The Fall of Adam

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” (v. 17).

- Genesis 3:14–19

Understanding the basics of the biblical drama is impossible without understanding Adam’s fall, so that is where we now turn in our study of Old Testament themes. The background for today’s passage is Genesis 2:4–3:13 and the probation our first parents lived under — a “covenant of works” between God and Adam and Eve, who were commanded not to eat from the forbidden tree on pain of death (2:15–17; 3:1–3). Tomorrow and the week after next we will look at the nature of this covenant more closely, today we need only to remember that our first parents broke this covenant when tempted by the serpent, earning the curses described in 3:14–19.

Biblically speaking, to be cursed is to be banished from the place of blessing. Instead of pleasant work in a garden eager to give up its bounty for the good of mankind, Adam and his sons must fight back thorns that threaten their livelihoods (vv. 17–19). This is agricultural imagery, but the thorns and thistles also represent all the troubles with work — ineffective or unreliable tools, unreasonable supervisors, lazy employees, and more. Work itself is not the curse, for we were made to delight in our work, which was instituted before the fall (2:15); rather, struggle will accompany every labor. John Calvin says, “Before the fall, the state of the world was a most fair and delightful mirror of the divine favor and paternal indulgence towards man. Now, in all the elements we perceive that we are cursed.”

Childbirth and rearing, which the Lord also designed as an avenue to great joy for women, also feels the curse of the fall. Pain now attends the bringing forth of children (3:16), both in childbirth and in all the heartache that comes with worrying about a child’s safety, watching him make poor decisions, and all the various other things that make raising children a difficult job indeed (see Prov. 17:25; Jer. 31:15).

Despite the curses, labor and childbirth will clearly go on, an evidence of grace since both guarantee humanity’s survival. The serpent is not so lucky; Satan and His minions will be crushed by a righteous people under the command of the woman’s righteous Son (Gen. 3:14–15). But a long period of time will intervene before the fatal blow against the Devil is delivered.

Coram Deo

Our culture tempts us to see work itself as a curse and to live for the day when we need not labor any more. But the Bible says we are made to work for God’s glory, and although there may come a day when we may no longer be able to serve in our current vocations, there is no such thing as full retirement in the kingdom of God. Are you expressing your gratitude to the Lord for giving you work by endeavoring to serve Him with all that you are?

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 27:26–30
Deuteronomy 28:15–68
Malachi 2:1–9
Mark 11:12–14, 20–26

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