This chapter continues highlighting the relationships within creation that we saw in the overview in chapter one.
Highlighting the relationship first between humanity and the garden: humanity’s purpose is to care for the garden, or care for the ground. Humanity “himself” comes from the ground and so is part of the ecosystem of nature, but also head of it. At this stage in the text “man” is not male, but means mankind, both male and female. The story of the dividing of male and female follows, again to show the relationship between them, in completing and fulfilling each other. All relationships within nature have this purpose, in completing and fulfilling each other. The only thing that could break this system down would be self-serving. This is the “evil” that comes in the next chapter. The tree of life means honouring relationships by which life is nurtured, and the tree of knowledge means seeking one’s own glory, which brings destruction to the system.
Our relationship with the ground is the first of three clear relationships within the text: our relationship with the ground, or with the rest of nature, over which we were placed for its care. Disassociating ourselves from the ground (especially in modern forms of urbanisation) is counter to our origin and must work against us and against nature and the whole creation system. In science, this is what we have sought, to separate us from all nature and its unpredictability. This is being done today by the vaccines (which eventually replace the immune system as our health assurance) and also with industrial farming (which eventually becomes fully manipulated by genetically modified products.) Our relationships with nature become completely dysfunctional.
The patented forms of “life” taking over health and agriculture today are meant to remake creation to serve monopolist interests, over which sits a new king, enslaving humanity. However, these “scientific, philanthropic, businessmen” do not have sufficient wisdom to recreate nature. They will instead fill it with disease. But the problem isn’t science itself, but their motive, to replace God rather than worship him. It’s just the same as the slave-making pagan empires of ancient days.
The second relationship in Genesis two is between the male and the female. Both are made in the image and glory of God: to share dominion. The male didn’t come first here, but both were separated together from the “human.” There is an interdependence between the man and woman. God makes both, so the man can’t claim the supremacy, yet it is the male who speaks, and what he speaks about is the equality of the woman, her coming from the same body, his need to love her as himself. He “worships” her. Creation flourishes as we value each part. All forms of marriage or coupling apart from that described here are counter to the good of the system and the children who come from them. It isn’t about offending God by breaking some “random” law, but rather the love and respect for relationships that hold the creation as one holistic life.
In every respect in the modern world we see a rejection of the cycle of life as it is described in this creation story. Intended life sustaining relationships have broken down and these have been replaced by self-seeking. And this is the reason the “curse” in Genesis three has come upon our lands, due to our non-sustainable ways of being human. The “curse” is self-inflicted, from making ourselves God.
The third relationship in Genesis two is that between God and nature, mediated by humanity. We are priests, which in the ancient temple language is the meaning of the story of humanity serving nature as an act of worship. The word for “cultivate” the ground meant to worship. The word was later used for servitude in oppression under the pagan masters. It’s better to worship the Lord than to be made slaves by false gods. As God’s image bearers we are called to reflect God into the creation, that is, God’s self-giving character which brings the knowledge of God to the world, his loving care. The garden was a temple, a place where God dwelt with humanity and within the fruitful natural gift. Image bearing is fulfilled through love, rather than reflecting the self-orientated image of the serpent. It’s serving the interests of the whole, rather than our own interests. Nature and family are broken today because we haven’t reflected God into these areas. The gospel of Christ is all about turning this around, to achieve a full restoration of all. It is turning us back to fulfil our original “Adamic” calling.
A note on farming before the fall:
The word for “cultivate” refers to the worship of Adam and Eve in the garden. It’s liturgical language, showing that farming was part of humanity’s priestly role in stewarding creation. “Worship” can also mean “subservience,” which means serving under. “Worship” can have positive connotations of relationships in love and harmony, or it can have negative connotations, as an enforced subservience, as in humanity’s subjugation under the harsh conditions in farming after the fall, or in a slavery relationship to the pagan kings. The word “cultivate” is used in all these contexts. They “served” as priests as they tended the ground. Or they “served” in harshness after the fall in poor farming conditions. Or they “served” in harshness as they were subjected to slavery.
Before the fall, they did not till the ground, nor plant seed, nor kill weeds while the crop grew. This kind of farming came after the fall. Before the fall, the earth brought forth crops and fruit by itself. The crops and plants seeded and grew by themselves, in an abundance. Aboriginals in Australia still farm in this way, gathering what comes up by itself.
Before the fall, creation was in perfect balance. There were bacteria, insects and viruses (though we know very little about viruses still) and all these things were good because they were in balance. Our fruit trees at CFM were attacked by insects and moulds that destroyed them, until we started irrigating them with fishpond water, which brought a balance to the ecosystem. The insect plagues and tree diseases stopped immediately. When we kill the insects with pesticides, it creates an imbalance in the ecosystem. You end up with a “monoculture” where all but the crop you desire is killed. This destroys our environment. We need insects, even weeds, as they serve in the stewardship of the environment, in restoring its conditions.
With our pigs the story is similar. We were told to keep them on a bed of cement and clean it every day with disinfectant, and constantly supply the pigs with antibiotics. Instead we followed different advice. We put them on a bed of compost, on which the pigs manure and urinate. There is no smell and no flies, and the pigs enjoy natural conditions. We have rich compost for our farms and use no disinfectant nor antibiotics. Bacteria is good when it is kept in balance with the whole natural ecosystem.
Farming is about getting back to the natural balances we had before they were disturbed. It is when the balance is disturbed that a bacterium, virus or insect can become a killer, because it becomes dominant, and the natural defences of the environment have vanished. The correct idea in farming isn’t killing what harms but repairing the ecosystem. Then everything that harmed turns out to be good. Human relationships are the same. Love our enemies and make them friends. Then we benefit from each other and our community is greatly enriched. Can we see that farming is just like this? The main focus in our health care should follow a similar rationale: focused more on restorative health than on killing disease. Then our national health budgets would drastically fall.