If you miss the opening scenes of a movie it can be difficult to understand the rest of the plot. It’s the same with the scriptures. If you miss the events of Genesis 2 and 3 it’s virtually impossible to make sense of the rest it. So this entry is long. They won’t all be this lengthy.

We start at the Genesis, the beginning of human history. It might be useful, to have read Genesis 2 and 3 before reading on.

The scriptures open with a bold statement. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” Without explanation of why or how, the narrative moves quickly to the garden that He created and in which He placed the first human, Adam.

Adam is a real man but his story is representative of all humanity.

The Hebrew root (אָדָם), which we translate as Adam, is laden with meaning. It can be translated in a variety of ways (1) as the proper name Adam (2) simply as the word for man or (3) as a general word for humankind. All of these translations are worthy of detailed exploration in themselves. It’s also closely related to the word for dust, a reminder of humankind’s origin. For now, it’s worth noting the link between the man called Adam and the general word for humankind. The scriptures very clearly intend this flexibility of interpretation. We are meant to note the link between the actions of Adam, the specific man, and all of humankind that he also represents. His story and the story of God’s relationship with him is your story and my story. It’s the story of God’s relationship to us and with us . If we miss Genesis 2 and 3 we miss the basics of our relationship with and to the creator God.

Life and death in the Garden of Eden.

Paradise Gifted

Adam, from the very beginning of the Bible’s narrative, is marked out as distinct from the rest of creation. He is made in the image of God[1]. Genesis 2 v7 is noteworthy in its illustration of Adam’s (or humanity’s) oneness with and distinctiveness from the rest of creation “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” “Formed from the dust” explains the physical similarity between humanity and the animal kingdom while being enlivened by the breath (otherwise translated spirit) of God marks uniqueness. Adam is given dominion or control over the rest of creation. He is given an unique purpose in working and taking care of the garden. Yet, in our rush to emphasise his dominion over creation we often overlook his dependence on God. We easily miss the subtleties of Genesis 1:29-30 and 2:15. There we learn that Adam needed God to provide food for him and even to provide a partner. Given unique value and status by being made in God’s image, Adam, in his natural state, was totally dependent on God. God, for His part, provided everything his favoured creature needed: food, purpose, a female of his own kind and friendship with God himself who walked and talked with Adam in the garden. There’s only one command: “do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat it you will surely die[2]

Paradise Lost.

The events recorded in Genesis 3 are pivotal in everything else that happens in the scriptures. There is one law, clear and simple: “Do not eat the fruit or you will surely die.” The serpent (or Satan)[3] tempts Eve to eat the fruit in disobedience. Adam and Eve’s decision changes the nature of the relationship between the divine and the human.

The interaction between serpent and human is noteworthy. First of all, doubt is created. “Did God really say?”[4] Second, Eve adds to and makes God’s word more restrictive. “and you must not touch it”[5] Then there was denial “you will not surely die” followed by questioning of God’s purpose while offering the promise of being “like God, knowing good and evil”. [6] The whole interaction is fascinating. Notably, Eve was not ignorant of God’s words. She could repeat them back to the serpent. But, as Genesis 3 v6 points out, she saw it as tasty, pleasurable and capable of giving her a God like wisdom and status, so she took it and ate it. When she offered it to Adam, he knowingly took and ate. In those moments all of history changed.

Of course, as we read on, we realise that Adam and Eve did not immediately drop down dead. Outwardly they remained the same, but on the inside they were dead. The spiritual bond they had with God was broken. Adam was a dead man walking. Physical death would be part of the punishment, along with exile from Eden. In fact death would soon enter amongst their sons, Cain and Abel.[7]

A leaf can’t cover Adam.

It’s easy to judge Eve and Adam. We have the advantage of knowing the outcome. But Adam’s story is your story and my story. We’re all dead men and women walking. That would be a pretty depressing end to the story, but the rest of the scriptures is a catalogue of how God chases his prized creation, humanity, and offers restoration.

That pursuit of restoration started in the garden. Shame, guilt, fear, broken relationships and death entered the human story through Adam and Eve’s actions. The leaf with which Adam covered himself may have offered him modesty, but it could never cover his true shame. Adam’s attempt in appearing right in God’s presence was inadequate. Amazingly, God, the one who had been offended, took the initiative. He provided animal skins with which Adam and his wife could cover themselves. Blood was shed so that humanity’s wrongdoing could be covered over. And so, at God’s initiative, two major biblical themes of sacrifice and restoration are set in motion.

A promise made in the midst of a cosmic battle.

Satan had his way that day. But it was also a day on which he received his judgement. “… I will put enmity    between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”[8] Right there, at the moment of Adam and Eve’s wrongdoing, God promised restoration. It’s the promise of the Saviour. The woman’s descendant would eventually crush the serpent’s head. That promise is fulfilled in Christ’s victory over Satan. That’s a victory in which all believers share.

Adam in the New Testament.

Most of us leave Adam in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament says nothing else about him. But the New picks up the theme. As we journey in the New Testament we’ll pick this up again. For now, we note what St Paul writes: [9] “just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people”.

Observation.

God had one command or law: not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One rule seems a light yoke to carry. It’s worth taking note that God favoured and blessed Adam (humankind) above all creation. It was in that context of blessing that He gave His instruction, or Law. Therefore, God’s law is not something to be kept to earn favour with Him. It is something offered, for blessing and protection, to those already in favour. Throughout the rest of scripture, and indeed, history, we see how humanity has misunderstood this and tried to use the law to earn favour.

Some short articles coming this week.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

Whatever happened to the Garden of Eden and the tree?

 

 

 

[1] Genesis 1 v 27

[2] Genesis 2 v17

[3] As he is identified in Revelation 12 v9 and 20 v2.

[4] Genesis 3 v1

[5] Genesis 3 v3

[6] Genesis 3 v4

[7] Genesis 4

[8] Genesis 3 v15

[9] Romans 5 v18