Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 2

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 2:1. The host of them — That is, the creatures contained therein. The host of heaven, in Scripture language, sometimes signifies the stars, and sometimes the angels. But, as Moses gives us no intimation, in the preceding chapter, that the angels were created at this time, and as Job 38:6-7, evidently implies that they had been created before, they do not appear to be here included.

Verse 2
Genesis 2:2. God rested on the seventh day — Not as if he were weary, or needed rest, as we do after labour, which to suppose would be inconsistent with his infinite perfection, Isaiah 40:28 : but for an example to us. Accordingly, in the fourth commandment, God’s resting on the seventh day is assigned as a reason why we should rest on that day.

Verse 3
Genesis 2:3. God blessed the seventh day — He conferred on it peculiar honour, and annexed to it special privileges above those granted to any other day; and sanctified it — That is, separated it from common use, and dedicated it to his own sacred service, that it should be accounted holy, and spent in his worship, and in other religious and holy duties. It appears evidently by this, that the observation of the sabbath was not first enjoined when the law was given, but that it was an ordinance of God from the creation of the world, and, of course, is obligatory on all the posterity of Adam, and the indispensable duty of every one to whom this divine appointment is made known.

Verse 4
Genesis 2:4. The generations of the heavens — That is, a true and full account of their origin or beginning, and of the order in which the sundry parts and creatures therein were formed.

Verse 5
Genesis 2:5. Every plant before it was in the earth — That is, when there was neither any plant, nor so much as any seed from which any could spring: and when, as is here observed, the two great means of the growth of vegetables were both wanting, rain from heaven and the labour of man. So that they were evidently produced by the word of God’s power alone. The English reader will observe in these two verses, the word LORD occurring for the first time. And he must remember that, whenever it occurs in our translation in capital letters, it stands for Jehovah. This is that name of God which implies self-existence, independence, and eternity, and signifies one that has being in and of himself, and is the source of being to all that exists. It is well explained by himself, Revelation 1:8, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is and was, and is to come; the Almighty!

Verse 6
Genesis 2:6. There went up — At certain times, it seems, as God appointed; a mist or vapour from the earth — Issuing from the abyss, or great deep of water in its bowels; (see Genesis 7:14;) and watered the whole face of the ground — Not with rain, but with dew. By this the earth was softened and fitted to nourish the plants of all kinds already created, and the seeds and roots of these that they might produce new plants.

Verse 7
Genesis 2:7. The Lord God formed man — Man being the chief of God’s works in this lower world, and being intended to be the lord of all other creatures, we have here a more full account of his creation. The word ייצר, jitzer, here rendered he formed, is not used concerning any other creature, and implies a gradual process in the work, with great accuracy and exactness. It is properly used of potters forming vessels on the wheel; and Rabbi D. Kimchi says, that, when used concerning the creation of man, it signifies the formation of his members. Of the dust of the ground — The Hebrew is, he formed man dust from the ground. We should remember that, however curiously our bodies, with their various members and senses, are wrought, we are but dust taken from the ground. He breathed into his nostrils — And thereby into his head and whole man; the breath of life — Hebrew, the soul of lives, that is, both natural and spiritual, both temporal and eternal life. It is sufficiently implied here that the soul of man is of a quite different nature and higher origin than the souls of beasts, which, together with their bodies, are said to be brought forth by the earth and waters, Genesis 1:24.

Verse 8
Genesis 2:8. The Lord God planted — Or, had planted, namely, on the third day, when he created the fruit-tree yielding fruit; a garden — A place peculiarly pleasant, a paradise, separated, it seems, from the rest of the earth, and enclosed, but in what way, we are not informed; eastward — From the place where Moses wrote, and from the place where the Israelites afterward dwelt. In Eden — Although the word eden signifies delight and pleasure; and undoubtedly the situation of the garden was extremely delightful, yet it is here the name of a place, not that mentioned, Amos 1:5, which was in Syria, but another Eden in Mesopotamia, spoken of Genesis 4:16, and 2 Kings 19:12, in the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. There he put the man — Not in a sumptuous palace or house of any kind, but in the open air. For as clothes came in with sin, so did houses. Our first parents in paradise needed them not. “The heaven was the roof of Adam’s house,” says Henry, “and never was any roof so curiously ceiled and painted. The earth was his floor, and never was any floor so richly inlaid: the shadow of the trees was his retirement, and never were any rooms so finely hung. Solomon’s, in all their glory, were not arrayed like them.”

Verse 9
Genesis 2:9. Every tree pleasant to the sight — That was calculated to render this garden the most beautiful place on earth; and good for food — That is, agreeable to the taste and useful to the body. So that both man’s mind and body were gratified and enriched. The tree of life also — So called, it seems, not only because it was intended to be a sign to Adam, assuring him of the continuance of life and happiness, on condition of his persevering in obedience; but also because God had given to the fruit of it a singular virtue for the support of nature, the prolongation of life, and the prevention of all diseases, infirmities, and decays through age, as appears, Genesis 3:22. The tree of knowledge, &c. — So called, not because its fruit had any virtue to beget useful knowledge, but because by it God would try Adam’s obedience, and by eating of it man would know the good which he had lost, and the evil into which he had fallen by his disobedience.

Verses 10-14
Genesis 2:10-14. A river went out of Eden — This river, branching itself into four streams, contributed much both to the pleasantness and fertility of the garden. Hiddekel and Euphrates are rivers of Babylon: but we need not wonder that the rise and situation of all these rivers cannot now be perfectly ascertained, considering the great changes produced in the state of the earth, as well by earthquakes as by the general deluge. Havilah had gold, and spices, and precious stones: but Eden had that which was infinitely better, the tree of life, and communion with God. And to these blessings we may have access, although shut out of the literal Eden. Reader, dost thou desire them?

Verse 17
Genesis 2:17. Of the tree of knowledge thou shalt not eat — Hitherto God has been manifested as man’s powerful Creator and bountiful Benefactor: now he appears as his Ruler and Lawgiver, and, as such, enters into covenant with him. He gives him but one positive precept, to try his obedience, which, as his Sovereign Lord, he had a right to do, annexing death to the breach, and, of consequence, life and immortality to the observance of it. It is evident, however, that this was not all God required of man, but that a law was written on his heart, requiring him to love God to the utmost extent of his capacity, and to imitate him in all holiness and righteousness. Thou shalt surely die — The death here threatened is evidently to be considered as opposed to the life (or lives rather, Genesis 2:7) which God had bestowed on him. This was not only the natural life of his body, in its union with his soul, but the spiritual life of his soul, in its union with God, and the eternal life of both. The threatening then implies: Thou shalt not only lose all the happiness thou hast, either in possession or prospect, and become liable to the death of thy body, and all the miseries which precede and accompany it; but thou shalt lose thy spiritual life, and become dead to God and things divine, and shalt even forfeit thy title to immortality, and be liable to death eternal. And all this in the day thou eatest thereof.

Verse 18
Genesis 2:18. God said — Had said on the sixth day, when the woman was made. It is not good that man should be alone — Though there was an upper world of angels and lower world of brutes, yet, there being none of the same rank of beings with himself, he might be truly said to be alone. It is not good: it was neither for man’s comfort, who was formed for society, and not for solitude nor for the accomplishment of God’s purpose in the increase of mankind. A help meet for him — כנגדו, chenegdo, a most significant phrase; one as before him, or correspondent to him, his counterpart, suitable to his nature and his need, one like himself in shape, constitution, and disposition, a second self: one to be at hand, or near to him, to converse familiarly with him, to be always ready to succour and comfort him, and whose care and business it should be to please and help him.

Verse 19
Genesis 2:19. God brought all the beasts to Adam — Either by the ministry of angels, or by a special instinct, that he might name them, and so might give a proof of his knowledge, the names he gave them being perfectly descriptive of their inmost nature.

Verse 21-22
Genesis 2:21-22. God caused a deep sleep, &c. — That the opening of his side and the taking away of his rib might be no grievance to him. While he knows no sin, God will take care that he shall feel no pain. The woman was taken out of the man’s side, and not out of a higher or lower part of his body, to show that she is neither to govern nor usurp authority over him, 1 Timothy 2:12.; nor yet to be his slave or servant: but, as his companion, to be treated with kindness; respect, and affection. How significant are all God’s works and actions!

Verse 23
Genesis 2:23. This is now bone of my bone — Probably it was revealed to Adam in a vision, when he was asleep that this lovely creature, now presented to him, was a piece of himself, and was to be his companion, and the wife of his covenant. In token of his acceptance of her, he gave her a name, not peculiar to her, but common to her sex: she shall be called woman, isha, a she-man, differing from man in sex only, not in nature; made of man, and joined to man.

Verse 24
Genesis 2:24. The sabbath and marriage were two ordinances instituted in innocence, the former for the preservation of the church, the latter for the preservation of mankind. It appears by Matthew 19:4-5, that it was God himself who said here, a man must leave all his relations to cleave to his wife; but whether he spake this by Moses or by Adam, is uncertain. The virtue of a divine ordinance, and the bonds of it, are stronger even than those of nature. See how necessary it is that children should take their parents’ consent with them in their marriage; and how unjust those are to their parents, as well as undutiful, who marry without it; for they rob them of their right to them and interest in them, and alienate it to another fraudulently and unnaturally.

Verse 25
Genesis 2:25. They were both naked — They needed no clothes for defence against cold or heat, for neither could be injurious to them: they needed none for ornament. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Nay, they needed none for decency: they were naked, and had no reason to be ashamed. They knew not what shame was, so the Chaldee reads it. Blushing is now the colour of virtue, but it was not the colour of innocence.