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Man’s purpose is to worship and obey

In the creation account of Genesis 1-2, most English translations make it seem like Adam was put in the Garden for gardening purposes, since Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” However, there may be something more beneath the terms translated “work” and “keep.”

The first verb is avid, which is “used frequently for spiritual service, specifically serving the LORD (Deut. 4:19) and for the duties of the Levites (see Num. 3:7-8; 4:23-24, 26).”1

The second verb is shamar, whose “religious use is that of observing spiritual duties or keeping the commands (Lev. 18:5).”2

This understanding of these terms seems to fit more in a world that did not yet need gardening since there was no curse. Adam was not put in the garden to care for the garden; he was put their to worship and obey God. Ross concurs:

“In places where these two verbs are found together, they often refer to the duties of the Levites (cf. Num. 3:7-8; 8:26; 18;5-6), keeping the laws of God (especially in the sanctuary service) and offering spiritual service in the form of the sacrifices and all the related duties—serving the LORD, safeguarding his commands, and guarding the sanctuary from the intrusion of anything profane or evil.”3

Put very simply, man’s purpose is to worship and obey, which is of course reflected in many passages of Scripture, not the least of which is Isaiah 43:7:

everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

  1. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, 105. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. Ibid. []

5 Responses to Man’s purpose is to worship and obey

  1. I would love nothing more than to be able to preach that interpretation. IIRC, the translation hinges on whether the verbs are a transitive or intransitive form. Again, IIRC, there are no Hebrew MSS that contain the intransitive form, but I think the Samaritan Pentateuch has the intransitive. Does Ross address those grammatical issues?

  2. He doesn't address it directly, but he doesn't seen to think it's an issue considering the other grammatical issues he mentions.

    For example, he notes that the two infinitives in the verse are feminine, while the word garden is a masculine noun, indicating that they refer to something else.

    He also points out that "in an number of places in the Pentateuch where parallel infinitive constructions occur, the form is spelled not with a feminine suffix attached but with an infinitive ending." Therefore, "the forms could be translated generally 'for serving and for keeping.'"

    In other words, he makes a big deal over some very specific grammatical issues, yet he does not make mention of transitive or intransitive forms. That leads me to believe, considering his level of care, that he did not consider it an issue.

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