In Genesis 2 we saw Adam and his wife in the garden of Eden, surrounded by an abundance of food, of beauty and the good provision of God. They were living the perfect life, living in perfect unity with God, with each other and with the creation around them. It was a picture that God had declared so good, that He announced a day of rest to enjoy it all.
But then in the first part of chapter 3, we see all of that picture change. Through the skilful subtlety of the serpent, Adam and his wife decide that they want to be equal to God, and take for themselves the knowledge of good and evil, setting themselves against God and His provision for them. And as a result of that seemingly innocuous act of eating the fruit, they come to know the evil of their own natures, and they discover the reality of their guilt and shame.
Whereas before they were naked and without shame, now they are naked and fully exposed to shame. So from here on the picture begins to crack and crumble. For Adam and his wife, their shame and guilt overwhelms them when they hear the sound of God walking in the garden.
Now to the people who first read this story, this phrase would have some dramatic overtones. In Exodus 19, when the people of Israel were gathered at Sinai, they heard the sound of the Lord approaching in the form of a trumpet blast, and we are told that “the whole camp trembled”. Because of their guilt and their shame, the sound of God and the imminence of his appearing was now the most frightening thing imaginable. Adam had been told that on the day he ate the fruit from that tree, he would surely die. So now he had to face God with that thought in the very forefront of his mind.
Now the lustre of the original creation has been lost, all its peace and wholeness and beauty is gone forever. The trees of the garden which once were a thing of beauty, and a source of all kinds of delicious food, have lost that attractiveness and are now being used as camouflage to hide Adam from his creator and now his Judge.
So assuming that God already knew what Adam had done, what was going to be His response? Was there to be thunder and lightning, thick clouds of darkness and smoke and rumblings like there was at Sinai? What was God’s response going to be?
It’s a surprising response, really. The first thing God does is to call out to Adam “Where are you?” Now despite Adam’s attempt to hide from God, God really does know where Adam is. But here we see the first picture of grace as it comes to people caught out in sin and shame.
God doesn’t rush into the bushes and drag Adam out by the scruff of the neck. Instead He calls to Adam and invites him to drop the camouflage, to drop all the pretence, and when Adam offers the lamest of excuses, God asks Him to drop those excuses as well and be totally honest with Him. “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
When dealing with sin and guilt, God likes to get straight to the point. There is no place for excuses or camouflage, no place for hiding or trying to conceal anything. God already knows our heart, and he wants us to admit the truth and come to him for forgiveness. God asks for an open and honest heart. And it’s only because grace is offered that hearts can be opened.
And yet Adam still squirms. He tries to pass the blame to his wife; the woman passes the blame to the snake; and, as the saying goes, the snake hasn’t got a leg to stand on.
The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Now what we see here, if we stand back a bit, is the demolition of all the perfect relationships God that had created.
- We see a rift between God and humanity, not just in eating the fruit, but also in trying to hide and then finally trying to shift blame. Humanity is no longer one with God, but steeped in guilt and awaiting judgement. The commandment has been broken, and the punishment awaits.
- We see a rift between humans, not just between man and wife. Blame is apportioned to one person to try to hide the guilt of the other.
- But there is also a rift between man and wife. There is no longer that close unity, that “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”. Now it’s “that woman you put here”.
- Finally there is a rift between humanity and the rest of creation. The serpent is being blamed for something that humanity was responsible for. The command not to eat the fruit had been given to the man and the woman, it wasn’t given to the snake. It was their duty to obey, not the duty of the snake. We see that even though Adam and his wife had been given the command to rule over all the animals, they had allowed one of the animals to rule over them with its cunning.
So now the cracks are complete. The perfect picture of creation, God’s holy image, has been shattered in every aspect. There is now not one part of creation that remains unaffected by sin. And so God’s response to each of the guilty parties reflects that brokenness. So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” Now the curse on the serpent is not so much about having to crawl on its belly – there is no real evidence that the serpent ever had legs. But rather it is the serpent’s association with dust.
Dust belongs to the uncreated state of humanity – Adam was created from the dust of the earth, and it belongs to the destination of the human body after death, – Adam will return to dust when he dies. There is no life in dust. It is either uncreated or dead. It belongs to the primordial chaos that existed before God created life, and it belongs to the rotting corpses of the dead. The serpent will feed on death and decay all of the days of its life.
There is no hope for the serpent. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Not only does the serpent get the death sentence, but he is sentenced to a life of being hated and finally crushed underfoot. There will be a constant enmity, a hatred with fear and loathing between the serpent with its offspring, and all the offspring of the woman. All generations of humanity will despise all generations of serpents.
But in the middle of this, one of the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, even though the serpent will crush or bruise that person’s heel. Now the word translated as “crush” and “strike” is the same Hebrew word “suph”. Its normal meaning is to strike or bruise. Now the impact of a blow to the heel as compared to a blow to the head is enormous. It brings pain to the heel of one, and death to the head of the other.
Now this is the first announcement by God that he is going to do something about getting rid of sin. Paul picks up this thought when he writes to the Romans “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Even though no association is made in Genesis, later writers in the Bible identify the serpent with Satan, and they see this promise in Genesis 3 as being God’s promise to deal with sin and its source once and for all, by delivering a death-blow to the head of the serpent. And so this curse upon the serpent, and the ensuing battle that it creates, is God’s way of bringing grace and restoration to His creation.
Sin and deception are not going to have the final say in this world, but God is promising that the deceitfulness of sin and the destruction that it brings will come to an end. A seed of the woman – an offspring, a descendant – will one day be born into the world, and that person will remove the cause and the effects of all forms of brokenness and evil, so that the world can once again be good and perfect as God intended it to be.
The image that was shattered by sin will one day be put back together again by a descendant of the woman. But with that promise of a special descendant comes a special type of suffering for the woman.
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Now when the woman was created out of Adam’s side, she was announced as Adam’s helper, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. The woman and her husband had a perfect relationship of trust and companionship. Together they were to have children and populate the earth with a people who would love and serve God in beauty and in truth. But now that blessing has become a curse.
The act of childbirth will now become an incredibly painful event. And some would say that even the pain of delivering the child is not as great as the pain of raising the child, albeit a different type of pain. The very event that was meant to give joy to the woman will now become incredibly painful and even dangerous.
And she will find little support from her husband.
Now there is going to be tension in the relationship between man and woman. The woman has led her husband into sin. Their relationship had been so close and so intimate that he had trusted her as fully as he trusted himself, but that trust was betrayed. And because that trust has been destroyed, life together now becomes a battle for domination of one over the other.
The text says “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” So there is a desire on the part of the woman for her husband, but it is met only with harshness and domination. But even this desire by the woman is not a wholesome desire. This desire can also be seen as a controlling desire. A desire for her husband to meet all her demands, while the husband is determined to rule over his wife and make her submit to his will.
It’s interesting that the two Hebrew words that are used here for “desire” (shuwq) and “rule” (mashal), in “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” are the same words that God uses when speaking to Cain about his anger towards his brother. In Genesis 4, God says to Cain “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
So sin desires to have Cain, but he must master it. The woman will desire her husband, but he will master her. The same two words are used in the Hebrew for these expressions.
So we see a picture, not of a weak little woman at the mercy of her big strong husband, but of two incredibly manipulative people, each trying to dominate the other by perhaps different means.
Finally God turns His attention to Adam.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Adam had been given the job of managing the Garden of Eden, of helping it grow and flourish under the full favour of God. It was to be a job in which he could find a deep-seated satisfaction and fulfilment, using his gifts and abilities to their fullest.
But now that he has rebelled against God, that work becomes a curse, and instead of him working with the plants in the garden, he now finds the plants and even the very soil in the ground working against him. Instead of flourishing trees full of fruit, Adam has to battle choking weeds, with thorns and thistles tearing at his flesh as he tries to grow food to eat. Instead of work being a fulfilling activity, it now becomes a fatiguing activity, that draws out his sweat and leaves him exhausted at the end of the day.
And the death sentence God warned about has now become his destiny.
From the uncreatedness of dust Adam was made, and to the uncreatedness of dust he will return.
The wages of sin are death, and now that reality faces Adam as he fights for survival each day against the forces of a creation which has been thrown back into chaos. The goodness of God’s original creation has been shattered, and now Adam has to pick his way between the pieces on his way to a certain death.
So when you get to this part of the story, it all looks pretty depressing. There doesn’t seem to be much hope left for anyone. In the beginning, Adam and his wife had it made – they were living in Paradise with God as their best friend. They had everything they could ever need, but they blew it by being too greedy. They wanted too much. They weren’t content to live as God’s creatures, they wanted to live like God Himself. And now they felt the full extent of what the knowledge of evil brought – brokenness, pain, struggle and death. All was lost.
But then in the next verse we are told something really extraordinary. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Now surely this is the weirdest thing in the world to say, at this point in the story. For a man who has just received the death sentence, this doesn’t make sense. “mother of all the living”? How can that be, when both Adam and the woman are condemned to death?
This can only make sense when we look at the curse God placed on the serpent. God promised that one of the woman’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head. That child would destroy the serpent and all the effects of sin. So even though death is certain, that death is deferred, to allow new life to begin. And the woman would be saved through the children she gave birth to, or more specifically, by one of those children. Before Adam and Eve die, they will give birth to children who will carry on the promise of the child who will crush the serpent’s head, and reverse the penalty of death.
So there is hope and life even in death. Here we see again God’s first announcement of the gospel. There is one coming who will break the curse of sin and deal a death blow to the serpent, to the evil one, to sin and evil and everything that is working against God’s purposes. God will restore His creation and make it magnificent and completely good again one day.
And Adam takes hold of that promise, and names his wife, Eve – the mother of all the living.
This is the very first sermon ever preached in response to the gospel, an incredibly powerful statement. God is bringing life into the world, a life that will destroy the death caused by sin. And Eve has a major role in that.
Now it’s interesting also to see how the relationship between this first couple has changed. When Eve was first created, Adam called her “woman”, because she was taken out of man. So the two were essentially one, one flesh. And this is reflected in their names and how they related to God and to each other. There was no hint that either of them was submissive to the other, let alone subservient. And neither was there any mention of separate roles.
The Bible simply says that Adam was alone and needed a helper, a close companion.
When the serpent came to the woman, she didn’t run to Adam to see what she should do. She didn’t need permission from the “head of the house” to answer the serpent. She was confident enough in herself to speak to the serpent on behalf of both of them, and Adam, who we are told was “with her” when the snake came, didn’t interrupt or over-rule his wife – he simply accepted the fruit she gave him as from an equal.
So we are only dealing with one person, at this stage, an “Adamic unity” we might say, one person who is both male and female – just as God is one and yet three persons. The woman is really a part of Adam, their unity is so complete. What Adam does, the woman also does, and what the woman does, Adam also does.
But now when this unity is broken, Eve gets a name of her own, apart from Adam’s identity.
Now Eve has a task and mission in life that is separate from Adam. She is no longer defined as “taken out of man”, but is to be the mother of all the living.
And to accomplish that task, she will have to battle for control with Adam, who will want to dominate her in return. Her identity is no longer taken from Adam, but from her role as the one who will give birth to the Promised One, later called the Messiah, or the Christ.
No longer is the husband-wife relationship the dominant one, but now they both stand as individuals in need of a Saviour, someone who will destroy the effects of sin.
So now let’s move the clock forward several centuries, to the birth of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus was both born of God – as was Adam – and born of a woman like Eve. So here is the promised one, the Messiah. The one who God promised would come into the world to deal with sin once and for all. And because he is God’s son, he is also the new Adam. Paul refers to Jesus several times in this way. But unlike Adam, Jesus does not give in to temptation. On the cross, Jesus defeats all the powers of sin and pays the penalty for our sin, so the head of the serpent is crushed forever. And when Jesus rises from the dead on the first day of the week, Mary mistakes him for the gardener – the new Adam, tending the restored garden in paradise.
As in Adam all die, Paul tells us, so in Christ all will be made alive – the curse of death has been removed. Jesus is re-creating the world so that it can be the way God intended it to be.
And when the new heavens and the new earth are shown to the apostle John, there is the tree of life again, growing beside the river. The garden has been restored, and there is no mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is no possibility of sin entering here again.
Now we can also ask the question, if Jesus is the new Adam, then who is the new Eve? Why didn’t Jesus have a partner?
The answer comes throughout the Bible, that God’s people as a whole are the new Eve. As mother of all the living, all of the living are married to the new Adam. In the Tanach, God talks about Himself being a husband to Israel, His people. And in the apostolic Scriptures we read that the church is the bride of Christ.
So the new couple in the recreated heavens and earth are the new Adam, Jesus Christ, and the new Eve – His people, the church.
And the new creation mandate is the same as the old – fill the earth and subdue it, or in New Testament language, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. As the new Mother of all the living, the church has the task of bringing new generations into the kingdom by the new birth brought about by the Spirit.