Genesis 2:15 - The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it.

Many Biblical interpreters and translators have breezed right over this verse without understanding what is being described. The incorrect assumption is that what is being described is a place on earth, and this has blurred and veiled the real meaning of Genesis as a whole, including this verse.

Where is this 'Garden'?

Let’s clarify the location being described here. The word “garden” is being translated from the Hebrew word גַּן (gan), which also refers to an enclosed garden or section.

The ancient use of the word ‘gan’ would typically include being enclosed within a barrier that prevented robbers or animals from coming and stealing food from the garden. Many archaeological digs have confirmed the use of enclosed gardens during ancient times. The application here is that the garden was protected. It was a safe place, in other words: An enclosed section.

The word “Eden” is translated from the Hebrew עֵדֶן (`eden), which is described in the lexicon as being ‘the first habitat of man; site unknown.’ The root of this word means ‘luxury, dainty, delight, finery’ and ‘pleasure’ according to the lexicon.

So how does this root meaning of Eden connect with the application of a protected or enclosed garden or section where “man” was placed? Many have concluded that what is being described is a “pleasant country in Asia” where this garden supposedly was and the first humans were supposedly placed.

This is not only pure speculation: It is simply incorrect.

The key to the true location being described here is the Hebrew word עָבַד (`abad), which is being translated into the English phrase “to work it.” Others have translated this word to “cultivate” as they imagine Adam being sent to the garden of Eden to become – what else – a gardener!

However, the correct translation within this context for the Hebrew word עָבַד (`abad) is, as taken from the Hebrew lexicon, to serve, and more specifically, to lovingly serve God.

For example, this word was used by Joshua when he made this statement (the bolded phrase is derived from the Hebrew word עָבַד (`abad)):
“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
This correct translation of עָבַד (`abad) provides us with a true context of this place being described as the Garden of Eden. Eden is derived from the root word ‘pleasure’ and ‘delight’ because what is being described is the spiritual world.

This is the place where each of us comes from. This is the place where we lovingly serve our Best Friend and Companion, the Supreme Being. And we derive complete fulfillment and true pleasure from this loving service to God.

Was Adam a gardener?

This ‘section’ or ‘garden’ is a part or location within God’s spiritual world. As Jesus described in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” So what is being described here in Genesis is one of those rooms – or sections – of the spiritual world.

Finally, we find at the end of this verse, the Hebrew word שָׁמַר (shamar) which is being translated to the English phrase “take care of it.” The assumption with this translation is that God plunked down Adam into a garden to take care of it. So God created Adam to be His gardener?

Let’s consider this carefully. Why would God, the Supreme Being, Who has so much power that He created the entire universe – containing billions and billions of galaxies including our own – need Adam to take care of a little garden somewhere in Asia? Are we saying that God cannot take care of His own gardens when He can maintain an entire universe?

This is a preposterous allusion: That God somehow needed Adam to take care of His garden.

The reality is that the Hebrew word שָׁמַר (shamar) means, according to the lexicon, to ‘observe, take heed, beware, protect, celebrate, keep’ and ‘treasure up (in memory)’. Thus, the sum and substance of this word is, 'to care for.'

This verse is not referring to caring for a garden – it is referring to loving and caring for God.

Yes, it is allegory, used throughout the Scriptures to reserve meaning for those who are serious about God.

It is one thing to lovingly serve God, but it is yet another to care for the Supreme Being. Caring for someone introduces another principle: A loving relationship.

When a person cares for another, they do not simply like the person: They look out for the person they love. They care for them. If someone threatens the one we love, we intercede. We protect them. This is part and parcel of love. It means there is a relationship.

While the Supreme Person does not need protection, He allows His loving servants to serve Him and care for Him in the spiritual world. It is an exchange of a loving relationship.

Where is God located?

In the spiritual world, God is present personally. It is not as though God is some sort of vague force or booming voice. God has spiritual form and personality (and He is not an old man with a long gray beard as imagined by many). The Supreme Being has feelings, emotions, likes, and dislikes. While God is a person He is still the Supreme Person. He is the best at everything and the creator of all. Yet He still relates personally with each and every one of us.

God created each of us to exchange a unique relationship with Him. He is thus our Soul Mate. He is the Person we each look for throughout our lives as we look for mates, friends and family members. We are always looking for that perfect friend, mate or family member, but never finding it here in the physical world. This is because our perfect Beloved is God, and our personal relationship with Him lies within the spiritual dimension.

This means that the spiritual world is filled with activity and variety. It is a place of complete happiness and pleasure. It is that place that John Lennon was imagining. The reason why John and the rest of us all look for this place is because it exists. This is where each of us is from. This is our original home: Eden.

Here in this physical world, our physical bodies are not ourselves. They are temporary vehicles we drive around for a while, and then they die and decompose. Within these bodies resides our true selves: Our spiritual selves. Our spiritual selves were born in Eden.

The phrase “the man” in this verse is being translated from the Hebrew אָדָם (‘adam). While the word can be translated to the allegorical first man, “Adam,” this Hebrew word אָדָם can also be translated to mean, according to the lexicon, ‘human being’ and ‘mankind.’ What is being described allegorically is the spirit-person: the living being.

It is important to understand the context of the event being described. The first chapter of Genesis already described the creation of the physical world, where the water, earth, sky and so on were created, and the plants, the fish, the beasts, and humankind were all created and populated the earth (“be fruitful and multiply”). Are we saying that this description was not enough? That now Genesis has to describe the creation of man within the physical world a second time, but this time changing it to occur within a garden in Asia, and the first man as a gardener? No. Genesis does not have to re-state God’s creation of the physical world. And there is absolutely no foundation for the ‘garden of Eden’ being in Asia.

What is being described here, in allegorical terms, is the creation and placement of each of us as spirit-persons within a location in the spiritual world. The ‘garden’ or ‘section’ of Eden is a protected section of God’s spiritual world: It is our original home.

This is confirmed by later verses in Genesis that describe God walking through Eden. Jesus described God as “Our Father in heaven” because the spiritual realm is characterized by God’s personal presence.

Each of us was created by God and placed into a designated section of God’s spiritual dimension where we could each exercise our unique loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Caring for God within our natural relationship with God is what gives us true happiness. This is why this location is being described as Eden, meaning a place of ‘pleasure’ and ‘delight.’

We can see that we are each by nature loving servants when we experience pleasure from engaging in the loving service of our spouse and family members as we care for them. We can see that this caring drives people to do so many things on behalf of their families. This is our real nature: We are caring, loving servants. The problem occurs, however, when the bodies of our family members die or otherwise leave us. We become heartbroken. This is because we were created to care for God and His children within the spiritual world – Eden. This is why Moses and Jesus both taught that love for God was the most important commandment:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30)
Consider another translation of this Genesis verse in Chapter Two of the New Book of Genesis.