God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. (Genesis 2:15)
On this memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, the lectionary presents us with a reading from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. You will find a quotation from that reading at the head of this blog entry. However, as I am sure that we all know, there are two different "creation" stories in the Book of Genesis. Chapter two of the book tells a slightly different story.
After visiting the country of Israel, I formed a definite opinion regarding the two stories. I would contend that the first story originated in the southern part of the country of Israel while the second story came from the northern part of the country. The difference between these two areas is pronounced. While the north is lush and green, a veritable garden, the south is harsh and barren. The difference is accentuated by the presence of the Sea of Galilee in the north and the Dead Sea in the south.
God's command to "dominate" the earth and its creatures sounds very much like a reaction to the harshness of the land. If the human family does not dominate the wild and harsh environment of the south, it will certainly dominate the human family. However, the second story, wherein God places the first people of creation in the midst of a garden accentuates the fact that God intended for us to be co-gardeners with him, to care for and cultivate the garden.
The human race has certainly learned the lesson of the first chapter very well. We have, indeed, dominated our planet. It is time for us to take a closer look at the second chapter and to learn its lesson. If we continue to "dominate," we may find that we have killed the garden completely.