Genesis 2:15 says, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” We get a brief description of the garden in Genesis 2:8-10, “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” We think of the Garden of Eden and we think of the most beautiful place with all that was needed to enjoy life, including all the food we would need to eat. We then read in verses 21-25 that the Lord gave Adam a help-meet to share the garden with him.

In this beautiful garden, Adam had responsibilities. It was his job to “dress and keep” the garden. To “dress” the garden is the same as to “till” the garden. (The same Hebrew word ‘abad’ is translated as ‘keep’ and ‘till’.) Genesis 2:5 tells us, “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and THERE WAS NOT A MAN TO TILL THE GROUND.” It seems that when the Lord created the earth, He created plants and herbs fully grown. In His instructions to man, the Lord said in Genesis 1:29, “Behold, I have given you EVERY HERB BEARING SEED, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” For the plants and herbs to continue, there needed to be dressing and keeping. There needed to be someone to till the ground and to protect the plants so that these life-sustaining foods could continue to grow and produce. That was Adam’s responsibility!

If we ‘fast forward’ a little we know that Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord by partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For that, the Lord cursed the serpent, Eve, and Adam. The Lord said to Adam in Genesis 3:17-19, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Some people mistakenly think that Adam’s curse was that he now had to work. No, Adam was working before he was cursed. Not only did he dress and keep the garden, he also named every living creature (Genesis 2:20). Work is not a curse. It is good for man to be occupied with a given responsibility. Adam’s curse is that the earth was now cursed and that he would have to work very hard to grow the food that was necessary for him and Eve to survive. His work would now cause him “sorrow”. He would have to fight against thorns and thistles. He would have to work hard, which produces sweat. I can imagine that before the curse, Adam found pleasure in tending to the garden. He could see the effects of his labor as the garden flourished under his care. I imagine he enjoyed a sense of a job well done! All that changed when sin entered the garden through his (and Eve’s) disobedience. (289.4)