Monday, April 19, 2010

Genesis 3:14-24's crime and punishment; justice and grace

In Gen 3:14-15, we read of the punishment for the serpent and Satan. As an aside, it’s interesting that 14's “cursed” (arur) is a pun on 3:1’s “cunning” (arum)! The famous crushed head vs. bitten heel is “offspring (lit. seed) of the woman”—which can be taken as both singular and plural, foreshadowing Christ and His victory at the cross (Gal 4; Col 2:15, Heb 2:14).

In Gen 3:16, we read about the punishment for women. First, Eve is promised pain in childbirth. But note that grace within judgment: children would follow, humans would continue. Interestingly, it says “greatly increase” vs. giving her (new) pain. Kass has some fun with the observation that the pain is caused largely by a relatively large head (as a proxy for knowledge). Continuing, he notes that this “anticipates the often much more painful act of separation, when the child, exercising the newly awakened mental powers made possible by his large head, reaches for his own autonomous knowledge of good and bad and repeats the original rise and fall from obedience and innocence.”

Second, Eve is promised a “desire” for her husband—who will “rule over” her. This establishes/codifies (biblical) patriarchy—why? Two basic possibilities here: 1.) It could be fitting, given her sin. As such, note that both parts of the curse are non-arbitrary and strike at what was (or would become) a primary purpose and drive. 2.) It could be considered predictive rather than prescriptive—just the way this generally ends up, once one starts down this path. (Kass explores this angle in some detail, but it’s too much to explain here.)

In Gen 3:17-19, it’s Adam’s turn. It’s funny to imagine if Adam thought he might get off easy, especially given 16b’s “rule”! Adam receives ground/work troubles.

In sum, their sins caused: abundance à scarcity; fellowship with God/others à alienation/conflict; sinned by eating à suffer to eat; life à death. There were many types of death/separation here—as collateral damage of sin: 7's psychological; 8's spiritual; 11-13's sociological; 17b-19a's environmental and economic; and 19b’s physical

Interestingly, much of this points to Christ—Gen 3:15b directly, but also in describing 16-19’s fall/judgment. As such, we see: 16's pain/sorrow (Is 53) and subjection (Gal 4:4—and to God), 17’s curse (Gal 3:13), 18’s thorns (crown of), 19a’s sweat (of blood), 19b’s death (on a cross)—all of which was faced (and redeemed) by Christ—on another “tree”.

In Gen 3:20-21, we get two surprising tangents before they’re kicked out of Eden in Gen 3:23-24. First, how does Adam respond to the bad news? (Will he “kick the dog”?) As Kass notes: “[His] immediate response is reported in one of the most beautiful and moving sentences of the entire [OT]…he does not despair…[he] looks instead to a promising future…of hope…[and] children!”

He names her—this time, “Eve”, which means life or mother of the living. Interestingly, man’s rib gave life to the woman; woman gives life to the world. Adam blesses her with a hopeful, forward-looking name. He doesn’t extend the sin’s impact by shaming or blaming Eve.

Second, we read of God's redemptive effort—vs. leaving it at fig leaves. It’s by God’s effort—not theirs. They would better understand/see the consequences of sin/death—in what is the first recorded bloodshed. This was, presumably for them, a radical and unexpected way to pay for sin (underlines extent of both judgment and grace)—and also provided a picture of being weighed down by sin (Is 64:6; Zech 3:1-5).

In Gen 3:22a, God notes that Adam “has become like one of us”. Kass observes: “we have it on the highest authority that we have witnessed not the fall of man but the rise of man, at least in terms of his mental powers”. Of course, it is both.

In Gen 3:22b, we also learn that given their sin, they can no longer have access to the tree of life—to live forever. Of course, this is partly justice. But it’s also the earliest exhibition of God’s grace. God does not leave them immortal and in sin. God still provides a way to a much better life in Heaven.

Finally, Kass makes this observation: “Man’s god-like powers, the text suggests, will focus on his mortality, a major pre-occupation of the fully self-conscious human being…man will now recoil from death and will seek its remedy, ultimately in bodily immortality…[so] it is not good for man that he should live forever [on earth]…finitude provides man a release from his troubles. More important, awareness of mortality will eventually inspire him to seek what is true, just and holy…With their path blocked to the tree of life, human beings—both the ones in the story and the readers—can turn their attention not to living forever but to living well.”


At April 20, 2010 at 4:34 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

abundance à scarcity; fellowship with God/others à alienation/conflict; sinned by eating à suffer to eat; life à death

Eric, were you trying to use arrows here? The trick is to use the HTML character code "→" (don't include the quote marks; HTML character codes begin with an ampersand and end with a semicolon). This creates a 'right arrow' → .

At April 20, 2010 at 4:51 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...



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