Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:23–24

Genesis 3:23–24
23 So the LORD God expelled him from the orchard in Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken.  24 When he drove the man out, he placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.
 (NET Bible)

Point of No Return

Placing limits on humanity is something God has done in many ways through the ages. In the Garden of Eden he used words, but humanity did not listen.

What will it take to curb humankind’s penchant for rebellion? What do the steps God takes tell us about his character and his choices? If there is a final limit, what might God do upon reaching it?

A play on words is notable in this section. When the man might send out his hand and eat of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22), God sends out the man (“expelled him” Gen. 3:23) beyond the boundary of the garden. Gordon Wenham says, “God forestalls man’s next step towards self-divinization [i.e. making oneself like God] by his own preemptive first strike (cf. 11:7–9).”[1]

The verbs describing humanity’s expulsion are dramatic. Victor Hamilton says: “Man does not leave the garden of his own will. Nor is he gently escorted to the garden’s edge. In fact, he is thrown out!”[2] The same verbs are used to describe the expulsion of the Canaanites during the conquest under Joshua.

Just as the man had been given a set of duties in the garden (Gen. 2:15), he now receives the new duty “to cultivate the ground” (Gen. 3:23). This is Adam’s new life, and his eldest son Cain later follows in his steps (Gen. 4:2). Work for man has always been part of the created order, but it was not so difficult in Eden.

We have already seen that a person determined to have something, such as the woman desiring to be wise, may take measures to get it, no matter what the consequences. Adam is outside the garden, but what is to keep him from going back in to eat from the tree of life?

God had originally charged Adam to guard the garden (Gen. 2:15), including the tree of life, but Adam failed to do so. God now takes measures to seal the entry by stationing “angelic sentries” with a flaming sword that whirls to block all paths to the tree of life. Hamilton says, “So then, man leaves the garden, and the opening behind him is barred. Paradise has been lost and forfeited. Christian theologians traditionally refer to this event as ‘the Fall.’”[3]

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) 85.

[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) 210.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 210.

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 3:1–2

Genesis 3:1–2
1 Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard;”
(NET Bible)

Off to a Bad Start

Satan’s question “Is it really true that God said . . .?” has vexed humanity down to this very day. Satan took on a poorly informed opponent and dealt humanity a mortal blow. His servants today question whether the great story of God redeeming humanity through Jesus Christ might simply be a story told by those who want to hold religious power over others.

How do we know what is true? If we pick the wrong answer to that question, how serious will the consequences be?

The literary creativity in Genesis is great, and nowhere more so than in Genesis 3:1. In the previous verse, Genesis 2:25, the word for “naked” is ‘arom, and in Genesis 3:1 the word for “shrewd” is ‘arom. Yes, the two words are spelled the same and sound identical, a situation that sometimes occurs in English. Gordon Wenham cleverly reproduces this play on words in English: “They [the man and his wife] will seek themselves to be shrewd (cf. 3:6) but will discover that they are ‘nude’ (3:7, 10).”[1]

Before going further into the details, let us take a moment to review a few points. First, the man was explicitly given the duty to guard the garden (Gen. 2:15). Yet, here is a dire threat confronting his mate! A great deal of blame has been placed on the woman in these events, but one must wonder whether the failure was shared. Second, consider that when the serpent approaches, the woman is alone. Did not God say that being alone was “not good” (Gen. 2:18)? While we are not given full details of this scene, what we do see is disturbing.

While we are making general observations, consider that in Gen. 1:2 we found the earth in a negative condition, a dark and formless waste of water. Now we see that evil incarnate has invaded Eden in the form of the serpent. Genesis says nothing about the origin of evil, but its fell presence is seen all too clearly. In spite of this danger, no harm need come to the man and woman if only they obey what God has said.

The serpent in Eden was not the same as those we have today. In time we will see that the serpent currently crawls on the ground as a curse from God beyond the curse that has fallen on all of creation due to sin (Gen. 3:14). Perhaps the serpent was formerly a possessor of the attractiveness that draws interest; think how we react to a puppy or the graceful strength of a dolphin. We simply do not know, so we should not assume too much about the world before sin ruined it.

The choice of the word “shrewd” (Hebrew: ‘arom) to describe the serpent may be because a similar word means “to practice divination,” a distinctly demonic activity that God forbids (Deut. 18:10). The word ‘arom refers to a characteristic that can be either a virtue or a vice. Wenham says, “On the one hand it is a virtue the wise should cultivate (Prov. 12:16; 13:16), but misused it becomes wiliness and guile (Job 5:12; 15:5; cf. Exod. 21:14; Josh. 9:4).”[2] Satan always distorts a virtue into a vice.

The first voice to speak to humanity other than God’s is that of the serpent. Satan’s strategy of deception against humanity begins in the most unlikely place, Eden. Victor Hamilton offers a slightly different translation to bring out the fact that the serpent’s “first words should not be construed as a question but as an expression of [feigned] shock and surprise.”[3]

Genesis 3:1b (Hamilton) says: “Indeed! To think that God said you are not to eat of any tree of the garden!”[4] This provocative comment is designed to engage the woman and start a conversation. It works! But a moment’s reflection leads to questions. Wenham says: “But how, the narrator expects us to ask, did the snake know anything about God’s command? If he heard that command, why has he so grossly distorted it?”[5]

Eve does not express any questions or show any sense of danger. After the narrator’s dramatic declaration that the man and woman are “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, ESV), we find the woman taking action independent of her mate. She begins (Genesis 3:2) by approximately expressing the general rule God had given the man (Gen. 2:16), but we will see tomorrow that she had a less accurate grasp of the one, specific exception (Gen. 2:17).

The Lord God had given Adam the truth about the garden, but, by failing to know it accurately, the woman quickly moved toward trouble. Ignorance was not bliss in Eden.

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) 72.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 72.

[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) 188.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 186.

[5] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 73.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 2:21–23

Genesis 2:21–23
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh.
22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
(NET Bible)

A really big moment!

In 1970 an obscure Australian student said, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”[1] Really? If true, that would mean it is good for woman to be alone, even though we already know it is not good for man. That seems an unbiblical conclusion, to say the least!

God was not compelled to create the man and woman for close companionship with each other. Why did he do so? How does God’s creative intention affect us in our attempt to please him?

The “deep sleep” which God brings upon Adam (Gen. 2:21) occurs rarely in the Bible, and it is not well understood. The standard Hebrew lexicon says it “is not only an unusually deep sleep . . . but also a sleep which marks an event as one of the high-points of the actions of Yahweh.”[2] The creation of woman is one such high point; others are the making of a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:12), revelations from God to Daniel through an angel (Dan. 8:18, 10:9), Jonah’s sleep during the great storm (Jon. 1:5), and a famous encounter of David and Saul (1 Sam. 26:12). The mystery remains as deep as the sleep. But in Genesis 2 we can understand why Adam needed deep sleep!

The NET Bible bravely deviates from saying God used one of the “ribs” (KJV, ESV, RSV, NASB, NIV 1984, NIV 2011) from the man to make the woman (Gen. 2:21b). Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton says, “Gen. 2:21 is the only place in the OT where the modern versions render this [Hebrew] word as ‘rib.’”[3] They do so due to the power of the King James Version in setting people’s expectations in familiar passages. NIV 2011 only had the courage to put the correct translation in a footnote.

Instead of following the pack, NET offers “he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh.” In support of this choice the NET translators say: “Traditionally translated ‘rib,’ the Hebrew word actually means ‘side.’ The Hebrew text reads, ‘and he took one from his sides,’ which could be rendered ‘part of his sides.’ That idea may fit better the explanation by the man that the woman is his flesh and bone.” The argument is convincing.

Using a verb suitable for a potter, God fashioned Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7). In Genesis 2:22 the language figuratively shifts to that for a builder when God literally “builds” Eve from the tissue taken from Adam. Then, in what must have been an unforgettable scene, God presents the woman to Adam.

In Genesis 2:23 — Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” — Adam sounds awestruck, does he not? By expressing his words in poetry, the author captures the emotion of the moment. The phrase “at last” conveys Adam’s relief in finding his companion from the vast array of life he has examined.

Concerning the phrase “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” Hamilton says:

[The phrase] speaks not of a common birth but of a common, reciprocal loyalty. Thus when representatives of the northern tribes visit David at Hebron and say to him, ‘we are your bone and flesh’ (2 Sam. 5:1), this is not a statement of relationship (‘we have the same roots’) but a pledge of loyalty (‘we will support you in all kinds of circumstances’).[4]

The next important issue is whether the fact that the man names the woman means he has authority over her. We agree with the NET Bible Notes, which answer no:

Some argue that naming implies the man’s authority or ownership over the woman here. Naming can indicate ownership or authority if one is calling someone or something by one’s name and/or calling a name over someone or something (see 2 Sam. 12:28; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 4:1; Jer. 7:14; 15:16), especially if one is conquering and renaming a site. But the idiomatic construction used here . . . does not suggest such an idea.[5]

The reader is already aware that almost every verse in the early chapters of Genesis is awash with thorny issues of interpretation and theology. We have only begun to face the challenges of this amazing book!

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


[1] Irina Dunn, a student at the University of Sydney (Australia) in 1970.

[2] 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) tardemah, deep sleep, q.v.

[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) 178.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 180.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 2:23.


Short Introduction to the Study of Genesis 1–11

No book of the Old Testament has received as much scholarly attention as Genesis. But that is not necessarily good news because, like the Internet, Genesis scholarship contains ample amounts of trash mixed with the treasure. In the brief discussion that follows we will rely on comments from evangelical Christian scholars whose views are generally consistent with what the church held to be true for the first seventeen centuries after Jesus rose from the dead.

Definition of a Few Terms

Before presenting a few quotations to clarify Genesis, we will establish a few terms. The Hebrew word Yahweh (yhwh) is what God revealed as his personal or covenant name, first in Genesis 2:4. Yahweh is usually translated “Lord” in English Bibles. One of our early quotes will include the phrase “Yahwistic faith,” and that uses the divine name in the form of an adjective; “Yahwistic faith” means faith in Yahweh.

When the Hebrew authors of biblical books used the word “God” in a more general sense, they used the Hebrew word elohim. This Hebrew word is sometimes used to refer to God, as in Genesis 1:1, and other times used to refer to the false gods worshipped by unbelievers.

Two other words will prove useful. The word “primeval” means: “Belonging to the first ages; pristine; original; primitive; primary.”[1] The word “patriarch” means: “The father and ruler of a family; one who governs his family or descendants by paternal right.”[2]

The Nature of Biblical History

The historical viewpoint of Genesis also pertains to the whole of the Bible. Old Testament scholar Alan Ross says:

The biblical account is actually a unique distillation of history…. It is less interested in recording events for the sake of history than in using these events as vehicles for communicating the verities of biblical faith. The Bible presents an interpretation of significant events from the perspective of Yahwistic faith.

In the biblical idea of history, the conviction concerning the reality and authority of Yahweh is the point of departure for any evaluation. Robinson says, “The Bible takes it as axiomatic that God controls history, reveals himself in history, and directs it towards a final goal.”[3]

The Literary Classification of Genesis

Those who cannot abide belief in a supernatural God who created the world and humanity like to categorize Genesis as myth or saga. Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton says, “Anything that is treated as the work of a supernatural being, but which a scientific worldview would interpret as the operation of impersonal laws and forces, is by this position understood as myth.”[4]

The faithless approach described above emerged from the rise of a philosophical rationalism which seeks to put the Bible under the skeptical judgment of human scholarship. Of course, philosophical rationalism is not the view we accept or use in this study guide. We begin with the understanding that Genesis is part of God’s revelation to mankind, and we seek to understand how God has presented it.

Ross gives a useful description of the mixed literary types we find in Genesis:

It may be necessary to classify the three sections of Genesis individually. The primeval events [Genesis 1–11] are ancient traditions cast in a poetic narrative form that lends itself readily to oral transmission. The patriarchal events [Genesis 12–36] are reports about the ancestors that were retained in the family records. And the Joseph material [Genesis 37–50] forms a short story with its arc of tension and its resolution.[5]

The Themes of Genesis

Ross presents some essential ideas that will help the reader understand what Genesis is all about:

Even a casual reading of the Book of Genesis reveals the prominence of the theme of blessing. The entire book turns on this motif and its antithetical motif, cursing. . . . There is another side to this tension between blessing and cursing, a conflict that works out on the human level and corresponds to the blessing and cursing. The motifs of good and evil characterize the human activities and circumstances in this struggle. That which is good is harmonious with the divine will; that which is evil conflicts with the divine will.[6]

Hamilton has drawn attention to another prominent theme. After noting that the patriarchal history constitutes about four fifths of Genesis, he says: “Almost everybody who has written on the subject agrees that the theme of divine promise unites the patriarchal [accounts].”[7] Hamilton then presents the findings of D.J.A. Clines. Clines identified three major promises in the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) known collectively as the Pentateuch. The promises from God relate to descendants, a relationship to God, and a land. Clines’ data breaks down like this:

  1. promise of descendants: Genesis, 19 times
  2. promise of relationship: Genesis, 10 times; Exodus, 8 times; Leviticus, 1 time
  3. promise of land: Genesis, 13 times; Exodus, 5 times
  4. allusions to the promise: Genesis, 17 times; Exodus, 11 times; Leviticus, 11 times; Numbers, 37 times; Deuteronomy, 50 times[8]

After establishing his view that the kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible, Bruce Waltke says the following themes of the kingdom emerge from Genesis: the seed [spiritual sons of Abraham], the land, God’s rule, the Ruler.[9] Whether you agree with this analysis, the attempt to tie Genesis into the entirety of the Bible is useful.

The Literary Structure of Genesis

Readers of Genesis will notice a refrain that repeats throughout the book: “This is the account of . . .” or “These are the generations of . . . .” The Hebrew behind these English words is regarded as a structural marker separating various sections of the book.

Ross expresses the meaning of the Hebrew marker (tôledôt) as: “‘this is what became of ____,’ or ‘this is where it started from’ (with reference to the following subject).”[10] So, when we find the marker tôledôt in Genesis 2:4, it means, “This is what became of the heavens and the earth.” In Genesis 6:9, the term means, “This is what became of Noah.”

So, we have a sequence of stories that explain what became of the heavens and earth and important people such as Adam, Noah, Isaac and Jacob. But we must also notice a perceptible decline from the beginning of Genesis to the end. Ross quotes commentator Derek Kidner about this decline by saying: “’Man had travelled from Eden to a coffin [Joseph’s], and the chosen family far from Canaan to Egypt.’”[11]

Along with decline we have a narrowing of focus. In Genesis 1 the focus is universal when God creates the heavens and the earth. By the end of Genesis we are almost exclusively involved with the children of Jacob, whose descendants soon fell into disfavor with a new Pharaoh (Exodus 1). But they are the inheritors of God’s promises, and his hand is upon them.

Within each major section of Genesis the reader will find a deterioration due to sin’s pervasive reach. While God started the creation in pristine condition (“very good,” Genesis 1:31), by the time of Noah evil had become so widespread that God found it necessary to destroy all life on earth except for the family of Noah and those animals he took with him (Genesis 6). Similarly, Abraham exhibited greater faith than Isaac or Jacob. The reader should watch for this theme, which is unstated or implicit in the manner of most narrative literature.

The Flood

Genesis chapters 6–9 tell the somber story of how God destroyed his original creation by flooding it with water because of rampant violence. Many otherwise orthodox Christians wonder if this story is just a legend, but we offer three key reasons for upholding a world-wide flood which destroyed all but the tiniest part of human life, which God chose to spare:

  1. The Bible presents the flood in the same language as for all other historical events.
  2. Jesus plainly stated that the flood occurred just as Genesis describes it (Luke 17:27; Matt. 24:37–39).
  3. Dozens of cultures around the world have ancient stories of a world-wide flood. For an excellent chart and comparison, see http://nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html.

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

Commentaries

Technical

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

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).

Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996).

Advanced

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

Easier

Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2008). [Recommended]

Recommended Reading!

Tremper Longman III, How To Read Genesis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005).


[1] “primeval.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 19 Aug. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/primeval>.

[2] “patriarch.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 19 Aug. 2008. <Dictionary.com  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/patriarch>.

[3] Alan P. Ross, Creation and Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988) 59.

[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) 56–57.

[5] Ross, Creation and Blessing, 63.

[6] Ross, Creation and Blessing, 65–67.

[7] Hamilton, Genesis 1–17, 39.

[8] Hamilton, Genesis 1–17, 42.

[9] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 45–54.

[10] Ross, Creation & Blessing, 72–73.

[11] Ross, Creation & Blessing, 74.