Part 3. Adam, Eve, and Sin
God almighty has just been informed by the first man and woman, the creation that He made which He shares a special and unique relationship with, that they have disobeyed His command. God has learned that the serpent is the one that is the responsible party for causing them to disobey in their innocence. While Adam and Eve should have had their trust in God’s word, they instead heard the voice of this serpent and allowed themselves to question God’s intentions. So, understanding that the Bible is a text which reveals to us the nature and character of God, what do we see thus far?
- God is patient. He allows them the opportunity to explain their actions.
- God is merciful. He does not immediately take their life having learned that they have disobeyed him.
- God’s justice allows the offender to explain themselves. God does not merely act out punishment in immediate response to their disobedience.
- God seeks first the one responsible, seeking to identify the root cause of a problem.
- God loves, and addresses man and wife as a loving father would address his child.
- God had intended to do something with Adam on that day, and called for the man as one looking for His child.
- God speaks with man and his wife as one speaks to a friend, though his presence demands authority, obedience, and respect.
While we might be able to add some more to this list, these are ones that certainly stand out. There is a reason why I have been guiding us through this study one section at a time. We each have our own preconceived notions about this portion of scripture. For some of my readers, you have faith in our God, and come to a reading about His nature and character from a background of traditional understanding as you have accumulated in your life time from others, your own personal study, and other means. For other of my readers, perhaps you come from outside of the Christian context, and know little of the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview. Both sides will have certain biases, and each will bring those to bare when reviewing this article.
As we continue with our review, it is of the utmost importance that you set aside these presuppositions and notions. Regardless of what “side” you are on. When studying the Bible, it is doctrinal (that is, biblically consistent teaching) that we do not allow ourselves to read any text from our own ideas and our own world. We must put ourselves into the text, and allow ourselves to be brought into the world of the author. It is the intentions of the author we are trying to derive, not our own. If we wanted to derive our own intentions from the text, we can do what many Christians and Non-Christians do, and just trust in what others say and come up with the rest as logically follows (or illogically, either way). As we continue on from here, do not allow yourself to do so, as there will be no value. As a man of God, I affirm the truth that to waste time given to us by our creator with frivolous things is an act that flies in the face of living in right relationship with our God. To waste another’s times would be a horrible thing to do. So please, do not allow yourself to waste your time reading on if you are not willing to allow the words or the author to tell you what they are telling you.
If we were to be coming across this passage for the first time, these are what we could honestly gather from the text, and what the author is portraying in his work. Before moving into the actions taken by God against Adam, Eve, and the serpent, we must accept what has been displayed about this all-powerful creative and personal being as being what it is. In order for us to gather any understanding of what is to follow, what was listed above is what we have to go on in reference to the nature of this creator God. So, let us see what He does next.
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He [meaning God] said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He [meaning God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:14-19 NASB)
Walking Through The Punishments.
The actual nature of the serpent is not something we are fully aware of. The Hebrew word that is used here is nachash, and it has been accepted to mean a serpent, with its sound containing the “hiss” of the snake. (1) It is also considered to be used as “crafty tempter.” Much of the identification of serpent comes from the fact the punishment is “On your belly you will go.” This reasonably leads us to accept that it is a snake of some form. Whether before hand the snake was on legs or not, we can not be certain, but there is certainly no problem assuming it to be so. His punishment is threefold:
- He is cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field.
- On his belly he will go eating dust all the days of his life.
- Enmity is placed between the snake and the woman and their seed.
Now it is here that we see more of a fore-telling occurring than a punishment in the final part of his punishment/curse. “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” There has been much written about this verse having a great deal to say. However, that is all in retrospective most of the time. All that we can say (taking the text on its own here) is that the serpent will be bruised on the head and the serpent will bruise the male seed of Eve on the heel. There is something of a “limiter” on this curse being set. That is to say, all the days of the life of the serpent. However, the seed of the serpent and of the woman could mean an immediate descendent or all future descendants.
How does the punishment fit the crime? Well, prior to this, the serpent was nothing more than another beast of the field, crafty though he may have been. But, as with all of the rest of creation, he got to enjoy his existence unhindered, only responsible for fulfilling God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth. Now, he must crawl on his belly, eating dust all the days of his life. But, in addition to this, there would be enmity between the woman and the serpent. This is also a particular curse, not a generational one. The serpent was able to deceive Eve because their relationship was friendly enough that she would speak with him and listen. So, the LORD God ends that relationship. A curse that is certainly to the benefit of the woman, and to the detriment of the serpent, where he could no longer influence the woman as he had in gaining her trust, causing her to sin.
This enmity is extended to the seed of the woman and of the snake, and we can assume this is a permanent curse across their generations were it not for the specific nature of God’s words. “He” shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise “him” on the heel. This could be seen as a figure of speech, but it means that there will certainly be strife between the seed of the woman and the serpent all the days of his life. So, in comparison to the life that he was living before, there is only the end of the relationship the serpent had where he was viewed as innocent in the eyes of the humans, crawling on his belly, and the general state of being under the curse of God.
For an act of deception, the serpent’s punishment seems well enough. While the serpent did not receive the opportunity to explain himself the same as the man and his wife, one can understand that the serpent did not have a status like that of man and woman prior to the sin event. It was only man and woman who had that relationship with God. Now, the serpent, unlike all the other beasts of the field, will not be able to have a relationship with man as he had before. As we can see, there is not necessarily much to learn from this particular passage, but we can appreciate that for the act of the serpent’s deception of Eve, the punishment is fitting, and balances the scales where Eve is protected from the serpent’s deceptions in the future. Indeed, even the “bruising” will serve to benefit humanity as the means of keeping this great crafty tempter from having such an influence with such ease as he had before.
The punishment for the woman is an interesting one. The woman was brought about out of man. She was not told by God about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil nor was she directly told not to eat of it, at least, we can rightly reason that to be the case. The woman’s act of sin was in listening to the serpent, and taking it upon herself to do that which she had clearly been informed (likely through Adam) she should not do. She chose, regardless of the serpent’s words, to give to the man the fruit which she ate, thus causing him to sin, though Adam certainly bares his own responsibility for eating. She did not trust in what the LORD God had said, and she instead reasoned in her mind that it would be better for her to eat of the fruit. The serpent did not tell her to eat of it, he simply told her that God was not being straight forward with her and the man. So, she accepted that assertion made by the serpent, and decided to act against God’s command.
Her punishment is straight forward. It has three parts:
- She will experience an increase in pain at child birth.
- Her desire will be for her husband.
- Her husband will “rule” over her.
There are a few important things to consider here. The first, is that her pain is going to be multiplied. One can reasonably assume that this means she would have pain in child birth to begin with. Now, it will be multiplied. By this we know that she had the ability to have children through intercourse with her husband before sin. Thus, God’s intent in creating woman to meet the needs of man included the man’s need to procreate and have the pleasure of sexual intimacy is a part of God’s good intentions for man and woman. As we review this as punishment, considering she would have felt pain anyways, we can see that this is not a very dramatic punishment. But why this as punishment? We can only but speculate, as there is nothing that we have in the text that provides us with any straight forward insight. However, it can be reasonably assumed that since the woman’s actions caused God’s creation, Adam, to come to pain, so to should the woman come to pain in her creative capacity as well. Thus, there is a balance that is being reached through this.
As for the second, what is interesting is that there is a “Yet” included here. Why is that there? Perhaps it is because one would figure that if being with a man produces children, and the process of producing children causes pain, the woman would probably not want to have sex with the man. So, this “yet” is to suggest that what would have been reasonable for the woman to do (that is, avoid the pain of childbirth) would not be allowed. Even though child birth would cause her pain that in her eyes would be brought on by her husband, she would still desire him. Not exactly a punishment, per se, but the above would certainly bring one to see it as such I would imagine.
The third part is interesting though. It suggests that before this, the woman and the man were on something of an equal plane when it comes to “position” in the relationship. Instead of there being by God’s design a status of the man over the woman, there would be no authority necessarily. It would be a shared relationship of responsibility and authority between the two. So, it is from here that we can see how the doctrine of the bible regarding the relationship between a man and a woman being of equal share of position and authority is God’s desire for the marriage relationship. Sin broke this status of that relationship, and set the man in a position of authority over the woman, but for a reason. Just as with the serpent, where God set the enmity between the seed of man and serpent to protect the man, so to do we see this being put in place. Since the woman was so easily able to get the man to disobey God, God has set into place a means to prevent that from being the case in the future. The man would be placed naturally into a position of authority over the woman, to which a woman would be naturally inclined. This being done so that the natural ability of a woman to get a man to do what she suggests will be hindered. But as all of us men know, when we fall for a woman, it almost seems as though that goes out the window as we become willing to do anything to please our woman.
In assessing the punishment of the woman, we can see that it fits her sin. There is nothing to dire to surpass the impact that her sin had on the man. She took from the man, through her giving the man the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the relationship that man had with God. When we might put ourselves into a similar situation, and we imagine someone doing something to a dear friend that causes them to do something wrong against us, we might see this as hardly any justified punishment at all! Yet, we see here not only the balance of God’s justice, but also his mercy in having not taken Eve’s life as God said would occur if she or the man ate of it. Perhaps, the mention of the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is an additional punishment for the woman, thus the Segway?
Which begs the question, was what the serpent said true in any way? We’ll come back to this later.
Now we come to the man’s punishment. It is here that we see God indict the man on his charge:
“…Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’” (Gen. 3:17 NASB).
It is only Adam that God does this with. Isn’t that interesting? When we realize that it is only man to whom God directly gives the order, this certainly helps to bring to light the balance of the punishments, does it not? Eve was not told directly by God (according to what has been told to us thus far in the text) to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Indeed, the serpent was not told that he could not eat of it. It was only Adam who was told. Yet, we come to understand that Adam eats of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil only because of the serpent and the man’s wife. Since we have been told all of this, it is important to take note of God indicting specifically Adam for the act of having eaten of the tree. The serpent is indicted for having deceived Eve (not a lie or a blame game, but the truth of what occurred). The woman, however, is not indicted on any particular charge, which is interesting. Then here, we have the charge spelled out for us in specifics.
Now what would we have expected to read next? Based on what we have to go on thus far, would we not expect to see God curse Adam? Would we not expect God to kill Adam perhaps? After all, that is what God said would happen should he eat of it, death that is. But what happens? The ground or earth is cursed because of Adam! Now why on earth…pardon the pun…would God have cursed the ground for what Adam did? It is reasonable to assume that since the course of events that resulted in Adam’s eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not simply Adam acting in defiance, but was through the serpents deception and Eve’s giving, God has chosen to not take Adam’s life. But, perhaps the punishment is worse than death?
The LORD God curses the ground, but what does this result in for the man? Well, God explains for us what this means for the man:
“In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field;” (Gen. 3:17-18 NASB).
Now Adam ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because he listened to the voice of his wife. So, we see God’s just action in not taking the life of Adam, even though it is written that just by eating from it, he would die. But God sees that the man was not necessarily acting out of defiance, but out of persuasion by his wife. Thus, we can see God’s mercy upon Adam here. He does not fully blame Adam alone, but holds all to account for their responsibilities in this act of sin (across the board!). This is an example of justice that holds tremendous weight even to this very day. However, this does not mean that God does not rightly punishment the man for his sin, as he still disobeyed God’s command. Thus, the equality of God’s justice, and a firm grounding upon the Biblical Judeo Christian Worldview’s explanation and justification of its doctrine of justice.
The man is being punished, though the ground is what is cursed. The previous relationship Adam had with the ground, that from which he was made, was one where he did not necessarily have to work for his food (as far as we can tell from what is offered in the text). But now, he will have to work for it. He has lost God’s blessing of ease of food, as well as the relationship he shared with this aspect of the creation. Then comes the final part of the punishment for man:
“By the sweat of your face you will eat bread. Till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19 NASB).
Here, I find a few interesting things. No mention of Adam’s seed is made here. So, it can be reasonably assumed that this punishment is for Adam alone. Here is an interesting question: Adam was made out of the dust of the earth, but were we? This curse was set upon the ground for Adam. When Adam would return to the ground, it can be reasonably assumed this curse upon the ground would end. Unlike the punishment against the serpent, which implies a continuance beyond both the serpent and the woman’s lives, this curse is identified as being for Adam alone. He is the only one who is made of the dust of the earth. Not even Eve is made of the dust, nor the serpent, nor are we! But is this true punishment? Well, what is being taken away? The blessing from God that Adam was given to be able to eat of any tree of the garden. He would not have to work for his food, all would be provided to him (think of the tribes of Israel coming into the promised land where they would take over all the hard work of the Canaanites, Deut. 6:11). Now, Adam has lost that blessing from God. He would no longer be able to have such an easy life.
This certainly seems a just and right punishment, though merciful in not being death! The man was blessed by God with all he could ever need. Food, a comfortable environment to live, non-hostile, a wife who was set to be his help-mate! He was even given the opportunity to live forever, though we do not necessarily know if that would ever come about since that would be provided by another tree. How interesting that without knowledge of good and evil, the man never even considers the tree of life, no? All of this is going to be taken from man, so clearly we can see that the man “will surely die.”
Reviewing the Punishments
What we are able to glean from these verses are the following:
- God is a just God who gave just punishments for those involved in the first act of sin in the world.
- God is merciful, considerate of what brought about the first sin, and giving punishments much lighter than death.
- God’s punishments rightfully take from those responsible the blessings God freely gave to them, but which those responsible clearly did not appreciate.
- Had God not punished the serpent, the woman, and the man, would he then be a just God?
- God’s punishments not only right the wrongs committed, but also put in place measures that can prevent the same offense from occurring in the future, if only those involved would not fight against them.
There is, as always, more that can be gleaned, but these do certainly stand out. God could have killed all three at that moment, and he would have been just in doing so. It is God whose actions define what is just and thereby, what is unjust. So, whatever course of action He would have taken would then have defined justice. However, we do not see Him let that death come immediately. So, what do we make of his command and what He said would occur? Does this mean that God lied? Does this mean that God can not be trusted to bring about the punishment He himself declares will be brought about? Of course not. What we are witnessing is an act of grace, God’s mercy being shown by not killing the man or letting him die because of his poor decision. God chooses here to not kill the man. This does not mean he lied. Being the one that chooses, and being the one who made the law and who set the punishment, He has the authority to either bring it about, or, to withhold it. To suggest that God was lying or in some manner being deceptive would be like saying a Judge who gives a lesser sentence than what is prescribed in the law to an offender who committed the offense because of what others caused him to do, is deceptive. That simply does not follow. But it does follow that the judge is being merciful, as such an act is the very definition of the term.
As we continue on in our study of “The Fall of Man,” these things we must retain. The Bible is teaching us about the nature and character of God. We are being told this story of Adam, Eve and the serpent because it is showing to us something about God’s nature. The author is conveying to his readers here that the first man and woman, as well as the serpent, acted against God together. This shows all that God had created which was capable of defying him at one time in the past did so, and it was the first time that it had happened. At this first moment of sin “entering the world” (as it is so commonly referred to), God does not act in rash anger, as we might expect a human to do. As we might expect any of the ancient pantheon of artificial gods to do. Instead, we see the all-powerful and personal creator of the cosmos showing several features of what we might call love. Justice, mercy, patience, sound judgment, and sound punishment for wrong doing, as well as putting forth a means to prevent the offense from occurring in the future.
In closing on this article, a few things to think about.
- Was the serpent lying, telling half-truths, or telling the truth to the woman?
- Was the punishment on Adam just for him, or for all future generations?
- What relationships were broken by this first act of sin?
- What exactly are the first man and woman falling from?
- 5175 nachash. Retrieved from: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5175.htm 1, 2017.