Bondage: The  Fall of Humankind (Genesis 3.1-24)

➡ Average Reading Time: 14 minutes
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The following reading of Genesis 1.1-2.3 is formatted ala The Books of the Bible: Covenant History without any chapter or verse marketings. The description below is taken from Preface. It explains the use of line space and format instead of chapters and verses.

Because the biblical books were handwritten, read aloud, and then hand-copied long before standardized printing, their authors and compilers needed a way to indicate divisions within the text itself. They often did this by repeating a phrase or expression each time they made a transition from one section to another. We can confirm that particular phrases are significant in this way by observing how their placement reinforces a structure that can already be recognized implicitly from other characteristics of a book, such as changes in topic, movement in place or time, or shifts from one kind of writing to another. Through line spacing, we’ve marked off sections of varying sizes. The smallest are indicated by one blank line, the next largest by two lines, and so on, up to four-line breaks in the largest books. We’ve also indicated key divisions with a large initial capital letter of new sections. Our goal is to encourage meaningful units to be read in their entirety and so with greater appreciation and understanding.

Zondervan. NIV, The Books of the Bible: Covenant History: Discover the Origins of God’s People (Kindle Locations 265-272). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Click to Read || Gen. 3.1-24

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’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 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.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

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, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 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.

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. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
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.”

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
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 named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, 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.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 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.

Observing

Bondage: The Fall of Humanity Genesis 3.1-24This section provides a continuation of the story that began at the beginning of Genesis 2. Male and female have been placed in the garden by God and given freedom within limits. Genesis 3 tells the dreaded story of their fall from the presence of God. The story can be broken into the following sections:

  • The Method of the Tempter (Genesis 3.1-7)
  • Nothing New Under the Sun (Genesis 3.8.13)
  • The Consequences of Choice (Genesis 3.14-19)
  • A New Name and a New Covering (Genesis 3.20-21)
  • Expelled from the Garden (Genesis 3.22-24).

The story of the fall of humankind has been told over and over by many great instructors. My hope is that you will find in this story the pattern the enemy uses to attack so that you as a community of faith and as an individual can avoid the consequences of sin. While it is true that God has provided a way in Jesus for us to be forgiven, it is not true that a continual lifestyle or pattern of sin in the life of a community of faith and our own individual lives is what God has in mind for us as we live in this present evil age. What we often miss in our highly individualistic priority of life is that a community of faith is just as liable to sin collectively as an individual can sin individually.

Interpreting

The Method of the Tempter: Genesis 3.1-7

The human mind generally finds snakes repulsive. Encountering one causes a shock to our system. Some people get squeamish even thinking about snakes. Scripture does nothing to soften this effect on us. Early Jewish and Christian commentators have identified the serpent as Satan, but since there is no trace of a personal devil in the early parts of the First Testament this may not have been the intent of the narrator of this story. Of course, this flies in the face of current popular theology that sees the serpent as Satan. But to do this may be saying something God did not put in the writer’s mind. To make it so, if the context does not bear it out, is to make God say something that he did not say. Who would want to do that?

Against the background of polytheism, it is more likely that the storyteller is giving the Israelites yet another reason to worship the one and only God, Yahweh, and not the gods of the ancient pantheon. Remember, they were headed to a land swarming with “many gods,” and God was providing all the instruction they needed about who he was so they could turn and worship him alone and not all the other gods at hand.

In the ancient world, the serpent was believed to be divine and a deliverer of health, fertility, immortality, and wisdom. There are two things to note about the serpent in this story. It was crafty and God created him. The word “crafty” is an indecisive term used in Scripture that can describe a desirable or undesirable characteristic. It appears best to take the meaning in this passage to be “astute” or “clever.” That the serpent was made by God clearly indicates an anti-polytheistic theme. The serpent was not divine but was a creation of God.

In the next sentences, we have the first conversation about God recorded. While the serpent addresses his remarks to the female, he is most likely talking to both Adam and Eve. The “you” in “you shall not eat” (Genesis 3.2-3), “you shall not touch” (Genesis 3.4), “when you eat of it you shall be” (Genesis 3.5), are all a plural form of the verb. While the spokesperson for the couple, the response of the woman, “we,” included both she and her husband. It has been suggested that the woman was the weaker more vulnerable sex. On the other extreme, she is seen as the more aggressive and sensible one. The text simply does not say why the serpent approached the woman. When the text is read by a male, the first is usually understood. When read by a female, the latter is understood. It is tough in our society to depatriarchalize our interpretation of Scripture.

The first attack of the serpent was to suggest to Eve that God was sinister that she had become a victim of his heavy-handedness. He grossly exaggerates God’s prohibition by claiming that God had disallowed them access to “all” of the trees in the garden. He insinuated that God was self-protective and even mean. With one statement, the serpent had moved God from a gracious provider of everything to suppressor of everything. So the serpent called attention to the motives of God. Eve responded (Genesis 3.2-3) by saying “we,” which included Adam, which may suggest that he was present on this occasion. She added to the ban on eating from the tree a further taboo: they could not “touch it.”

The second strategy of the serpent was to deny that what God said was true (Genesis 3.4). Next, he suggests that to disobey what God had said would not bring any disadvantages, but would bring positive blessing. They would “be like God.” The serpent placed before the couple the possibility of becoming more than what God had created them to be. He suggests that the couple shift their commitment from doing God’s will to doing their own will. A person that makes his or her own will relevant and God’s will irrelevant has attempted in that act to rise above the limitations imposed by the creator.

There is no further conversation between the serpent and the couple. Genesis 3.6 reveals that the temptation intrigued Eve by first appealing to her physical appetite: it was good for food. Then, it appealed to her physical sense of seeing. Finally, it appealed to her imagination. She could become like God. The thrust of this attack of the serpent was not to cause Eve to worship the serpent, but to turn her attention to doing her own will.

Instead of the wisdom promised, the couple now knew that they were nude. This is hardly what they had bargained for. Their nudity (Genesis 2.25), which was a sign of a healthy relationship between them, now had become something unpleasant and filled with shame. The couple’s solution of the immediate consequence was an immediate cure. They attempted to alleviate the problem themselves by a self-protecting act: they covered themselves with fig leaves. While they could hide their nakedness from each other, they could not exonerate their sin of disobedience.

Nothing New Under the Sun: Genesis 3.8-13

Toward the end of the day, the couple heard God walking in the garden. The couple who had just tried to hide their nakedness from each other now try to hide from God (Genesis 3.8). Just as the serpent began with a question, God begins with a question, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3.9), which was directed to Adam. It is not that God is ignorant of the couple’s whereabouts. He wants to draw them out of hiding rather than force them out of their hiding place. The storyteller shows the tender side of God rather than his tough side. Adam’s answer to God, “I hid,” only incriminated him, but did not answer the question that God had asked. The question was not, “Where are you hiding?” He told God that he was afraid and naked (Genesis 3.10). God responds with two more questions. “Who told you that you were naked?” God wanted him to know what source this guilt came from. Was it the serpent that told him? Was it Eve? Was it his own eyes? Where did the source of guilt come from? God did not pause for an answer but asked the second question. “Have you eaten of the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” God attempts to allow the male to take responsibility for his sin by asking questions that would urge confession (Genesis 3.11). “I am guilty,” would have been the appropriate response, but instead Adam becomes defensive and shifts the blame to Eve and to God. “It’s not my fault,” Adam explained, “it was the woman you gave me.” (Genesis 3.12). Eve’s response was no better than Adam’s. She blamed the serpent (Genesis 3.13). What the couple had in common was their refusal to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Sound familiar?

Consequences of Choice: Genesis 3.14-19

For every action, there is a consequence. Each of the participants now receives their own set of consequences: first, the serpent (Genesis 3.14-15), then, Eve (Genesis 3.16), and finally, Adam (Genesis 3.17-19). Each received a word from God that involves a function of life and relationship. The serpent is cursed as to his mode of movement, and his relationship with the woman and her seed will be one of hostility. The female will experience pain in childbirth and rulership from her husband. The male will have to toil in his work and the soil will be unfriendly.

The snake is banned to crawl on its belly. The one who tempted Eve to eat now must eat dust. Obviously, snakes do not eat dust and ancient writers did not believe that they did. There is little to the argument that the serpent lost an upright position to crawl on its belly. To argue so would mean that there was a change in the serpent’s diet as well. These concepts intend to express the humiliation and slavery of the serpent (Genesis 3.14). Genesis 3.15 has often been called the protoevangelium, the first messianic prophecy in the First Testament. Justin (ca. A.D. 160) and Irenaeus (ca. 180) first called it by this name. While a messianic interpretation may be justified in light of later revelation, it was probably not the narrator’s own understanding of what he had written. There could be a veiled reflection in the word “seed,” which is a collective noun, that would suggest that from time to time the collective nation of Israel would defeat the enemies that it had to face.

The curse of the female (Genesis 3.16) is to give birth in agony. She is not cursed with infertility. She will not be childless. The point of her punishment is that sin does not go unchecked or unchallenged by God. The second part of the curse has to do with her marriage relationship: the woman will desire her husband and he will rule over her. The word “desire” appears only three times in the First Testament. In the Song of Songs 7.10, it is a romantic and positive word describing a feeling of mutual affection between two lovers. However, in Genesis 4.7 the word describes sin’s desire for the male, an attempt of sin to control and dominate Cain. This meaning applied to 3.16 would mean a desire of the woman to break the relationship of equality and turn it into a relation of domination. The husband then, in turn, will try to rule over his wife. This is certainly a different outcome than they expected. From their reign as co-equals over all of God’s creation, their relationship now becomes a fierce dispute where each one tries to rule the other. This is played out daily in the battle of the sexes for superiority. However, in the ecclesia and in a redeemed marriage it ought not to be so!

The curse of the male (Genesis 3.17-19) matches the sin. He ate the forbidden fruit and his judgment has to do with gaining food to eat. On five occasions (Genesis 3. 17, [3 times] 18, 19) God speaks of eating. Like the female, there will be pain associated with his judgment. He will work with a reluctant soil until he dies. There is no relief from the curse except death, which is not a part of the curse, but a reprieve from the judgment. The male will never be free from fatigue and toil.

No matter how hard we try to put away female and male dominion, agonizing labor, and painful childbearing, it cannot be done. These evils will continue because sin is present. They are fruits of sin. Sin has placed a wedge between a woman and the joy of birth, man and woman, man and the soil, and finally between God and his creation.

A New Name and a New Covering: Genesis 3.20-21

The woman, although we have referred to her as Eve previously, now receives her name. On the heels of God speaking about death to Adam, he speaks about life, suggesting that he believes that he and his wife will not be the only two beings in the human race. Eve, as the mother of all living, would further put a crush in the Hebrew’s mind about the Near Eastern mythology about a mother goddess from which all life flows. Not so, says the author. Life flows from what God created, not from a god (Genesis 3.20). In Genesis 3.21 God changes the fig leaves for a skin covering which is a contrast with Genesis 3.7. The first covering was made by man, the second is made by God. To see animal sacrifice as a form of offering at this point in the story goes beyond the storyteller’s point. The act points to the fact that God could do for them what they could not do for themselves. This is God acting in grace before acting in judgment.

Expelled from the Garden: Genesis 3.22-24

Adam and Eve had, in a sense, become like God, but they did not receive what they expected. Instead of bliss, they received anguish. The irony of it all is that they lost what they already had: an innocent fellowship with God. In essence, their act gained them nothing and lost them everything. Such can be the perils of sin. So God banishes Adam and Eve from the garden and limits their entry again by cherubim and a flaming sword. So the first two humans leave the garden and the garden is barred behind them. Paradise was lost.

We might say that the story in Genesis 3 suggests that one’s choices should not be made in the interest of one’s own self. Rather, choices should be made within the range of God’s directives. What does God say about the matter at hand? What the serpent held out as freedom became bondage. Freedom is always accomplished within limits, a thought that is not currently in our culture. In addition, the story could be telling the traveling Hebrews on their way to the Promised Land that obedience to the covenant would mean blessing, while disobedience would mean a curse.

What about Original Sin?

Adam and Eve and the fall of humankind are virtually not talked about after Genesis 3 in the First Testament. When the prophets want to talk about disobedience, they use examples like Sodom and Gomorrah rather than Adam and Eve. We must await the writings of Paul in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 to have a discussion about Adam and the meaning of the fall. In Romans 5.12-21, we have the foundational writing by Paul for the doctrine of original sin. Paul affirms that sin is in the world because of Adam and his sin and that we are all sinners because of his disobedience. Paul traces the source of sin to Adam. It is clear that Paul believed in original sin in the sense that, because of Adam’s sin, all men and women are sinners (1 Cor. 15.21). Paul expresses a common First Testament belief in human solidarity, which very much differs from our modern concept of individualism. The entire race is one in Adam. His sin and death in sin is death to the whole human race (Rom. 5.12). So men are sinners, not because they do sinful acts; they are sinners because of Adam. Paul balanced this concept by saying that by one man’s obedience, that is Christ, many will be made righteous. Humankind is not righteous because of righteous deeds; they are righteous because of Christ. This does not take away the responsibility of the individual for his own sin or for his need to come to Christ or for a community of faith for their responsibility for the forgiveness of their sin. Our responsibility is not to follow in the path of Adam but in the path of Christ.

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|

  • How does knowing the method of the tempter help you break the sinful habits that cause you pain and toil in your life?
  • Why is it so difficult to take responsibility for our own stuff?
  • Why is it important to depatriarchalize our interpretation of Scripture? Or is it that important? Why or Why Not?
  • How does the “you” in “you shall not eat,” cause you to read that passage differently? How does that understanding affect your life?
  • How does the battle of the sexes affect you as you live in this present evil age?
  • Do you react according to the precepts of this evil age or with the precepts of the age to come?
  • What things in your life do you still try to do that you should allow God to do for you? Make a list!
  • In what ways does your own self-interest cause you to continue a pattern of sin in your life?
  • Why is it important to understand that we are sinners because of Adam, but still responsible for our own choice to sin?

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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)