Nov 8, 2003

Genesis 3:1-24 (for Oct. 29 class)
The narrative in Genesis 3 changes drastically from the previous two chapters. This in itself is obvious, as it has been made clear that God has finished with the creation process. A sense of progression is natural and expected. As the subject matter changes from the initial 'good' creation to the fall of man, we also see a new role for God. Having completed His work as the Creator, He is forced to be the Judge. He issues three judgements within this passage, one for each character. God's role as the Judge is necessitated by the introduction of temptation and sin. Both of these themes are introduced here and expanded upon in scripture. They are also both indicative of man and not God. Hence also unlike the two previous chapters, this chapter is not focused solely on God but also on man, and the relationship between the two.

This chapter introduces a process in sin, one that becomes familiar early in life, even outside any biblical context. The procedure is as follows: there is an initial temptation to do something which we know we ought not to do, we do it, then we suffer some type of consequence or punishment. In the case of Genesis 3, the thing that ought not to be done is clear. God's rather ominous commandment was presented in Genesis 2:17. Ironically, this was immediately before the creation of the woman, who was to play a significant role in the whole fiasco. It is the sole prohibition that he had placed regarding anything at all. The description of the serpent's discourse with the woman shows how he is able to tempt her to eat this forbidden fruit. It is assumed that the thought had not crossed her mind until the serpent has suggested it. He tempts her by portraying it as something both forbidden and desireable. In this case, the thing to be desired is wisdom and knowledge, which, in itself is not negative. In fact, we see later in scripture that "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7). The serpent aroused a desire for within the woman - a desire for something beneficial - and twisted it into challenging God's direct commandment. That desire to challenge God's commandment, edged on by the serpent's direct contradiction to God's warning with "You surely will not die!", precipitated into sin. The irony is that the woman, and man, could have demonstrated wisdom in obedience rather than turn to the fruit. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding" (Psalm 111:10).

Though the serpent was responsible for manipulating the woman, she made the decision to eat herself. In the same way the man was responsible for his own disobedience despite being misled - God's commandment was clear enough when it was given. It seems that at some point in time (particularly, when they were eating), the man and woman believed that they would indeed gain only in wisdom and knowledge, and that there would be no reperecussion. However, they do in fact need to deal with the effects of their sin. In this passage the consequences are twofold. There is the direct consequence of their action of eating the fruit, and the consequence of judgement for breaking God's commandment. Again, as children we have learned this. Should we have played with some prohibitted heirloom and broken it, we would have had to deal with both the direct consequence - the broken item - as well as the judgement for having played where we were told not to - which usually comes in the form of parental punishment. As we grow older and more knowledgeable, we often find ways of avoiding or not having to deal with the direct consequences. Furthermore, we hope that by hiding our sin we can also escape judgement.

In this case the direct consequence of eating the fruit was realization of their nakedness. The consequence of their sin was that what was once good was twisted and became shameful. Although they were once able to walk openly with God, the result of sin was that they were only able to talk to God while hidden among the trees. The original direct relationship was replaced with one that had considerable distance. In this case, God's commandment had an ulterior motive - to protect the man and woman from shame. We might infer from the rest of scripture that in time, man would have gained the knowledge he desired in another manner that would not bring him shame, "for the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6).

As children, we often learn to fear punishment more than the results of our mistakes. In this narrative however, God shows considerable grace in his judgement of the man and the woman. For one, God's initial warning, "in the day that you eat from it you will surely die", has been eased - at least in the physical sense. Although they were separated from God and removed from the garden, they were allowed to continue to live for a while. By allowing them to multiply instead of destroying them immediately, God made a provision for man's eventual redemption through Christ. Furthermore, oddities in Genesis 3:16-17 suggests that even in His judgement, God has allowed room for grace. Although the woman is to suffer in painful childbirth for what she has done God adds "Yet your desire will be for your husband". God leaves a provision for the continued intimate relationship between the man and woman despite her punishment. The man however, is not cursed for his sin as the serpent was - instead the ground is cursed. Finally, like a good parent, God cleans up the mess that His children have created. He replaces their makeshift coverings of leaves with real clothing, thus partially redeeming them from the shame that they had brought upon themselves with the skins of animals. This foreshadows Christ's role in the future. Instead of covering over man's shame with a skin, God washes the sin away with blood.

The nature of sin that we see here is that it corrupts what was intended for good. It make take the desire for something that may potentially be good and extend it to an inappropriate level. Desire for security and comfort becomes greed. Desire for food becomes gluttony. Desire for intimacy becomes lust. These oerverse desires cause us to challenge the boundaries that God has set for our protection. In our reliance on our own wisdom over His we subvert His authority. The consequences of sin mars once good aspects of our lives. What may once have been beautiful might bring guilt, shame, and pain, affecting our relationships. Our relationships with others might suffer, but our relationship with God suffers more - He must judge us. It is here where God's defining characteristic is shown, "but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). We can see God's love for us in his judgements, and even more so in His desire to redeem us. Hence by the end of Genesis 3, we see God as Creator, Judge and Redeemer.

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