Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Adam & Eve (Gen 3:1-24)

Infamous Couples in the Bible
ADAM & EVE (Gen 3:1-24)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2018

There are some activities in the course of life where weight is an important consideration.
When Jim called to make reservations on a small charter plane departing from an equally small airport, he was not surprised at the agent's comment, "The plane is very full with baggage and passengers," and then she asked, "How much do you weigh, sir?" Not thinking clearly Jim answered, "With or without clothes?" "Well," replied the clerk, "how do you intend to travel?"
There are some activities in life where weight is an important consideration but few where clothing is optional. When "Adam & Eve" are in the Garden of Eden, clothing is not optional until they are out of the garden, when it becomes obligatory. They are one of the Infamous Couples in the Bible, two people that pave the way for the rest of us, and not in a good way.

People often have an idyllic and romantic view of mankind's first parents. They live in the most luxurious accommodations in all creation, surrounded by lush foliage and abundant wildlife. They have ample food and water, as well as a productive occupation:
The LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.... A river watering the garden flowed from Eden.... The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen 2:8-10, 15)
They want for nothing, and life is good.... So what makes mankind's first parents infamous? Despite their many blessings from God, they choose to disobey Him. He gives them almost complete autonomy and only one restriction:
The LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:16-17)
God's instructions could not be simpler or easier to follow. He does not command them to perform a difficult task, one that requires great knowledge or skill. He wants them only to refrain from doing something, which just requires an act of will. Evidently that one volitional act is difficult enough, compounded by contrary input from Satan.

Genesis 3 provides an explanation for the introduction of evil into what God created, an event that mars the 'good' world He made. As Paul notes, "the creation was subjected to frustration, [and] not by its own choice" (Rom 8:20).

I. The main characters set the stage in The Drama of Redemption.
A. The serpent confuses the woman (Gen 3:1-5).
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
This is the first indication of a contrary agenda in creation. Until this point, the only will in evidence is God's will. The serpent is a metonym for Satan, as John makes clear in his Revelation when he mentions "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan" (Rev 20:2). Reference to his rebellion against God comes elsewhere in scripture:
You were in Eden, the garden of God.... You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.... You sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub.... Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth.... (Ezek 28:13-17)
Satan does not openly oppose God, a tactic he reserves until after he exhausts his main weapon, falsehood: As Jesus says, "There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44b). By posing the question to Eve ("did God say?" v. 3), Satan is suggesting that God is a liar and is withholding something desirable from her.
The biblical author does not say why Satan approaches Eve first and not Adam also. As the chapter opens, God addresses both of them, commanding them not to eat "from the tree that is in the middle of the garden" (v. 3) and warning them about the consequence if they disobey, "you will die" (v. 3). At that point, the devil comes to Eve alone with the suggestion that she disobey God. There is no indication why Satan thinks Eve will be more amenable than Adam to his overtures. Perhaps the devil is hoping to 'divide and conquer.'

Eve repeats but distorts God's command, adding, "you must not touch it" (v. 3), and Satan denies the consequence, stating, "you will not surely die" (v. 4). God only actually prohibits the former, the eating not the touching. Changing the terms of what He expects changes the parameters of what He accepts, which places Eve and the man who follows her outside the realm of God's will (i.e., in rebellion against Him). As a result, they are both subject to His judgment.

Initially, it is the desire to "be like God" (v. 5) that lures Satan to rebel against Him. As Isaiah notes, the devil thinks, "I will make myself like the Most High" (14:14b). Yet as Jeremiah asserts, "No one is like you, O LORD" (10:6a). Satan cannot fit the bill, but that does not stop him from hoping or stop him from trying to convince others to hope. Eve is one of those he tries to convince, as he will try to convince others through the ages. In that mission he fails, although the woman and her descendants do learn the difference between "good and evil" (v. 5).
B. The woman convinces the man (Gen 3:6-7).
Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,14 she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Eve apparently does not think very long or hard before following the serpent's suggestion. Adam gives it even less thought. "Hers is a sin of initiative. His is a sin of acquiescence." (Hamilton 1990:191) The result is a great disappointment. As the serpent predicted, "The eyes of both of them were opened" (v. 7), but that revelation comes with an unpleasant side effect—an awareness of their nakedness and an urgency to rectify that condition. To this point their being naked is not a problem and causes them no embarrassment. It is not a change in the weather that prompts this change in their wardrobe but a change in their wakefulness. They now equate nudity with indignity.
C. The Lord confronts the couple (Gen 3:8-13).
Gen 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" 12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
Presumably, man had a close and fairly informal relationship with God from the beginning, enjoying casual conversations with Him in the garden. Man's estrangement from God, as the couple now hides from Him, is perhaps the saddest effect of sin. Their once intimate communion with Him is now damaged.

When God asks a question, as He does here, it is not because He does not know the answer but because He wants to elicit the answer (i.e., an admission of guilt) from man. Their new awareness, however, makes them self-conscious in a way they had not been before. Realization of their nakedness becomes a source of embarrassment before God, an odd reaction toward the one who created their physical form. Still, even as man attempts to avoid God, God reaches out to man.

Particularly interesting is the transference God evokes when He raises the incidence of disobedience: Adam does not take responsibility for his role but shifts the blame to his wife (yet ultimately accusing God, "The woman you put here" v. 12). Eve then does not take responsibility for her role but shifts the blame to the serpent (the original instance of "The devil made me do it"). In neither case, though, for Adam or for Eve, does God accept the shift. Satan, however, does not avoid responsibility for his role and shift the blame elsewhere, because he cannot. He is ultimately at fault. As the narrative continues, though, it is evident that God does not accept any transference as an excuse for sin.

Application: When you look back on this event, you may wonder at Eve's naiveté. (Adam's response is worse. Did he not receive the same divine instruction?!) How could she miss such an obvious attempt at deception? Actually, the reason for present clarity (as you look back) may be one result of your first parents' eating from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen 2:17). You have a heightened sense of right and wrong. Nevertheless—and here is the most important point— the test in the garden is not of Eve's ability to resist the lure forbidden fruit poses but of her willingness to obey God. In the end, all tests are of that one ability—not how well you understand God but how willing you are to obey God. In the end, obedience is not a matter of your intellectual preparedness to comprehend God but of your volitional willingness to heed God. That is why He did not give His people manna in the wilderness on the seventh day—to see if they would obey Him and refrain from 'doing' on the Sabbath:
The LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in [but on the seventh day they are to rest]." (Exod 16:4-5)
God could have given them manna every day, but He chose to skip one day and not tell them why, as a test of their devotion to Him. Likewise, God expects your compliance more than your comprehension, your willing obedience even if you do not understand His rationale for demanding what He commands. Will you demonstrate your devotion to Him by obeying Him? Remember that when you stand before God on the last day, He will not quiz you on your comprehension but on your compliance: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10).

II. The main character steals the scene in The Drama of Redemption.

As the narrative continues, it is evident that God does not accept transference as an excuse for sin, because He judges each individual for his own sin ("sin has its consequences" Hamilton 1990:201). Reversing the order in which He accuses the guilty (a chiastic construction), God addresses the most responsible party first.
A. The Lord condemns the guilty (vv. 14-19).
1. He judges the serpent.
Gen 3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [!] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
This may seem insensitively harsh. Serpents are not volitional creatures, so why punish them as if they were, unless the Fall changed their original character? It is possible that these creatures God made once had characteristics they no longer possess or (more likely) that this particular serpent had them temporarily as a result of Satanic possession (e.g., speech).

The serpent's "cursed" (v. 14) state refers to its prone (prostate) position, suggesting that it may have been originally upright (even bipedal?). The change marks a 'demotion' in the hierarchy of creation from most quadrupeds.

The "enmity" (v. 15) between the descendants of the woman and the serpent does not refer to any animosity between women and snakes in general (although many women regard snakes with revulsion) but to their figurative representation of two sides in a cosmic struggle at the the end, a struggle John mentions in his Revelation:
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.... The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. (Rev 12:4b, 9a)
2. He judges the woman.
Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
Eve's penalty is pain in childbirth, which presumably would not have been a difficult procedure before the Fall. Unfortunately, Eve is not able to experience relief as she gives birth to her sons after this event. Because physical intercourse is a pleasurable experience, though, the pain of childbirth is not such a deterrent as to prevent procreation and may be why a woman's "desire" (v. 16) is for her husband,  although the enjoyment is not one-sided. Moreover, childbirth is the means by which the serpent's seed will ultimately suffer defeat.
3. He judges the man.
Gen 3:17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
Adam's penalty is strenuous labor, which presumably would not have been a taxing process before the Fall. Unfortunately, Adam is not able to experience much ease as he must begin his work immediately upon his expulsion from the garden. Nevertheless, Solomon says. "it is good and proper for a man... to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot" (Eccl 5:18).

God indicates that man (and woman) has an unspecified expiration date ("to dust you will return" v. 19). He does not say if his passing will be easy or hard, merely that it will be. Presumably man would have avoided this fate had he not followed his wife's lead and partaken of the 'forbidden fruit.' Because they both ate, they will both die. (If, however, both man and woman accept God's offer of salvation, they will both live, eternally.)
B. The couple continues the verdict (Gen 3:20-24).
Gen 3:20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, 37 knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
The greatest consequence of the Fall is the introduction of death into the creation, related to man's exclusion from the tree of life, which was not part of God's original prohibition. Adam and Eve could have had physical immortality had they not disobeyed God. He will subsequently make that option available but only to a restricted number of people.

Some commentators think God's providing clothing to Adam and Eve, presumably following the death of these animals, is indicative of His shedding blood to atone for their sin, but such a supposition is pure speculation and goes well beyond the text. At most one can surmise that the introduction of sin affected even the animal kingdom since "the giving up of the lives of beasts was necessary to provide man with garments" (Leupold 1942:179). Atonement for sin does not become an issue until much later, and only for Israel in the sanctuary. In any case, God considers the "fig leaves" (v. 7) of their initial coverings insufficient for their new situation and replaces them with more durable coverings.

The Bible does not say how long the "cherubim" (v. 24) remain on guard duty, perhaps until the time of the flood, after which the location of Eden is no longer evident. In any case, the cherubim fade from public mention until they appear in the design motif of the tabernacle, especially above the ark: "The cherubim had their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim
faced each other, looking toward the cover. (Exod 37:9)

Application: Is it ever possible truly to leave the past behind you? In every generation the trespass of man's initial rebellion follows him and taints whatever he does. That stain contaminates you and threatens to undo whatever good you may accomplish in this life. Compounding the problem, God expects you, His creature, to be perfect—"Be holy because I am holy" (Lev 11:4445)—an impossible requirement especially when He is the exemplar of perfection. It is no wonder that "all [y]our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). Only if you receive the substitution (imputation) of Christ's righteousness, can you truly leave your past sin behind you. As Paul explains it:
Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Rom 3:22-24)
The Fall is something you should want to leave behind, and it is something you can leave behind because of what Jesus has done for you.

"Adam & Eve" is the first of several Infamous Couples in the Bible, so designated because this particular pair introduces sin into man's DNA, a fatal flaw that could signal the end of the human race. Thankfully, God's plan to counteract sin is already in place with "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Rev 13:8), a plan that makes the difference between life and death for you and moves you from paradise lost to paradise (re)gained.

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.

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Relevant and civil comments are welcome. Whether there will be any response depends on whether Dr. Manuel notices them and has the time and inclination to respond or, if not, whether I feel competent to do so.
Jim Skaggs