“For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Roman 8:19-21)
Did you know that the world was fashioned as a Temple and the Garden of Eden was depicted as the sanctuary of the Temple – the holy place where God dwells with his people? Well, you can’t have a temple without a priest to keep it and to offer sacrifices. And that’s the task that God gives to Adam. It’s a “priestly” task. But you need to know a little Hebrew to understand it.
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden “to cultivate and care for it” (see Genesis 2:15). Sounds more like farm chores than priestly service. Something important gets lost in the translation of those words. In the original Hebrew text, the words used are ‘abodah and shamar. And they are words associated with priestly service. In fact, the only other places in the Bible where you find those two words used together are in the Book of Numbers, where they are translated as “work,” and “keep,” and used to describe the duties of the Levites, the appointed priests of Israel (see Numbers 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6). The Levites were in charge of the Jerusalem Temple. Adam and Eve were given the duty of protecting and caring for the Garden. From the beginning, humanity has had a priestly role as regards Creation.
St. Paul understands the role of priestly service regarding God’s creation. The Church’s emphasis on the care for creation, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si, are both a deep understanding of the biblical basis of care for creation as a way of honoring the Creator. The Church understands.
The question is do we understand?
If you would like to explore more information about Creation, the Temple, and humanity as a royal priesthood, consider watching these videos from The Bible Project.
Royal Priests of Eden: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/priests-of-eden/
Temple video: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/temple/