all the earth so long as he remains loyal to Yahweh. Solomon receives great wisdom as requested, and with that wisdom he expands his dominion, glorifying Yahweh. But by the end of chapter ten and the beginning of chapter eleven, when Solomon is much older, we see that glory fading as history repeats itself. Instead of Solomon remaining the greater Joseph, he becomes a greater Pharaoh who knew not Yahweh, forsaking His commands and His wisdom (Deut. 17:14-20). 

Solomon's fall is described in a triadic fashion, breaking three express commands of Yahweh in a row. He begins by multiplying gold and silver unto himself, as the wisdom of Yahweh had forbidden (Deut. 17:17). He multiplies so much gold for himself that silver devalues greatly in comparison (10:21), and this is quite a feat considering that year after year he received silver in abundance as well (10:22, 25, 27, 29). But Solomon doesn't stop with precious metals. He then moves on to multiply horses and chariots for himself as well (10:26), which was explicitly forbidden by Yahweh in the Torah (Deut. 17:16). By multiplying horses and chariots for his kingdom, a standing army of the kingdom was in the making along with the rise of Solomonic imperialism, even though the Torah nowhere allows Israel to build or keep a standing army. The further Israel would stray from Yahweh's wisdom, the more likely a standing army would be used offensively and tyrannically, policing other nations, instead of minding one's own business (or, I should say, minding Yahweh's business). An imperialism which forsakes Yahweh as its Emperor is the worst form of imperialism, conquering by warfare and bloodshed instead of wisdom and industry. Yahweh's Law taught that warfare and bloodshed are acceptable primarily a means of self-defense and ought to be considered a last resort after terms of peace are offered (Deut. 20). But when Solomon builds the empire and forsakes Yahweh, we can expect future generations of warfare and bloodshed to ensue. And that is what we find scattered throughout first and second Kings.

Not only does Solomon's imperialism rise from these two excesses forbidden by God, he goes one step further --a third step-- by multiplying wives unto himself as forbidden by Yahweh (Deut. 17:17), many of whom were foreigners and strangers to Yahweh's covenant

After completing this triad of forsaking Yahweh, Solomon is described for the first time in a negative light, as doing what is evil in the sight of Yahweh, which is a description that follows all of the idolatrous kings over future Israel. Solomon is even indicted for leading God's people into another triad of idolatry by "worshipping Ashtereth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon" (1 Kng. 11:33). This indictment for betraying the Word of the Lord is also portrayed in a triadic fashion, as not walking in Yahweh's ways, not doing what is right in Yahweh's sight, and not keeping Yahweh's statutes and Judgments as did David his father (1 Kng. 11:33). Last of all, we are told that this triadic description of triadic idolatry leads Israel into a third and final triad of Yahweh's judgment. Yahweh "stirs up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite" (v. 14), and "another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah... an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon" (v. 23-25),  "and Jereboam the son of Nebat," Solomon's servant and ruler over all the house of Joseph (v. 26-28).

At the end of Solomon's life we learn that he reigned over Jerusalem for forty years (v. 42), which is, providentially, a number repeated throughout Scripture as a time of testing from Yahweh. By allowing Solomon to reign for forty years, we learn something great about Yahweh's providential reign over history. First we learn that He tests even the wisest of men over time. Second, we learn   that sometimes it takes the wisest of men to make the most foolish decisions. Third, we learn the wisdom of waiting upon the Lord. By studying 1 Kings 1-11, we wait with anticipation to learn if Solomon in all of his wisdom would maintain the greater wisdom of Yahweh, the greater wisdom that once, long before Israel was even a people, blessed and prospered the kingdom of Joseph along with the seed of Abraham. 

By turning away from Yahweh, His word, and His Spirit, our anticipation of a great and glorious empire is met at the end of the story with a trinity of curses that fall upon the house of Israel, essentially dividing the kingdom against itself, causing it to falling down not long thereafter. By turning after the idols of land, our anticipation of Solomon's own greatness, too, is met in spades. He becomes exceedingly great in what we see him worshiping: a false god, a idolatrous leader, and a Pharaoh under which Israel would need a great exodus. Only by turning back to Yahweh in faithful obedience would a trinity of blessing for Israel result. But as we learn from the following chapters in the book of Kings, no one turns back to Yahweh without His gracious provision of a King after his own heart, who rules according to His Word and Spirit. We learn that only a trinitarian Emperor can save an empire from a trinity of false leaders, false worship, and false hope.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Healing the Withered Hand: Matthew 12:9-14 (Section D2)

[Jesus] went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. (Matthew 12:9-14)

Continuing where we left off in this ongoing series of Matthew's gospel, we arrive at the famous story of the man with a "withered hand." This story is found in the other two synoptic gospels as well (Mark 3 & Luke 6). Unfortunately, many commentators have taught this story in a manner very similar to their misunderstandings of the previous one. It has been taught as though Jesus is really concerned about "exceptions" to God's Law under the new covenant, exceptions such as acts of mercy. As a result, the Pharisaical misunderstandings of God's Law become the focal points of this entire story, when really, this section is less of a commentary on "exceptions" and misunderstandings of God's Law and more of a commentary on misunderstandings of the Lawgiver. Such was precisely the point of the previous story, and Matthew continues that thought here as well.

Matthew even makes it obvious that he is continuing where he last left off. He says that Jesus "went on from there and entered their synagogue." We might now want to ask, 'From where is "there" and whose synagogue is "theirs"?' 

In the previous story, Jesus is walking with his disciples on the Sabbath day, among whom were certain Pharisees. Those Pharisees upbraided Jesus for permitting his disciples to do what the traditions of 1st century Judaism had determined as unlawful. It is from that scene of traveling with Pharisees which Matthew now adds onto, only this time Jesus enters their synagogue on the Sabbath day. 

Even though Luke clearly says that this second account occurs on a separate Sabbath day other than the previous Sabbath confrontation (Luke 6:6), Matthew sandwiches the two stories together in order to give his readers the impression that all of these events of chapters eleven and twelves revolve around the same day of Sabbath rest. Here, on this Sabbath day and in the synagogue of the same contentious Pharisees, we read that "a man was there with a withered hand" (ESV). Actually the Greek text is much more startling than that. After entering "their synagogue," instead of focusing upon the confrontation with the Pharisees, Matthew interrupts a seemingly smooth transition into a conversation with the Pharisees by an abrupt and somewhat odd description of a man with a damaged hand. The Greek text literally exclaims: "And behold! A man having a dried-up hand!" The ESV tries to smooth out this startlingly literal translation, but in doing so they lose the original dramatic affect which Matthew intended his readers to notice. And by noticing this exclamation, many among Matthew's Jewish audience would have picked up the significance of these events.

There are quite a few interesting connections with this man's particular disability. For starters, according to 1st century Judaism, such disabilities as a "withered-hand" (cheira xeran) were considered curses from the hand of God. The historical significance of this belief comes to light in the history of Israel's kings. In I Kings 13:1-6 we learn about Jeroboam and his first attempt to take the kingdom of Israel away from David's descendants and seize it for himself, and that story also involves a man with a "withered hand" (cheira xeran). In that story, Yahweh tells Solomon that the kingdom will be torn from his "hand" and given to another (I Kings 11:12, 31, 34-5). We then learn shortly thereafter that Jeroboam is that man. But in order to tear power away from the Davidic line of kings, Jeroboam attempts to divide the allegiance of the people by erecting a sacrificial altar far away from Jerusalem, in Shechem, the place where Israel first renewed their covenant with Yahweh after conquering the promised land. But after Jeroboam erects his idolatrous altar in Shechem, a "man of God" prophesies against his idolatrous grasp of power, and when Jeroboam attempts to seize the man of God, his hand withers (I Kings 13:4). Jeroboam's "hand" (cheira) on the kingdom, which Yahweh took away from Solomon, withered (xeran) as soon as he attempted to stretch out his hand against the man of God, to destroy him. In the end, Jeroboam was at least wise enough to plead to the man of God for healing, and the man of God in turn pleaded to Yahweh for healing; and Jeroboam's withered hand was restored.

It was because of striking accounts like that, that other statements of God pertaining to "withered" body parts were viewed as part of God's covenant curse. For example, in Zechariah 11:15-17, Yahweh describes the leadership of Israel as "foolish shepherds" who don't care about those being destroyed, or about healing the maimed, or nourishing others; instead they devour the Lord's sheep (11:15-16). Then, in the following verse, Yahweh pronounces this covenant curse upon Israel's leaders: 
Woe to my worthless shepherd who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
Let his arm be entirely withered (xeran), and his right eye utterly blinded!
In Matthew's story above, Israel's leaders aren't too much different from King Jeroboam or even the leaders of Israel described in Zechariah's prophecy. They are foolish shepherds who don't care about Yahweh's sheep. In their attempt to stretch out their arms against the people of God, Yahweh pronounces a curse upon their hands. But in Matthew's account, Jesus doesn't strike out against the Pharisees by withering their hands. Instead he strikes out against the Pharisees by healing the withered hand of a man. By healing the man with the withered hand, Jesus is pronouncing himself to be the wise shepherd of Israel, while leaving them to be the foolish ones.

But there is still more to this story. Notice carefully what Jesus implies in the answer he gives the Pharisees. They ask Jesus, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" The Pharisees were hoping he would affirm their suspicions by answering publicly, so that they could accuse him afterward (Matt. 12:10).  But Jesus doesn't respond by affirming that healing per se is lawful to do on the Sabbath. Instead he responds by affirming what is good to do on the Sabbath. "Which one of you who has a sheep," Jesus responds, "if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

By responding this way, Jesus is comparing the Pharisees to the foolish shepherds of Zechariah's prophecy. And by healing the withered hand of the man in their synagogue, Jesus also claimed to have the authority of Yahweh which the man of God appealed to when he restored Jeroboam. In other words, Jesus was claiming to be the Good Shepherd of Israel and the ruler who cares about those being destroyed, the one who heals the maimed and nourishes the sheep of Israel unto greater health. 

But regardless of Jesus' ability to heal miraculously as Yahweh does, we learn from Matthew's account that "the Pharisees went out and conspired against [Jesus], how to destroy him."

The irony of this closing statement is great. Earlier in Matthew's gospel we learned that Jesus commissioned his twelve apostles to go to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel, and to proclaim a soon-coming salvation for those who would follow him, but a soon-coming judgment upon those who would refuse. Also, in Matthew 15:24, Jesus will affirm again that he too has been sent, by his Father, but only to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel. Yet the word for "lost" (apollymi) is the same Greek word used to describe the Pharisees seeking to "destroy" (apollymiJesus. Jesus is sent by his Father to the "lost" or "perishing" sheep of the house of Israel, but the shepherds of Israel are conspiring to "lose" him, causing him to perish. Jesus even sends out twelves apostles to represent him as they go to the "lost" sheep of Israel, but the rulers of Israel don't like the one whom the apostles represent. And so they try to destroy the Good Shepherd. 

According to Jesus' own argument, these Pharisees also recognize the value of a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath. But the irony is that they are blind to the evil of their own thoughts--thoughts which conspire to throw the Good Shepherd into a pit of their own on the Sabbath. In this sense, Jesus is like Joseph and the Pharisees are like Joseph's brothers, conspiring to thrown their brother into the pit because their Father gave him the glorious robe of authority. In another sense Jesus is like "the man of God" and the Pharisees are like Jeroboam, attempting to seize the man of God in order to continue sacrificing in their own idolatrous temple (Herod's Temple). And last of all, in relation to the prophecy of Zechariah, Jesus is like Zechariah, called to be "the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders" and sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:7-14). But unlike Zechariah, Jesus would not only be the shepherd of the flock; Jesus would also become as one of the sheep doomed to be slaughtered. But in doing so--by suffering under the hand of the evil sheep traders--the rest of Yahweh's flock is spared, and the curse of withering is pronounced upon Yahweh's worthless shepherds instead. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Sign for a City: Matthew 11-12 (B and B')

As noted in a previous post, Matthew 11:20-24 and 11:38-45 parallel each other, and in many ways complement each other too (look at sections B and B'). After Jesus finishes teaching the crowds about the importance of John the Baptist's ministry, and it's relationship with the kingdom of heaven which had already come (11:12), Jesus begins to proclaim loud and clear his own judgment upon the cities which knew of his works but did not repent of their own sins. Matthew 11:20-24 says:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Notice Jesus' indignation: First, two "woes" are issued, then two comparisons are presented, then two final verdicts are delivered against the cities. The micro-literary structure for this section is below:

Introduction: "Then [Jesus] began to denounce the cities... because they did not repent."
  A)  "Woe to you... Woe to you!"
    B)  "For if the mighty works done in you had been done in..."
      C)  "But I tell you... it will be more bearable on The Day of Judgment ...than for you."
  A')  "And you!"
    B')  "For if the mighty works done in you had been done in..."
      C')  "But I tell you... it will be more tolerable on The Day of Judgment ...than for you."

It's interesting that Jesus mentions Tyre and Sidon. By doing so, he compares the Jew-saturated cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin with two Gentile-saturated cities. Surely this was no accident. At this point in Matthew's gospel, Jesus had not yet visited Tyre or Sidon (which is northwest of Galilee, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). Therefore Tyre and Sidon had not yet seen the mighty works which Jesus had done. But they will. As noted in a previous post (see E and E'), Jesus visits the region of Tyre and Sidon once (in 15:21-28) and the faith on display in that region --from a Canaanite nonetheless!-- is exponentially greater than the faith of the Pharisees here in chapters 11 & 12. Jesus is on a mission to conquer the land for his name's sake and claim a people for himself, and if Tyre and Sidon had seen the mighty works which Jesus had done around the sea of Galilee, they would have repented. But woe to the Jews around Galilee who will suffer God's wrath because they would not repent and find rest in him.

The parallel section to this story (section B') can be seen below:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

The micro-literary structure to this section is below:

Introduction: Some Scribes and Pharisees seek for a sign from Jesus
Jesus gives them a “sign” (part one): “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign. And just as Jonah the prophet was in the belly of a “Sea-monster”1 for three days and nights, “so will it be” (outos estai) for Israel’s prophet, the Son of Man, in the heart of the “Land”2 (of Israel) for three days and nights.
  A)  The men of Ninevah will rise up at The Judgment with this generation and condemn it
     B)  For they repented at the preaching of Jonah
        C)  And behold! Something greater than Jonah is here
  A’)  The queen of the south will rise up at The Judgment with this generation and condemn it
     B’)  For she came from the outer-limits3 of the land to hear the wisdom of Solomon
        C’)  And behold! Something greater than Solomon is here

Jesus gives them a “sign” (part two): When an unclean spirit goes-out of a man and goes-through waterless places to seek "rest," it finds no rest. But when it goes back and finds it’s “house” empty, clean, and in order, it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself back into its "house." The last of that man becomes worse than the first. “So will it be” (outos estai) with this evil generation

At first glance, it's not obvious what kind of a "sign" Jesus is giving these scribes and Pharisees. But it is obvious that Jesus is giving them some kind of sign, even though he starts off by telling them that an evil generation, i.e. a generation like them, seeks after "signs." Jesus then proceeds to offer what seems to be a two-part "sign". The first part is about a prophet named Jonah with whom every first century scribe and Pharisee was familiar. They knew Jonah was the only prophet in Israel's history whom Yahweh sent to a Gentile nation --the nation of Ninevah. And here, Jesus compares himself to Jonah, and the "evil generation" before him is compared with the Ninevites. Just as Jonah was swallowed up by a Sea-monster and delivered three days later to teach for forty days a message of repentance and faith to the Ninevites, so Jesus will be swallowed up in the heart of the land of Israel and delivered three days later to teach for forty days about the kingdom of God to the Jews (Acts 1:3). 

Jesus then moves on to his central point: a description of wisdom among the Gentiles. It's as though, when Gentiles accept wisdom they are accepting salvation as well. How much more would this be true for the people of Israel who have Wisdom-personified in their midst?

Jesus says that the people of Ninevah understood wisdom when they saw it. They knew Jonah was a great prophet of Yahweh, and they repented because of Yahweh's messenger. For that reason, Jesus says those Gentiles (i.e. Ninevites) will rise up at The Judgment to pronounce a verdict along with Jesus against Israel's unrepentant Jews --Jews who end up rejecting a greater prophet than Jonah.

The queen of the south (i.e. of Sheba, I Kings 10:1-10) also understood wisdom when she heard it. She too understood that Solomon was a great Prophet-King of Yahweh, and she even traveled from the outer-limits of the land (around Egypt and Ethiopia) to listen to the wisdom of Yahweh's Prophet-King. For that reason, Jesus says that she will rise up at The Judgment to pronounce a verdict along with Jesus against Israel's unrepentant Jews --Jews who end up rejecting a greater Prophet-King than Solomon.

Concluding the second part of this "sign" which the scribes and Pharisees requested, Jesus moves on from talking about himself, to talking about "this evil generation" again. It is "this evil generation," Jesus says, that has a "house" with a "man" in it; and that man/house has an unclean spirit. Then comes a day when that unclean spirit leaves its "house" to find rest somewhere else. The "little children" of Israel have been searching for rest for a long time, and have finally found it in Jesus (11:25-30). But such revelation has been hidden from "the wise and understanding", i.e. the scribes and Pharisees. Their disciples are like those who leave their house for rest somewhere else, passing by the water-filled location of rest that is found in Jesus. They don't want the rest which Jesus offers. And so, after a while the unclean spirit returns and find its house cleaned up and put back in order by the man of the house.  But it doesn't like the way the house has been cleaned up; and so seven more evil spirits are gathered together to return to this man's cleansed house, making it worse than it was at first. 

Little do they know that Jesus owns everything in the world, and is the master of the house in which this man lives; and if seven evil spirits worse than the first return into his house, making it seven times more unclean than it was at first, he won't come back to clean it up and make it look pretty inside again. He'll return to break down the house, its stones and timber, and all the plaster of the house (Lev. 14:43-45), and it will be delivered over to a place outside the city of God, to an ash heap of uncleanness forever. 

1.  The Greek word translated as "great fish" literally means "Sea-monster," and is used throughout ancient Greek literature in reference to sea-monsters, not merely "great fish."
2.  The Greek word translated as "earth" is misleading. Although it can and often does mean "earth," it rarely means the planet earth. In context, Jesus is simply expressing that the queen of Sheba traveled all the way from the outer limits of the land from Israel came. And Sheba is located around Egypt & Ethiopia, which is the stretch of land from which Israel as a nation came.
3.  The Greek word translated as "ends" means "limits" and in context it means the outer-border or outer-limits of the land. It does not mean the other "end" of the physical planet. That would be absurd.

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