HUMANKIND IN REBELLION: GENESIS 1-6, ESV
Genesis 3:1-6. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘Youa shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, *
3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
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.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight (see Alter on word) to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
* Cf. Alter on v.2: on linguistic grounds he assures us that the woman cut the Satan off in mid-sentence.
The ESV and the KJV take note of the fact that “you” in the first 5 verses is both plural and masculine. So though the woman is addressed the man is included. If what I am inferring is true it would fit in nicely with the picture of Eve interrupting the Satan. Adam is seen as more a follower in this section than the leader. We notice that it’s Eve that eats and “gives to Adam who is with her.” And then Adam seems to be passing the blame on to her (and God). It’s easy to imagine him saying it with something of a whimper. I can easily believe that God purposed Adam as the leader but that he wasn’t taking the lead. Whether any of that has any merit, this much is clear, Eve is not presented as a pathetic little female creature running behind the man to do his bidding, which is what many feminists would have us believe (Stanton, Schüssler Fiorenza and Daly illustrate).
3:1. Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’
It’s easy also to imagine the Satan knows better than that, but he wants to provoke a conversation with the pair. It would be a crime, he would imply, for God to make this marvelous garden, place them in it and then deny them the pleasure of eating of any of the trees. Since that accusation won’t work he will move on to something more plausible, more seductive and sinister.
3:2. We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden…
The woman said, ‘We” may freely eat so we know that she is including the man; she speaks for both of them. Adam (if he is by her side as Satan speaks which I think is the case) says nothing. As above, Adam is shown as playing a passive role rather than taking the lead.
3: But God said…
She vigorously ‘corrects’ the cunning tempter and tells him God had opened the entire garden for their pleasure (2:16) but that He had forbidden one of the trees. And His “don’t eat” was a word of protection rather than a word of arbitrary choice. “You’ll die if you eat!” said God. In fact she says they were forbidden to touch the tree or they would die. Sometimes scholars try too hard. It’s true there is no mention of touching in 2:17 but what if God had later told Eve they weren’t to touch it? What if Eve simply added the word to deepen the intensity of the prohibition? “We’re not even allowed to touch that tree!” That’s hard to imagine? Cynthia Westfall (Evangelical scholar}, makes use of this addition in an overall futile attempt to defend Eve against criticism when Eve doesn’t need defense in the first place.
3:4: The serpent said, “You shall not surely die…”
“He was a murderous liar from the beginning,” said the Lord Jesus, the destroyer of the Satan (John 8:44; Hebrews 2:10-12, 14). “When he speaks a lie he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
3:5. For God knows that in the day you eat…you will be like God…”
‘Elohim’. God or gods. “You’ll be divine! You’ll be rivals to God or at least gods. Your wisdom and knowledge will make your heads swim. Your eyes will be opened to depths formerly unknown! People will come to call you ‘gods’ and you’ll be able to jeer at those who are obviously grossly ignorant compared with you.” Humans don’t make good servants so muchless do they make good lords or gods. God gave Solomon wisdom and look what he did with the gift. No, it’s GOD we need to be GOD if we’re to be glorious beings.
There he is standing in the middle of the stream chest heaving and heart thumping like a runaway train speeding downhill. His wide-eyed and wild-eyed look scours every foot of ground around him but there’s no sign of them. Maybe he finally shook them off but his legs are trembling, throbbing and weary from miles covered at breakneck speed, his ribs are aching from the pressure of lungs expanded to their limit in sucking in great gulps of air, his throat is on fire and his mouth though foam-flecked is dust. He can wait no longer, danger or not he must find the nearest stream and drink or die.
The long chase, the fierce pack, the cunning way they pursued, always keeping him running full tilt with a single leader dog while the rest waited until he tired and then they’d take his life. This time he outwitted or outran them but the strain and the effort has been close to overwhelming. He pants for water. No sipping, no little desire but a desperate and unquenchable thirst. He finds the stream and sinks his muzzle in the ice-cold water and swallows it down in big life-giving gulps.
The psalmist might have seen that from some high place, have seen the drama of it all and rejoiced at the escape and felt like rising to his feet and applauding. That’s the picture he paints for us in Psalm 42:1. “As the deer pants for the flowing stream so my soul longs after you.”
How could he not be thrilled at the “great escape”? Did it not remind him of the days when he was pursued long and hard, like a frightened deer, a period in his life when he heard the ‘dogs’? There he was, hemmed in by circumstances beyond his control, his strength almost gone, his friends not within reach, the effort to stay on his feet having drained him and driven him to the edge of the abyss. He must find GOD. “My soul thirsts for GOD, the living GOD. When shall I come and behold the face of GOD? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’” [42.3] Idolaters and God-rejectors could point to their gods and goddesses so they mock Israel’s unseeable God who has no idols). In AD 63 when Pompey waked into the Holy of Holies he found no idol there. Psalmists could have told him that would be the case. God is enthroned in heaven (11:4, passim) and on a greater throne than that (cf. Psalm 22:3).
As the deer at the limit of his endurance instinctively knows he must find water so this distressed human knows he must find God for it’s only in GOD he has reason to hope! He tests every offer of help with the question: “Will it help me to find GOD?”
Satan: “Here, here is good advice and counsel.”
Will it help me to find GOD, the Creator and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Satan. No, but you will be a god!
Satan. “Here, here is an offer of friendship.”
Will it help to find my Friend GOD?
Satan. No, but you will be a god!
Satan. Here is a place you can run to.
Will I find GOD there?
Satan. No, but you will be a god!
Satan. Here is a book you should read!
Will it help me to know and love GOD?
Satan. No, but you will be a god!
Satan. Here is a seminar you should attend.
Will it bring me to trust in and commit to GOD?
Satan. No, but you will be a god!
Satan. “Here, here is a book you should read, a movie you should see, a lecture you should attend, a habit you should develop, an author you should follow, a reputation you should hunger for….”
Will they bring me to GOD?
Satan. No, but you’ll be a god and feel like a god.
Satan. Here, here is some fruit you should eat—it’s your right!
Will it bring Death to me and all I truly care for, all I want in GOD to truly care for?
Satan: Slyly, “No, but it will make a god of you and for a while you will feel like a god!”
(Holy Father, help us to see you in the words. Help us to see you EVERYWHERE. Help us to WANT to see you everywhere. And though you are not far from any one of us sometimes we’re so tired and afraid that we feel the need of something more “face to face.” We’re giving you no ultimatums Holy One but so many things frighten us and deceive us and take us to very dark places and in our confused weariness we need your nearer presence. We are brave, because you have made us brave and we see gallantry in so many fine people. But sometimes, don’t you know, we feel like just sitting down. This prayer we bring to you in Jesus Christ and by His Spirit.)
GOD THE REDEEMER THROUGH THE WOMAN: Genesis 3:14-15
Satan meets his Nemesis and it’s not the Man:
A few leading questions
Who is it that threatens the Serpent-Satan?
Who does GOD make the enemy of the Satan?
Whose children with be the enemies of the Satan’schildren?
Whose special child crushes the Satan’s head?
Whose special child is hurt in the crushing of the Satan’s head?
The central character in this section is the WOMAN. The man is not mentioned though we know he has to be in the picture but God chooses to imply he is in it rather than show him in it. If there is an active human hero in the entirety of Genesis, 1—3 it is the woman.
Did Paul know that?
Is that the same Paul who wrote 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11?
Is that the Paul who is accused of degrading women?
3:14. The Lord God said to the serpent because…
It’s true of course that the human pair went along with the claim made by the Satan and so were responsible for the consequences; it was not that the Satan could coerce them into evil—he has no such power. Nevertheless, it’s true that the Satan is declared to be a destroyer, a bringer of hurt and harm and alienation. Moses has it that the Serpent brought doubts about God’s goodness into human experience but Paul says that “Sin and Death” came in by man (humankind—1 Corinthians 15:21-22 & Romans 5:1). The Satan deceived the mother and father of humanity and God curses him. But he deceived them by maligning the Lord God whose heart and motives he called into question.
“Is he robbing us of wisdom and godhood by forbidding to us the tree?” That would be the kind of thing he led them to think and act on. GOD had given them Paradise and created them with a status and commission of splendor and majesty. But it wasn’t enough. They wanted more! (Cf. Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4 for such an attitude in spirit beings and 1 Corinthians 11:10 and the suggestions later on that text.) What the Satan had said to the woman (and her husband) made it clear that God wanted no rival, that the prohibition was self-serving. The Lord God is not the “good guy” they might have thought He was. The Satan set the human pair against their Creator Father and on the path of agony and their children on a long road called “Alienation Highway”(see 3:22-24).
3:14. You are cursed more than all cattle…you shall eat dust
From this rendering it appears that the human transgression brings the innocent creation down with the humans, (“cursed more than…”) The crawling and eating dust is suggesting the dishonor and shame that the serpent-Satan has brought upon itself/himself. Despite the fact that it/he is presented as having been wiser (in the sense of cunning) of all the other animals it/he is now in a state of ill-repute and shame.
It’s interesting and probably very instructive that the animals (think of birds, sheep, goats and cattle come to be sacrifices for sin, victims of predators and often enemies of one another. However we might come to understand all that, this much we know; the suffering of the animal world is real and has a message for us. Emerson said something like this: ‘Maybe it’s true that animals can’t reason but they can suffer!”
3:15. I will put enmity between you and the woman…
God didn’t have to be told that Eve and Adam had sinned against Him but He had asked them so that they could get it right out in front. They were afraid of His presence and He wouldn’t allow them to continue to live in fear. His Holy Son Jesus acted in the same way with the sinful Peter (John 21:15-17) when He required Peter to confess three times what he had denied three times and on the third asking Peter groans and knows nothing is hidden from the Lord, “Lord, You know everything…!” And it was because He knew everything and was still trusing Peter to a wondrous commission—it was because He knew everything that Peter knew it was okay to start anew and fresh and pursue happy faithfulness to his Savior. So it is with Adam & Eve.
Adam’s half-whimpered confession was still a confession, “I did eat!” She more openly and honestly confessed and denounced the lying rascal for what he was. They were repentant and God, we’re told, in 3:31 gave them a covering that really covered their shame. It looked only like a hide of some animal (some innocent animal covered the guilty pair?) but it was the gift of a pure-hearted Lord God who took away their self-made covering (3:7) and provided a covering Himself and later, now outside the garden, By Adam God gave Eve a son in the place of Abel (4:25-26) and we find “in those days men began to call on the name of the Lord.”
It is the LORD GOD who made the woman the enemy of the Satan. Satan may have begun the war but it is God who continues it to the destruction of the Satan. And God’s chosen instrument in that warfare, explicitly mentioned, is the woman the serpent deceived. In deceiving her, of course, he made an enemy of her because she denounced him as a lying deceiver, calling him by his name and his children by his/their name! (See 2 Corinthians 11:2-15.) God knows the woman can’t have children without the man, nevertheless He chooses not to say I will make “them” your enemy. In this section on triumph over the Great Liar the woman to the exclusion of the man (in the text!) is the redeemer in the service of the Redeemer.
3:15. And between your seed and her seed…
Eve’s children—not the man’s— (3:20) will divide into two groups. Some of them will become “children of the Satan” though also of Eve and her other children would be children of God. That mother would experience that truth very soon for she will bear a faith-filled boy called Abel and a boy called Cain. 1John 3:10-12 tells us Cain was ‘of the evil one.’ Jesus, with a clear eye on this section of Genesis speaks of some of Eve’s children as children of Satan. See John 8: 37-44 and note Matthew 23:35 where Jesus shows that Cain was alive again in His day. ‘Raising Cain’—is that the phrase?
The suffering female savior Genesis 3:16
3:16. To the woman he said: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception
Commentators characteristically tell us that this is speaking about ‘the labor pains’ women have to endure. I don’t doubt for a moment that this could be included but I have a hard time believing that this is anywhere near the point of this ‘curse’ section. The section has to do with the consequences of the woman’s letting loose the power of evil into human experience. It sounds like God is saying He will increase the pain women would feel in the process of delivering. This reduces the agony that is ahead for womankind. Westfall senses this so she offers statistics about and discussion of women down the years dying in childbirth. This reduces the consequential agony of Eve. God is dealing with womankind in a world that is radically different from the one He created. We’re reading here about worlds in collision and Genesis makes the measure of ther agony the reflection of just that.
The woman contributed to the war that is really a collision of two worlds and she and her children will suffer agony. We mustn’t make light of labor pains. But ask any woman believer which pain would be more excruciating and long-lasting—the anguish of labor pains or seeing her children imprisoned or tortured for their faith. Ask them if they would rather their children died young and gallantly for the faith or live long against God. The questions would hardly be worth asking since the answers would be so obvious. See Jesus’ use of labor pains in John 16:31 and a hundred million women would nod in approval of what He said when the child is born safely and well.
It’s in the context of WAR against the Satan that God speaks of her greatly aggravated suffering in connection with childbearing. It’s in the context of her children being at war with the Satan’s troops that God speaks of the extra agony. Jesus speaks of some of her children who were enemies of the enemies of God saying, “Behold I send you out as lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:3.
It is Eve’s particular child that would suffer greatly and hurt His mother’s heart as He steps on Satan’s head and crushes him (3:15). He wasn’t the man’s child—He was the woman’s. Cf. Galatians 4:4 and later comments and Luke 2:34-35 that illustrates the kind of thing Genesis here speaks about. The particular Child who would destroy the Satan would be a source of division between even brother Israelites.
‘Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”’
3:16. Your desire shall be for your husband…
I won’t quote any of the nonsense some older commentators have offered to explain this phrase. If the previous comment has merit and I think it does because it stays with the context of Genesis that is dealing with humankind and an earth that’s in upheaval and the consequences of humanity’s rejection of the Creator God.
God has been talking about the woman as redeemer and links the redemption with the bearing of children. If you lessen the significance of her as the “mother of all the living” and her children as involved in civil-war as well as world-war and the destruction of the Satan by her special child—if you do that then you can imagine this: “the woman still wants sexual intimacy with her husband and want to please him.” Bless me, a worldwide catastrophe has just taken place and it is still affecting the planet and beyond and we reduce this to a woman’s sexual desire and pleasing her husband because, as one older commentator put it, “that’s how women are.”
This is EVE, the mother of all the living; the woman to whom God gave (in joint-heirship and commission) universal dominion and a place with her husband as the image of God and we see her as this weak little female. God never saw her that way!
He flatly asked her, “What have you done?” She repentantly confesses, but there’s no sign of whimpering. She renounces the ‘god of the gods’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), the ‘prince of this world’ (John 12:21), the ruler of demons (Mark 3:22) and this is the woman Genesis speaks of and in this context we turn her into a weakling who is a pitiful dependent. She is in union with the man God blessed and said, “Be fruitful and fill the earth.” She has no more need of her husband than he has of her.
But she does need him if the blessing of Genesis 1:28 is to be fulfilled! And why wouldn’t she want it? There’s a day coming, in a better world, a glorified creation when humankind—male and female—will experience Genesis 1:28 to the full.
See Hebrews 2:5-8; Romans 8:16-17 and 8:29 where humankind gains glory the same way God’s unique Son gained glory—suffering first and the glory that follows (Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:11).
What has happened in this moral/spiritual/religious disaster does not sever her from her husband. “What God has joined together” (as He joined together the male and female) is not to be torn apart. Nor does the disaster change God’s everlasting purpose to glorify humanity as His redemptive words earlier and His covering their shame (3:21) make clear.
3:16. And he shall rule over you.
This phrase is given by God to remind Eve of the consequences of her and her husband’s departure from Him. At THIS point it is not painting the picture of a dire future! God is making the point that turning from Him, turning against Him will have consequences! He is underling the exceeding sinfulness of Sin.
Nevertheless, I’m taking this phrase as an evil consequence of their sinning against Him. This is a different Adam (who always stands for humanity) and Eve (who is always “the mother of all the living”) and while they are completely dependent on one another things will never be quite the same! The Satan said ‘If you eat God will know your eyes will be opened.’ The lie he told was true in a way more devastating that they knew. Having eaten they now knew the experience of doing evil. Paul says Eve engaged in transgression (1 Timothy 2:14) and Adam no less (Romans 5:12-19). This Adam wouldn’t be the same one that looked at her, delirious with joy, when he first met her.
The words themselves aren’t obvious in meaning but they have an ominous sound don’t they!? Bearing in mind that Adam and Eve are not presented as just two persons but that they stand for the human family at its beginnings, we have good reason to believe that he ‘Adam’ that will rule over ‘Eve” would demonstrate the growing alienation between humans, even the closest humans.
We see this in Eve’s children when some became servants of the Redeeming Lord and some became the enemies of God’s enemies. It will be seen again—soon—in Abel and his brother Cain in Genesis 4 when murder enters because as 1 John would have it, “Cain was of the evil one” Then again we meet Lamech, the murderous polygamist (Genesis 4:19, 22-24 and 6:2). The husband and wife relationship has deteriorated in the eyes of the human family whose evil continues to intensify until we hear the awful word in Genesis 6:5-7.
We have more than enough evidence to believe that the sinful plague spread universally and it became systemic. While strident feminists can and so overstate the mistreatment and enslavement of women in ancient times (see archaeologist and strong feminist Ruether in Sexism & God Talk) there is no need to deny womankind has been abused. The Lamech of Genesis 4 violated God’s desire for married people but he also murdered men. Men and boys as well as women and young girls have been abused and enslaved with all the rigor experienced by women.