The following article is Part 3 in a series about the current state of human sexuality. As explained previously, our culture is “flying upside down” with no concept of where we are headed. The previous post explained a foundational understanding of Genesis 1 and 2. The following post will be an explanation of Genesis 3:1-16 and the tragedy that ensued. While this post is admittedly long, it is critical in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of our current state of affairs.
UPSIDE DOWN: PART 3. GENESIS 3
The text of Scripture from Genesis 2:4–3:24 is a narrative passage with seven parts or scenes. Each scene is a significant part of the whole and has a corresponding scene. The scenes are set up as follows:
1) 2:5–17 – God the sole actor; man present but passive
2) 2:18–25 – God main actor; man minor role, woman and animals passive
3) 3:1–5 – Snake and woman
4) 3:6–8 – Man and Woman
5) 3:9–13 – God, man and woman
6) 3:14–21 – God main actor; man minor role; woman and snake passive
7) 3:22–24 – God sole actor; man passive
Scene 1 corresponds with Scene 7. Scene 2 corresponds with Scene 6. Scene 3 corresponds with Scene 5. Scene 4 stands alone as this is the scene in which Adam and Eve partake of the fruit. Not only is the literary framework set up in corresponding manner, but so does the operation. Notice that the initial activity begins in verse 7 outside of the garden, as God creates Adam. In verse 8, God “planted a garden in Eden,” and the procession moves into the garden. The main event, the fall of mankind, takes place at the center, and then the tide goes back out the way it came in as God speaks to Adam, Eve, and the serpent in the garden; then, they are “sent out . . . [and] taken” (verse 23) from the garden. Writing with matching scenes is not usual (W, X, Y, Z, Y, X, W); it is known as the mirror-image style, or palistrophic writing. It also occurs in the story of the flood in Genesis 6–9.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast” (Genesis 3:1). Chapter 3 of Genesis immediately introduces a serpent. This is the first time that any of the animals have been specifically mentioned by name. Genesis 2:19 explains that from the dust of the ground God “formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens,” but there is no mention of any specific beast or bird. Additionally, this passage specifically mentions that God formed the animals out of the “dust” of the ground.
The serpent speaks briefly with Eve and convinces her to eat the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Back in Genesis 2:16–17, God had clearly commanded Adam, prior to Eve’s creation, not to eat of this one tree, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The text in 3:1–3 makes it obvious that Eve is aware of this command; whether it was God or Adam that informed her, the text does not say. In fact, Eve’s answer adds an additional warning that God did not give Adam. Eve tells the serpent she is not to eat the fruit, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” Why she adds this precaution is unclear. As some scholars have suggested, perhaps she (or Adam) added to what God had commanded. Or, perhaps it was included as an additional layer of protection.
What happens next changed the history of the world. “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (verse 6). The details of this verse are important. It seems clear that Adam was with Eve at the time she ate the fruit. It also seems that Adam was present for the entire conversation between Eve and the serpent. On the contrary, it would be very difficult to argue that Adam was not present. If Adam was indeed present, why was he simply a passive bystander? Why did he allow the serpent’s questions to by-pass him? Why did not he speak? Why did Adam allow Eve to touch the fruit? Why did he simply watch her eat it? What was he thinking when she handed the fruit to him?
The Genesis 2 text is clear that Eve was the one who answered the serpent. She was also the one who ate the fruit first, and she gave it to her husband expecting that he would eat it too. In just a few verses, when God mandates the discipline and consequences of their sin, it is the most understandable context that Eve was the aggressor and Adam was passive. That being said, in 2 Corinthians 11:3, the Apostle Paul clearly explains that “the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning.”
Genesis 3:8 explains that God came “walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves.” God’s walking in the garden does not appear to be unusual to Adam and Eve, yet they hid. Verse nine explains, “God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” God asking Adam his location can be likened to an adult playing hide-and-seek with a small child. The omniscient creator of the universe, Almighty God, knew exactly where Adam and Eve were hiding. The question is “designed to bring Adam to a realization of the nature of his condition and to a confession of his sin.” Additionally, notice that God is holding Adam primarily accountable. God calls for Adam and addresses him first. Kenneth Mathews explains, “God first addresses the man, who evidently bears the greater responsibility, then the woman and the serpent. This inverts the order of the participants in the act (serpent, woman and man) and indicates God’s chief interest in the state of the human couple.” God asks Adam if he has eaten from the forbidden tree. Adam answers, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (verse 12). Adam points the blame toward the woman and then ultimately to God as the creator of the woman, “Adam charges that the Lord ‘gave’ the woman to him and in turn she ‘gave’ him the fruit. The implication is inescapable: God ultimately is responsible for the success of the tempter and Adam’s demise.” Adam has made a terrible accusation.
The Lord God then turns to the woman and asks her, “What have you done?” (verse 13). It is important to remember that Eve was created to be a help-mate, “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). God designed Eve so that she would help Adam in his mandate “to work and to keep the garden” or “worship and obey,” and to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). Eve was created to be Adam’s partner, to help him flourish; yet she became his partner in crime. In fact, she was not simply an accomplice, she was the initiator.
Eve, like her husband, tries to shift the blame; “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (verse 13). She wisely does not try to blame to God, like her husband did. However, “She does not realize that her sin lies in the very fact that she did not resist temptation, but listened to the words of incitement.” Even though she was deceived, the reality is that she undermined the authority of God, and the authority of her husband.
Moving into verses 14–19, Mathews notes, “Again the order is inverted, corresponding to the order of the culprit’s collusion: the judgment oracles assign punishment to the serpent first” then to the woman, and finally the man. As expected, God does not give random consequences, but the punishment fits the crime.
This text, verses 14–19, is often referred to as “the curse of man.” Interestingly, neither Adam nor Eve is cursed; they both receive specific punishment(s) and consequences for their particular sins but neither is cursed. It is the serpent and the ground that are specifically cursed by God. Notice that God does not question the serpent about the events; He does not need to, “He only has words of condemnation for the serpent, whereas the man and woman receive God’s continued concern and provision in the midst of their punishment.” Mathews suggests that God plays the “gentle father seeking out his own” throughout this garden scene. Cassuto uses the metaphor of a human father who dearly loves his children. He writes, “The decrees pronounced by the Lord God mentioned here are not exclusively punishments; they are also, and chiefly, measures taken for the good of the human species in its new situation.”
In verse 14 God curses the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals. You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” As previously suggested, God prescribes punishment that fits the crime. Genesis 3:1 explained that the serpent was more “crafty” than any of the other animals; therefore, “the ‘curse’ for that trickery distinguishes the serpent from them as well.” Verse 14 describes two aspects of the curse: first, the serpent must crawl on his belly. One can only wonder what the serpent must have looked like prior to the curse. Second, the serpent will eat dust all the days of its life. Mathews highlights the aspect of “dust.” He writes,
“Eating” dust reflects Eve’s temptation to “eat” of the tree and the couple’s subsequent fall by eating. . . . The Mosaic covenant declare[s] that animals whose locomotion is on the ground are abhorred as unclean and to be avoided. . . . Eating dust is a common figure for personal humiliation elsewhere in Scripture. Moreover, by “dust” there is an anticipation of God’s pronouncement of Adam’s death (3:19).
When Adam receives his punishment from God, Adam is told of his demise. God explains that it was from the dust that “you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Both Adam and the serpent will be humiliated in the dust.
Furthermore, verse 15 is part of the curse that foreshadows a forthcoming victory: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Many scholars have referred to this verse as the “protoevangelium” since it promises a coming rescuer. Many view it to be the first declaration of the gospel. Mathews adds, “The serpent was instrumental in the undoing of the woman, and in turn the woman will ultimately bring down the serpent though her offspring.” Romans 16:20 and Galatians 4:4–5 point back to Genesis 3:15 to shed light on the reality that Jesus Christ came as the vindicator of the woman.
Genesis 3:16 explains, “To the woman He said, ‘I will multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.’” There are significant differences between the consequences for Eve and the consequences for the serpent and later Adam.
Unlike the penalties announced against the serpent and the man, there is no occurrence of “curse” related to the woman’s suffering. Moreover, there is no cause specified for her suffering, whereas the serpent is charged with deception (v. 14) and the man with eating disobediently (v. 17). This is due to the woman’s culpability through deception, in contrast with the willful rebellion of the serpent and the man.
Eve was created for two primary functions: to be a help-mate to her husband and to help him fulfill the mandate to be “fruitful and multiply” through childrearing. Again, the punishment fits the crime: each of her two roles will now receive a painful consequence. First, Eve was to be Adam’s help-mate in the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.” Adam could not do that alone. Eve was to help Adam by bearing children; and now God has mandated that her pain in childbirth will be “multiplied.” However, there is a silver lining: while Eve must endure the stress of painful labor, there is hope in the expectation that she will live to bear children. Furthermore, the pain that she will experience in childbirth will bring forth the “seed” of her vindication that will “crush the head” of her archenemy.
Interestingly, the word used here for “pain” is not the usual word used for birth-pains. Cassuto suggests, “We have here a play upon words with reference to tree; it was with respect to the tree that the man and woman sinned, and it was with pain and suffering that they were punished.” It is a word-play making a pun out of the word “tree” in order to suggest that the “tree” brought about “trauma.” The Hebrew word for “painful labor” only occurs twice more in Genesis 3:17 and 5:29. Of course, Genesis 3:17 is when God mandates that Adam will “painfully labor.” It is interesting that the painful labor of childbirth as experienced by Eve, will “match” the painful labor that Adam must endure as a consequence of the curse on the ground. However, even more interesting, and a parallel that must not be missed, is the painful labor that Christ must endure on a “tree” that brought “trauma” as a consequence to the sin of mankind. Eve’s suffering in childbirth as a result of the tree will bring forth the seed of vindication. Jesus Christ’s suffering on a tree will also bring forth the seed of vindication. This interesting parallel must not be overlooked!
As mentioned previously, Eve was created with two primary roles in mind: help-mate and child-bearer. This second portion of Eve’s consequences deals with her role as wife and helper. God says, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” (verse 16). In order to understand this clearly, Susan Foh points to Genesis 4:7 which uses nearly identical language. In that context God speaks in a very similar manner to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Because these verses (Genesis 3:16 and 4:7) are nearly identical, they must be examined in unison. God tells Cain that sin desires to rule or “have mastery” over him. However, he must gain control over the unruliness of sin: “We must read these verses in concert. This recommends that 3:16b also describes a struggle for mastery between the sexes. The ‘desire’ of the woman is her attempt to control her husband.” Therefore, just as sin desires to control Cain, the woman will desire to control her husband. Eve clearly demonstrated her desire for control in the confrontation with the serpent: she answered his questions; she took the fruit; and she gave it to her husband expecting him to eat it.
Furthermore, in verse 4:7, God concludes by telling Cain, “You must rule over it [sin].” Foh makes a clear distinction, contending, “An active struggle between Cain and sin is implied; the victor of the struggle is not determined by the words God speaks to Cain.” Therefore, if 3:16 is read in concert with 4:7, just as Cain is to struggle and fight against sin to rule over it, the man will struggle and fight against the woman to rule over her. His ruling over her should not be the primary question. Man was made first. Woman was created from his side to be his help-mate: “The woman was made subordinate to him from the very first: but the supremacy of the man was not intended to become a despotic rule.” While the following quote is lengthy, Foh interprets this clearly:
The woman has the same sort of desire for her husband that sin has for Cain, a desire to possess or control him. This desire disputes the headship of the husband. As the Lord tells Cain what he should do, i.e., master or rule sin, the Lord also states what the husband should do: rule over his wife. The words of the Lord in Genesis 3:16b, as in the case of the battle between sin and Cain, do not determine the victor of the conflict between husband wife. These words mark the beginning of the battle of the sexes. As a result of the fall, man no longer rules easily; he must fight for his headship. Sin has corrupted both the willing submission of the wife and the loving headship of the husband. The woman’s desire is to control her husband (to usurp his divinely appointed headship and he must master her, if he can. So the rule of love founded in paradise is replaced by struggle, tyranny, and domination.
Experience corroborates this interpretation of God’s judgment on the woman. If the words “and he shall rule over you” in Genesis 3:16b are understood in the indicative, then they are not true. As Cain did not rule over sin (Genesis 4:7b), so not every husband rules his wife, and wives have desires contrary to their husbands’ and often have no desire (sexual or psychological) for the husbands.
Genesis 1–3:16 sets the framework for the rest of the biblical text. The earth was created to be a beautiful demonstration of God’s goodness and provision. However, mankind chose to rebel against God’s goodness and glory. Once sin entered the world, it has been weaving a wicked path of destruction. Sin has had a devastating effect on so many things: mankind’s relationship with God was severed; the image of God in man has been marred; all created things continue to groan (see Romans 8), even marriage is greatly strained. The relationship between the first man and the first woman in the Garden of Eden was designed to be complementary and cohesive. Yet sin has inverted that process to the extent that the marriage relationship is now conflicted, competitive and too often combative.
In conclusion, from the Genesis 1–2 text, Adam was placed in the garden as God’s vice-regent. Adam was given dominion over the garden and all its inhabitants. He was the royal gardener. Perhaps this understanding of Adam as the guardian of the garden will explain why God first approached Adam after “the fall” in Genesis 3. Adam was commissioned with the responsibility to watch over, to “keep” the Garden, and specifically the most beautiful of all the created things, the woman. Since Adam was given dominion over all the created things, why did he permit this conversation between the serpent and Eve to go uninterrupted? Why did Adam not protect his bride? Perhaps Adam’s passivity, his lack of responsibility and guardianship, was one of his first failures.
A man’s responsibility to “work” and “keep” has not changed. He is to work/keep, worship/obey, to protect/minister. While the implications are many, a man is responsible to protect the women who are entrusted into his care: his wife, his daughter(s), his mother, and his sister(s). This brings to mind a biblical explanation of the traditional family: a patriarch and matriarch, with children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins. A man should be responsible to protect the women of his family or his “clan.” On a larger scale, what about the women within the local church? The Bible calls the church “the family of God.” Are not the women within the local church in need of protection and care? Are they not “sisters” in Christ? Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 16:13 suddenly seems much more applicable: “Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong.”
Finally, the human male, created in the imago Dei, has a unique structure and function from that of the human female. He was created different from the woman: he was created from the dust, she was created from his rib. He was given a different mandate: he was created to “work and keep” the garden, she was created to be his helper. In the end, there is an enduring and unchanging nature of the human male gender which gives rise to proper work and flourishing as a human male. As Bible-believing men, we should not be passive. We should embrace our responsibilities, and trust God’s order and structure.
I hope this series of articles has been helpful.