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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-25

Genesis 2:1. By host is meant, not the angels, as some have thought, but the starry heavens. Psalms 33:6.

Genesis 2:2. On the seventh day God ended his work. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads, the sixth day. The variation is accounted for by the variation in reckoning the hours at which the sabbath began. On the sabbath, see Ezekiel 20:12; Ezekiel 20:20.

Genesis 2:6. A mist watered the whole face of the ground, the rainy season of the climate not being then come. Deuteronomy 11:14.

Genesis 2:7. And man became a living soul. The Hebrew is חיים chajaim, souls, lives, &c., designating the ever-living spirit which is in man. It is applied to all the living beings of the creation. Genesis 1:20.

נשׁמה neshomah is another name for the soul, designating its intellectual powers, which elevate it above the brute creation. Deuteronomy 20:16. Job 27:3. The word is derived from shemaim, heaven, because the soul came from God, and is heavenly and divine in its nature: for this reason, the name is never given to the brutes, but is restricted solely to man.

נפשׁ nephesh is the third and common name given to the soul in the Hebrew Scriptures, and is applied to the brute creation, as possessing a kind of vegetative life to grow and increase. Genesis 1:24.

רוח ruach, he breathed, is a fourth name given to the soul, because like wind it moves in all the actions of life, and is endowed with all the sensations, the instinct, and sagacity of the animal world.

But the fifth and most excellent name given to the soul is Jechida; that is, ONE, simple in essence, and uncomposed in structure: on this account, like neshomah, it is never given to the brute creation, but is wholly appropriate to man.

Genesis 2:8. Eden; that is, paradise, pleasure, delight.

Genesis 2:9. The tree of life also he put in the midst of the garden. The rabbins, and apparently in succession, affirm, that this tree of life was the vine! But they fail to say whether their assertions are founded on tradition, on revelation, or on their own imagination.

Genesis 2:11. The name of the first river is Pison. Josephus, who is followed by St. Jerome, calls this the Gangès, the greatest river of Asia. “He filleth all things with wisdom, as Phison and the Tigris, in the time of new fruits.” Sir 24:25 . This river forms the boundary of the ancient land of Havilah, son of Cush. Genesis 10:7. Its most valued productions in the time of Moses were gold and precious stones. Geology confirms this account, that in various parts of Asia there are extensive veins of yellow earth, abounding with grains of gold. The bdellium is the lachrymæ pellucidæ, or waterdrop of Pliny, and of Haüy, a celebrated naturalist of France. The onyx-stone is a gem of the chalcedony class, of a dark colour, with beautiful variegations.

Genesis 2:13. The second river is Gihon, the Nile, whose sources are in Ethiopia, and whose western branch drains the centre of Africa.

Genesis 2:14. The third river Hiddekel, the ancient name of the Tigris, which joins the Euphrates above the ruins of the ancient city of Bassora. It is called the Irack in the Arabic, no doubt from the city of Erech. Genesis 10:10.

The fourth river is the Euphrates, called the Parach in Hebrew, to designate the fertility of its vales. What can we infer from the wide extent of these four rivers, but that Moses regarded the whole earth as a paradise, and Eden as the favoured spot, the first abode of man?

Genesis 2:16. Of every tree, &c. Dr. Anselm Bayly, in his Hebrew Grammar, prefers reading, “Of the fruits of all the trees of the garden, thou mayest eat, except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Genesis 2:23. Woman, the abbreviate of wombman: so is the etymon of Verstegan, a learned German, who flourished in London more than two centuries ago. The Hebrew Ishah, designates woman-wife, or female. She was made of Adam’s substance, that he might cherish her as his own flesh. What delightful sentiments must have inspired his breast to see the mother of all living sleeping by his side. Milton puts these words into his mouth;

Oh fairest of Creation, last and best

Of all God’s works; creature in whom excelled

Whatever can to sight or thought be formed;

Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet.

Awake, My fairest, my espoused, my latest friend,

Heaven’s last best gift, my ever new delight, Awake.

Genesis 2:24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife. The woman being flesh and bone of the man before her formation, remains so after marriage. She is his friend, his consort, his wife till death. The marriage covenant had its origin in paradise. Nothing but adultery can fully vitiate it, and nothing but death can dissolve it. Romans 7:1-2. A man does not divorce his limbs, except when menaced with mortality, and he treats his sight and his hearing with delicacy when they become dull. So he should treat his wife in times of affliction, for she is still the wife of his bosom; and “the Lord hates putting away.”


On a calm review of this wonderful chapter, containing a portrait of man in a state of innocence, we see that the Creator’s first care was over the moral happiness of our first parents. “He gave them knowledge, and the law of life for an heritage.” He gave them a covenant surpassing in excellence all that has come down to us. He gave them his sabbaths, as a sign of that covenant. Let posterity then regard the day as the hallowed pledge of immortality and eternal rest. And if the sabbath was so glorious in a state of innocence, how gratefully should we now value and improve it, as the best institution of heaven, to aid our fallen nature in regaining our pristine felicity.

We learn that God having given man a body far surpassing that of the beasts, and allied him by knowledge and holiness to angels, he should not be the slave of passion, of appetite, and of animal delights; but cherish sentiments becoming the dignity of his nature, and all the adoration he owes to his Maker.

The cares of heaven over the body of man are not less conspicuous than those which regarded his mind. God placed him in a garden full of fruits, enjoining only the mild and salubrious efforts of labour to dress and keep it. The same gracious and ever-living Father will still bless our efforts of labour with bread to eat and raiment to wear.

But did the Lord give one restriction to Adam, not to touch the forbidden tree, not to taste of its fruits? This was surely no severe prohibition, especially when he had a paradise of the most delicious fruits. Let us therefore learn to revere and obey the law to the utmost of our power; and at the same time be fully aware, that whatever vice is forbidden, the opposite virtue is enjoined. We must not kill, but love our neighbour.

How high and holy is the marriage state! The Lord honoured the first marriage by his presence at the nuptials. It is strengthened by the daily interchange of good offices, and returns of mutual love; by the increase of lovely children, which win and gain the parents’ affections, as the hopes of future life, and the comfort of their declining years. The man and his wife so joined are as one soul in two different bodies, and their union is a figure of Christ and the church, which he has loved, and washed in his own blood. Surely, bonds so sacred should never be defiled; for fornicators and adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-2.html. 1835.
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