The book of Genesis was written to show that Israel's God is the sovereign Creator whose purpose to establish His covenant rule upon the earth will not be hindered by the sinfulness of humanity. The first major section of Genesis, called Primeval History, covers the creation of the world, the fall of mankind into sin, and the triumph and progress of sin through to the flood and the Tower of Babel. Foundational truths about mankind and this world are set forth in this section. Human beings learn their identity and their role within God's good creation. The power of sin and its devastating effects are clearly laid out. One also sees, however, God's proactive response to sin in order to establish His purposes in fulfillment of His covenant promises. Whenever sin seems to be getting the upper hand, God moves to hinder its effects and to establish His sovereign rule. When sin triumphs in chapter 4 through the murder of Abel and there is the escalation of sin in Lamech's boast, the godly community worships God and God moves to replace Abel with Seth. When sin and violence dominate the whole world, God moves to preserve a family through the judgment of the flood. When human beings seek to establish a name for themselves at the Tower of Babel, God scatters them and calls Abram, whose name will become great and through whom God will establish His covenant in order to bless the world. Thus, Genesis 1:1-11:9 sets forth foundational truths concerning the character and role of human beings within the world God has created.
These chapters are vital because if people do not understand the basic truths laid out here then they will operate from a world view that is distorted. Without understanding the goodness of God's creation, people will either conclude that material things are bad, or they will pursue material things as the highest good without recognizing the boundaries God the Creator has established for His creation. Without recognizing the nature of sin, people will not be effective in living with other human beings, in establishing policies to deal with human behavior, and in understanding God's solution to the problem. And finally, without understanding the character of God, people will conclude that God is unjust in His judgment and they will not see His gracious pursuit to establish His people through the fulfillment of His promises. If people do not understand Genesis 1-11, they will be operating with a distorted view of their own life and the world in which they live.
The Character of God and Creation
The account of creation establishes the character of God, the character of His creation, and the place of mankind within creation. Genesis 1 assumes God's existence 'in the beginning', establishing His transcendent priority and separation from His creation. The name for 'God' in Genesis 1 is Elohim, which is used over 35 times in Genesis 1. It is actually a plural noun, which in some contexts could be translated 'gods', but when used of Israel's God, the God of creation, it is always translated with the singular 'God'. The plural is explained as an intensive plural, which means that the individual or thing is thoroughly characterized by the qualities of the noun. Thus, Israel's God fully partakes of the character of deity. In fact, Israel's God is the true definition of deity. The aspect of deity that is emphasized in Genesis 1 is God's sovereign, majestic power as Creator. God is so powerful, that He merely speaks to bring things into existence and to make things happen (the verb translated 'said' is used ten times in Genesis 1, with each day beginning with God speaking, except the seventh day).
The power of God is also demonstrated in His forming and fashioning the earth to be a good place for mankind to live. The condition of the earth in Genesis 1:2 is 'formless and void'. These two words describe the earth as uninhabitable for human beings. The word 'formless' (tōhû) is used in Deuteronomy 32:10 in parallel with 'desert' (midbār), which is an uninhabitable place (described in verse 10 as a 'howling waste of the wilderness'). The word 'void' (bōhû) can also mean 'empty' and it is used in Isaiah 45:18 in parallel with 'inhabited'. God's purpose in creating the heavens and the earth was not that they would be empty but that they would be inhabited. In fact, the phrase 'formless and void' is used in Jeremiah 4:23 to describe the land of Palestine as uninhabitable because of the judgment of God through the exile of His people. The fruitful land became a desert. In Genesis 1 God forms and fashions what was 'formless and void' and makes it inhabitable for humanity.
The character of God's creation is declared good. This declaration is made throughout Genesis 1 at distinct stages of the work of creation and is made in a summary statement in Genesis 1:31. The word 'good' can mean that something is beautiful (Exod. 2:2) or that something is useful in fulfilling a purpose. A. Bowling, "(tôb)," in TWOT (eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke; 2 vols; Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1980), 1:345-46. The latter meaning fits Genesis 1 as various aspects of creation are declared good. The things which God creates fulfill their purpose in making the earth a place for human habitation. The fact that God's creation is good affirms the benefit of the material world for human beings (1 Tim. 4:4) and argues against the view that matter is evil.
It is clear that the creation of 'man' ('ădām) is special and that it represents the crown of God's work. 'The majestic march of the days' climaxes with the creation of human beings. The special place of human beings within God's creation is demonstrated in several ways in Genesis 1.
First, when God creates 'man' He uses terminology which was not used in reference to any other creation in Genesis 1. He does not say 'let the earth bring forth living creatures' as in verse 24, but rather states 'Let us make man.'
There is much discussion concerning the meaning of 'let us'. Some argue that the 'us' refers to the heavenly court that surrounds God's throne, a reference to angelic beings who act as messengers for God (1 Kings 22:19, Job 1-2). However, God goes on to say that 'man' would be made in 'our image' and it is hard to conceive of human beings created in the image of the angels or of God and the angels. Plus, there is no evidence for the existence of a heavenly court in Genesis 1.
When God takes counsel it is clearly stated with whom He takes counsel. God is the sole actor throughout Genesis 1. Isaiah 40:14 denies that God consults with anyone, whether human or heavenly, in the creation or administration of the world. Cassuto argues that 'let us' is a plural of exhortation as when a person exhorts himself to do a certain task. He appeals to 2 Samuel 24:14 where the plural 'let us fall' is used, followed by the singular 'let me not fall'.
This view is closely associated with the view that 'let us' is expressing self-deliberation. In this view God deliberates with Himself in the creation of 'mankind'. Gerhard Hasel argues that the plural 'let us' is a plural of fullness which supposes that there is within the divine being a distinction of personalities so that there is an intra-divine deliberation among the 'persons' within the divine being. He goes on to say that 'in the creation of man a deliberating counseling between "persons" and a mutual summons within the deity or divine Being took place'. In the context of Genesis 1:2, where the Spirit of God is mentioned as participating in creation, it makes sense that God here speaks to the Spirit as a co-participant in creation.
However the phrase is understood, it highlights the importance of God's creation of 'man' because it is a unique phrase in Genesis 1. The ongoing march of creation in the pattern of 'God said' and then 'God created or made' is interrupted with 'let us make' to highlight the importance of the creation of human beings.
Second, the importance of the creation of 'mankind' is seen in the fact that only human beings are said to be created in the image of God. The plants and the animals are not created in His image. There is much discussion concerning the meaning of the image of God. The image of God is not specifically defined in Genesis 1 but the emphasis is on how those who are made in the image of God should function within God's creation. Of course, this has led to various reflections on what the image of God entails. Some argue that because human beings are a reflection of God the image includes both spiritual and material aspects. Although God does not have a physical body, some would argue, based on the unity of the human person, that the human physical form reflects God in some way. This view would stress that humans represent God on earth. Others would stress that we are like God and unlike the animals in that humans are personal beings who are selfconscious and have the ability to be self-reflective. The ability of human beings to think and speak sets them apart from the animals. Some would also bring in the New Testament perspective of what is restored to a person when they are regenerated, which includes knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; WCF 4.2).
The text emphasizes the role of those made in God's image within God's creation. In order to fulfill that role God created 'mankind' as male and female. This differentiation was necessary if 'mankind' was to fulfill God's purposes of being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, and subduing it (Gen. 1:28). The aspect of dominion over the animals also demonstrates the special place of human beings in God's creation. The fact that human beings rule over God's creation is based on their special place in God's creation. However, this view is under attack today from many who do not want to give human beings a special place in God's creation, partly because they adamantly oppose the concept of dominion.Many also misunderstand the concept. Dominion does not mean that human beings are free to exploit creation in a negative way without regard for the beauty and glory of God's creation; rather, in exercising dominion human beings mirror God's actions in Genesis 1. God's power and authority in bringing this world into existence is emphasized in Genesis 1 and the role of human beings reflects that aspect of God in ruling over creation (for the role of caring for creation, see the discussion on Genesis 2). Of course, human beings rule creation under God's authority. Practically, this means that it is appropriate for human beings to use creation for their benefit. Dominion is a Biblical concept and any view that would deny the unique role of human beings within God's creation and place humans and animals on the same level is to be vehemently rejected.
It is clear that human beings have a royal calling in their rule over creation. All human beings participate in this rule over creation by virtue of their being created in the image of God. In some views in the ancient Near East only the king partakes of the divine image. For example, a statement to King Esarhaddon of Assyria asserts, 'A (free) man is as a shadow of the god, the slave is as the shadow of a (free) man, but the king, he is like unto the (very) image of God.' However, in the Scriptural account every human being is made in the image of God and thus takes on a royal, kingly function within creation.
Dominion, however, is made very difficult by the fall, but God sets out to restore man's dominion in redemptive history, beginning with the promise that one would come to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). The covenant with Abraham includes the promise of kings and the possibility of restoring dominion in the land of Canaan (Gen. 17:7-8; 15:18-21). Israel and her kings do not exercise proper dominion because they fail to live in obedience to God and thus lose the land. The promises in the Old Testament of one who would come to rule righteously and establish a kingdom of peace (Gen. 49:10-11; Num. 24:17; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-16) are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself exercises dominion by casting out demons (Mark 5), by restoring order in creation through healing (Mark 3:1-6), and by exercising power over creation (Mark 4:35-41). Hebrews 2 presents Christ as the man who fulfills the original role of dominion given to human beings and makes it possible for humans to share in that dominion restored to them in Christ. Thus, the kingdom is given to His disciples who will inherit the earth and participate in the reign of Christ by crushing Satan under their feet (Rom. 16:20). Full restoration will be established when Christ comes again and we will reign with Him in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 22:5).
The account of creation ends with God resting on the seventh day from the work of creation. This rest has implications for human beings because God also blesses the seventh day and makes it holy. The blessing of the day means that the day will be fruitful with respect to the purposes of that day, which parallels the blessing of male and female for the purpose of multiplying and filling the earth. The fact that the seventh day is holy sets it apart not only for God but also for human beings who will benefit from the 'rest' of that day. How human beings participate in the rest of the seventh day is not spelled out explicitly, but the blessing of the seventh day must have implications for human beings. It will include imitating God in stopping the activity of work in order to rest, which must include not just a physical rest but also a spiritual rest. God does not get tired and yet He rested on the seventh day, and it will become clear that human beings are also to enter into that rest. The fall into sin will highlight the necessity of rest from the weariness of work and also the necessity of spiritual rest which can only be found in God. Thus a pattern of work and rest is established that human beings will imitate in honor of God.
The concept of rest is lost in the fall as Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden. God seeks to restore that rest through the restoration of fellowship with mankind and in establishing places of rest which exemplify His presence, such as the tabernacle and the land of Canaan. Such rest is forfeited by the sin of Israel so that they lose the place of rest in the destruction of the temple and the loss of their land. Jesus comes to restore God's rest by establishing fellowship with God through His death on the cross. He is the temple and He comes to establish His dwelling in a new temple, the church. Thus He offers rest to the weary (Matt. 11:28) and makes it possible for God's people to enter into His rest (Heb. 4), both now through faith in Christ but also in the future when full rest will be restored in the presence of God in the new heavens and the new earth. There will be no temple in that place of rest because God Himself will be with His people, which will lead to the vanquishing of tears, pain, sorrow, and death (Rev. 21:3-4).
The first section of Genesis to be introduced by the word 'toledot' is 2:4-4:26 (The Account [Toledot] of the Heavens and the Earth). This section of Genesis is part of the larger unit of Genesis 2:4-11:9, which describes the fall and its results. In Genesis 2:4 the word 'toledot' is followed by a narrative account of what happened to the heavens and the earth. After the broad, sweeping, majestic view of creation in Genesis 1 and its emphasis on the sovereignty of God, Genesis 2 takes a closer look at God's preparation of a place for Adam and Eve to live, the creation of Adam and Eve, and the role they have in the garden.
Genesis 2 no longer describes God in His majesty as the creator but it gives a much more personal account of His care for and interaction with His creation. This explains why Elohim alone is not used for God in Genesis 2 but Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) is used. At this point in the narrative the name Yahweh (Lord) is not fully understood, but this name becomes significant as the covenant name of God in the Exodus from Egypt. Yahweh remembers His covenant with Abraham and fights to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. In Genesis 2 Yahweh demonstrates His close relationship with Adam and Eve in the way they are created and in His concern for their welfare by providing for them all that they need.
Everything in Genesis 2 is geared toward the benefit of human beings, who are God's highest creation. God provides life to Adam by breathing into him the breath of life so that he becomes a living being. God Himself fashions the first man from the dust of the ground. This act of God demonstrates His close involvement with the creation of man in that He gives personal attention to the formation of both Adam and Eve. Also, the word play between 'man' ('ādām) and 'ground' (ădāmāh) shows that mankind is related to the ground by his very constitution so that when sin enters the world mankind will return to the ground in death. But on the positive side, mankind will also be perfectly suited to work the ground in the fulfillment of his divinely given task of caring for the garden.
God not only provides life for man but He also provides work. The man is placed in the garden 'to work it and to keep it' (Gen. 2:15). It is significant that work is part of man's original vocation given to him by God. Work is something that is beneficial to human beings in fulfilling the calling God has given to them. The two words used for the work in the garden are 'ābad ('to work') and šāmar ('to keep'). The former word can have the meaning 'to serve' and the latter the meaning 'to guard'. These terms stress that work is not just something that is beneficial to the one doing the work but that work also includes various responsibilities. Thus work includes service to others and the obligation to use appropriately whatever property God has entrusted to us (Gen. 30:31).Work also includes responsibility to God. The two terms used in Genesis 2:15 for human work are also used to describe the work of the priests and Levites at the tabernacle (Num. 3:7-8). There is a spiritual dimension to human work because it is done as service to God and has the purpose of faithfully keeping the instructions of God (Lev. 8:35). The implication is that the purpose of work is more than an activity that allows a person to provide for his needs but that work is a vocation which enables a person to fulfill a calling of service to others and to God.
The aspect of work as service to God is enhanced by the presentation of the garden as a special place of God's presence. The fact that it is a garden stresses that it is a special place, an enclosed protected area associated with the blessings of God. Those blessings include fellowship with God and the abundant provision of Adam's every need. The fact that there is a river that flows out of the garden (Gen. 2:10) is significant not only because water is an important source of physical life, but also because water flowing from the place of God's presence becomes a picture in later Scripture of the abundant blessing of God that flows from the place of God's dwelling. This picture is found in Psalm 46, Ezekiel 47, and Revelation 22. In John 7, rivers of living water flow from the Holy Spirit in the one who believes (v. 38). Thus spiritual blessings flow abundantly from the presence of God. The tree of life also shows up in Revelation 22 in the new heavens and the new earth. It is also interesting that there are cherubim that guard the garden when Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden. Thus, there is clear evidence that the garden is a special place of God's presence, that it foreshadows the later tabernacle and temple, and that what is lost through the fall is ultimately restored in the new heavens and the new earth.
In Genesis 2, Adam's special role in the garden is not only seen in the description of his work in the garden (Gen. 2:15), but also in the exercise of dominion in naming the animals (Gen. 2:18-20). The naming of the animals fulfills the God-ordained role given to mankind in Genesis 1:26-28 and demonstrates Adam's authority over the animals. It is also clear, however, that the purpose for naming the animals includes a search for a companion for Adam. For the first time something has been declared 'not good' by God; it is not good that Adam is alone (Gen. 2:18). It becomes evident that the right match was not found for Adam in the animal world. Thus God forms 'a woman' not from the ground but from Adam himself. The woman that God forms for Adam is the right 'helper fit for him' (Gen. 2:20). This is demonstrated in Adam's response when the woman is brought to him (Gen. 2:23). Adam, in essence, declares 'finally' ('this at last') because there is someone of his own kind who is of his own flesh. He then names her 'Woman' ('îššāh) because she was taken out of 'Man' ('îš) There follows a statement in Genesis 2:24 that is a commentary on the creation of woman, which is the foundational statement for marriage in Scripture. The marriage relationship entails a leaving behind of all other loyalties, including family loyalties, the establishment of a new relationship by the couple's sole commitment to each other, and the demonstration of the union of that relationship by becoming one flesh. The beauty and transparency of marriage are demonstrated in the final statement of verse 25: 'the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.' The man and his wife live together in complete harmony.
It is appropriate to draw some conclusions based on what has been presented so far concerning the role of mankind in his various relationships. First of all, human beings imitate God in carrying out their proper role in creation. In Genesis 1 God is presented as the majestic, sovereign creator of the heavens and the earth who rules over His creation by forming and fashioning it. The role of mankind in Genesis 1:26-28 in having dominion over creation parallels the presentation of God as mankind imitates God's rule over creation under His authority. In Genesis 2 God is presented as more intimately involved with His creation as He cares for mankind by providing all that is needed to live a fruitful life. The role of mankind in Genesis 2 imitates God with the emphasis on caring for and keeping the garden. Thus Genesis 1-2 presents a complete picture and a proper balance of the role of human beings within God's creation. Both dominion over creation and care for creation are important for understanding mankind's role in creation. Dominion apart from care for creation can lead to exploitation and the abuse of creation. Care for creation separated from dominion can lead to a distorted view of the proper relationship of human beings to creation and to the animal world. Dominion means that human beings are able to use creation for their benefit but they are to do so within the proper limits of caring for creation. There may be differences of opinion among Christians on specific issues related to the proper use of the environment, but it is important to keep both dominion and care for creation as the proper framework for discussing these issues.
A second issue that arises from Genesis 2 is the relationship between the man and the woman in marriage. It is important to keep a proper balance between the leadership role of the man and the equality of the woman in the relationship. It is clear that the man is created first and that the woman has her origin from the man. The authority of the man in the relationship is seen in the fact that Adam has a representative role in Genesis. The name 'ādām not only refers to a particular individual named Adam but it also has the generic sense of 'mankind'. The actions of Adam affect those he represents so that when he fails it affects his descendants. In Genesis 3, God holds Adam responsible for the sin of eating from the tree by addressing him first, even though it was Eve who first partook of the fruit. This coincides with Paul's understanding of the representative role of Adam in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. The authority of Adam is also seen in his naming of the one brought to him as 'Woman' (Gen. 2:23) and in giving her the name 'Eve' (Gen. 3:20). On the other hand, Eve's full equality with Adam is also demonstrated in that she is also created in the image of God. One implication of this is that she will have full access to a relationship with God, which is demonstrated in the fact that she is held responsible for her actions in the sin of eating from the tree. Also, Eve is given to Adam to assist him in his work in the garden. The word 'helper' ('ēzer), used for Eve in Genesis 2:20, is a very strong word used for the help that God gives to people, which demonstrates the woman's essential role in aiding the man to fulfill his calling. One way in which the woman will help in the fulfillment of the divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply is to be the one who will bear children. The importance of this role is seen when God specifically mentions it in giving the consequences of the curse of sin (Gen. 3:16). Thus, the woman does not occupy an inferior position in the marriage relationship but she fully assists her husband in fulfilling the divine mandate.
Third, the fact that the first couple is male and female and that the marriage relationship is highlighted has important implications for issues the church is facing today. There are segments of the church that argue for the legitimacy of monogamous homosexuality as a proper expression of love between two men or two women. This is a very difficult position to argue on the basis of Scripture. The fact that the first couple are male and female and that this is necessary to carry out the divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply automatically sets homosexual relationships outside the bounds of what is normative for marriage, partly because such a relationship is not able to produce children in a natural way. Plus, all the references to homosexual relationships in Scripture are negative, which makes it difficult to argue from Scripture the legitimacy or the positive benefits of that relationship. Many who argue for homosexuality have abandoned Scripture as their ultimate authority and have substituted something else, such as human experience and/ or their definition of human love, as their highest authority.
The importance of marriage in fulfilling the divine mandate also raises questions concerning the subject of singleness. In the cultural context of the Old Testament there was a high expectation that a person would marry and have children because marriage and children were so important for the ongoing legacy of the name of the family and for inheritance issues. However, as with other practices in the Old Testament, there is an important redemptive historical shift that takes place at the coming of Christ. Jesus Himself affirms God's original design of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 and affirms the importance of that relationship by stating that a divorce should not be granted except for sexual immorality (19:9). The disciples are surprised by the strictness of Jesus' words and assert that if that is the case it is better not to marry (19:10). Jesus uses their response to teach further on the fact that 'not marrying' may now be an option for those who do not marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (19:11-12). In other words, there may be situations where singleness is better because it enables a person to focus all his or her energy on serving Christ without worrying about the responsibilities that come with marriage (see 1 Cor. 7:32-35). Jesus Himself never married. Although marriage is still important, singleness is an option and those who are single should not be made to feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.
Genesis 2 lays out all the wonderful provisions that God grants to Adam in the garden. In addition to the ones listed above, there is also the provision of limits in the command that God gave to Adam. The command has a positive aspect to it in that God grants to Adam the freedom to eat from every tree of the garden; however, there is also a prohibition with a penalty attached to it. The prohibition is that Adam is not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (for further discussion of this tree, see Genesis 3). The penalty for disobeying this command is death: 'in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die' (2:17). The purpose of this prohibition is not explicitly stated but it becomes clear from the events of Genesis 3 that this tree is a test of Adam and Eve's loyalty to God through obedience to His command. The result from eating this tree is death, first spiritual and then physical. The fact that God prohibits Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life after they have disobeyed God's command implies that if they had obeyed the command of God they would have been allowed to eat from the tree of life. Thus it is appropriate to see the command in Genesis 2:16-17 as a probationary test for Adam. He failed the test and so Adam himself and his descendants became subject to death. The implication is that if Adam had passed this test, not only would he have been able to enjoy life in all its fullness, his descendants would have enjoyed such life as well. This fullness of life which was lost can be compared to the life that will be restored in the new heavens and the new earth. Although the two may not be completely identical, the life that Adam would have received would have been on a glorified level of existence as a permanent possession.
Although the term 'covenant' is not used in Genesis 1-3, the relationship between God and Adam is best understood as a covenant relationship. The term 'covenant' is not used in 2 Samuel 7 for the relationship that God established with David, but Psalm 89 does refer to it as a covenant. The same is true for Genesis 1-3. The term 'covenant' is not used, yet Hosea 6:7 refers to God's relationship with Adam as a covenant. Plus, elements of a covenant relationship are present in Genesis 1-3. As with all covenants, God takes the initiative as the authoritative member of the relationship. There are stipulations to the relationship between God and Adam as laid out in the prohibition that God gives to Adam, which also has the penalty of death attached to it. If disobedience to God's command brings the curse of death, it is implied that obedience to the command will bring the blessings of life.
Covenants operate on the representative principle and include descendants, which is true of Adam's role in Genesis. He is a representative for his descendants and what he does impacts his descendants. Adam's sin is charged against his descendants, that is, it is imputed to them, a point Paul makes in Romans 5. Certainly the effects of Adam's sin on his descendants are evident in Genesis 4 with the triumph of sin.
The type of covenant relationship between God and Adam best fits what comes to be known as a treaty covenant where the blessings of the covenant are given in response to obedience and the curses of the covenant fall on the covenant breaker. This is the same type of covenant as the Mosaic covenant, where in some sense there is a works principle operative in relationship to whether Israel keeps the land (Lev. 18:5, Deut. 26-27). The Mosaic covenant is a part of the covenant of grace so that the law is given in the context of redemption and is a guide for how Israel is to live in a way that is pleasing to God (third use of the law). However, Paul also recognizes in Romans 10:5 a principle of righteousness based on the law that a person who does the commandments shall live by them. Thus the law also functions to condemn us of our sin and show us our need of a Savior (the second use of the law). Paul also speaks of a righteousness based on faith that trusts in the finished work of Christ (Rom. 10:6-13). This righteousness based on faith is at the heart of the covenant of grace.
The covenant arrangement with Adam has traditionally been called the covenant of works (WCF 7.2) and it is absolutely necessary for a proper view of justification by faith because imputation is at the heart of the covenant of works. Just as Adam's sin was imputed to his descendants, so the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who believe in Him. Many who have denied the covenant of works have also denied the imputation of Christ's active obedience in fulfilling the demands of the law. Such a denial can affect how one understands justification by faith, which can affect how one understands the gospel itself.
Genesis 3-4 completes the first toledot of Genesis (2:4-4:26).
God has provided everything that Adam and Eve need in the garden and now a test of their loyalty to God arises. Their decision to disobey God has momentous consequences for all their relationships, but especially their relationship with God. The destructive power of sin is manifested in God's creation. Adam and Eve lose their place in the garden because of their disobedience, and the triumph of sin becomes evident in Genesis 4, which describes a division between the godly and the ungodly lines.
In Genesis 3:1 a new character is introduced 'the serpent', who is described as 'more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made' (NASB). A first-impression reading of this verse is that the serpent is part of the animal kingdom but is set apart from the other animals by the characteristic of being 'crafty' ('ārûm). This word is used in a positive sense in other parts of the Bible where it means 'prudent' (Prov. 12:16, 23; 14:8, 15); but it is also used in a negative sense with the meaning 'crafty' (Job 5:12; 15:5). Ronald B. Allen, ('ārûm), TWOT, 2:697-98. It will become clear in Genesis 3 that the negative meaning 'crafty' fits the serpent. Yet this serpent is different from the other animals not only because he is crafty but also because he speaks. This raises the question whether the serpent is being used by someone else as an instrument to accomplish his purposes. Later Scriptures will support the view that behind the serpent is Satan himself, who is seeking to bring about the fall of Adam and Eve (Rev. 12:9; John 8:43-45).Nevertheless, from Adam and Eve's perspective the serpent is an animal over whom they should exercise dominion.
The craftiness of the serpent is seen in the way he approaches Eve and questions her concerning the prohibition that God had given to them: 'Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?"' (Gen. 3:1). The serpent questions what God has said, and the question itself is meant to raise doubts or plant seeds of dissatisfaction concerning whether God really has the best interests of Adam and Eve in view. The question emphasizes God's prohibition and overlooks the abundant provision of trees God had given to Adam and Eve. Eve's response corrects the serpent's question by emphasizing that there is only one tree that they are prohibited from eating (3:2), but she then embellishes God's prohibition by adding 'neither shall you touch it' (compare 2:17 with 3:3). Perhaps this addition seems minor, but it is important how human beings handle the Word of God. The fact that Eve makes the command stricter by the addition of not touching it gives evidence of the growing suspicion in her mind.
The big lie from the serpent comes in verse 4 where he directly contradicts God's command by emphatically stating, 'You will not surely die,' The reason given for this bold statement raises the question of whether God is holding back Adam and Eve from greater fulfillment. The serpent holds out the hope that by eating of the tree they can be 'like God knowing good and evil' (3:5). The serpent states that God wants to keep Adam and Eve from becoming like Him in reference to 'knowing good and evil', a phrase that is best understood as referring to the ability to discern for oneself what is good and evil. The issue concerns the source of knowledge and whether God is the ultimate source of knowledge or whether human beings take upon themselves the role of determining what is good and evil. By disobeying the command of God, Adam and Eve clearly assert their own moral autonomy to determine for themselves what is right and wrong (Gen. 3:6). Instead of submitting to the authority of God's Word to make them wise (Ps. 19:7-8), they want to decide this issue for themselves. To act autonomously is to act like God.
The results of disobeying God are devastating because every relationship is affected. When Adam and Eve partake of the fruit, something immediately happens within them so that they no longer see themselves and the world in the same way. Genesis 3:7 states, 'Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.' At the end of Genesis 2 they were naked and not ashamed, but since they now are ashamed to stand naked before each other, they sew fig leaves together to cover their shame. Sin leads to guilt, shame, and the loss of transparency. Their relationship with God is also broken. Instead of enjoying fellowship with God, they now hide from God when He comes into the garden. Genesis 3:8 implies that God's coming to the garden for fellowship with Adam and Eve was a regular occurrence, but the emphasis in verse 8 is on the coming of God in judgment. Genesis 3:8 uses the hitpael verb form for the word 'walking' which can imply that God's coming to the garden was a regular occurrence. Hamilton (Genesis 1-17, p. 192) notes that the hitpael stresses habitual aspects of an action. God came to have regular fellowship with Adam and Eve. However, it is clear in the context of Genesis 3 that God is coming for judgment. Within that context the hitpael form of the verb could be connected to its use with agents of the divine counsel when on missions of surveillance and judgment (Job 1:7; Zech. 1:10). The word qôl, translated 'voice' or 'sound' is also used of the shattering thunder of God's coming for judgment (Isa. 30:31; Jer. 25:30; Joel 3:16) and the phrase 'cool of the day' could be referring to the 'spirit (rûah) of the day', which would be a reference to the spirit of judgment on the day of the Lord (see Meredith Kline, Images of the Spirit [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1999], pp. 97-114).
Sin also affects the relationship between Adam and Eve. It is interesting that although Eve was the first to partake of the fruit, God first spoke to Adam as the covenant representative who is ultimately responsible for the act of sin. Although it is not absolutely clear that, when Genesis 3:6 states that Eve gave the fruit 'to her husband who was with her', the text means Adam was with Eve during the whole conversation, it seems likely that Adam was present for the discussion between Eve and the serpent. The serpent addresses Eve with plural verb forms as if he is addressing both the man and the woman.Cassuto points out that the use of the preposition 'with' plus a suffix occurs when a person associates himself in a given action with someone who leads him (Gen. 6:18; 13:1). Thus, Adam is being led by Eve and acquiesces to her initiative, instead of taking responsibility at that moment to obey God and not partake of the fruit.
Although it is possible that, as covenant head, Adam's obedience would have covered for Eve's transgression, he nevertheless followed Eve down the path of sin and the results are seen not only in their hiding from God but in their blaming someone else for the sin. When God confronts Adam concerning whether he has eaten from the fruit of the tree, Adam blames Eve who was given to him by God (3:12). When God addresses Eve, she blames the serpent for deceiving her (3:13). Sin establishes patterns of behavior that affect the marriage relationship. Men either have a tendency to be passive and not accept their God-given role of covenant leadership in their families, or else they dominate their wives in inappropriate and abusive ways. Women have the tendency to blame the husband for the problems of the marriage and seek to control what happens in the family. Many times this happens because of the leadership void left by a passive husband. When God speaks to the woman and lays out the results of sin, he states, 'Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you' (Gen. 3:16). God makes a similar statement to Cain in Genesis 4:7: 'sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.' The structure and terms used in both verses are almost identical. In Genesis 4:7 sin's desire is to conquer Cain, but he must in turn rule over it. The issue is whether sin will control the life of Cain. Genesis 3:16 speaks about a similar conflict of control in the marriage relationship. Eve's desire is for her husband, which in the context of the consequences of the curse of judgment has a negative meaning. Her desire will be to usurp her husband's authority, which parallels Genesis 4:7 where sin's desire is to conquer Cain. In response, the husband will seek to assert his rule over his wife so that the original, harmonious relationship of the man and wife before sin is now distorted. Marriage becomes a battlefield over who will control the relationship.
The judgment of sin also affects mankind's relationship to creation, which is directly related to the work that God had given to mankind. The mandate to be fruitful and multiply is now difficult because childbearing and birth become a hard and painful process (3:16). The task of dominion over creation is now a hard task because the ground itself is cursed with the result that working the ground for food becomes an arduous task (3:17). The ground no longer cooperates but brings forth thorns and thistles. In this context death is also defined as a returning of the body to the dust of the ground (3:19). Physical death becomes apparent in the following chapters of Genesis, but spiritual death is what has been described in the change that takes place within Adam and Eve and in their broken fellowship with God. In fact, because of their disobedience Adam and Eve lose the Garden of Eden as the special place of God's presence so that they are driven out of the garden by God (3:24). In asserting their moral autonomy instead of obeying God's command, they lose everything.
God's response in the context of the judgment of sin is extremely significant because it gives hope not only in the immediate situation that Adam and Eve face, but also for the future of their descendants. The covering that Adam and Eve make for themselves out of fig leaves is not adequate so God Himself covers them with 'garments of skins' (3:20). Human beings are not able to cover their own guilt and shame but must rely on God to provide an appropriate covering. It is significant that God uses animal skins to cover them, which foreshadows the importance of substitutionary sacrifice in the sacrifices of animals later in the Old Testament. Although God drives the couple out of the garden, this is a gracious act because it keeps them from partaking of the tree of life and living forever (3:22). If they would have partaken of the tree of life in their state of sin, the future hope of restoration would not have been possible because they would have been established in their own moral autonomy without hope of change. In this way, physical death is not final because there is the hope of restoration in this life and the hope of life after death. This aspect of God's grace is so important that God sets up cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life (3:24).
God's grace is also seen in the fact that although the work that God had given to Adam and Eve would now be very difficult, it was not impossible. God sends them out of the garden but He sends them out 'to work the ground' (3:23), a phrase which uses one of the words from Genesis 2:7. Also, Adam names his wife 'Eve', which means the mother of all living (3:20). Even after the effects of the curse are announced concerning childbearing, the mandate to be fruitful and multiply will be carried out.
Finally, the hope of restoration for the future descendants of the human race is seen in that God commits Himself to deal with the serpent. The serpent is cursed more than the other animals because of its role in tempting Adam and Eve. The curse on the serpent is stated as 'on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat, all the days of your life' (3:14). This curse is not speaking about a change of locomotion for the serpent, just as eating dust does not refer to the literal diet of the serpent. These phrases are a metaphorical way of stressing the humiliation and subjugation of the serpent. The text is also clear that God will put enmity not only between the serpent and the woman, but between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The serpent will have a seed or descendants who will follow in his way, but the woman will also have descendants. In the immediate context, the descendants of the serpent are the Cainites who allow sin to dominate their lives. Jesus Himself speaks to certain Jewish people of His day as those who are of their father the devil (John 8:44) because they are not willing to believe His testimony. In Genesis 4 there will be a division of the human race between those who are separated from God (4:14) and those who worship Him (4:26). There will be hostility or warfare between these two groups.
God also promises, however, to send one from the seed of the woman who will do battle with the serpent and conquer him. Although the term 'seed' (zera') is a collective singular and can refer to descendants (plural), it is clear that a single individual is in view in the statement, 'he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel' (3:15). Although the collective singular noun 'seed' can be used with either singular or plural verbs, the pronouns used with 'seed' determine whether 'seed' has in view one descendant or many descendants. If the pronouns are plural, then 'seed' refers to a plurality of descendants, but if the pronouns are singular, then 'seed' refers to a single individual. In Genesis 3:15 the pronouns are singular so that 'seed' is referring to an individual who will come to do battle with the seed of the serpent. The result of the battle is described by the verb sup, which is translated 'bruise' (ESV, NASB) or 'strike' (NIV). The victory of the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent is seen in the location of the verbal action. The seed of the woman is bruised on the heel, which is not ultimately fatal, but the seed of the serpent is bruised on the head, which is a fatal blow. The enmity between the two seeds begins in Genesis 4. Already in Genesis 5:29 people are looking for the one who will come to deliver them from the curse of sin. The identity of this one is further developed in Genesis, where the seed of the woman is narrowed to the seed of Abraham, and then further narrowed to the tribe of Judah. The royal nature of the coming one also becomes clear (Gen. 49:10-12). The New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as the seed of the woman, the son of Adam (Luke 3:38), who is also the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1), the one from the tribe of Judah who has come to do battle with the serpent (Matt. 8:28-34; 12:22-32) in order to defeat Satan, sin, and death (Luke 10:17-20; Col. 1:13; Rev. 12:7-12).