Genesis 2:15, Tend/dress and keep it. Tend is the Hebrew word avad meaning “to work or serve.” Being a gardener was Adam’s occupation. Yeshua was the second Adam. After Yeshua’s resurrection, interestingly, he was mistaken as the gardener (John 20:15).
The Torah teaches sustainable living and stewardship of the earth. The terms sustainability or sustainable living are currently fad concepts that are bandied about by those seeking to be politically correct—whatever that is supposed to mean. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines sustainability as follows:
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time, a necessary precondition for the well-being of humans and other organisms.
As the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, there is nothing new under the sun. In the beginning, Elohim placed man in the idyllic paradise called the Garden of Eden instructing him “to tend” (serve, work, till, dress) and “to keep” (guard, observe, protect) the garden (Gen 2:15). Man was commanded to become the steward of what Elohim had created—to preserve, maintain and to care for it.
To this day, YHVH has never rescinded these instructions to man even though modern environmentalists and conservationists may think they originated the idea of responsible stewardship of the environment. Long before Rosseau, Thoreau, the Sierra Club, Earth First, Nature Coservancy, Germany’s Green Party, and the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) in America the Torah was preaching sustainable living and responsibly caring for the environment—YHVH’s creation. Let’s note how:
- For the overall health and vigor of fruit trees, they were to be allowed to become established for three years before commercially harvesting their fruit (Lev 19:23–25).
- So as not to deplete the soil’s fertility, agricultural land was to lay fallow every seventh year (Lev 25:2).
- Fruit trees were to be preserved in times of war (Deut 20:19).
- So as not to mongrelize similar types of fruits and vegetables through cross pollination, mixed seeds were not to be sowed together (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9).
- Interbreeding of diverse kinds of livestock was prohibited (Lev 19:19).
- Work animals were allowed to eat the grain that they helped to thresh (Deut 25:4).
- If a farm animal was injured or in danger, one was obligated to help the animal even if it belonged to someone else (Deut 22:4).
- For the safety and well-being of work animals, an ox and donkey were not to be yoked together when plowing (Deut 22:10).
- Work animals were to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath (Exod 20:8–11; Deut 5:14).
- Bird’s nests and young hatchlings were to be cared for (Deut 22:6–7).
- Humans were to care for the earth (and prevent diseases) by burying their excrement (Deut 23:13).
- The establishment of toxic waste dumps for disease contaminated materials (Lev 14:43–47).
Genesis 3:23, To till/work [Heb. abad] the ground [Heb. adamah] from which he was taken. Adam means “man, mankind, ground, land, and is a cognate to adom meaning “red,” and relates to the ruddiness of man’s complexion. According to the TWOT, this word has to do with the man as being created in Elohim’s image, the crown of his creation. In this verse, Elohim commissioned Adam to work or to serve the earth/adamah. In a homiletic sense, this command of YHVH could be construed to mean that Adam/man who is spiritually rough and ruddy, yet who is created in the image of Elohim, has been commissioned to work on himself to work on and to conquer his [base] sin nature and to bring himself into conformity with the image of YHVH. Another facet of this idea could be that through the experiences and struggles of hard work, man will learn to overcome his fallen sin nature and rise to the higher calling of becoming like Elohim in nature. In a sense, hard work is part of man’s redemption process. In a most fundamental sense, YHVH created man to serve or take care of the earth. Therefore, agriculture and horticulture are the professions that are the closest to YHVH’s original purpose for man.