Genesis 3:1-21: The Dark Poetry of the Fall

The story of our plummet into sin is simple enough but also full of intricacies.  These verses in Scripture are both complex and nuanced.  Every word in the first three chapters of Genesis is correct, but they do not come to us as a textbook of history, but as poetry.  So, we should be wise and understand them as such.

Now, this doesn’t undercut what the words teach but, instead, take in how God chose to deliver the truth of His creation and our fall.  So, don’t dismiss the details of structure and rhyme, and the similarities of sound.  No, let us revel in the beauty of these inspired words, all too touch us in a fuller way beyond our rational thought.

So, God created the man, adam, out of dust, adamah.  Soon, God paraded the different animals before him, so Adam will realize he lacks a proper counterpart.  Next, God puts him into a deep sleep, took out some flesh from his side (“rib” is too specific), and formed another human being.  Both received God’s image, Adam from God, and Eve through Adam.  Though their beginnings differ, Eve isn’t an afterthought, at least for the man, but the culmination of cosmos.

In his creation, God saves the best for last, which explains why He created Adam after the other creatures.  Still, Eve came after Adam.  So, when God earlier commanded Adam to guard and protect everything in the Garden, this included the woman.  A task greater than any other he received, someone to defend with his life, if needed.

So, what’s so exceptional about Eve?  Savor the phrase, often translated to portray her, as “helper” or “helpmeet.”  The Hebrew word for help, ezer, is the word Scripture also uses to refer to God’s strength and power.  Here’s one example, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).

Drink in the connections.  The Creator God, the stronger “Help,” Ezer, made Adam.  The animals are the weaker “help.”  The woman, though not equivalent in physical strength (an assumption, for we are speaking of a pre-fall Eve) is a help, equal to him.

How can I say this?  The last of God’s creation is Eve, the pinnacle of His work, which means she is the more significant of the two.  Formed from Adam’s flesh, this shows her to be the lesser.  Together, Eve is now equal, but don’t assume she is the same as Adam.  No, her creation makes this impossible to conclude.

For Eve is more than his “help,” she is also a k’negeo, the second Hebrew phrase to describe her.  A word sounds forth about someone who is opposite in nature to Adam, but also complementary, as in someone who completes him.  Only someone of equal stature can complete another.

Different but equal, each given to serve as God chooses.  In God’s eyes, different does not mean inferior or superior.  Only the sinful nature within us settles on such a foolish conclusion.  No, each is distinct, extraordinary, and precious.

The man delights in the woman, and they are naked—and without shame.  A liaison of trust, openness, and affinity exists between the two.  Soon, this sincerity and support will crumble and die.

The devil, coming in the form of a serpent, appears and engages in a conversation about the forbidden tree, from which they are not to eat.  The woman says they will die if they eat from the tree.  The creature coils and bends this truth, implying their Creator is holding out on them and keeping them down.  The serpent scoffs!  “No, you will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Closer he creeps, as his frolicking tongue hisses, “You are deficient in evil.”  Well, somewhat true, for Eve only understands the virtuous.  Confident she will live, thinking the tree will make her wise, she begins to digest his proposal.  The fruit is attractive and appealing.  A moment later, her teeth are sinking deep into the fruit’s flesh.

So, where is the one whom God commanded to protect her?  Right beside her.  The woman takes the fruit and eats, and she also gives some to her husband, who is with her, and he eats (Genesis 3:6).  So Satan beguiles Eve, but Adam eats with open eyes, walking by sight, not by faith.

So, what happened?  A switching of roles: The protector, Adam, acted like the one needing protection.  The one in his keeping, Eve, took over, failing to safeguard both herself and Adam.  Now, in His Church, God will demand each of us to go back, to our original roles, recalling us back to our descent into sin.  To this day, this explains why only men may serve as pastors because God is using them as a picture of Adam, who failed.  Each Sunday, by using a male pastor, God pictures our need for salvation.

With one bite, both Adam and Eve receive more than they realize.  For when they learn of evil, this knowledge sows the seed of death within them.  First, they recognize they are not only naked but ashamed.  The fear of God fills them, and they sew fig leaves together in a pitiful attempt to hide.

The exposure they fear involves more than their bodies.  No longer do they delight in their communion with God.  So they hide.  Of course, God comes looking for them, perceiving their fear and shame, and asking if they ate from the tree.  Why?  To give them a chance to repent and return to Him.

Rather than repentance, only blame slides off their tongues.  The man belittles the woman—and God for making her.  To Adam, she is the cause of his downfall, as his partnership with her shrivels away.  The woman accuses another, the serpent.

Both are guilty, but the tempting serpent is not without fault either.  So God pronounces His judgment, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.  For he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Through a Descendant of Eve, One will be born who will crush Satan’s head.  The poetry of the text employs matching sounds to convey this.  The foretold Descendant will y’shupkah, trample on the serpent.  The serpent will t’shupenu this Savior, which is the warning hiss before the snake strikes.  By using the same root words and sounds, God is cluing us in—the cure for sin will be like the curse.  Both will involve death.

Neither man or woman escape unscathed—and more will happen to them than dying.  Menstrual and labor pains will become part of Eve’s life.  The desire within women will cause them emotional and physical pain, which is true to this day.

The man will agonize as he works to live.  The ground, the adamah, is now cursed for the man, the adam.  The tending of the land, which once pleasured him will suffer insect and drought.  Though his work may break him, if he doesn’t work, he will starve.

Both experience the aftermath of the fall.  The closeness they share dies a sudden death.  All their dealings now distort: with God, their work, their bodies, and each other.

How does this affect us, offspring of Adam?  Today, we find ourselves limited, with much beyond our control.  No day passes without some fear and doubt intruding into our lives.  In the welter of our relationships, we may still sense the pang of loneliness.

Each of us comes with our innate longings for intimacy, achievement, clarity, and belonging, but we might not act on these out of fear.  Inflated egos drive us to find our validation in how others esteem and value us, though we are skilled at rationalizing and lying about this to ourselves.

The years take their toll, and our mortality disturbs us in different ways.  Sometimes, sickness barges in and strikes us down, and our abilities wither and wane.  The tang of death slithers all the closer as life closes in instead of opening up.

The world we experience only gives us glimpses and shadows of this creation’s original goodness.  All is now bent and damaged, if not broken.  The storm strikes, and the water rises.  The blowing wind turns vicious, and the tornado descends.  The land cries out for its redemption as houses quake and homes collapse.

Now, if this is all, we should all go home and drink ourselves silly.  For we will die in misery, and nothing matters.  Not so.  Remember God’s promise, His first prophecy of the coming Messiah—of Jesus and His mother. 

After our original parents savored in sin’s sickening sweetness, God told Satan about Mary, “the woman” and her “seed,” Jesus.  The mother of humanity participated in our destruction, another, the mother of Christ Jesus, will participate in our salvation.  Understand this well, however.

Tell me, who receives the blame for the fall?  The man Adam does because if he did what God gave him to do, Eve would have never eaten of the fruit.  So, the cause of our fall is not Eve, but Adam.  So also with Mary.  Unlike Eve, however, Mary responded with a “yes” to God instead of a “no.”  So, from her flesh, Christ, the second Adam became incarnate, born to deliver us from the disaster of the first.

The cure will resemble the curse.  The Promised One, Jesus, must die, just as Adam’s fall brought death on us all—but only the second Adam, Jesus can undo the damage of the first.  The ancient promise of a Serpent-Crusher came true.  In Him, all God’s promises to you are now “yes.”  Not only did everything change because of sin, everything is now made new because of Jesus.  Amen.