Gardens in the Bible
The Garden of Eden
Genesis 2:4-10, 15-17; 3:17-19, 24
2:4 In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ … 3:8The man and wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. … 17And to the man he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
· How does Adam’s gardening in Eden compare with God’s command to Adam in Genesis 1:26 and 29?:
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ … 29God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
· Were there any pests or plant diseases in the Garden of Eden?
· Has farming the land ‘East of Eden’ (outside Paradise) been a good challenge for human skill and creativity or a curse that has led to inequality and hunger?
· How does this story of Paradise express human longings – with regard to the past and the future? ___________
Psalm 148:7-10, 13: Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind doing his will; mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds. … Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name only is exalted, his splendour is over earth and heaven.
Song of Solomon 2:1-5, 10-13; 4:12-16; 6:2-3
2 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. 2 As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. 3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention towards me was love. 5 Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land. 13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
4 12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed. 13 Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices— 15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. 16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
6 2 My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Compare ‘Solomon’ on his garden in Ecclesiastes 2:4-6:
“I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself
gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from
which to water the forest of growing trees.”
I Kings 4:33-4 refers to Solomon’s wisdom about trees:
“He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that
grows in the wall; … people came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”
What features does the writer highlight about the garden? What do you find especially attractive about them?
· What human senses does the writer appeal to?
· What kinds of experience have you had in gardens?
· Why do you think the Song of Solomon was included in the Bible, given that it is a love song that celebrates human emotion and passion?
Matthew 6:28-9: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
Jesus the Gardener
Mark 4:26-9 26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone scatters seed on the ground, 27and sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. 28The earth produces of itself first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
Matthew 13:24-30 24 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
John 15:1-2 1 I am the true vine, my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
Matthew 7:15-20 15 ‘Beware of false prophets … 16You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Luke 13:6-9 6 Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
· Do Jesus’ illustrations ring true in terms of your experience of plants?
· What gardening images would you use to illustrate a point about human life?
· Do we try to manage our gardens and our lives too carefully? Does the trend to
‘re-wilding’ suggest a new approach to both the environment and ourselves?
What would the world be, once bereft
of wet and wildness? Let them be left.
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
long live the weeds and the wilderness yet. (Gerard Manley Hopkins)
of wet and wildness? Let them be left.
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
long live the weeds and the wilderness yet. (Gerard Manley Hopkins)
The Garden of Gesthemane
26:36-39: 36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to
his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37He
took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and
agitated. 38Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to
death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ 39And going a
little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is
possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’
John 18:1-5 18 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across
the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his
disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the
place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So
Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief
priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and
weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him,
came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ 5They
answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who
betrayed him, was standing with them.
Eusebius of Caesarea (about 324 AD): Gethsimane. Place where the Christ prayed before the passion. It is located at the Mount of Olives where even now the faithful fervently utter prayers. ___________
What might have been the attraction of the Garden of Gethsemane for Jesus?
· ‘Gesthemane’ means ‘oil-press’ and it may well have been an olive grove. Which of these stories and symbols resonate for you most with the Bible’s Passion accounts?
- When King Solomon died, the trees of the garden mourned, shedding their green leaves, but the olive tree kept its canopy. The other trees asked: “You, king of the trees, do you not mourn the death of our King?” The olive tree replied, “You have shed your leaves so that all might see your sorrow, but my sorrow is hidden in my heart and it is greater than yours, for behold, my heart is dry and the sap of my trunk has withered!”
- The olive only gives its oil when pressed.
- The Roman general Titus conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD and destroyed all the ancient olive groves in the area. But olive trees can grow back from the roots when cut down, and some of the trees in the garden are at least 900 years old.
· What difference does time of day make to your experience of a garden?
Anon: “I walk in my garden, not so much seeking peace as assured of it. I have only to step from my door to the small patch of earth where flowers grow to become a different person. My small worries vanish and even the great burdens seem lighter.
Walking in the garden is like praying. My mind is still, my senses sharpened, and the gentle Presence is there: near, above, around me. My mind is at rest. I wonder, gaze at the lilies, I breathe the scent of the roses, I watch the tiny ladybird and listen to the bee’s hum. I do no work in the garden. It is enough, more than enough, just to be there and marvel. Sometimes the promise of Jeremiah comes into my mind:
‘Their soul shall be like a watered garden … They will sorrow no more.’ “
The Garden of the Resurrection
John 19:41; 20:11, 15-18:
41 Now there was a garden in the
place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which
no one had ever been laid. …
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. …
She turned round and
saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus
said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing
him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus
said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’
(which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to
me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and
say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your
God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went
and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that
he had said these things to her.
John 12:24: Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
St Cyril of Jerusalem (4th Cent.): Jesus was planted therefore in the earth in order that the curse that came because of Adam might be rooted out. The earth was condemned to thorns and thistles: the true Vine sprang up out of the earth, that the saying might be fulfilled, ‘Truth sprang up out of the earth, and righteousness looked down from heaven’ (Psalm 85:11).
2 Corinthians 5:17: If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
· Why didn’t Mary Magdalene recognise Jesus?
· What must it be like to celebrate Easter in autumn, as they do in Australia?
· What does a ‘new creation’ mean and look like?
· Is there a garden that has been the site of a turning-point in your life?
v In your life just now, which Biblical garden do you feel you are in? Which would you like to be in?
v If you met Jesus in one of these gardens from the Bible, what would you say to him?
v Revelation 21 imagines the final destiny of creation to be the new Jerusalem, a holy city – not a garden. What do you imagine the ‘new heaven and new earth’ to be?
v Having considered these gardens in the Bible, is there a practical action that you intend to undertake?