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The man, whom God had appointed lord of the earth and its inhabitants, was endowed with everything requisite for the development of his nature and the fulfilment of his destiny. In the fruit of the trees of the garden he had food for the sustenance of his life; in the care of the garden itself, a field of labour for the exercise of his physical strength; in the animal and vegetable kingdom, a capacious region for the expansion of his intellect; in the tree of knowledge, a positive law for the training of his moral nature; and in the woman associated with him, a suitable companion and help. In such circumstances as these he might have developed both his physical and spiritual nature in accordance with the will of God. But a tempter approached him from the midst of the animal world, and he yielded to the temptation to break the command of God. The serpent is said to have been the tempter. But to any one who reads the narrative carefully in connection with the previous history of the creation, and bears in mind that man is there described as exalted far above all the rest of the animal world, not only by the fact of his having been created in the image of God and invested with dominion over all the creatures of the earth, but also because God breathed into him the breath of life, and no help meet for him was found among the beasts of the field, and also that this superiority was manifest in the gift of speech, which enabled him to give names to all the rest - a thing which they, as speechless, were unable to perform, - it must be at once apparent that it was not from the serpent, as a sagacious and crafty animal, that the temptation proceeded, but that the serpent was simply the tool of that evil spirit, who is met with in the further course of the world's history under the name of Satan (the opponent), or the Devil ( ὁ διάβολος , the slanderer or accuser).
(Note: There was a fall, therefore, in the higher spiritual world before the fall of man; and this is not only plainly taught in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6, but assumed in everything that the Scriptures say of Satan. But this event in the world of spirits neither compels us to place the fall of Satan before the six days' work of creation, nor to assume that the days represent long periods. For as man did not continue long in communion with God, so the angel-prince may have rebelled against God shortly after his creation, and not only have involved a host of angels in his apostasy and fall, but have proceeded immediately to tempt the men, who were created in the image of God, to abuse their liberty by transgressing the divine command.)
When the serpent, therefore, is introduced as speaking, and that just as if it had been entrusted with the thoughts of God Himself, the speaking must have emanated, not from the serpent, but from a superior spirit, which had taken possession of the serpent for the sake of seducing man. This fact, indeed, is not distinctly stated in the canonical books of the Old Testament; but that is simply for the same educational reason which led Moses to transcribe the account exactly as it had been handed down, in the pure objective form of an outward and visible occurrence, and without any allusion to the causality which underlay the external phenomenon, viz., not so much to oppose the tendency of contemporaries to heathen superstition and habits of intercourse with the kingdom of demons, as to avoid encouraging the disposition to transfer the blame to the evil spirit which tempted man, and thus reduce sin to a mere act of weakness. But we find the fact distinctly alluded to in the book of Wis. 2:24; and not only is it constantly noticed in the rabbinical writings, where the prince of the evil spirits is called the old serpent, or the serpent, with evident reference to this account, but it was introduced at a very early period into Parsism also. It is also attested by Christ and His apostles (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 2 Corinthians 11:14; Romans 16:20; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2), and confirmed by the temptation of our Lord. The temptation of Christ is the counterpart of that of Adam. Christ was tempted by the devil, not only like Adam, but because Adam had been tempted and overcome, in order that by overcoming the tempter He might wrest from the devil that dominion over the whole race which he had secured by his victory over the first human pair. The tempter approached the Saviour openly; to the first man he came in disguise. The serpent is not a merely symbolical term applied to Satan; nor was it only the form which Satan assumed; but it was a real serpent, perverted by Satan to be the instrument of his temptation (Genesis 3:1 and Genesis 3:14). The possibility of such a perversion, or of the evil spirit using an animal for his own purposes, is not to be explained merely on the ground of the supremacy of spirit over nature, but also from the connection established in the creation itself between heaven and earth; and still more, from the position originally assigned by the Creator to the spirits of heaven in relation to the creatures of earth. The origin, force, and limits of this relation it is impossible to determine a priori , or in any other way than from such hints as are given in the Scriptures; so that there is no reasonable ground for disputing the possibility of such an influence. Notwithstanding his self-willed opposition to God, Satan is still a creature of God, and was created a good spirit; although, in proud self-exaltation, he abused the freedom essential to the nature of a superior spirit to purposes of rebellion against his Maker. He cannot therefore entirely shake off his dependence upon God. And this dependence may possibly explain the reason, why he did not come “disguised as an angel of light” to tempt our first parents to disobedience, but was obliged to seek the instrument of his wickedness among the beasts of the field. The trial of our first progenitors was ordained by God, because probation was essential to their spiritual development and self-determination. But as He did not desire that they should be tempted to their fall, He would not suffer Satan to tempt them in a way which should surpass their human capacity. The tempted might therefore have resisted the tempter. If, instead of approaching them in the form of a celestial being, in the likeness of God, he came in that of a creature, not only far inferior to God, but far below themselves, they could have no excuse for allowing a mere animal to persuade them to break the commandment of God. For they had been made to have dominion over the beasts, and not to take their own law from them. Moreover, the fact that an evil spirit was approaching them in the serpent, could hardly be concealed from them. Its speaking alone must have suggested that; for Adam had already become acquainted with the nature of the beasts, and had not found one among them resembling himself - not one, therefore, endowed with reason and speech. The substance of the address, too, was enough to prove that it was no good spirit which spake through the serpent, but one at enmity with God. Hence, when they paid attention to what he said, they were altogether without excuse.
“ The serpent was more subtle than all the beasts of the field, which Jehovah God had made.” - The serpent is here described not only as a beast, but also as a creature of God; it must therefore have been good, like everything else that He had made. Subtilty was a natural characteristic of the serpent (Matthew 10:16), which led the evil one to select it as his instrument. Nevertheless the predicate ערוּם is not used here in the good sense of φρόνιμος (lxx), prudens, but in the bad sense of πανοῦργος , callidus. For its subtilty was manifested as the craft of a tempter to evil, in the simple fact that it was to the weaker woman that it turned; and cunning was also displayed in what it said: “ Hath God indeed said, Ye shall not eat of all the trees of the garden?” כּי אף is an interrogative expressing surprise (as in 1 Samuel 23:3; 2 Samuel 4:11): “Is it really the fact that God has prohibited you from eating of all the trees of the garden?” The Hebrew may, indeed, bear the meaning, “hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree?” but from the context, and especially the conjunction, it is obvious that the meaning is, “ye shall not eat of any tree.” The serpent calls God by the name of Elohim alone, and the woman does the same. In this more general and indefinite name the personality of the living God is obscured. To attain his end, the tempter felt it necessary to change the living personal God into a merely general numen divinium , and to exaggerate the prohibition, in the hope of exciting in the woman's mind partly distrust of God Himself, and partly a doubt as to the truth of His word. And his words were listened to. Instead of turning away, the woman replied, “ We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” She was aware of the prohibition, therefore, and fully understood its meaning; but she added, “ neither shall ye touch it,” and proved by this very exaggeration that it appeared too stringent even to her, and therefore that her love and confidence towards God were already beginning to waver. Here was the beginning of her fall: “for doubt is the father of sin, and skepsis the mother of all transgression; and in this father and this mother, all our present knowledge has a common origin with sin” ( Ziegler). From doubt, the tempter advances to a direct denial of the truth of the divine threat, and to a malicious suspicion of the divine love (Genesis 3:4, Genesis 3:5). “ Ye will by no means die ” ( לא is placed before the infinitive absolute, as in Psalms 49:8 and Amos 9:8; for the meaning is not, “he will not die;” but, ye will positively not die). “ But
(Note: כּי used to establish a denial.)
God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes will be opened,
(Note: ונפקחוּ perfect c. ו consec. See Gesenius, §126, Note 1.)
and ye will be like God, knowing good and evil.” That is to say, it is not because the fruit of the tree will injure you that God has forbidden you to eat it, but from ill-will and envy, because He does not wish you to be like Himself. “A truly satanic double entendre , in which a certain agreement between truth and untruth is secured!” By eating the fruit, man did obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like God (Genesis 3:7 and Genesis 3:22). This was the truth which covered the falsehood “ye shall not die,” and turned the whole statement into a lie, exhibiting its author as the father of lies, who abides not in the truth (John 8:44). For the knowledge of good and evil, which man obtains by going into evil, is as far removed from the true likeness of God, which he would have attained by avoiding it, as the imaginary liberty of a sinner, which leads into bondage to sin and ends in death, is from the true liberty of a life of fellowship with God.)
The illusive hope of being like God excited a longing for the forbidden fruit. “ The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a pleasure to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise ( השׂכּיל signifies to gain or show discernment or insight); and she took of its fruit and ate, and gave to her husband by her (who was present), and he did eat.” As distrust of God's command leads to a disregard of it, so the longing for a false independence excites a desire for the seeming good that has been prohibited; and this desire is fostered by the senses, until it brings forth sin. Doubt, unbelief, and pride were the roots of the sin of our first parents, as they have been of all the sins of their posterity. The more trifling the object of their sin seems to have been, the greater and more difficult does the sin itself appear; especially when we consider that the first men “stood in a more direct relation to God, their Creator, than any other man has ever done, that their hearts were pure, their discernment clear, their intercourse with God direct, that they were surrounded by gifts just bestowed by Him, and could not excuse themselves on the ground of any misunderstanding of the divine prohibition, which threatened them with the loss of life in the event of disobedience” ( Delitzsch). Yet not only did the woman yield to the seductive wiles of the serpent, but even the man allowed himself to be tempted by the woman.
“ Then the eyes of them both were opened ” (as the serpent had foretold: but what did they see?), “ and they knew that they were naked.” They had lost “that blessed blindness, the ignorance of innocence, which knows nothing of nakedness” ( Ziegler). The discovery of their nakedness excited shame, which they sought to conceal by an outward covering. “ They sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” The word תּאנה always denotes the fig-tree, not the pisang ( Musa paradisiaca ), nor the Indian banana, whose leaves are twelve feet long and two feet broad, for there would have been no necessity to sew them together at all. חגרת , περιζώματα , are aprons, worn round the hips. It was here that the consciousness of nakedness first suggested the need of covering, not because the fruit had poisoned the fountain of human life, and through some inherent quality had immediately corrupted the reproductive powers of the body (as Hoffmann and Baumgarten suppose), nor because any physical change ensued in consequence of the fall; but because, with the destruction of the normal connection between soul and body through sin, the body ceased to be the pure abode of a spirit in fellowship with God, and in the purely natural state of the body the consciousness was produced not merely of the distinction of the sexes, but still more of the worthlessness of the flesh; so that the man and woman stood ashamed in each other's presence, and endeavoured to hide the disgrace of their spiritual nakedness, by covering those parts of the body through which the impurities of nature are removed. That the natural feeling of shame, the origin of which is recorded here, had its root, not in sensuality or any physical corruption, but in the consciousness of guilt or shame before God, and consequently that it was the conscience which was really at work, is evident from the fact that the man and his wife hid themselves from Jehovah God among the trees of the garden, as soon as they heard the sound of His footsteps. יהוה קול (the voice of Jehovah, Genesis 3:8) is not the voice of God speaking or calling, but the sound of God walking, as in 2 Samuel 5:24; 1 Kings 14:6, etc. - In the cool of the day (lit., in the wind of the day), i.e., towards the evening, when a cooling wind generally blows. The men have broken away from God, but God will not and cannot leave them alone. He comes to them as one man to another. This was the earliest form of divine revelation. God conversed with the first man in a visible shape, as the Father and Instructor of His children. He did not adopt this mode for the first time after the fall, but employed it as far back as the period when He brought the beasts to Adam, and gave him the woman to be his wife (Genesis 2:19, Genesis 2:22). This human mode of intercourse between man and God is not a mere figure of speech, but a reality, having its foundation in the nature of humanity, or rather in the fact that man was created in the image of God, but not in the sense supposed by Jakobi, that “God theomorphised when creating man, and man therefore necessarily anthropomorphises when he thinks of God.” The anthropomorphies of God have their real foundation in the divine condescension which culminated in the incarnation of God in Christ. They are to be understood, however, as implying, not that corporeality, or a bodily shape, is an essential characteristic of God, but that God having given man a bodily shape, when He created him in His own image, revealed Himself in a manner suited to his bodily senses, that He might thus preserve him in living communion with Himself.
The man could not hide himself from God. “ Jehovah God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? ” Not that He was ignorant of his hiding-place, but to bring him to a confession of his sin. And when Adam said that he had hidden himself through fear of his nakedness, and thus sought to hide the sin behind its consequences, his disobedience behind the feeling of shame; this is not to be regarded as a sign of peculiar obduracy, but easily admits of a psychological explanation, viz., that at the time he actually thought more of his nakedness and shame than of his transgression of the divine command, and his consciousness of the effects of his sin was keener than his sense of the sin itself. To awaken the latter God said, “ Who told thee that thou wast naked? ” and asked him whether he had broken His command. He could not deny that he had, but sought to excuse himself by saying, that the woman whom God gave to be with him had given him of the tree. When the woman was questioned, she pleaded as her excuse, that the serpent had beguiled her (or rather deceived her, ἐξαπάτησεν , 2 Corinthians 11:3). In offering these excuses, neither of them denied the fact. But the fault in both was, that they did not at once smite upon their breasts. “It is so still; the sinner first of all endeavours to throw the blame upon others as tempters, and then upon circumstances which God has ordained.”
The sentence follows the examination, and is pronounced first of all upon the serpent as the tempter: “ Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed before all cattle, and before every beast of the field.” מן , literally out of the beasts, separate from them (Deuteronomy 14:2; Judges 5:24), is not a comparative signifying more than, nor does it mean by; for the curse did not proceed from the beasts, but from God, and was not pronounced upon all the beasts, but upon the serpent alone. The κτίσις , it is true, including the whole animal creation, has been “made subject to vanity” and “the bondage of corruption,” in consequence of the sin of man (Romans 8:20-21); yet this subjection is not to be regarded as the effect of the curse, which was pronounced upon the serpent, having fallen upon the whole animal world, but as the consequence of death passing from man into the rest of the creation, and thoroughly pervading the whole. The creation was drawn into the fall of man, and compelled to share its consequences, because the whole of the irrational creation was made for man, and made subject to him as its head; consequently the ground was cursed for man's sake, but not the animal world for the serpent's sake, or even along with the serpent. The curse fell upon the serpent for having tempted the woman, according to the same law by which not only a beast which had injured a man was ordered to be put to death (Genesis 9:5; Exodus 21:28-29), but any beast which had been the instrument of an unnatural crime was to be slain along with the man (Leviticus 20:15-16); not as though the beast were an accountable creature, but in consequence of its having been made subject to man, not to injure his body or his life, or to be the instrument of his sin, but to subserve the great purpose of his life. “Just as a loving father,” as Chrysostom says, “when punishing the murderer of his son, might snap in two the sword or dagger with which the murder had been committed.” The proof, therefore, that the serpent was merely the instrument of an evil spirit, does not lie in the punishment itself, but in the manner in which the sentence was pronounced. When God addressed the animal, and pronounced a curse upon it, this presupposed that the curse had regard not so much to the irrational beast as to the spiritual tempter, and that the punishment which fell upon the serpent was merely a symbol of his own. The punishment of the serpent corresponded to the crime. It had exalted itself above the man; therefore upon its belly it should go, and dust it should eat all the days of its life. If these words are not to be robbed of their entire meaning, they cannot be understood in any other way than as denoting that the form and movements of the serpent were altered, and that its present repulsive shape is the effect of the curse pronounced upon it, though we cannot form any accurate idea of its original appearance. Going upon the belly (= creeping, Leviticus 11:42) was a mark of the deepest degradation; also the eating of dust, which is not to be understood as meaning that dust was to be its only food, but that while crawling in the dust it would also swallow dust (cf. Micah 7:17; Isaiah 49:23). Although this punishment fell literally upon the serpent, it also affected the tempter if a figurative or symbolical sense. He became the object of the utmost contempt and abhorrence; and the serpent still keeps the revolting image of Satan perpetually before the eye. This degradation was to be perpetual. “While all the rest of creation shall be delivered from the fate into which the fall has plunged it, according to Isaiah 65:25, the instrument of man's temptation is to remain sentenced to perpetual degradation in fulfilment of the sentence, 'all the days of thy life.' and thus to prefigure the fate of the real tempter, for whom there is no deliverance” (Hengstenberg, Christology Genesis 1:15). - The presumption of the tempter was punished with the deepest degradation; and in like manner his sympathy with the woman was to be turned into eternal hostility (Genesis 3:15). God established perpetual enmity, not only between the serpent and the woman, but also between the serpent's and the woman's seed, i.e., between the human and the serpent race. The seed of the woman would crush the serpent's head, and the serpent crush the heel of the woman's seed. The meaning, terere , conterere , is thoroughly established by the Chald., Syr., and Rabb. authorities, and we have therefore retained it, in harmony with the word συντρίβειν in Romans 16:20, and because it accords better and more easily with all the other passages in which the word occurs, than the rendering inhiare , to regard with enmity, which is obtained from the combination of שׁוּף with שׁאף . The verb is construed with a double accusative, the second giving greater precision to the first (vid., Ges. §139, note, and Ewald, §281). The same word is used in connection with both head and heel, to show that on both sides the intention is to destroy the opponent; at the same time, the expressions head and heel denote a majus and minus , or, as Calvin says, superius et inferius . This contrast arises from the nature of the foes. The serpent can only seize the heel of the man, who walks upright; whereas the man can crush the head of the serpent, that crawls in the dust. But this difference is itself the result of the curse pronounced upon the serpent, and its crawling in the dust is a sign that it will be defeated in its conflict with man. However pernicious may be the bite of a serpent in the heel when the poison circulates throughout the body (Genesis 49:17), it is not immediately fatal and utterly incurable, like the cursing of a serpent's head.
But even in this sentence there is an unmistakable allusion to the evil and hostile being concealed behind the serpent. That the human race should triumph over the serpent, was a necessary consequence of the original subjection of the animals to man. When, therefore, God not merely confines the serpent within the limits assigned to the animals, but puts enmity between it and the woman, this in itself points to a higher, spiritual power, which may oppose and attack the human race through the serpent, but will eventually be overcome. Observe, too, that although in the first clause the seed of the serpent is opposed to the seed of the woman, in the second it is not over the seed of the serpent but over the serpent itself that the victory is said to be gained. It, i.e., the seed of the woman will crush thy head, and thou (not thy seed) wilt crush its heel. Thus the seed of the serpent is hidden behind the unity of the serpent, or rather of the foe who, through the serpent, has done such injury to man. This foe is Satan, who incessantly opposes the seed of the woman and bruises its heel, but is eventually to be trodden under its feet. It does not follow from this, however, apart from other considerations, that by the seed of the woman we are to understand one solitary person, one individual only. As the woman is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20), her seed, to which the victory over the serpent and its seed is promised, must be the human race. But if a direct and exclusive reference to Christ appears to be exegetically untenable, the allusion in the word to Christ is by no means precluded in consequence. In itself the idea of זרע , the seed, is an indefinite one, since the posterity of a man may consist of a whole tribe or of one son only (Genesis 4:25; Genesis 21:12-13), and on the other hand, an entire tribe may be reduced to one single descendant and become extinct in him. The question, therefore, who is to be understood by the “seed” which is to crush the serpent's head, can only be answered from the history of the human race. But a point of much greater importance comes into consideration here. Against the natural serpent the conflict may be carried on by the whole human race, by all who are born of a woman, but not against Satan. As he is a fore who can only be met with spiritual weapons, none can encounter him successfully but such as possess and make use of spiritual arms. Hence the idea of the “seed” is modified by the nature of the foe. If we look at the natural development of the human race, Eve bore three sons, but only one of them, viz., Seth, was really the seed by whom the human family was preserved through the flood and perpetuated in Noah: so, again, of the three sons of Noah, Shem, the blessed of Jehovah, from whom Abraham descended, was the only one in whose seed all nations were to be blessed, and that not through Ishmael, but through Isaac alone. Through these constantly repeated acts of divine selection, which were not arbitrary exclusions, but were rendered necessary by differences in the spiritual condition of the individuals concerned, the “seed,” to which the victory over Satan was promised, was spiritually or ethically determined, and ceased to be co-extensive with physical descent. This spiritual seed culminated in Christ, in whom the Adamitic family terminated, henceforward to be renewed by Christ as the second Adam, and restored by Him to its original exaltation and likeness to God. In this sense Christ is the seed of the woman, who tramples Satan under His feet, not as an individual, but as the head both of the posterity of the woman which kept the promise and maintained the conflict with the old serpent before His advent, and also of all those who are gathered out of all nations, are united to Him by faith, and formed into one body of which He is the head (Romans 16:20). On the other hand, all who have not regarded and preserved the promise, have fallen into the power of the old serpent, and are to be regarded as the seed of the serpent, whose head will be trodden under foot (Matthew 23:33; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). If then the promise culminates in Christ, the fact that the victory over the serpent is promised to the posterity of the woman, not of the man, acquires this deeper significance, that as it was through the woman that the craft of the devil brought sin and death into the world, so it is also through the woman that the grace of God will give to the fallen human race the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the devil. And even if the words had reference first of all to the fact that the woman had been led astray by the serpent, yet in the fact that the destroyer of the serpent was born of a woman (without a human father) they were fulfilled in a way which showed that the promise must have proceeded from that Being, who secured its fulfilment not only in its essential force, but even in its apparently casual form.
It was not till the prospect of victory had been presented, that a sentence of punishment was pronounced upon both the man and the woman on account of their sin. The woman, who had broken the divine command for the sake of earthly enjoyment, was punished in consequence with the sorrows and pains of pregnancy and childbirth. “ I will greatly multiply ( הרבּה is the inf. abs. for הרבּה , which had become an adverb: vid., Ewald, §240c, as in Genesis 16:10 and Genesis 22:17) thy sorrow and thy pregnancy: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” As the increase of conceptions, regarded as the fulfilment of the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), could be no punishment, והרנך must be understood as in apposition to עצּבונך thy sorrow (i.e., the sorrows peculiar to a woman's life), and indeed (or more especially) thy pregnancy (i.e., the sorrows attendant upon that condition). The sentence is not rendered more lucid by the assumption of a hendiadys. “That the woman should bear children was the original will of God; but it was a punishment that henceforth she was to bear them in sorrow, i.e., with pains which threatened her own life as well as that of the child” ( Delitzsch). The punishment consisted in an enfeebling of nature, in consequence of sin, which disturbed the normal relation between body and soul. - The woman had also broken through her divinely appointed subordination to the man; she had not only emancipated herself from the man to listen to the serpent, but had led the man into sin. For that, she was punished with a desire bordering upon disease ( תּשׁוּקה from שׁוּק to run, to have a violent craving for a thing), and with subjection to the man. “ And he shall rule over thee.” Created for the man, the woman was made subordinate to him from the very first; but the supremacy of the man was not intended to become a despotic rule, crushing the woman into a slave, which has been the rule in ancient and modern Heathenism, and even in Mahometanism also-a rule which was first softened by the sin-destroying grace of the Gospel, and changed into a form more in harmony with the original relation, viz., that of a rule on the one hand, and subordination on the other, which have their roots in mutual esteem and love.
“ And unto Adam:” the noun is here used for the first time as a proper name without the article. In Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 2:5, Genesis 2:20, the noun is appellative, and there are substantial reasons for the omission of the article. The sentence upon Adam includes a twofold punishment: first the cursing of the ground, and secondly death, which affects the woman as well, on account of their common guilt. By listening to his wife, when deceived by the serpent, Adam had repudiated his superiority to the rest of creation. As a punishment, therefore, nature would henceforth offer resistance to his will. By breaking the divine command, he had set himself above his Maker, death would therefore show him the worthlessness of his own nature. “ Cursed be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat it (the ground by synecdoche for its produce, as in Isaiah 1:7) all the days of thy life: thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” The curse pronounced on man's account upon the soil created for him, consisted in the fact, that the earth no longer yielded spontaneously the fruits requisite for his maintenance, but the man was obliged to force out the necessaries of life by labour and strenuous exertion. The herb of the field is in contrast with the trees of the garden, and sorrow with the easy dressing of the garden. We are not to understand, however, that because man failed to guard the good creation of God from the invasion of the evil one, a host of demoniacal powers forced their way into the material world to lay it waste and offer resistance to man; but because man himself had fallen into the power of the evil one, therefore God cursed the earth, not merely withdrawing the divine powers of life which pervaded Eden, but changing its relation to man. As Luther says, “ primum in eo, quod illa bona non fert quae tulisset, si homo non esset lapsus, deinde in eo quoque, quod multa noxia fert quae non tulisset, sicut sunt infelix lolium, steriles avenae, zizania, urticae, spincae, tribuli, adde venena, noxias bestiolas, et si qua sunt alia hujus generis .” But the curse reached much further, and the writer has merely noticed the most obvious aspect.
(Note: Non omnia incommoda enumerat Moses, quibus se homo per peccatum implicuit: constat enim ex eodem prodiisse fonte omnes praesentis vitae aerumnas, quas experientia innumeras esse ostendit. Aëris intemperies, gelu, tonitrua, pluviae intempestivae, uredo, grandines et quicquid inordinatum est in mundo, peccati sunt fructus.
Nec alia morborum prima est causa: idque poeticis fabulis celebratum fuit: haud dubie quod per manus a patribus traditum esset. Unde illud Horatii :
- Post ignem aethera domo
- Subductum, macies et nova febrium
- Terris incubuit cohors:
- Semotique prius tarda necessitas
- Lethi corripuit gradum.
Sed Moses qui brevitati studet, suo more pro communi vulgi captu attingere contentus fuit quod magis apparuit: ut sub exemplo uno discamus, hominis vitio inversum fuisse totum naturae ordinem . Calvin.)
The disturbance and distortion of the original harmony of body and soul, which sin introduced into the nature of man, and by which the flesh gained the mastery over the spirit, and the body, instead of being more and more transformed into the life of the spirit, became a prey to death, spread over the whole material world; so that everywhere on earth there were to be seen wild and rugged wastes, desolation and ruin, death and corruption, or ματαιότης and φθορά (Romans 8:20-21). Everything injurious to man in the organic, vegetable and animal creation, is the effect of the curse pronounced upon the earth for Adam's sin, however little we may be able to explain the manner in which the curse was carried into effect; since our view of the causal connection between sin and evil even in human life is very imperfect, and the connection between spirit and matter in nature generally is altogether unknown. In this causal link between sin and the evils in the world, the wrath of God on account of sin was revealed; since, as soon as the creation ( πᾶσα ἡ κτίοις , Romans 8:22) had been wrested through man from its vital connection with its Maker, He gave it up to its own ungodly nature, so that whilst, on the one hand, it has been abused by man for the gratification of his own sinful lusts and desires, on the other, it has turned against man, and consequently many things in the world and nature, which in themselves and without sin would have been good for him, or at all events harmless, have become poisonous and destructive since his fall. For in the sweat of his face man is to eat his bread ( לחם the bread-corn which springs from the earth, as in Job 28:5; Psalms 104:14) until he return to the ground. Formed out of the dust, he shall return to dust again. This was the fulfilment of the threat, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” which began to take effect immediately after the breach of the divine command; for not only did man then become mortal, but he also actually came under the power of death, received into his nature the germ of death, the maturity of which produced its eventual dissolution into dust. The reason why the life of the man did not come to an end immediately after the eating of the forbidden fruit, was not that “the woman had been created between the threat and the fall, and consequently the fountain of human life had been divided, the life originally concentrated in one Adam shared between man and woman, by which the destructive influence of the fruit was modified or weakened.” ( v. Hoffmann), but that the mercy and long-suffering of God afforded space for repentance, and so controlled and ordered the sin of men and the punishment of sin, as to render them subservient to the accomplishment of His original purpose and the glorification of His name.
As justice and mercy were combined in the divine sentence; justice in the fact that God cursed the tempter alone, and only punished the tempted with labour and mortality, mercy in the promise of eventual triumph over the serpent: so God also displayed His mercy to the fallen, before carrying the sentence into effect. It was through the power of divine grace that Adam believed the promise with regard to the woman's seed, and manifested his faith in the name which he gave to his wife. חוּה Eve, an old form of חיּה , signifying life ( ζωή , lxx), or life-spring, is a substantive, and not a feminine adjective meaning “the living one,” nor an abbreviated form of מחוּה , from חוּה חיּה (Genesis 19:32, Genesis 19:34), the life-receiving one. This name was given by Adam to his wife, “ because,” as the writer explains with the historical fulfilment before his mind, “ she became the mother of all living,” i.e., because the continuance and life of his race were guaranteed to the man through the woman. God also displayed His mercy by clothing the two with coats of skin, i.e., the skins of beasts. The words, “God made coats,” are not to be interpreted with such bare literality, as that God sewed the coats with His own fingers; they merely affirm “that man's first clothing was the work of God, who gave the necessary directions and ability” ( Delitzsch). By this clothing, God imparted to the feeling of shame the visible sign of an awakened conscience, and to the consequent necessity for a covering to the bodily nakedness, the higher work of a suitable discipline for the sinner. By selecting the skins of beasts for the clothing of the first men, and therefore causing the death or slaughter of beasts for that purpose, He showed them how they might use the sovereignty they possessed over the animals for their own good, and even sacrifice animal life for the preservation of human; so that this act of God laid the foundation for the sacrifices, even if the first clothing did not prefigure our ultimate “clothing upon” (2 Corinthians 5:4), nor the coats of skins the robe of righteousness.
Clothed in this sign of mercy, the man was driven out of paradise, to bear the punishment of his sin. The words of Jehovah, “ The man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil,” contain no irony, as though man had exalted himself to a position of autonomy resembling that of God; for “irony at the expense of a wretched tempted soul might well befit Satan, but not the Lord.” Likeness to God is predicated only with regard to the knowledge of good and evil, in which the man really had become like God. In order that, after the germ of death had penetrated into his nature along with sin, he might not “ take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever ( חי contracted from חיי חיה , as in Genesis 5:5; 1 Samuel 20:31), God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.” With וישׁלּחהוּ (sent him forth) the narrative passes over from the words to the actions of God. From the גּם (also) it follows that the man had not yet eaten of the tree of life. Had he continued in fellowship with God by obedience to the command of God, he might have eaten of it, for he was created for eternal life. But after he had fallen through sin into the power of death, the fruit which produced immortality could only do him harm. For immortality in a state of sin is not the ζωὴ αἰώνιος , which God designed for man, but endless misery, which the Scriptures call “the second death” (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). The expulsion from paradise, therefore, was a punishment inflicted for man's good, intended, while exposing him to temporal death, to preserve him from eternal death. To keep the approach to the tree of life, “ God caused cherubim to dwell (to encamp) at the east (on the eastern side) of the garden, and the (i.e., with the) flame of the sword turning to and fro ” ( מתהפּכת , moving rapidly). The word כּרוּב cherub has no suitable etymology in the Semitic, but is unquestionably derived from the same root as the Greek γρύψ or γρυπές , and has been handed down from the forefathers of our race, though the primary meaning can no longer be discovered. The Cherubim, however, are creatures of a higher world, which are represented as surrounding the throne of God, both in the visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:22., Genesis 10:1) and the Revelation of John (John 4:6); not, however, as throne-bearers or throne-holders, or as forming the chariot of the throne, but as occupying the highest place as living beings ( חיּות , ζῷα ) in the realm of spirits, standing by the side of God as the heavenly King when He comes to judgment, and proclaiming the majesty of the Judge of the world. In this character God stationed them on the eastern side of paradise, not “to inhabit the garden as the temporary representatives of man,” but “to keep the way of the tree of life,” i.e., to render it impossible for man to return to paradise, and eat of the tree of life. Hence there appeared by their side the flame of a sword, apparently in constant motion, cutting hither and thither, representing the devouring fire of the divine wrath, and showing the cherubim to be ministers of judgment. With the expulsion of man from the garden of Eden, paradise itself vanished from the earth. God did not withdraw from the tree of life its supernatural power, nor did He destroy the garden before their eyes, but simply prevented their return, to show that it should be preserved until the time of the end, when sin should be rooted out by the judgment, and death abolished by the Conqueror of the serpent (1 Corinthians 15:26), and when upon the new earth the tree of life should flourish again in the heavenly Jerusalem, and bear fruit for the redeemed (Revelation 20:1-15 and 21).
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Genesis 3". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26