Showing posts with label II Chronicles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label II Chronicles. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent is for the lowly

During a recent Lessons & Carols event, two passages of Scripture stood out to me: Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:6. At first they stood out to me because they sounded very similar. I thought I was hearing the same thing twice in the same event. But immediately I remembered that Matthew refers to Micah 5:2. That was nothing new to me. What was new to me was its presentation. It had never occurred to me, until recently, that Matthew does not cite Micah 5:2 as another one of his "fulfillment" passages (for example, as he does with the virgin birth citation from Isaiah 7:14). Instead Matthew cites Micah 5:2 in order to teach what the chief priests and scribes of Israel believed. For those who have been following my lengthy series on Matthew's gospel (found here), this is pretty significant when compared with every other mention of Israel's religious rulers in the same gospel. 

To appreciate the significance of this, it's important to recall Micah's prophecy in its original context. Micah 5:1-6 reads as follows:
Now muster your troops, O Daughter of troops! Siege is laid against us! With a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek!
But you, O Bethlehem-Ephrathah, who are too insignificant to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be Ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from days of old. 
Therefore He shall give them up until the time when She who is in labor has given birth; then the remainder of His brothers shall return to the sons of Israel. And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God. And they shall remain because now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and He shall be their peace. This One will be our peace. 
When the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men. They shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances, and He will deliver us from the Assyrian when He comes into our land and tramples our border.
The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, whose ministries both decry the moral corruption and ungodly social disorder of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. Both prophets pronounce judgment upon them with frightening descriptions as well. In a similar manner, Micah comes to complement their messages. He begins his "book" with the soon-coming judgment upon Samaria, the northern kingdom. Then he moves on to the southern territory, addressing Jerusalem directly. Jerusalem, of course, is the great city of Israel. It's the place where Yahweh dwells in the midst of His people. It's the place where the King of Israel is enthroned above the cherubim. It's the place in which Yahweh built a house for His own name to dwell. It's also the place in which Ahaz, king of Judah, presently reigned during Micah's ministry.  

In Micah 5, Israel is given a charge. That charge is to prepare Daughter Israel for battle against the invading Assyrians. No one knows for sure which particular Assyrian attack this is describing, because there were a few around the same general time, but Zion is nonetheless warned to prepare for suffering as they encroach upon Judah's borders. Daughter Israel is portrayed as vulnerable and She knows She is. The king of Assyria is arrogant, intent on eventually laying siege to Jerusalem, the city of Israel's Great God and King, thereby striking the Judge of Israel on the cheek. Daughter Israel knows this too. It's only a matter of time before the destiny of the northern kingdom becomes the destiny of the southern kingdom. Assyria trampled the northern kingdom under foot, demonstrating how weak and embarrassing their king was. Now Jerusalem is to be assaulted. But will it be destroyed? Will Judah's king (Ahaz) also prove to be embarrassingly weak? That's part of the message of Micah's prophecy, but that's certainly not all. Yahweh promised to raise up a deliverer from this foreign invasion, from those who trample Israel's borders. Yahweh promises to act as their Deliverer and Chief Shepherd, appointing an adequate amount of "under-shepherds" to overthrow their oppressors, establishing peace in the land again. Micah even says that the land of Nimrod, i.e. the land of Assyria during the confusion of Babel before Israel was formed, would be conquered and possessed by Israel because of Yahweh's shepherding deliverance. The fulfillment of this promise is another major part of Micah's message to Israel.

Why then do the chief priests and scribes interpret Micah's prophesy as reaching its fulfillment in their own day (Matt. 2:5-6)? 
They [the chief priests and scribes] told him [Herod], "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 
'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not the least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel'"

The answer to this question is not as complex as it may seem, and actually has tremendous relevance understanding future portions of Matthew's gospel. But it's also relevant for the way Christians live year after year, commemorating and embodying the message of Advent year after year. 

The first thing I suggest we do is notice the differences between Micah and Matthew's translation of this passage. Micah says that Bethlehem is too insignificant to be among Judah, whereas Matthew says that Bethlehem is certainly not the least among Judah. At face value, it looks like a blatant contradiction. [It also doesn't help that there is no textual tradition to support Matthew's translation. It's unlike both the Hebrew and Greek translations of Micah, and it's not found among other early Jewish writings either.] 

Also, notice carefully that Matthew is not quoting Micah directly, and so whatever translational differences there are between Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:6, those differences are not between old and new Scritural traditions. Instead I'm going to suggest that Matthew is setting his audience up to notice the difference between the traditions of the religious leaders of Israel and Jesus' leadership over Israel. (In other words, it's not necessary to think that Matthew is adapting Micah's words or inventing history in order to present Jesus as Israel's Messiah.) Matthew's seems to be painting a picture (with words) of what Israel's shepherds and princes believed and taught concerning their promised Messiah. And the more I review the beginning of Matthew's gospel, the more obvious this becomes. The scribes and chief priests are quoting Micah directly as though they believed Israel was still in exile and awaiting Yahweh to finally raise up His great Davidic King from Bethlehem, which Micah described as the "least significant" of all cities among Judah. In their eyes, however, Bethlehem could not certainly be the least among the remnants of Judah because Israel was still in exile, but Bethlehem still remained in Judea even after their return from Babylon. Therefore, instead of buying into the silly notion that Matthew is revising history in order to make Jesus appear to be Israel's Messiah, Matthew is presenting, right from the outset --in broad daylight, as it were-- the most fundamental hope of the chief priests and scribes of Israel who would eventually betray and crucify their Messiah. 

Matthew uses various means to set his audience (us) up to see this. Matthew begins his gospel with a three part genealogy of Israelite rulers, beginning with God's promise to Abraham and the fourteen generations following in his line. He then moves on to the Davidic dynasty and its fourteen generations, upon whose throne Yahweh promised to shepherd his people (as seen also in the quote from Micah above). From that point on, Matthew does something remarkably odd. Matthew begins his last phase of fourteen generations, not with a specific king, but with a specific event. That event was the "deportation to Babylon" (Matt. 1:11-12). He begins a new phase of fourteen exiled princes wherein the promised throne of David's descendants had, in fact, remained eclipsed (Matt. 1:17). This is especially startling in light of this gospel's ending. One might sooner expect the chief priests and scribes, who would eventually betray and crucify Jesus, to interpret Micah's promise of deliverance as fulfilled in Micah's day, or even at the end of the Babylonian captivity. But there is no indication within Matthew's gospel that they ever did change their mind. Instead Matthew paints a picture of Israel's rulers heartening their hearts in the face of their promised King, and King whom they knew, but did not want to acknowledge as true because Jesus stood in opposition to their cherished  idolatrous traditions. 

As an example of how they could have interpreted Micah's message, they could have viewed Hezekiah as the king of Judah appointed by Yahweh to successfully resist Jerusalem's Assyrian oppressors, thereby bringing peace to the land. But Matthew clearly describes the theology and eschatology of Israel's leaders as pointing to some One else, some King beyond the reign of Ahaz and Hezekiah (1:9-10). In Matthew's eyes, the chief priests and scribes have a clearer Messianic picture in mind. They see themselves as the shepherds and princes of an Israel which remained in exile up to their own day. But this too is strange because Israel did return from exile. Long after Hezekiah, Israel did return from the Nimrodic borders of Babylonian exile as prophesied by Micah's contemporaries, and at that time Yahweh did use His own "messiah" (מָשִׁיחַ, "anointed one") and "shepherd," Cyrus by name, to lead another exodus from captivity back to the promised land (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; II Chron. 36:23). In fact, by the time Matthew wrote his gospel, many Israelites had been living within the land of Judea for a long time because of what Cyrus, their "messiah" and "shepherd," had done. If Cyrus had not conquered the territory of Assyria and Babylon, the people of Israel would not have been worshipping Yahweh in the temple Herod had built for them in Jerusalem! Shouldn't that "messiah" and "shepherd" have been a possible (if not likely) interpretation of Israel's scribes and chief priests when confronted with incarnation of Jesus Christ?

Matthew's gospel teaches us that during Israel's advent the religious leaders didn't think so. Matthew's gospel also implies that they had a great amount of confidence in their own eschatological role too, not unlike many fundamentalist Christians today, who view themselves as the only "true" shepherds and rulers of God's people while, at the same time, imposing ungodly traditions of their own (allegedly from the Bible too) and persecuting those who challenge their long-established traditions. 

If it is true that the scribes and chief priests believed Bethlehem was certainly not the least among the clans of Judah because Israel's kingly "messiah" would arise from there, this means the people of Israel learned to anticipate this as well. In fact, all throughout Matthew's gospel Jesus is correcting and critiquing the teaching of Israel's shepherds --the scribes, Pharisees, and chief priests--  because the people of Israel were lost according to their directions. As it was during the days of Ahaz, the rulers of Israel in Jesus' day were thoroughly corrupt, embarrassingly weak, and ripe for God's visitation. No doubt the rulers of Israel believed and taught the message of expanding conquest, victory, and peace as promised by Micah, but Matthew presents their faith as being unable to let go of one caveat: they, and no one else, would be the ones with adequate faithfulness to identify Israel's Messiah. They certainly believed Yahweh would raise up a king from Bethlehem to deliver them from exile again, making it out to be a very significant clan among Judah. However, they considered themselves to be the faithful "under-shepherds" of Yahweh, and any king arising from Bethlehem would need to be on their side, following their standards of faithfulness to Yahweh, drawing near with sacrifices in their temple.

If what I suspect is accurate, this has many implications for Christians today, not the least of which is learning the important lesson of history that kings of nations and bible-leaders rise and fall, many times believing important truths about God along the way too, but none of them ever match up to the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ, the second Adam, who reversed the order of rising and falling by taking upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh in order to fall and then rise again. And unlike the first Adam, whose descendants perish under the old creation, Jesus took the fall upon himself so that a new creation could rise with him. 

Another important lesson we learn is that God is faithful to the promises of His expanding conquest, victory, and peace, even when ungodly rulers attempt their own conquest and promote their own idolatrous gospel of peace. Our Lord's message through the prophet Micah isn't that much different from the message of Matthew's gospel, nor is the opposition they received. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, whether people like His rule or not, and Christians should find hope and comfort in that reality. 

We also learn from this that God can and does raise up rulers who are faithful to Him --rulers like Hezekiah and Cyrus-- even though all of them will fail at some point, in some way. Once upon a time the chief priests and scribes of Israel were faithful, but eventually became full of their own traditional faithfulness. Then God raised up many faithful rulers to follow Jesus, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them. The fact that God remains faithful even when previously appointed rulers no longer are, should not discourage us. When our rulers are leading Gods people astray, provoking the Lord's wrath, all of that is still according to Gods promise. Everything is still right on schedule even when we, His people, need to repent of our sins, turn away from our cherished idols and back toward Him. 

These perspectives are essential to understanding Advent. Advent is not for the high and mighty, self-righteous, self-appointed under-shepherds whose savior dons the same wide phylacteries as they do. Rather, the season of Advent is for the lowly who acknowledge their need for Jesus to be their deliverer. Advent is for the lowly who want Jesus enthroned over all, invading all the Nimrodic entrances and toppling all Babelic towers which attempt to reach the heavens without Him. Advent is not for pietistic and cowardly kings like Ahaz or for arrogant and confident ambassadors like Assyria's Rabshekah. Rather, the season of Advent is for the Hezekiah's and David's who understand that Yahweh's name will most certainly be great to the ends of the earth, so that He will be their peace. Advent is for the lowly, like the disciples of Jesus who reformed their lives, put away their idols, gave up everything prized among the proud, sold their landed inheritance, and held all things in common so they could distribute to the poor and persecuted brethren among them. Advent is for the lowly who carry a cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads, even if that means storming the very gates of Hell. Advent is for the lowly in God's sight. The lower a sinner recognizes himself to be the greater glory there is for the Christ who saves him. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No guilt found in Him (John 18:28-19:16)

Continuing where I left off in John's gospel, we finally arrive at the central section of chapters 18 & 19. As shown below, John structures this section in a seven-point chiasm, with the center focusing upon Jesus' coronation as King. All seven points are easy to distinguish as well, primarily because the most noticeable literary feature of this section is its frequent movement from outside to inside and back outside again, repeated twice (as seen below):

John 18:28-19:6

A)  Outside the Praetorium  (18:28-32)
   B)  Inside the Praetorium  (18:33-38a)
      C)  Outside the Praetorium  (18:38b-40)
         D)  Pilate takes Jesus, punishes Him, crowns and clothes Him as "King of the Jews"  (19:1-3) 
      C')  Outside the Praetorium  (19:4-8)
   B')  Inside the Praetorium  (19:9-11)
A')  Outside the Praetorium  (19:12-16)

There are many ironies found within this central section, only a few of which I have time to list below in this post, but two great ironies come immediately to mind: first, ever since Jesus' arrest in the garden began in chapter 18, no one has been an advocate of Jesus' kingship, but in this section, John portrays Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, as being a ruler over the Jews, a "world ruler" of sorts, able to apply the heaviest punishment upon evildoers, the punishment of death; and in John's narrative, this world ruler is the only sincere advocate of Jesus' Kingship. This is especially noticeable when set in contrast with the second irony, that the chief priests refuse to enter the Praetorium where Jesus and Pilate privately discuss His kingship. John even tells us why they refused to enter the Praetorium. John says that " was early, and they [the Jewish Leaders] themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover" (John 18:28). It was because of their own misunderstanding and distortion of God's Law that a firm belief developed about God disqualifying them from eating the Passover lamb, had they entered "unclean" space among the Gentiles. These kinds of man-made traditions were so precious that their eyes became blinded to who Yahweh really was, and by the time their Messiah arrives on the scene, they cared more about slaughtering and eating a literal lamb in God's sight than they did betraying and slaughtering the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29, 36).

The way John compacts all of this together in chapters 18 & 19 is really interesting. Jesus has been arrested in a garden, examined in a courtyard, and now he's dragged out into the world, outside the courtyard, to be crowned by a world ruler and presented back to the Jews as "your King" (John 19:14). The "chief priests" (18:35) accuse Jesus of "doing evil" (18:30) in order to justify handing Him over to this world ruler to die (18:31-32). They would crucify Jesus themselves, but empirical Law won't allow them to do so (18:31). John also makes a point of telling us that this day of crowning and slaughtering Jesus was also the "Day of Preparation of the Passover" (19:14). So then, while the chief priests stay back in the "courtyard", they think they are spared from defilement in preparation for Passover; but little did they know that by handing Jesus over to Pilate they were defiling themselves by handing over the Lamb of God with hands full of innocent blood.

The narrative gets even more interesting once we see what goes on inside the Praetorium. While the chief priests stay outside, Pilate engages in two private discussions inside with Jesus. Pilate asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews (18:33), which is an odd question in and of itself unless rumors had already spread throughout Judea about Jesus being the King of the Jews. Jesus' response to Pilate's question is also kind of odd. Instead of answering with a simple 'yes' or 'no', Jesus responds in a way which makes Pilate affirm His kingship (18:36-37). Pilate also asks Jesus what evil He has done to deserve being handed over by the chief priests, and Jesus responds, again somewhat oddly, by talking about His kingdom. By affirming that He has a kingdom, He infers that He is a King. By affirming that His kingdom is not "of this world" (ek tou kosmou), He is inferring that His kingship originates outside of and rules beyond Jewish aristocracy. In other words, Jesus answers Pilate's question negatively about being the "King of the Jews," while at the same time maintaining positively that He is indeed a King who has a Kingdom that is not of Jewish, or "this-worldly" origin. Jesus even repeats Himself, clarifying some of what we might consider to be ambiguity of meaning, saying that His kingdom is "not from this world" (18:36). In the second discussion with Jesus, Pilate asks Jesus where He, not His kingdom, is from, and Jesus gives no answer (19:9). Pilate informs Jesus that he has the authority to crucify or release Him, but Jesus reminds Pilate what it means for His kingdom to not be "of this world." Jesus informs Pilate that he would have no authority over Him unless it had been given to him from above (19:11); therefore Pilate is really off the hook as far as ultimate authority is concerned, and the Jewish rulers have the greater sin for preparing Him for slaughter.

Pilate then offers to release Jesus in the place of an insurrectionist named Barabbas. Pilate doesn't want to be the "bad guy," and so he declares Jesus' innocence and then appeals to the Jewish rulers to choose between Jesus and Barabbas. By appealing to the Jewish rulers to make a decision, the blood is on their hands. Interestingly, the name Barabbas means "son of the Father," but when given the choice between releasing a false son of the Father or the true Son of the Father, the Jewish rulers choose the false "son." This irony only adds to the contrast between Pilate's intentions and the chief priests. After each discussion inside, Pilate goes outside to defend Jesus, declaring Jesus' innocence publicly three times, saying "I find no guilt in Him" (18:38; 19:4, 6, sections C & C' above). By seeking to release Jesus, Pilate takes upon himself the role of a high priest, releasing a scapegoat on the day of atonement, the day in which Jesus would atone for the sins of the world. By publicly confessing Jesus' innocence three times, John also portrays Pilate as a type of Peter who makes a greater confession in all three places where Peter had the opportunity to, but instead denied his Lord. As a greater confessor, Pilate is portrayed as a "good guy" who, above all the people in chapter 18 & 19, seems to actually treat Jesus as a true King, a true world ruler whose authority is not vested in Jewish aristocracy. Pilate wants to release Jesus and He knows there is something significantly wrong with the situation he is in. He knows Jesus doesn't deserve death. He knows Jesus is considered a king of sorts in the eyes of some Jews, and so he shames Jesus by scourging and presenting Him before the Jews in mock-coronation fashion. Jesus is crowned with thorns and arrayed in a purple robe, a royal robe of glory worn by people of nobility. Jesus is even mocked by Pilate's officers, hailing Him as the "King of the Jews." Over and over again Pilate wants to release Jesus, but the Jewish rulers won't stop pressuring him until Jesus is slain. By handing Jesus over to Pilate, along with his repeated declaration of there being no blemish of evil in Him, the chief priests are portrayed as the ones who prepare the paschal lamb to be slaughtered on the Day of Preparation.

Toward the end of all these events with Pilate going inside and out, again and again, John tells us that Pilate finally brings Jesus out and sits down upon a "seat of judgment" in a place called "The Stone Pavement." Here the Greek is ambiguous, leaving at least the grammatical possibility that Pilate sat Jesus down in the "seat of judgment." Regardless of who actually sat down in the judgment seat, whether Pilate or Jesus, the overall scene of Jesus with Pilate, two "world rulers" together, at the judgment-seat is really the main picture John is portraying for us. Here at the judgment-seat, John tells us that the place of this final scene of judgment was called "The Stone Pavement." In Greek this "Stone Pavement" is lithostroton, and is found elsewhere in Scripture, and in a passage that would be very familiar to first century Jews. In II Chronicles chapter seven we find Solomon dedicating the Temple, and in verse 3 Yahweh is described as descending in glorious fire upon His House with the people of Israel bowing down with their faces to the "stone pavement" (lithostroton) before Him. In John's narrative, the King of the world stands before Israel, scourged and bloody, crowned and robed in purple, but they won't bow down with their faces to the stone pavement before Him. They act as though they are in the judgment-seat, saying things like "He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God" (19:7). When faced with a choice of releasing a "son of the Father," they release an insurrectionist. When faced with acknowledging their king on the stone pavement, they cry out, "We have no King but Caesar!" (19:15). When faced with a choice of remaining clean and eating the Passover or defiling themselves by crucifying the Lamb of God, they shout, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" (19:15). The rulers of Israel think the Son of God ought to die, even though there truly was no guilt found in Him. They think they're purging leaven from their house in preparation for Passover, but what they're actually doing is leavening another lump. They think they're preparing for the angel of Yahweh to pass over their house, but what they're actually doing is preparing the blood of the Lamb to be spread upon the doorposts of new "house" prepared by His Father, a house made of disciples of Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God and fed with the flesh and blood of Jesus, fed with true meat and drink indeed.

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