We have spent the last several days focusing on the first of the tasks that God gave to the man in the garden of Eden. This task, as you recall, is tilling, or, if we render the Hebrew more literally, serving. As tillers in our work, we labor with considerable effort so that the world might produce the fruit God intended.
The second of the tasks specified in Genesis 2:15 is “keeping.” The Hebrew verb translated in the NRSV as “to keep” is shamar. In the Bible, this verb has various meanings, including: “to keep, guard, preserve, observe.” It will be used in the next chapter of Genesis to describe the action of the cherubim who “guard” the way to the tree of life, keeping human beings out of Eden (Gen 3:24). The sense of shamar in 2:15 is captured well by the CEB rendering, where God places the man in Eden “to take care of it.”