Genesis (Part 18)

Genesis 3:17-19

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

[Note: Just so you know, hat bit there at the end really resonates with a person named Dusty.]

Here are some key words from this passage and their translations.

wife = אִשָּׁה ʼishshâh, ish-shaw’; feminine of H376 or H582; irregular plural, נָשִׁים nâshîym;(used in the same wide sense as H582) a woman:—(adulter) ess, each, every, female, × many, none, one, together, wife, woman. Often unexpressed in English.

cursed = אָרַר ʼârar, aw-rar’; a primitive root; to execrate:—× bitterly curse.

ground = אֲדָמָה ʼădâmâh, ad-aw-maw’; from H119; soil (from its general redness):—country, earth, ground, husband(-man) (-ry), land.

toil = עִצָּבוֹן ʻitstsâbôwn, its-tsaw-bone’; from H6087; worrisomeness, i.e. labor or pain:—sorrow, toil.

bread = לֶחֶם lechem, lekh’-em; from H3898; See also H1036 food (for man or beast), especially bread, or grain (for making it):—(shew-) bread, × eat, food, fruit, loaf, meat, victuals.

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From the Pulpit Commentary (Bold and underlined are my emphasis)

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;Verse 17. – And unto Adam he said. The noun here used for the first time without the article is explained as a proper name (Keil, Lunge, Speaker’s ‘Commentary’), though perhaps it is rather designed to express the man s representative character (Macdonald). Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife. Preceding his sentence with a declaration of his guilt, which culminated in this, that instead of acting as his wife’s protector prior to her disobedience, or as her mentor subsequent to that act, in the hope of brining her to repentance, he became her guilty coadjutor through yielding himself to her persuasions. And hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it. For which a twofold judgment is likewise pronounced upon Adam. Cursed is the ground. Ha adamah, out of which man was taken (Genesis 2:7); i.e. the soil outside of the garden. The language does not necessarily imply that now, for the first time, in consequence of the fall, the physical globe underwent a change, “becoming from that point onward a realm of deformity and discord, as before it was not, and displaying in all its sceneries and combinations the tokens of a broken constitution” (vide Bushnell, ‘Nature and the Supernatural,’ Genesis 7.); simply it announces the fact that, because of the transgression of which he had been guilty, he would find the land beyond the confines of Eden lying under a doom of sterility (cf. Romans 8:20). For thy sake. בַּעֲבוּרֶך.

1. Because of thy sin it required to be such a world.

2. For thy good it was better that such a curse should lie upon the ground. Reading ד instead of ר, the LXX. translate ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις; and the Vulgate, In operetuoIn sorrow. Literally, painful labor (cf. ver. 16; Proverbs 5:10). Shalt thou eat of it. I.e. of its fruits (cf. Isaiah 1:7Isaiah 36:16Isaiah 37:30). “Bread of sorrow” (Psalm 127:2) is bread procured and eaten amidst hard labor. All the days of thy life.Genesis 3:18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;Verse 18. – Thorns also and thistles. Terms occurring only here and in Hosed 10:8 = the similar expressions in Isaiah 5:6Isaiah 7:23 (Kalisch, Keil, Macdonald). Shall it bring forth to thee. I.e. these shall be its spontaneous productions; if thou desirest anything else thou must labor for it. And thou shalt eat the herb of the field. “Not the fruit of paradise” (Wordsworth), but “the lesser growths sown by his own toil” (Alford) – an intimation that henceforth man was “to be deprived of his former delicacies to such an extent as to be compelled to use, in addition, the herbs which had been designed only for brute animals;” and perhaps also “a consolation,” as if promising that, notwithstanding the thorns and thistles, “it should still yield him sustenance” (Calvin).Genesis 3:19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.Verse 19. – In the sweat of thy face (so called, as having there its source and being there visible) shalt thou eat bread. I.e. all food (videJob 28:5Psalm 104:14Matthew 14:15Mark 6:36). “To eat bread” is to possess the means of sustaining life (Ecclesiastes 5:16Amos 7:12). Till thou return unto the ground (the mortality-of man is thus assumed as certain); for out of it thou wast taken. Not declaring the reason of man’s dissolution, as if it were involved in his original material constitution, but reminding him that in consequence of his transgression he had forfeited the privilege of immunity from death, and must now return to the soil whence he sprung. Ἐξ η΅ς ἐλήφθης (LXX.); de qua sumptus es (Vulgate); “out of which thou wast taken” (Macdonald, Gesenius). On the use of כִּי as a relative pronoun – אַשֶׁר cf. Gesenius, ‘ Lex. sub nom.,’ who quotes this and Genesis 4:25 as examples. Vide also Stanley Leathes, ‘Hebrews Gram.,’ p. 202; and ‘Glassii Philologiae,’ lib. 3. tr. 2, c. 15. p. 335. This use of כִּי, however, appears to be doubtful, and is not necessary in any of the examples quoted.

From David Guzik: I will break this up and comment on each segment.

. (Gen 3:17-19) God’s curse upon the man.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

a. Because you have heeded the voice of your wife: It wasn’t just as if Adam took Eve’s advice. He chose to be with Eve instead of obeying God. There is a sense in which idolatry of Eve was an aspect of Adam’s disobedience against God.

Note here that “wife” is also translated “the woman.” It is with some interesting consistency that translators insist on treating Adam and the Woman as a married couple. The original text does not explicitly say that they are married.

Prior to “The Fall” the woman – like Adam – was a sinless Immortal being. In that context, the notion of idolatry makes a lot of contextual sense. In the same way, the Woman heeded the nachash, which as we have shown may have also been an Immortal being (though whether or not sinless before it was cursed we do not know.)

b. Cursed is the ground: Because of Adam, there is a curse upon all creation. Before the curse on man, the ground only produced good. After the curse, it will still produce good, but thorns and thistles will come faster and easier than good fruit.

Adam does not suffer a personal curse. Whereas God directly cursed the serpent/nachash and the woman suffers directly a multiplication of labor pains and directly comes under the dominion of Adam, the section with Adam refers to a curse on the ground.

[Note: Neither Adam nor the woman are actually “cursed” per se. The serpent is cursed. We see the text use the word. The ground is cursed. The text again uses the word. The rest of this punishment section focuses not on an actual curse (the “curse” language is not used) but instead it focuses on a change in circumstances for the much more difficult. For the woman, that change in circumstance means multiplied labor pains and the dominion of the man. For Adam, the change in circumstance means his work will go from something that is joyous to something of great difficulty.]

Guzik’s interpretation of the curse on the ground differs from the notes, above, in the Pulpit Commentary. In the one interpretation, the curse on the ground is sending Adam out into the world as we know it and away from perfect Eden. In the other, the curse was placed on all of creation at this moment. Considering that Adam is subsequently banished from Eden, it may be a distinction without much of a difference from his perspective. When we consider whether or not there are people outside of Eden, though, then the distinction might really matter quite a lot.

One other thought: Is the “Dominion of Adam over the woman” in some respects a shared punishment / negative change of circumstances? I think you could argue yes. Certainly falling under the rule of a flawed mortal being is the short end of that stick as between the two. But the command to successfully rule a flawed mortal being – while being a flawed mortal being – comes with some impossible responsibilities as well. Let us look at Ephesians 5:22-27

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish

None of that sounds particularly easy, to be honest.

c. In toil you shall eat of it: Adam worked before the curse, but it was all joy. Now work has a cursed element to it, with pain and weariness a part of work. Is there not a time of hard service for man on earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hired man? Like a servant who earnestly desires the shade, and like a hired man who eagerly looks for his wages (Job 7:1-2).

Speaking of shared negative changes in circumstance, I suspect that this verse also resonates with women who must work and earn money. The ground is no less cursed for the Woman than it is for Adam.

d. Dust you are, and to dust you shall return: The final curse upon man promised there would be an end of his toil and labor on the earth – but it was an end of death, not not an end of deliverance.

When God tells Adam that he will now die, this is also true for the Woman. The consequence of sin is death.

ii. The principle of Galatians 3:13 is established as we consider that Jesus bore each aspect of the curse upon Adam and Eve in its totality: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.- Sin brought pain to childbirth, and no one knew more pain than Jesus did when He, through His suffering, brought many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10)- Sin brought conflict, and Jesus endured great conflict to bring our salvation (Hebrews 12:3)- Thorns came with sin and the fall, and Jesus endured a crown of thorns to bring our salvation (John 19:2)- Sin brought sweat, and Jesus sweat, as it were, great drops of blood to win our salvation (Luke 22:44)- Sin brought sorrow, and Jesus became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, to save us (Isaiah 53:3)- Sin brought death, and Jesus tasted death for everyone that we might be saved (Hebrews 2:9)

For Christians, this section from Guzik’s notes is a picture of Christ overcoming the individual punishments and changes which were brought about by The Fall.

We are almost through the first three chapters. I have one more set of verses left to cover. At that point, I will then do a “Creation and the Fall” wrap-up post covering and summarizing the major topics we have looked at so far.

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