Living under the curse & outside the garden
The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the north-east coast of Japan, left more than 28,000 people dead or missing and knocked out the Fukushima nuclear plant’s cooling system. The reactor’s sea-wall, designed to withstand a 5.5 metre (18 feet) wave, was breached by a surge estimated to be 14 metre (46 feet) high.
Such devastating natural disasters change people’s lives forever. They are dreadful catastrophes which wreak destruction, and tragedies which overwhelm people with great distress and can cause a high death toll. People ask where is God when innocent people suffer and die? How can He allow such calamities to happen? Doesn’t He love people?
Disasters in the Old Testament
Many natural disasters are mentioned in the Old Testament. Most were God’s instrument of punishment. The Bible says that they were God’s judgment against sin. For example, the global flood was God’s judgement of the great wickedness on the earth and the people who rejected Noah’s preaching and continued in their sinful ways (Gen. 6:3-5). God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness; there were fewer than ten righteous people in Sodom (Gen. 18:32).
God brought disastrous plagues on the Egyptians because they persecuted the Jews (Ex. 7:14 – 11:29). Once they escaped, if the Jews didn’t obey the law, God promised disasters (Deut. 28:61). This would be God’s punishment for their idolatry (Deut. 29:16-29; Jos. 24:20); the prophet Jeremiah confirmed this (Jer. 44:1-23). It was a disaster when the Jews were defeated, scattered and captured by the Babylonians. God also promised disasters on many ungodly nations (Jer. 46:21; 49:8, 32; 51:2, 64). And famines occurred, including the 7-year famine when Joseph was in Egypt (Gen. 41:53-57; 47:13-25).
Disasters in the New Testament
Disasters also occurred in the New Testament. There were earthquakes when Christ died, when He came back to life and when Paul and Silas were in prison.
In ancient times it was believed that disasters fell only on those who were extremely sinful. But Jesus taught otherwise when He mentioned “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’” (Lk. 13:4-5). The answer was not that they deserved punishment more that the others, as suffering is not directly proportional to sin. Disasters happen to us all. All are sinners who must turn to God or perish in hell. The massacre of the Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to worship and the collapse of the tower weren’t God’s judgement on their sinfulness; they were warnings to all that unless they repented of their sin, they were doomed to eternal punishment in hell. Disasters are not necessarily God’s judgement, but they are warnings of His coming judgement unless we get right with God.
Jesus also said that the weather doesn’t discriminate between good and bad people. When He taught the disciples to love their enemies He said that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45). The lesson was that God shows His love to people without distinction.
Revelation talks about the horrible disasters that will make life on earth miserable during the coming Great Tribulation (Rev. Chapters 6; 8-18). The Bible says that they will be God’s judgement on the sin of humanity.
Disasters follow sin
After God created the universe, the Bible says “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). There were no disasters and no suffering or pain in the original creation. But after Adam and Eve sinned, God told Adam: “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:17-19). A radical change took place: God’s good creation was placed under a curse. Weeds grew, and nature was out of balance. Adam had to work for food. Death was introduced. Animals and people aged and died. Because of this curse we have disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, bushfires, and droughts today. The world is full of natural disasters because sin has polluted our once-perfect world. That’s not what God planned, but it is a consequence of our rebellion and sinfulness.
Paul described it like this: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:18-23). Here there are more signs of the curse: all creation is under “bondage to decay” and it is groaning and suffering like a woman in childbirth. The scope is “the whole creation” so it affects Christians and the rest of God’s creation.
When people say, “how could a loving God create such a world?” they show their ignorance of history. God didn’t create it that way! We are reaping what Adam and Eve sowed. Life is a struggle for all creation and there is much suffering because we live in a fallen world. It is not what God intended. Disasters are part of the trouble that is inevitable in the sinful world (Jn. 16:33).
God’s response to disasters
What has God done about disasters? He has done something about the sin, suffering and death in our world. He sent Jesus, so that we can have eternal life without these things (Rom. 6:23).
The big picture is visualized in the diagram. God created a perfect world where there were no disasters because there was no sin. This world was changed and spoiled when humanity sinned. We now live under the curse and outside the Garden where there are all kinds of disasters. We live between the fall and the restoration. But God sent His Son to take the punishment for sin by dying for us. Those who accept His rescue plan become part of His new creation where there will be no disasters because there will be no sin. As long as there is sin, there is the curse and there are disasters.
Why does God allow disasters and suffering, when He has promised a new creation without disasters or suffering? Peter wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pt. 3:8-9). Why the delay? What seems a long time to us is not a long time to God. Because He desires everyone to repent and enjoy the new creation, God has delayed judgment. He is being patient. During this time, we can avoid God’s judgment by confessing our sins and turning to Him, realizing that Jesus has already taken our punishment.
Meanwhile we Christians wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies and look forward to the Lord’s coming reign over the earth (Rom. 8:19, 23). When He returns to set up His kingdom, creation will be released from the curse and will be “very good” once again. The Garden will be restored, the curse will be abolished and there will be no more suffering and disasters (Acts 3:21; Rev. 22:3).
What about Romans 8:28?
Romans 8:28 is set in the context of things to help us through difficult times, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. This verse is addressed to believers. God’s purpose, given in the next verse, is to conform us “to the image of His Son”. God wants to make us like Jesus Christ, so we share His character. He wants our lives transformed (2 Cor. 3:18). Everything has this purpose, including disasters, suffering and tragedy. Disasters provide opportunities to grow in our divine nature and become more Christ-like (Eph.4:22-24).
But it can be difficult to balance the physical and spiritual aspects of life. Paul said that God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Here we see that the blessings that are promised to believers are spiritual, not physical. Although disasters, suffering and tragedy might destroy our physical possessions, they don’t take away our spiritual blessings. God gives us what we need, not what we want. After all, Jesus died to save our spirit and soul, not our body. Of course, at the resurrection He gives us new bodies. We know God loves us, not because of how our lives go, but because of Christ’s death at Calvary.
Are disasters a sign of the end times?
When Jesus was asked about the supernatural events (or signs) that would precede His second coming to the earth, He described events that will occur in the time of Tribulation after the Rapture. Some of these events “will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Mt. 24:7b-8; Mk. 13:8; Lk. 21:11). They are not precursors to the Tribulation, but evidence of its presence. These earthquakes are also predicted in Revelation, culminating in devastating earthquakes in Jerusalem (Rev. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18). As the supernatural events associated with these earthquakes have not yet occurred, these earthquakes are future events.
So, although future earthquakes will be a sign of the end times, I am not aware of a Biblical passage that says that current disasters are a sign of the end times. Of course some people believe that we live in the end times and the Bible says that we need to be expecting the rapture at any moment. Also, we need to realise that no matter when we live, God can call us at a moment’s notice. How do we know that we’ll even be alive tomorrow morning (Lk. 12:16-20)? Our life could end suddenly like the rich fool.
Dealing with disasters
We all will face disasters of some kind, and death sooner or later. The Bible says, “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Jesus said, unless we repent and turn to God, we will perish in hell. Like in First Aid, we need to look after ourselves before we can help others. Are we ready to face disasters and death? It is presumptuous for us to refer to any disaster as God’s judgment upon this earth. We can’t say this with certainty because God hasn’t told us. When Peter wrote about the end times, which are characterized by disasters, he advised us to keep praying, help the needy, and use our gifts to serve others (1 Pt. 4:7-11). Disasters provide opportunities to help, bring comfort and relief, and pray.
God is with us in disasters
When the Jews faced disasters in the Old Testament times, God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Is. 43:2). David said, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4). David was writing about the valley of the shadow of death–a time of great fear like a disaster, a tragedy, or a crisis. But when he realized that God was with him, he is comforted. Disasters don’t separate believers from God (Rom. 8:35-39). Nothing can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
The worst is the best
Paul said that “the sting of death is sin” that is unconfessed and unforgiven (1 Cor. 15:56). Because the Lord has forgiven the sins of believers, the sting of death has been removed. That’s how to be ready to face disasters and death. Instead, for the believer, death is the beginning of eternal life. If we know that our sins are forgiven, we can face death with confidence. Like David, we know that God is with us through disasters and “the valley of death”. Death actually ushers us into God’s presence, which is the best thing that can happen! Paul said “to die is gain” because it means we’ll with Jesus (Phil. 1:21). But for unbelievers death is the beginning of eternal punishment and this is terrible. But God is giving plenty of time for people to turn to Him (2 Pt. 3:9).
Lessons for us
We have seen that disasters are a consequence of our sinful world and God is delaying the coming judgement and the perfect world without sin and suffering because He doesn’t want anyone to perish in hell, but everyone to repent so they can go to heaven.
Today disasters are God’s warnings of His coming judgment. They remind us of our need to be right with Him. They remind us that life can be taken away in an instant and there may never be a tomorrow. James warns: “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). We live in an uncertain world. Disaster and tragedy could strike us at any time. Everything that happens, including disasters, is to bring us to Christ, and make us more like Him. Do we have a right relationship with Him? Live every day as if it will be your last. Those going to sacrifice in Jerusalem didn’t know that would be their last day; those working on the tower of Siloam didn’t know that would be their last day. Likewise, we don’t know if today will be our last. One day that will be true for each of us.
So where is God when disaster strikes? As usual, He is on the throne of the universe, ruling all creation, loving us and caring for us and preparing us for eternity.
Written, April 2011
Repentance is the key to restoration
In the previous article in this series we saw that life for the first human beings, Adam and Eve, changed from joy and innocence to fear and guilt. This was caused by the sin of disobedience which resulted in a fallen universe and death for animals and people. Today we see how Genesis 3:8-24 shows us how to live in a world that’s dying.
Repentance and Restoration
The Bible starts with God seeking people whereas other religions begin with people seeking God. God asked Adam and Eve a series of questions. Firstly, “Where are you?” (v.9NIV); because Adam and Eve needed to realise that they were away from God. The fellowship they had with God was broken.
Secondly, “Who told you that you were naked?” (v.11). Where did this knowledge come from? This was a rhetorical question because no one told them that they were naked. The feeling of shame, guilt and fear had come from their human conscience. Adam and Eve needed to realise that it came from within them.
Finally, “What is this you have done?” (v.13). After blaming someone else they both confessed their sin, saying “I ate” of the forbidden fruit. Here God is bringing them to confession and repentance. He helps them see what they have done and acknowledge their sin. When they reached this point God stopped asking questions. If Adam and Eve had not been honest in answering God’s questions, then God would not have been able to help them as He did.
The same applies to us when we stray away from God’s intentions for us. We need to ask ourselves: “Where am I?”; “How do I know?”; “What have I done?”. We need to know where we are in life if God is to help us. We need to acknowledge that we are not where we should be because of our inner sinful human nature. We need to take responsibility for it. God wants to bring us to repentance where we acknowledge specifically what is wrong. He wants us to face the facts before He can restore us.
Jesus confirmed that we are defiled by the evil desires within our minds—it comes from within us (Mt. 15:19-20). This is our inner sinful human nature as shown in this instance by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
The Bible tells us what to do after we are convicted of our sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn.1:9). Repentance is needed to start the Christian life. There is a need to confess one’s sins to God and realise that Jesus has taken the penalty for these sins. This rescues us from the eternal punishment of those who have rejected God. Repentance is also needed to live the Christian life. In order to live in fellowship with God and with each other, we must confess our sins on a daily basis. After we confess our sins God forgives us.
So the sequence of events from temptation to restoration is: temptation can lead to sin; sin leads to separation from God (spiritual death or loss of fellowship with God); conviction by a guilty conscience (Rom. 2:14-15) can then lead to confession; this leads to repentance and forgiveness; and the outcome is restoration back into fellowship with God (see Graphic). This is the process for restoring the sinner, which we see repeated throughout the bible (Gal. 6:1,2).
Three examples are:
- King David’s adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12). He sinned and then tried to hide the sin and made it worse by having Bathsheba’s husband killed. After being convicted by Nathan’s parable, he confessed his sin and repented (Ps. 51). Then he was restored and David and Bathsheba reared Solomon.
- Israel’s idolatry. The minor prophets Hosea, Joel and Amos accused the Israelites of being unfaithful to God and named their sins. They called for repentance and stressed that restoration only comes after repentance.
- The prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32) The son took his inheritance and wasted it in a distant country. He finished up destitute and eating the pigs food. Later he came to his senses and returned home and confessed to his father. Then he was restored to his family.
We can short-circuit this process by stopping temptation leading to sin. But when we do sin we need to follow God’s process for restoration and reconciliation. This means allowing our conscience to convict us and then specifically confessing and repenting of our sin. This is how to keep in touch with God and live in a sinful world.
The Blessings of a Fallen World
After Adam and Eve repented, God judged Satan and placed a curse on him. Then God reminded them of what life would be like for them in a sinful and dying world. For Eve it was pain in childbirth and the leadership of her husband. For Adam it was his toil in work and ultimate death. The death penalty was a blessing as well as a curse. It stopped Adam and his descendants from living in a state of sin, with its consequences, forever. It meant that the separation from fellowship with God need not be eternal. As death was the penalty for sin, it also enabled Jesus Christ to pay that penalty (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:12-28).
We suffer because we live in a fallen world. Life is tough. But God has turned the hardships of life into a source of blessing. All these things in our fallen world remind us of our need to rely on God and not ourselves. They counteract our pride and independence. Instead we are very limited and dependent on God. Any of us can be struck down by disease or death. What a humbling thought. Mankind constantly seeks miracle cures for diseases, but as soon as some disease is cured it seems as though another one arises. We need to realise that we are mortals created by God to be on this earth for 70 to 80 years or so. They remind us who we are; people who rely on God and His creation for our life support. They remind us where we are; in a sinful world. They bring us down to earth. Suffering, illness and death affect all in society. Those with power and wealth cannot escape them.
For believers, the “struggle against sin” and the hardships of life are said to be for our good, as they can bring “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:4, 11). So the suffering experienced in our fallen world should lead to spiritual growth. The sinful world is God’s training ground; God’s gymnasium for us. It gives us a tough workout. The symbol used in Hebrews is of a father training his son. God is at work using the struggles of life to mould our character. He wants us to be what He made us to be. He wants us to rely on Him.
Paul wrote, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The context of this verse is “our present sufferings” and “our weakness” and a creation that groans in pain (Rom. 8:18, 22, 26). So if you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. Likewise, Peter wrote, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Pt. 5:10). Don’t be discouraged, God is working behind the scenes to restore and strengthen us. The suffering is only for a little while compared with the eternal glory to come. By persevering in the suffering and struggles of the fallen world we can experience God’s blessings of spiritual growth and maturity.
New Name and New Clothes
Next God provides Eve with a new name and both of them with new clothes. What is the reason for this? It seems to be part of their new way of life in a fallen world. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (v.20). Here we see that the name of the first woman changed from “Woman” to “Eve”. “Woman” means “taken out of man” and “Eve” means “life” (Gen. 2:23). From the beginning, Adam would have known that Eve was to be an ancestor of mankind (Gen. 1:28). In that sense she was the mother of all humanity. But Eve had also repented of her sin and her fellowship with God was restored. She was also at enmity with Satan and believed God’s promise (v.13,15). In that sense she was the mother of the redeemed. It is interesting that biblical characters change their name when there is a change within them. For example Abram and Sarai changed their names to Abraham and Sarah when God promised that they would be the father and mother of many nations and that they would have a son called Isaac (Gen. 15:3-5, 15-16, 19). Because Eve now trusted God, her destiny had changed from eternal death to eternal life (Jn. 5:24; 1 Jn. 3:14). Through her new name “life” she may be recognised as the mother of all those who would find life through Jesus Christ.
When Adam and Eve felt guilty and afraid after they disobeyed God, they made some clothes out of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7,10). These were “coverings for themselves”. Then God endorsed clothing for mankind when He “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (v.21). This would have been more comfortable and more effective clothing than fig leaves. Skin comes from animals and to obtain enough for a garment implies the death of the animal. Maybe God was the first one to kill an animal on earth. Maybe this was the first animal sacrifice. This verse is the main reason we should not be nudists. Why do we wear clothes? God gave clothes because of sin. God showed that clothing is necessary for people living in a sinful world. As Adam and Eve saw things differently after the fall into sin there was a need to wear clothes as a covering for the body (Ex. 22:27; 28:42).
Banished from the Garden
Then “the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever’” (v. 22). The tree of life in the garden in Eden seems to have had the power to convey immortality. In the book of Revelation it symbolises eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22;2, 14,19). All true Christians will “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). If Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life they would have lived forever in bodies subject to guilt, shame, fear, sickness and degeneration. It would mean that humanity would never die physically but would go on in their sinful ways forever. But God had a better plan for the eternal part of their life.
“So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (v.23-24). The cherubim that God used to keep Adam and Eve away from the tree of life were angels that usually stand close to God’s throne. They were represented symbolically on the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:18-22) and temple (2 Chron. 3:7) and seen by the prophet Ezekiel in a vision of the restored Jerusalem (Ez. 41:18-20). Ezekiel described four “living creatures” or cherubim each with four faces and four wings (Ez. 1:5-24; 10:2-22).
Afterthey sinned, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden in order to “guard the way to the tree of life”, so they would find the right way, not the wrong one. There is no longer a physical way to the tree of life. There is nothing we can do physically to get eternal life. We can go to church each Sunday and do all the things that a Christian does, but if it just a physical thing God will remain outside our lives. The way to the tree of eternal life is now via the unseen part of our lives. We come to God in the realm of our soul and spirit. Jesus is now the tree of life—He is the way to heaven because He is the source of truth and the source of life (Jn. 14:6). Jesus is the only way to eternal life. He paid the penalty for sin so we can go to heaven.
Restored to the beginning
Many of the events we have seen in Genesis 1-3 are matched by events described in Revelation 20-21 (see Table). This is because, through Jesus, God plans to restore the relationships that were affected by sin; “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20). Here we see that believers are already reconciled to God; we are part of “a new creation” described by the right hand column of the table (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:21). Eventually all of creation except for Satan, demons and unbelievers will be restored to its original perfect condition (Col. 1:20). However, the latter will come under His rule on judgment day (Phil. 2:10-11). But we can look forward to a paradise that is like the original garden in Eden.
Table: Comparisons between Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22.
|Topic||Genesis 1-3||Revelation 20-22|
|Heavens and earth||Created (2:1,4)||Destroyed by fire (20:11; 2 Pt. 3:10).Renewed (21:1).|
|Day and night||Created (1:3-5)||No night (21:25; 22:5)|
|Sun & moon||Created (1:14-18)||Not needed (21:23)|
|Marriage & wife||Of first Adam (2:24-25)||Of last Adam (19:7; 21:9)|
|Satan||Enters (3:1)||Thrown into the lake of fire (20:10)|
|Sin||Origin (3:6)||Removed (21:27).|
|Pain etc||Origin (3:16-19)||Removed (21:4)|
|Curse on creation||Imposed (3:17-19)||Removed (22:3).|
|Death||Origin (3:19; 5:5)||Second death— the lake of fire (20:14; 21:8)Removed (21:4)|
|Access to tree of life||Denied (3:24)||Restored (22:2,19)|
Foundation of the Bible
Genesis 1-3 is the foundation to understanding the key message of the Bible. It gives the foundation of the gospel and of many Biblical truths and principles. The original sin of Adam and Eve resulted in death and a sinful fallen world. This is the reason why Jesus Christ was born. The good news is that Christ’s death and resurrection paid the penalty for the sin of those who accept His gift of salvation and eternal life.
Genesis 1-3 reveals: God is the Creator; the universe was created in six days; humanity is made in the image of God; humanity rules over the rest of creation; Satan is the tempter; sin leads to a guilty conscience; the original sin affected the rest of creation. It also describes the origin of: sin, conflict, pain, thorns and thistles, toil, work, marriage, death, and clothes.
Finally, let’s remember what Jesus said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13). He spans time from the beginning to the end. He who created it all in the beginning, and who redeems, will also finish it at the end.
Written, July 2004
See the first article in this series:
– In the beginning. Part 1: The first week (Genesis 1)
What happened in the garden in Eden?
In the previous article we saw that at the beginning of time the universe was created by an intelligent and powerful God. He did it in six days followed by one day’s rest to give us the pattern for a seven day week.
Genesis is divided into ten main sections, each beginning with the phrase “the account of”. The next section begins: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4NIV). Moses would have written Genesis from oral history that had been handed down through the generations and God would have shown him how to edit and record this on papyrus. Of course, as Moses’ birth is recorded in Exodus 2, he wrote the most of the second to fifth books of the bible from first hand experience. It this article we will look at Genesis 2:4-25.
Contradictory creation stories?
Because the creation story in Genesis 2 appears to differ from that in Genesis 1, some say that they were written by different people and not Moses. For example, in Genesis 1 God creates by simple command, but He used the ground in Genesis 2 (v.7,19). In Genesis 1 God is called “Elohim”, whereas in Genesis 2 He is called “Yahweh Elohim”. They say that these are conflicting versions of the same story. But what do we see when we look at the text?
Genesis 1 covers the creation of everything in the universe. It summarises the milestones of God’s creative work in the six days of creation and ends with a summary, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Gen. 2:1). The Hebrew word for God, “Elohim”, is mentioned 29 times in this chapter. It is written from God’s perspective.
Genesis 2:4-25 focuses on events in the Garden of Eden during the sixth day of creation. It gives more detail on the creation of mankind and the roles of Adam and Eve. The topics covered are: the Garden of Eden, the creation of Adam and Eve, and Adam’s and Eve’s roles. The Hebrew phrase “Yahweh Elohim”, is mentioned 11 times in this passage. It is written from Adam’s perspective.
“Elohim”, refers to God as the Creator of the universe, the ruler of nature, and the source of all life. “Yahweh” (or Jehovah) is the personal and covenant name of God. It is used to stress God’s personal relationship with His people and the fact that He keeps His promises. Both “Yahweh” and “Elohim” occur numerous times in the book of Genesis, together and separately.
Accordingly, Genesis 1 correctly used the name Elohim, for God’s role as Creator of the whole universe and of all living things is what the chapter teaches. The subject narrows immediately in Genesis 2-3 where it describes God’s personal relationship with Adam and Eve. God is depicted as walking and talking with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Apparently Adam knew God by His personal name from the beginning—his family worshipped Yahweh (Gen. 4:26). Therefore Yahweh is appropriately joined to Elohim to indicate that the Elohim of all creation is now the Yahweh who is intimately concerned to maintain a personal relationship with humanity.
The literary pattern of Genesis is to present a brief sketch with a broad subject matter and follow it up with a longer more detailed account of the things that are more important to the central theme of the Bible. For example: looking at the first four main sections of the book that begin with the phrase “the account of”. The first section, which covers the creation of the universe, is brief in length and broad in scope (Gen. 1:1-2:3). This is followed by a section on the creation of mankind and their fall into sin, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 2:4-4:26). This begins the history of mankind and sets the stage for redemption, which are central themes of the Bible. The third section presents a genealogy from Adam to Noah and is brief and broad in scope (Gen. 5:1-6:8). This is followed by a section on Noah and the flood, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 6:9-9:29). This shows the consequence of sin and the fact that God rescues and protects His people.
So Genesis 1 and 2 are not contradictory accounts. Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. They are complementary, just like each of the four gospels is different, yet complementary. In fact when He answered the Pharisees question concerning divorce, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, so He accepted both accounts (Mt. 19:4-5; Mk. 10:6-8).
Some think the biblical stories of creation originate from other creation myths. Actually it was probably the other way around; some of the myths are corrupted versions of the biblical account of creation. If we say that early Genesis is mythical or symbolic, where do we say that it begins to be accurate history? We have the same problem if we say miracles are myths. Once we start rejecting some of the biblical account how can we trust the rest?
The Garden in Eden
Everything in this section of Genesis relates to mankind. It begins by stating that cultivated plants were not present until there was a “man to work the ground” and until there was rainfall (v.5-6). It seems as though at the beginning water came from beneath the earth instead of by rain.
God planted a garden in Eden for Adam and Eve (v.8). This was probably prepared on the third day of creation when vegetation was created (Gen. 1:1-13). It was the first garden. The trees in this garden were beautiful and their fruit was useful for food (v.9). Two particular trees are mentioned in middle of the garden. The tree of life seems to have had the power to convey immortality (v.17). In the book of Revelation the tree of life appears as a symbol of the person of Christ. All true Christians will “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). This is eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22;2, 14,19). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was used by God to test the obedience of Adam and Eve (v.17).
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden and divided into four other rivers called the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates (v.10-14). As the surface of the earth would have been different before the flood, we cannot compare this landscape with what exits today. Moses says it was east of Canaan (v.8). The present Tigris and Euphrates rivers were probably named after these original rivers. This is like names being transferred from one country to another. Many of the names in Australia come from United Kingdom because that is where many of the early settlers came from. For example my suburb is named after Ryde on the Isle of Wight and my state is called “New South Wales”.
Adam, the first man
The bible describes the origin of mankind: “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v.7). God formed his body from the “dust of the ground” and then gave him the breath of life. So Adam was created from the ground, not from an ape. Here we have the creation of life from non-living matter. It was a miracle. Adam was a perfect man in a sinless world.
The first man was named “Adam” or “Man” (v.20). The Hebrew word for “Adam” means “of the ground” or “taken out of red earth”, and it is also used in Genesis for males and for mankind. He is mentioned eight times in the New Testament as the first human being on earth (Lk. 3:38; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 14).
One of the curses on Adam after he sinned was, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Upon death the body returns to the ground. It is interesting to note that the animals and birds are also said to have been made out of the ground (v.19). But Adam was different because he was made in the image of God.
Then “the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (v.15). Adam cultivated the garden. So work was a part of ruling over the rest of creation before the fall into sin.
Then we see that God set up a test of man’s obedience. “The LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die’” (v.16-17). God made Adam and Eve with the power to make a choice contrary to their nature. He wanted creatures who loved him freely, even though it meant there was a possibility of evil. Real love must be free; it cannot be instinctive or compulsory. So they were commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave them a choice and told them of the consequence. Now the penalty for disobedience was not 10 minutes in the sin bin! Is was death—instant spiritual death and progressive physical death. When Adam sinned he immediately cut himself off from the source of life, but the dying process took 930 years. There is also the possibility of eternal death (2 Th. 1:9).
Next, Adam named the animals and birds, which was another part of ruling over the rest of creation (v.19-20). A name to the Israelites was not just a label but a description of the essential character of the creature. In this instance Adam would have named the each animal according to its character and nature. Adam would have also noticed that the animals were male and female, each had a mate that was similar yet different. But he didn’t have a mate (v.20).
Eve, the first woman
Up until now everything about creation had been good. Now God says that something is “not good”—“It is not good for the man to be alone” (v.18). It was not good because we are social beings that are not made “to be alone” and God had not yet finished His work of creation. Adam needed a helper (v.18, 20). He was lonely and needed a companion. Eve was to be his helper and companion in the secure relationship of marriage (v.24).
The Bible describes the origin of woman: “the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man” (v.21-22).
God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. So Eve was created from a part of Adam, not from an ape. Cloning is a genetic copy of an existing person, but this is different as it includes a change in gender. Here we have the creation of life from other living matter. It was a miracle. Eve was a perfect woman in a sinless world.
Adam recognised that she was his companion when he said “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v.23). Together they were called “man” (Gen. 1:26-27). “When God created mankind, He made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And He named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created” (Gen. 5:1-2). She was called “woman”, which means “taken out of man” (v.23). Later she was called “Eve”, which means “life” (Gen. 3:20).
This account teaches the unity of mankind. All people have a common ancestor in Adam—he’s at the beginning of the family tree.
Adam and Eve were the first husband and wife (v.25). I think they were married on the sixth day of creation. They had a perfect wedding, even though there were no other people there! It has the key elements of a marriage ceremony. God gave her to Adam; “He brought her to the man” (v.22). And God pronounced them husband and wife: the Creator said “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (v.24, Mt. 19:4,5). Adam and Eve were a perfect husband and wife in a sinless world.
Here God is establishing marriage as the basic institution of society. Jesus (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10-6-9) and Paul (Eph. 5:31) quoted v.24 when they taught about the marriage of one man to one woman. Whenever Adam and Eve are mentioned together in the New Testament it is to illustrate the roles of husbands and wives in marriage (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim.2:13-14).
Genesis 2 conveys four important aspects of marriage. Firstly,marriage is a new unity. The husband and wife are to leave their parents and start a new family unit and “become one flesh” (v.24, Gen. 29:14). They are bound together, not just individuals. What was once “his” and “hers” is now “ours” and “us”. One of the primary purposes of marriage is to provide companionship, a sharing of life together. As a “helper”, Eve shared Adam’s work and responsibilities as well. Husbands and wives were designed to work together. They should be a team and work together in bringing up their children. Marriage partners are dependent on each other—they are interdependent (1 Cor. 11:11-12). Divorce is painful because it is severing a unity that was once alive.
Secondly, marriage is a lifetime commitment. It is a permanent relationship that should not be broken until death (Rom. 7:1-3). The husband is to leave his parents and be “united to his wife” (v.24). The Hebrew word means to “cling” and “keep close”. It also conveys the idea of loyalty and devotion. Jesus said, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt. 19:6). Marriage partners are to be faithful to one another. Sexual immorality is a sin against God and against our own spouse (1 Cor. 6:15-18). God hates divorce, but 45% of marriages in Australia end in divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). What a sad lack of commitment. Jesus only allowed divorce in the case of adultery (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).
Thirdly, the husband is the head of the family. He is ultimately responsible before God for the nature and character of the home. In this passage Eve is described as a “suitable helper” for Adam (v.18,20). Paul shows that this responsibility applied before the fall into sin when he referred to Genesis 2, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:3,8-9). The “man” in this case is Adam and the “woman” is Eve. Here he mentions the order of their creation (Adam was first) and the purpose (Eve was to help Adam). The principle is that husbands should lead the family. Of course Paul also teaches husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25,28,33; Col. 3:19) and wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18). Paul also based the latter on the order of creation (1 Tim. 2:13).
Fourthly, there should be openness between husband and wife, with no secrets and nothing to hide—“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (v.25). This first marriage was unique because there was innocence before the fall into sin. Openness does not mean always agreeing or feeling the same. It means a readiness to share with one another, completely, without insisting that the other reflect the same attitude. There is to be a complete freedom of communication, one with the other. Adam and Eve were relaxed and felt at ease with each other. There was no strain in their marriage. Otherwise, communication breakdown can lead to marriage breakdown.
Application to us
Genesis provides the foundation of the Christian faith. We have seen that Genesis 2 explains the origin of humanity and of marriage. As God designed and made the first man and woman, He knows all about our needs and desires. In order to get the best out of life, we should follow His guidelines and lessons for us in the Bible. In particular, we should follow Jesus, the last Adam, who brings life to those who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:22,45).
When Jesus was asked about marriage He went back to Genesis. Because the meaning of marriage is based on Genesis. Our society is based on families and families are based on marriages. We should also follow God’s guidelines if we want our marriage and our family to work well.
There is little information in the Old Testament about Adam and Eve after they were banished from the Garden of Eden. Instead, we read about their descendants. For example, Cain was ungodly while Abel was godly (Gen 4:1-16). Cain’s ungodly line is described first (Gen. 4:17-24) and then the godly line is described from Seth to Shem (Gen. 4:25-5:32). When Enosh was born “people began to call on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26 NIV). As Adam is mentioned in the godly line – “Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died” (Gen. 5:5) – the Bible implies that Adam and Eve trusted in God.
Adam is listed in Christ’s human genealogy, which traces the lineage from the first human being through Abraham and David, to Heli, who was probably Mary’s father (Lk. 3:23-38). There is no evidence in the Old Testament that any of the men mentioned in this list were ungodly. This is consistent with the statement above that Adam trusted God. Of course, Adam heads everyone’s family tree, including the ungodly!
Because Adam and Eve knew God very well before their fall into sin, they probably knew Him well after the fall. They also knew God’s promise that Satan would be defeated (Gen. 3:15). The first recorded instance of animal death was when God made garments for them from animal skins (Gen. 3:21). The fact that an animal died to provide a covering for them might have been used to teach them of the need to approach God with the blood of a sacrifice, which we know was a foretaste of Christ’s sacrifice. As Abel demonstrated his faith in God with animal sacrifices, presumably Adam and Eve also offered these to God (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4).
All Old Testament believers – such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David – who died before Christ were saved in Christ by faith (Jn. 5:46; Heb. 11; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), just as believers are saved today. They are now in heaven (2 Ki. 2:11; Heb. 11:5). For these reasons, I believe Adam and Eve are in heaven.
Published, December 2008