Tag Archives: Genesis 3

Genesis 3 and the Author of Evil – Is God to Blame

Genesis 3:4–6 (ESV) — 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.



Last week, we discussed a particular problem the above verses presented to us.

  • In them is the introduction of evil into God’s “very good” creation.
  • How do we reconcile a good, benevolent, all-powerful God with evil?
  • And specifically, why would God allow evil?


Today we contend with another problem that comes with the introduction of evil into creation.

  • How is God not the author of evil if he created all the “stuff” through which evil came?
  • The “stuff” being things like people, the serpent, the will, desires, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.
  • William Edgar rightly suggests that this is very likely the most difficult question within the Christian faith.


John Frame frames the question and points out the problem:

  • “Do we want to say that God is the ‘cause’ of evil? That language is certainly problematic, since we usually associate cause with blame” – John Frame.


In other words, if God is to blame then we are off the hook for sin.

  • Moreover, God Himself needs to be judged.
  • Or, perhaps, God is not who we thought he was.



Mysterious Paradox – God’s Sovereignty/Mankind’s Responsibility:

In trying to answer our question – How is God not the author of evil if he created all the “stuff” through which evil came?

  • We need to go to ground zero – God’s sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility for their actions.
  • We need to see how the Bible affirms this mysterious paradox.



God’s Sovereignty:

As John Frame points out:

Depending who you speak to, the sovereign God of the Bible seems to be portrayed in these ways in his relationship to evil, “authors, brings about, causes, controls, creates, decrees, foreordains, incites, includes within his plan, makes happen, ordains, permits, plans, predestines, predetermines, produces, stands behind, wills” – John Frame.


Here are a just a few examples of the extent of God’s sovereignty.

  • Isaiah 45:7 (ESV) — 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.
  • Amos 3:6 (ESV) — 6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
  • Psalm 135:6 (ESV) — 6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
  • Romans 9:20–21 (ESV) — 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
  • Ecclesiastes 7:13 (ESV) — 13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?
  • Philippians 1:29 (ESV) — 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
  • Proverbs 21:1 (ESV) — 1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.


BTW – these verses speak to both moral and natural evil.

  • We are dealing with moral evil.
  • The sin of the serpent, Adam and Eve.


Please notice in the above verses an important implication.

  • God is sovereign over both the moral will of men and the out workings of creation.
  • He made both and He is sovereign over both.
  • Neither is outside His purview.
  • As R.C. Sproul says, “If there is one rogue atom in the universe then God is not God”.



Man’s Responsibility:

Here are a few examples of mankind’s responsibility.

  • Romans 2:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Genesis 4:6–7 (ESV) — 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
  • Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV) — 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
  • Matthew 5:22 (ESV) — 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
  • Jeremiah 17:9–10 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.


And consider these passages:


(1) Psalm 51:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

  • What exactly is David saying?
  • He doesn’t hesitate to exonerate God and blame himself.


BTW – Like David, who did Adam and Eve blame?

  • Genesis 3:12–13 (ESV) — 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
  • They did not blame God.


(2) John 2:24–25 (ESV) — 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

  • Jesus made the heart of man!
  • And what is His response to it?
  • His response is to “not entrust himself”.
  • He certainly doesn’t indicate He is responsible – to blame for man’s heart problem.


(3) Here is an especially interesting example:

  • 2 Samuel 12:11–12 (ESV) — 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ”
  • God is – in this case – judging David (not always the reason for God allowing evil!).
  • David’s response in the very next verse is, “I have sinned against the LORD”.
  • David concedes his blame though God sovereignly acted.



Paradox Summary:

All of these texts make one thing plainly clear.

  • God is sovereign but mankind is to blame for his moral failings – not God.
  • This mysterious paradox is affirmed over and over.
  • “God controls human choices, without dissolving the reality of those choices” – Vern Poythress.

“It remains mysterious to us exactly how God’s action relates to human action in such a way that God is fully in control and human agents are at the same time fully responsible” – Vern Poythress.



Mystery Affirmed in Job:

Michael Bird spells this out for us beautifully:

“Scripture affirms that God is sovereign and that human beings are responsible for their actions. Yet the existence of evil and suffering is never accounted for purely on the basis of human freedom. Human freedom is the material [we act] cause of suffering, but it is not the ultimate cause [we don’t act outside of God’s purview]. In Scripture the problem of suffering is always understood within the orbit of God’s power and purpose” – Michael Bird.


Bird goes on to reference the book of Job.

  • In Job 31, Job “asks God why he allowed him to be so afflicted” – Bird.


The Lord responds by asking Job over sixty questions, such as (Job 38:4-7):

  • Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
  • Tell me, if you understand.
  • Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
  • Who stretched a measuring line across it?
  • On what were its footings set,
  • Or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?


Job asks a question we will all have at some point in our life about evil and suffering.

  • In this case, God’s answer is a Creator to creature “smack down”.


Yet, Job leaves the encounter expressing complete confidence in God.

  • Job 42:2–3 (ESV) — 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.


And importantly, from the very beginning, Job believed the following:

  • Job 1:22 (ESV) — 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
  • God was acting sovereignly, but Job conceded God was not to blame.
  • Just like King David.



Paradox So What:

The point here is simple.

  • The Bible does not suggest that evil is outside of God’s sovereignty.
  • Yet, the Bible clearly says that mankind is to blame – NOT GOD.


BTW – It appears that the worldview of the OT or the NT did not struggle with this problem.

  • From King David to Paul, there is never any hint that the paradox of God’s sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility is a problem.
  • There is not Biblical Theology that blames God for evil.


So how can we bring some sort of resolution to this paradox?

  • We want to know if it can be reconciled and understood.
  • We want some kind of answer to our question.
  • How is God not the author of evil if he created all the “stuff” through which evil came?



Question Answered?:

Before we try to give a very brief and overly simplified answer to our question…

  • It is very important that we come to grips with two things.
  • (1) There really isn’t an answer to the question this side of new creation.
  • (2) We need to be aware of what Jeremy Evans calls “Cognitive Idolatry”.



Cognitive Idolatry:

Cognitive Idolatry – making an idol out of the knowledge about our faith – arises when we forget the priority of the transformational power of God’s word over its propositions.

  • It is a “demand [to God] that we have control over knowledge” – Jeremy Evans.


As one who loves to pursue knowledge of God and the Bible, this is particularly personal.

  • We are to seek after God and knowledge of Him.
  • We are to grow in the “grace and the knowledge of God”.
  • We are to read the Bible, read about it, and study it.


However, the end game of this pursuit is…

  • Not merely propositional knowledge but personal knowledge – Jeremy Evans.
  • In other words, we are encountering a personal God and are to be transformed in and out by the encounter.
  • We are to allow it to read us!

“The kind of knowledge God seeks to impart to everyone is not mere propositional content primarily but a volitionally transforming knowledge; it includes a change of will” – Jeremy Evans.


The problem is that we simply don’t like not knowing things about God that we think we should know.

  • But the fact of the matter is this…
  • Trusting in the mysterious paradoxes of God’s word is transformative.
  • And pursuing answers to feed our cognitive idol is bad for the soul.



Not Blind Faith:

However, in accepting the mystery, we are not exercising blind faith!

  • We are accepting the mystery in light of what we do know about God.
  • We can take are cues from the Israelites in Nehemiah 9.


They were confessing their sin and their responsibility for years of exile and a ruined temple.

  • God ordained this suffering and destruction and they were to blame.
  • They saw this paradox in light of who they knew God was and what He had done.


Starting in Nehemiah 9:6 they say:

  • Nehemiah 9:6–11 (ESV) — 6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. 9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters.
  • Then in verse 38 they say, “because of all this we make a firm covenant…”.
  • They recognized that whatever is going on is grounded in who God is and what He has done.


So, having made that point let’s look at a couple of attempts to answer the question.



God as Shakespeare:

John Frame suggests that we look at God’s relationship to the world he created as we would Shakespeare to the world he created.

“God’s relationship to free agents is like the relationship of an author to his characters. Let us consider to what extent God’s relationship to human sin is like that of Shakespeare to Macbeth, the murderer of Duncan” – John Frame.


His conclusion about this comparison is this:

  • “Shakespeare wrote the murder into his play. But the murder took place in the world of the play, not the real world of the author. Macbeth did it, not Shakespeare” – John Frame.


His point is that Shakespeare operates on a different “level” than Macbeth.

  • Likewise, God operates on a different “level” than the serpent, Adam, Eve or us – creation.


This pic from Vern Poythress gives a visual take of this view:




He finishes with this point.

“Between God and ourselves there is a vast difference in the kind of reality and in relative status. God is the absolute controller and authority, the most present fact of nature and history. He is the Lawgiver, we the law receivers. He is the head of the covenant; we are the servants. He has devised the creation for his own glory; we seek his glory, rather than our own. He makes us as the potter makes pots, for his own purposes. Do these differences not put God in a different moral category as well?” – John Frame.

  • Therefore, “in saying that God is related to the world as an author to a story, we actually provide a way of seeing that God is not to be blamed for the sin of his creatures” – John Frame.


Vern Poythress characterizes this approach as follows:

  • “God’s governance of human action is like an author’s governance over the characters in his story. God and the human author are completely in control, but it is also true that the human actors in God’s history and in an author’s story make decisions that lead to consequences” – Vern Poythress.


Does this answer our question? (I don’t think so).



Evil Is Not a Thing:

Another attempt to show that God is not to blame for evil involves understanding what evil actually is.

  • As we saw last week, Augustine defined evil as the privation of good.

“Evil is not a substance or a thing but instead is a privation of a good thing that God made. A privation of a good is the corruption or twisting of a created thing’s essence or substance…evil is the absence of something that ought to be; it is the absence of what fulfills a thing’s nature or essence” – Jeremy Evans.


Given this definition, the argument goes like this…

  • God’s creation involved the making of things – He made stuff.
  • The stuff he made – including the will and desires of mankind – was all “very good”.
  • The serpent, Adam and Eve were all “very good” stuff of creation.
  • God made nothing that was defective, corrupted, or deprived of good.


In fact, a good God could have made nothing other than good “stuff”.

  • This is because, “in God there is no defect, but, on the contrary, supreme perfection” – Etienne Gilson.


But with the Fall in Genesis 3, God’s good creation was corrupted.

  • “God made the world good, and evil is a tyrannical intrusion into God’s city” – Michael Bird.
  • The intrusion/corruption was not the introduction of something God created, but was done by privation of the good He created.
  • This is Augustine’s privation of good.


In other words, nothing was made/created, but rather, something was taken/corrupted from God’s good creation.

  • Since God didn’t create the “privation of good” (because is not a thing of creation) then He is not to blame for it.
  • The blame goes to the agent who corrupted God’s good.
  • And this is true whether God ordained the Fall or not.
  • Which, if He is sovereign, He did ordain.


Does this answer our question?




Remember, we are to seek transformation in our pursuit of knowledge.

  • The issue of God’s blame for evil is incredibly complex – it is a mysterious paradox.
  • So I urge you to “let the Bible read you” on this issue.
  • If you are not satisfied by the mystery, have you made knowledge an idol?
  • Are you demanding from God answers that He is not obligated to give.
  • Just think Job 38.



Addendum – How God Can Sovereignly “Redeem” Evil (now that it is here):

(1) Sanctification – “Used by God to produce godly character” – Vern Poythress.

  • Romans 5:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


BTW – This method of redemption has many facets, for as a result of this.

  • We might “put away sin” – John Feinberg.
  • Refine our faith – Feinberg.
  • Learn more about God (grow in grace and knowledge) – Feinberg.
  • Experiencing God in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise – Feinberg.
  • Produce intimacy with God – Feinberg.


(2) To increase our respect for God’s word – Poythress.

  • Psalm 119:67 (ESV) — 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
  • Psalm 119:71 (ESV) — 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
  • Psalm 119:75 (ESV) — 75 I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.


(3) Bring glory to God by showing our quality of faith – Poythress.

  • 1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV) — 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


(4) A participation in Jesus’ sufferings – Poythress.

  • Philippians 3:10–11 (ESV) — 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
  • In other words, we imitate Christ our Lord in His suffering – John Feinberg.


(5) To glorify God along – John Feinberg.

  • John 9:1–3 (ESV) — 1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.


(6) To “remove a cause for boasting” – John Feinberg.

  • “God allowed Job’s afflictions at least in part to demonstrate true or genuine faith to Satan” – John Feinberg.


(7) To demonstrate that followers of Christ are followers in spite of circumstances – Feinberg.

  • 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) — 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,


(8) To demonstrate “the Body of Christ” concept to believers and nonbelievers – Feinberg.

  • “According to 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, each believer in Christ as Savior is a member of the Body of Christ. We are related to one another through Christ, and we need one another. Moreover, verse 26 says we are sympathetically related to one another, i.e., when one suffers, all suffer, and when one rejoices, all rejoice” – John Feinberg.


(9) To become better ministers to others who suffer – Feinberg.


(10) To prepare us for further trials that may come our way – Feinberg.


(11) To exalt the believer.


(12) To bring the believer into His presence.



Final and Important Thought:

  • “We are to rejoice because we can see what God is accomplishing in spite of the trial. Affliction may prove to be the occasion for God to do good things in our life, but the suffering isn’t good. It is still evil” – John Feinberg.
  • We like that God can redeem evil and suffering, we don’t like the evil and suffering!



Genesis 3 and the Entrance of Evil

Genesis 3:4–6 (ESV) — 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.




We saw in Genesis 1-2 an emphasis on God’s good/very good creation.

  • The Heavens and the Earth
  • Image-Bearers – Adam and Eve
  • The Garden
  • Garden Blessings – Presence/Fellowship with Yahweh


Yet, in startling contrast to this, Genesis 3 shows how Adam and Eve, swayed by the Serpent…

  • Marred Good Creation
  • Rebelled Against God
  • Destroyed the Blessings
  • Severed Fellowship with Yahweh


John Piper describes the disconnect like this:

“Between the perfection described in Genesis 1:31 (‘behold, it was very good’) and the appearance of evil in Genesis 3, something happened. The good creation was corrupted” – John Piper.


This disconnect – this “something happened” – raises an important question.

  • Why did the “something” happen?
  • Why did God allow evil into His good creation?
  • How could a “very good” creation contain the potential for evil?


BTW – trying to answer these questions will only raise more questions.

  • It will also present the opportunity to chase many rabbits.
  • All of this demonstrates both the complexity and mystery inherent to this issue.


Back to our questions.

  • Unfortunately, Genesis 1-3 seems to have no interest in answering these questions.
  • Kenneth Mathews repeatedly reminds us of this fact.
  • “Genesis does not explain the origins of evil…”.
  • “…there is no attempt here to explain the origins of evil”.
  • “The narrative explains only the origin of human sin and guilt” – Mathews.


BTW – The book of Jonah never answers this question either.


So where does that leave us?

  • How can we attempt to answer these questions?


It leaves us with what is called a theodicy.

  • “A theodicy purports to offer the actual reason God has for allowing evil in our world” – John Feinberg.
  • It tries to explain where evil came from if God exists (Jeremy Evans).


“Theodicy” literally means, “justify god”.

  • What needs justifying?


The thing that needs justifying is the:

  • How can evil exist in a theistic universe?” – John Frame.
  • It is an apparent logical problem that God and evil coexist.
  • Theists must justify how the two can exist together.
  • The apparent difficulty to make this justification is “called the logical problem of evil, for it accuses the theistic worldview of logical inconsistency” – John Frame.



Theodicy vs. Defense:

We need to distinguish between a theodicy and a defense.

  • A theodicy for evil is different from a defense of evil.


A defense tries to explain, now that evil is here, what is being done about it (Jeremy Evans).

“A defense is much less pretentious [than a theodicy], for it claims to offer only a possible reason God might have for not removing evil” – John Feinberg.


For example, a defense seeks to give reasons for:

  • Natural Problem of Evil – why God would allow a tsunami to kill hundreds of thousands.
  • Gratuitous Problem of Evil – why God would allow “pointless and needless suffering” – Bird.
  • Religious Problem of Evil – why God would allow my loved one or me to suffer?
    • Judges 6:13a (ESV) — 13a And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?



Theodicy 101:

To get us started, we need to look at how the Logical Problem of Evil (the entrance of evil into God’s good creation) is stated by atheist J.L. Mackie.

  • P1 – If God exists, he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
  • P2 – An omniscient being has the prior knowledge of evil to prevent evil.
  • P3 – An omnipotent being has the ability to prevent evil.
  • P4 – An omnibenevolent being has the desire to prevent evil.
  • P5 – Therefore, if there were a God, there would be no evil.
  • P6 – There is evil.
  • C1 – Thus, necessarily there is no God.


In trying to understand why God permitted evil to enter His good creation…

  • We need to figure out why this Logical Problem of Evil is not sound.
  • In other words, we need to figure out what is wrong with its premises (P) or conclusion (C).
  • Premise 4 is where the problem resides.


Why do we need to figure this out?

  • There are a many reasons, but a couple of obvious ones are…


1) To answer our original question posed above.

  • Why did God allow evil into His good creation?


2) To head off problems with what we believe to be true about God.

“If the theist’s God is both good, can get rid of evil, and has no morally sufficient reason for failing to do so, then his theology will be internally inconsistent and will collapse” – John Feinberg.

  • In other words, if there are no answers to the Logical Problem of Evil, then God can’t have the attributes that the Bible says He has.
  • This poses all sorts of problems for us.




What is evil?

  • It’s hard to figure out what we are trying to explain without defining it.



  • “Evil is that which is in opposition to God, God’s character or God’s law – William Edgar.

“Evil is not a substance or a thing but instead is a privation of a good thing that God made. A privation of a good is the corruption or twisting of a created thing’s essence or substance…evil is the absence of something that ought to be; it is the absence of what fulfills a thing’s nature or essence” – Jeremy Evans.

  • So why was what happened in the Garden evil?


BTW – it must be said that God hates evil.

  • Psalm 97:10 (ESV) — 10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
  • Proverbs 8:13 (ESV) — 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
  • Psalm 45:6 (ESV) — 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;


So given God’s hatred of evil – why is it here?

  • We will briefly give two theodicies that deal justify both God and the entrance of evil into creation.



Freewill Theodicy:

This theodicy introduces to the LPE a premise that counters an assumption made by the LPE argument.

  • The assumption is that God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.
  • The freewill theodicy challenges this assumption and states as a premise that God does have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.

“To prove its truth [of this new premise] one must propose what God’s reason might have been for creating a world containing evil, and then argue that his reason proves that ours is a good world and exonerates God from having to remove moral evil” – John Feinberg.


The reason proposed that explains why God had a morally sufficient reason to allow evil into his good creation is libertarian freewill.

  • “No contemporary philosopher has done more to develop and defend the free will defense than Alvin Plantinga” – John Feinberg.


He begins by defining what freewill is.

  • Freewill means that “it must be within that agent’s power either to perform or to refrain from performing [an] action” – Jeremy Evans.
  • Or more explicitly…

“If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t. It is within his power, at the time in question, to take or perform the action and within his power to refrain from it” – Feinberg.


After defining freewill, Plantinga then explains why it is worth having – in spite of the evil it brings.

“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but he can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if he does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good therefore, he must create creatures capable of moral evil and he can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so” – Alvin Plantinga.


An important point needs to be made about God.

  • “God’s creation of humans with significant freedom only means that he created a set of circumstances whereby evil may occur; it does not mean he determined it to occur” – Jeremy Evans.
  • In other words, God is not the author of evil.
  • How this can be is one of the many complex questions and rabbit trails that arises when dealing with the LPE.


So does the freewill theodicy answer our question…

  • Why did God allow evil into his “very good” creation?
  • Yes it does.
  • In fact, “the LPE is a relic of the past. Even J. L. Mackie, who formulated the LPE in its most precise form, decidedly rejected his own thesis in his later work, effectually conceding that the problem of evil does not show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another given the reality of evil” – Jeremy Evans.


But we have another theodicy to consider as well.



Feinberg Theodicy:

A different approach to answering our question comes from Christian philosopher John Feinberg.

  • He rejects the idea of libertarian incompatibilist freewill in favor of a compatibilist freewill.


What is compatibilist freewill?

  • “It seeks to show that God’s exhaustive sovereignty compatible with human freedom, or in other words, it claims that determinism and free will are compatible. Rather than limit the exercise of God’s sovereignty in order to preserve man’s freedom, compatibilists say that there must be a different way to define what freedom really means” – Theopedia.


Compatibilism defines freedom as follows:

“Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want — and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature). Libertarian free will maintains that for any choice made, one could always equally have chosen otherwise, or not chosen at all” – Theopedia.

  • “Compatibilistic freedom is still freedom; it isn’t compulsion” – John Feinberg.


After defining his view of free will, Feinberg starts his theodicy as follows:

  • “Confronting the problem of evil must face three fundamental questions: 1) Must God eradicate evil?— a question about obligation; 2) Can God remove evil?—a question concerning ability and power; and 3) Should God eliminate evil?” – John Feinberg.
  • The same questions the Free Will Theodicy addresses.


Feinberg answers questions as follows:

  • “God can’t eradicate evil without producing various problems I shall specify. Thus, he isn’t obligated to remove evil.”


This answer is very similar to Plantinga’s approach.

  • God has ordained a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.
  • This means that for God to prevent or rid the world of evil contradicts the way he ordained to create.
  • The difference for Feinberg is the nature of the will God created – compatibilistic vs. incompatibilistic.
  • We will see how that plays out – especially with the human attribute of desire.


Feinberg then spells out the two stages of his theodicy.


Stage One:

He begins as follows…

  • “God intended to create and did create agents who can act; he didn’t create or do their acts (good or evil). They do them” – John Feinberg.


Those actions include:

“At a minimum…the capacity to reason (that capacity obviously varies from individual to individual), a being with emotions, a will that is free (compatibilistically free, though freedom isn’t the emphasis of my defense), a being with desires, intentions (formed on the basis of one’s desires), and the capacity for bodily movement. Moreover, he intended for us to use those capacities to live and function in a world that is suited to beings such as we are” – John Feinberg.


He then spells out the implication of God’s intention.

“If God intended to and did create the sort of being I have described, then I believe God cannot eradicate moral evil without contradicting his intentions in producing that being. That is, for God to fulfill both goals (eradicate evil and create human beings as I have described them) would be impossible, for accomplishing one goal would foreclose his achieving the other” – Feinberg.


Stage Two:

He begins state two of his theodicy with a question.

  • “If humans are the sort of creatures I have described, then how do they fall into sin?”


His answer is not free will.

  • He says the answer – as spelled out by James – is desire (a significant part of compatibilism).
  • This is similar to the “naked as vulnerable and dependent” approach we took some weeks ago.


James says this:

  • James 1:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.


In light of James, Feinberg states:

  • “In accord with James 1:13-15, I hold that morally evil actions ultimately stem from human desires [not libertarian free will]. This doesn’t mean desires in and of themselves are evil or that the desires do the evil.”


In other words, God ordained that humans have desires.

  • The capacity to desire was not inherently evil.
  • But it presented a risk.
  • The risk is sin.


BTW – Is it any wonder, then, that the Psalmist says.

  • Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.


Feinberg goes on to detail how this answers his question and relates to his theodicy.

“To sum up, then, as to how an evil action comes to be, an individual has certain basic desires or needs which aren’t evil in themselves. He initially doesn’t purpose to sate those desires in a way that disobeys ethical norms. However, a desirable object comes before him, and he is attracted to it. He forms the intention to have it, even though acquiring it is prohibited by moral precept. Then, when the allurement becomes strong enough, he wills to acquire or do the thing he desires. At that point sin is committed. Then, bodily movement (whatever it might be) to carry out the decision occurs. Once the act is done, it is public knowledge that the moral law has been broken.”


So then, similar to the Free Will theodicy, God decreed that humans have desires (the naked/unashamed/vulnerable).

  • Being made with desires that drive the will is risky.
  • It can, and did, lead to the Fall.
  • But for God to mitigate this risk would have altered the way He ordained to make man.
  • In other words, naked, unashamed, desire-filled people are the people God wanted to make.


Because of this, He put limits on what he could do with respect to mankind.

  • God is limited in some ways?
  • “There are some things God cannot do. God cannot be cruel, for cruelty is contrary to his nature. He cannot lie. He cannot break his promise. God cannot make a circle, a true circle, without all points on the circumference being equidistant from the center. Similarly, God cannot make a human without certain accompanying features” – Millard Erickson.


God, presumably, could have gotten rid of the risk.

  • But to do so He would have had to…
  • 1) Eliminate mankind.
    • But we are His image bearers!
  • 2) Eliminate all objects of desire.
    • But Father/Son/Spirit are to be objects of our desire!
  • 3) Eliminate desire itself.
    • But we are to be driven to sacred service and worship.


Feinberg finishes up his argument this way.

  • So, “Can God remove moral evil from our world? I believe he can, if he creates different creatures than human beings.”
  • And importantly, because “God intended to bring himself glory through his created order, he also had very specific intentions about the creatures he would create to accomplish that goal” – John Feinberg.


We need to finish with the ultimate reason for creation and evil’s ultimate solution.

  • Colossians 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.



Genesis 3:20-24 – Grace in Judgment

Genesis 3:20–24 (ESV) — 20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.


This seems to be a weird collection of verses.

  • Both in its position in the chapter – it seems out of place.
  • And in its content – verse 20, e.g., seems an awkward verse to come after verse 19.
  • Moreover, the text comes across more as a commentary – an aside to the judgment texts.


I think by understanding the text and what it is telling us – everything will come into focus.

  • Especially when we see how prevalent grace is.



Naming of Eve (vs. 20):

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”


Gordon Wenham gets us started.

“What prompted the man to call his wife ‘Life’ especially at this juncture in the story? It comes immediately after the curses announcing man’s mortality (v 19), the pains of childbirth (v 16), and the struggle of the woman’s seed with the snake (v 15)” – Wenham.


So what we have is a sudden and massive change in tone.

  • In the midst of the judgment and curses – especially the decree that death awaits Adam and Eve – we are told that Adam named his wife “the mother of all living”.
  • Eve’s name in Hebrew, ḥawwâ, apparently finds its origin from the word ḥāyâ which means “to live” – DOT.
  • This seems in opposition to the death that awaits them.


What is going on here?

  • There are at least three choices.


1) Exercising Headship

  • This is the most common view.
  • The idea is that in naming his wife “Eve”, Adam is demonstrating his authority over her.
  • “Adam’s naming the woman is his exercise of responsible headship” – Kenneth Mathews.


However, this meaning doesn’t seem to flow from the context that precedes it.

  • Moreover, there is an ancient debate concerning who is superior over whom in the Genesis narrative.
  • “Historical Judaism traditionally argues for the superiority of the man (see Gen. Rab. 18.2), as does Islam (see Al-Baghawi, Mishkat al-Masabili). The Talmud, however, argues for the superiority of the woman (Sanh. 39a)” – DOT.


2) Act of Faith

  • In spite of the death sentence leveled at Adam and Eve, Adam seems to understand that God has more in store for humanity.
  • As we saw last week, there are some reversals that need to be remedied.
  • Therefore, “Adam’s naming is an act of faith on his part. Though threatened by death Adam does not believe that he and his wife are to be the first and last beings of the human race. Motherhood will emerge” – Victor Hamilton.


Does this make sense in light of the judgment texts before it?


3) Continuance of Life

  • Even though death will befall them, they will live on through their offspring.
  • Life will continue, as they are obedient to be fruitful and multiply.
  • Moreover, “She was the source of the ‘seed’ (v. 15) that would eventually defeat the serpent and restore life” – Apologetics Study Bible.


Does this make sense in light of the judgment texts before it?



Making Garments (vs. 21):

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.


A number of commentators point out that this text has God making (asa) again.

  • He had rested, but is now at work again.


Their point is this.

“Adam and Eve are in need of a salvation that comes from without. God needs to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves” – Victor Hamilton.

  • In other words, God’s making of the garments is His first act of grace shown to Adam and Eve after the fall.


We also need to keep in mind that Adam and Eve are about to be expelled from the garden.

  • The vulnerability – both spiritual and physical – they were made with is about to exist within a context it wasn’t originally made for.
  • Once naked and unashamed (in Garden), they are now naked and ashamed (outside Garden).


But, God intercedes on their behalf – even in the midst of His judgment – and shows grace.

  • “It is important for understanding the drift of this chapter that we note that the clothing precedes the expulsion from the garden. God’s act of grace comes before his act of judgment” – Hamilton.

“This provision should probably be seen as an act of grace by God, preparing them for the more difficult environment he is sending them into and providing a remedy for their newly developed shame” – Walton.


BTW – Gordon Wenham disagrees with the garments as grace approach.

  • “In this context God’s provision of clothes appears not so much an act of grace, as often asserted, but as a reminder of their sinfulness (cf. Calvin, 1:182). Just as man may not enjoy a direct vision of God, so God should not be approached by man unclothed” – Wenham.



What about the texts connection to animal sacrifice?

  • As the ESV Study Bible points out:

“Because God provides garments to clothe Adam and Eve, thus requiring the death of an animal to cover their nakedness, many see a parallel here related to (1) the system of animal sacrifices to atone for sin later instituted by God through the leadership of Moses in Israel, and (2) the eventual sacrificial death of Christ as an atonement for sin”.


There is actually disagreement about this.

  • The Hebrew text used here points clearly to literal, real clothing needed for protection outside of the Garden.
  • “It is probably reading too much into this verse to see in the coats of skin a hint of the use of animals and blood in the sacrificial system of the OT cultus” – Hamilton.
  • Maybe this is trying too hard not to read something into the text.


Kenneth Mathews points out this about the word for “garment”…

  • “This is another lexical link with the symbols of the tabernacle, where the priest must be properly clothed before God in the administration of his service” – Mathews.
  • He goes on to point out that…
  • “Since the garden narrative shares in tabernacle imagery, it is not surprising that allusion to animal sacrifice is found in the garden too” – Mathews.


In other words, we have already seen the Garden is a sacred space that requires sacred service.

  • And in our verses today, we see additional tabernacle imagery with the introduction the cherubim.
  • He placed the cherubim” (vs. 24).


Cherubim are associated with the tabernacle all throughout the OT.

  • “The placing of cherubim to the east of the garden is reflected in the tabernacle and temple, where cherubim were an important component in the structure and furnishings” – ESV Study Bible.
  • So it is not a stretch to see tabernacle sacrifice imagery behind God’s provision of the garments.
  • It fits.


BTW – there may be here an indication of the need for the law.

  • Something else “made” by God.


In Adam and Eve’s naked and unashamed state (vulnerability in the Garden), they had great freedom.

  • They only had one prohibition.


But, in their naked and ashamed state (vulnerability outside of Garden), there was a need for covering.

  • The garments covered them physically.
  • The law would cover them spiritually?



Like One of Us (vs. 22):

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—


There is widespread agreement on this verse.

  • It is not expressing a fear that God now has a rival.
  • Remember the context – God alone is creator of everything and He alone can “reverse” creation.
  • “God’s admission that the man ‘has become like one of Us’ does not indicate that the serpent’s suggestion that God was insecure about His position was correct” – Apologetics Study Bible.


Kenneth Mathews put’s it like this:

God’s word here “is not one of fear of usurpation but rather of sympathy for the misery the first couple must endure and an assurance that their pitiful state is not consigned for eternity” – Mathews.


In other words, God is recognizing the severity of Adam and Eve’s current condition.

  • They are in risk of being immortal sinners – “live forever”.
  • And, in grace, He is about to provide a remedy for it.



Driven Out (vs. 23-24):

Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.


1) The remedy for the severity of Adam and Eve’s situation was an act of grace.

  • God, as part of his judgment against Adam and Eve, “drove out the man”.
  • He did this so they could not eat of “the tree of life”.
  • In their nakedness and shame, God makes sure they don’t live this way forever.
  • “Taken in the broader context of Scripture, driving the man and his wife out of the garden was an act of merciful grace to prevent them from being sustained forever by the tree of life” – John MacArthur.


2) God’s act of driving them out, however, was also traumatic.

  • The Hebrew for “drove out” is a much stronger term than “sent him out” – Wenham.
  • In fact, it is the same phrase used to describe “the expulsion of the inhabitants of Canaan” – Wenham.
  • Even more harsh, is that the same phrase carries the idea of divorce as well.


3) Adam’s future is decided by God’s decree.

  • The use of this language makes clear that just as God put Adam in the Garden.
  • Adam’s expulsion was God’s work – Adam could not stay of his own will.


4) And we have to remember that the expulsion was also judgment.

  • “Outside the garden, man is distant from God and brought near to death” – Wenham.
  • “Removal from the safety of the garden [is] exposure to a life of severity and uncertainty” – Hamilton.
  • “The original tasks given to both Adam and Eve (keeping the garden, being fruitful and multiplying) now involve difficulty because they live outside Eden” – Heiser.


This expulsion makes it a certainty that Adam will return to the ground from which He came.

  • The dust outside of the Garden.
  • This means, of course, that all of us (sons of Adam) will also die.


Moreover, the couple, like Israel for years to come, is driven out to the East in judgment.

  • Disobedience leads to exile to the east throughout the OT.
  • Just as God put out Adam He puts out Israel for disobedience.
  • But as He put Adam into the Garden, in Genesis, God would soon bring Abram out of the East and put him back into the Promise Land.
  • Yet another act of grace and covenant faithfulness.
  • Actions that ultimately bring us Jesus.


Genesis 3 Summary:

“The serpent held out to the couple the prospect that being like God would bring with it unlimited privileges, unheard-of acquisitions and gifts. Alas, rather than experiencing bliss, they encounter misery. Rather than sitting on a throne, they are expelled from the garden. Rather than new prerogatives, they experience only a reversal. The couple not only fail to gain something they do not presently have; the irony is that they lose what they currently possess: unsullied fellowship with God. They found nothing and lost everything” – Victor Hamilton.

  • “Is it not surprising in a chapter of the Bible so widely accepted as mythical that we find the classical outline of salvation history rather than myths? God acts and speaks; man rebels; God punishes; God protects and reconciles” – Victor Hamilton.



Genesis 3:17-19 – God’s Judgment – Adam

Genesis 3:17–19 (ESV) — 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”



The Problem:

1) God reminds Adam of the one command he was given earlier on – “You shall not eat of it”.

  • Genesis 2:17 (ESV) — 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
  • This command was given directly to Adam.
  • Implying that he was the one responsible for insuring it was obeyed.
  • Eve was not yet on the scene.


2) God spells out for Adam where he went wrong.

  • Because you have listened to the voice of your wife…


In the OT, this language – “listened to the voice of” is idiomatic.

  • It means, “obey” – Wenham.
  • Exodus 18:24 (ESV) — 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.


So the idea here is not that the problem was that Adam obeyed Eve.

  • “Obeying his wife rather than God was man’s fundamental mistake” – Wenham.


Therefore the text does not intend to suggest that men/husbands are never to obey women/wives.

  • Clearly, there are innumerable circumstances where we should.
  • As we discussed last time, each marriage is unique with respect to husband/wife strengths.
  • Additionally, there are countless times outside of marriage where men are to obey women!


Some Biblical examples:

  • Judges 4:14–15 (ESV) — 14 And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot.
  • Acts 18:26 (ESV) — 26 He (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
  • Apollos had to “obey” the corrections taught to him by Priscilla and her husband.


Again, the point is that Adam’s obedience to Eve resulted in disobedience to Yahweh.

  • God is always to be our primary allegiance – even over our spouses.
  • And this goes both ways.
  • Obviously a wife is not to obey her husband when doing so results in disobedience to God.


3) The result of having obeyed Eve instead of God – Adam ate “of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘you shall not eat of it’”.

  • Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


So the problem summarized – God gave a command; Adam obeyed Eve instead; Adam ate the forbidden fruit.

  • Following this comes judgment.


The Judgment:

“…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”


God proceeds to spell out a number of consequences for Adams disobedience.

  • (1) “cursed is the ground
    • “in pain you shall eat”
    • “thorns and thistles”
    • “eat plants of the field”
    • “sweat of your face you shall eat bread”
  • (2) “to dust you shall return


(1) Cursed is the Ground:

Due to Adam’s disobedience – “because of you” – the ground becomes cursed.

  • Where as “to bless someone is to put that person under God’s protection, enjoying God’s favor. To curse is to remove from God’s protection and favor” – John Walton.


The way this “removal” of God’s favor plays out effectively reverses the relationship Adam had with creation.

  • “The man’s natural relationship to the ground—to rule over it—is reversed; instead of submitting to him, it resists…him” – Bruce Waltke.
  • The curse “has brought us full circle from creation’s bliss to sin’s burden.” – Mathews.


And, importantly, the curse (the removal) specifically relates to food.

  • in pain you shall eat
  • eat plants of the field
  • sweat of your face you shall eat bread


So why food and why can we call this judgment a reversal?


Food Before the Curse:

Adam’s food situation before the curse is fairly simple.

  • Genesis 1:29 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
  • Genesis 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
  • Genesis 2:16b (ESV) — 16b “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden”.


Prior to the curse, food was not an issue.

  • It was a need of image bearers to perform their image bearing/dominion responsibilities.
  • God freely provided it.
  • It was not obtained through sweat or toil.


BTW – We saw a few weeks ago that the dominion responsibilities of Gen. 2:15 –  “work it and keep it” – were sacred service responsibilities not agricultural.

  • Adam wasn’t farming for food before the fall.
  • The Hebrew phrase “work it and keep it” conveys the idea of “human service to God rather that descriptions of agricultural tasks” – Walton.


Sailhamer points out that the this priestly translation jives with “several early manuscripts”.

  • In them, the phrase means, “to worship and obey”.
  • “Man’s life in the garden was to be characterized by worship and obedience. He was to be a priest…” – John Sailhamer.


Food After the Curse:

But after the curse, the same “pain” associated with Eve’s post-fall childbirth now accompanies Adam’s securing of food.

  • This “pain” as we saw then has a number of meanings.


(1) One is the obvious idea of physical effort.

  • in pain”; “thorns and thistles”; “sweat of your face


(2) The other meaning involves mental anguish and anxiety.

  • It also becomes something that brings anxiety.
  • Why?


Adam and Eve are still called to be fruitful and multiply.

  • Yet now God’s provision of food is removed from the equation.
  • Additionally, the production of food will be up to Adam.
  • And it will be subject to the uncertainties of weather and other conditions.
  • All of these factors create a situation ripe for anxiety.


Our text even gives the example of bread.

  • Apparently Adam will have to harvest plants of the field to make bread.
  • But this task will be made difficult due to the presence of thorns and thistles.


Moses’ Message:

Interestingly, the text speaks of growing wheat and bread making as if Adam would know what God is talking about.

  • To this point in his existence, Adam’s food source was fruit from trees.
  • So is this language anachronistic?
  • How would he know what this language meant?
  • Did Adam even know what a thorn or thistle was?


My point with these questions is that we have more Moses’ Messaging going on here.

  • In Moses’ context of leader of the Israelites, there is an important concept he wants his people to know.
  • One that finds its origins in Genesis 1-3.
  • One that explains their circumstances at any given moment.


Moses plays it out for us in Deuteronomy.

  • Deuteronomy 28:1–5 (ESV) — 1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
  • Deuteronomy 28:45–48 (ESV) — 45 “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. 46 They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.


Obedience leads to an approximation of the Promised Land preparations of Genesis 1 and 2 (Sailhamer).

  • Disobedience leads to the Promised Land curse of Genesis 3.


Remember, the creation story and fall didn’t exist in a vacuum.

  • They were written to a certain people in a certain context.


(2) To Dust You Shall Return:

“Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”


The second part of God’s judgment was death.

  • The language used to convey this was the standard OT language of death – dust.
  • Job 10:9 (ESV) — 9 Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?
  • Job 34:15 (ESV) — 15 all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.
  • Psalm 103:14 (ESV) — 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
  • Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV) — 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.


Like the ground curse, death is also a reversal of conditions from before the Fall.

  • In fact, it represents the ultimate contrast of the life had in the Garden.
  • Why?


Adam came from the dust.

  • Genesis 2:7 (ESV) — 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.


And with the Fall he will return to the dust.

  • return to the ground”; “to dust you shall return”.


How are we reminded of the fall in our relationship with creation?

  • In the same way as Adam and Eve?


We will talk more about death’s relationship to the Garden next week.

  • For now we need to make note of something.


Centrality of Death:

The problem of death is a central part of the Fall narrative.

  • “Death is exactly what God had forewarned and what the serpent had denied” would happen – Mathews.
  • Genesis 2:17 (ESV) — 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
  • Genesis 3:4 (ESV) — 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.


And of course, today’s text tells us:

  • Adam will “return to the ground”; “to dust you shall return”.


And lest we forget Paul’s comments:

  • Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—


So given the centrality of death in the Fall, most believe we have the answer to a crucial question.

  • Who bears the most responsibility for the Fall – Serpent, Eve or Adam?
  • “It is the man who bears the greater blame for his conduct [because he] is the direct recipient of God’s death sentence” – Kenneth Mathews.
  • And textually (verse 17), “Emphasis on the second person ‘you’ and ‘your’ sharpens God’s focus on the man’s individual fault” – Mathews.


Moreover, we already mentioned that the command about the tree was given directly to Adam.

  • With this in mind, Wenham adds that “The sentence on the man is the longest and fullest, since he bore the greatest responsibility in following his wife’s advice instead of heeding God’s instructions personally given to him” – Gordon Wenham.


What is the significance of understanding Adam’s responsibility?

  • Understanding Adam’s responsibility is important for understanding the theology behind the Fall.
  • Something we will get into in a couple of weeks in Romans 5:12.


Suffice it to say, the Fall has made clear that a number of things have taken place that need remedying.

  • The need for serpent crushers.
  • The need for a reversal of the curse on the ground.
  • And as we have just seen, the need forward a reversal of death.


As we have said a few weeks ago – the rest of OT declares the coming defeat of death and dust.

  • Isaiah 26:19 (ESV) — 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
  • Daniel 12:2 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.


And Paul brings it all home to Christ.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–49 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.


Genesis 3:16 – God’s Judgment – Eve

Genesis 3:16 (ESV) — 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”


Opening Observation:

The judgment of Eve is different in at least two ways from that of the Serpent and Adam.


(1) There is no “curse” language associated with Eve’s judgment.

  • 3:14 – Serpent – “cursed are you”.
  • 3:17 – Adam – “cursed is the ground because of you”.


(2) “There is no cause specified for her suffering” – Mathews.

  • 3:14 – Serpent – “because you have done this [deceived Eve]”.
  • 3:17 – Adam – “because you have listened” to Eve.


Speculation abounds as to why this is the case.

  • Mathews suggests the following…
  • The lack of “curse/because” language for the woman was due to the nature of her culpability.
  • She was culpable through deception.
  • This is “in contrast [to] the willful rebellion of the serpent and man”.


What might be some other reasons?

  • According to Mathews, one might be due to the fact that, through childbirth, “Eve will play the critical role in liberating them from sin’s consequences”.
  • Paul may be alluding to this in Galatians 4:4 – we will see it shortly.


Concerning the judgment of Eve, there is also some uncertainty.

“Quite clearly this verse, and the ones immediately following, teaches that sin has its consequences. It is less clear whether God describes or prescribes these consequences. In other words, are these negative consequences engineered directly by God, or is God simply informing the woman the way it is to be from this moment on?” – Victor Hamilton.


The described/prescribed consequences are:

  • Multiply Pain in Childbearing – we will view this as prescribed.
  • Desire for Husband – we will view this as described; fallout of the Fall.
  • We will handle them one at a time.



Pain in Childbearing:

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.


Regarding “pain” there is a parallel here to Adam’s judgment.

  • Both share this same word, the Hebrew “issabon”.
  • It obviously carries with it the idea of physical pain.


Question – do all women experience physical pain with childbirth?

  • Science does tell us that labor pains are “one of the most severe pains”.
  • And that nearly all women do experience labor pains.
  • However, not all women do.


This observation along with a little digging hints that there is more going on here than physical pain.

  • The HALOT lexicon tells us that “issabon” also carries with it the idea of “anxious toil”.


The LXX’s Greek translation picks up on this with its use of  “lype”.

  • This Greek word – in addition to physical pain – carries with it the idea of “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” – BDAG.


These insights seem to demonstrate that we are not merely dealing with physical pain (which given the Hebrew grammar may have existed already) – Heiser.

  • The point…we are now dealing with worry, anxiety and mental anguish along with more pain.


But wait…there is more!

  • The Hebrew word for “childbearing” (herone) means more than just labor.
  • Unfortunately, most translations make this unclear – “childbearing” (ESV); “labor pains” (NET).
  • However, the ASV tries to convey the full meaning of the Hebrew word “herone”.
  • The ASV says, “I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception”.


So to understand the full meaning of “pain in childbearing” we need to consider:

  • Physical Pain and Anxiety of childbearing.
  • Physical Pain and Anxiety of conception.


John Walton plays it out as follows:

God is “referring to the anxiety that a woman will experience through the whole process from conception to birth. This includes anxiety about whether she will be able to conceive a child, anxiety that comes with all the physical discomfort of pregnancy, anxiety concerning the health of the child in the womb, and anxiety about whether she and the baby will survive the birth process” – Walton.


He suggests the following paraphrase:

  • “I will greatly increase the anguish you will experience in the birth process, from the anxiety surrounding conception to the strenuous work of giving birth” – Walton.


This more robust understanding makes much more sense in an ANE Israelite context.

  • Remember their main concerns – people, nation and land.
  • And yet, outside of the garden, the obtaining of “people” becomes an painful and anxious uncertainty.
  • One need only think of Abraham and Sara.


Looking Back – Looking Forward:

And lest we forget, this judgment impacts one of the very things Adam and Eve were to do as image bearers.

  • Genesis 1:28a28a And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…”
  • Fulfilling this duty was not to be saddled with such pain and uncertainty.
  • The sting of sin brought this new relationship with our image bearing responsibilities.
  • This new reality – sin staining our image bearing responsibilities – is felt in full force to this day.


But there is good news.

  • God’s covenant faithfulness and plan for redemptive history is not thwarted by sin.
  • Galatians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
    • This “woman” is inclusive of Eve.
  • As declared in Gen. 3, the Serpent Crusher was born from the seed of the woman.
  • And because of the Fall, was born under the law.


Given the proximity of Christmas to this lesson, we should say the following:

  • Jesus’ birth is the ultimate demonstration that God’s grace overcame the death and judgment that came with the Fall.
  • The seed of Eve and Abraham’s promised offspring was always a certainty in spite of God’s judgment.



Desire for Husband:

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.


There used to be big debate about the meaning of this passage.

  • But it appears that consensus (at least from my readings) is settling around one particular meaning.
  • This meaning centers around the use of the same language in Genesis 4:7


Genesis 4:7 (ESV) — 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

  • This text is fairly clear.
  • Sin is cast as an opponent to Cain.
  • Sin is said to have a desire for Cain.
  • And its desire is to rule over, control or have mastery over him.
  • Cain’s dilemma in 4:7 is that he must gain control (“rule”) over the “desire” of sin, i.e., its power against him” – Heiser.


Bringing this to our text, we can now see how it plays out.

  • Eve is “sin” and Adam is “Cain”.
  • As a result of the Fall, Eve will desire to have rule, control or mastery over Adam.
  • However, the very opposite will be the norm – Adam (man) will have control of Eve (woman).
  • If this is true, “then Eve’s curse is a desire to control her husband. Sin has damaged the relationship between husband and wife. As a result, the two will compete for dominance instead of sharing authority in harmony as originally intended” – Heiser.


So this fallout of judgment upon Eve is a corruption of the original intention of pre-Fall marriage.

  • Instead of a heart desirous of harmony and peace, the heart now seeks dominance.



We need to be aware of something incredibly important.

  • This aspect of God’s judgment is not an endorsement of this type of relationship between Adam and Eve or man and woman.


“It is a distortion of the passage to find in it justification for male tyranny” – Mathews.

  • To take the passage this way fails to understand the passage.
  • It also misapplies the “dominion” or idea of “ruling over” from Genesis 1.
  • Adam and Eve were to exercise “dominion” together over creation.
  • It was not something they were to exercise over each other.
  • Genesis 1:28 (ESV) — 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


If a Christian marriage operates in this fashion – it is not a Biblically grounded marriage.

  • Neither an egalitarian or complementarian view of marriage operates this way.


What is a complementarian view of marriage:

  • “Complementarity means that the music of our relationships should not be merely the sound of singing in unison. It should be the integrated sound of soprano and bass, alto and tenor” – John Piper.
  • Husband and wife are in fact different and bear God’s image in the context of marriage in different ways.
  • Each excels in his/her strength.
  • Neither should try to sing all the parts.


As we said in a previous lesson:

“Scripture doesn’t give a lot of detail as to how God’s design for man and woman is to be worked out, so a traditional division of labor (women in the kitchen, changing diapers; men at work letting women do all household chores) doesn’t square with the biblical design…There is flexibility within the basic framework, and each couple has unique circumstances in which to work out God’s design and plan for them personally, both leader and partner. The biblical pattern is loving, self-sacrificial complementarity where the couple partners in conscious pursuit of God’s mission. Marriage is part of God’s larger purpose of reuniting all of humanity under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10)” – Andreas Kostenberger.


He goes on to say:

“Succinctly put, the overarching model that many have implicitly understood in recent years has been male leadership and female submission…we believe that this approach may unduly constrain the woman’s role and contribution in marriage and the church. We might rather categorize the biblical teaching in these terms: male leadership and female partnership.”


I would say a more literal Genesis 1 & 2 way to put his term would be…

  • “male image-bearer” and “female image-bearer helper”


Notice that in this language there is no room for domination, mastery or rule of one spouse over the other.

  • And no reading of Paul’s “head over” or “authority over” language can be understood this way either.
  • God’s judgment of Eve at this point is “a description of the curse. It is a description of misery, not a model for marriage” – Piper.
  • I repeat…it is not a model for marriage.
  • It describes what is wrong with marriage, not what is right with marriage.


Important Implication:

“So the essence of corrupted maleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit women for its own private desires. And the essence of corrupted femaleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit men for its own private desires. And the difference is found mainly in the different weaknesses that we can exploit in one another” – John Piper.

  • This effect of the Fall requires that we examine ourselves as husbands.
  • How do we try and exploit our wives?
  • How do we seek to exploit their weaknesses to our benefit?