Genesis 2:5-10: Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.
Don’t worry I’m not going to go into some crazy creationist thing about it raining up and the water suspended over the earth made it possible for people to live hundreds of years. The important thing is what it tells us about God. We’re particularly looking at what it says about food.
This is the second creation account. When you read Genesis you think, “Didn’t we already go over this?” This account is significantly different, more concerned with humanity. The first account assumes all the plants given for humans to eat are already part of creation. Here no plants of the field are in the ground. There has been no rain, and no one is around to take care of crops.
Humanity is created from the dirt. Life is breathed into dirt. First, I think this should remind us that there is much more life in dirt in the first place. Modern science has boiled down the essential nutrients for growing plants to Potassium, Phosphorous and Nitrogen. Unfortunately, these alone do not make the best soil. There is a mysterious element called humus that makes natural soil incredibly rich and good for growing plants. There is life in there. This also connects the first creation account in telling us that we are connected to the earth and the rest of creation.
I love that the next thing that happens is God plants a garden. There’s a picture I’ve never thought of before. God in her apron and gardening gloves with a big sun hat and oversized sunglasses, down on all fours digging in the dirt. Is that too blasphemous? God getting God’s proverbial hands dirty. The plants serve two purposes. They are beautiful and pleasant to look at and they are good for food. I’d like to think that growing our own food and plants is somehow participating with God in creating life and caring for it. Providing for ourselves and others.
Finally there are a couple trees in the middle of the garden that have to do with life and knowledge. Mostly we think of these as mere symbols. Trees are just objects for urban beautification right? Perhaps there is meaning here that trees are the containers for life and knowledge. There is more than just extracting life and knowledge from these trees. The trees themselves are life and knowledge. The tree of life perhaps tells us that life comes not from ourselves, our own independent individual existence, but from our connectedness to the life-giving creation. The tree of knowledge of good and evil could possibly remind us that this knowledge does not drop from heaven into our world. Instead good and evil are part of the natural world in which we live.
Last but not least is the river that waters the garden. What? No irrigation system. There’s nothing wrong necessarily with the ways humans have invented to grow and produce food, but perhaps we need reminding the food simply grows out of the ground all around us. Many weeds are actually edible. Maybe we just need a reminder that nature has her own way of producing food without us, and we can learn from the way God created the world to run on its own.
Excellent post; very thoughtful.
We really do have our relationship with food all messed up.
As consumers, our chief concerns are taste, mouth feel & price.
As producers, our chief concerns are price and yield.
Who is concerned about our health – physical,emotional,spiritual.
Eating is one of the most intimate actions a person can take. And most of us do it 3+ times each and every day.
Food and the processes involved in producing food deserve much more care and reverence than we currently afford them.