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The First Sin and Its Punishment


Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the L ord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

8 They heard the sound of the L ord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the L ord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the L ord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the L ord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14The L ord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

cursed are you among all animals

and among all wild creatures;

upon your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.


I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will strike your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;

in pain you shall bring forth children,

yet your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to the man he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,

and have eaten of the tree

about which I commanded you,

‘You shall not eat of it,’

cursed is the ground because of you;

in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;


thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

and you shall eat the plants of the field.


By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread

until you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21And the L ord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

22 Then the L ord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23therefore the L ord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

7. And the eyes of them both were opened. It was necessary that the eyes of Eve should be veiled till her husband also was deceived; but now both, being alike bound by the chain of an unhappy consent, begin to be sensible of their wretchedness although they are not yet affected with a deep knowledge of their fault. They are ashamed of their nakedness, yet, though convinced, they do not humble themselves before God, nor fear his judgements as they ought; they even do not cease to resort to evasions. Some progress, however, is made; for whereas recently they would, like giants, assault heaven by storm; now, confounded with a sense of their own ignominy, they flee to hiding-places. And truly this opening of the eyes in our first parents to discern their baseness, clearly proves them to have been condemned by their own judgment. They are not yet summoned to the tribunal of God; there is none who accuses them; is not then the sense of shame, which rises spontaneously, a sure token of guilt? The eloquence, therefore, of the whole world will avail nothing to deliver those from condemnation, whose own conscience has become the judge to compel them to confess their fault. It rather becomes us all to open our eyes, that, being confounded at our own disgrace, we may give to God the glory which is his due. God created man flexible; and not only permitted, but willed that he should be tempted. For he both adapted the tongue of the serpent beyond the ordinary use of nature, to the devil’s purpose, just as if any one should furnish another with a sword and armor; and then, though the unhappy event was foreknown by him, he did not apply the remedy, which he had the power to do. On the other hand, when we come to speak of man, he will be found to have sinned voluntarily, and to have departed from God, his Maker, by a movement of the mind not less free than perverse. Nor ought we to call that a light fault, which, refusing credit to the word of God, exalted itself against him by impious and sacrilegious emulation, which would not be subject to his authority, and which, finally, both proudly and perfidiously revolted from him. Therefore, whatever sin and fault there is in the fall of our first parents remains with themselves; but there is sufficient reason why the eternal counsel of God preceded it, though that reason is concealed from us. We see, indeed, some good fruit daily springing from a ruin so dreadful, inasmuch as God instructs us in humility by our miseries and then more clearly illustrates his own goodness; for his grace is more abundantly poured forth, through Christ, upon the world, than it was imparted to Adam in the beginning. Now, if the reason why this is so lies beyond our reach, it is not wonderful that the secret counsel of God should be to us like a labyrinth.175175     To the question, ‘Why God did not create man without a possibility of sinning’, Peter Martyr replies: “Because such a state could not be suitable to the nature of any rational creature; since the creature, as a creature, remains infirm and feeble; whereas, also, he is not entirely one with the rule by which he is to be directed, (otherwise he would be God, the chief good, and chief rectitude,) it follows, that his nature may diverge from that rule. It was, however, possible for grace to confirm him so that he should not sin, which is believed to be the state of angels and of saints in heaven. But that dignity or reward would not be so highly esteemed, if this fallible and inconstant state of man had not preceded it.” — Peter Martyr, in Gen., fol. 14. Tiguri, 1579. — Ed.

And they sewed fig - leaves together. What I lately said, that they had not been brought either by true shame or by serious fear to repentance, is now more manifest. They sew together for themselves girdles of leaves.176176     “Ex foliis perizomata.” For what end? That they may keep God at a distance, as by an invincible barrier! Their sense of evil, therefore, was only confused, and combined with dulness, as is wont to be the case in unquiet sleep. There is none of us who does not smile at their folly, since, certainly, it was ridiculous to place such a covering before the eyes of God. In the meanwhile, we are all infected with the same disease; for, indeed, we tremble, and are covered with shame at the first compunctions of conscience; but self-indulgence soon steals in, and induces us to resort to vain trifles, as if it were an easy thing to delude God. Therefore unless conscience be more closely pressed there is no shadow of excuse too faint and fleeting to obtain our acquiescence; and even if there be no pretext whatever, we still make pleasures for ourselves, and, by an oblivion of three days’ duration, we imagine that we are well covered.177177     “Imo si nullus fucus suppetat, facimus tamen nobis delicias, et tridui oblivione putamus nos bene esse tectos.” In short, the cold and faint178178     “Semimortua.” knowledge of sin, which is inherent in the minds of men, is here described by Moses, in order that they may be rendered inexcusable.179179     What immediately follows is here given in the original:
Quaeritamen potest, si tota natura peccati sordibus infecta est, cur tantum una in parte corporis deformitas appareat. Neque enim faciem vel pectus operiunt Adam et Heva: sed tantum pudenda quae vocamus. Hac occasione factum esse arbitror ut vulgo non aliam vitae corruptelam agnoscerent quam in libidine venerea. Atqui expendere debebant, non minorem fuisse in oculis et auribus verecundiae causam, quam in parte genitali, quae peccato nondum foedata erat: quum aures et oculi inquinassent Adam et Heva, et diabolo quasi arma praebuissent. Sed Deo fuit satis, extare in corpore humano aliquam pudendam notam, quae nos peccati commonefaciat.”
Then (as we have already said) Adam and his wife were yet ignorant of their own vileness, since with a covering so light they attempted to hide themselves from the presence of God.

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