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Bible verses about Dress and Keep
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:26

To environmentalists, letting man have dominion over the animals and being told to subdue the earth means that God gives man free rein to do anything he wants to the planet—bend it to his uses and abuses, rape it of all its beauty and diversity—for his own benefit. "Does not the land have any rights?" they cry. "What about the plants and animals, birds and fish? What gives us the right to mine and burn and kill without care for nature?"

Certainly, God did not give man the authority to degrade and destroy His earth. Environmentalists are correct in saying that mankind should consider and address environmental concerns. They are quite wrong, however, to blame God for the earth's ecological problems; He is not responsible for man's destruction of the natural world.

To think that God gave man carte blanche to plunder and destroy the earth is simply ludicrous. He is its Creator! Why would He immediately command Adam to ruin it? Would any woodworker, upon just finishing a beautifully stained piece of furniture, tell his son to break it up for firewood? No! Just as God desires for His creation, the woodworker would put his handiwork to use and also care for it by keeping it waxed and dusted to prolong its life.

This is exactly what God told Adam. Genesis 2 contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God's expanded instruction: "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it" (verse 15). This greatly modifies the force of "have dominion" and "subdue it" from Genesis 1:26, 28!

Tend (Hebrew 'abad) means "to work or serve," and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate." It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV's choice in its translation: "dress," implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.

Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over." In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of," "guard," or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.

To Noah, God gives a similar command after the Flood:

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. (Genesis 9:1-2)

Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

Genesis 2:15

The Garden of Eden was the environment that God created for a relationship with Him to take place. Adam and Eve's responsibility was to dress and keep it. They were put there, not to do nothing, not just to pluck fruit off a tree, not even merely to receive eternal life, but to take care of the Garden.

Dress means "to embellish." This may seem a little strange, but Adam and Eve were to take care of it so well that it would become better than it was when God gave it to them. We like to think of the Garden as being a place of absolute and perfect beauty. Instead, since God told them to "dress and keep it," it seems that it was not complete. It had only been started. What He had done was certainly beautiful, but He wanted them to carry on and finish it.

Keep means "to guard" or "to preserve." If they did not work to dress the Garden, God is telling them, it would deteriorate. That is the way of all things physical, they degenerate if they are not maintained and taken care of.

There are spiritual lessons here. We have been invited into a relationship with God. Like any relationship, it must be worked on to make it increasingly tighter and more productive. We are to "dress and to keep" the relationship. We are not in the Garden, certainly, but we are in the relationship. To do this, we must use and grow in the Holy Spirit. The relationship is the key to accomplishing this. If there is no relationship, there is no Holy Spirit working in and with us, no chance that we will ever grow in the Spirit, and no way we can be close to God. The relationship is the key.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Genesis 2:15

In verse 15, God clarifies why he gave man powers. At first glance, it only appears to cover what is physical and material, but with God's spiritual revelation and other scriptures, it carries far greater implication.

In the King James Version, the word meaning "tend" or "cultivate" is dress. The Hebrew means "to work at." In 1611, when the King James was translated, the word dress meant "to set in order," but gradually, it was applied to applying decorative details, "to embellish."

Today, when we say that we are going to dress, we include both parts of that definition. We put ourselves in order and embellish how we look.

In modern Bibles, “dress” has been translated "tend" or "cultivate." They have subtle meanings that are slightly different from "dress." Tend means "to pay attention to" or "to serve." For example, “I am going to tend to the dishes.” It means "to apply oneself to the care of" or "to manage the operations of."

Cultivate, which is the best of the three definitions, means "to put through a finishing process," "to foster the growth of," or "to further or encourage." Neither "dress" or "tend" is wrong, but "cultivate" most accurately applies the Hebrew meaning of the original word.

There is the word "keep" as well. We are to "dress and keep." Keep means to "guard," "preserve," "be faithful to," and "maintain."

God has given man powers to carry out the responsibility that has been given into his hands: to have dominion. Man must do the following: Put what has been placed into his hands through a finishing process, watch over it, guard it, protect it, and preserve its beauty.

This was all given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a beautiful place. God let them and us know that, as beautiful as the Garden was, it would not stay that way. It was subject to natural law and would degenerate. The Garden would need to be maintained, cultivated, dressed, and kept, requiring a great deal of work. Man was not only to preserve, control, and direct it, but also to strive even to ennoble the Garden of Eden through work.

It begins to become clear that God intends mankind to make more of his environment than he has been given. God has given the powers to do that. We are to understand this not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

Here in Genesis, God has shown the fact that a person works, the reason why he works, and the way he works all have a great deal to do with his spiritual development. It is important to note the difference between "salvation" and "development." We are saved by grace. But if there is going to be development from where God begins whenever we first receive His Spirit, then it requires something on our part to enable the fullness of development to take place. That involves work.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Genesis 3:17-19

Some commentators make a great deal out of the fact that God addresses this curse to adam rather than to "the man" (ish in Hebrew), seeing this as proof that this curse was to fall on all mankind. This semantic argument means very little in the end, since both ish, the man named Adam, and adam, mankind, received the effects of the curse, just as both Eve and all other women have suffered from her curse.

English-speaking peoples have a saying that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." God, of course, understood this, and thus His curse on Adam centers on eating. In fact, eating is a major theme of the first three chapters of Genesis (see 1:29-30; 2:9, 15-17; 3:1-6, 11-13).

Eating, however, stands for more than simply nourishing the body; it is one small part of mankind's daily struggle to survive his hostile environment, planet earth. The Garden of Eden was a place where man's work "to tend and keep" what God had made was pleasurable, fulfilling, and probably not overly strenuous. The earth worked with the man to produce his needs for food, clothing, shelter, and whatever other need he might have.

Once God pronounced his curse, though, the ground—from which comes all material wealth and produce—turned uncooperative. Instead of man and nature united in productive labor, the situation became man versus nature, a competition for dominance. Now, man would have to use all his physical and mental powers to subdue the earth.

The earth would yield its fruit only after a man forced it through hard labor in plowing, planting, watering, cultivating, and reaping. Animals from insects to deer to wolves, fearful of man, would become pests and destroy his crops, herds, possessions and even his life on occasion. Materials for building homes, crafting tools, making clothing, and manufacturing items would be gathered only by raping the land of minerals, metals, wood, and stone.

The earth would protest through natural processes like earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, wildfires, erosion, and infertility. Denuded of trees, the land would become a desert. The weather would turn foul, sending too much or too little rain. Windstorms like hurricanes and tornadoes would devastate vast stretches of territory. The sun would beat down mercilessly or withhold its heat for long stretches.

Such was the situation Adam and Eve faced after God drove them from the Garden of Eden. For six thousand years all their descendants have struggled to survive the harsh conditions of life separated from God and in competition with nature. Surely it has affected their eating, but it has also had an impact on every other endeavor of mankind—from breaking horses for riding to blasting satellites into orbit. Men accomplish nothing except by the toil of hard work and overcoming the obstacles the environment places in their way.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 9:1-2

Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

1 Chronicles 28:9

We must make an effort to "dress and keep" our relationship with God. Despite all that He does as aspects of His grace and favor toward us, in giving us whatever gifts we need to submit to and obey Him, we still have a function in this. We see here that one of the functions is to seek Him.

Here is a flat-out promise that if we do seek Him, He will be found of us. Keep in mind that this promise does not apply to just anyone. It does not happen just because a person thinks to seek God. This promise is made to those who have already made the covenant with Him. They have already been invited by God into it, which is the position Solomon was in. He had already made the covenant with God, as had David. We have to consider this as though David were speaking directly to us.

If we seek Him for the purpose of drawing near to Him, He will be found of us since He has already invited us to draw near to Him by calling us. This reveals a spiritual principle. These things always spring from God's initiative, for He is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler. We can thus take advantage of His invitation and come before Him at any time. It is, frankly, our responsibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Psalm 8:6-8

This dominion does not give mankind the right to destroy God's creation. Man is to act responsibly, but unfortunately, this does not happen very often in this world. Animals are tortured, rivers and seas are fouled, whole areas are devastated of plant and animal life to fill the coffers of big business.

In Genesis 2:15, God tells Adam and Eve to "tend and keep" the Garden of Eden. They were to take what God had made and work to maintain it and help it to produce. They could harvest its bounty and eat of its fruit. Certainly, God allowed certain trees to be cut for their wood, and certain animals could be killed for their meat. In no way, however, was any part of His creation to be equated with man or to be worshipped.

Mike Ford
Animal Idolatry


 

Matthew 27:50-51

Consider the general layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. Both basically were the same. As one approached its front, the first object encountered would be the altar of sacrifice, the brazen alter by which atonement was made. The Hebrew word translated as atonement means "by which we draw near." In other words, by sacrifice, represented by the brazen altar, we draw near to God, seeking Him.

After the brazen altar comes the laver. It could be described as being like a big bathtub. Here a person was to wash himself before proceeding any farther.

Once inside the sanctuary, light came from the candelabra, representing Christ as the Light of the World, as well as the light of God's truth spread from activity of the seven churches.

On the table was the shewbread, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. Directly in front of one who entered the Holy Place, past the table of shewbread, stood the altar of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Barring one's way into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, was the veil. Once behind it, a person would be before the Mercy Seat, in the very presence of God.

The veil being torn apart at Christ's death symbolizes that a personal relationship with God can be established. The way had been opened by the sacrificial death of our Savior. This intimate relationship with God is the key to our being transformed from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18).

If we cannot enter God's presence, if we are far away, there is not much hope of transformation. This is why the Bible so frequently urges us to seek God. Seeking God is part of "dressing and keeping" the relationship, helping it to grow. This close relationship is vital to increasing the Holy Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Breaking the laws of physical health, such as lack of exercise and rest, injuring and abusing the body, unhygienic practices and poor nutrition, may also produce spiritual effects. Neglecting one's body, Paul says, is a sin of defiling what is holy, and God will punish for it. With an important addition, he repeats this three chapters later in I Corinthians 6:19-20, where he also ties in Christ's redemptive sacrifice for us. These types of sins are also forgiven. Our Savior's gift of His life covers it all!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 Corinthians 6:13-15

Maintaining good physical health is a stewardship responsibility that comes with our calling. We owe this obligation to our Creator God just as surely as we have spiritual responsibilities toward Him. We may deem these physical responsibilities as less important, but that does not nullify them.

Paul uses "body" in a dual sense, as both the spiritual body—the church—and the physical body of each member. Sin works to destroy both, and God did not create us to sin.

The sin here is fornication, porneia, which includes a broad range of sexual sins that pervert the right, godly use of sex. Paul uses it to illustrate sin's destructiveness. Sin is somewhat like junk food: It may "taste" good to the senses for a while, but before it is through, it will come back and harm us with its destructive properties. Junk food may taste good going down, but all the while, it is depriving the body of life-giving nutrients it needs to be truly strong.

In Genesis 1:28, God gave mankind dominion and responsibility to rule over His creation. Our own lives and bodies are the closest and most specific areas of God's creation over which we are to rule. In Genesis 2:15, God commands us to dress and keep His creation, giving us more specific direction in this obligation. To dress and keep means we are to beautify, enhance, embellish, and improve the raw product, along with maintaining it and inhibiting its decay and degeneration. In Genesis 4:7, God admonishes Cain—and us in principle—that a desire to go contrary to God's desires will always be part of this mix. Sin lies at the door, He warns, but we must master it. In essence, we must stir up the spirit in us to discipline ourselves. In combining these major principles, we can see that God means our major areas of operation in His purpose are those closest to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

2 Corinthians 6:16-18

This principle clearly covers the care of our bodies. In an overall sense, our stewardship is not merely to labor not to destroy the established relationship but to improve it. Good health is extremely valuable. Even though one can overcome poor health in one's vanity, of greater importance is that good health promotes the strengthening of the relationship. This is so because it is bound within the sanctification process. It is tied directly to growing, overcoming, purifying one's life, avoiding the pitfalls of life, living the abundant life, as well as to our witness before the world in glorifying God.

We can undertake a great deal of serious effort in keeping ourselves from committing sins like idolatry, fornication, adultery, lying, or stealing, while virtually ignoring the physical care of the body itself. Oftentimes, we do this by being ignorant of the responsibility or foolishly thinking that maintaining or improving our health is of little concern. The younger among us may find it helpful to ask someone older—one whose health is deteriorating or who has had to deal with poor health much of his life—how important having good health throughout life is. In no way should this reduce our efforts to overcome spiritual weaknesses, but it should encourage us to add another area of overcoming that will glorify God.

Genesis 2:15 says, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it." Dressing and keeping is an overall responsibility for everyone in what we are to do with life. It applies to life's spiritual and physical aspects. We are to begin where we are and cultivate, embellish, and encourage growth, while at the same time preserving, guarding, and protecting through maintenance from decay and deterioration.

A direct line connects this concept and Jesus' instruction in the Parable of the Unjust Steward. The spiritual level is more important, but God wants faithfulness in the physical level also because both are inextricably bound in yielding to Him in the building of character. Both require study, meditation, and setting goals, as well as consistent, faithful application. We do both to glorify Him.

Unfortunately, some will not do what is necessary for success, perhaps because of ignorance of their responsibility. Others know but lack the character or the sense of responsibility. Some spend their time rationalizing and justifying the way they are or proclaim to themselves and others that they are victims of the system and have no way out. Nevertheless, God is in heaven, and He is the way out.

Eating is a major part of life, as substantiated by the Bible's 700 references to it. The abundant life that Jesus proclaims He wants all to lead hinges upon what we eat spiritually and physically. We must make a major effort to feed our minds and bodies with the best nutrition available, if we desire good spiritual and physical health.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)


 

Hebrews 1:10-12

Here, stated in a simple form, is the second law of thermodynamics. The whole creation is slowly running down. God has built a certain amount of entropy into the system, which, if not managed through the constant operations of dressing and keeping, will bring it to a state of disorganization. The Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary defines entropy as "the irreversible tendency of a system, including the universe, toward increasing disorder and inertness." The principle is that neglect of natural things is destructive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Revelation 11:18

According to these angels, part of the reason for Christ's return is to pass judgment on those who have polluted, defiled, and marred God's creation! God has great patience, but by that time He will have seen enough of man's blatant disregard for the work of His hands. He will strike with a vengeance that mankind has never before even imagined (Matthew 24:21-22), and the guilty will pay with their lives.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

 




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