​#7 — Falling Isn’t Free

BEFORE WE BEGIN: I want to remind all of us as we read that one post is not the total sum of where we are headed. It is just one post. Please remember as you read that we are headed in a direction, so let that post speak only for that small section of scripture.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

When we left off, the snake had gone to the woman and tweaked her desire to be a good leader in order to get her to eat the fruit. And Adam went right along with her. All of a sudden, the second voice enters the story in Genesis 3 and everything changes — and not for the better.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

 The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

We begin this section with a harsh reality — as soon as we listen to any voice other than God’s, separation beings to occur.

Remember our themes from what we have covered so far: God is not angry. Conflict did not begin the world. Moses has been redeeming creation stories from other cultures in order to demonstrate God as a loving and relational God — not one who takes, but one who provides. And He provides everything we need to succeed. All we need to do is trust Him and how He wants us to conduct ourselves in His created world.

And He created companionship for us to be able to enjoy this amazing world and our role in it.

A simple axiom might help us to understand this. If God created relationship to help us enjoy this world and our role in it, then working against God’s created order should create the opposite of relationship.

And that is just what happened. We move from “naked and unashamed” to the blame game very quickly. And no one seems to want to own that they listened to the second voice.

It is interesting that everything Adam and the woman (she still doesn’t have a name, and that matters) say about the situation is true. Much like the snake, there aren’t any out-and-out lies here. But as the old saying goes, “The worst untruth is the truth moderately distorted.”

This is much like marriage. We can spend so much time talking all about the things the other person is doing wrong. And we will both be 100% correct. And nothing changes because we do not own our personal responsibility.

In the stories we tell ourselves, we are always the heroes, and others are always villains. We are helpless victims of another person’s carelessness. And in approaching things this way, we are able to demand that others own the way they wronged us without any commitment to our own part. While I love this way of seeing the world (and I am exceptionally good at it), it is not an effective means of restoring what is broken when we listen to the second voice.

The good news is that this is not a new problem. Apparently, it is as old as people existing on the earth. So at least I am not alone.

Once God gets past the pleasantries, He begins to hand out consequences to all those involved. We call this by many names: The Curse, The Fall, etc. I want to be clear about a couple of things here that are important to note. First, don’t forget where we came from with this. God isn’t nice until they blow it and then He gets really mad and disappointed. God is not surprised. This didn’t catch Him off guard. And He is not all of the sudden angry.

Second, Adam and the woman are not cursed. And that matters A LOT. If we are not careful, we can begin to assume there are results of this event that simply are not true. For example, spirit equals good and physical equals bad. Let me explain:

During the development of the Greek civilization, philosophy became a huge piece of their worldview. Socrates, Plato, and then Aristotle became foundational thinkers during this time, and with a man by the name of Alexander the Great, their ideas and writings became central to the western world even to this day.

For a fuller explanation of this, there is a great book called How the Church Lost the Way and How It Can Find It Again by Steve Maltz.

There’s one part that I find particularly important to our discussion: Plato — a great mind — came up with an idea that has changed us in ways you may find disturbing. His great contribution to our world is the idea of “the cave.”

The idea is that all of mankind lives in a dark cave, and therefore all we see and experience in the physical world is a dim reflection of something much better and more profound.

He goes on to say there are a few who have found the entrance to the cave and have worked their way out into the daylight. He called them the Greek philosophers. This idea led to a conclusion he called the dualism of man. That which is physical is evil, and all things spiritual are good.

Physical bad, spiritual good. For most western Christians, we will happily buy into this idea because we think we see it all over the Bible. But we don’t. It isn’t there. And this is NOT what the biblical writers are talking about with the “flesh” — or, as the western theologians translate it, the sinful nature. You can see plainly that the idea of reframing the word “flesh” in the New Testament into the idea of a “sinful nature” is not rooted in the Text. It is rooted in Greek philosophy. It is rooted in Plato. It is not biblical. And this has a crazy amount of implications that are very far reaching.

Again, this is a blog, not a book. Fully building this case is just not possible. But I encourage you to read the book referenced above. It may change your life.

Back to the story.

God isn’t mad at Adam and the woman. But as we continue in Genesis 3, we are going to see there are some crazy consequences that come as a result of this choice to listen to the second voice and eat the fruit.

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And 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.”

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

So let’s pull this apart a bit and consider what is going on here. First, the snake is cursed. And there is “enmity” put between the snake and his offspring and the woman and her offspring.

Why?

One simple explanation is that this will prevent an occurrence like this from ever happening again. There is no chance of the woman ever listening to the snake again and that matters because of the snake’s conniving desire to take her place in creation. He wanted to be the boss, but because the snake is not man, he does not have the capacity to lay down his own passions and desires in order to properly steward that which he would lead. He is not an image bearer of God.

Maybe there is a better explanation, but this works for me.

Now to the meat of what I want to talk about.

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
 

Odd. Very odd on the surface. And I think that if we are not careful, we simply begin to read over these oddities without wrestling. We decide it won’t ever make sense, so we stop trying.

Oddity #1 — She eats the fruit and all of a sudden it hurts to give birth. How is that connected?

Oddity #2 — You are going to want your husband. How is that a consequence of eating fruit?

Oddity #3 — Today only! Eat fruit, become a peasant, and get ruled! What?

Let’s take a look at these and see what we can learn.

First, the word translated “pain” does not mean pain. The word is etseb (pronounced aht’sav). It means sorrow, labor, or toil. It is the idea that you will have to produce a great effort with many tears.

The idea that God is communicating here is not that because she ate bad fruit, it hurts to have babies. The idea is that in whatever He is going to give her next, there is going to be many tears and long, hard effort.

Second, the word translated “childbearing” doesn’t mean childbearing. The word is herown. It literally means conception. However, it is also attached to childrearing. It is never attached to childbirth except for when it was translated here in Genesis 3, which should lead us to the conclusion that it is incorrectly translated here.

Perhaps a better rendering of the verses here would read, “I will greatly increase your sorrowful toil in the raising of your children.” Tell me that isn’t a great definition of parenting.

By the way, there is a great connection to the idea of conception, as well, but that is in Genesis 4.

Third, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The word translated “desire” here is the Hebrew word teshuwqua. It is translated correctly, but we are missing the nuance because the English word doesn’t carry it.

This word for desire is used two other times in scripture — once in Genesis 4 and once in Song of Solomon. The desire we are speaking of here is not a positive thing.

In Genesis 4, God tells Cain that sin is crouching at his door and its desire is for him. Same word. This desire is not a longing or wanting like we might hope for. It is a negative, controlling desire, or an intense desire to dominate.

But he will rule over you.

Ouch!

Where is that coming from? Remember how she was the leader? Here is the big haymaker of God’s consequences to the woman (she still doesn’t have a name — and yes, that still matters). He says, “I am not going to change how I made you. You are still going to want to lead. You are still going to long to control and make all the rules. But you can’t anymore. Because you didn’t steward the position of leadership well, you will be given the position of being led.”

Why would God do that? It seems a little harsh. We will get there. And please hear me when I say all the building of this case matters. How we get to the conclusion we reach is just as important as the conclusion itself.

Next, the man.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Oh, the tension in this passage. God Himself instructed Adam about the tree. And Adam chose to listen to the woman. It is as if Adam said to God that he would rather do what another human says to do than listen to God.

Does anyone reading this know exactly where Adam is coming from?

Then the ground is cursed. Work was always a part of stewarding the garden. It was always a part of the life of Adam. But now, the earth will work against Adam. Before, even for the earth, there was no second voice. Everything worked in harmony together according to God’s command.

Now the ground has its own agenda. Maybe this is a small reflection of how God feels about Adam choosing the second voice, as well. And maybe work as an act of worship is now also about reminding us of the reality of God working with people who would rather do their own thing.

Adam knows that if the ground would just cooperate with him, it would produce and sustain and look beautiful. But it has its own mind now: thorns, thistles, and obstinacy — just like Adam in his relationship with God.

God knows that if Adam would just cooperate with Him, Adam would produce and sustain and be a beautiful representation of what God made him to be. But Adam has a mind of his own now: thorns, thistles, and obstinacy — rebellion.

Maybe these consequences aren’t so weird after all. Maybe they are actually connected to the act of eating the fruit and how it violated the very created purpose of Adam and the woman. Maybe what God is up to isn’t just a matter of sitting up in heaven, shaking His head, and wondering what to do with these people, saying, “Oh, I guess I’ll make it hurt when you give birth.” Maybe this is a targeted decision by God to remind Adam and the woman that they must steward their position in creation well. And God is going to make sure to put them in a position to do it. (There will be more on that before we end this time together.)

So Adam is put in charge and is now ruling over the woman. Remember Adam’s first act as “ruler” of the garden? He names the animals. And what does that mean? He is describing their character and taking authority over them.

Guess what Adam’s first responsibility is as the new leader in the relationship.

He names the woman Chavvah.

He is doing two things: describing character and taking authority. The authority thing is obvious. For the first time in the story, he has the right to take authority over her. But here is a twist we don’t often think about: How does Adam describe the character of his beautiful bride?

In Hebrew, there are no vowels. Vowel markings are added based on context. We have groups of consonants that are together, and with each different set of vowel markings they become different words altogether. Those groups of consonants are called “word trees.” Every word made out of a word tree is connected in some way. Our task is to find out how.

Example: the word for man, pointed, and worshipper are all on the same word tree. They are connected. The word for woman, perforated, and rememberer are also on the same word tree. They are connected. This matters.

Nahum Sarna points out a very important detail here: Chavvah is on the same word tree as snake.

Think about it.

Adam’s first act as leader is to take authority and describe her character. And as an image bearer of God who has the capacity to lay down his own interests for the good of that which he stewards, he gives her a name that will remind her of her worst day every time someone speaks it.

Real slick, Adam. That choice is not going to help him lead well. And the results of that decision are going to be the problem of Genesis 4.

Maybe the foundational way for us to steward well the creation God has given us to enjoy is to develop the capacity to forgive.

All of this seems to make sense to me except for one part. Why reverse the role of leader and follower?

The answer is found in two themes we have visited over and over again so far in this series. First, “naked and unashamed.” Second, “no second voice.”

In order for each partner to fully embrace the one voice of God in the proper functioning of their lives, separate and together, and in order for them both to properly fulfill their roles in creation management, they both must be forced to give up their own voice.

So God, in His infinite wisdom, puts them both in roles in the relationship that force them to lay aside their own desires in order to do that which is required of them in the proper stewarding of creation.

Adam must lay aside his desire to go out and take on the world in order to take care of his wife and family. Chavvah must lay aside her desire for control and leadership in order to support Adam and his role in the world.

They are forced into positions that make them lay aside their own agendas for the good of those they are in relationship with. This is the only way for us to get back to the one voice. It is the only way to restore “naked and unashamed.”

Anytime that we press our own agenda — our own voice — we risk interrupting the proper ordering of creation. The key to restoring what sin broke in creation is our being able to lay aside our agendas and desires for the good of that which we steward and those we love.

But isn’t that how we were created in the first place?

The Apostle Paul will appeal to relational order in the church and homes and marriages in the New Testament. There has been a debate for years about what we should do with these statements. Is it cultural? Does Paul hate women? Is there some religious significance to it all?

Paul’s appeal is to the story of creation. His reasoning always comes back to creation. And for anybody reading his letters, it should immediately throw us deeply into this story of creation and how we wound up here from the beginning.

My stance on roles in the home and in the church is what most would call conservative. But I want to end on this note: How we get to where we stand is as important as where we stand.

May we reflect on the incredible gift and value of women as the ezer kenegdo, the one created with God’s amazing insight and fortitude. May we see both genders as incredibly valuable and precious, not primarily created to fit into hierarchy, but primarily created to fit into creation and to manage the world properly. May we value the opposite gender as we wrestle with how to play this out in our lives. And may we see that God’s consequences are neither random nor out of anger. They are always about restoring what is broken.

Questions for this session:

  1. What makes these consequences appropriate for the actions of Adam and Eve?
  2. What is God up to in this conversation with Adam and Eve? What is the tone in His voice?
  3. How does it change you to value your spouse and his or her created design rather than resent it?
  4. How can you show your spouse you value what he or she is, rather than resenting what he or she is not?

Question for next time:

What is the consequence of Adam not forgiving Eve?