In previous chapters we have examined the effects of sin and the consequences of Adam and Eve's disobedience. These were:
- Shame - Their disobedience caused them to feel shame and they tried to cover their nakedness as a way of dealing with that shame.
- Guilt - They knew they did wrong and felt guilty about that.
- Fear - Shame and guilt lead to fear. Fear of punishment they knew they deserved.
- More sin - Their original disobedience led them to increased sin (denial, accusations against God).
- Judgment - God judges everyone and so Satan and Eve received judgment for their actions.
Satan was condemned and his bid to overpower humanity was denied by the promise that God would send a savior who would ultimately destroy him. Note that Satan's defeat is outlined and promised at the very beginning of the Bible and confirmed at the end.
Eve's birthing experience would not be a joyful reproduction of generations into a perfect world but rather a painful experience of sin and death. She would also lose her co-rulership position with man and be in submissive to her husband (and yet, in His mercy, God granted that these two effects would not destroy her love for her husband and family)
Now God turns to Adam who bears the brunt of judgment in comparison to Eve.
The Judgment of Man
17 Then to Adam He 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.
18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 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."
- Genesis 3:17-19
First, God outlines the sin. Adam listened to his wife (he changed his allegiance) and not to the Word of God. Loyalty to the Word is stronger than any human tie including marriage. Eve did not deceive him, she convinced him (IE. what harm could it do; only this once; I did it and nothing happened, etc.) In the end, the plain truth is that Adam did what God said not to do.
God then pronounces the judgment on Adam. Since he is the head of the race, the judgment, by extension, will affect all of his descendants. Because of what he has done, God must now remove Himself and this will affect man. God is holy, sinless and cannot dwell where there is sin and immorality. Until Adam and Eve sinned, God maintained the balance for life in the physical world by His presence.
Adam and Eve lived in a perfect world where God maintained this perfection through His power. There was no deterioration, no overpopulation and no imbalances. However, once sin entered the world, God removed His presence and permitted the cycle of deterioration to take place.
This was the reality of good and evil warned against. The deterioration, not permitted before, was now released. Mutations that caused decay began to form. Even in man, the cycle of deterioration would now cause his physical death. Of course, this was still before the Great Flood so the rate of decay and the level of imbalance were slow. This explains why people lived such long lives during that time. However, once the flood destroyed the world, man's lifespan shortened and the rate of decay accelerated.
Genesis explains the symptoms and features of a declining world where God is no longer extending His power to maintain a "steady state" of life and order thus allowing all things to gradually disintegrate toward disorder and death.
God did not create death. He merely removed His life sustaining power and allowed His creation to disintegrate, which is what it would naturally do without the original life force that gave it existence to begin with. This concept of deterioration was universally observed and scientifically formulated about 100 years ago (Carnot, Clausins, Kelvin and others). It was called the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
This law states that all systems, if left to themselves, become degraded or disordered. All systems, whether they be watches or suns, eventually wear out. Even modern scientists are reconfirming this law with new equipment (IE. Hubble telescope).
Instead of all things being "made" (organized into complex systems, as they were during creation week), they are now being "unmade" (becoming disorganized and simple). This is what is wrong with our world and the reason for its deterioration.
Let us get back to the passage in Genesis and its language. "Cursed is the ground" is the reverse of "it is very good." The difference here is that God no longer maintains it. The curse is that God now removes His sustaining power. "For thy sake" refers to God's mercy. God removes His sustaining power not only as a response to sin but also to put a limit on the wickedness resulting from sin. Better suffering and death accompanying sin than unchecked rebellion and a never-ending multiplication of wicked people using the creation for sinful purposes. Once sin was in, God had to intervene.
The curse on the earth is followed by the result that it would have on man:
- Sorrow, continual disappointment and futility in life, especially in providing for oneself.
- Pain and suffering signified by the thorns and thistles.
- Hard work. Before, man ate of the abundance of the garden. Now, he would have to scratch a living from an uncooperative earth.
- Death. With all of his work and effort, man would, like the rest of the creation, deteriorate into the primary elements from which he was taken, the earth itself.
This was the result of the curse on Adam. It is interesting to note that Jesus experienced every one of these elements when, as the Bible says, "He bore the curse on our behalf. " (Galatians 3:13).
- He was the man of sorrows – Isaiah 53:3
- He wore the curse as a crown of thorns - Mark 15:17
- His work and labor made Him sweat, but His sweat came out as drops of blood - Luke 22:44
- Finally, God brought Him into the "dust of death" - Psalm 22:15
God placed a curse on the earth by withdrawing Himself and thus allowing the world and man to disintegrate into death. However, He did not leave the world without hope. That hope was that one day He would create a new heaven and a new earth which would never be destroyed by sin and where He would dwell eternally with His people.
Now that the judgment was pronounced there was a response from Adam and Eve.
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
- Genesis 3:20
Adam renames his wife. Originally, he had named her "woman". This term signified that she was part of him, equal and similar in nature. Now he gives her another name that will signify several other things:
- The word Eve means "life-giver." It signified that they were going to obey God's command to multiply upon the earth.
- This response also showed that they believed God's promise to bring salvation through the seed of the woman. By bearing children despite pain, woman was expressing her belief that the savior would ultimately come.
- God renews His relationship with man, not based on perfection anymore, but based on faith. Because they believe God's promise expressed in their intention to procreate, Adam and Eve are saved.
In response to their faith, expressed in obedience, God provides a covering for their shame, guilt and nakedness.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
- Genesis 3:21
Note that animals were sacrificed in order to provide this covering. This is the first preview indicating how redemption would ultimately come: the blood of the innocent to cover the sins of the guilty.
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."
- Genesis 3:22
Man now knows experientially both good (fellowship with God and perfect creation) as well as evil (separation from God and the punishment associated with evil). This is the reverse of others after him who experience evil first, and then when saved, experience fellowship with God and perfection through faith.
Adam is now weakened by sin and, although repentant and saved, can still be tempted to eat of the tree of life, the result being that he would continue to exist in the sin-state forever. Perhaps this is what Satan did and why there is no salvation for him.
therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 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.
- Genesis 3:23-24
The wording suggests that Adam was reluctant to leave and so God does two things to guarantee the carrying out of His judgment.
He drives the man and his wife out of his new home, work and status.
He puts two angels and a flaming sword to protect access to the tree of life. The tree is preserved for a future time. The sword signifies that you cannot get to it without physical death.
The remaining story of the Bible will describe how God worked in order to bring man to the point where he could again reach out and eat of the tree of life.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'
- Revelation 2:7