Garden and “Wilderness”: An ecocritical exploration of Gen. 2:4b–3:24

R. B. Hamon

Abstract


In this study, I adapt a methodology from the field of ecocriticism to explore the physical world depicted in Gen. 2:4b–3:24. I challenge traditional dualistic interpretations of the text in Christian theological tradition and wider Western culture which have heavily influenced ecocritical thinking and have typically characterized the garden of YHWH as a bounteous paradise and the land outside the garden as a barren wilderness latterly corrupted by sin. I argue that the “wilderness” of Gen. 2:4b–3:24 is ultimately just as capable of supporting life as the garden of YHWH. I also suggest that the garden of YHWH is significantly different in appearance to the sumptuous royal gardens of Western Asian tradition to which it has previously been compared, and propose that a vegetal border delineates the garden of YHWH from the surrounding land. Finally, I find that natural resources play a significant role in the narrative; indeed Gen. 2:4b–3:24 pivots around the consumption of a natural resource, the produce of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Through the application of an ecocritical reading methodology, I offer original insight into the physical world depicted in this well-known and highly influential text. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate both the value of dialogue between the fields of biblical studies and ecocriticism, and the potential for further ecocritical studies of biblical texts to follow.


Keywords


Genesis 2-3; ecocriticism; Eden; garden; wilderness; natural resources

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391