Once again Church it is a joy to be opening the Word of God with you and once again we find ourselves in Genesis 3. Recall the path we’ve traveled so far. We began Genesis 3 looking at v1-7 where we saw the why…why Adam and Eve sinned and why we sin. We then looked at v8-15 where we saw the what…what happened when Adam and Eve sinned and what happens when we sin. Today we’re looking at the rest of chapter 3, v16-24 specifically, where we’ll continue to see all the ruin and misery that entered into the world through sin.

Last week we already saw the first curse in Genesis 3 and as we saw it we rejoiced because it was against the serpent. He couldn’t do anything as he heard his doom pronounced by God with infallible authority in v14-15. Yet, two more cursing’s remain in the chapter, and in them there’s not much to celebrate as they continue to unfold the devastating consequences of sin. Yet, what hope we have an examining the curse, for it leads us straight to the One who in love came to be cursed for us.

Cursing (v16-19)

To the Woman (v16)

“To the woman He said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

In v15 we saw the great hope in the promise of the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent once and for all. Yet how tragic is the turn in v16 as we see that the coming of this seed will be full of pain.[1] The way this is phrased makes it unclear whether pain was a normal part of childbirth pre-fall or if pain is only a reality of childbirth post-fall. God didn’t say there would now be pain, but that He would multiply the pain in childbearing, which could indicate that pain in the birthing process was present pre-fall and increased post-fall. But whether or not that’s the case, one thing is clear, great pain is now normal for childbearing.

But while physical pain in giving birth is intense, I never want to diminish that reality, I think more than mere physical pain is in view here. In a sense the whole endeavor of mothering is filled with pain.[2] Mothering begins in pain as the birthing process takes place. Mothering continues on in pain because the child born is a child born, not neutral with God, but in rebellion against God, and this child’s rebellion will grieve and bring pain to the mother in due time. And mothering will end in pain, because when the mother has lived long enough she’ll see the consequences of sin plague all her children to varying degrees. “…in pain you shall bring forth children.” What was once an event of gladness will now be filled with grief.

But that’s not all present in v16. After the initial multiplication of pain in childbirth, we see this, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” What’s going here? Simply put, the marriage realities of love and cherish have now turned into control and domination.[3] Or as Pat Benatar sang, love is a battlefield. This is evidence that the designs of marriage are now forever changed. Far from marriage being the wonderful union it was meant to be, marriage is now a fight for control, where the wife will desire to rule over her husband.[4] This is no small desire. The same word is used in the next chapter, 4:7, to describe how eagerly sin seeks after us. “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is against you…” This means Eve will have the same kind of desire for Adam that sin has for Cain.[5] Also see the phrase “contrary to” in v16. “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband…” In Hebrew that phrase contrary to is just one word, against. “Your desire shall be against your husband.” So what’s taken place? Pre-fall marriage was once a perfect harmony of complementary equals, now post-fall marriage is a war for control as Eve’s desire shall be contrary to and against Adam. Yet, Adam will continue to rule, meaning he will lead and be the head of the family, bringing about more frustration for Eve as her desire for control is continually frustrated.

How sad that now, the very things that would’ve given Eve some of life’s greatest joy – childbearing and marriage – will now bring Eve some of her deepest misery.[6] Things are not the way they were supposed to be. Before we apply this, see the curse to Adam.

To the Man (v17-19)

“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; 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.”

Notice right away how much longer the description of Adam’s curse is compared to Eve’s? This is likely due to their earlier words to God when He came calling in the garden in v8 and following. When addressed Adam had a list of excuses as long as his arm in v9-12, even going back and forth with God, and now he receives many words of curse. Eve spoke briefly in v13, and so it isn’t surprising to see her receive far less words of curse than Adam.

But look at God’s words to Adam. Immediately God goes straight to the fundamental mistake Adam made, listening to his wife rather than listening to God’s command.[7] Five times God brings up ‘eating’ to Adam here. He was not to eat of the one tree, but because of his eating, he will now eat only after painful labor with the ground and by the sweat of his face. Work for Adam, once an endeavor of joy and satisfaction, will now be filled with pain. Just as we saw with Eve, what was once a thing of gladness will now be filled with grief. The reason for his painful labor is that the very ground (literally land in Hebrew[8]) is cursed because of Adam’s disobedience. What is this? The ground pre-fall was easy to work with, no thorns, no thistles, nothing fighting back against Adam. The ground likely yielded to Adam’s effort easily, was most likely soft, easily tillable, and it most likely produced for Adam with speed. Now the ground won’t yield as easily, it actually fights back against Adam with thorns and thistles, it’s likely much harder so he’ll have to work at digging it up, and now most likely it won’t produce for him as quickly. All in all, only by sweat and painful labor will Adam’s work produce sustenance for his family to eat.

But that’s not all in v17-19. The final word looms over Adam in tragic irony, “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” When God created Adam, God made him from the ground. From the adamah came Adam. Now the tragic reversal occurs in death as Adam will one day return to the adamah. So not only will the ground fight against and resist Adam’s work with it, the ground will one day literally swallow Adam up in death.[9]

As we said before with Eve we now say again. How sad that now, the very things that would’ve given Adam some of life’s greatest joy – working and providing – will now bring Adam some of his deepest misery. Things are truly not the way they were supposed to be.

What are we to make of these texts? After seeing these curses to Adam and Eve, there are thousands of points of application. Here’s just a few. Ladies, you now experience great pain in childbearing, such that now it’s possible for women to die giving birth from complications. Mothering now is an endeavor of pain throughout the whole of it as you watch your children sin and watch them be sinned against. And ladies, in marriage you now fight for dominance over your husband, and you’re called to submit to your husband. This is now the common state of all women post-fall. And husbands, lest you think you’re not in view here see the curse to Adam. You now have the battle of listening to God first and foremost over listening to the wife you love. Of course your wife is great and I’m sure has much wisdom and direction to aid and help you in leading your family, but as great as your wives are, wives make bad gods. And husbands, you’re called to work and to work hard to meet the needs of your family. Painful toil by the sweat of your brow doesn’t just apply to farmers, it applies to any job you have now. Even if you’ve got the best job in the world, at times, you’ll grow weary in it and will want a different job thinking the grass is greener in other pastures. Do not be deceived. Work will be painful for you. And lastly for all of us here, both men and women, from the moment we’re born we’re now slowly but surely headed back to the ground from which we came.

I think we can now understand more of what Paul meant in Romans 8 when he says that we ourselves along with all of creation is now longing for redemption and for the curse to be removed (Romans 8:18-24). Having been so blessed, and now having been so cursed, we long to be redeemed and free of all corruption once again. And Church, this promise will come to pass one day, gloriously so![10] The curse brought great pain, but no pain was equal to Christ’s pain on the cross. The curse brought great conflict, but no conflict was equal to what Jesus’ faced before His accusers. The curse brought sweat, Jesus sweat great drops of blood. The curse brought thorns, Jesus was crowned with thorns. The curse brought sorrow, Jesus was the man of sorrows. The curse brought death, and Jesus died. Simply put, “Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Christ cursed for us, now fills our hearts, our minds, and our souls. We sing it every Christmas, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.” Praise God that though the curse is great, because of Jesus, curse is not final word for any believer.

Calling/Covering (v20-21)

Just v20 first, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

Curious that this comes next, right? I mean, we hear nothing of response from the man or the woman after being cursed. The very next thing is Adam naming the woman Eve. Why is this here? I think it’s here because of Adam’s faith. Recall that Adam heard the serpent being cursed, and a part of that curse is v15. That the seed of the woman will one day come forth, do battle, and crush the serpent once and for all. Adam heard this. And now, after the woman is cursed and after he is cursed, especially after the sobering words of death in v19, how does Adam respond? In the midst of death, he responds with life! It seems Adam has believed the promise if v15 and by naming the woman Eve, meaning life-giver, he looks in the face of his own sin and shame and death defiantly believing that he and his wife won’t be the end of humanity, but proclaims that God will somehow bring life out of this![11] What hope to see here, and what hope Adam would’ve given to his wife here in naming her this.

That’s the calling in v20, see now the covering in v21. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Remember back in v7 they had tried to cloth themselves, with fig leaves, to cover their shame and hide their nakedness from one another. Lesson? What they foolishly attempted to do for themselves, God in His grace does for them, in clothing them with garments of skin. What are these garments of skin? Some believe they’re just garments God created for them, like He created the world, clothing made out of nothing. I disagree. I think these garments came from an animal sacrifice, the first animal sacrifice to be exact. I say this because this word skins here, for the original Israelite audience reading this would’ve instantly thought of animals being sacrificed in the temple. Lev. 7:8 even mentions how the priests would keep some of the skins of the animals for themselves after the sacrifices. If this is the case, that the clothing God made for them did come from animals, which I think it did, that would mean this is the first instance in the Bible we have of shame and sin being covered by a bloody sacrifice.

See here Church, the work of substitution in Genesis 3, long before the bloody cross of our Savior. Adam and Eve sinned and were sentenced to death. What does God do? Kills an animal, in their place, as their substitute, to cover their sin and shame. Who would’ve known that one day the very Snake Crusher promised a few verses before this, would in a far greater and eternal manner, cover the sin and shame of all who come to Him in faith with His very righteousness! That’s the reality, this is the preview preparing us for it. And of course, this extends to the very end of the Bible. In Revelation 19 it mentions how the Church will be clothed in the bright and pure linen of Christ’s righteousness forever. Church, may you ever look to Christ to cover your sin and shame, and turn away from so many fig leaves offered to us today.

Conclusion: Casting (v22-24)

“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—” 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.”

Here chapter 3 comes to a close. And it comes to a close with God in grace casting Adam and Eve out of Eden, lest they eat of the tree of life in their new fallen condition and live forever. God sent him out, drove him out, and blocked his way back in. This is not Adam leaving of his own will, or being escorted to the door. This is exile. This is banishment. This is Adam and Eve being thrown out.[12] And using temple like language once again it says God drove them out in the east of Eden, placing cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way back in. Lesson? Man’s way back into the presence of God is now not just hard, not just difficult, it’s impossible.[13] God Himself must make the way open if man is come back in.

Be of good cheer Church, whatever sins you done, whatever sins have been done against you, God Himself did what we could never do, and made a way home through Jesus Christ.

Praise His name forevermore!

[1] Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 200.

[2] John D. Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, EP Study Commentary (Holywell, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015), 132–133.

[3] Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 76.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 202.

[5] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1982), 223.

[6] Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 1996), 251.

[7] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 82.

[8] This subtly prepares the reader for the coming promise of a greater land, made to Abraham.

[9] Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2001), 95.

[10] Boice, Genesis 1-11, 226.

[11] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 207.

[12] Ibid., 210.

[13] Kidner, Genesis, 77.

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