Summary: Man in the image of God, man in the Garden.
In Genesis 1 we saw Creation from the cosmological viewpoint of God. The expression “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth” in Genesis 2:4 links the seeming remoteness of God in the earlier account with the intimacy of the Garden, viewing Creation from man’s aspect … “in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” There is still the distinction between the earthly realm and the heavenly, even though the clause has been reversed, but God is here named Yahweh, the LORD, which is His covenant name.
Before God made man, He made the earth and the heavens (from the point of view of the non-existent observer upon the earth). He made every plant before planting it in the earth, and every herb before it grew. There was no rain, and no man to till the ground. The ground was watered by a mist or dew, which arose out of the earth.
The LORD God here “formed” man, rather than created him. It was not like in Genesis 1:1, when God made all things of nothing, but rather the taking of something He had already created - earth - and shaping it into what He wanted to make, much as the potter does with the clay. Man is of "adama" - the ground - which leaves us with a poignant reminder every time we attend a funeral: “out of dust we came, and to dust we must all return.”
Yet man became a “living soul.” In Genesis 1:21 the same word is translated as “living creature.” However, there is distinctiveness in man in that he is capable of in-breathing the spirit of God. “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
The intimacy of God’s working with man is beautifully illustrated when the LORD God plants him a garden east of Eden. Here He delicately places the man (Genesis 2:8). It is the perfect setting, and one which of course the LORD had intended all along. We are reminded that the LORD God had made every tree which is, from man’s point of view, pleasant to the sight, and good for food. And in the centre of this garden, this domain for the newly formed man, is not man himself, but the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The geographical details of Genesis 2:10-14 serve to authenticate the historicity of this chapter, if we will but receive it. We have one real man, the representative head of the human race and the father of us all, in a real garden at a real point in time. If not then the whole argument of Romans 5:12-21 falls flat; and Jesus Christ, the new representative head of the human race, the last Adam, has died for nothing!
So the LORD God took the man, and put him in the garden. Having already introduced the ordinance of the Sabbath, He now introduces the ordinance of work. Created in the image of God, one part of that image is found in man’s creativity, and his capacity also to look after that which God has created.
Again attention is drawn to the trees of the garden. Man is given a command whereby he may eat what he will, with the exception of but one tree in the midst of the garden. When this instruction was given, man was still alone. Can he keep just one divine commandment? Can we?
There now remains just one thing “not good” about God’s creation. Genesis 2 is doubtless in the midst of the sixth day of the creation cycle of Genesis 1. Before it is “all very good,” one thing must be resolved: “It is not good for man to be alone.” The LORD will make a help meet for man, literally a “helper like opposite him.” Created in the image of God, man craves such companionship as exists within the Trinity. Even those who are called to the single life need the security of community.
There is another job for man whereby he exercises his dominion over the creatures by naming them. Man the botanist is now man the zoologist. As the animals no doubt paired off and left the man - just as surely as they would pair up again in another age and enter the ark - man would have known that he will not find the type of fellowship he requires amongst them.
So the LORD God gave man an anaesthetic and set to work on the first medical operation of history. He extracted just one of man’s ribs, and created the woman. Then, as the Father of the bride, the LORD God presented her to the man.