THE CURSE OF THE GARDEN
AND IT’S RAMIFICATIONS FOR TODAY
Steven D. Bennett
Copyright © 2016 by Steven D. Bennett
A pastor does a disservice to his flock and the facts when, in teaching Genesis, he places the blame for Eve’s sin completely on Adam. Besides simple ignorance, the reason he will do this is to get “in good” with the women in the congregation as a means of letting them know he is on their side and can sympathize with their plight of living with such simple-minded dolts as men.
This is accomplished by denigrating Adam and, consequently, men in general. This mimics the current entertainment culture, where every husband on TV or in the movies is seen as a buffoon who would be dead or in jail if not for his long-suffering wife. By giving this idea support the pastor, perhaps unknowingly, undermines all marriage. If the message from the pulpit is that men are dolts, why should the wife respect her husband as commanded in Ephesians 5:22-33?
Time and again in the teaching of Genesis, Adam is portrayed as a Fred Flinstone-esque caveman, standing by brainlessly while Eve ate of the fruit. If only “dum-dum” had been active in his role as her protector, they say to the nods of the women in the flock, she wouldn’t have been deceived. Therefore, her sin is on his head.
But if this premise is true—that Eve could pass the buck of her sin onto Adam because he was the head of the relationship—then could not Adam have done the same? After all, God is the head of man. If finite and flawed man is expected to be the guardian of woman, accepting responsibility for her every action and sin whether he’s present or not, how much more is the infinite, omnipresent and perfect God responsible for the sin of man?
Alas, scripture is clear that we are all responsible for our own sin. Though Eve seems to get a pass because she was deceived, Adam does not because he sinned willingly so as to be with the woman he loved and cleaved to in ways that can never be understood by present day husband and wife.
Excluding Jesus, Adam was the most intelligent person who ever lived. That he was more intelligent than Solomon should be a given, as Adam lived for a time without sin. His mind was uncluttered, his soul unburdened, his heart pure. He walked and conversed with God. Whether face to face we don’t know. The scripture tells us that no man can see God without immediate death, as our bodies are too fragile to behold His glory. But was Adam’s sinless state such that he could behold God’s glory? We don’t know. We do know his intelligence was without peer until the coming of Jesus. He named every animal on the planet in a very short time. Scripture does not imply God gave him hints in doing so. The animals were paraded by and Adam named them just as quickly. His conclusion that among them was found no counterpart for himself was reached with intelligence, not despair. He reasoned before it was written that it was not good for man to be alone, and since a suitable partner did not exist, one would have to be created for that purpose. Hence Eve.
Concerning the relationship between Adam and Eve, we know that both were without sin, both were made for each other, and they fulfilled the meaning of the word “cleave.” Jesus empathizes that to the Pharisees in Matthew 19 as they were trying to justify divorce. “Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus responded on a deeper level, reminding them that God made marriage to be one man and one woman living together for their entire lives. They would leave their parents and cleave to each other. This meant a man and a woman becoming one flesh through the sexual act, through daily communion and through spiritual means only God truly understands. What transpires between a man and a woman is a profound mystery, it says in Ephesians 5:32. It is not something understood completely as much of it is spiritual, and something impossible to duplicate with any other relationship. It is special, set apart, a holy bond made by God. With Adam and Eve, it was the only time in the history of mankind when a couple cleaved to each other in the truest sense, without sin. They were truly one flesh.
But then came the serpent, Satan, and his deceit. Both Adam and Eve knew God’s warning. There was no mistake, there was no forgetting. Scripture says that while Eve was hearing the deceiving words of Satan, Adam was near, and those who would blame Adam for Eve’s sin do so at this juncture, as, they say, he was her covering and should have intervened.
Let us go to the scene and imagine it the best we can. Adam and Eve are in the garden, though their proximity to one another is unclear. Satan appears and begins to speak to Eve, giving her doubts with his words. If Adam was close, why didn’t he intervene? We can only speculate. It certainly wasn’t because of fear, as he had seen both God and Satan and knew which to be greater. It wasn’t out of ignorance, for a mind without sin certainly knew what Satan was saying was not what God had said. Perhaps it was the first lie that had ever been told to mankind. Or perhaps Adam saw that one of the greatest examples of love is the exercise of free will, for without it there can never be true love. He let his wife exercise her free will and it revealed her heart and her faith.
But one must wonder why Eve believed the word of Satan and doubted the word of God. What did Satan say? He asked her what God had told her of the fruit, she repeated accurately what she had heard, that the day they ate of it they would die. Satan put doubt in her mind by saying God was holding out on her, that once she ate of the fruit she would become like God, knowing good and evil. God was deliberately keeping her from something better than paradise!
Let’s examine Eve’s state of mine and motivations. Eve had everything she needed. She had the perfect home, the perfect man (she was made for Adam, so in every way they were the perfect match), the perfect Father, and the perfect relationship with her mother: she didn’t have one. So what was she missing? Absolutely nothing. Yet her sin was born with the idea that she could have more. Implanted in her mind was the idea that God had lied and He was withholding His best, i.e., she could have more.
That led her to a place of questioning God, not trusting God, not believing God, and all done with a very few words. So she ate of the fruit. Immediately something was different. She now had the knowledge of good and evil. Knowing she had sinned, she handed the fruit to her husband. Did she do so to enlighten him to the knowledge of good and evil? Or now cognizant of evil, did she realize the consequences of her actions and offer it to him so she would not be alone for eternity apart from God? In other words, was her act of handing him the fruit one of sinful selfishness?
Adam was not deceived as Eve had been. He knew that whatever consequences Eve would face for her disobedience, he would face them as well. Did he discern that one of those consequences would be her removal from the garden and their subsequent separation? The word “cleave” means a closeness so tight that two become one, like two pieces of paper being glued together. They cannot be separated without the paper being torn apart and destroyed. That is the bond Adam and Eve had. Did Adam already feel that tearing in his soul, that the person who had become his heart would be torn away, and that he made the decision to ignore the punishment so he would not be apart from her? Was his disobedience to God an act of love to her?
The only answer for a believer is no. Whatever the reason, sin can never be seen as loving, even in the midst of what one might call love. It is truly a lack of faith, for it leans on one’s own understanding and the limited number of choices our minds can imagine. If only Adam had leaned on his faith and reasoned—as Abraham did generations later when commanded to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, which would nullify the promises God had made to him—that even in the midst of having no path to fix the problem, there was always the path which led to God.
The never-answered question: If Adam had not eaten but had instead thrown the fruit to the ground and sought God, would His faith have been rewarded? Would Eve’s sin have been covered?
Whatever thoughts that went through the mind of the most intelligent man until Christ, we can be assured that, although he might not have known the exact consequences, he knew there would be some. God has said as much. So he ate, he sinned, willingly and knowingly, choosing his wife over God, to be with her in sin as they had in purity.
It is postulated that the bodies of Adam and Eve in the garden reflected the glorious light of God, much the same way Moses’ face shone after spending forty days in God’s presence on Mount Sinai. If true, it gives added meaning to God’s question after they sinned. “Where are you hiding?” He did this to illustrate two things: that their sin had taken away any vestige of glory, and now that they had sinned they would be much harder to find; or, more accurately, it would be harder for them to find God. Sin brings distance and darkness. The curse to come would make it even harder for man to find God.
The Curse of the Garden
In Genesis 6:16 God tells Eve the result of her sin.
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception.
In pain shall you bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband
And he shall rule over you.”
When God tells Eve that her desire will be for her husband but he would rule over her, He wasn’t speaking about physical desire. That was taken care of with Eve’s creation. She was created for Adam, satisfying all the physical, emotional and spiritual desires he had, and as such, she was created with all the physical, emotional and spiritual desires only he could satisfy.
The desire spoken about in Genesis 6:16 is one of position. The man would always have that preeminent position and subsequent authority, but the woman’s now-fallen desire would be to take that place of preeminence, an ironic paradox as creation cannot happen twice. Her desire would be one that could never be fulfilled, and that curse has followed women ever since in never feeling fulfilled, no matter the circumstance.
But Satan is the great deceiver, and has tried since to convince women they can attain that position. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul answers the question of women teaching or having authority over men in church. “For Adam was formed first, not Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression.” Women are not allowed to lead or teach men in church because of preeminence, but also because women are easily misled by what they see and hear, as Eve was. It is a condition of the Fall. A proof of that is the continued attempt to usurp that authority through reinterpretation of the scripture or through societal pressures or cultural means.
One way that is universal, found across all cultures, is emasculation; trying to remove manhood, in this case the authority or position of the man. This comes in the form of nagging, complaining and disrespect. It is a spiritual condition, a leftover of the Garden. Eve believed Satan because she thought there was something more, something better that was being kept from her. In other words, what she had was insufficient, and that thought brought dissatisfaction, one that can never be quenched. In terms of marriage, the woman is dissatisfied and it is up to the man to satisfy her every desire. If he cannot, or will not, culturally it is said he is not a man. But as discussed earlier, all Eve’s needs had been met. Desires are something else.
“Your desire will be for your husband
And he will rule over you.”
Another spiritual leftover from the curse of the Garden is the way women attempt to change the order of authority.
It is forever unchanging and unchangeable. The disrespect and dissatisfaction which reveals itself through nagging and complaining do not exist to change the authority structure itself. They are a means to gain preeminence through another way, by inserting the woman between God and Man. The man’s attention is taken off of God and focused to where the woman believes it should be: on herself.
Paul solidifies this view in 2 Corinthians 7:32, 33. “He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he who is married care about the things of the world; how he may please his wife.” The unmarried man’s mind is set on how to please the Lord, while the married man’s attention is always focused on pleasing his wife. The irony is that one is possible, the other is not.
And that leads us, full circle, back to the Garden and the curse and the beginning of all of man’s, and woman’s, problems.
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, in paradise. They walked with God and were untouched by sin; the only way one can walk face to face with the creator of all things. Their minds, also untouched by sin, were also pure. They were the most brilliant people who ever lived, other than Jesus. Having been made for one another, they shared a holy, spiritual bond no two people have experienced since. They were truly one flesh. Still, they sinned, and in so doing were cursed and banished from the garden, to forever toil on the Earth until they experienced that which was never God's plan: death. But why? What were the exact circumstances? What did God say when he cursed them, and how does its very wording affect all relationships today?