When you read the description of the earth from Genesis 2:5, you get the idea of a barren landscape. The verse says, “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.” I think Wenham gets this and says, “The writer flashes back to the situation before mankind was created on the sixth day (1:26–28) and describes a typical middle-eastern desert, which requires human effort to irrigate and make it bloom.”[1]

On our tours of Israel, we took the bus everywhere we went. Our tour guide, Ronny Simon, a retired Israeli Army Colonel, would point out the various sites that we drove by and items of interest he would point out. Out the window to our left, he pointed out a beautiful green landscape with palm trees, pomegranate trees, pineapple trees and grapes of just about every kind imaginable. Then he turned our attention to the right side of the highway and all you saw was a desert wasteland. A scattered Bedouin camp here and there but nothing else. The left side was under Israeli control. The right side was under Arab control. This was a scene that Ronny never failed to point out to us throughout our bus trips.

The Lord rarely causes it to rain in the deserts of the mid-east still today. But he has brought his people back from being scattered all over the world to work the land. And work the land, they do. They’ve turned the wasteland into a beautiful garden. When we were in Israel in 2013, Ronny told us about Israel’s plans to take water from the Mediterranean to water their deserts. This project in Israel is called “Reclaiming the deserts.” It had not yet begun when we were there but just four years later, I read this: “The water that flows into Sorek desalination plant is drawn from near the Mediterranean Sea floor. Pumped inland, the water is cleansed, step by step, of salts and impurities. The transmutation does not take long. Forty minutes after entering the facility, the stuff of sailboats and sunbathers is now drinkable. Sorek is the newest of five Israeli coastal desalination plants. A national mission in the last decade to develop the fleet, plus many more years of investment in wastewater recycling facilities, has turned Israel into as much a water producer as a water consumer. Nearly half of the country’s water supply is now manufactured, either by desalting the Mediterranean or purifying urban sewage.” Sitting under a palm tree with a glass of pomegranate juice, one can almost feel the idea of the Garden of Eden. Seow observed, “Now in the garden of God, the unending waters of the deep are harnessed for good, giving nourishment for the trees there (Ezek 31:4, 15). Likewise, the deep provided life-giving waters to the Israelites in the wilderness (Ps 78:15–16; cf. Exod 17:6).”[2]

[1] Wenham, Gordon J. 1994. “Genesis.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 62. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Seow, C. L. 1992. “Deep, The.” In The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 2:125. New York: Doubleday.