12 February 2017

Cast from the Garden

After Adam and Eve failed the test of their faithfulness and obedience, God pronounces his judgments.

First, he curses the serpent:

"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:14-15

The literal common sense reading of this passage confirms that the serpent is not a symbolic of some supernatural angelic being but a garden variety snake. Like in earlier passage which introduces the serpent, this passage classifies it among the cattle and beasts of the field. The fact that he is cursed among them may imply that the belief that the serpent originally possessed legs. The locomotive skills of serpents fascinated at least some ancient Hebrews (Prov. 30:18-19)

Second, he curses the woman:

"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Genesis 3:16

God ordains the traditional patriarchal family in which the woman defers to and is subservient to the man in return for provision and protection. Moreover,  God curse explains the evils of struggle and pain in childbirth. The word "sorrow" in this passage means labor or toil.

Third, he curses the man:

"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Genesis 3:17-19

God ordains that the ease of tending and keeping the garden is to be replaced by sorrow and toil of the ground until death returns the man to the ground.

Finally, God expels them from the garden:

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Genesis 3:22-24

Despite creating man in God's image, now God finds alarming the fact that man has become like gods, knowing good and evil. And although God previously gave no commandment about eating from the Tree of Life, now he expresses alarm that Adam might do so. Eating from the tree will allow him to live forever, and be like gods in yet one more attribute. Consequently, God casts man and woman from the garden and introduces "the world as we know it" with all its attendant evils.

This chapter begins the epic Hebrew explanation of the problem of evil--in this case natural evil. Although the Genesis story is more about "history," it seems to contain the implicit question of how to reconcile belief in a omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity with the evils of this world. This passage contains the simply and primitive answer--mankind has sinned against that deity. In so doing, mankind forfeited paradise and now must struggle in a hostile natural environment.

Interestingly, this passage says nothing about that other part of the question of evil--human evil. The answer to that question was left to Christian theologians who created the notion that the act of disobedience or a curse from God for that disobedience changed man's nature. After Eden mankind is spiritually dead and antagonistic to God and goodness and is in fact enslaved to sin.

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