Covenant Structure in Genesis 2

The first chapters of the Word of God have a poetic rhythm. This is used to discredit their accuracy as historical narrative, but the truth is that these same rhythms continue far beyond the book of Genesis. In fact, the later texts shed light on the frustratingly succinct account of the Creation and the Fall.

Although the word “Covenant” is not used in the Bible until God speaks to Noah, theologians classify the events in Genesis 2 as the first Covenant in history. Although the word is not used, the events in Eden definitely follow the same shape as the later Covenants.1 Without an awareness of the purpose of biblical structure, the arrangement of the text can seem quite random in places. But once we became familiar with God’s architecture and its literary expression, the echoes and images of events both past and future are breathtaking.


Creation (Genesis 2:4-7): The Lord creates Adam, and the structure of the text is not only a miniature of the cosmic Temple process in Genesis 1, it is prefigures later texts concerning Tabernacle and Temple. Corresponding to Day 1, Adam is to be the light which lightens every man (John 1:9). (Sabbath)


Division (Genesis 2:8-9):The Lord plants a Garden-sanctuary and places Adam in it. It contains two trees which represent priestly obedience and kingly wisdom. Day 2: Created from the dust of the dry land, it is Adam’s ministry as mediator between heaven and earth which will keep apart the waters above and below. (Passover)

ETHICS (in three parts, Priest, King, Prophet)2

Ascension (Genesis 2:10-14): Eden brings life to the world with four rivers whose names all refer to growth and abundance. 3 Rivers flow downhill, so Eden is the original “high place.” Day 3: As the dry land rose from the deep, so this mountain of God rises to heaven as the first altar, and Adam is to be the first priest-king (like Noah, Melchizedek, Job, Jethro and Christ). However, like Israel in later history, his dominion on earth as king depends upon his prior submission to heaven as priest. (Firstfruits)

Testing (Genesis 2:15-17): The Lord places Adam in the Garden and puts the keys to life and death in his hand. Prefiguring Israel’s food laws, the “kingdom” tree is temporarily prohibited until Adam is qualified to rule. Day 4: The sun, moon and stars rule in heaven, and Adam is promised rule on the earth. Genesis ends as it begins, but with a young man who continually submits to the Spirit of God until he rules over all the kings of the world through his serpentine wisdom with priestly grain. (Pentecost)

Maturity (Genesis 2:18-19): Adam is introduced to his subjects, and they are “mustered” around the sanctuary in the way Israel’s troops were mustered at the Feast of Trumpets. Day 5: Swarms/Hosts (Trumpets)


Conquest (Genesis 2: 20-23): Now speaking for God in a preliminary way in the Garden, Adam names all the subjects with whom he shares earthly breath, those in the heavens and those on the earth. Their continued life depends upon him. As the microcosmic Temple he will represent them all before God. But he is alone, and must die a priestly death as the son of God that there might be sons of man. The first recorded human words are an oath which, in Hebrew, not only follows the five-fold (vertical) Covenant pattern but prefigures in its “singular-to-plural” (horizontal) expressions the architecture of the Ten Commandments. Day 6: Animals and Man. (Atonement, The Day of Coverings: High Priest and sacrifices mediate between heaven and earth)


Glorification (Genesis 2:24-25): Until the coming of the promised Seed, Succession always concerned physical offspring. This sequence ends with the culmination of physical glory in marriage. At this point, Adam is truly the firstfruits lifted up from the Land and presented in the Sanctuary. Like the fruit on the trees, he consisted of seed, flesh and skin. But one thing remained. Skin is a natural covering, but Adam required a supernatural covering, a dazzling robe of glory whiter than anything on earth (Mark 9:3). To receive that, he would have to do battle with a dragon. Day 7: Rest, Rule and Representation (imaging) of God to the nations. (Booths)

An understanding of Covenant-literary structure helps us to make sense of these strange events and the unusual ordering of the texts which communicate them: they serve as the liturgical and architectural blueprint for the rest of biblical history.

This understanding might also solve the mystery of why the word “Covenant” is not found in the Scriptures until God speaks to Noah. The answer must lie in the fact that the first two men with whom God entered into Covenant—Noah and Abraham—had already been found faithful, and were thus given the priesthood, the kingdom and the prophecy, all Creation wrapped up in a single Adam. After his failure in the Garden, we never hear another word from our first father. A Covenant which truly encompassed “all flesh” rather than microcosmic substitutes would have to wait for a better Adam.

Mike Bull is author, most recently, of Sweet Counsel.

References   [ + ]

1. See Ray Sutton’s That You May Prosper and my own Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key.
2. The three roles in the Triune Office represent steps in the qualification of the Man as Mediator for all Creation, thus they are the Forming, Filling, Future pattern found in Genesis 1 expressed in legal roles.
3. The four names may mean Increase, Bursting Forth, Rapid and Fruitfulness.