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Commentary on Moses 3
TitleCommentary on Moses 3
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSmoot, Stephen O.
Book TitleThe Pearl of Great Price: A Study Edition for Latter-day Saints
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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3 Following the structure of the King James Version of Genesis, the book of Moses begins this chapter by concluding the final day of the first Creation account and commencing a second Creation account that brings the focus onto the creation of Adam and Eve and the planting of the Garden of Eden.

3:2–3 God “rested” (šābat) on the seventh (šĕbîʿî) day, forming a phonetic play on the Hebrew words that captures the significance of God completing His work of Creation on the seventh day.

3:4 This verse marks a second Creation account that zooms up more closely and intimately on the creation of humanity. Whereas the preceding account describes Creation on a broad, cosmic scale, this account focuses on the formation of humanity and the placement of Adam and Eve in the garden.

3:5 In a detail unique to the book of Moses, the Lord indicates that He had created all things “spiritually” before creating them “physically” (compare Moses 3:7, 9). The full implication of this declaration has yet to be completely explicated. What, precisely, does “spiritual” Creation look like? And why did the order of spiritual Creation depicted in the previous chapter differ from the order of “physical” (presumably) Creation depicted here? From modern revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 131:7–8), Latter-day Saints affirm that there is some kind of physical property to spirit, yet many questions remain about the nature of spirit and its relationship to the material world.

3:8 The garden God plants is eastward (miqedem) in a land called Eden. (Note that the garden itself is not designated as “Eden” in the text.) Scholars have proposed various etymologies for the name Eden, ranging from roots meaning “steppe, plain” to “pleasure, luxury” and “bountiful, abundance.” That the garden was intended to be envisioned as a place of paradisiacal luxury and abundance is reinforced by the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint, which renders the word for “garden” in Genesis 2:8, 15 as paradeisos.

3:10 The beginning of this verse (“I, the Lord God, caused”) was inserted in OT2. OT1 originally read that “a river went out of Eden” without indicating that God was the causative agent of its existence and course. River out of Eden. The land of Eden is said to have a river flowing out of it that splits into four branches. This indicates that the land is elevated since the rivers flow away from it. Eden’s setting on a mount, or hill, evokes temple overtones. Indeed, based on this and other details, multiple scholars have persuasively argued that the Garden of Eden functions as a prototypical temple and Adam as a prototypical temple priest.

3:11 OT1 and OT2 originally both read, “Where there were created much gold.” The text was modified in OT2 to include “the Lord” as the creative agent. The 1902 edition of the Pearl of Great Price inserts “God” after “the Lord,” which has been used in subsequent editions.

3:11–14 Of the four rivers named in this verse, the last two (the ḥideqel and the pĕrāt) have been widely identified with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers of Mesopotamia, respectively. The identities of the first two rivers (the pîšôn and the gîḥôn) are much less certain, and proposals since antiquity have ranged from the Nile in Egypt to the Ganges in India. The location of the land of Havilah is unknown, although the text depicts it as being rich in gold and precious stones. (Common proposals include locations throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf.) The Ethiopia (biblical Kush) of the King James Version is more approximate to modern southern Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea along the Red Sea than actual modern Ethiopia. These disparate and somewhat ambiguous geographical references seem intended to simultaneously, and paradoxically, give the location of Eden a real-world feel while also keeping its location mysterious and vague. See also Abraham 5:10 and its commentary.

3:16–17 In a significant departure from the biblical text, the book of Moses explicitly states that Adam and Eve were free to choose for themselves if they would follow the commandment to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That their agency plays an indispensable role in God’s plan of salvation has been emphasized repeatedly by modern prophets and is affirmed by other books of Restoration scripture (see 2 Nephi 2:15–16).

3:18 Help meet. Although commonly treated as a noun in English (often rendered helpmeet or help-meet, meaning a companion or partner), in fact this phrase comprises a noun (“help”) modified by an adjective (“meet”). The Hebrew phrase in Genesis 2:18, 20 means something like “suitable helper,” “a helping counterpart,” or even “a powerful counterpart” (ʿēzer kĕnegĕdô). This last rendering is especially attractive since it both works in context (the woman is meant to be Adam’s coworker and partner to help him in ways the other animals are not suitable for) and elevates Eve above her traditionally devalued status. In any case, with this descriptor the woman is decreed to be the man’s suitable corresponding opposite.

3:19 Commanded . . . unto Adam. OT1 and OT2 both originally read that the animals were commanded by the Lord to “be brought” to Adam, but they do not specify the agent bringing the animals. The Hebrew of Genesis 2:19 indicates that God brought the animals to Adam in that version of the narrative as captured by the King James Version, but the text here seems to indicate God is commanding someone else to bring the animals. The change from the passive to the active voice in the book of Moses (“that they [the animals] should come”) was likely made to resolve the perplexing nature of this passage as it originally read. Living souls . . . into them. In OT1 the passive voice is used (“. . . it was breathed into them the breath of life”). In OT2 this was revised to the active voice by inserting God as the verbal subject (“For I, God, breathed into them . . .”).

3:21–25 The creation of the woman as the “corresponding helper” for Adam caps off this chapter and prepares the narrative to focus on their experience together in the garden. Deep sleep. The ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible reads that God threw a “trance, vision” (ekstasis) on Adam before taking the rib to create the woman. This intriguing interpretation of the Hebrew tardēmâ (“deep sleep, slumber”) suggests that the removal of Adam’s rib was a visionary experience rather than a physical one. Adam’s rib. The word used at Genesis 2:21–22 has traditionally been rendered “rib” based in part on the ancient Greek (pleura) and Latin (costa) translations of this passage. But another possible translation is simply “side” (ṣēlā‘). Other anatomical referents for this word have accordingly been suggested since at least the Middle Ages. Woman taken from man. The Genesis text employs another pun to emphasize Adam’s relationship with his newly fashioned helper: the woman (ʾiššâ) was taken from the man (ʾîš) and the two create a symbiotic, unified entity before God.

Scripture Reference

Moses 3:1