A Note of Explanation
The term, man, is used in this chapter in a similar way to that used in Genesis 1, 2, and in Romans 5:12. Sometimes it will refer to both Adam and Eve, sometimes only to Adam, and other times to Adam as the head of all mankind.
THE ORIGIN OF FEAR AND STRESS
When God created man, He made him a spiritual being (Gen. 2:7). As spiritual beings, mankind were the only creatures on earth who were in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26,27); thus, human beings were the only ones who were able to communicate with God and have communion with Him. It seems that this ability to communicate with God was the primary privilege God afforded mankind. While Adam and Eve continued in the relationship God afforded them, they most likely enjoyed a wholesome existence free of stress or distress. There were tasks assigned to Adam over the animal domain, and he tended the garden where he dwelt. Work was a wholesome, fulfilling experience. Man was endued with creative abilities which God was pleased for him to use in the stewardship of caring for the earth and its creatures.
Because of the unique relationship which man enjoyed with his Creator-God, man experienced God’s protective wisdom to escape the destructive effects of evil. It was not even necessary for man to have to choose between good and evil since his fellowship with God was based on absolute trust and on a dependency on God to direct man to those matters that would be good for him. This is the essence of righteousness, and righteousness was indeed an integral part of man’s life. Righteousness brought a sense of delight, if not ecstasy, as man enjoyed pleasure without regret.
Since man was in a proper relationship with God and in submission to God’s control over him, there was an internal harmony and balance within man. Thus, man was free of frustration, hostility, resentment and inner conflict. There were no ambivalent feelings. If man’s spiritual life was designed primarily to enable him to relate to God, it seems that his soul, or psychological self, enabled him to relate in a social dimension, i.e., to other human beings. But before God provided for man’s social well-being with others, He gave man the task of naming the animals (Gen. 2:19,20). When the task was completed, man’s social needs found no suitable provision in the animal realm. At that point, God’s commentary on man’s state was that it was not good for man to be alone. So even though man had fellowship with God and had opportunity to have a limited relationship with the animals, there evidently were social needs that were yet needing to be cared for. Thereupon, God caused a deep sleep to come upon the man, and with a rib from man’s side He formed woman. When God brought the woman to the man, man’s response conveyed the attitude that he realized that the woman was thecompletedness that was to provide fulfillment.
After the creation account, the Scriptures present the account of the temptation and fall of man. Both the moral and spiritual condition of man were changed by the outcome of the temptation and man’s resulting independence. Man gained the ability to know the difference between good and evil but was now incapable of resisting the evil and maintaining the good. Thus, man began to experience stress and the range of feelings of self-presumption, frustration, anger, fear, hostility, depression and guilt that one experiences when confronted with decision-making void of spiritual understanding. The inner turmoil then triggered the entire psychosomatic chain of disease and deterioration which is characteristic in a life operated under the principle of SIN AND DEATH. This is not to imply that isolated incidences of illness are a direct result of specific acts of sin, but rather that the entire realm of disease within the human experience is part of what came to mankind when he chose to act independently from God’s supervision in his life, thus resulting in the state of spiritual death.
Once man operated independently from God, he was caught in a self-perpetuating deterioration of both his psychological and physical being, the deterioration continuing to the present time. From the human viewpoint this deterioration is sometimes regarded as a series of tragic events which caring people try to alleviate by sympathizing and regarding the individual going through the tragic events as having his “rights”, considering such tragedies unfair. Such attitudes usually result in charges being levelled against God for allowing such events to occur. In reality, from God’s point of view, His purpose is to bring a person to the end of his or her resources and self-sufficiency so that that person will be receptive to God’s ultimate provision – eternal life, Christ’s life, spiritual life. The typical reaction to this process of the individual’s self-reliance being reduced to the point of dependency is for him or her to try harder in order to keep everything under his or her own control.
As soon as man yielded to the temptation, he became aware of broken fellowship with God. He attempted to hide from God. The fellowship he had formerly enjoyed was replaced by a sense of fear and dread at the thought of meeting God. Man may have failed to comprehend the fact that he was no longer endued with the ability to have fellowship with God since he was now in a condition of spiritual separation from God. Along with his fear of meeting God was a sense of shame at the new awareness of his naked condition. This awareness may have come as a result of a loss of a divinely given garment of light or because man now was aware of evil desires aroused by his nakedness. Man made a covering of fig leaves, which God had to replace with the coverings made from animal skins, since man’s attempt to cover his nakedness failed to provide a remedy to meet the penalty for his fallen condition. God prepared a sacrifice to provide for an effective covering, the skin of an animal.
Perhaps the most pervasive result of man’s broken relationship with God was the presence of fear and the bondage that it brought to man. As stated earlier, man was immediately afraid of God’s presence and hid himself. From that first experience by man of being afraid in the presence of God, the Scriptures record a constant witness to the presence of fear within man when he is in God’s presence, as well as his having fear pervade his life in his fallen condition. Mankind soon realized how fear was to enslave him to the extent that it controlled his spirit and was used by the devil to instill in him the fear of death.
Man’s method of handling his sin and fear was to try to place blame on someone other than himself. In Adam’s case he tried to place blame on the woman, Eve, but he also indicted God for having given the woman to him. Then when God spoke to the woman about her responsibility in the temptation, she directed the blame toward the serpent. Since the serpent could not place the blame on someone else, God dealt with the whole course of placing the blame in reverse order from the serpent through the woman to the man.
The only real remedy for the damage caused by mankind’s participation in sin had to be provided by God in his grace and his mercy. Redemption through the blood of a sacrifice was the means God used. More pervasive results would follow the shame, guilt, blame, and fear which were obvious evidences of the separation that took place between God and man. As a result of the fall, mankind would experience physical death in time. The principle of sin and death would be passed on to all of man’s offspring.
Immediately, when God confronted Adam with his act and resulting condition, it was necessary for God to pronounce a curse in order to teach man that disobedience carries a penalty with it. Inasmuch as man attempted to put the blame on the woman and the woman passed the blame on to the serpent, God’s curse was first pronounced on the serpent, then on the woman, next onto the man and even extended to the ground from which man was created and from which man would obtain his food in order to teach that mankind cannot escape the responsibility for his sin.
The serpent was cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field. (See Gen. 3:14.) The serpent was consigned to an existence of crawling on the ground; dust was to be his food. Enmity was to exist between the serpent and the woman and between the serpent’s seed (referring to Satan) and the woman’s seed (the offspring of the woman fulfilled in the virgin-born Son, Jesus). The woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head (accomplished at the cross), and the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed (death by crucifixion, conquered by resurrection), (Genesis 3:15).
The curse on the woman was to include multiplied sorrow and conception, no doubt referring to the travail of child bearing, but possibly including the grief resulting from sin operating in her children. …Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee (Gen. 3:16d,e). This principle is later described by Paul as the husband’s being the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23; I Cor. 11:3).
The curse on the ground would bring sorrow to mankind as he would endeavor to bring forth food from it. The evidence of this curse can be seen in the constant struggle man has to sow and gather from the ground an adequate food supply for his own need. The curse also describes the difficulties of undesirable plants such as thorns and thistles which were to make it difficult to harvest grain and provide food.
Sin and death became a permanent part of human experience as a result of the curse.
The harsh reality of sin’s penalty is seen early in the life of Adam and Eve when their first son murdered his younger brother. Adam and all that have followed him suffer the physical death which awaits all who are in Adam.
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein
Used with permission.
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.