Nevertheless, I am now faced for the second time with a very difficult textual variant in Genesis. Here is how the New King James translates the text:
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Gen. 2:15). This makes it seem as if the first duty of man in the garden is to work and cultivate the garden paradise. There's only one problem: the pronouns don't agree in the Hebrew. In the Hebrew, there are pronouns attached to the words translated "tend" and "keep". Literally, it would be to "tend it" and to "keep it." In Hebrew, these pronouns are feminine. The thing which they seem to refer to later in the verse, "garden", is actually a masculine noun. The problem is that the pronouns should agree in gender with the antecedent, or the noun they are representing, which they don't.
Now the OT Hebrew did not origninally have vowels. These vowel points were added by a group called the Masoretes who worked on the text between the 7th and 11th century A.D. If you take away the vowel points and search have a translation which would correspond with gender agreement, the text becomes, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to worship and obey." The only commentary that I know of that directly addresses this gender-bender problem is Dr. John Sailhamer's The Pentateuch as Narrative. Even the usually super-scholarly Keil and Delitzsch pass over it without comment. The only one who even seems to notice is Victor Hamilton in his commentary in the New International Commentary of the Old Testament series. He writes in a footnote:
The pronominal suffix "it" on "dress" and "keep" is feminine. "Garden" is masculine. Does this indicate thtat the reference is to the ground/earth (fem.) in the garden that man is to till and tend? Or is it the case that many nouns deoting places have a variable gender (GKC 1221)? I am inclined to prefer the former explanation, if only for the fact that nowhere else is gan treated as feminine.
Now, you aren't already asleep, I want to pose to you a question. If you knew about this, would you bring it up in your lesson? Does it change how you view this verse? How would you address it in a sermon? Would you? Just some food for thought. Comments appreciated.