And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
- Genesis 3:8-9
The man and the woman were created by God and placed in a paradise of the Lord’s making. They were given everything they would ever want or need, including each other, and they were given two distinct tasks that defined the purpose of their creation. Those two tasks were: first, be fruitful and fill the earth, and second, rule over creation. Their place as the Image of God was to reflect His rule over creation and to govern creation as He desired.
In Genesis 2, when the man named the animals, he brought order to creation, reflecting the breath of God bringing order to the chaos in Genesis 1. The tasks God gave them – to rule and bring order on His behalf (as He would do) and to be fruitful and multiply – were blessings. They were gifts He gave the man and woman in their creation.
Some Early Church Fathers made guesses about how long the man and woman were in paradise prior to their rebellion. Speculations range from several minutes to several weeks, but no one thought the couple remained there for long. Because the man and woman were made in God’s Image, each possessed the knowledge of their superior place in the order of creation derived from their unique relationship with their Creator. Additionally, because God possesses complete freedom, the freedom to choose belonged to the man and woman as well. With the knowledge of divine and eternal life and with the freedom to choose, the man and woman decided to choose their own blessing instead of the one God gave them.
With all of paradise given to them and only equality with God withheld from them, the man and woman reached out and took that which was forbidden them. They could receive everything from God’s own hands and need nothing, or they could take what they wanted. They chose the latter. What could possibly be more appealing than being our Creator’s equal and to have the freedom to rule over oneself rather be who God created and do what God wanted?
That, right there, is the choice before every human being. Are we willing to live as God intends in His paradise, or would we rather be our own gods? What we choose makes all the difference in who we are and how we are human. We can receive everything we need from God, or we can reach out and take what we want. This, among many reasons, is why we need to understand Christianity from the context of Genesis and creation. Jesus Christ is the answer to our rebellion and alienation from God. When we reach out and take what we want, we do not become like God. To the contrary, in our taking, we become nothing like God at all. This is the fallacy of human pride. I can be like God, and I can control my life, my future, and my destiny. But, of course, we cannot.
Look at what happened to the man and the woman. In their pride, they sought to be free of God and to gain their autonomy through independence from Him. Immediately, they knew they were not God’s equal, and they experienced guilt and shame for what they had done. They covered themselves with fig leaves (to which almost all human beings are allergic with miserable reactions), and they hid from God. As the Lord questioned them, neither showed any indication of repentance. To the contrary, they made excuses and blamed one another for the decisions they made. The woman couldn’t even be honest about the promises of the serpent. In this, we see the state of naiveté and childlike innocence they still possessed. Confessing sins takes maturity. Two-year-olds lie about wrongdoing much more often than they tell the truth.
Rebellion has consequences. We talk as if God punished the man and woman, which actually would be within His right. But the reality is that God first offered them the opportunity to confess before He responded to their disobedience by denying them what they took. In choosing to break a command God had given the man, the woman exhibited a desire to rule over the man, to be capable without the man. Her defiance won her the opposite.
In the punishment of the woman, the Hebrew text is ambiguous. There is no verb in the sentence, “Your desire … for/toward your husband.” Although the sentence is usually translated in English as will be, the accuracy of that interpretation is questionable. The man and woman had already been created to delight in one another in both union and reproduction. The more likely translation is found in Genesis 4:7, when the Hebrew sentence is almost identical, except sin desires … Cain. In both cases, the following clause or sentence conveys a picture of struggle and competition for rule. As sin desired to have or to master Cain, the Lord counseled him to rule over the sin. In the same way, Genesis 3:16 is probably most accurately translated, “Your desire will be to control your husband, but he will dominate over you.”
While the man was given rule over the woman, he lost all dominion over creation. God had given him the authority to order creation with the help of the woman. Now, he will dominate the woman he needs, but creation itself will give him nothing. He must work and toil in pain to get the ground to give up its food to them. Although some interpreters say the man named the woman at her creation, he only identified her as woman, as he was man. After God rendered their punishment and they were leaving the Garden, Adam named the woman “Eve, the mother of all living.” The naming was significant, for by doing so, he began his rule over her. Rather than be dependent upon God, the man and woman chose freedom to do as they wished and became enslaved to creation and in conflict with one another.
When we consider human relationships today, the same remains true. The more we pursue what we want independently of the will of God, the more we become enslaved to the object of our desire. That is true of youth, for example. Have you ever looked at online photos of people who’ve had one cosmetic surgery (or ten) too many? In pursuit of youth, we become nightmarish caricatures of our longing. The same is true of food or drugs or sex or wealth or power. Have you looked at the worlds’ leaders recently? Do any evoke merited admiration from us? I am not sure any merit our trust even. Power, wealth, fame… to desire these in contradiction to the will of God is to name our own punishment. Let God grant power, wealth, and fame to those He knows are mature enough never to choose them instead of Him.
One of the most beautiful expressions of the love of God occurred when He banished them from the Garden, blocked access to the tree of life, and left paradise to go with them into the world beyond. He did not leave them to bear the burden of their consequences alone. Moreover, He protected them from eating the fruit of the tree of life, so they would not live forever in their state of rebellion, alienated from Him and in conflict with one another.
The reason we need to think about Christian marriage is because the secular humanism of our time is the voice of the tempter. Did God really say? With no true awareness of the nature of our humanity or the roles arising from our design, we take life and try to form it however we wish. Just as the serpent said to the woman, we will not die. Yet.
God gave life, and in the giving of life, He gave purpose. Fulfilling the purpose of our humanity is the blessing of every human life. Living as God intends in orderly and creative fashion and in communion with Him is the gift of authentic humanity.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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