Oh the depth of meaning in the letters P – U – T.
Sometimes three-letter words can mean so much and yet be overlooked. My case in point can be found in Genesis 2:15, which is part of the account of God creating a habitation for Adam and Eve. As many agrarians through time have done when they examine this verse, they focus on the role God had for Adam in the garden. When we do so, we miss a meaningful lesson in the simple English translation of “put.”
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate (serve) it and keep (protect) it.”
I have focused my attention in this space on my displeasure of the translation of “cultivate” and “keep,” but that is not my purpose here. Instead, I want us to examine the word “put.” The word is translated from the Hebrew word “nuach” (noo’-akh). Though it is a primitive root, it is not the same word found in Gen. 2:8 where God placed Adam in the garden.
The earlier reference in Verse 8 is the Hebrew word “sum” (soom) which, in the usage in Verse 8 is the more literal idea of someone doing the putting of something somewhere. In this case, it was written evidently to emphasize that it was God who was doing the putting.
Verse 15 is entirely different in meaning. “Nuach” means to rest. Granted, this can mean come to rest, as when a ball stops rolling. But Moses choosing a different word from Verse 8 is telling, in my opinion. Moses could have used the word “sum” and the idea most of us understand about Verse 15 would not have been altered. Yet, the inspired writer chose “nuach” to help illustrate what kind of place it was God created for Adam and Eve and His intentions for them both.
The concept of rest in the Bible has theological significance. Though it’s not the same word God used on the seventh day of creation, the idea of completeness is still contained in “nuach.” It can even mean to give comfort, to be quiet and to dwell.
Though I prefer the notion of rest as the translation of “nuach,” I can accept dwell as a good translation because it still makes my point. The all-powerful, limitless God of creation designed a habitation for Adam and Eve and it was complete and had all that was necessary for a quality life of rest and comfort. And, more importantly, it was a place where Adam and Eve’s attention would not be distracted from God. It was a place of wholeness, a place to settle at peace.
With this new – new for me – picture of Verse 15, it reinforces that Adam’s role was not to cultivate. Cultivation is not necessary in the place of rest God designed for Adam. Instead, Adam’s role was to serve and protect the garden, not desecrate it.
What are we to take away from this since we are on this side of the Fall of Adam? Though we have to work hard, we still are working with God’s design. If we want to find that place of contentment, that place of rest in our landscapes, we must collaborate with God’s design, not work contrary to it.
Much of what we publish and advocate in Stewardculture is about our stewardship of God’s creation. We cannot steward this place if we are not in touch with the Creator and have poor understanding of how His creation works.
We each find ourselves in a place where God “nuach”-ed us. Will we live in rest or will we live in chaos in that place?
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