Genesis 3:14-24 NRSV
We have the temptation of Eve by the serpent (vv.1-5) with the fruit of the “tree of life” and their subsequent eating of it (v. 6). They wanted to be like God. This resulted in the awakening of their conscience (v. 7) by way of their nakedness. They now understand the difference between right and wrong making them morally responsible for their actions or inactions.
Our LORD then pays them a visit (vv. 8-11), still wanting to keep in touch with His created, despite their disobedience, their sin. Adam and Eve are hiding and afraid. This is the first recorded instance of the “fear of the LORD.” It is possibly human kinds, lost and saved, most common response to encounters with God. What follows (vv. 12-13) is a “blame game.” Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the snake.
To this, the LORD announces punishment in reverse order. The snake is life sentenced to slithering on its belly and eating dust (v. 14). Going further (v. 15), “enmity,” understood as opposition, is placed between the seeds of Eve and those of the snake.
Since Eve was the first woman and this serpent the first snake, “their seeds” or offspring must refer to all of us humans and snakes – past, present, and future. Eden’s snake is a representation and manifestation of human kinds opposition – Satan.
My Bible notates the meaning of the capitol “S” of Eve’s “Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel,” saying this is the first promise of a future Redeemer. This Redeemer is necessary to solve the “enmity,” committed sins by Eve’s multiplying seeds between themselves and/or against God.
Eve, representing all women, is sentenced (v. 16) to sorrow in pregnancy, pain in birthing children, and being ruled or led by her husband. This servitude is due, apparently, to Eve’s taking the bait from the serpent of the forbidden fruit first, necessitating the headship of a man (cp. 1 Cor. 11:7-9, Eph. 5:22-27, 1 Tim. 2:11-14).
Adam, representing all men, is sentenced to a brief life of sorrow and toil (vv. 17-19) for knowingly eating the forbidden fruit given him by Eve. This wrestling with the earth (vv. 18-19) amounts to work that is purposely cursed for man’s sake (v. 17). The best for men is for them to live with this degree of toil or suffering due to work that must be done. Trying to escape work is not best for men.
This whole (vv. 14-19) is commonly referred to as the “Adamic Covenant,” the conditions of life for a fallen humankind and the promise of a Redeemer from this fallen condition.
Eve and Adam are then divinely clothed to cover their nakedness (vv. 20-21) and sent out of Eden (vv. 22-24) due to their knowledge of good and evil. If they had been allowed to stay, they would have lived forever by continually eating the fruit from the “tree of life” (v. 22). The garden is now off limits.
This is the first time I have this closely looked at Genesis 3. Overall, I agree with Mark Twain believing it to be “staged.” It is an event that literally happened and we still feel its literal consequences. It also has innumerable lessons that can be figuratively gleaned from it.
Troubling questions obviously exist – Who created Eden? Who allowed the serpent? Who created and place Even and Adam in Eden? Who’s Omniscient foreknowledge knew the outcome in advance?
The outcome of their fall to sin, the promise and fulfillment of a Redeemer for sin, and their expulsion from idyllic Eden to the purposeful toil of living on earth was inevitable. There was/is no mystery surrounding this outcome.
Given this reality, for those of us, here and now, how should we the followers of Jesus live?
First, we need to acknowledge our life as a gift from God. No one ever living of earth is responsible for their being here. Next, we need to more full understand and appreciate the terms of the situation we find ourselves in. Life is not easy. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Some of life’s difficulties are so for our own good.
Work is a necessary burden. Necessary because it has to be done to live, also because it productively occupies human kinds time. Time that otherwise might be spent performing all manners of evil and bad activities. Current events confirm – “idleness is the devil’s workshop,” etc. In whatever situation we find ourselves in, make the best of it (cp. Phil 4:4-13).
Whatever your interpretation of Genesis 3, one thing is certain, it is central to one’s understanding of human life on earth, what is really going on here. Unfortunately, many have no clue of the centrality of its truths.