Throughout the history of the Church, and I’d even say today also, most people have viewed Eden as a Mesopotamian farm, and since it’s viewed as a farm, most people view Adam as a farmer.
Here’s a few quotes to show you this. Henry Morris said, “Adam was instructed merely to till the ground in the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and keep it.” Similarly John Calvin said, “…the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation.” Martin Luther agreed and said Adam received a twofold duty “…to work or cultivate this garden and, furthermore, to watch and guard it.” Is this really the intent of the passage? Is Adam merely a farmer? Many people have understood such a meaning from Genesis 1-3 and deduced a simple work-ethic. That man working is a pre-fall activity, therefore work is good. What’s the problem with this? It interprets Scripture without a view to Christ, and if you’ve seen anything so far in this seminar it is that we should interpret all of Scripture with a view to Christ.
Therefore, it is my opinion that Adam wasn’t merely a farmer but rather, he was the first priest who labored in the first temple. I hold this opinion because I believe the text of Genesis 1-3 teaches this in two ways. First, in the features of the garden, and second, in the activity of Adam.
a) Features of the Garden:
Eastward Location: Genesis 2:8 mentions that God planted a garden in Eden, specifically placing it in the east. The eastward direction is important when it comes to Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning God’s presence in His temple. Ezek. 11:1 Ezekiel is brought to the east side of the temple, and in Ezek. 11:23 it says Ezekiel watched the glory of the Lord depart to the east. Years later in Ezek. 43:1-4 it mentions Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the temple through the eastern gate. If Eden was the first temple, it would make sense to see the garden within Eden as the holy of holies and the garden as a whole as the rest of the first temple.
On a Mountain Top: there is no explicit statement in Genesis 1-3 that the garden in the east of Eden was higher in elevation than the surrounding land, but there are clues that tell us this very thing, and further passages of Scripture that make this important. Genesis 2:10 states that a river flowed out of Eden, and knowing that rivers flow from high elevations to lower elevations, downstream, is further evidence that Eden sat on a mountaintop. Throughout Scripture there are many references to God’s temple and God dwelling on top of mountains. In a judgment against the nation of Tyre, Ezekiel rebukes them in Ezekiel 28:14, “You were on the holy mountain of God.” God made His presence known on top of Mt. Horeb (Ex. 3:1), Sinai (Ex. 18:5), Mt. Zion (Ps. 48:1-2), and the Mount of transfiguration in the gospels. Hebrews 12:22 mentions that we have come to mount Zion, the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. And lastly in Revelation 21 we see the holy city Jerusalem, a great and high mountain, coming down out of heaven from God. Taking all this together, Scripture makes an important connection between God’s presence in His temple, and the temple’s location being atop mountains. Because a river flowed out of Eden means it was on top of a mountain, and is further evidence that Eden itself was the first temple.
The River of Eden: Also, that a river flowed out of Eden in Genesis 2:10 means much to indicate Eden as the first temple. Psalm 46:4 mentions the connection between the presence of rivers or water and temples. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Also, a river flows out of the temple Ezekiel saw in Ezek. 47:1, healing everything it touched in Ezek. 47:8. It would make sense with the rest of Scripture that God’s presence is likened to moving waters that bring healing because in Jeremiah 2:13 God is called “the fountain of living water.” Joel 3:18 and Zechariah 14:8 mention that “a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.” John’s vision at the end of Revelation (22:1) also shows “a river, with crystal clear water, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.” Lastly, Jesus Himself mentions that when one has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of him that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38-39). All this is evidence that Eden was the first mountain top throne or temple, because a river flowed out of it.
The Trees of the Garden: in Genesis 2:9 we learn there were trees in the garden, which would make sense if it was the first temple because trees have always had a place, and will always have a place in God’s presence. They were present in Eden, they were present in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-39), they were present in Solomon’s temple in the form of drawings of palm trees (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18), they were present in all of Ezekiel’s visions of the temple (Ezek. 31:8-9, 41:18-26, 47:12), and they are going to be present in the new heavens and new earth, the temple that will descend from the throne of God. Psalm 1 also gives us the image that the trees in glory won’t be actual trees like the earthly temples but will be the saints themselves which are likened as trees that drink deeply from the river of life in Psalm 1.
Precious Stones and Metal: Genesis 2:10-14 also records that there were precious gems in the garden as well. There was gold and onyx in the garden temple, and the only other places precious gems show up in Scripture is always in reference to a temple. There was gold, onyx, sardius, topaz, diamonds, beryl, jasper, sapphires, emeralds, and carbuncle in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 28), and the only other place this shows up is in the John’s vision of the new temple in Revelation 21:18-20 where we see gems on a high mountain of jasper, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethysts.
The Cherubim: in Genesis 3:24 it states that cherubim were placed at the east entrance of the garden to block Adam and Eve’s way back in. Cherubim are only mentioned in Scripture in relation to temples. Moses had them craft two cherubim to sit on top of the ark as well as weaved into the fabric of the veil (Ex. 26:31). In Solomon’s temple two cherubim guarded the inner sanctuary (1 Kings 6:23-28). In Ezekiel’s visions cherubim played a prominent role in the temple as anointed guards (Ezek. 28:14). And when Jesus was killed on the cross what tore in two? The veil, which was blocking the way into the holy of holies in the temple, on which were woven images of cherubim (Matt. 27:51). All this to say, that cherubim were present guarding the garden, means the garden is more than a Mesopotamian farm, it was indeed the first temple, the first holy of holies.