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Genesis 3.

Judgement - Dust to dust?
20 February 2011

Someone asked me the other day if I liked listening to Christian

music. My answer was ‘no’, though I had forgotten about this
particular piece

The Byrds – Turn, turn, turn

Not music by Christians, of course, but certainly Christian music, for

every word is taken verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes.

Surprisingly, Ecclesiastes is the only place in the OT I know of that

picks up on the early chapters of Genesis that we have been studying.
The import of the words from Ch.3, repeated in the Byrds song is
disputed. Most likely they are intended in a not altogether positive
sense: life, as we experience it, goes around in a circle and so is
meaningless, vanity (hebel), the book’s catchphrase or motif.

Quite why the writer makes this point is also disputed. Was it a
lament – an outpouring of despair – or was it a subtle apologetic, a
pointer to the only place that true meaning could be found, that is,
through the ‘fear’ of the Lord?. Perhaps a bit of both?!

Whatever, returning to Genesis, today’s passage certainly gives us a

jolt. Instead of the sensual and spiritual paradise described in Ch..2,
the first man and woman are consigned to lives of hardship and
frustration – difficulties which arise out of their overstepping the mark
with God, or, as one writer describes it, the ‘vandalism of shalom’.
Nevertheless, all is not lost, for, after all, Genesis is the book of
beginnings. The God we have heard about in Chapters 1 and 2, the
good, personal, strong, and loving Lord of creation, is unlikely to end
things on such a note..
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was
walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where
are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was
naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the
tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit
from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Those who were here a couple of weeks back will have already started
to think about these verses and be familiar to some extent with their
background e.g. the importance and meaning of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil and so I won’t repeat any of that
(Compare 3.1-7 with 2.16,17). The scene described could be
compared to that of a courtroom e.g. interrogation, judgement,
punishment, though several factors significantly modify such an
approach e.g.

o The Lord’s call, v.9

o The Lord’s question to the man, v.11
o The Lord’s question to the woman, v.13

To me this sounds more like a concerned parent than an angry judge

Three stages in the dialogue should be noted

o Shame

c.f. the contrast with 2.25

Precisely why were they ashamed? It could not have been their
nakedness per se, for previously it presented no problem and there is
no suggestion that their sin was sexual in nature pace many popular
understandings of the forbidden fruit. My suggestion would be that,
hand in hand with their alienation from the Lord, went alienation and
distance from one another which is spelt out subsequently. And so an
appropriate unclothing e.g. in the marriage bed is a sign of intimacy
and closeness in relationship, or should be.

o Fear

If the clothes were designed to hide Adam and Eve from one another,
they sought refuge in the undergrowth to conceal themselves from the
Lord, the motive for their hiding being fear of the consequences of
their actions. Conscience, albeit distorted, was kicking in though it
led to an irrational response – hiding from God! Kinda stupid, but
we’ve all been doing it ever since 

o Excuses

Finally, come the excuses

c.f. Steve Turner poem ‘It wasn’t me’

Nicky Gumbel has put it most succinctly

The man blamed the woman… the woman blamed the serpent… and the serpent
didn’t have a leg to stand on

Perhaps surprisingly, given the bad press that Eve received from this
point on, it was the man who led the way in duplicity.

Quote Victor Hamilton p.194 / Quote Motyer p.119
(Bonhoeffer on shame)


The ordering of the sentence mirrors that of the enquiry (= a chiasm)

The man The serpent

The woman reversed The woman
The serpent The man

In each case a burden is imposed and a distorted relationship


i. The snake

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

The Lord did not enter into a discussion with the snake when he
confronted Adam and Eve and now He simply pronounces his fate –
the ‘his’ is important given the representative role of the serpent – the
snake represented more than an animal – which was to crawl on th e
ground and eat dust, in other words be humbled. This represents not
another ‘Just So’ story, so much as a declaration that, however
mysterious the presence of evil, it does not lie outside of the Lord’s
sovereign power and will be dealt with.

The distorted relationship described is that between the Lord and

creation. Previously, He had pronounced a blessing (3.14,17 c.f.
1.22, 28; 2.3). Now that becomes a curse. Furthermore, what had
taken place in Eden was to be but the opening salvo in an ongoing
battle between human beings and the power of evil, which –
depending on how you take 3.15 – would not be resolved until the
serpent was finally defeated by the offspring of the woman (so NIV).
This is a promise that, in the NT, is viewed as prophetic of the life and
death of Jesus Christ (Romans 16.20; Hebrews 2.14; Revelation 12)

ii. The woman
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Notice, first and most importantly, that unlike the snake, the human
pair are not cursed. What, then, is intended by v.16a? That the
vocation of women, seen most fundamentally, but not exclusively, in
the bearing of children, would, from now on, be accompanied by pain.
I am not exactly in much of a position to comment on this personally,
never having given birth myself, but would think it right to extend the
image beyond the act of giving birth to the pain of motherhood in
general as Calvin does.

v.16b is even more controversial (and important). Does it mean that

the previous and proper order of creation was now to be restored viz.
that the man would again take authority over the woman (or perhaps
better, the husband over the wife)? After all, was it not the breakdown
in that authority that led to the fatal seduction of Eve in the first place?
Or does it mean, as I think it does, that the previously harmonious and
equitable relationship between the man and the woman (husband and
wife) was, from now on, to be characterised by conflict and difficulty?

Certainly the latter has proved the case historically

c.f. The Taleban (pic) provide probably the most extreme example of
male domination

Here, then, is another departure for the ideal

Quote Kidner p.71

The question as to whether or not the original creation ‘ordering’
enshrined men in the position of leadership and spiritual authority
over women is one that time does not permit me, sadly, to revisit. I
only note that v.17, in my opinion, is the first time that Adam names
Eve and that he did not do so previously. That represents a significant
point in the ongoing debate about the place of women in ministry.

iii. The man

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the
tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

Just as the woman has been touched at the centre of her identity, so
too is the man at his. Eve’s connection is with man (is / issa) and so
part of her judgement relates subservience to man. Adam’s
connection is with the soil (adam / adama) and so part of his
judgement relates to the land and agriculture. The ground is cursed
with the result that what previously had been a symbiotic relationship
became an adversarial one.

Quote Motyer pp.120,121

Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all
the living. 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and
clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of
us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and
take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God
banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had
been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the
Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard
the way to the tree of life.

The final scene after which the ‘real’ story of the bible begins (though
Genesis 4-11 is, in a sense, an outworking of Genesis 1-3, the
beginning that matters coming in Genesis 12 with the call of Abram)

The points to note are twofold

o the change from life to death

The relation of the man and the woman to the tree of life is now
fundamentally altered. The warning given in Ch. 2 and ignored in Ch.
3 finally comes to pass. The serpent’s lies have proved to be without
foundation (c.f. 3.4) Not that the man and the woman die immediately
in the physical sense, but already the signs of death surround them
and, most significant of all, the intimacy of their relationship with the
Lord, the source of life, has been destroyed.

Thus human beings become subject to death in way that was

previously unknown – though quite what would have happened had
they not eaten of the tree is hard to say, for the Genesis 1 & 2 do not
say that they were immortal.

Soon the reign of death is seen to come to pass

c.f. Genesis 5.

(CSL miracles p.132)

o the change from fellowship to banishment

The man and the woman are consigned to live East of Eden. There is
not way back, only by the grace of God, a way forward (c.f. the
cherubim). Nevertheless, all is not without hope for immediately prior
to their departure the Lord God provides clothing for the man and the
woman, a feature that both illustrates His care and points to something
even more fundamental.

Quote Kidner p.72

This sign adds another note of hope to those that pepper vv. 8-24

o The fact that judgement does not fall immediately

o The approach of the Lord to the man and the woman in hiding
o The lack of a curse on the man and the woman
o The promised crushing of the serpent
o The name given to Eve

Perhaps the story is not over yet?!

o Repentance

I have already commented on the Lord’s approach to ‘Mr and Mrs

Man. To say that, under the circumstances, it was extremely gracious
would be something of an understatement. What then if Adam and
Eve had faced up to their wrongdoing and instead of hiding had
openly appeared before the Lord in a spirit of contrition? Might not
the whole course of human history, both theirs and ours, have worked
out rather differently?

Quote Thielicke p.161

That is what repentance is. Not a craven fear, but an honest admission
of what has gone wrong in our lives and the part that we have played
in that going wrong. A refusal to hide from God or ourselves and a
seeking of his mercy and help. Repentance is, then, a profoundly
positive thing.

Almighty and merciful God,

you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.

o Frustration

Human history is the story of life lived under God’s judgement, that
judgement being expressed supremely in death (Mount Fujiyama c.f.
Thielicke p.176) though death is only the sharp edge of a whole range
of ‘judgements’ that we experience in daily life e.g. the frustration
spelt out in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Life East of Eden is, then, at best a half life. It is not how life was
meant to be. Paradise has been lost….It is always winter and never
Christmas… The evil eye of Modor reaches everywhere…. However
you may wish to describe it.

This is a sobering and, at the same time, powerful insight, that lends
enormous credibility to the Christian claim

Quote Thielicke pp.173

o Longing

This present life is, then, life in the ‘shadowlands’ – another image - a
life in which we are divided from God, from others and even from
ourselves. It is not the life we were made for, but neither is it the
whole story.

The groaning of creation, complaining, as it were, against human sin, is also

the groaning of the birth pangs of a new age Atkinson

St Paul
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory
that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the
children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration,
not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21
that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought
into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

John the Seer

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great
street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve
crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for
the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of
God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They
will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no
more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the
Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

CS Lewis

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as
it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get
some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which
there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley
that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the
window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the
window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in
the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in
one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were
somehow different -- deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a
story you have never heard but very much want to know.
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The
new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked
as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there
you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped
his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
"I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the
land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The
reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this.
Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"

That is why, ultimately, today’s message is not one of judgement, but

of hope

Newman ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’