Note that here ‘eved is properly understood as “till” because the object is “soil”; this object is absent from the same verb in Genesis 2:15, where the Lord gives Adam instructions regarding his role in the Garden of Eden.



Richard B. Lee and I. DeVore, eds., Man the Hunter (Chicago: Aldine, 1968), esp. pp. 30–40. Eskimoes are an exception because plant life is scarce in their habitat.


Marshall Sahlins, “The Original Affluent Society,” Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine, 1972), pp. 1–39.


Mark Nathan Cohen, The Food Crisis in Prehistory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), pp. 18–70.


Kent V. Flannery, “Archaeological Systems Theory and Early Mesoamerica,” B.J. Meggers et al., eds., Anthropological Archaeology in the Americas (Washington, DC: Anthropological Society of Washington, 1968), pp. 67–88.


Although this statement is addressed to Adam, in traditional agricultural societies women provide much of the labor.


Representations of cherubim (sphinxes) are also said to appear on the Ark of the Covenant as emblematic guardians similar to those flanking royal thrones in Egypt and Phoenicia, although the verb is not used in these descriptions (Exodus 37:7–9; 1 Kings 6:23–28, 8:6–7).


Umberto Cassuto notes that the dual function of serving and keeping/guarding are similarly juxtaposed in the Babylonian creation epic. A cuneiform fragment states that “mankind was created with the blood of Kingu in order to serve the Gods, and in consequence the Anunnaki, deities of the second rank, on whom the service of the supreme gods had hitherto devolved, were released from this duty, and instead they were given the task of guarding,” in Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part I, trans. by Israel Adams (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1961), p. 123.


Compare Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1–9, ” Biblical Archaeologist (1977), pp. 147–155.


We wish to thank A.J. Levine, Zora Pryor, Harrison Wright and Robert Haak for their useful comments on a draft of this essay.