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B'resheet/Genesis 2:5 ... because the L-RD G-d had not caused rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil.
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Close to the beginning of the second account of creation, this text explains why - as yet - there were no trees and vegetation on the earth. The first phrase addresses the biological reason: there was no water to enable any vegetation to grow. The verb , a 3ms Hif'il affix from the root "to have or make rain fall", "to let or have it rain" (Holladay) - is probably best translated as causitive in this context. The verb appears with an explicit object, rain, in Isaiah's parable of the vineyard "And I will command the clouds to drop no rain on [My vineyard]" (Isaiah 5:6, JPS) and a rather different object in the story of Lot being rescued: "Then the L-RD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire" (B'resheet 19:24, NASB).
HaShem's sovereignty over the weather, the rain in particular, is acknowledged in two stanzas of the Amidah three times each day. Between Shemini Atzeret and Pesach the second stanza, "G-d's Might" acquires the phrase - "who makes the wind blow and who makes the rain descend" - while the ninth stanza, "Year of Prosperity", changes - "and give a blessing" - to - "and give dew and rain for a blessing" from sometime in the first week of December until Pesach each year. These times cover the rainy season in Israel and reflect the ancient rabbis' concern to pray for normal but needed things to happen as well as miracles; rain falling from the sky is a miracle, even if it happens every day!
The second phrase of the text offers a different and perhaps rather surprising reason for there being no trees or vegetation: there was no-one to look after it; mankind had not yet been created. Notice the word-play in the text: , "and man" and , "the soil". Both are derived from the root , "to be red, ruddy" (from where we also find , blood) and ties man clearly to the physical world. Just two verses later the narrative tells us that "the L-RD G-d formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (B'resheet 2:7, ESV) and later, after the regrettable incident with the apple and the serpent, Adam is told "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (3:9, ESV).
In between, HaShem plants a garden in the east and once man has been created, "The L-RD G-d took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (2:15, ESV). Man is to be a gardener, working the soil and looking after it. Nahum_Sarna comments that, "Agriculture is considered to be the original vocation of man, whose bond to the earth is an essential part of his being". Interestingly, the verb for "work" used in the text above and verse 15 is , which can be translated either as "work", "serve" or "worship". Clearly, throughout history, some sections of mankind have taken that too far and have started worshiping "Mother Earth" and the threads of that are still alive and well in New Age movements and, of course, the various ecological "Save the Planet" groupings.Hirsch comments, "It is deeply significant that the activity of Man mastering the earth is called 'service'. At Man's mastery over the earth he himself is directly in the service of G-d, but indirectly in the service of the earth although G-d has made him master of its uses." In the very action of serving G-d, obeying G-d's instructions to "subdue the earth and rule over it", mankind is at the very same time serving the earth by tending it, ordering it and keeping it.
In our original text, then, we have two reasons why the vegetation has not sprouted: no rain and no man. No means of growth and no-one to nurture and control that growth. There is a partnership at work here: both rain and mankind are involved to bring about the purposes of G-d. Since the rain itself is one of G-d's gifts, it seems that both man and G-d are needed to make the kingdom of G-d grow, to extend man's and so G-d's rule or mastery over the physical earth. The same principle is also at play in the work of the spiritual kingdom: man and G-d have to work together to subdue the forces of evil and nature, to spread the gospel of the kingdom by word and deed.
Rav Sha'ul picks up the same gardening and joint venture theme, when he writes to the community of believers in Corinth: "I planted, Apollos watered, but G-d gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only G-d who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labour. For we are G-d's fellow workers. You are G-d's field, G-d's building" (1 Corinthians 3:6-9, ESV). In G-d's field, Sha'ul and Apollos have been working, to plant and water the seeds, but G-d has been at work to prepare the ground, to germinate the seeds and enable growth to happen. Then Sha'ul and Apollos come in again to tend and train the plants, to hoe and weed between the rows, while G-d provides the rain and the growth. In turn, the believers in Corinth are also G-d's fellow-workers, working in other fields and buildings, to grow the kingdom of G-d. Having chosen mankind as His co-workers, although G-d occasionally intervenes in a super-natural way, much of the work of the kingdom is done by human hands as believers obey His instructions, whether for evangelism, mercy ministries, administration, teaching or church-planting. G-d quickens souls, pours out His Spirit through Yeshua and provides the master plan and vision for the whole enterprise.
So on our journey we have seen that G-d is the one who makes the rain fall and the wind blow, but we are expected to dig the soil and plant the seed. We are tied to the earth by our physicality, but in our service to G-d are elevated by Him and can help Him lift others. He chooses the fields and the crops, providing the seed and the plan, but we plant and train, hoe and weed, exercising husbandry to bring on and nurture His plants to yield the crop that He desires. Truly, it is to this that we are called!
Further Study: B'resheet 3:23; Psalm 8:3-6; Mark 16:20
Application: Are your fingers green enough? Have you been out working in the L-rd's garden recently? It's time to get the dibber and the seed packets out and plant some more seed before the weather closes in for the winter. Don't forget to bless G-d for the seed as you plant it and remember to pray for rain!
© Jonathan Allen, 2011
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