whoa man

November 8, 2016

Image result for picture of eve

The first two chapters of Genesis show that God granted man and woman a unique status and a unique responsibility. Rocks were made to roll and rivers to flow but they were slaves to gravity. Flowers would bloom and trees would grow because of inbuilt genetic codes. Lions would roam and seagulls would fly in accordance with divinely implanted instincts, but man and woman while subject to gravity and genetics and instincts were given the uniquely enriching and challenging capability of choice.

Man’s freedom to choose was not the freedom to choose of a Communist government where people can freely choose any of the one candidates! Man and woman had the whole of Eden to enjoy; they were to eat freely, in every sense, of the tree of life, but they were to leave the other tree severely alone on pain of death. This restriction was not restrictive. It was a gracious reminder that man was created to live in an environment of dependent obedience in the same way that albatrosses were created for air and whales for water.

Without preamble strange character enters this idyllic environment—”Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1). There are many things Genesis does not tell us about this creature, but there are two things we do know—one, that it was created by God and two, that it was subject to man. However, Scripture fills in some of the gaps in other places. For example, the aged apostle in exile wrote: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). We are led to believe, therefore, that the serpent was indeed a “cunning” (the Hebrew word can also mean “prudent”—see Proverbs where the word is used eight times, always in a positive sense) creature, but at the same time Satan was utilizing the serpent’s own natural brilliance for his own nefarious ends. We must note, however, that the Genesis narrative gives no indication of any tempter other than the serpent, does not mention Satan, and therefore gives no explanation of his existence or origin. Calvin suggests that Moses’ “homely and uncultivated style, accommodates what he delivers to the capacity of the people; and for the best reason; for not only had he to instruct an untaught race of men, but the existing age of the Church was so puerile, that it was unable to receive any higher instruction.”

  1. The serpent and the woman. The serpent approached the woman and said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?,'” to which she replied, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'” (Gen. 3:1-3). The Hebrew word used to introduce the serpent’s statement is difficult to translate. Luther said, “I cannot translate the Hebrew either in German or in Latin; the serpent uses the expression aphkı̂ as though to turn up his nose and jeer and scoff.” Some commentators see this approach as a questioning of God’s Word—”Has God said?” Others point more to a questioning of God’s goodness—”You don’t mean to tell me that God has deprived you, do you?” Either way there is a definite albeit subtle and disarming attack on the woman’s love for and loyalty to the God who made her. She responds in a commendable manner pointing out that far from being deprived by a spoilsport God, she and her man have been wonderfully provided for, and she gives no indication of any feeling of restriction or deprivation. It should be pointed out that there may be a little coloring in her response in that she does add some things that we have not heard God actually say! On the other hand this may indicate a less than adequate grasp of what God had told her man. The serpent’s response, “You will not surely die” (v. 4), flatly contradicts the word of the Lord. Some translators suggest the Hebrew allows for “You shall not die utterly” or “You shall not die immediately,” pointing out that while there is contradiction it was presented in a subtle and ambiguous manner. Evidently by this stage in the sad proceedings the woman was so well and truly hooked that the serpent threw subtlety and shrewdness to the wind and stated, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). Opinions differ as to whether the word ˒elōhı̂m should be translated “God” or “Gods” (see KJV) but the possibility of “knowing good and evil” independently of God was the draw.

The woman who by this time was captivated by the possibilities being presented to her turned to consider the tree in question. She “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, [so] she took of its fruit and ate” (v. 6). “Good, pleasant, and desirable” are the operative words used to describe what she saw. Physical food, aesthetic satisfaction, and moral and intellectual advancement were the things she saw hanging on the delicate branches. Eden being the place of delight had no quarrel with anything that the woman saw, no argument with what the tree offered, no problem with what she desired to have. For all these things had been created by God and given to mankind, yet were to be had and enjoyed only in the context of obedience and dependence. The serpent was offering freedom and fulfillment, delight and discovery, advancement and autonomy. God offered these too, except the autonomy. To offer man autonomy would have been to make him other than man was created to be. You can’t offer a bird free-floating flight without air, nor can you let a fish swim and swirl without surf. They, like man, have their God-appointed environments outside of which all are less than they were divinely appointed to be.

  1. The woman and the man. One of the most remarkable things about this story is the utterly passive and docile role which Adam plays. The woman had at least made an attempt to answer the serpent; she had given some indication of considering the issues. But all we hear about Adam is, “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (v. 6). Where he was during the serpent-woman confrontation we do not know, although John Milton suffered from no such uncertainty, stating unequivocally that he was “waiting desirous her return” and while waiting he “wove of choicest flours a garland to adorn her tresses.” Poets are allowed such freedom while we can only ponder their imaginative interpretations! If he was nearby his silence is inexplicable; if he was not near, his apparent immediate, unquestioning acquiescence to his wife’s suggestion is equally inexplicable.

In the same way there is no record of Adam having had any dealings at all with the serpent-Satan. All we know for sure is that he faced his wife and succumbed to her suggestion. Again Milton explains, “He scrupl’d not to eat against his better knowledge, not deceav’d but fondly overcome with Femal charm.” This may say a lot for the woman’s charms but it says little for man’s competence! Whatever the reasons for Adam’s transgression, the results were catastrophic: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (v. 7). The serpent, of course, had promised that their eyes would be opened and he was right about that, but he didn’t tell them the truth about what they would be opened to. The knowledge of good and evil, which they now acquired experimentally and experientially as opposed to academically, was that good is doing the will of God and evil is the converse. The problem for man then and ever since was that the Pandora’s box was open. There was no going back.

While the Genesis record of these momentous events is spare and lean, the New Testament amplifies them in detail. Paul states, “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men … by the one man’s offense many died … through one man’s offense judgment came to all men … by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:12-19). He then goes on to describe Adam as “a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:14) and in another Epistle he sharpens the contrast considerably when he states, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). For the New Testament writer the action of Adam in Eden was of such magnitude that it required nothing less than the activity of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, in Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection to remedy the ills and reconcile man to God. Well might Esdras, the intertestamental writer, ask with horror, “O Adam what hast thou done?”

  1. The man and woman and God. Some scholars have suggested that mankind was put on probation in Eden and that if they had passed the test they would have been introduced to a new standard of experience which would have delivered them from the necessity to confront tests like the one they had just failed. Others have theorized that mankind was in a kind of juvenile state and that the test they failed served only to teach them a lesson from which they emerged sadder and wiser! One advocate of this view said, “If ever there was a Fall it was a Fall upwards.” Jesus Christ would have rejected this view. Speaking on the subject of divorce He stated the original creation ideal of marriage and then added that Moses permitted divorce because of the “hardness of your heart.” This hardness of heart was a factor introduced into human experience after the creation and it was clearly not a beneficial factor. It was a product of what we commonly call the Fall although the term is never used in Scripture.

The consequences of their actions became apparent to man and woman as soon as they confronted the Lord. When they realized He was coming to meet with them they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This exercise in futility has been re-enacted by mankind ever since and will still be attempted by many at the end of the ages. In response to the Lord’s inquiry as to their whereabouts Adam replied, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (v. 10). Their pathetic attempts to hide their newly discovered nakedness spoke of their sense of guilt and shame as clearly as their hiding in the bushes admitted to their state of fear. In one brief, swift action three of mankind’s perennial problems, shame, and fear—had been introduced into what had been a place of delight and peace. These things which plague all relationships, however, were first experienced in the relationship between God and man and still need to be recognized as problems with a spiritual foundation, which accordingly, among other things, require a spiritual solution.

The fact that nakedness and fig leaves were so much a part of the shame felt by fallen mankind has led many to suppose that the original sin was in some way sexual. In fact, some older commentators seem to suggest that the forbidden fruit was sex although it is hard to see how they could make that position fit into God’s clearly stated objective that mankind should be fruitful and multiply. It would be extremely difficult for them to obey that command without resorting to their sexuality! It might be safer to view the covering of their nakedness as an attempt to hide from each other the fact that they were made differently and it was God who had made them that way. In this sense they could not look at each other without being reminded of God. As their desire was to be like God (or Gods), any reminder of the true God would be an embarrassment. So they did what mankind has done ever since when confronted with embarrassing reality—they covered up! Their sexuality also showed they were made for each other but being like God suggested to them an independence of everything including each other. Better to cover up the reminders of that, too!

Perhaps Adam and Eve were suddenly aware of the awful truth that having declared themselves independent of God they were now totally dependent on themselves and a new sense of inadequacy overtook them. They were aware for the first time that all they could count on was wrapped up in themselves and having rejected their spiritual dimension they were left only with the physical. Their bodies were suddenly all that they had and they were stricken with a sense of inadequacy and impotence. In the poverty of their independent ability the best they could do was to try and patch things up with fig leaves and in so doing they showed that the path to freedom which they had chosen had led to a pit of bondage from which they could not escape and they were ashamed. All that was left for them was to try pathetically to hide from themselves and each other what they had done.

Further questioning by the Lord elicited a reluctant, self-serving admission from Adam that he had indeed eaten from the tree but he was quick to explain, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (v. 12). Man was showing God that while his conscience might be pricking him, his wits had not deserted him. They were as sharp as his conscience was sore. “If You hadn’t given her to me and if she hadn’t eaten first I would never have partaken myself,” appeared to be the thrust of his answer leading to the unspoken suggestion that he was not really all that culpable after all! Similar but more sophisticated views are in vogue today. One line of reasoning goes something like this: “Sure I do things that are wrong, but that’s what I’m like and that’s how I’m made. I was presented with a packet of genes that made me the way I am, so I can hardly be held responsible for what I do.” Those who reason like this are called “naturists.” Another line of thinking suggests, “The family into which I was born lived in an area that was the pits. The kids I ran around with were a bunch of hoodlums. To survive I had to go along with what they were doing. So don’t try to make me feel guilty about the life I lived because I didn’t have any options.” The ones who think like that are called “nurturists.” It would be futile to tell Adam that God did not give him the woman or that the woman did not give him the apple. Clearly he was right on both scores. Similarly it would be unwise to suggest that nature and nurture do not play a part in our development as persons. But when men and women stand before God, as did Adam, they will be asked to account for their actions on the basis of their human responsibility, whatever the contributory or extenuating circumstances might be.

The woman’s response to God’s question was short and to the point, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v. 13). She did not say, “The serpent whom You created deceived poor little old me and I ate.” There was no prevarication, no excuses, but sad to say there was apparently no remorse either. The woman’s deception explanation was utilized by the apostle Paul when, writing to Timothy, he denied women the privilege of teaching and exercising authority over men and gave as his explanation, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Some commentators interpret Paul’s statement to mean that the woman was easily deceived, that women are more easily deceived than men, and therefore men should handle the teaching and the leading in the church. Others take issue with this interpretation and point out that the woman’s deception is related to her coming on the scene after Adam, which meant that she did not hear God’s Word firsthand and therefore being much less informed than he, she was more readily deceived. The women in the Ephesian church about whom Paul wrote to Timothy were like Eve in this regard. They had certainly not had the opportunities afforded to the men and were therefore less qualified. If they were engaging in authoritative teaching, as has been suggested, they were probably speaking with formidable authority from the depth of their ignorance and we all know how destructive that can be. The resultant error and confusion was of major concern to Paul and Timothy, and therefore they advocated the denial of teaching opportunities to the women in order to get the church back on track.

While there is no agreement on this issue in the church it should not be hard to reach agreement that this passage does not teach that because woman was deceived all women are stupid and inferior any more than it teaches that because Adam was not deceived all men are smart and superior. That being the case, great care should be taken in all aspects of male-female relationships to show proper regard and respect for each other and to avoid all stereotypes which would tend to elevate men to a superior status over women for no other reason than they are men while relegating women to an inferior status for no other reason than they are women. For example, I have been called into marital counseling situations where the husband is abusing the wife sometimes physically but more often verbally and perhaps even insidiously through disparaging attitudes and remarks. Quite often the man excuses his behavior because of some ill-defined sense of superiority which he cannot explain but for which he finds some degree of misplaced justification in what Eve did to Adam and what Paul apparently thought about Eve!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

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