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 Adam’s 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 humanity’s purpose still lies before the man and woman. Hamilton says, “In spite of man’s sin and disobedience, God’s original command to man to multiply and be fruitful is not withdrawn.”[1] To protect them during this remaining task, the man and woman need protective garments.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 God’s 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). God’s 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. 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 today’s 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. NET’s “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 man’s 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 God’s 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 God’s hands).”[5] Though Adam and Eve did not die immediately after breaking the command, perhaps by God’s 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. 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.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 2:7–9

Genesis 2:7–9
7 The LORD God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  8 The LORD God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man he had formed.  9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food. (Now the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the orchard.)
(NET Bible)

Our very first day

Anyone who loves sports knows that a common theme is the ability of a competitor to win an almost-won game. How many times have you seen a sports team blow a safe lead?

Humankind began with the presence of God in the paradise of Eden. What could become a cause for failure in a place like that? How do we as believers squander our spiritual advantages?

As we move through Genesis, we will take care to note what larger narrative-account contains the verses we are considering. In this case, Genesis 2:4 says, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” So, Genesis 2:7–9 stands in the first of the tôledôt divisions of Genesis discussed in the Introduction. Old Testament scholar Alan Ross offers a somber evaluation:

The first tôledôt traces what became of the universe God had so marvelously created: it was cursed through disobedience, so that deterioration and decay spread throughout the human race. . . . Whereas the word “bless” was used three times in the account of creation, the word for “curse” appears three times in this tôledôt.[1]

Since this section of Genesis extends to the end of Genesis chapter 4, the accuracy of Ross’s assessment will not immediately be obvious. Give it time.

This verse contains a phrase that first made its appearance in Genesis 2:4: “Lord God” (Hebrew, Yahweh ‘Elohim). This phrase occurs twenty times in Genesis 2-3, but it occurs nowhere else in Genesis. The question is: why?

Most evangelical scholars have adopted the views of the Jewish scholar Umberto Cassuto that the appearance of the two names for God in this combination “is easily explained by Scripture’s desire to teach us that Yahweh, which occurs here [2:4] for the first time, is to be wholly identified with ‘Elohim mentioned in the preceding section; in other words that the God of the moral world is none other than the God of the material world, that the God of Israel is in fact the God of the entire universe, and that the names Yahweh and ‘Elohim merely indicate two different facets of his activity or two different ways in which he reveals himself to mankind.”[2]

In this verse and the ones which follow, we are told additional details about how both the first man and the first woman were formed. These two were unique in being the only two human beings not born of a human mother.

The initial focus falls on Adam, “the man,” whom God fashioned from ordinary soil. Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton adds, “We should note that neither the concept of the deity as craftsman nor the concept of man as coming from earthy material is unique to the Bible.”[3] Various authors cite ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian stories as echoes of the account given here.

“Dust,” the traditional translation for what the NET Bible translates as “soil,” has been the subject of many sermons designed to highlight the insignificance of man. However, Hamilton strikingly notes that this viewpoint does not emerge from the biblical text:

Nowhere does Gen. 2 imply that dust is to be understood as a metaphor for frailty. . . . Especially interesting for possible connections with Gen. 2:7 are those passages which speak of exaltation from dust, with the dust representing pre-royal status (1 Kings 16:2), poverty (1 Sam. 2:8; Ps. 113:7), and death (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). . . . Thus, the emphasis on the dust in Gen. 2:7, far from disagreeing with ch. 1, affirms ch. 1’s view of man’s regality. He is raised from the dust to reign.”[4]

Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke gives insight into the phrase “breath of life” by saying, “Animals also have breath, but it is the narrator’s intention to stress that human beings have the very breath of God sustaining them.”[5] This separates humanity from the animal part of creation.

The concluding clause “the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7b), has been translated in several ways with regard to the final English word. “Living being” is used by NET, NASB, NIV, and RSV. “Living creature” is the unusual choice of the ESV — odd because it fits no entry in the standard Hebrew lexicon for nephesh.[6] KJV has the well-known “living soul.” Waltke says, “Essentially [Heb.] nephesh means ‘passionate vitality.’”[7]

Genesis 2:8 introduces the Garden of Eden, which the NET Bible translates as “orchard” due to the dominance of trees in the subsequent verses (e.g., 2:9 and 2:16–17). However, it seems more likely that the account stresses the trees because two of them are central both to the garden and to the story. Wenham says: “gan ‘garden’ is an enclosed area for cultivation (cf. verses 5, 15): perhaps we should picture a park surrounded by a hedge (cf. 3:23). This seems to be the understanding of the early versions which translate gan as ‘paradise,’ a Persian loan word, originally meaning a royal park.” Adam was created in paradise! Eden has defied all attempts to define its location.

The only unusual feature of Genesis 2:9 is the phrase “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Of the many interpretations for this phrase, the best seems to be that offered by Hamilton:

“The knowledge of good and evil” represents moral autonomy. . . . It is our position that this interpretation best fits with the knowledge of good and evil in Gen. 2–3. What is forbidden to man is the power to decide for himself what is in his best interests and what is not. This is a decision God has not delegated to [the man].[8]

Humanity requires God’s guidance because we cannot fathom all that faces us. If only the first man and woman had been content to let God be God, how different things might have been!

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


[1] Alan P. Ross, Creation and Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988) 117.

[2] Umberto Cassuto, From Adam to Noah, trans. I. Abrahams (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1961) 88.

[3] 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) 157.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 158.

[5] Waltke, Genesis, 85.

[6] HALOT, nephesh, living being, q.v.

[7] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 71.

[8] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 165-166. Waltke appears to hold the same view: Genesis, 86.