In the last three weeks, I’ve explored the story of Creation from Genesis 1 and 2: Creation Panoramic, The Garden of Eden, and the up-close-and-personal creation of Adam and Eve.
Into the man and woman’s beautiful idyllic innocence comes a deceptively sly serpent. Although he’s not identified with Satan in this passage, it becomes clear over the course of the story that he is against God and wants to deceive God’s beloved image-bearers.
If you have a minute, read the passage and observe what’s going on. What do you see about the serpent? About Adam? About the woman? About God?
There are so many details we could observe here, but I am particularly struck by a few things.
1. The lies of the serpent. As the Bible notes, he’s a crafty one. His lies are such a subtle twisting of the truth. “Did God really say this? … Oh, He just knows something you don’t know. He’s holding out on you.” The whispers of treachery always sound so right at first, don’t they? And Eve, rather than trusting the One who made her and delighted in her and knew everything about her, decided to believe the serpent.
2. God doesn’t just curse the humans on the spot. He engages them in conversation about what happened, giving them a chance to repent and ask forgiveness. We don’t know “what would have been” if they had repented, but we see something of God’s character in approaching them this way.
3. The severity of disobeying God. Not only did the humans come under His curse when they proved to be unfaithful to Him – pain in childbearing, discord in the most intimate of relationships, work becomes toil, and of course death itself – but they are also cast out of God’s presence, out of the beautiful paradise made alive by God’s continual movement there. Cain continues to choose evil, and we see how his descendants after him fall further and further down the spiral of depravity, shown in Lamech.
4. The curse on the woman [which, by the way, is the shortest of the curses]: pain in childbearing, and… huh? What does “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” mean? Is this supposed to mean that we shouldn’t desire our husbands? No. The Hebrew word here for “desire” is used in only two other places in Scripture: Genesis 4:7, and Song of Songs 7:10. In Gen. 4:7, God says to Cain “sin desires to have [or master] you, but you must rule over it.”
This verse where God warns Cain is generally the parallel verse used to interpret the curse on the woman. As sin desires to master Cain, so Eve desires to “master” or control Adam. There are other interpretations out there, but one thing is clear: as a result of Eve’s – and Adam’s – disobedience, the mutual love and respect for one another is exchanged for discord. It shows its ugly face even before the curse as they each shift blame from themselves to someone else.
Thankfully, their relationship is not described as enmity (as between the woman and the serpent), but still, all the frustration we experience in our male/female relationships often comes back to this – the wrestling for control instead of working together.
5. Work, given as a gift before the Fall, becomes something toilsome and fruitless. Oh, how often I have experienced this. And on the broad scale of human history, we see that the curse that Adam brought on himself is the seed of all the millions of people who have died of starvation and disease.
6. Death enters. First it enters in theory, as something on the horizon to be dreaded, but as yet unexperienced. Then it enters in reality when Cain kills Abel. Cain’s heart attitude produced actions in keeping with his heart. Please note that Cain was used to being in God’s presence (4:14). He has conversation directly with God, but he still pays more attention to what his “heart” wants than to what God wants – and there’s a huge discrepancy between the two. With the advent of death, and more particularly of murder, we see the seed of all the atrocities the world has groaned under for millennia.
7. Although Adam and Eve reap immediate consequences of their rebellion against God, hopeful hints of immediate (if partial) redemption are here. Adam finally names his wife: EVE – Life-Giver. Although she will bear children with pain, she will bear LIFE in a world of death.
Even Cain’s descendants show some signs of redemption in the midst of cursing. From Lamech comes those who raise livestock (a nurturing of life, in line with Adam naming the animals), those who make music (a gift if ever there was one!), and those who forged tools to work the cursed earth (giving us the ability to bring fruitfulness among the thorns).
8. Even in the midst of the curse, God gives hope for long-term redemption. God Himself provides the covering for Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame, but it requires the first death, the death of animals – the first hints of temple sacrifice (which must be offered over and over), which in turn point us to Christ’s sacrifice (eternally sufficient, once for all). We see from the get-go that Hebrews is right: “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22 – a rich passage!).
Genesis 3:15 is the first hint we have of God’s long-term plan to defeat evil, embedded right in the curse itself. When Eve gives birth to Seth at the end of chapter 4, the hopeful note is again present. Seth’s descendants are who the Bible traces down through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all the way to Jesus.
The hint of prophecy in Genesis 3:15 is brought to fruition in Christ’s crucifixion (the serpent strikes his heel) and resurrection (he crushes the serpent’s head). God provides the shed blood so that He can forgive us, then conquers death and breaks the back of the curse!