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Friday, July 8, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 18 - The Fall, the Finale (conclusion of Genesis 3)

As we wrap up Genesis 3, let us recap so far what we have seen:

1.  Premeditation (the serpent tempts Eve)
2.  Commission (Eve gives in, eats the fruit, and then gives it to Adam)
3.  Interrogation (God questions them in the Garden)
4.  Deposition (Adam and Eve's alibis for what they did)
5.  Execution (God pronounces individual judgments on the serpent, then Eve, and finally Adam)
a.  The pronouncements on Adam and Eve were judgments, not curses
b.  There is a hope for man's redemption even in judgment.

Now that we have reviewed, let us now look at verse 20.   Adam - whose name means "man" or "red earth" - called his wife "Eve," which translates as "to give life."  Eve's name therefore means the "the mother of all who have life."  As we move onto verse 21, we note another demonstration of God's mercy - God Himself slaughters animals and makes them clothing to cover themselves.  This was a real act of love on God's part, because He did not want his crowning creation, who despite their grave sin He still loved, to be vulnerable and so this was His way of protecting them.  However, as St. Ephrem notes, there is another message for them to learn through this act too.  By the death of the animals, God was teaching Adam and Eve about their own inevitable mortality.  St. Augustine notes too that the garments of sin also served a disciplinary purpose - they were a punishment for their pride too, since their sin stripped them of their innocence.  The skins then, according to Origen, become a symbol of mortality, since they served to remind mankind that their vulnerability was covered by something.  So, although an act of love on God's part, the Patristics also saw it as a lesson in humility for the first couple.  It also served as a reminder that they still have to depend on God for their needs, as their own attempts (fig leaves) were inadequate. 

Byzantine-style icon of God clothing Adam and Eve

Verse 22 then follows with a lesson on discerning good from evil.  St. Ephrem makes an interesting observation about God actually mocking Adam's perceived "revelation," based on his and Eve's taking seriously the lies of Satan masquerading as a serpent back in verses 4-5.  What happened was that they got their knowledge of good and evil backwards, and as the prophetic Scripture in Isaiah 5:20 warns, there is a serious consequence for those who label evil as good and vice versa.  Although Adam and Eve's transgression here was mild in comparison to much of the craziness we have seen in our own time in just the last few years, it was still serious enough for God to address, because it cost His crowning creation, a creature He made in His own image, a great gift.  Therefore, what Adam did was he succumbed to an old deception which carried with it prophetic consequences (Isaiah 5:20-21 and II Timothy 3).  And, in time, it lead to the sin of Babel we will study later in Genesis 11.  The odd paradox about all this is that Adam doesn't necessarily lose his knowledge of what is good, but rather he gained a knowledge of evil as well which will distort perceptions of good if left unchecked. 

At this point, it is time for Adam and Eve to leave the Garden sanctuary, because God banishes them. However, this is not a ban of exclusion, which would imply an irrevocable cursing, but rather a ban of dismissal.  What that means is that God is leaving the door open for redemption to them, but they must sincerely seek and desire it to receive it. Adam's life would go on, in other words, but would not be as easy as before.  That being said, there is an important point I would like to emphasize here.  Some Evangelical Protestant pastors as well as even some well-meaning Roman Catholics almost treat the Fall like it is an unpardonable sin, but the Bible doesn't really say that is the case.  I believe that in due time Adam did fully repent of what he did, and God blessed him for it later.   In Genesis 4 later on, we see something similar with Cain we will also address.  This means that we need to exercise care to not read things into Scripture that are simply not there - Adam may have screwed up, and he was definitely punished for that, but this should not be taken as a blanket condemnation.  That being said, we now come to verse 24 as the chapter concludes.

At the gates of the Garden, there were posted cherubim and a flaming sword that moves.  The name Cherubim denotes "fullness of knowledge," and they were therefore responsible for guarding the forbidden tree from being partaken of again. As mentioned in the last paragraph, the punishment Adam was given was temporal, and no indication was given that it was eternal condemnation - the sword signified that.  As mentioned also, the "knowledge of good and evil" was indicative of a code, a law, that would govern the behavior of mankind according to God's standards, and by eating this fruit, Adam made himself accountable for that law.   And, as mentioned back in Genesis 2, the Law is symbolic of the Temple, the abode of the Levites, Pharisees, and Saduccees, and thus it governed the moral and social law of God's people.  The "burning" then also had its own significance as well.  When something burns, in Scripture it signifies one of two things - either consumption or purification.   These are two separate purposes, and they work together.  The "flaming sword" symbolizes a purging of the unclean and a purifying and cleansing of the soul and being, and such a purification brings about a power to know and see God.  In order, therefore, to be in God's presence, one has to be "made holy," and when Jesus comes, His sacrifice removes the "flaming sword" and extinguishes the flame, because now the law has been completed in that Calvary now gives access to Zion.  This is why I will also reiterate from a previous lesson that these two trees were what I believe to be literal trees, and they were in an actual location which I believe to be the two hills of Moriah and Zion.  This helps the reader to also put the story into the context of all of Scripture, as the setting was established and most of salvation history would be played out here.  Now, are the "two trees" still here today?  That is a matter of much debate, as some think God raptured the trees into heaven, while others believe that the Flood buried them somewhere in a crypt under either the Temple Mount or Golgotha.  Another opinion I have heard is that the trees were destroyed in the flood that came later in Noah's time.  The location of the trees, and if they even exist, is no longer relevant anyway, for Jesus came and completed the redemptive plan started when God extended to Adam and Eve mercy and love despite their transgression.  And on that note, Genesis 3 ends and a whole new story opens as Adam and Eve began to have children and a population of people began to grow.  It is at that juncture we pick up the next study. 

Cherubim and flaming sword guarding the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life