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 Hamilton says, In spite of mans sin and disobedience, Gods original command to man to multiply and be fruitful is not withdrawn.[1] To protect them during this remaining task, the man and woman need protective garments.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 3:16

Genesis 3:16

16 To the woman he said, I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.
(NET Bible)

A complicated relationship

If there is one thing you want to avoid at all costs, it is having God personally opposed to you. That condition is a sure formula for a hard life. How do we avoid negative consequences flowing from God to us? How can we avoid the regrets that come from knowing what we have lost by our own sin? What does God do to sustain us, even when we have failed him?

We have previously said that Gods declaration of consequences involves a life function and a relationship for each of those who took part in the first human sin. In Genesis 3:16, the life function is the birth of children and the relationship is the crucial one between the woman and her husband.

The original language uses a special form to heighten the intensity of the verb so that the result is greatly increase. What is increased? The King James Version says thy sorrow and thy conception. However, better linguistic evidence now demonstrates that the second word is not conception but trembling, pain,[1] apparently a reference to labor pains. The verse makes clear that the woman will bear children, but the difficulty and pain will be greatly increased.

Several of the words for pain are spelled similarly to the Hebrew word for tree, making it plain that the consequences were connected to the sin. The author of Genesis selected these words with care because they are not the common words for pain.

The second half of the verse explains the struggle for power that has manifested itself between man and woman in marriage and society. The NET Bible Notes explain: In Gen. 3:16 the Lord announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle.[2]

The interpretation given in the previous paragraph flows out of the very closely parallel passage in [Gen.] 4:7, where sins urge is said to be for Cain, but he must master it.[3] The husbands relationship to his wife will become he will dominate (NET) or he will rule (ESV). The verb is a powerful one, and it is used for Abrahams servant who rules his household (Gen. 24:2) and for Joseph ruling over all Egypt (Gen. 45:8).

Hamilton describes how the tragic consequences of sin have changed the relationship of the man and woman: Far from being a reign of co-equals over the remainder of Gods creation, the relationship now becomes a fierce dispute, with each party trying to rule the other.[4]

Only in Christ do we find this breach healed.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27-28).

Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life. In this way nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

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

[1] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 3:16.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 3:16.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 81.

[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) 202.


Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:6–7

Genesis 3:6–7
6 When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.  7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(NET Bible)

Looking at the Wrong Thing

Everyone knows that good eyesight is a tremendous help in life. What we seldom consider is that spiritual sight is even more vital. Many people have 20/20 physical-vision, but they are experiencing inner, spiritual darkness. What is worse, they think it to be wisdom.

Jesus tells us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23).

How does one acquire darkened spiritual-vision? Unfortunately, Eve learned the secret.

It is hard to write a sentence to summarize such far-reaching tragedy as Genesis 3:6 presents. Gordon Wenham relates how the narrator approaches the story: “The fatal steps are described in eleven . . . clauses that suggest the rapidity of the action—‘she saw,’ ‘she took,’ ‘she gave’ . . . . ‘and he ate’ employs the key verb of this tale—‘eat.’”[1]

We who read English cannot readily see the artistry embedded in the narrator’s writing. Victor Hamilton notes how the narrator has selected words that are very difficult to speak: “Such ‘extremely difficult pronunciation . . . forces a merciless concentration on each word.’”[2] In other words, when the priests and Levites taught these words to the Israelites, their speech had to slow to pronounce each awful word, thus branding them on the minds of their listeners.

In describing the essence of the sin itself, Hamilton says: “Indulgence here would give the woman something she did not, in her judgment, presently possess, and that is wisdom. . . . Here is the essence of covetousness. It is the attitude that says I need something I do not now have in order to be happy.”[3] To our discredit, we have all done the same and reaped the same result.

It is difficult to understand what goes on in the man’s mind because we are not told. What leads him to follow the woman’s fatal act? Is it the emotional, one-flesh bond? Could he not simply obey what God had commanded? Does he not know what fruit he is getting? Again, Hamilton observes:

The woman does not try to tempt the man. She simply gives and he takes. He neither challenges or raises questions. The woman allows her mind and her own judgment to be her guide; the man neither approves nor rebukes. Hers is the sin of initiative. His is the sin of acquiescence.[4]

Genesis 3:6 is the climax of the entire section from Genesis 2:5 through Genesis 3:24. But the surprise for the man and woman comes in Genesis 3:7 when those who sought to become shrewd now know they are nude. Why do they feel the desire to cover up? The most obvious explanation is that each can look upon the other and see an outward, visible change commensurate with the inner change brought by the fresh experience of sin.

Describing the sequel to the fatal sequence, Hamilton says, “Rather than driving them back to God, their guilt leads them into a self-atoning, self-protecting procedure: they must cover themselves.”[5] Again, we have all tried to save ourselves from sin by good deeds, to no avail.

Wenham invites us to look back and see something profound about the sequence of actors: “God-man-woman-animal in [Genesis 2:18-25] becomes snake-woman-man-God in [Genesis 3:6-8]. The order of creation is totally inverted.”[6] Sin twists everything beyond anything humanity can do.

In the next Genesis post, help will arrive at the scene of devastation.

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

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 75.

[2] 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) 190.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 190.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 191.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 191.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 51.