Tag Archives: sin

Thorns and Thistles

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 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.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

Because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had said he was to not eat from, sustaining his life and the lives of his family by growing food would now become difficult and even painful. God cursed the ground, not Adam. This is a serious consequence for everyone who comes after Adam.

God had already told the man the ultimate consequence of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree would be death. Not just physical death but spiritual separation from that which sustains life. The man would be separated from God. When God cursed the ground His declaration was on top of the absolute justified sentence of death and separation. Yet, by not cursing the man, and all men, God leaves open a way for reconciliation, just as He did with the woman’s sentence. The consequence of her rebellion was pain in childbirth, with sorrow in raising children, with the knowledge that a child would come who would crush the head of the serpent. God, while holding them accountable for their rebellion, takes upon Himself the ultimate consequences of their actions.

When Adam prepares the ground to plant, then plants the seed so a crop will grow, thorns and thistles, weeds, will also grow. A weed is a plant growing where it is not supposed to grow. If Adam plants wheat and flowers grow among the crop, the flowers are weeds, taking up soil and nutrients meant for food. God says that “thorns and thistles” will grow where Adam wants food to grow. There will always be weeds, making Adam’s job more difficult. He will have to constantly pull the weeds so his crop will continue to grow.

Thorns and thistles are a constant reminder of the rebellion of Adam and the presence of sin. Adam will wage a constant war against sin as he works to sustain his life. So, too, all who follow, as they work will have to wage a uncompromising war against sin, while sin is waging an unrelenting war against them. The weeds want to take over the crops just as sin controls every thought, motive, action and consequence and wants to take over the life.

Work, to keep the thorns and thistles at bay, becomes hard. Adam will sweat as he works to get food for himself and his family. Perspiration is not evil. Avoiding perspiration by avoiding work, is rebellion. Is it not the intent of everyone who works to come to a time in life where they no longer have to put an abundance of effort into sustaining life? Those who do not have the discipline of work will not have the discipline to wage war against the sin which continually assaults.

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Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

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; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “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’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.

Just Sentence

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

God’s just sentence for the woman is two-fold, with both parts having two elements. In the first part the woman will have pain and sorrow in childbirth followed by pain, sorrow and hardship in parenting children. Even though Jesus speaks to the joy of having children (see John 16:20-22), because of our fallen nature there will always be pain and suffering intermixed with the joy.

Next, God makes a statement that has been misinterpreted and misused by men to enslave woman, making them lower than, and certainly not equal to, the gender man. God does not state woman are inferior nor does He demand they be submissive to men.

There are three words we need to know, spoken within the context of the first rebellion against God, in order to begin to comprehend God’s sentence. They are “desire” “contrary to” and “rule.”

Desire means to long for. The word is used only three times. Once here and then in Genesis 4 when God tells Cain that sin desires him. “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Desire mean craving, as a beast craving to violently devour. Finally, the word is used in Song of Solomon. “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10 ESV). The beloved has the strongest emotion for the object of His desire. He wants to consumer her to the place of making her a part of Himself. This desire of the Beloved for the Loved is consistent with Jesus’ eternal desire for those who are His.

“Contrary” is simply the word “to” but is translated “contrary to.” This word can mean the motion of moving toward or against, but is not necessarily physical movement. Moving toward someone suggests coming to agree with them while moving against someone suggests aggressive intent. It can also mean simply in addition, in regard to or reference to, according. Taken within the context of the woman’s first interaction with the serpent, the Deceiver, and her reasoning to disobey God, the word suggests that because of sin and rebellion the woman will strive against the thinking of her husband. There will be intimate movement toward and a striving against as part of the sentence of God.

Finally, God uses the word rule. This word is translated dominion but is not the same word used for Man’s dominion over God’s creation. It is the same word God uses when He creates the sun and the moon and places them to “rule over the day and over the night” (Genesis 1:18 ESV). When God says “he will rule over you” God is saying the husband will hover over, as in to provide for, the wife. This word does not give any man despotic control over any or every woman, but fits the actions committed by the woman. God initially spoke to the man about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the woman. We know the man spoke to the woman about God’s prohibition because of her words to the serpent. Still, it was the woman who first ate the fruit and then gave it to the man, and he ate. She was the one who first violated God’s directive but it is the man who is being held completely responsible for the act of rebellion. She should have followed his directive just as he should have followed God’s.

God’s just sentence for the woman does not just apply to the first woman but to all women. All women have pain in childbirth and sorrow and joy in raising children. All married women, because of sin, tug and pull against their husbands in an effort to control. Unmarried women also strive against men, because of sin.

Enmity

Studies in Genesis 3

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

Does God create hatred and loathing? Is hatred part of His eternal character?

When God stated that He placed enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, or the serpent, He is speaking about a level of hatred that moves beyond simple displeasure. This hatred and loathing is the deepest and longest lasting antagonism coupled with a desire to destroy and annihilate. The woman wants the Deceiver destroyed. The Deceiver want anything and everything God has done corrupted, unusable and taken away from HimimH.

There is an eternal difference between the “hatred” of God and that of His creatures who have rebelled against Him. God’s hatred is against sin. Scripture is replete with instances of God declaring His hatred and loathing for sin and for those who refuse to repent, who actively and purposefully rebel against Him, and who promote sin in others.

If a man does not repent,
God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:12-14 ESV)

In the Gospels Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders by saying they are related to the Deceiver, telling them their father is the Devil. It, the Deceiver or the Devil, slanders man to God and God to man. It, the Devil, is both a murderer and a liar. Those to whom Jesus is speaking do the exact things done by the Deceiver.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)

God is not the author of sin. He did not decide to corrupt the heavens and the earth He created. Nor, was His objective that Man rebel against Him when He created Man in His image. Yet, He did foresee from the beginning the reality of sin in His creation. There was darkness on the first day of creation (see Genesis 1:1-5) and then God created light, and separated the darkness from the light. From the beginning, God separates darkness from light whether in the spiritual realm or the physical. If I am correct in my thinking that God created the physical realm with representative characteristics of the spiritual then from the beginning God’s plan and decree was to swallow darkness with light.

When God declared enmity, hatred and loathing between the woman and the Deceiver, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Deceiver, He announced the outcome of the conflict between those who love and those who hate Him. God is completely and ultimately in control.

Judgment

Studies in Genesis 3

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

What does God mean when He uses the word “cursed”? To curse carries several implications. First, it is a judgment against someone who has violated an expectation or command. God cursed the serpent when He sentenced the Deceiver for tempting and enticing the woman to rebel. God’s curse is the sentence.

We know the curse, the judgment and sentence given to the serpent, was to crawl on its belly and eat dust.  If I am correct that there are physical representations of spiritual realities, then the curse of the serpent is a physical reminder of the judgment and sentence of that which inhabited the serpent. Serpents have not evolved out of their condition. God has not changed them. They have not sprouted legs or grown wings and feathers. God is in control and continually sends messages to those made in His image that His decree and judgment will not change because of circumstance.

The serpent could not repent. It is a beast created by God to fulfill its designated place in the order of the creation. Neither it nor the Deceiver when created were given the image of God. Man was given the image of God and made for intimate relationship with Him. God determined to make a way for Man to be reconciled to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. His judgment against the Deceiver points to this future event and reconciliation.

God turns, in a manner of speaking, from judging and sentencing the serpent, to judging and sentencing the Deceiver. Part of that judgment is the curse, the judgment and sentence, of enmity between the woman and the serpent. God puts enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, and between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the Deceiver. Enmity means hatred. To put means to appoint and fix, to take a stand. God appointed a hatred between the woman and the serpent. This can be understood both immediately and in the future. Immediately, the woman loathed the serpent, and serpents in general. To see a serpent is a reminder of the lie of the Deceiver speaking though the snake. Is it fair to suggest this loathing has continued through the ages? Most women fear and loath snakes?

Hatred is a natural condition of the Deceiver. It hates God and everything created by God. It wants to destroy, compromise and corrupt everything God does. Contained in this curse, in the sentence against the Deceiver, is the ultimate prophecy of how God will execute judgment. When God declares how He will executes judgment, there is the hint of the means of reconciliation between God and, the now fallen away from God, Man.

Judgment

Studies in Genesis 3

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:14 ESV)

God immediately pronounces judgment and sentence upon the serpent. Yet, the serpent is only an animal, a creature of the earth. We do not know what the serpent looked like before the rebellion of the man and woman. God’s sentence suggests the serpent changed, its appearance becoming different. Perhaps it had legs and God took away those legs as part of the sentence. Making such an assumption is beyond the truths taught in Scripture.

When God pronounced judgment and sentence without questioning the serpent, and the Deceiver inhabiting the serpent, the implication was He already knew the Deceiver’s motive and personality. The Deceiver was created by God a spiritual being and had already rebelled against Him. God allowed it to tempt the man and woman as a test. It, the Deceiver, did not have the image of God, and therefore, did not have an intimate relationship with God. Still, the actions of the Deceiver in lying to the woman suggest prior rebellion against and hatred of God.

Scripture is filled with “types” or physical representations of spiritual realities. One example is relationship between the man and woman, a husband and wife, showing the mystical intimacy of the relationship between people and God. Another example is the relationship between parents and children. Children are subject to their parents just as people are subject to God. In the middle of the garden was the tree of Life. Jesus Christ is viewed as the tree of Life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood brings life to those condemned to death because of sin (see John 6:53-58). This last example fills libraries.

God pronounces judgment and sentence upon the serpent. The serpent is a physical representative of a spiritual being. There is no evidence to suggest God created the serpent one way and then changed its physical appearance. Because of God’s omniscience, He knew (we have no evidence to suggest otherwise) the created serpent, in its current physical appearance, would be used by the Deceiver and consequently judged and sentenced by Him.

God’s judgment and sentence is toward the Deceiver, who inhabited the serpent in its quest to subvert and compromise God’s creation. It was the intent of the Deceiver to corrupt those created in the image of God. The temptation of the Deceiver against those created in God’s image, was focused upon God, and was the first shot in a war of rebellion. The Deceiver is fighting against God and those who are His in an all-out effort to destroy whatever it can with no hope or expectation of winning the war.

“And I ate”

Studies in Genesis 3

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13 ESV)

Like the man, the woman’s response to God’s interrogation was partially, but not completely honest. She responded with two honest statements. First, she truthfully said “the serpent deceived me.” Some translations use the word “beguiled.” The Deceiver, in the guise of a serpent, lied to her and she listened, believing the lie. She was told that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have specific results beyond simple nourishment. Eating the fruit would give her hidden knowledge and make her like God, which means, equal to God.

To beguile means to lure, charm, captivate, mesmerize, enthrall. She was lured into believing the lie by a beast created by God because of her own thought process and desires. She was enthralled, which means to enslave, by the possibility of being something she was not. She was mesmerized by the superstition that some physical piece of fruit, when eaten, would make her more than what God had already made her. She wanted to eat the fruit and the lie presented an excuse for her to disobey.

Secondly, she admitted straight up that she ate the fruit. There was no waffling or hesitation. “And I ate.” She is using the same words used by the man, who also said “and I ate.” Perhaps their straightforward answers to God’s interrogation was an adequate response to His questioning. However, when God walked in the garden both the man and the woman hid from Him. His calling them and questioning of them showed they had been caught. There was remorse for being caught but no repentance for the act of rebellion. Or, was there remorse?

Both the man and the woman were created in the image of God for relationship with Him. Before their rebellion their relationship with God and each other was wholesome and complete. There was no reason for them to lie to God, nor disobey His direction. They easily could have brought their questions to Him without fear of ridicule or being ignored. We cannot assume the broken and strained relationships we currently have is indicative of their relationship with God or each other. There was no sin up to this point. We cannot conceive living without sin dogging our every thought, motive and action. Up to this point they had a healthy relationship free from sin.

Both of their responses to God show no acceptance of what they had done and no repentance. They admitted “I ate” but they did not admit I disobeyed.

What she didn’t say was “I decided to eat because I believed You were keeping something from me which I deserved, needed, wanted and had to have.” Is the expectation of such a response too much to demand from those created in His image?