Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 3:20-22

Genesis 3:20-22

20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
(NET Bible)

Cleaning Up the Disaster

A big issue for every one of us is how God will treat us when we rebel against him. And, of course, we all have done so both before and after trusting in Jesus Christ.

Would God have been justified in handing out sudden death? In addition to inflicting consequences for sin, what about divine grace and care? Does God offer further opportunity to fulfill his purposes for humanity or just a life of misery until death?

In the previous post we ended with Genesis 3:17-19 concerning Adams punishment for listening to his wife. Genesis 3:20 is about Adam naming Eve, and this is followed by God making garments of skin for the two (Gen. 3:21). One major question about Genesis 3:20 is how it fits the argument of the preceding and following verses. The probable answer appears to be that after God has declared judgment, a portion of humanitys purpose still lies before the man and woman. Hamilton says, In spite of mans sin and disobedience, Gods original command to man to multiply and be fruitful is not withdrawn.[1] To protect them during this remaining task, the man and woman need protective garments.

In the wreckage caused by sin, a life remains to be lived, difficult though it will be. Adam names his wife Eve, a name derived from an ancient Hebrew form of the verb to live. This appears to be a hopeful act.

Before implementing his declared judgments, the Lord graciously deals with the needs of the man and his wife (Gen. 3:21). They had no clue of the harsh conditions outside the garden and no knowledge of how to prepare for them. Hamilton says: Adam and Eve are in need of a salvation that comes from without. God needs to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves. It is important for understanding the drift of this chapter that we note that the clothing precedes the expulsion from the garden. . . . It is probably reading too much into this verse to see in the coats of skin a hint of the use of animals and blood in the sacrificial system of the OT.[2] We consider a hint to be exactly what the text offers, but not more.

Translation of Gen. 3:22 brings out the issue of how best to understand this verse. Gordon Wenham says, The sentence ends in mid-air, leaving the listener to supply the rest of Gods thoughts, e.g., Let me expel him from the garden.[3]

We have previously considered the identity of us (see Genesis 1:26) in the clause the man has become like one of us (Gen. 3:22). Wenham says one of us refers to the heavenly beings, including God and the angels.[4]

Since the man and woman have disobeyed God and have experienced good and evil, what is the risk that now concerns God? Hamilton summarizes: Taken by itself the wording of v. 22 could suggest the man has not yet eaten of the tree of life. How else is one to explain the use of also . . . in the verse?[5]

Will the man eat from the tree of life and live forever as a ruined creation? It is possible the man was already thinking of doing just that. God had something much better in mind! Paul tells us, So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away look, what is new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17). Gods solution was not to make the best of a bad situation; instead, he provides for a new creation in Christ.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 206-207.

[2] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 207.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 85.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 85.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 209.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:11–13

Genesis 3:11–13
11 And the LORD God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.”  13 So the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
(NET Bible)

Interrogation

We all have played the blame game. It seems so much easier than actually taking responsibility! We may laugh to see children do it, but some people never grow out of it.

How well does the blame game work out when the other party knows the truth? If in the end the blame game does not work in our favor, why do we keep playing? What is the alternative?

The sense of “who told you” is actually “who informed you,” because we are informed of what we previously did not know. Hamilton lists the alternatives: “Was it the serpent who told you? Was it the woman who told you? Was it your own eyes that told you?”[1] The last option can only mean one thing: the man has gained knowledge of good and evil, and there was just one way to do that.

The man is cornered! God then gives him an immediate opportunity to confess. His second question goes straight to the point like an arrow: “The tree that I commanded you not to eat from it—did you eat?” (my rough translation of Genesis 3:11b). This translation preserves the original word order and shows that God places immediate stress on the one forbidden tree. The NET Bible Notes say: “The Hebrew word order . . . is arranged to emphasize that the man’s and the woman’s eating of the fruit was an act of disobedience.”[2]

Genesis 3:12 is amazing for a direct confession, because it blames others including even God! Hamilton says: “Through rationalization the criminal becomes the victim, and it is God and the woman who emerge as the real instigators in this scenario. Adam plays up their contribution in his demise and downplays his own part.”[3] This is the blame game in its full-blown form. No repentance is offered.

What does the blame game accomplish? Wenham says, “Here the divisive effects of sin, setting man against his dearest companion (cf. 2:23) and his all-caring creator, are splendidly portrayed.”[4] The blame game is great for generating alienation in the worst spots—crucial relationships.

The interrogation of the woman is more brief but reaches no happier result (Gen. 3:13). She at least does not blame God or her mate, but she does blame the serpent. Once again, no repentance is offered. The crux of her downfall is described by the word “tricked.” This verb is often associated with excessive self-confidence (sometimes based on seemingly-safe physical security) or wishful thinking. Perhaps the woman thought she could handle the encounter with the wily serpent and she entertained the promised rewards without counting the cost. Her answer is pathetic.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 193.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Gen. 3:11.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 194.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 77.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 2:15-17

Genesis 2:15-17

15 The LORD God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 16 Then the LORD God commanded the man, You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.
(NET Bible)

Almost all permitted

In todays lesson we will see that God did not put us here for our own entertainment. Humanity did not originate as a totally free entity. No, we had responsibilities then, and we still do. What leads us to deny our responsibilities or to resist them? Who has the right to assign responsibilities? Who will enforce those responsibilities?

Can you believe it? The Garden of Eden needed care! When it finally sinks in that even paradise was not designed to be free of responsibility and work, we are beginning to move from fantasy to reality. Is it possible that a life without responsibility is meaningless — even ruinous?

The NET Bible is in good company in saying the man was responsible to care for it and maintain it. This translation suggests that care for and maintain are essentially synonyms; such parallelism often occurs in poetic Hebrew.

Indeed, the verb for care for (Hebrew abad) occurs with great regularity in the Old Testament with the meanings toil . . . work . . . serve.[1] That is sufficiently general to encompass just about any specific task that one would do in a garden. NETs care for is reasonable. Wenham observes, It should be noted that even before the fall man was expected to work; paradise was not a life of leisured unemployment.[2]

The second verb (English maintain), however, is another story altogether. Consider the Word Study.

Word study (watch over, protect)

The Hebrew verb shamar, translated by NET as to maintain it in Genesis 2:15, means: keep, watch over . . . take care of, preserve, protect.[3] Derived nouns include watchman, guard, and even prison. In other words, the word has strong security overtones.

Hamilton says: The same [Hebrew] root is used in the next chapter to describe the cherubs [angels] who are on guard to prevent access to the tree of life in the garden (Gen. 3:24). The garden is something to be protected more than something to be possessed.[4] He also points out that the poetic synonym of shamar is always natsar, which means keep watch, watch over.

It is instructive to note that the first use of shamar at Genesis 2:15 means to protect the garden and the last use at Genesis 41:35 involves Joseph arranging protection for the grain storage the Egyptians will use to survive the great famine. Such literary parallelism is usually intentional. To anyone who wonders why mans exact responsibilities make so much difference, stay tuned for the answer in Genesis 3.

A general rule followed by an exception!

Genesis 2:16-17 provide both a lesson in biblical interpretation and present Gods standing orders for the first man (who presumably told his wife). First we have the lesson in biblical interpretation.

Note carefully that in Genesis 2:16 the man is allowed to eat fruit from every tree of the orchard. That seems comprehensive, does it not? And we have already been told that the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stand in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9). So, we conclude that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is allowed — right? Wrong!

Why is the interpretation wrong? Because we have not read the context. Genesis 2:17 expresses the exception to the general rule: . . . but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What we have here is a set literary form: the general rule is given first and the exceptions (if any) are then presented. We would have worded things a bit differently in contemporary English, but we must allow ancient people to have their own ways of saying things!

This very same pattern (General Rule – Exception) will recur in Genesis 6:5-9. First we have the general observation that all of humanity is only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). As a result God resolves to destroy all humanity (Gen. 6:6-7). We do not find the exception to the rule until we are told of righteous Noah in Genesis 6:8-9. So, always read a verse in its context.

The exception is backed by a somber warning: for when you eat from it you will surely die (Gen. 2:17b). This is the first mention of death in the Bible. Hamilton argues convincingly, that the phrase means he shall die (at Gods hands).[5] Though Adam and Eve did not die immediately after breaking the command, perhaps by Gods grace, in time they were separated from the realm of the living. Worse, their children suffered the same consequence. Worst of all, they were separated from the giver of life and could no longer walk with God in the garden.

That is where you and I come in, because death and alienation have penetrated throughout humanity (Romans 5:12). Only through what Jesus did on our behalf at the cross did we gain the opportunity to regain life and peace with God (Romans 5:1, 5:8-21).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), Translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) abad, work, q.v.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 67.

[3] HALOT, shamar, protect, q.v.

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 170.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 173.