December 4, 2010

Tragedy and Hope


The last few posts have dealt with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and why eating the fruit of that tree led to death.  This week, we will look at the wider implications of Adam and Eve eating the fruit, as well as the “what”, “why”, and “how” of the curses God pronounced on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent as part of the judgment for Original Sin.

As advertised, the end result of eating from the tree was the entrance of death into existence – not only for humanity, but for all of creation.

The king is dead

Adam was given rulership over the entire world.  When he embraced death, his kingdom became subject to death as well.  All of creation lost the ability to sustainably repair.  Everything started to wear down.  I believe that this is when the Second Law of Thermodynamics came into being.  If nothing happens to stop it, the entire universe will lose all its energy and suffer a Heat Death.

In addition to death, Genesis 3 chronicles specific curses that God pronounced on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent:

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field. Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”

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.”

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.” –  Genesis 3:14-19 KJV

These curses are so well known that they are often taken for granted and do not receive the analysis they deserve.

Curses with reasons

The popular (i.e. easy/comparative) way to look at it, is to see God waving His mighty scepter and decreeing curses on Adam and Eve based on His arbitrary judgment; a thought process which is so far beyond our understanding that we need not think about the “why’s” behind these particular curses.  He’s God.  He can do whatever He wants.  Move along, nothing to see here.

However, since we know God’s nature, we can no longer get away with being intellectually lazy when examining His actions.  God is always and completely right and just, which means He does not do anything randomly or arbitrarily.  Everything He does has a right and just reason behind it.  It would be unjust to pronounce a curse which was divorced from the thoughts, actions, and decisions Adam and Eve made, as well as a big-picture perspective of the events.

If you recall the Eden narrative, Eve ate the fruit first, but God did not intervene until after Adam ate the fruit.  Why?  Because Eve did not directly disobey God, she disobeyed Adam!  Let me explain:

Everything in its proper order

A fundamental aspect of God’s methodology seems to be “order” and “hierarchy”.  For example, while each member of the Trinity is equally “God”, they have agreed to a hierarchy – the Son gives deference to the Father, and the Holy Spirit gives deference to the Son.  This ensures perfect love and harmony.

God also established an orderly and profitable hierarchy in His creation.  God was to lead Adam.  Adam was to follow God and lead Eve.  Adam and Eve were to lead and rule over the rest of creation.  While this hierarchy was in place and functioning, there was perfection and harmony in the world.  It was paradise.

But paradise was undone when the hierarchy was violated.

I’ve let it be known that my opinion is that Satan was the serpent and/or spoke through a serpent. All of creation – including the Angels, were supposed to be subject to man (I believe that Satan’s aversion to this subordination was the motivation behind the temptation of Eve).

The serpent/Satan knew that the best way to kick Adam off the throne was to reverse the hierarchical order.  Instead of leadership being initiated from the “top down”, it was initiated from the “bottom up”: Eve followed the serpent,  Adam followed Eve,  (and by thinking comparatively, and blaming God for his disobedience, Adam tried to get God to follow him).

The fruit rules

The Bible says that Eve was fooled into eating the fruit.  The only way she could be fooled is if she didn’t fully understand the admonition not to eat the fruit, or if it wasn’t appropriately explained to her.  I believe this was the case because during the temptation, she misquoted the rules!

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Genesis 3:2-3 [emphasis mine]

God did not say anything about not touching the fruit.  Eve either intentionally lied about the “touching” part (which would not be possible since she was still free from sin at this point), or Adam failed to make sure she had the proper understanding of the rules, which means he failed as a leader!  Once the Serpent saw this chink in the armor, he knew that Eve was vulnerable to deception.

After she ate the fruit, nothing happened to Eve because she had NOT yet gained the knowledge of good and evil.  Why?  Because as we saw in the last post, the knowledge of good and evil comes when you are forced to think long-term.  Even after eating the fruit, Eve did not have to think long-term because her source of constant information and direction (Adam) was still available to her!

But the Bible makes it clear that Adam was NOT fooled when he ate the fruit.  He understood the rules and intentionally broke them.  Instead of leading Eve to repentance for her disobedience, he decided that he would rather be with his wife in sin than with God in righteousness.  He chose to follow Eve over God.  He intentionally reversed the hierarchy and gave up his role as leader!

And as we saw in the last post, Adam’s disobedience disconnected him from God and both he and Eve had to start thinking long-term.

The punishment fits the crime

God took the actions and decisions of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent and essentially cursed them to live with the extrapolated ramifications of them.  And because God is just, He gave a reason (a “because”) for the specifics of each curse.

Because Adam voluntarily gave up his leadership of the world, God made it so that creation would no longer obey him.  He would have to struggle and fight nature in order for it to yield its sustenance to him.  To this day man is still frustrated by this curse.  Be it in his occupation, his home, his society, or nature – man can never fully make the world bend to his will.

Because Eve decided to reverse the hierarchy of her relationship, she was cursed to experience pain and frustration in all her most intimate relationships.  The original language implies that not only would she experience physical pain in bearing children, emotional pain and heart break would be a hallmark of rearing the child.  As men are cursed to be frustrated by seeking but never finding perfection in the world, women are to constantly seek but never find perfection in relationships.

It’s also VERY enlightening to note that most Bible translations make a prepositional error in these verses.  The original language does not say that the wife’s desire will be to her husband (desiring your husband isn’t much of a curse unless you’re married to an oaf), It actually says that her desire will be to the husband – or rather to the position of husband.  In other words, women will seek to be the head of the relationship, BUT God has ordained that the man be the ruler.  This conflict is the source of much of the antagonism between men and women (as well as the plot-line of most television comedies).

Now, on to the serpent.   Because the serpent “rose up” beyond its station in life when it reversed the hierarchy by leading humanity to temptation, it was physically cursed by being “brought down” to crawling on its belly (which obviously means it was a very different critter before the curse).

One of the reasons that I believe we are dealing with more than just a snake, are the subsequent parts of the curse.  God said the serpent would eat dust the rest of its life, yet we know that snakes don’t eat dust (that would be a waste of venom).  In the context of the verses, “dust” is referenced as the man’s body – specifically, his dead body. Satan is cursed to “hunger” for the death of man.

The tragedy

Part of the curse on Adam was that he lost rulership of the world.  As his despoiler, Satan now has that role.  But instead of man being subservient to Satan as he had hoped, through the curse, man became his enemy.  I believe this is where Satan lost his free will.  He was cursed with the irrational and irreversible desire to destroy those whom he wanted to rule.  But this antagonistic relationship will turn out to be the catalyst for man’s redemption.

The last part of the curse on the serpent contains the seed plot (no pun intended – you’ll see) for the rest of the Bible and the next six dispensations, and includes mankind’s greatest Hope.

The hope

God stated that He would make “The Seed of the woman” and “the seed of the serpent” enemies (we’ll address this when we examine dispensations 5 and 6).  He also said that the Satan would “bruise the heel” of (cause physical damage to) the Seed of the woman, but the Seed of the woman would “crush his head” (deliver a mortal wound).

This portion of the curse is actually the first prophesy of the redemption of man, and gives the first descriptors of the redeemer.  The “seed” (sperm) naturally comes from the man, so whoever this “Seed of the woman” is, He would have to come into being through a woman without natural “input” from a man.  And while Satan will cause Him to suffer, He will ultimately completely defeat Satan and reclaim the kingdom that Adam lost.

We’ve spent a lot of time examining the First Dispensation, much longer than I had planned. But it is absolutely crucial that these foundational events be understood.  This understanding is key to unlocking the rest of the Bible as well as the essential psychology of man. In the next post, we will finally conclude our study of the first dispensation by looking at how the desire for Eden shapes our existence.

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