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.

 

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.


Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 2:18–20

Genesis 2:18–20
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”
19 The LORD God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found.
(NET Bible)

What the man can’t do without

Throughout human history the relationship between man and woman has been discussed through the perceptual grid of power. The relationship has been called “the war of the sexes.”

Why was woman created? Was competition between sexes part of God’s design? What kind of relationship did God intend between the first man and woman?

“Against the sevenfold refrain of ‘and God saw that it was (very) good’ in chapter 1, the divine observation that something was not right with man’s situation is startling,”[1] says Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham about Genesis 2:18. Consider that this is God’s evaluation, not Adam’s; Adam has not figured it out yet.

The word “alone,” an adjective in English, translates a Hebrew noun which means “solitude.”[2] A more literal rendering could be “The-man-in-his-solitude is not good” (a rough translation). Why is this situation negative? First, there is no way for the man to be fruitful and multiply as God intends (Gen. 1:28). Second, the need for companionship is more fundamental than many recognize. For example, solitary confinement is widely regarded as extremely stressful and can even produce mental disorders.

The contemporary social history of the United States makes it difficult to translate the word offered as “companion” at the end of Genesis 2:18. The King James Version of the Bible (1611) gives the last phrase as “an help meet for him.” This phrase led to the development of “helpmeet” and then “helpmate.” These derived words are based on a misunderstanding and obscure the actual meaning of the author.

The words of the Bible may be used in many ways; not all such ways are fitting. Some, not guided by the love of Christ, have used the word “helper” (NIV, NASB, ESV) or the phrase “help meet” (KJV) in a way that demeans wives and women in general. Primarily to avoid such distortion, the NET Bible uses the translation “a companion for him who corresponds to him.” Similarly, the New International Version (2011) offers “a helper suitable for him.” A word study will further clarify the crucial word.

Word Study (“companion” or “helper”)

The Hebrew word ‘ezer, translated by NET as “a companion for him” in Gen. 2:18 means: “help, assistance.”[3] The NET Bible Notes say: “Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English ‘helper’ can have. In the Bible, God is frequently described as the ‘helper,’ the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs.”[4] Exodus 18:4 and Deuteronomy 33:7 provide examples.

Hamilton adds: “The verb behind ‘ezer is ‘azar which means . . . ‘save from danger,’ ‘deliver from death.’ The woman in Gen. 2 delivers the man from his solitude.”[5]

The Missing Person

In light of the above analysis, the NET Bible made a wise choice with “a companion for him who corresponds to him.”

One by one God creates “every living animal” (Gen. 2:19) and brings them before Adam. Wenham says: “This hold-up creates suspense. It allows us to feel the man’s loneliness.”[6] Adam examines each living animal and names it. But while the animals exist as male and female, nowhere is there found a fitting companion for the man (Gen. 2:20). Presumably Adam has learned what God said at the start: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

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) 68.

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

[3] HALOT, ‘ezer, help, q.v.

[4] NET Bible Notes for Gen. 2:18.

[5] 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) 176.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 68.