This post continues the discussion of G.K. Beale’s book, The Temple and the Church’s Mission. As we finish summarizing chapter two, we will look at Beale’s arguments for believing that Eden was a temple mountain-sanctuary. This part of Beale’s work has been especially influential on biblical scholars. Peter Gentry follows many of Beale’s conclusions about Eden as temple in the book Kingdom Through Covenant.
What is the connection between the Garden of Eden and the Temple?
The Garden of Eden was the first archetypal temple in which the first man worshipped God
What is the evidence for this?
- The Garden was a unique place of God’s presence (God “walking back and forth” cf. Genesis 3:8; Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14; 2 Samuel 7:6-7)
- The Garden was the place of the first priest
- Adam was called to “serve and guard” the Garden (Genesis 2:15) like the priests serve and guard the tabernacle (Numbers 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14)
- Adam was given a “command” in Genesis 2:16, a word often associated with serving/keeping (1 Kings 9:1; 6-7)
- Adam was also cast out of Garden (sacred space) when he sinned, indicating his role as a “priest.”
- Adam was “put” in the Garden, but the Hebrew word usually means “to rest.” Most likely, this reflects that Adam was to reflect God’s sovereign rest after working and guarding the Garden. God placed Adam was his priestly vice-regent in the Garden.
- Adam is a “priest-king” in the Garden.
- The Garden was the place of the first guarding Cherubim (cf. Genesis. 3:24; Ezekiel 28:14-16).
- The Garden was the place of the first arboreal lamp stand. The “tree of life” is a good candidate to be considered as a model for the lamp stand placed directly outside of the Holy of Holies. The lamp stand in the tabernacle and temple looked like a small, flowering tree with seven protruding branches from a central trunk, three on one side and three on the other, and one branch going straight up (Exodus 25:31-36).
- The Garden was formative for garden imagery in Israel’s temple
- Eden was the first source of water: River flowed from Eden (Genesis 2:10), and the eschatological temple has water flowing for it (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 21:1-2; Zechariah 14:8-9) .
- The Garden was a place of precious stones (Cf. Genesis 2:12; 1 Kings 6:20-22; Exodus 25:11-39; 25:7; 28:9-12; 1 Chronicles 29:2).
- The Garden was the place of the first mountain (Ezekiel 28:14, 16; Exodus 15:17; Ezekiel 40:2; 43:12; Revelation 21:10).
- The Garden was the first place of wisdom, just like the temple was a place of wisdom.
- The Garden was the first place with eastern facing entrance, just like “end-times” temple (Genesis 3:24; Ezekiel 40:6)
- The Garden has three-part structure just like the temple
- Ezekiel views Eden as first temple. Alludes to Eden containing “sanctuaries” (Ezekiel 28:13-14, 16, 18). The plural use of “sanctuaries” for one temple probably developed because there were multiple sacred spaces within the temple complex.
Are their cultural parallels for this connection of Eden and the Temple?
ANE Culture connects temples with garden-like features (cf. Ramses III of Egypt), and early Judaism viewed Eden as first temple (Book of Jubilees 3:27, 4:23-25; 8:19; Testament of Levi 18:6; 1 Enoch 24-27)