A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
Have you ever wondered why God created a world with gold buried beneath the surface? Even if you hold to one of the prevailing scientific theories that gold came to earth via a bombardment of meteorites more than 200 million years ago, that still does not explain how this unique metal came into existence. Perhaps, what is more troubling for me is why Moses would take the time to tell us this little detail: “the gold of that land is good.” These sorts of specifics are not mentioned in chapter 1 when God makes the world, it is as if it is just assumed to be part of His forming the ground out of the formless void.
We cannot forget that the whole focus of Genesis 2 is different from Genesis 1. While in Genesis 1 God is the main character who creates all that is seen and unseen culminating with the creation of man in His image, Genesis 2 depicts God making room for His image-bearers to grow and fulfill the task He gave them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28). That earth came with gold.
For instance, God could have named all the animals, but He lets Adam do it in chapter 2. He is giving Adam the freedom to fulfill His place in the universe. That’s right, God wants us to rule and subdue and fill, and He creates the space for us to do so. God does not want us to be mere parrots or statue images, like the great pharaohs made of themselves. He wants us to be living, breathing expressions of who He is and what He has done. He wants us to explore and create. He wants us to reflect Him and His work in all things.
God gives us principles and materials and asks us to mirror Him in His creative glory as His stewards of the earth. As Andy Crouch says in Culture Making:
“God has provided the raw material—the garden, the animals themselves and Adam's very breath. But now the Creator graciously steps back just enough to allow humankind to begin to discover what it means to be a creator. Adam, like His Maker, will be both gardener and poet, both creator and cultivator. The Creator simply watches and listens, and it is good.” (p. 110)
So, why is there gold buried in the ground? Because God is waiting to see how we will reflect Him in this world. It’s all here for us to marvel at His gratuitous goodness, to gain a deeper understand of who He is and what He is like. He wants us to dig and explore, to find interesting and beautiful things and discover their depth, and in so doing, discover His depth and beauty.
It is not unlike watching a young child exploring a room and picking up a new object. You can see her wondering what it can do and how it can be used. This is an expression of childlike faith in its most basic form – wonder, awe, and amazement around every corner and under every hill.
This detail of gold should not be overlooked, and it should move us to worship and awe at the amazing provision of God. It should drive us to continue to explore the world that God has created and reflect Him in all things as we seek to unlock the mysteries of His grace.