Power in the Garden

Focus Scripture – Genesis 2:4b-25

The contemporary meaning of the word dominion is supreme authority conferred on a person in command. The condition of having dominion gives a person power and rights to make decisions. Such control can be power over, power with, or power through. But it is power nonetheless. The nature of the power one assumes relates to one’s motives in many respects. In examining this concept more closely, we might focus on how the second creation account (Gen 2:4b-25) illuminates the problem and suggests a response.

Before God made the man, God served as the groundskeeper of the earth (Gen 2:6). In God’s way, in God’s time, according to God’s motives, God formed the man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (v. 7). Only after God gave life to the man did God plant the garden and put the man in it (v. 8).

Next, God caused the plants to grow (v. 9) for aesthetics, for food, and for (potential) satisfaction of non-physical needs (i.e., the tree of life, tree of knowledge of good and evil). Verse 15 tells us that God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” God also gave the man instructions on how to tend to the garden (vv. 16-17). In other words, God delegated responsibilities to the man and provided the man with a job description.

Later, God determined that the man was without companionship and that it was not good that the man should be alone (v. 18). That is when God decided to make for the man a helper or partner out of the same dust of the ground from which the man had been formed.

The man, now the head groundskeeper, was given power over the living creatures (because the man was super-ordinate, having been created first). He had power with the other living creatures (because they would provide companionship and therefore respite from the loneliness God detected in the man). He had and power through the other living creatures (because their power would be added to that of the man, thereby enhancing the overall ergonomic effort involved in tending the garden).

God did not micromanage. In any given moment, the nature of the power the man used depended on the man’s motives. Based on this reading one might surmise that God intended man to live in peaceful, productive coexistence; that is, to live in harmony with other living beings that inhabited the same space.


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