Part 4. Adam, Eve, and Sin
After God sets forth the punishments against the serpent, the woman, and the man, the story continues. However, it does seem to go in a different direction than what one might expect. There is another “scene change” that seems to occur, as the remaining verses of this chapter begin with “Now,” like it did as the start of chapter three. Let’s see where it goes from here.
Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”- therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
So, He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:20-24 NASB)
Does it not seem odd that the sentence, “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living,” is inserted at this point? Would it not have made more sense for this little fact to have been placed elsewhere? Why would the author decide to put this fact here? Well, let’s think about this a moment. God had told the man that should he eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die. Yet, he and his wife are living. So, perhaps that is a reason? The author took this moment to show that Adam and Eve came to appreciate the grace that God showed to them by Adam naming his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all the living. That is, all of those whose lives have been spared by God’s grace! Just think on that for a moment. God had every justifiable reason to allow the life of the man to be taken, and in that moment, all future human life would cease. The human species would be no more. You and I would not have ever gotten the opportunity to live and come into God’s glory.
Perhaps that is the intention of the author. It is certainly a reasonable conclusion to reach. There are certainly not too many other reasons that one can really see. Perhaps the ancient editor of the text just wasn’t very good at his or her job? But that would seem a rather silly and subjective conclusion. The name “Eve” in its Hebrew transliteration is chavvah which is accepted as “life” or “life-giver.” (1) The fact that her name means life, and that from her would come life as the children that she would create with Adam, it makes the most logical sense that the author is conveying that Adam realized that God had spared His life, and in doing so, has shown His grace to all future humanity. What does that say about Adam being responsible for our sinful nature? or about him being responsible for our pain and suffering?
Back on Track
After this insert, we see things “get back on track” we could say. But wait, we just finished reading a whole list of punishments and yet, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Hold up now. The great and almighty powerful creator of the cosmos, who has just been disobeyed by his most favorite creation; This all powerful being who just had the one whom he gave everything to go behind his back and show such a lack of faith and trust in his word, such a complete and utter disregard for his love, creates clothes for him…and the woman that made the man do it? He just got done punishing them for crying out loud, yet, we see this. Again, being a father, I can’t help but relate. Even after my children disobey me, wait till I turn my back to break a rule, or who have done a bad thing to another kid when I wasn’t around. After scolding and punishing them for their disobedience, once all is said and done, I still help them get their pajamas on (for my four year old of course), give them a hug and a kiss on their forehead after prayers, and tell them I love them and tuck them into bed.
Here, again, we see the combination of God’s judgment and justice combined with his mercy, grace, and love. God’s love, as is true of all love, is not just displayed in the kind things we do, but also in our holding those we love to account. To show that we love our children, we not only provide them with more than just their needs, but we also discipline our children to keep them safe. We not only punish them when they do wrong, but we lift them up and give them guidance so they do not make the same mistake again. Though we are harsh in scolding them for doing wrong, we are then gentle in showing our forgiveness of their wrong doing. God is here displaying an act of grace, an act of forgiveness. He clothes them so they won’t feel shame. They now know what good and evil are, what reason else could there be to clothe them but to show them that though they have done wrong, God still loves them and has something in store for them, and cares enough to make them proper clothes instead of the fig leaf action they had going on.
After these two very interesting events, we come to the main event. Also, something of a first and only nature in the writing of this ancient author, who seems to be conveying something that he has witnessed occurring and is providing for us very particular details of.
Then the LORD God said, “behold, the man has become like on of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch our his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…” (Gen. 3:22 NASB).
And… Rather interesting literary device here. God cuts short his words and it transitions immediately into an action. This has stood out to me primarily because I can’t think of another time in the Bible this is done. It is as if the author is providing for us the thought in the mind of God as He is in the process of doing something. Its kind of like reading in a modern book, “Then Joe said, ‘Well, since you have decided to leave…’ then Joe slipped out the back door.” Do you see what I mean? The use of this literary device is rather interesting here, but more so just because of how it is used. Not much to think into it besides that, other than as an attention gainer.
What is important, is that God is again revealing something of His nature and character here. Knowing that man, now knowing what good and evil is, and being man, able to defy God’s command, he makes the choice to remove man from access to the means of living forever. Remember, man is not God. God must have intended for man to come across knowledge of good and evil in some other way, but now, having the ability to know what evil is and (because man is not God) be controlled by evil, God removes from man’s grasp the means to eternal life, where man may come to exist eternally evil.
God’s desire is not for man to exist eternally evil. When man is not aware of what good and evil are, man can be free to enjoy God’s blessing and grace and have no means of deriving an evil choice on his accord. He can not act from an evil inclination. Unlike God, man has the capacity to sin, that is, disobey God. God made man in such a way that though he is in God’s image, he is something different, something that with a knowledge of good and evil, not brought about in a certain way, could result in the man becoming evil (that is, act from an evil inclination, or intention), and as such, exist in such a state as evil.
So, now, God is taking action to ensure that this creation can not live eternally as something evil. This means that though the man disobeyed God, the man now has the choice to do good or to do evil. This is something which God can not force the man into without doing something which the man would then perceive as evil or wrong against him. Since God can not do evil, He can not do something against the man which the man would then view as an evil against him (and reasonably so, no?). So what options does he have? The only non-evil option is to keep the man from being stuck eternally as an evil being. That is, to provide him with the means to live good, and end that life in a good state, thus able to then be given eternal life as good with God, and not by force of will against him. While some may consider death to be an evil thing, in reality, it is a blessing. For if evil men could live forever, what then would happen to good men? That is, truly good men? Evil would then be able to exist forever if there was not a means for evil to be destroyed which can only happen if it can die.
So, God sends man out of the garden of Eden. But God does not do this and then abandon the man. He sets the man to work, “…sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.” He gives man something to do, cultivating the ground from which he came. Then he does something interesting:
…and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:24 NASB).
Now, please remember, every word that is used in the Bible, most significantly the first five books, the Torah, is written for a purpose. These things have been revealed to man for a reason and have been revealed in a particular way for a particular reason. Notice that I underlined “to” in this final verse. Why would God choose to guard the way to the tree of life? Why not remove the way completely? Why not just remove the tree? Why send the man out of the garden? In many ways, the garden is considered to be a special place (no, not heaven). It is the place that God had made especially for the man and his wife. It was a place where God setup all that the man would need to live in peace with God. But now that the man has sinned, and acquired means to act with evil intent, God can not allow the man to be with Him in the garden anymore.
So, why keep the garden and guard the way back to it? This would be what we might call “The problem of the garden.” It would take the rest of the Bible to explain that point, so lets not go there for now. But please do remember this point as you study the Bible in the future. The flaming sword (what does that remind you of?) guards the way to the tree of life (eternal life), and the garden where rivers of water flow…and that path back into the garden where man can be with God.
What are we able to glean from these closing verses to “The Fall of Man?” Well, we learn the following:
- God does not take the man’s life, nor does he take the woman’s life.
- The man appears to appreciate this fact, as He names his wife “Life-giver” and recognizes that all life will come from her.
- God shows mercy even to those whom He must punish by His very nature.
- God’s love comes both in mercy AND in his judgment.
- God still cares enough for the man that He would clothe man so He would not feel shame.
- God guards the way back to eternal life with Him.
The man and his wife have betrayed God’s trust. When God was not present, man chose to disobey his commands. God has had to take the creation that He loves and punish it for the first time, and this has resulted in man no longer being able to live in God’s grace and blessing. So, what has man fallen from? The grace of God. Just as it is said, “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” The man has lost His ability to be in the presence of God’s glory. He is now sent out of God’s presence to cultivate the ground from which he came, and to which he would return. Man has now been set into the world where he is to live out the punishment he has been given.
Though the man will now die, this death is the only way that the potential for evil can be dealt with, so that evil may one day come to an end. Why has God not dealt with evil? Well, it would appear He has actually created the only way it can be dealt with. Just not in the way we would like. Without death, evil can not be ended but by an act that would itself be evil. Unless, it would be possible for evil to be forgiven, and thereby be eradicated, however, for justice to prevail, that evil would have to be punished. Even good men who sin out of innocence must be punished for that sin, but what would happen to justice if evil were to not be punished? What then is the benefit of the good not being punished either? Is it not also an evil that evil men go unpunished but good men are brought to suffer further by the hands of evil men?
The lessons that we glean from this final collection of verses once again is not so much a “moral to the story.” It is a lesson in understanding the nature and character of God. It is a revelation to us of God’s actions and interactions with humanity, through which we are able to learn about who and what he is. Beyond this, the story of the “Fall of Man” is one that explains to us the nature of the world we live in, but only in the context that it is also telling us about the one who created this world.
This creator had no evil intention for humanity, and no one can read the story of the fall and say from a point of objective honesty that this creator has any evil intention. Indeed, the objective reader can find no evidence that this creator being is evil in any sense unless he is being dishonest with himself. It would require reading other things into the text to derive any conclusion logically that the creator had any evil intent, or that the creator in any way created evil. Evil is not something that can be created! It can only be assessed, judged, and identified as the quality of something, not as a thing created. And that, only if there is some standard by which we can qualify it as such. So, while we may know what good and evil are, the knowledge of it is not essential to what we were intended to be! At least, not how we came about knowing it.
But wait, we are not done yet. Be sure to think about these things and the lessons that we have learned thus far from our tale of rebellion and sin. In the final part of this series, we will go over all of these things and do some critical analysis of what we have learned. In so doing, we might be able to achieve a better understanding of the doctrine of “original sin.” Perhaps you are already doing so, and if so, excellent! I would hope that at this point you can see that you can arrive to conclusions rationally from the text on your own. That is the beauty of truth after all. Perhaps that is why God desires for us to seek after it.
- Strong’s Concordance 2332. Chavvah. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2332.htm November 6, 2017.