Once upon a time, in the very beginning of our world, the great Creator God made the heavens and the earth. The earth was misshapen and unformed, and the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the waters. The great Creator created all things in just six days, beginning with light on the first day. On the second day, the Creator separated the waters above the heavens from the waters below the heavens. The third day, He separated the waters again, this time dividing the waters with dry land. Once the land was established, the Creator God showed His kindness by covering the land with grass, with herbs, and with fruit-bearing trees. On the fourth day, the true God created rulers for the day and for the night, these rulers being the sun and moon respectively. The stars in the sky—the heavenly host—were also created on the fourth day. And on the day of their creation, this great angelic host shouted and sang for joy (Job 38:7). The morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for their joy. On the fifth day, the Creator fashioned creatures above for the sky, and creatures below for the great deeps. In the sky, He created birds to fly above the earth, and He also created all the fish of the sea. In addition to the multitude of fish, He created great sea serpents. On the sixth day, the last day of creation, the Creator God made all the beasts of the earth. And then, as the crowning work of all He had done, He created Man out of the dust of the ground.
At the end of each day, the Creator pronounced in His wisdom that what He had done was good. Everything He made was very good, but one of the best things He came to make was an enclosed garden at the very top of a mountain. This garden was east of a land called Eden, and was situated as a high mountain sanctuary. The Creator had already made Man out of the dust of the ground that was east of this garden of Eden, which in its turn was east of the land of Eden. After He had created Man, the Lord God planted this garden, and appointed Man to dress it and keep it. In the garden, the Lord had caused every pleasant and good tree to grow. All the trees that were pleasant to see were growing there, and all the trees that were good for food. When He placed Man in the garden, the Creator generously told him that he could eat from any tree there, with just one exception.
Four rivers originated in this garden—but they started as one river. But from this point of origin, that river soon divided into four. Two of them were called the Pishon and the Gihon, which no longer exist, and the Tigris and the Euphrates, which are still flowing. The Pishon flowed down through the land of Havilah, which we now know as Arabia. Precious stones were found in Havilah—gold, onyx and bdellium. The bdellium was white, like the color of manna (Num. 11:7), and to this day God promises to give the white stone, the hidden manna, to the one who overcomes through faith in Him (Rev. 2:17). The Gihon flowed through Cush, better known as Ethiopia. The Tigris flows through Assyria, and the Euphrates through Syria and Babylon. The shape of this entire region was drastically altered by the Flood, but we can still see remnants of what used to be there.
We know that the garden of Eden was on a mountain for several reasons—first, we should rememember that water flows downhill. This is really the only satisfactory way to explain one river turning into four. But the second reason is more direct. Later in the great story of our salvation, when God is speaking to the king of Tyre, and to the winged bull behind that king’s throne and power, God declares that the king had been in Eden, in the garden of God, on the holy mountain of God (Ez. 28:13-14).
And God called our father Man. We have already seen that the Creator God declared that everything He had made was very good—but even good things need to be tended. The garden that the Lord was going to plant needed a lord, someone who would serve as a steward of all the beautiful things God would place there. And so on the last day of the creation, God fashioned that someone in His own image out of the dust of the ground. When He had done this, God named him Man. In the Hebrew language, we would call him Adam. The Creator did this with the express intention of giving Man dominion over everything on earth, everything in the seas, and everything in the air. This meant that Man was to look at how the Lord planted the garden for him, and then he was supposed to tend and extend that garden throughout the whole earth. He had to protect the garden first, and keep it, but then, having protected it, he was responsible to exercise dominion throughout the whole world. The Creator wanted the whole world to become a garden like this first garden, and he wanted Man to do this work. And despite the tragic turn that sin brought to our story, the Creator has never abandoned this goal of turning the whole world into a garden/city.
The beasts of the field and the great creatures of the sea were all able to multiply. Man was responsible to exercise dominion over them all, but he was just a solitary man. There was no way for him to do this. How would he keep up with them all?
Now the Creator God was finished creating Man, and had placed him in the garden, and had given him all the trees (except for one) for food. That one tree was deadly, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Creator told Man that the day he ate from it would be the day that he died. Now the Creator Himself knew good from evil, and it is likely that Man would be able to eat even from that tree when the Lord finally granted him permission. But at the beginning, it was important for Man to follow his instructions carefully, and to refuse even to consider eating from that tree.
Now the Creator saw that it was not good for Man to live as a solitary being, without the companionship of someone like him. If Man was created in the image of God, and if God had an image, then Man needed an “image” as well. Moreover, Man was not able to be fruitful and multiply without such a companion. And so, the Creator put Man to work in naming all the animals of the garden. The Lord would form different animals from the ground, just has He had done with Man, and He would bring those animals to Man. As the Lord did this, Man would name them, and whatever name he gave, that was the name that creature would bear. But Man was not just naming. By doing this, it soon became apparent that among the animals, there was no one that Man could marry, no one for Man to give his name to. The other animals all had their suitable companions, but Man did not. The Creator would not make a companion for Man out of the dust of the ground. This companion must be closer than that. The bond must be the closest imaginable.
And so the Creator caused Man to fall into a death-like coma. While he was in this deep sleep, the Creator took a rib from Man’s side, closed up the place again, and created a suitable companion for him from that rib. Man had been taken from the earth, but woman was taken from the side of Man. And ever since that time, every man and every woman has been born from woman. So Man was the mother of Woman, so that women might become the mothers of men. When Man awoke from his coma, the Lord brought his bride to him, and the Creator told him how she had been made. Overjoyed with this gift, Man spoke the first poem, and in it he named his wife Ishshah—because she had been taken out of his side. From this place, she was bone of his bone, flesh of his own flesh. And this is why, down to this day, a man leaves his home, leaves his father and mother, joins himself to his wife and they become one flesh. Because one Man and one woman were once one flesh, a man is to leave his father and mother, seek out a woman to be his true companion, that he might become one flesh with her. Everything about this beautiful story was now perfect.
But one of the great celestial creatures that the Creator had made was the seraph. Of these great seraphim, one of them had become filled with craft and guile, and had fallen from his heavenly estate. We have many names for these fallen seraphim, but they include dragon, serpent, and worm. Centuries later, such flying serpents afflicted the children of Israel in the wilderness until a servant of God named Moses made a bronze figure of one impaled on a pole, and lifted it up so that the children of Isael could by faith see the ultimate destruction of their enemy.
The first book of the Bible calls this creature a serpent. The last book of the Bible calls him a great dragon (Rev. 12:9). That great dragon, the ancient serpent, is called the Devil, or Satan. He has been a murderer from the very beginning, and has been the enemy of our souls for all these long years. This dragon, full of hatred and guile, came into the garden where Man and Ishshah were living, and decided to lure them into an ungrateful disobedience of the Creator. In accordance with his lying nature, he did this with craft and great subtlty.
There were two important trees in the garden. The Creator did not expect Man to work as a slave, but rather as a faithful steward. Man had every right to receive his life from the garden he was tending. In fact, the Creator God told him that he could eat from all the trees in the garden (and there must have been very many), with only one exception. The Creator had even said that Man was free to eat from the Tree of Life—which was his life. The only tree that was prohibited was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
But the Creator had given Man his instructions about these trees before Ishshah had been created. The Creator said that Man would die if he ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. And so this is why the lying dragon decided to begin his wiles with Ishshah. But Man had known the Creator’s will firsthand, and yet he just stood by while the dragon twisted the requirements of the Creator, ever so slightly. And while the difference in wording was slight, the difference resulted in a slander of the Creator God’s character. The dragon began by asking if it was true that the Lord had prohibited them from eating from every tree in the garden. Now between the sentences you may eat from all the trees but one and you may not eat from any tree is a vast difference. But this dragon is the father of all liars, and this is how succesful lies go. Words are twisted, and it appears that the twisting is slight, but the meaning of the words is entirely reversed. In this case, the twisting of the words meant that the Creator was abundant in creating, but stingy in sharing what He had made.
Ishshah answered the serpent, and it is telling that although she corrected him, the leaven of lies was already at work in her. She did not represent the actual requirement either. She said that the Creator had said, you shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the Creator had said nothing about touching it. And this is where the serpent showed his true defiance of the Creator’s will by contradicting Him directly. You will not die, he said.
And when Ishshah saw that the tree was good for food, just like the other trees in the garden, and when she saw that it was pleasant to the eyes, like the other fruit trees, and that it was desired to make one wise, which was not true of the other trees, she took and she ate. She fell from gratitude for the world into love for the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16-17).
While she stumbled into this great deception, Man just stood there passively. This was a great evil, for Man had been created to protect and tend the garden. His central priestly duty to protect the sanctuary was where Man failed, and this is where he fell. And when he fell, because his name was Man, all men and all women and all children fell into sin when he did. And this is why we live in a world that has so much darkness in it still—even thousands of years after the second Man lived, died, and rose again. So, Ishshah took the forbidden fruit, and then, when she apparently did not die that very moment, she gave it to Man and he ate as well.
But the cool of the day was coming. After their sin, Man and Ishshah knew that they were naked, and so they made aprons from fig leaves to cover themselves. The mystery of guilt was already at work. Now in the cool of the day, it was the Lord’s custom to come and walk in the garden with Man. But on this day, when Man heard the voice of the Lord approaching, he and his wife tried to hide because of their shame. Sin always pretends to be daring and bold, but sin is a coward and sin always hides.
But the Lord found them out, as He always does, and He quickly pronounced sentence upon them all. He started with the dragon, promising that the dragon would be slain, his head crushed. This is why throughout the story of our salvation, the enemies of God so frequently die because their heads were crushed. So the dragon’s head would eventually be crushed by the seed of the woman—Ishshah would come to have her revenge upon him. This revenge would come in the person of a great Dragonslayer, born of a woman, born under the law, who would kill the dragon.
But still, Ishshah had sinned grievously, and the Creator God determined that all her daughters would suffer greatly in childbirth, and in their unfulfillable desires to rule in marriage. And Man, the one responsible for his failure to protect his wife, was cursed in his daily livelihood, and the whole created order was bent in order to become a burden to Man, and to all his sons. But even though the process of exercising dominion now lay under a curse, the assigned task of exercising dominion was not removed or altered. The whole world must still become a garden/city, but now the process would be attended by many generations of blood, sweat and tears.
The Creator God now determined that Man and Ishshah must be kept from a second tree—the Tree of Life. If they were to eat from this tree in their fallen condition, their situation would be beyond remedy. But because the Creator had promised a remedy, He had to drive them from the garden, and so He banished them from the east gate. When they were turned out into the world, the Creator God placed some terrifying winged bulls, and a flaming sword to keep the children of Man far away from the Tree of Life. And from that time to this, no man has ever found his own way back to that Tree.
But we do know, according to the promise, that the way is West.