In consequences – part 1 we started by saying that on one level the effects of the fall are only too obvious as we look around us. We now have experiential knowledge of evil. We then began to dig into the often stated maxim that you become what you worship focusing on the loss or rather diminishment of our spiritual senses. We reminded ourselves that the human heart finds it hard to trust in the creator.
Adam and Eve are now caught up in the constant cycle of growth and decay. Adam was originally taken from the ground (‘adamah’) and now they return to the dust – (‘to the adamah’). The death promised to them if they eat the fruit includes more than just physical death. Now they experience the ‘annihilation of their fundamental essense’ and are subject to the ever changing nature of their fallen being. 
Much of life, even with all its “mod-cons” is still about the never ending battle against decay and our inevitable decline and re-absorption into the dust from which we were taken. (3:19) It is interesting to wonder how this is going to unfold as science increases longevity, or even finds a way to overcome death completely. I find myself considering the witch in Rider Haggard’s ‘She’ as her eternal youth is dramatically lost to her, or the bitter, frightened Peter Wayland in the film Prometheus. But more of this later.
The next verse after their eating the fruit tells us that they became aware that they were naked; something which they surely knew before. (3:8) Shame is a universal human experience. It is a complex emotion, with multiple triggers. In my experience it gnaws away and can be debilitating. Adam and Eve now know they are not what they should be, they know something is wrong and their response is to cover up. It is interesting to me that they make ‘loinclothes’ to cover those areas required to be “fruitful and multiply” – ie those organs used to obey God. Additional it rather seems that the fig leaves were sufficient a covering when God was not present, but that once Yahweh was manifestly with them something more was needed.
Then, stupidly when you think about it, they try to hide from God. As if they could. As the realise what they have become (or lost) so their shame forces them to enter the shadows and their relaxed, easy sense of intimacy with God is lost.
Pain in Creation
Both Genesis creation accounts stress that Yahweh is a “creator”. Part of our being made in his image is that we are called to “be fruitful and multiply.” The root or the word used for multiply in Gen 1:28 is the same as in Gen 3:16 when God says to Eve “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing”. So ‘be fruitful and multiply‘ and ‘multiply you pain’ share the same word – and this linkage hints at a connection. Pain is now experienced right at the centre of human identity – creativity. And it is not just pain in child birth; this pain is also now an integral part of Adam’s fate too as the ground is now cursed and only brings forth food for Adam via the ‘sweat of [his] brow’. (Gen 3:17-19)
This is so enormous. Think of the joy a young child has in creating, and the rightful pride that their parents feel. Then consider the poetry, the music, the inventions that are lost to the human race through ‘pain’ when the child grows and is faced with the fruits of their own creativity, and shame takes hold.
This concept or the ground being cursed is so relevant today. As I write the BBC are reporting that there are over 2500 fires burning in the Amazon. Forest fires are a necessary part or the Earth’s natural cycles of course, yet what is going on Brazil appears to be deliberate, at least in part. The Fall narrative suggests to us that our ancestors gave up their God given vocation for tending the earth, and that the Earth’s ecosystems were cursed not so much by God, but rather by the inability of Adam and Eve to be what they were meant to be. Thus the restoration of all things includes all of creation being returned to a ‘curse-free’ state in which there is total harmony on planet earth bought about by the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve taking back their rightful roles. This clear message of an ecological gospel (good news) is of vital relevance to our culture which finds itself in the place of extreme ecological complexity.
Before eating of the tree Adam and Eve were given “every plant yielding seed ” and every tree “with seed in its fruit” for food and the creatures had “every green plant”. (1:29ff) After the fall this changes, and now the ‘plants of the field’ are to be food for humans- just like the animals. (3:18) Again we see the underlining of the fact that Adam and Eve have ‘lost’ their identity. Speaking of the Exodus the psalmist writes that the Israelites ‘exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass’. (Ps 106:20) Here again is the idea that you become what you worship that we saw in the previous post.
Age Defying Goodness
As the finale of chapter 3 God expresses concern that Adam “reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever”. (22) Clearly Yahweh realises that eternal life for humans would be too unbearable a burden and cannot be countenanced. Commentators suggest this is because He does not want humans to develop into rivals, exercising their wills counter to his, frustrating his aims and bringing evil into the divine realm. I am sure there is merit in these suggestions. But I think too there is mercy at play.
It strikes me that having to live with the accumulated effects of the illness of sin for even 1000 years would be intolerable, even if the physical decay that sin brings to our bodies could be halted. However high and exalted we might become, the experiential knowledge of evil would be ever present. The image of God in us is marred, and even though we are capable of supreme acts of love, living eternally as broken creatures with all the accumulation of dis-ease and evil at the very core of our being would be more than many, perhaps all of us could carry. Time is not always a healer. Expulsion from Eden is an act of mercy, as is our returning to the dust…
References and Notes
- I prefer the idea of diminishment rather than loss which i think fits more fully with the concept of sin as a sickness that permeates our being and sheds light on the fact that we all experience something of the divine
- Crispin Flectcher-Louis, Creation and Worship lecture notes, Westminster Theological Centre, 2011
- ‘The Dust Bowl’, https://playpbs.azpm.org/video/dust-bowl-dust-bowl-end-worlds-coming-tease/, accessed 26 August 2019
- Fletcher-Louis, Creation notes, Westminster Theological Centre, 2011
- Hebrew from https://biblehub.com/interlinear/
- Amazon fires: Brazil sends army to help tackle blazes https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-49452789, assessed 24 August 2019
- Whilst I abhor the idea of burning forests it has to be remembered that things are never black and white. Subsistence farmers have a right to resources too, and we in the UK are hardly in a position to lecture given that we have destroyed nearly all our forests and most of our native wildlife hundreds of years ago.
- Fletcher-Louis, Creation notes, Westminster Theological Centre, 2011