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The Temptation and the Fall

This is the most tragic chapter in the Bible. Perhaps no commentator has caught the sense of the full measure of tragic consequences entailed by the Fall more clearly than Luther in his detailed exposition of the chapter. This Scripture is an inspired account of how sin and all evil came into the world. From one point of view we may call it pure revelation, namely in the sense that man, left to his own devices, had forgotten this lamentable event of his early history, and so God had to renew the knowledge of it by revelation. For the very strange fact is to be observed that an actual parallel, which ties up the evils of the human race with the Fall and so with human sin, is not to be found in the traditions of the various races and peoples, who may yet have had a bit of truth concerning an earlier state of blessedness in a golden age of antiquity. Even those who persistently trace Biblical truth to Babylonian sources must admit: "The Babylonian version of the Fall of man (if any such existed) has not yet been discovered." Attempts to make certain dubious pictorial representations bear some resemblance to our chapter are based too much on forced meanings.

It cannot be denied that many things about the entire account may prove quite puzzling. We are provided with too few details concerning the exact measure of man’s capacities in the original state: besides, the activities of the tempter may puzzle us. 1.140But these and the many other problems about which we may vex ourselves are difficulties that lie rather in our limited understanding than in the account as we have it. Nor should we overlook the didactic skill of the writer who aims primarily to emphasize the fact that man fell by his own guilt and dragged down upon himself and his posterity a mass of miserable consequences. So the writer in a very satisfactory way informs us how evil originated in the world. The curious questions that we might desire to have answered beyond that are left aside, so as not to detract unduly from the major truth which is to be declared.

However, at least this one question must be touched upon in this connection: "Does this chapter present an actual narrative of facts, or have we here perhaps a skilful allegory, as many fathers of the church believed, or shall we label this 'merely a pictorial representation intended to convey some general impressions' (Dods)?" Without a doubt, things are recorded as they actually transpired; this is a strictly historical account fully approved by the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:3; 2 Tim. 2:13). Regarding the chapter from this. angle does not impede our discernment of the deeper spiritual issues involved. In fact, the only safe interpretation of the Fall is that which accepts the record as unequivocally true and interprets it in the light of the rest of clearly revealed Scripture. The claim of a few modern commentators that the chapter gives distinct evidences of meter (heptameter) has been demonstrated by K. C. as built on sand.

1. Now the serpent was the most clever of all the beasts of the field which Jahweh God had made, and she said unto the woman: And (is it really the case) that God has said ye shall not eat from every tree of the garden?

The serpent appears on the scene as the new and prominent factor in the discussion, and so hannachash1.141God has unfolded what still lay hidden in the first statements of revealed truth. So we are driven to the conclusion that Satan used the serpent as his tool or instrument and was in the final analysis the one who spoke through this creature. With his superior knowledge Adam ought at once to have sensed a grave irregularity in the serpent’s speaking.

If, then, the further question be raised, why the devil used this means of addressing Eve, it must be admitted that such an approach successfully disguised the tempter. But if the more difficult question be raised, why the writer, who may have known about this Satanic agent, mentions only its visible tool, we have a twofold answer, in common with many other commentators: in the first place, the writer gives a faithful account of what actually transpired just as it transpired; in the second place, by describing the course of the temptation as directed by this visible agent he removes from the thoughts of his readers the possibility of the notion that since so dreadful a tempter assailed man, therefore man is not to be blamed for his fall—the mention of the devil might have led to the offering of excuses for man and so to a minimizing of man’s guilt.

There can be no reasonable doubt as to the meaning of nachash. Scriptural usage, as well as all versions and an uninterrupted tradition through the centuries, vindicates the meaning "serpent."

The word we have rendered "clever" is ’arûm. "Most clever" is the Hebrew superlative, which literally says "more clever than all beasts." (K. S. 308 b). We prefer "clever" to "subtle," because the word cannot imply a trace of evil in the animal world, for that would seriously conflict with 1:31. This was a purely harmless cleverness, after the pattern of Matt. 10:16. Such cleverness may well make this creature the most suitable vehicle of Satan’s evil devices. From all this it dimly appears that the chief agent is a spirit of 1.143unusual power and cleverness and clearly, too, a fallen spirit. This again necessitates the assumption that the fall of the angels must have occurred prior to this temptation, yet not necessarily prior to the completion of the entire creative work. However, the other rather common assumption that evil had already penetrated into’ the world among the creatures, and that so the serpent herself was already tainted by evil, is clearly refuted by the modifying clause, "which Jahweh God had made," which clause applies indiscriminately to the whole creature world and describes it as good.

"The woman" is singled out to be tempted, because she is not naturally as strong as man, nor did she hear God’s command from His own mouth but only, as it seems, mediately from Adam, and consequently she may have felt its weight less. The tempter’s cunning is made manifest by this approach but much more so by the temptation which he presents and the adroit presentation of this temptation step by step.

The temptation opens with an ’aph ki, i. e. "indeed that." The simplest explanation of this expression is that the verb "to be" is omitted, because it is so readily supplied. Therefore B D B is correct in rendering, "Indeed (is it) that?" So also K. C. Our translation above says practically the same thing. From the woman’s answer it appears that the serpent’s word was a question, although, as is often the case, it is not introduced by an interrogative particle. The Giver of the commandment is referred to by the serpent as "God," ’elohîm, not as Yahweh; for the tempter could not with any measure of truth know anything of God’s grace and fidelity. The most common term is employed.

The thought aimed at by this suggestive question is that there must be something about God’s restraint of man that puts a very unwelcome curb and check upon man. The circumstance that God has permitted man to make use of all the rest of the trees is pushed 1.144aside as negligible. The fact that man is definitely barred from one tree is dragged into the forefront and magnified into a grievous and very unwelcome restraint that could hardly be thought of as imposed by God. A suspicion is cast upon God’s goodness, and suspicion, as experience has amply demonstrated, most insidiously worms its way in where other sins often could not find entrance. In other words, man had had ample proof of God’s love of and regard for him. To trust this loving Father was the normal attitude of this first man and the very soul of his proper relationship to God. The moment such trust begins to waver man has fallen.

To approach the question from another angle, as Luther rightly points out, the temptation involved directs itself against God’s Word. More specifically, it seeks to make that Word doubtful to man. This Word was for Adam both law and gospel. Adam and Eve are to be led away from its truth according to the purposes of the tempter. In this respect the temptation is a type of all temptations which the evil foe presents.

By approaching the question as we have, we have eliminated the necessity of assuming that other words of the serpent had preceded and that here merely the continuation of that discussion is submitted. Rather, without preliminaries and with a subtle boldness a word is thrust at Eve, a word pregnant with evil and in substance a very dangerous temptation.

We must yet definitely reject the very common claim that lo’ mikkol should be translated "not from any" (Meek). Though this use of the negative with kol ("all") is common enough, it can hardly be intended here. The exaggeration would be too gross and crude. The devil would have completely overshot his mark and roused a feeling of resentment at the coarse insinuation. Therefore A.V. is correct: "not from every." Cf. K. S. 352 s.

1.145Some very strange modern interpretations must at least be referred to at this point. In the face of the plain meaning of this first key-verse, it is a wilful misreading of the plain meaning of words when Haupt offers "the explanation of the Fall of man as the first connubial intercourse." Equally erroneous is Gunkel’s claim that the chapter aims to overthrow "the then current opinion that agriculture was a blessing inaugurated by the deity," and to work this overthrow by "setting over against such an opinion the myth about God’s curse upon the ground." Such views are entirely without a foundation and are shown forth as unwarranted by the simple fact that through the centuries no man ever even remotely discerned that such thoughts could be hidden in the narrative. Skinner finds difficulties in the chapter, chiefly in the temptation by the serpent, and offers as explanation the claim that the treatment of the story gives evidence of the "incomplete elimination of the mythological element under the influence of a monotheistic and ethical religion." What the critic finds hard to understand must have the source of its difficulty not in the critic but in the record. So a harmless and plain record is misinterpreted because the critic will not believe that "the function of the serpent" is as the text claims it to be.

Yet a word on the question often raised at this point: "Why must there be a temptation?" or "Why does God permit His chief creature on earth to be tempted? Does He not desire man’s supreme happiness? Why, then, does He permit a temptation which leads to death and all our woe?" The answer must always be that God will have only that count as moral behaviour worthy of a being made in God’s image, which is freely given and maintained even where the possibility of doing otherwise offers itself. To do what God desires merely because one cannot do otherwise, has no moral worth. It would be a morality like unto that 1.146of beams which uphold the house because they have been put in place and cannot but bear their load. To do the right where there has never been an opportunity of doing wrong is not moral behaviour. The opportunity to do otherwise must present itself. This is temptation. A being who could not even suffer to be tempted would be a poor specimen of God’s handiwork. But the true wisdom of God appears in this, that, though His creature falls, God is still able to achieve His original purpose through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, a redemption for which provisions are already beginning to be made in this chapter.

2, 3. And the woman said unto the serpent: From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God has said: Ye may not eat of it, neither touch it, lest ye die.

In a way it may seem as though the unsuspicious Eve, who has never been tempted, is at a grievous disadvantage because of the very subtle nature of the suspicion that the serpent seeks to engender in her heart. But her advantages are sufficient amply to offset the cleverness of the attack. There is, first of all, the empirical knowledge of God’s goodness and mercy toward man. The whole of creation formed a strong symphony of protest against any suspicions of God’s good will. Then, Eve had a very clear word from God, simple and unencumbered by many details as to what her moral duty was. Whether this word was heard immediately from God or mediately from her husband matters little and cannot impair the power of that word upon her heart. And then, too, there was one feature about the temptation that could well have aroused instantaneous suspicion of the tempter: a mere irrational creature spoke. The insight into the limitations of the being of the animal was sufficiently clear to a creature like man, who had but recently been entirely qualified to give names to all these beings and 1.147discern their very nature. At this point Eve could easily have probed farther and divined the actual truth. Our first parents certainly had been adequately prepared for an emergency such as this.

At this point already we must begin to take issue with the claim that in the temptation as such the penalty resulting is quite out of proportion to the trifling nature of the misdeed. For those who raise such a claim liken the sin of our first parents to the taking of forbidden fruit by children and then claim: the mere taking of an apple certainly does not merit such dreadful consequences as are here pictured as resulting. Over against such misconceptions we strongly maintain that the taking of the fruit was not the fall into sin; that fall had occurred before this act; the taking of the fruit was an incidental bit of evidence of the fact that man had fallen. However, the Fall as such was nothing less in character than an entirely inexcusable piece of rebellion against a very gracious Father who not only had withheld nothing good from man but had even bestowed such an overwhelming wealth of good things that revolt against such a one must in the very nature of the case be a sin of the deepest hue, yes, even the one great sin in the history of the human race.

The beginning of this tragic and wretched fall is to be discerned in this section before us (v. 3). Eve’s reply should have been an emphatic disavowal of the suspicion that God had been withholding good from man. Instead, it becomes a temporizing, a partial refutation, but at the same time a statement that allows room for the suspicion that perhaps God has not been as entirely good and gracious as they had hitherto supposed. But as soon as one does not wholeheartedly and unreservedly trust God, mistrust is gaining ground and sin has entered. Nothing of this appears definitely as yet in v. 2 where Eve restates what God has allowed them. Whereas the devil’s charge pointed to unwelcome 1.148restrictions, Eve emphasizes the fact that God had allowed them to eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But a significant omission in her statement of the case must be noted. The original charter of privileges under this head (2:16) had carried the word "all"; then followed the one exception. Eve omits the "all." She was beginning to lose sight of the boundless goodness of God. Apparently, there sin took its beginning; God’s mercies are lost sight of. Of course, the imperfect no’khal is permissive, not merely a present (K. S. 180). Therefore "we may eat," not merely "we eat."

(3) Now follows a half-hearted defense consisting in a restatement of the prohibition. During the course of this restatement Eve veers from indirect discourse to direct with the words: "God has said"; but unfortunately she mars a good case by sharpening and thus altering God’s original demand. Nowhere has it been indicated that God said: "nor touch it." By this insertion Eve betrays the course her thoughts have taken. She feels that the prohibition was unduly sharp, so unconsciously she sharpens it herself. But, again, already the attitude of the heart to God is clearly seen no longer to be one of perfect trust. The suspicion which Satan so cleverly suggested was allowed to take root. To have suspicions of God and His goodness is a wicked insult of His majesty. All this, it is true, does not at once appear in its most fully developed form. The first steps on the road away from God have been taken. Here the Fall took place. What follows is the further unfolding of what lay in this first act and the full evidence of it. A being that had been made holy, just, and true and had been equipped with the strength necessary for maintaining its moral integrity and right relation to God, freely chose to ignore and to despise His goodness and to mistrust Him, and so severed its vital relation to Him.

On the ending of the form temuthun cf. G. K. 47 m.

1.149Proksch shows the critical tendency to set harmonious things at variance with one another very significantly at this point. Because 2:9 mentions only the tree of life as having been "in the midst of the garden," but here, without doubt, it is the tree of knowledge which is said to be "in the midst of the garden," we are to class these two statements as being "divergent" from one another. The plain fact is that they are entirely supplementary: both were in the midst of the garden and perhaps even near one another.

Satan is not slow in discerning the advantage he has gained and promptly presses on to overthrow completely an opponent who has begun to waver, or, as Luther puts it, he observes that the wall has begun to totter and so braces himself against it, so as completely to crush Eve, as we now see.

4, 5. And the serpent said to the woman: Ye shall certainly not die; for God knows that as soon as ye eat of it, your eyes will be opened and ye shall be like gods who know good and evil.

After a careful approach, which tendered a mild suggestion, the devil boldly advances to a positive denial of the Word of God. It should not be lost sight of how in temptations the attack centres about God’s Word. The very boldness of denial carries all before it. The denial, for that matter, is even a perversion of the word into its very opposite. God said: "You shall die." Satan replies: "Ye shall certainly not die." The father of lies is so saturated with lying that he even attempts to make God out to be a liar. Note the strength of the statement. A.V., "Ye shall not surely die," is not strong enough; rather, "Ye certainly shall not die." For the negative, which in cases where the absolute infinitive accompanies the finite verb usually stands between infinitive and verb, here emphatically stands first, yielding the emphasis we suggest by our translation. Cf. G. K. 113 v; K. S. 3521.

1.150diabolical cunning of the temptation: it seems to offer something very good―"ye shall be like gods."

Very clearly, as in all temptations, the devil’s beguilements are an inextricable tangle of truth and falsehood. All the things promised were relatively true, as the sequel proved, but at the same time they were so far from offering the true realities that they could also be stamped as the most colossal falsehoods. However, their subtle cleverness cannot be denied.

6. And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was attractive to the eye and that it was a tree desirable for acquiring wisdom; she took of its fruit and ate and gave also to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

This verse pictures not the genesis of sin but its full development and definite expression. The woman speaks not a single word. She is entirely engrossed in the contemplation of the things promised and in the hope of the realization of the spurious greatness suggested. By a natural law of progression the sin develops to the point where the one divine restriction is definitely cast off, and Eve stands forth in open defiance of her Maker. Sin always develops in this manner after foot has once been set on the downward path.

A closer contemplation of the tree in the light of the Satanic suggestion leads Eve to notice first something purely physical: "the tree was good for food." This is its appeal to the appetite. Here some commentators rightly sense that aspect of sin which (1 John 2:16) is called "lust of the flesh." For, in reality, all aspects of sin lie embodied in this first transgression. Every part of the being of the first mother was drawn into the destructive vortex of the participation in sin. Then follows, introduced by a kind of polysyndeton (wekhi—"and that"), to make the separate parts of the temptation as they were felt one by one to stand out more prominently, the 1.152statement: "it was attractive to the eye." The aesthetic finds itself appealed to, or better, as again (1 John 2:16) has it, it was the "lust of the eyes" that here became operative. This was not a clean and holy perceiving but an unholy lusting. Note how every bodily function operates perniciously. Sin in all its enormity is most effectively portrayed as the monster that it really is. To this is added intellectual perversion: "it (was seen to be) a tree desirable for acquiring wisdom." This is what St. John describes as "the vainglory of life." Haskîl is intransitive, "to acquire wisdom," not, "to make wise." Meek offers the cumbersome and inaccurate "for its gift of wisdom."

So the picture is complete: every function of body and of soul is wrested from its original purpose and becomes embroiled in one vast confusion of its divine purpose. Nowhere is a more drastic picture offered of the horrible disturbance wrought by sin.

The actual evidence of full consent to the sin suggested, as far as man can see, lies in the taking of the fruit and the eating of it. Man cannot read the heart, but he can discern from the outward act what had transpired in the heart.

The man’s consent to the same sin is reported with such brevity as to amaze us: "she gave to her husband who was with her and he ate." There must be a reason for this. This reason is primarily that through the woman, now already fallen, the same temptation was presented to Adam as had previously been presented through the serpent to Eve, and with the same result. Adam, then, must have fallen exactly as Eve had, with as little excuse, with as great a guilt. The only difference appears to be that, as Eve had eaten and apparently had suffered no ill effect, this constituted an additional argument why Adam need not hesitate to adopt the same course. Whatever stouter resistance Adam might have offered was completely overcome by this argument. The fact, however, that the prepositional 1.153phrase "with her" (’immah), which we rendered as a clause, is first found at this point, strongly suggests that at the outset, when the temptation began, Adam was not with Eve but had only joined her at this time. Here, too, Satanic ingenuity displays itself: to approach both while they were together would have found them in a position where they would mutually have supported one another. Such notions, then, as Milton’s, that Adam sinned from a kind of sense of chivalry, not desiring to abandon Eve to her fate, have no support in the text. Nor has the opinion any value that Adam was too closely attached to Eve, a thought that would lead to a fall before the Fall, for it involves that he loved her more than he loved God.

Two scriptural points of view apply here. On the one hand, contrasting Adam and Eve, the Scripture may say: "Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression" (1 Tim. 2:14). Eve has a relatively greater guilt, if the comparative guilt of the two be mentioned. On the other hand, the sin of the two has so much in common that it is practically one sin, and Adam, as the head, may be referred to exclusively as the originator of sin and the Fall (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22): "as in Adam all die," etc.

Describing the whole scene as such, Delitzsch quite aptly points out how, after God had so bountifully offered proof of His goodness, our first parents behaved as though the devil intended only good and God intended only ill, and so he calls this "the devil’s communion" (Abendmahl),

The min in the expression "of its fruit" is the min partitive.

7. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they perceived that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made girdles for themselves.

1.154contentions of anthropologists that shame is rather the outgrowth of inhibitions and custom fall away as secondary and incidental. The scriptural account goes to the root of the matter. The only gleam of light in the verse is the fact that where shame is felt, the evildoer’s case is not hopeless. He is at least not past feeling in the matter of doing wrong. God’s prevenient grace allows this feeling to arise.

Chaghoroth is not "aprons" (A.V.), for the root of the word means "to gird oneself"; primitive girdles is all that can be meant.

8. And they heard the voice of Yahweh God walking about in the garden at the time of the breeze of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from Yahweh God in the midst of the trees of the garden.

Yahweh God is represented as "walking about in the garden." The almost casual way in which this is remarked indicates that this did not occur for the first time just then. The assumption that God had repeatedly done this is quite feasible. Besides, there is extreme likelihood that the Almighty assumed some form analogous to the human form which was made in His image. Nor is there anything farfetched about the further supposition that previously our first parents had freely met with and conversed with their heavenly Father. In this instance they again hear His "voice." Though qôl does often mean "sound" (cf. 2 Sam. 5:24; 1 Kings 14:6) and now by almost common consent is quite regularly translated thus in this verse, yet v. 10 definitely points to the use of the word in the more common meaning of "voice," and this must be a reference to the word qôl used in our verse. This "walking about" (in the case of a man, we should have translated: "taking a walk") of Yahweh in the garden is said to have taken place "at the time of the breeze (rû’ach—’wind’) of the day." The le1.156introducing this phrase is the "le temporal." Experience has shown that in oriental countries the wind springs up at the close of day. Consequently, all this transpired in the evening. The article before "day" is the article of absolute familiarity (K. S. 297 a), for this phenomenon occurred daily. Divine wisdom chooses the time of day best suited for sober reflection and retrospection. The waves of feeling that beat higher through the day are beginning to subside, and the first parents see things more nearly as they are. No other transporting change or effect has been observed since the disturbing sense of shame arose.

Upon hearing the voice of the Lord "the man and his wife hid themselves." The second and the third major results achieved by the misdeed are here portrayed. Mistrust and fear have, for one thing, taken the place of the trust and the free communion with Yahweh, that had previously prevailed. Instead of running to Him they run from Him. Communion with the heavenly Father is no longer their highest delight. It is shunned as an evil and vexatious thing. What damage and destruction sin is working from the very moment of its appearance! The other grievous hurt that has afflicted mankind is here set forth as one that centred in. the intellect, whereas the one just mentioned had its seat in the affections. The intellect is so disturbed that it fails to perceive for the present―what would have been recognized at once on sober second thought―that man cannot hide himself from God, the omniscient and omnipresent. We have rendered mippenê "from" rather than "from the presence of," because it really is only an expressive "from." Either translation may be used.

Meek gives a ludicrously flat rendering when he anthropomorphizes beyond what Scriptures allow and offers the following example of quaint rendering: "They heard the sound of the Lord God taking a walk for His daily airing." Such a rendering is shockingly 1.157irreverent. The inspired writers nowhere give evidence of such low conceptions of God. Besides, the Hebrew phrase cannot be rendered thus. Procksch offers a similar unworthy interpretation when he calls the conception of "God leaving His house at evening to take a walk" "tremendously childlike" but yet "chaste and noble." When the inspired Word shows God’s condescension by His consorting with men, instead of catching the valuable truth, the critics try to degrade the Word by imputing to it inferior motives. True scholars glorify revealed truth; they do not belittle it.

9. And Yahweh God called the man and said unto him: Where art thou?

But God’s will to set man right and help him out of his difficulty is so definitely fixed that it does not desist as soon as an obstacle is encountered. If man seeks to avoid God, God seeks out man. So the definite searching question rings out through the garden: "Where art thou?" God is not seeking information. God’s questions are pedagogic. Man is to be made to realize that something must be radically wrong when the creature, who hitherto had his chief delight in associating with the good and loving Father, slinks away in hiding under the trees deep in the garden. Of course, there is the possibility that the calling and the saying of this verse represent two separate acts (K. S. 369 o), but the likelihood is that, as frequently, the second verb is epexegetical to the first: "He called and said"―He called saying.

10. And he said: Thy voice did I hear in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid myself.

"Thy voice" stands first in the sentence by way of emphasis. It would certainly be rather insipid in this instance to render qôlekha "thy sound" or even "the sound of you" (Meek). The first word of fallen man lies before us. It is a revealing word. It is a compound 1.158of half-truth, evasion and attempted deception. So dreadfully altered has man become. The admission that he was afraid at hearing God’s voice is the only true thing about his statement. Fear grows out of sin and is its natural accompaniment, especially in man’s relation to God. But man’s explanation of what it was that caused such fear is not frank and honest. For while his conscience thunders in his breast that this fear is the outgrowth of his disobedience, his mouth utters the half-truth that it is because of his being naked. One cannot but marvel at what a wreck of his former good self man has become. The damage wrought by sin is almost incomprehensibly great. The tongue of man can hardly describe it, except where inspired utterances like those of this chapter lie before us. Here is one of the most telling indictments, of the viciousness and supreme sinfulness of sin.

"I hid myself" ’echabhe’ is a Nifal form, used in the older reflexive sense.

11, 12. And He said: Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee not to eat? And the man answered: The woman whom thou didst set at my side, she gave me of the tree and I ate.

The rather prominent sense of shame on man’s part still predominates over the more necessary sense of guilt. God’s cross-examination continues in order to arouse the latter. How could God be conceived of as asking these questions out of ignorance, when His higher purpose is so clearly in evidence? The first question clears the ground by drawing attention to the fact that something must have occurred to make man aware of his nakedness: "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" Of course, since he found it out by himself, he himself must have done something which made him aware of this situation. As soon as his thoughts have been led to see that this admission is inevitable, the 1.159next question drives him still more inescapably to the admission of his guilt, namely the very direct question: "Hast thou eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee not to eat?" The inquest has been quite brief, but, like all the dealings of the all knowing God, successful in convicting the sinner. Adam sees that he has not eluded God. He that aspired to godlikeness now stands a shamefaced culprit without a word of defense left. The lame reply that he does make causes us to blush for him. It is a reply that offers further evidence of the complete corruption and contamination of all of man’s nature by his sin. It is a reply that in cowardly fashion refuses to admit plain guilt and in an entirely loveless fashion lays the blame for it all first on his wife and then by a wicked charge upon God Himself in the words: "The woman whom Thou didst set at my side, she gave me of the tree and I ate." Her whom he first recognized as a great blessing from God he now describes as the cause of his fall, bug chiefly he charges God, by imputation, by asserting that God set her at his side. Mutual recrimination as well as finding fault with God’s works are some of the further fruits of the Fall. "Set at my side," literally, "give with me"; but "give" is frequently used almost as the verb "set" (B D B).

The preliminary purpose of the inquest has been achieved as far as man is concerned: he sees what he did, what is wrong with him, and what is the basic cause of his unfortunate state. His excuses and his charge against God are not worthy even of refutation or defense on God’s part. So man is left at this point, and the inquest proceeds to the woman, with a like purpose.

13. And Yahweh God said to the woman: What is this that thou hast done? And the woman. said: It was the serpent that misled me, and so I ate.

1.160There is truth in the man’s assertion that the woman gave to him. On this truth God’s inquiry builds up, demanding of her in grave displeasure and with a note of reproach: "What is this that thou hast done?" The "this" points to the enormity of the misdeed and to the fact that it is almost, impossible to believe that one who has seen such unnumbered tokens of love should cast off such love and the allegiance which it involves. Evasion characterizes also the woman’s attitude. Truth no longer dwells in her breast. She knows that what she did was done of her own volition, yet she charges the serpent with it exclusively. "Serpent," standing first in the sentence, gains the peculiar emphasis that our translation seeks to express above by: "it was the serpent," etc. All true fear of God and love of Him has, of course, departed also from her heart, for by laying the blame upon the serpent she indirectly also charges the Creator for having let the creature cross her path. This charge and excuse does not merit an answer. The woman well feels what insufficient defense she has offered and feels it still more when God does not honour it as worthy of refutation. Man never can bring a good case into God’s presence as long as his own works are being considered.

The Vulgate mistranslates when it offers a "why" for a "what" in the beginning of God’s question.

14. And Yahweh God said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from out of the number of all the animals and of all the wild beasts; upon thy belly thou shalt go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

The serpent was the third active factor in the temptation. But because the agent behind her was a fallen spirit who was beyond the possibility of salvation, there is no attempt made to arouse a sense of guilt by a series of pedagogic questions. The divine 1.161word at once becomes a sentence of condemnation. The first part of this word definitely busies itself with the serpent as a beast, but already toward the end of this verse the Satanic agent behind the serpent is also under consideration. Then in v. 15, though still speaking in terms applicable to the serpent, the word is concerned almost exclusively with the evil power that mastered the serpent in the temptation.

At the beginning of v. 14 the causal clause stands first (K. S. 414 s). The sentence pronounced is a divine curse (’arûr -Kal passive participle; no verb form to express the voluntative, K. S. 355 1). The use of the preposition min bears close watching. Although it may be used to express a comparative, and so grammatically one might arrive at the meaning "cursed above all animals" (A.V.), yet nothing indicates that all animals are cursed. The extent of the curse should not be spread beyond what the circumstances actually warrant: for the present only the serpent and the ground are cursed. Later (4:10) Cain comes under the divine curse. Consequently, the min partitive in the sense of "out of the number of" (G. K. 119w; K. S. 278b) is under consideration. This particular or exclusive meaning of min is established by cases such as (Exod. 19:5; Deut. 14:2; 33:24). Therefore, this beast is singled out for a curse over against "all the animals" (behemah) in general as well as over against "the wild beasts" (chayyath hassadheh) in particular. Kittel questions without good reason whether "out of all animals" originally belonged to the text. It makes excellent sense.

The fact that this beast still stands under a curse is apparent from the peculiar revulsion that it still rouses in most men. Its peculiarly sinuous movements, its silent glide as a form of locomotion, its sinister, dread and fascinating look, its vibrant tongue, its peculiar rearing of the head: all contribute to remind 1.162men of the peculiar history in which the serpent once shared.

Just what the curse, however, involves is also plainly stated in the verse. The first element is, "upon thy belly thou shalt go." This does not necessarily mean that a complete transformation of the serpent took place, so that "form and movements of the serpent were altered" (Keil). Some speak quite boldly at this point about a former erect posture, as though, for example, the serpent had strutted about proudly as a cock. It has been rightly, pointed out that several parallels are available. Man worked before the Fall and still works since. Now work is in a measure a punishment. It seems likely that the rainbow existed before the Flood; but since that time it is a pledge of God’s covenant. So for the serpent the going upon the belly becomes a badge of degradation; because for Israel the principle obtained that whatever crawled upon its belly was an abomination (Lev. 11:42). And, certainly, no man has ever seen anything noble or attractive about the serpent’s gliding through the dust. Her type of movement reflects her humbler station. The second half of the curse involves a parallel thought: "dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." This is not a crude misconception like that of the Arabs who hold that certain types of spirits feed on dust. Serpents do not eat dust, and the Scriptures do not mean to say that they do. Parallel to the expression "eat dust" is the other more common one in the Scriptures, "lick dust," (Mic. 7:17; Isa. 49:23; Ps. 72:9) which in every case implies "to be humbled," "to suffer defeat." So in addition to a humiliating manner or mode of locomotion there will be a continual suffering of defeat "all the day" of her existence. The serpent will always be a creature that is worsted. But here already the words spoken reflect more upon the higher agent that employed the serpent, a thought that gets exclusive emphasis in the next verse.

1.163But the question is bound to rise: "Why should an unmoral and therefore irresponsible agent be singled out for punishment?" Strictly speaking, this is not so much punishment as emphasis upon the defeat and humiliation of the old evil foe. To make his failure as apparent as possible he as well as the irresponsible agent that he employed will be crushed in a joint overthrow. Parallel run such instances of Holy Writ where a beast that kills a man is commanded to be destroyed (Gen. 9:5; Exod. 21:28), or where in the destruction of mankind the rest of the creature world must perish (Gen. 6:7; 7:21). This makes the seriousness of God’s punishment more drastically apparent. Here may also be cited cases like that of Achan’s destruction (Josh. 7:24). Since the rest of the creature world exists for man’s sake, its destruction may serve a salutary purpose for man. Then, there also enters in the thought expressed by Chrysostom: God destroys the instrument that brought His creature to fall "just as a loving father, when punishing the murderer of his son, might snap in two the sword or dagger with which the murder had been committed."

15. And enmity will I put between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thee in respect to the head, thou shalt bruise him in respect to the heel.

A marvellous text which Luther praises so highly as to say: "This text embraces and comprehends within itself everything noble and glorious that is to be found anywhere in the Scriptures." The same writer, however, indicates with equal emphasis that these glorious things are spoken in a form which for the present partly veils the full measure of truth, thus challenging the early believers to ponder deeply upon the word; but it is the New Testament that sheds a refulgence upon this word, so that it is seen to be a glorious compend of the Gospel and so rightly deserving 1.164the title long in use in reference to it, the Protevangelium, i. e. the first gospel proclamation. Lest this restriction, that we have made above, be pressed too strongly in the direction of making this appear as a very mysterious and veiled utterance, let us yet add that, since it was intended to furnish light for the first believers and for centuries was the only light that their faith had, it certainly must have furnished, as God’s providence no doubt intended that it should, sufficient light for these patriarchs to enable them to walk by that light. In other words, we can and must subscribe to the statement that this word held up the Saviour before their eyes, and so made it possible for them to believe on Him.

In the light of this fact, which we trust our exposition shall fully substantiate, we cannot but marvel at the rationalistic exegesis which says on every hand in our day: "it is doubtful if the passage can be regarded in any sense a Protevangel" (Skinner). Such interpreters see in the word before us nothing more than that "in the war between men and serpents the former will crush the head of the foe, while the latter can only wound the heel." Such a trite platitude would not have been worthy of recording. It stands about on the level of the astute observation that a man will slap at the mosquito that bites him. Such commonplace reflections are not worthy of the Scriptures. They are a type of exegesis like unto that which in connection with v. 5 attributes a deep sense for spiritual realities to serpents. But let us aim to gather in the fullness of meaning embodied in this verse.

The object, "enmity," stands first for emphasis (K. S. 339 m). Now enmity (’êbhah) is a term not applicable to dumb beasts. Its scriptural use limits it, like its verb root, to enmity between persons or morally responsible agents. This fact alone, as well as the sequel, rules out the idea of mere hostility, which is not enmity, between man and serpents. The personal 1.165tempter emerges ever more distinctly as the verse progresses. Besides, this statement emphasizes that it is God who will not suffer this enmity to die down: "I will put." God wants man to continue in undying opposition to this evil one and He rouses the enmity Himself. This He does first in the case of the enmity on the woman’s part. We dare, however, not go so far as to attribute to God that He also rouses Satan to enmity. That would make God the author of evil. But true enmity on man’s part against the evil foe is a virtue. The woman, as one factor in the enmity, is stressed to the exclusion of man because the woman was beguiled, but from her shall definite retribution arise for the serpent. There is an eminent propriety about having the one at whom the devil aimed his attack be the one from whom his downfall emanates. So the first step in the process is that the woman herself is brought to substitute enmity for the confidence that she shortly before displayed. The present of the verb (’ashith) is the type of present or future that is used in depicting a future scene in a more elevated rhetorical style (K. S. 132). The marvellous promises of God’s achievements can be recounted by this type of form.

The promise expands. This enmity is to be of broader scope; it is to involve coming generations: "between thy (the devil’s) seed and her (the woman’s) seed." There would be something supremely trivial about this solemn utterance if it did no more in the expression, the serpent’s "seed," than to think of generations of serpents as yet unhatched. There must be meant the children of the evil one who are of their father the devil and will do the lusts of their father (John 8:44). If "seed" must refer to a whole class and so is used in the collective sense in the one half of the statement, then "seed" (again zéra’) in the second half or parallel member of the statement must be used collectively for the descendants or posterity of woman. To take the word "seed of the woman" 1.166at this point at once in the sense of an individual and so as a definite and exclusive reference to Christ the Saviour is wrong and grammatically impossible. Even Hengstenberg and Keil unreservedly admit that. So the second part of the verse points to an enmity established by God and involving on the one side the posterity or children of the evil one and on the other side the posterity or children of the woman, those who share her definite opposition to the evil one.

Now a peculiar thing happens in the course of the further unfolding of the clash between the forces listed thus far. First came: Satan (1) vs. Woman (2). Then came seed of the one (3) vs. the seed of the other (4). The seed of the woman (4) is now mentioned by "he" or "it" (). Though the pronoun is singular, it refers back to zéra’ ( 4) which we just proved to be used collectively. The peculiar thing that now happens is that the climax of the struggle is seen to be not between (4), a group, and (3), a group, but between (4), seemingly a group, and (1), an individual, "thee," and in this conflict between (4) and (1) the battle is fought out and won by (4). That the battle is actually fought to a decisive conclusion appears from the verb employed and from the manner in which it is employed. The verb shûph decidedly means "crush" (K. W.), a meaning which even Skinner finally decides it is "better to adhere to." Of course, as Luther clearly shows in his translation, we have a zeugma (K. W.) in the use of this word: the head is crushed but the heel is bruised; Luther: zertreten vs. stechen. This is too obvious to require lengthy defense; for when man steps on a serpent’s head, a crushing results; but when the serpent strikes while the contest is on, only a sting on the heel or a bruising results. But at the same time a crushed head spells utter defeat. A bruised heel may be nursed till healed, and if the bite have been poisonous, the poison may be removed by sucking or cauterizing. (4) merely suffers; (1) is 1.167crushed. So in a very positive way the victory is guaranteed to the seed of the woman. The struggle is not to be interminable. It does end in complete defeat of the serpent, who is here, to cap the climax in establishing her identity, again addressed as "thou," a form of address involving, where moral issues are at stake as here, a being with moral sense and responsibility, i. e. Satan himself. But we cannot stop short at this point.

If (4) engaged with (1) in the decisive battle and (1) was an individual, there is, on the very face of it, great likelihood that (4) points also to an individual. This thought becomes clearer when we reflect on the term "seed of the woman." Within the broadest sense of the term would lie all mankind; they are all Eve’s posterity or seed. But plainly the word cannot here be meant in that broadest possible sense, for only they are under consideration who hold enmity against (3), i. e. against .all the children of the evil one. For that matter, they even constitute a minority of all of the woman’s descendants; they are a "little flock," (Luke 12:32). So within the circle of the broadest possible meaning of zéra’ must be drawn a circle quite a bit smaller. These represent the true seed of the woman. But even as those who constitute (3) find their cause represented most sturdily by and embodied in (1), an individual, so they who constitute (4) must find their cause represented most sturdily by and embodied in an individual in whom the idea "seed of the woman" finds most perfect expression. He is the very centre of the circle above referred to. And since our thinking must naturally arrive at this conclusion, it seems that godly thought on the part of earnest believers in days of old must have arrived at the same conclusion. The victory would be concluded by one born of woman. Both the ultimate victory and its achievement by the seed of the woman are taught with unequivocal plainness by this word. Our interpretation, 1.168therefore, of the term "seed of the woman" sees in it perfectly natural concentric circles of meaning, even as such also is the case with the term "servant of Yahweh" in Isaiah. Israel as a whole bears that name; also the godly in Israel; Cyrus is honoured by it; but in Isaiah 53 and elsewhere it is pre-eminently the designation of the Messiah. To such an interpretation of zéra’ there ought to be still less objection when it is remembered that the word is also used in reference to an individual and not only in the collective sense; cf. (Gen. 4:25; 1 Sam. 1:11; 2 Sam. 7:12).

When these contentions are attacked on the score that zéra’, when used of an individual child, "denotes the immediate offspring as the pledge of posterity, never a remote descendant," then an intentional feature of the whole prophecy is overlooked. There is a vagueness about the whole in point of time which invited men to trust God for whatever time He might be pleased to choose to bring it to fruition. Men had to be ready to settle down to a wait until it might please the sovereign Ruler to bring to pass what He here definitely had promised.

It should be clearly observed that this gracious promise is the opening of the sentence or doom that God pronounces. Even on ‘the first pages of the Bible we are shown the face of a God "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exod. 34:6). He delights in showing mercy. "Where sin abounded, grace did the more abound" (Rom. 5:20). Grace, provocative of faith, precedes the sentence.

One point of view, usually overlooked but made plain already by Luther, deserves mention. By leaving open the question of just what woman the Saviour was to be born, God mocks the tempter, always leaving him in uncertainty which one would ultimately overthrow him, so that the devil had to live in continual dread of every woman’s son that was born.

1.169But is the particular expression "seed of the woman" perhaps so phrased in reference to Mary and the virgin birth? Not primarily, but at least incidentally. The expression "seed of man" would not have been so directly motivated. As pointed out above, the one tempted and brought to fall is chosen by God to produce the one that is to bring Satan to fall, that Satan might in no wise boast himself against God But at the same time, to show how completely God governs and controls all things as well as foreknows them, an expression is chosen that meets with literal fulfilment in Him who is virgin born and not of the seed of man. Yet we prefer to state the case thus: the expression used does not specifically prophesy the virgin birth, but it coincides and agrees with it under divine providence. For it is not to be forgotten that the expression "her seed" in its first meaning is a collective noun and includes all who are enrolled in the struggle against Satan, without being themselves virgin born.

After modernists have refused to let the Messianic import of the passage stand, which was of old accepted by the Jewish and by the Christian Church, it is interesting to observe what they substitute for it, for even for them the mere notion of enmity between men and snakes is rather a trite matter. Some hold that we have here "the protest of ethical religion against the unnatural fascination of snake-worship." Rather a farfetched substitute! Again, since the word does have a rather solemn sound, how account for that? It is suggested that here we have one of those strange words that like oft "recurring motives of the Genesis’ narratives" explain "the more perplexing facts in the history of men and peoples" and "are the working out of a doom or ‘weird’ pronounced of old under divine inspiration." Similar instances are listed, as 4:15; 8:21 ff.; 9:25 ff.; 16:12; 27:27 ff.; 46:19 ff., ch. 49. The thought is that mysterious things are to be explained 1.170as the working out of words of fate uttered long ago. But rather than think of some word of blind fate about snakes, this should be listed as a definite word of prophecy and promise. Procksch lets the word carry no more meaning than that man and serpent both perish in this weird contest: the fight ends in a kind of draw—a very hopeful prospect outlined by the Lord! Even Koenig dares go no farther (DieMess. Weissagungen) than to find in the word the sure promise of the defeat of the serpent but no reference to the Messiah.

Those who would charge our interpretation with being too deeply involved or to abstruse or too difficult for the Old Testament believer to discover, should remember that the Jewish Church, according to the Targum, regarded this passage as messianic from a very early day. If Irenaeus is mentioned as the first one of the Christian church fathers definitely to state this view, that does not materially alter the situation. Not every messianic passage is mentioned definitely in the New Testament, yet cf. Rom. 16:20. A significant New Testament fact, however, looms up very prominently and serves the same purpose: after Christ’s public ministry is officially inaugurated by His baptism, He encounters the devil in a temptation, even as the first parents encountered him. This, first of all, confirms the fact that the first tempter was the devil, but it more distinctly displays the first crushing defeat that the seed of the woman administered to His opponent. On the cross this victory was sealed and brought to its perfect conclusion. The cry, "It is finished," marked the successful completion of the task.

Unfortunately, the Catholic church, following an error of the Vulgate, translates as "she" (ipsa) instead of, as the Hebrew alone allows: "he" (ipse). So she refers the passage to the virgin Mary. Even the original translator of the Vulgate, Jerome, was aware that the retention of this form was an error.

1.17116. To the woman He said: I will increase very greatly thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; unto thy husband thou shalt be attracted, and he shall rule over thee.

Divine wisdom and justice dictate this sentence. Justice is made apparent in the fact that in the three elements embodied in the sentence each stands in direct relation to the misdeed of the woman, being a penalty commensurate with the wrong. In this way divine wisdom displays itself; for such punishment is calculated to keep awake in womankind a direct remembrance of the fateful deed of the first mother. The first part of the penalty is found in the words: "I will increase very greatly thy pain and thy conception." This does not imply that pain would have been the normal thing for womankind. Nor is this the pain connected primarily with childbearing; although that is included. What is done is that woman from this time onward has numerous forms of pain laid to her lot. Physical infirmities of a painful kind are in a great measure her portion. Because of her more delicate makeup many things besides cause her a greater measure of mental and spiritual pain. The just retaliation lies in this that she who sought sweet delights in the eating of the forbidden fruit, finds not delights but pain—not joy but sorrow. For ’itstsebhon includes both "pain" and "sorrow," in fact, everything that is hard to bear. The conjunction before "conception"is to be taken in the sense of "and in particular," a meaning found e. g. in Ps. 18:1 (Heb.); Isa. 2:1. Nowhere shall the rich measure of "pain" be more in evidence than here. We have here more than what a hendiadys ("the pain of thy conception") allows for (cf. K.W.). "Conception" will be multiplied. When its painful character becomes apparent, woman will seek to have little of it, but her common lot according to this word will be a frequent recurrence of it, as, barring a few exceptions, the history of the race amply 1.172testifies. To allow for no misunderstanding of the word at this point, for frequent conceptions might in themselves at first glance not appear to be an evil, the explanatory sentence is appended without a connective (K. S. 338 p): "In pain thou shalt bring forth children." This asserts that each conception shall culminate in the pains of parturition. This form of the word for "pain" is briefer than the preceding one, but since the same root appears in both, we used one word for both. "Misery" (Besckwerde) would also cover the term quite well.

The second part of the penalty is: "Unto thy husband thou shalt be attracted." Teshûqah might be rendered "desire" or even better "yearning." This yearning is morbid. It is not merely sexual yearning. It includes the attraction that woman experiences for man which she cannot root from her nature. Independent feminists may seek to banish it, but it persists in cropping out. It may be normal. It often is not but takes a perverted form even to the point of nymphomania. It is a just penalty. She who sought to strive apart from man and to act independently of him in the temptation finds a continual attraction for him to be her unavoidable lot.

The third part of the penalty is: "he shall rule over thee." She sought to control him by taking control into her own hands (2 Tim. 2:14) and even by leading him on in the temptation. As a result her penalty is that she shall be the one that is controlled. Man’s position in reference to woman now is fixed: he bears the rule. When all is done in the spirit of Christ, such rule is not harsh or unnatural; nor is it cancelled. There it expresses itself in such a way that it is not to be felt as a burden. But where sin prevails, such rule may be degraded into a miserable domination, such as the East has particularly, experienced. God did not ordain this harshness, but man transcended his rights, and sin poisoned a necessary restriction. This 1.173word, then, does not reflect the narrowness of the East but is a wholesome restraint and reminder for womankind.

The expression, "I will increase very greatly," is the usual verb plus absolute infinitive. On the ending of the infinitive see G. K. 75 ff. Verbs of ruling with be; see K. S. 212 e.

17. And unto the man 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 be the ground on thy account; in misery shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

The penalty laid upon man is given at greater length; but then it must be observed that a good part of the word, especially the conclusion of v. 17 as well as v. 18 and v. 19, apply to woman as well as to man. In other words, the first word of v. 17 should be pointed la’adham and rendered "unto the man" rather than "unto Adam." Note also the contrast with v. 16, "unto the woman." Observe also that at v. 20 the proper name, Adam, has not yet emerged.

But man’s punishment fits his particular misdeed. Because he submitted to his wife, whereas he should have ruled, therefore he shall experience insubordination on the part of the soil, whereas otherwise he would have exercised complete control. This involves, first of all, difficulty in the matter of securing his sustenance: "in misery shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." It shall yield produce, but the winning of it shall always be attended by ’itstsebhôn, "misery," "toil," "sorrow." The former ease of tilling the soil shall be a thing of the past. On no place of the earth’s surface can such toil be evaded. In some places there may be more of it, in others less, but "toil" is the common lot of man. The immediate cause for this is the fact that "the ground is cursed." A divine word 1.174blighted its fruitfulness. There was a deep reason and a necessity for that. It was no longer fitting that an imperfect man dwell in the midst of a perfect dwelling place. Divine pedagogy makes the outward circumstances correspond to the inward state, so that man might the more keenly feel his wretchedness. Therefore the explanatory phrase says that it was done "on thy account," not by accident, not because God delights in blasting a perfect world, but for man’s sake: such a world would best tend to induce man to be ready to accept God’s salvation. Of course, the expression, "thou shalt eat of it" (the ground) means "to derive a living from it" (Meek). But the thing that stands out as prominently as any in this verse is that this, as well as the consequences yet to be enumerated, are directly traced to man’s sin: "because thou hast eaten," etc. There are not some mysterious words of doom that trail man wherever he goes, but there is an inescapable divine sentence, which man has fully merited, which follows him wherever he goes through life. Not blind fate but human guilt and consequent divine punishment explain man’s lot; and chief of these is man’s guilt. It may not be amiss to add that a bit of gracious promise lies imbedded in this hard word of punishment; viz., the expression, "thou shalt eat of it," does give to man the assurance that as a return for his hard labour he shall not lack the food he needs.

18. Thorns also and thistles shall it cause to spring forth for thee and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.

While man is eating and is destined to eat the "herb of the field" (’ésebh hassadheh—here for all the food of man which was still vegetable in character), the ground was of itself bringing forth thorns and thistles. This seems to us to be the connection of the two halves of this verse. So that not only is difficulty and toil experienced while man is winning his food (v. 17), but also that which he does procure is gotten in meagre quantities only (v. 18), because undesirable elements grow without receiving attention. This, too, is one of the effects of the curse of the ground. God is here not ordaining a different diet for man—"the herb of the field," an expression erroneously translated by some, "wild plants."

However, the disorders and irregularities observed throughout the world are far more numerous than those recorded in v. 17-19. Why should only those be mentioned that accompany agricultural endeavour? First of all, because in that particular direction they are most readily observed, for all men must in a measure engage in tilling the soil. But besides, no doubt, we have one type of disorder mentioned here as a sample of all the rest. As the soil and its culture are disordered, so is every department of life and the world. So Calvin interprets. Luther surmises that at first only these few disabilities were laid upon man and that they increased progressively as time went on—a view that is less acceptable. In any case, the penalty agreed with the simpler aspects of life that were in evidence in the early history of mankind.

19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread until thou return unto the ground, for from it thou wast taken; for dust thou art and unto dust thou must return,

This part of the penalty emphasizes primarily the lifelong continuance of the toil imposed on man-till he returns unto the ground. Otherwise, the opening words of the verse are nothing more than a paraphrase of v. 17 d, "in misery shalt thou eat of it." But the paraphrase is drastic in its colouring. It actually represents man as having such brief respite between portions of his work that, as he sits down to meat, the sweat still courses down his face as a result of his 1.176previous hard toil. From this lot there is no deliverance until man’s return to the ground. It is not here said that this return is man’s death, for, in reality, "death" is used in a far more comprehensive sense in these chapters. But the fate of his body is foretold: being of dust, it must return to dust. Though this is stated as an inevitable consequence, it will not do to claim that such physical dissolution would have been man’s lot anyhow. For this statement is part of the general penalty. This penalty now determines that man’s lot after the body must be to return to the dust whence he came. This is a solemn word whose truth is felt with overwhelming force each time we see it fulfilled. "Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return" is not, we repeat, a general maxim, which holds good in any event.

It would be one-sided in v. 16-19 to speak only of penalty. Of course, the thing dwelt on is primarily penalty. But, at the same time, there are traces of mercy that shine through it all. It is not plain penalty but corrective penalty. There may be much pain and suffering on the woman’s part, especially in childbearing, but the future of the race is guaranteed in such childbearing. At the same time this experience effectually reminds the woman of her grievous transgression—also a salutary effect. The same result is secured by the particular form of punishment that is laid upon man. So, on the whole, it must also be admitted that, though work may be a grievous burden, it is also a very definite and valuable blessing. Thus God stands revealed even in this, not only as a God of justice but also as a God of mercy.

Though spoken to Adam and Eve, these words are not addressed to them merely as individuals but as progenitors of the human race, as is amply indicated by experience. For all the children of Adam and Eve have found themselves suffering the same lot as that which our first parents were here told would be 1.177inevitable. Such Scriptures as 2 Tim. 1:14, 15 more particularly support this contention.

20. And the man called his wife’s name Eve (Life) because she was the mother of all living.

God’s wise pedagogy through it all has not been in vain, as now appears from Adam’s reaction. The account still refers to him by the generic name "the man," as appears from the use of the article before ’adham. This act of Adam’s, whereby he gives his wife the name "Life," is proof of a faith that involves more than the idea that God is indeed speaking the truth when He indicates that Eve will bring forth offspring and so be the mother of all the living. That would hardly be significant enough to mention, being quite self-evident and quite readily believed. But we do justice to this word when we see in it the conclusion on man’s part, that, since all living beings shall come forth from her, therefore also life itself in that fulness of sense in which the word is often used in the Scriptures ("death" is also used in the fullest sense in these chapters). Consequently, by the significant nature of the name employed, as well as by the significant way in which the matter is reported at this important juncture, we are to understand that Adam refers to the things implied in the promise of the victory over the devil. In other words, he here gives evidence not only of believing that God spoke the truth but evidence of belief in the salvation which God had promised. This, then, was on Adam’s part, as far as was possible under the circumstances, a true and living faith in Christ. This faith of his surely could not have all the clearness that marks the faith of New Testament believers. But the essentials of faith were in evidence. And since faith cannot come into being unless true repentance precedes, we are justified in saying that indirectly the repentance of Adam is here taught. Again everything has been done in perfect 1.178harmony with the rule that God follows of begetting faith by the means of grace. The words of the sentence spoken had prominent elements of the Law in them and so were calculated to work repentance. Equally prominent were the elements of Gospel which were calculated to work faith in the hearts of these first hearers. So the question is answered, whether after the Fall Adam repented and believed.

The proper name for Eve, chawwah, is by far not as uncertain in meaning as some would claim. Nor is there any evidence that the Hebrew root could yield the meaning "serpent" just because of a similar Arabic form. A parallel is found in the analogous verb hayyah, which also existed in the parallel form hawwah (Gen. 27:29) and survives in this form in the proper name Yahweh. So chayyah, meaning "to live," could easily have had the older form chawwah with the same meaning. "Life" is the well-established meaning of this proper name. The second half of the verse is the author’s statement, not Adam’s, as 2:24.

21. And Yahweh God made garments of skin for the man and for his wife and so clothed them.

Now God makes necessary provision for man’s physical well-being. The covering that man had made for himself was inadequate, and so God showed him how to provide a more suitable and durable covering for himself. By so doing God gave His approval of the sense of shame which had led our first parents to cover their nakedness, and at the same time He furnished protection against the rigors of climate which would be encountered outside of the garden. The expression "and he made" (wayyá’as) is best understood not that He personally did the making, but that He gave such directions as man required to learn how to make appropriate skin garments. That God does provide for the proper clothing of man’s body does suggest and does render reasonable the conclusion 1.179that He will provide for the proper covering of man’s guilty soul. But this verse does not teach that, nor is it an allegory conveying a lesson to that effect. The meaning is what the letter of the statement says—no more. God’s reason for the choice of just such a type of garment was that there was none simpler and more readily prepared. That being the case, no deeper meaning need be attached to the fact that these garments were of skin. Nevertheless, since the slaying of beasts for man’s needs was thus sanctioned, this may have suggested to man the idea of sacrifice, yet not of sacrificial meals, for man had as yet no divine warrant for the use of animal food. Further reflection on this means of providing garments may have taught man some useful lessons. One certainly was that there must be some deep seated disorders in the world at large since man’s sin, if the giving up of the lives of beasts was necessary to provide man with garments. Death was present in various forms since man’s lapse into sin. It is difficult to say whether the slaying of beasts for purposes of clothing in Adam’s day already involved sacrifice.

Kothnôth does generally mean "tunics," but here, no doubt, it is used in the general sense of "garments" (Klied-K. W.); "coats" (A.V.) is too specific. The pointing of the text should be slightly altered to la’adham, "for man," instead of le’adham, "for Adam." The generic use of the word is intended because "and his wife" follows, also generic, not "Eve."

22-24. And Yahweh God said: Behold, man is become as one of us to know good and evil, and now lest he reach forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever—so Yahweh God expelled him from the garden of Eden to till the soil whence he was taken; and He drove the man forth and placed the cherubim eastward of the garden of Eden and a revolving sword like flame to guard the way to the tree of life.

1.180Since the actual commission of sin the author has with very deliberate purpose been using the name "Yahweh God" for the deity. In the temptation the devil naturally could not want to refer to Him as such. But now, since v. 8, it has been the definite purpose of Moses to portray God as one who, though eternal and unchangeable, manifested the unchangeableness of His mercy toward even the fallen ones. The God of mercy has been portrayed since v. 8. So here too in v. 22 barring man from approach to the tree of life is mercy. Therefore Yahweh is used, as well as ’Elohim.

Whereas in v. 8-21 we had the substance of what God spoke to man in mercy and in judgment, we have in v. 22 the persons of the Holy Trinity in divine counsel among themselves. As might well be expected, from the divine point of view man’s act is not only trivial but sad. Man achieved in a relative sense a kind of parody of godlikeness. A divine and holy irony takes note of this. True, there is nothing in these remarks of God that could for a moment make it appear as though the Lord found fallen man a fit object for venting His amusement. Perhaps, since human terms but imperfectly describe the deity, words such as sarcasm or irony—over the relative propriety of which a vigorous debate is still being waged in reference to this passage—had better both be avoided, lest we create a conflict with the pure pity that, without a doubt, stamps his mercy as truly divine. We might, then, substitute the word "sadness" as descriptive of God’s attitude. At the same time, the turn of the narrative practically requires that attention be drawn to the equivocal sense in which the promise was made: "Ye shall be as gods." What a sorry godlikeness, if we may use the paradox, and what a pitiable achievement on man’s part!

The expression "like one of us" cannot, be made to include the angels, as though God were saying that He and they constitute the class of higher beings. 1.181For, in the first place, in any case such a levelling process that puts God and created beings in one class is precarious; and, in the second place, the like expression 1:26 stands too near to leave room for anything other than a reference to the persons of the Trinity. If, then, it be claimed that the revelation of Scripture is up to this point too meagre to allow for a clear understanding of this fact, we readily admit that in the earlier stages of revelation this word may not have been fully apprehended. But some of the revelation coming from God must be progressively apprehended. The Old Testament pointed in the way of the full truth. The New Testament sheds its light back upon this word too clearly to be ignored. But as Luther already rightly claimed, this word shows the unity of the divine being ("God said") and a plurality of person ("us"), this latter fact, however, primarily in the light of the New Testament.

At the same time, there is one very necessary step that must be taken before this episode of the Fall is completely adjusted, and that is, man must be completely shut off from access to "the tree of life." About the purpose of this tree we learn only from its name and from the remark here made in reference to it. It had the power to impart imperishable physical life-for the plain statement of the case is that had man eaten, he would have "lived forever." But since, to the best of our knowledge, no tree of itself can possess such virtue, it seems best again with Luther to assume that this remarkable power was characteristic of the tree not by its inherent natural qualities but by virtue of the power of the Word of God, who was pleased to ordain that such should be the effect of partaking of the fruit of this tree. For man in his fallen and sadly altered state the acquisition of the quality of imperishability for this sin-torn and sin-defaced body would have been a grievous calamity. He would never have been able to "shuffle off this mortal coil." Christ’s work 1.182of restoration would have been precluded, where He "changes this body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:21). Further speculation about the nature of this tree is useless. But this purpose is clearly revealed by this one word of divine revelation. The whole purpose of the narrative becomes distorted by the critics who claim to find in v. 22 a "crude form of the legend" besides "more of the characteristically pagan feeling of the envy of the Gods." There is nothing crude about divine pity. Nor, to tell the truth, can anything crude be extracted from this verse except it be first placed there by the critic.

The construction ladhá’ath offers that use of the preposition which is best rendered "in respect of knowing." For the whole, see G. K. 114o. On the expression "as one from us" cf. G. K. 130d on the construct state before a preposition; also K. S. 277 n. K. S. tangles up the situation by supplying words before "lest" (pen). This negative clause of purpose must be attached to what follows.

Of course, there is a bit of truth in what K. C. claims, that withholding man from the tree of life was punishment. But in the altered state of man the results of eating of the fruit of it would have been most disastrous.

Now with v. 23 the sentence structure is altered. Direct discourse merges over into the doing of the thing that lay in the divine intention—an effective way of saying that God carries out His purposes.

(23) The act of God in putting man out of the garden is here described as He "expelled" him (shillach). Being the Piel stem of the verb to "send," "expel" (Meek) is a good rendering. That is, however, only the more general statement of the case. The more specific word, describing the manner of doing it, is 1.183given in v. 24, and He "drove forth" the man. This second verb garash pictures Him vividly as driving man before Him. The first verb would be covered in all its connotations if Cod had merely ordered man to depart. Now according to v. 5 as well as v. 15 it was already ordained that one of the duties of man was to be to "till the soil." But now after his expulsion from the garden this remains as his only work, and there is the suggestion that there is something unwelcome and degrading about it all because the clause is added, "from whence thou wast taken." All the other noble prerogatives of man are largely cancelled, such as "having dominion" and "ruling." Man now actually stands in heavy bondage to the very soil that he was first privileged to control. Some try to make this verse a mere doublet of v. 24, whereas, in reality, both tell two very different stories, even on the expulsion there is no overlapping: the one describes the act in general terms; the other is more specific.

(24) There was something particularly shameful about being driven forth from the garden. Divine goodness aimed to make man feel his altered state very keenly: first blessed fellowship, then harsh expulsion. To make the severity of His judgments immediately apparent and the removal of them humanly impossible, a double guard is placed against any possible attempts at re-entering the garden. Between man and the garden, that is "to the east," "cherubim" are placed. They are a type of being somewhat like angels. Because they are elsewhere in the Scriptures definitely described as "the living ones," chayyoth and ζῶα, we are well justified in claiming that because of this distinctive name they must represent the highest type of living beings. They are particularly found in the Scriptures as honoured by the privilege to stand in the immediate presence of the heavenly King, and they are specially associated with Him in works of judgment, as here. K. W. well defines that they are "representatives and 1.184mediators of God’s presence in the world" (Ps. 18:10), Repraesentanten und Vermittler der Weltgegenwart Gottes. The root from which the word may be derived would suggest that the word as such means "a brilliant appearance" (Glanzerscheinung). How these marvellous beings appeared was well remembered by the Israelites at least, for they seemed to require no further description when they were told to make two cherubim upon the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant and otherwise to use the figures of cherubim for ornamental purposes; cf. Exod. 25:18; 26:1.

Quite distinct from these cherubim was the "revolving swordlike flame," which is often represented erroneously as a sword in the hand of the cherubim. The only connection that the flame and the cherubim have is that they both effectually bar the way to the tree of life, and since God’s wrath at man’s misdeed is displayed by their presence, it is perfectly correct, as Keil does, to let the flame represent God’s wrath. However, the literal expression is "the flame of the sword, the turning one." This is best taken as meaning a flame, swordlike in appearance and continually rotating or even, perhaps, moving zigzag like flashes of lightning; at any event, a sight effectually deterring man from attempting to enter, so effectually, no doubt, that he did not even venture to approach the garden from any other side.

All speculations as to how long the garden of Eden continued upon earth after the Fall are bound to be quite hopeless. Certainly, for at least a time after the expulsion the garden was still upon earth, and both the cherubim and the vibrant flame of fire continued in their God-appointed place. But to venture to say that the garden as such remained until it was destroyed by the Flood is an assertion that can be as little proved as the other claim that is was removed or "vanished from the earth with the expulsion of men from the garden of Eden" (Keil).

1.185We leave this chapter with a sigh over the glory that was lost and with deep regret over the loss of man’s original innocence. There is no chapter in the Scriptures that more effectively reveals the source of all evil that is in the world; and so it becomes a very helpful chapter for the man that is ready to accept its truth.


A few suggestions as to the homiletical use of this chapter. "The Fall into Sin" as such can be expounded on the basis of v. 1-8, though to an extent the basic elements of the narrative are fairly well known to most Christians from their childhood days. Yet many trivial conceptions have been carried over into maturity which may well be corrected. Since our day is particularly weak on the subject of sin and its pernicious effects, v. 9-19 presents a very suggestive portion for the treatment of "the Curse of Sin," or, "the Consequences of the Original Sin." Within this section is one verse that for all its brevity still contains enough material for a complete sermon, namely v. 15 which contains "the First Gospel." As we showed above, v. 20 gives indication of man’s penitence and faith. Therefore it would be quite in order to treat v. 20-24 under a heading like "Tokens of God’s Mercy to Penitent Man."

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