“garden of Eden.” The Hebrew word eden (#05731 עֵדֶן) means “delight, or pleasure.” When God created Adam and Eve, He loved them and so He put them in the “Garden of eden;” the “Garden of Delight” (Gen. 2:15). It is unfortunate that the translators decided to transliterate the word eden into “Eden” instead of translating it into “Delight.” The phrase “Garden of Eden” does not mean anything to most English readers except that it was a physical place on earth. In contrast, had the translators decided to say, “Garden of Delight” instead of “Garden of Eden,” we would still know it was a place on earth, but God’s love and purpose in putting people in a wonderful place would have been revealed.
It is also an unfortunate result of history that the Old Testament was written in a different language than the New Testament because it makes it much harder to see the flow of God’s original plan from Genesis to Revelation: what it was, how it was derailed, and how God will reestablish it. God put mankind in the Garden of Delight, which the Greek Bible translates as paradeisos (παράδεισος, pronounced par-a-'day-sos) and in English is “paradise.” Adam ruined “Paradise,” but Jesus Christ will restore it. He told the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise (Luke 23:43). God showed the future Paradise to the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:4), and Christ will reestablish Paradise on earth, complete with the tree of life (Rev. 2:7) In the New Testament, “Paradise” was one of the terms used for the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth.
[For more on Paradise and the Garden of Eden, see commentary on Luke 23:43. For more on the Millennial Kingdom, Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom on earth, which is described as “Paradise,” see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on how the future will unfold from this present age to the Millennial Kingdom to the Everlasting Kingdom, see commentary on Rev. 21:1.]
“to work it and to care for it.” God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28), which not only displays His goodness and trust in humankind, but it reveals part of God’s purpose for them: to govern the earth on God’s behalf. Here in Genesis 2:15, we see part of that purpose spelled out—Adam and Eve were to work the garden and care for it. Working the garden gave Adam and Eve something productive to do and allowed them to care for their own needs, which promotes maturity, self-respect, and mental health. Also, caring for the garden involved a lot of responsibility. For one thing, before the Fall, all the animals on earth ate plants (Gen. 1:30), and the most luscious plants on planet earth would have been in Adam and Eve’s garden. So “caring” for the garden would have meant protecting it from all the animals wanting to eat it as well as other “caring” type functions.
Also, the “Garden of Delight” that God planted for Adam and Eve would have had to have been very small, perhaps only a couple of acres, or maybe a little more if there was an area for fruit trees. God did not create Adam and Eve just so they could work every day from dawn to dusk taking care of a garden. Caring for the garden would have been a joy, not an onerous task. But the Garden of Eden was only a start and promise of the greater garden that God intended to come in the future—dominion over the whole earth and the earth itself being a wonderful garden for humankind. After all, God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and have children and fill and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). So as Adam and Eve had children, and as those children had children of their own and humankind multiplied, the little Garden of Eden that God planted would not have been big enough for everyone. The progeny of Adam and Eve would have eventually spread out around the earth and turned it into a great big wonderful garden, which would fulfill God’s purpose that the earth be a blessing to humankind and be administered by them on His behalf.
However, due to the Fall of Adam and Eve, the world ceased to be a wonderful place and life became difficult and dangerous, but nevertheless, the purpose of humankind to have dominion over the earth, which God placed in people’s hearts, is still there. Although people have struggled to get it done, much of the earth has been “subdued” by humankind. Sadly, because of the crafty (evil) nature in mankind (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 17:9), much of the work of taking dominion over the earth has been done in an ungodly way. For the most part, there has been little or no regard for really taking care of the earth and making it what it could be or what God designed it to be. Humankind has largely ignored the fact that we are just stewarding the earth for God, who owns it and who will judge each of us for the job we have done in caring for His earth. Some of Jesus’ parables show God as the landowner who holds his servants responsible for how they steward His earth, its resources, and the profit that comes from it (cp. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Matt. 20:1-16; The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Matt. 21:33-44, Mark 12:1-11, Luke 20:9-15).
The wonderful news is that God’s purpose for the earth and humankind will be restored. Jesus is going to come back to the earth, conquer it, set up his kingdom, and reign over the whole earth. Men and women who lived godly lives will help Jesus administer the earth, and it will be a wonderful and godly place, once again being a “Paradise,” even as it was before the Fall. Under Jesus’ rule, humankind will have godly dominion over the earth and fulfill God’s original plan.
[For more on Christ reigning on earth in the future, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on the Garden of Eden being a paradise and the future earth being called “Paradise,” see commentary on Luke 23:43. For more on people who have lived godly lives in their first life helping rule the earth, see commentary on Jer. 23:4.]