The Consequences of the Fall. Gen 3:14-24
What is very important is to understand is that human sin does not just affect the human race, it affects all of creation. All of nature is transformed as a result of Adam's sin. The other corollary principle to this is that any sin that we commit has reverberating consequences far beyond our comprehension even though we may not immediately perceive those consequences. Remember that the sin that Adam and Eve committed was not a sin of gross immorality, of violence, of perversion, not a sin that any of us normally think of as great and gross sins. It was the simple act of eating a piece of fruit but the act itself was in disobedience to the command of God. So sin is ultimately defined as any thought, word or deed that violates the character of God. So their sin has some impact on all of creation.
Verse 16, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." We now advance to the consequences to the woman. The translation makes it sound that there are two things here: "I will multiply your sorrow and your conception." The NASB translates it more accurately: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow (or, pain) in your conception." But we need to understand this concept of multiplication. This is the Hebrew verb rabah which means to increase or to multiply. It could even have the meaning of intensify. It may or may not suggest that there would already be pain with labor, but we suggest that it does not imply that. The idea here is not so much pain, it would already be this. But there would now be an intensified pain associated with child bearing. The word translated "sorrow" is the Hebrew word itztzebon, and this noun is only used three times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It can be translated as sorrow, toil, labor, hardship, difficulty. The main idea of the root verb is the idea of either physical or emotional sorrow and toil. It can refer to mental discomfort of physical discomfort. It can refer to anguish, and sometimes to sorrow or even anger. So the main idea in this word group is of something that is difficult, painful, unpleasant, either physical or mental, but it is definitely indicating something that was not there before because they were in perfect environment. So now the woman is told that there is going to be a curse related to the process of childbearing.
Remember that in the original mandates of Genesis 1:27, 27, the man and the woman were told that they were going to rule over nature. And what they are just indicating is that nature is now going to be changed because of sin. Now we are going to see that there is also another curse or consequence related to childbearing. When we use the word "curse" it is not this kind of mystical, magical witchcraft sense where I'm putting a curse on someone. A curse in the Bible simply refers to negative, harsh judgment; the evil consequences from an action. God doesn't put a curse on man like we see in some fables or myths. This is expressing the consequences of sin throughout history. So whereas in perfect environment the man and the woman were to be fruitful and multiply and have many children, now there is going to be labor, hardship, sorrow, toil, associated with giving birth. It doesn't mean they aren't still engaged in that initial mandate from God but the problem is it is now toilsome, it is difficult. There will be pain and sorrow associated with the attempt to overcome it. Then we think also of what happens in the eternal state, that there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain, for the old things will be done away with. There will be a reversal of this in the eternal state.
In the Hebrew we have, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow in your conception." There are two nouns linked together by a conjunction and they are not two separate things, they are the same thing, so there is an intensification of toil or labor or pain in the pregnancy. Literally, the word translated "conception" here is the Hebrew word haran, and this indicates not simply conception, although it may be limited to that in some passages, it is also used in a number of passages to indicate the entire pregnancy. So what this passage is saying is, "I will intensify your pain in your pregnancy." Then we have in the development of the thought in the parallelism of the next phrase the word "in pain" again, and this time it picks up another form of that noun, a cognate noun etzev, which is the root concept. There is a thread that runs through here and that is the idea of pain, toil, and difficulty. This is the same word that we will find in v. 16 and down in v.17, "in toil." So there is clearly a theme running through here that sin not only brought the spiritual death consequences but it also brought misery and toil and pain into human existence. The Bible clearly explains that God did not create the world this way, He created the world perfect but He gave man volition. Man abused his responsibility and used his volition in a wrong way, and because of man's wrong choices he brought misery and toil and pain and hardship into existence. So secondly, "in pain you shall give birth to children." This is not indicating that she is just now being able to have children. That would indicate that children are a part of the curse, and throughout the Bible the theme is that children are a blessing. The psalmist says, "Blessed is the man who has many children."
So we have the idea here of negative consequences associated with fulfilling that original mandate to be fruitful and to multiply. That is the first problem, so the woman is going to really have three problems. As a result of her part in the sin her first problem is that there is going to be pain and toil associated with giving birth. The second problem is that she is going to enter into an authority conflict with the male. This is the beginning of the war of the sexes. It says that her desire shall be for her husband. You may have been taught here in the past that the desire here is a sexual desire, and there are many men who in arrogance think that somehow their wife should be all hot for their body and they try to go to this passage to try to intimidate their wife into thinking that they should have this strong sexual desire for them. And there are a number of commentaries that have supported that over the years. The problem is that there are several different words for desire and lust in Scripture and this is not one that relates to physical or sexual desire. This is the Hebrew word teshuqah and it is used only three times in the Bible. It is used twice in Genesis and once in the Song of Solomon. One rule in any kind of Bible study is that the way a word is used by the same author in the same time period takes precedence over a word that is used by another author in another kind of literature in another generation. The Song of Solomon uses this word in order to get a parallel for love, but three things are important to note. First of all, Song of Solomon is written probably 2000 years later. So this is not a word that Moses would have originated as much as a word that could have gone back into antiquity. But, let's say Moses under inspiration of the Holy Spirit coins this word or uses it in his time, in roughly 1400 BC, so that is still 5-600 years before Solomon. Words change over a period of time. So it is a different time period, a different author, and a different type of literature. Song of Solomon is romantic poetry and this is not. All of those factors affect words.
But we do have a parallel use of this word in Genesis 4:7 by the very same author. The situation in Genesis 4:7 is that Cain has been angered by God's acceptance of Abel's offering. God confronts him with his sin in v. 6 and says to him, "Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And its desire is for you, and thou shalt rule over him." There is that word "desire" again and it is the same word that we have in Genesis 3:16. It is a desire to control, a desire to dominate. What we see in the context of Genesis 3:14-19 is a list of negative consequences for sin. If this is not a negative consequence, if this is physical desire or sexual desire in a positive sense then it is the only positive result of sin. We really don't want to follow that to its logical conclusion because that would have a damaging influence on how we understood the role and influence of sex. That would somehow diminish it. So ti is excluded not only by word study but it is excluded by context. Context argues for something negative. So the woman is told that she would have a desire to rule, to control, to dominate her husband. And in contrast he is going to want to rule over here. This is the Hebrew word mashal which means to rule and to dominate, and it has the connotation in many passages of a tyrannical use of authority. So there we see that man and woman in their raw sin nature state are in a condition of warfare. The woman wants to run the house, the man wants to dominate her. There is only one thing that turns that around and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, regeneration and then spiritual growth. That is what changes this, but this desire is the natural orientation. The reverse is seen in Ephesians chapter 5:22 where the wife is told to submit to her husband and the husband is told to love the wife as Christ loved the church. If you don't put that in context with Genesis 3:15 you won't understand it. The woman is told to submit to her husband because her basic problem is that she wants to run the husband. The husband is told to love the wife as Christ loved the church, i.e. as a servant, because his basic orientation is to tyrannize the wife. Apart from the grace of God and apart from Bible doctrine that is exactly the way every marriage is going to go because of the orientation of the sin nature.
Now let's look at the man, v. 17. "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." God makes sure that Adam understands the issue. Notice He did not explain the why in terms of either the serpent or the woman because they weren't the determinative decision. The determinative decision was made by Adam as the head of the race. God explains to Adam that if he hadn't listened to his wife—and the idiom here is the idea of obeying the voice of his wife, there was a reversal that took place in authority in the fall. The woman, instead of exercising dominion over the serpent, listened to the serpent; the man, instead of exercising authority over his wife, listened to the wife. In the whole conglomeration of the events surrounding the fall there was a role reversal and an authority reversal. That is why there is such a problem with authority subsequent to the fall. There was authority before the fall.
"Cursed is the ground for your sake." Before, the ground was blessed. He was to serve in the garden. The garden was going to bring forth all manner of trees and food, sufficient for the man, but now the ground is cursed instead of the ground automatically bringing forth the bounty of the soil and all that would be necessary for his sustenance he now has to work for it. There is now toil, and this is the word itztzabon again, repeated to run this theme of labor, hardship, difficulty, anguish, discomfort, as the consequence of sin; "in toil you shall eat of it." In other words, you will have to work for it. There were no thorns and thistles, no cactus in the original created state. Those plants developed as a result of the changes that occurred in botany due to Adam's curse. In other words, nature itself is going to become an obstacle to man's productivity and there will always be a struggle. "You shall eat the herb of the field," so man was a vegetarian at this stage. He is not a meat-eater until after the flood; "till you return to the ground," and this is our first mention of physical death. Notice that we have seen a list of ten consequences to sin. If physical death is the penalty for sin, then all of those other nine consequences are the penalty for sin. When Jesus Christ went to the cross He did not go through labor, He did not deal with all of these other categories of consequences. He only is separated from the Father for three hours and between twelve noon and 3 pm God the Father pours out on Jesus Christ all the sins of the world, and He pays for them. When it was over with, to make sure we got the point, the apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit uses this word twice in this form: tetelestai [tetelestai]. The duplication of the first syllable indicates that this is a perfect tense verb. The implication of the perfect tense is completed action. So John says, first of all when it was complete, when it was finished, he said, "I thirst." So that ,means at the point of that verse whatever it was that Jesus was doing was completed before He said, "I thirst." Completed action means the action is over and done with. The verb itself, TETELESTAI, means to bring to completion. So it is almost a redundancy to take a verb meaning completion and put it in the perfect tense, but it emphasizes the point that whatever Jesus Christ was doing on the cross was over and done with prior to the point where He said, "I thirst." Everything Jesus Christ did for our salvation, then, was said before He said "I thirst." He doesn't die physically until after that, therefore the physical death had nothing to do with paying the price for sin. The physical death was not the redemptive factor on the cross, it was the spiritual death that occurred between 12-noon and 3pm when God the Father poured out the penalty for sin on Jesus Christ so that all sin was paid for at that point in time. Why does He die physically? To show that He conquers the greatest consequence of sin which is physical death and to show that through the resurrection that God had accepted that payment.
Verses 20, 21, Adam names his wife. He gives her a new name now because she is going to be the mother of all living. "And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." When they sinned they realized they were naked and tried to clothe themselves with fig leaves. That is what man tries to do with religion. All religions try to cover up the sin problem by man's efforts. At some way man is trying to gain ultimate peace with God through his own efforts, through his own good deeds by trying to conform to some standard of morality. But what God says is that all of our works are as filthy rags. They are useless, they are worthless, they are no good, they don't measure up to God's standard. But God demands the standard of His own perfect righteousness and man can never make it. Therefore God provides the solution, just as God provided the solution for Adam and Eve by slaying animals. To get skins you have to kill the animal. In order to kill the animals you are going to shed blood. This is the beginning of that blood trail through the Old Testament that pictures the spiritual substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. Physical death, therefore, becomes a physical emblem or representation of what takes place in that unseen spiritual realm, the concept of spiritual death. So God provides the perfect solution to the problem and He made tunics of skins and He clothed them. Salvation is performed by God, it is not helped or aided by man. Man cannot help God. God does everything, that is what grace is all about. And this foreshadows what would take place at the cross, that Jesus Christ was called the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So that Adam and his wife accepting God's provision indicate that they are saved. They understood the plan of salvation. God didn't simply give them the tunics of skins, He explained the whole concept of salvation to them and He clothed them.
Verse 22, "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." Here we have a conference between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Man wanted to be like God and he wanted to determine what was right and what was wrong, and now he has a conscience and has experienced good and now evil. Therefore man is expelled from the garden.
Verse 23, 24, "Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." What happens in these last three verses is that God recognizes that man, like God, knows good and evil, i.e. he has an awareness of that standard. Before the fall Adam in naivety had no awareness of either human good or evil. But (v. 22) God is aware of the existence of relative [human] good and of sin. He could have theoretically lived forever if he had eaten of the tree of life. That indicates again that physical death is not the penalty for sin. So God says he has to be kept from the tree of life and he was evicted and ejected from the garden. To prevent man from returning to the garden God establishes a new guard. Remember, man's original task was to guard the garden. He was placed in the garden to serve God and to guard it, and now we have the cherubim placed on the east side of the garden with a flaming sword indicating judgment. Sword in the Bible always stands for judicial prerogatives.