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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 3

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

Why hath God? Hebrew, "Indeed hath God, &c." as if the serpent had overheard Eve arguing with herself, about God’s prohibition, with a sort of displeasure and presumption. St. Augustine thinks, she had given some entrance to these passions, and the love of her own power, and hence gave credit to the words of the serpent, de Gen. ad lit. xi. 30. She might not know or reflect that the serpent could not reason thus, naturally; and she had as yet, no idea or dread of the devil. (Lombard, 2 Dist. 21.) This old serpent entered into the most subtle of creatures, and either by very expressive signs, or by the motion of the serpent’s tongue, held this delusive dialogue with Eve. Moses relates what happened exteriorily; but from many expressions, and the curse, ver. 15, he sufficiently indicates, that an evil spirit was the latent actor. (Haydock) --- Of every tree. Satan perverts the word of God, giving it an ambiguous turn: in doing which, he has set heretics a pattern, which they follow. (Menochius)

Verse 3

Not touch it. She exaggerates, through dislike of restraint, St. Ambrose. Or through reverence, she thought it unlawful to touch what she must not eat, lest perhaps, as if there could be any doubt. "God asserts, the woman doubts, Satan denies." (St. Bernard) Thus place, like Eve, between God and the devil, to whom shall we yield our assent? (Haydock) --- Perhaps we die, Hebrew, "lest ye die."

Verse 5

God. The old serpent’s aim is, to make us think God envies our happiness. (Haydock) --- Or he would have Eve to suppose, she had not rightly understood her maker, who would surely never deprive her of a fruit which would give her such an increase of knowledge, as to make her conclude she was before comparatively blind. (Menochius) --- As gods, Hebrew Elohim, which means also princes, angels, or judges. It appears, that our first parents had flattered themselves with the hopes of attaining a divine knowledge of all things. (Calmet)

Verse 6

Woman saw, or gazed on with desire and fond dalliance. (Menochius) --- Consulting only her senses, which represented the fruit to her as very desirable, and caused her to give credit to the devil’s insinuations, rather than to the express word of God. Do not unbelievers the like, when they refuse to admit the real presence and transubstantiation, thought they cannot be ignorant, that this way of proceeding always leads to ruin. --- Her husband, who, instead of reproving her for her rashness, did eat, through excessive fondness, not being able to plead ignorance, or that he was deceived. "Earth trembled from her entails, sky loured, and muttering thunder, some sad drops wept at completing the mortal sin." --- (Original, &c.; Paradise Lost, ix. 1000.) (Haydock) --- (Genesis ii. 14.) In what light soever we consider the fault of this unhappy pair, it is truly enormous: the precept was so easy and just, the attempt to be like God in knowledge so extravagant, that nothing but pride could have suggested such woeful disobedience. By the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, Romans v. 19. This ruin of himself, and of all his posterity, Adam could not hide from his own eyes, chap. ii. 17. (Calmet)

Verse 7

And the eyes, &c. Not that they were blind before, (for the woman saw that the tree was fair to the eyes, ver. 6.) nor yet that their eyes were opened to any more perfect knowledge of good; but only to the unhappy experience of having lost the good of original grace and innocence, and incurred the dreadful evil of sin. From whence followed a shame of their being naked; which they minded not before; because being now stript of original grace, they quickly began to be subject to the shameful rebellions of the flesh. (Challoner) --- Behold the noble acquisition of experimental knowledge! This is supposed to have taken place about a week after they had enjoyed the sweets of innocence and of Paradise, that they might afterwards be moved to repentance, when they contrasted their subsequent misery with those few golden days. They saw that they had received a dreadful wound, even in their natural perfections, and that their soul was despoiled of grace, which, of themselves, they could never regain. O! what confusion must now have seized upon them! "Confounded long they say, as stricken mute." (Milton) --- (Haydock)

Aprons, or they interwove tender branches covered with leaves round their middle; a practice, which even the wild Indians and Americans observed, when they were discovered by Columbus. They will rise up in condemnation of those pretended civilized nations, who, like the Greeks, could wrestle or bathe quite naked, without any sense of shame. (Haydock) --- Adam’s fig-tree, in Egypt, has leaves above a yard long, and two feet broad. (Calmet)

Verse 8

Afternoon air. God’s presence has often been indicated by an unusual wind. (3 Kings xix. 12; Act. ii. 2.) The sovereign judge will not suffer the day to pass over, without bringing our first parents to a sense of their fault. They hid themselves, loving darkness now, because their works were evil.

Verse 9

Where. In what state have thy sins placed thee, that thou shouldst flee from thy God? (St. Ambrose, C. 14) Some think it was the Son of God who appeared on this occasion, St. Augustine; &c. or an Angel. (Calmet)

Verse 10

Afraid. The just man is first to accuse himself: but Adam seeks for excuses in his sin: he throws the blame on his wife, and ultimately on God. (Menochius) --- Thou gavest me. Heretics have since treated the Sovereign Good with the like insolence; saying plainly, that God is the author of sin, and that the crime of Judas is no less his work than the conversion of St. Paul. See Calvin’s works, and many of the first reformers, Luther, &c. cited. (Exodus 8. 15.) (Haydock)

Verse 13

The serpent, which thou hast made so cunning, and placed with us, deceived me. God deigns not to answer their frivolous excuses. (Menochius)

Verse 14

Cursed. This curse falls upon the natural serpent, as the instrument of the devil; who is also cursed at the same time by the Holy Ghost. What was natural to the serpent and to man in a state of innocence, (as to creep, &c. to submit to the dominion of the husband, &c.) becomes a punishment after the fall. (St. Chrysostom) --- There was no enmity, before, between man and any of God’s creatures; nor were they noxious to him. (Tirinus) --- The devil seems now to crawl, because he no longer aspires after God and heavenly things, but aims at wickedness and mean deceit. (Menochius)

Verse 15

She shall crush. Ipsa, the woman: so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz. the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. (Challoner) --- The Hebrew text, as Bellarmine observes, is ambiguous: He mentions one copy which had ipsa instead of ipsum; and so it is even printed in the Hebrew interlineary edition, 1572, by Plantin, under the inspection of Boderianus. Whether the Jewish editions ought to have more weight with Christians, or whether all the other manuscripts conspire against this reading, let others inquire. The fathers who have cited the old Italic version, taken from the Septuagint agree with the Vulgate, which is followed by almost all the Latins; and hence we may argue with probability, that the Septuagint and the Hebrew formerly acknowledged ipsa, which now moves the indignation of Protestants so much, as if we intended by it to give any divine honour to the blessed Virgin. We believe, however, with St. Epiphanius, that "it is no less criminal to vilify the holy Virgin, than to glorify her above measure." We know that all the power of the mother of God is derived from the merits of her Son. We are no otherwise concerned about the retaining of ipsa, she, in this place, that in as much as we have yet no certain reason to suspect its being genuine. As some words have been corrected in the Vulgate since the Council of Trent by Sixtus V. and others, by Clement VIII. so, if, upon stricter search, it be found that it, and not she, is the true reading, we shall not hesitate to admit the correction: but we must wait in the mean time respectfully, till our superiors determine. (Haydock) Kemnitzius certainly advanced a step too far, when he said that all the ancient fathers read ipsum. Victor, Avitus, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, &c. mentioned in the Douay Bible, will convict him of falsehood. Christ crushed the serpent’s head by his death, suffering himself to be wounded in the heel. His blessed mother crushed him likewise, by her co-operation in the mystery of the Incarnation; and by rejecting, with horror, the very first suggestions of the enemy, to commit even the smallest sin. (St. Bernard, ser. 2, on Missus est.) "We crush," says St. Gregory, Mor. 1. 38, "the serpent’s head, when we extirpate from our heart the beginnings of temptation, and then he lays snares for our heel, because he opposes the end of a good action with greater craft and power." The serpent may hiss and threaten; he cannot hurt, if we resist him. (Haydock)

Verse 16

And thy conceptions. Septuagint:"thy groaning." The multifarious sorrows of childbearing, must remind all mothers (the blessed Virgin alone excepted) of what they have incurred by original sin. If that had not taken place, they would have conceived with out concupiscence, and brought forth without sorrow. (St. Augustine, City of God xiv. 26.)--- Conceptions are multiplied on account of the many untimely deaths, in our fallen state. Power, which will sometimes be exercised with rigor. (Haydock) --- Moses here shews the original and natural subjection of wives to their husbands, in opposition to the Egyptians, who, to honour Isis, gave women the superiority by the marriage contract. (Diodorus i. 2.) (Calmet)

Verse 17

Thy work, sin; thy perdition is from thyself: this is all that man can challenge for his own. (Haydock)

Verse 18

Thorns, &c. These were created at first, but they would have easily been kept under: now they grow with surprising luxuriancy, and the necessaries of life can be procured only with much labour. All men here are commanded to work, each in his proper department. The Jews were careful to teach their children some trade or useful occupation. St. Paul made tents, and proclaims, If any man will not work, neither let him eat, 2 Thessalonians iii. 10. (Calmet)

Verse 19

Dust, as to the visible part; and thy soul created out of nothing. This might serve to correct that pride, by which Adam had fallen; and the same humbling truths are repeated to us by the Church every Ash-Wednesday, to guard us against the same contagion, the worm of pride, to which we are all so liable. Thus Adam was again assured that he should die the death, with which God had threatened him, and which the devil had told Eve would not be inflicted, ver. 4. God created man incorruptible, (inexterminabilem, immortal). But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world, Wisdom ii. 23. (Haydock)

Verse 20

The living. Hebrew chai, one who brings forth alive, (Symmachus,) or one who imparts life, in which she was a figure of the blessed Virgin. (Calmet) --- Adam gives his wife this new name, in gratitude for not being cut off by death on the very day of his transgression, as he had every reason to expect and fear he would have been, chap. ii. 17. (Haydock) --- The printed Hebrew reads here, and in many other place, Eva, he, instead of Eja, she; thus, He was the mother, ver. 12, he gave, &c. an inaccuracy unknown to the Samaritan and the best manuscripts copies. (Kennicott.)

Ver 21. Of skins, which Adam took from the beasts which he offered in sacrifice to his merciful Judge, testifying thereby that he had forfeited his life, and uniting himself to that sacrifice of the woman’s promised seed, by which alone he believed the sin of the world was to be expiated. (Haydock)

Verse 22

Behold Adam, &c. This was spoken by way of reproaching him with his pride, in affecting a knowledge that might make him like to God. (Challoner) --- "These are the words of God, not insulting over man, but deterring others from an imitation of his pride." (St. Augustine, de Gen. xi. 39.) --- For ever. The sentence is left imperfect: (Calmet) but by driving man from Paradise, God sufficiently shewed how he would prevent from eating of the tree of life, (Haydock) which Adam had not yet found. As he was now condemned to be miserable on earth, God, in mercy, prevented him from tasting of that fruit, which would have rendered his misery perpetual. (Menochius) --- He would suffer him to die, that, by death, he might come, after a life of 930 years, spent in sorrow and repentance, to the enjoyment of himself. (Haydock) --- Lest perhaps. God does not exercise his absolute power, or destroy free-will, but makes use of ordinary means and precautions, to effect his designs. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)

Verse 24

Cherubims. Angels of the highest order, and of a very complex figure, unlike any one living creature. Theodoret supposes that God forced Adam to retire from that once charming abode, by the apparition of hideous spectres. The devils were also hindered from coming hither, lest they should pluck the fruit of the tree of life, and by promising immortality, should attract men to their service. The flaming sword, might be a fire rising out of the earth, of which Grotius thinks the pits, near Babylon, are still vestiges. These dreadful indications of the divine wrath would probably disappear, when Paradise had lost its superior beauty, and become confounded with the surrounding countries --- Thus we have seen how rapidly Moses describes the creation of all things, the fall of man, and the promised redemption. But in these few lines, we discover a solution of the many difficulties which have perplexed the learned, respecting these most important subjects. We know that the world is not the effect of chance, but created and governed by divine Providence. We are no longer at the loss to explain the surprising contrast of good and evil, observable in the same man. When we have attentively considered the Old Adam and the New, we find a clue to lead us through all the labyrinths of our Holy Religion. We could wish, perhaps, for a greater detail in Moses, but he left the rest to be supplied by tradition. He has thrown light enough upon the subjects, to guide the well-disposed, and has left sufficient darkness to humble and to confound the self-conceited and wicked, who loved darkness rather than the light. (Calmet) --- Concerning the transactions of these early times, parents would no doubt be careful to instruct their children, by word of mouth, before any of the Scriptures were written; and Moses might derive much information from the same source, as a very few persons formed the chain of tradition, when they lived so many hundred years. Adam would converse with Mathusalem, who knew Sem, as the latter lived in the days of Abram. Isaac, Joseph, and Amram, the father of Moses, were contemporaries: so that seven persons might keep up the memory of things which had happened 2500 years before. But to entitle these accounts to absolute authority, the inspiration of God intervenes; and thus we are convinced, that no word of sacred writers can be questioned. (Haydock)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Genesis 3". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/genesis-3.html. 1859.
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