Reading Genesis 3
“In the end, the Lord gave Mankind the world. All the world was Man’s, save for the one garden. This is my garden, said the Lord, and here you shall not enter.
There was a man and a woman who came to the garden, and their names were Earth and Breath.
They had with them a small fruit which the Man carried, and when they arrived at the gate to the garden, the Man gave the fruit to the Woman, and the Woman gave the fruit to the serpent with the flaming sword who guarded the Eastern Gate.
And the serpent took the fruit and placed it upon a tree in the center of the garden.
Then Earth and Breath knew their clothedness, and removed their garments, one by one, until they were naked; and when the Lord walked through the garden he saw the man and the woman, who no longer knew good from evil, but were satisfied, and He saw it was good.
Then the Lord opened the gates and gave Mankind the garden, and the Serpent raised up, and it walked away proudly on four strong legs; and where it went none but the Lord can say.
And after that there was nothing but silence in the Garden, save for the occasional sound of the man taking away its name from another animal.” (“In the End” from Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman page 219)
It does not take long for the story of Creation to take a dramatic twist. Genesis chapter 3 famously details the Fall of Man. Genesis chapter 3 is what the story telling experts call “the introduction of conflict”.
I love the above short story because it is an un-telling, an un-raveling, an un-doing of the first couple chapters of Genesis. Every phrase in the story represents a step backwards through what happened when Adam and Eve decided to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I love this story because it approaches a narrative we all think we know from a different angle and somehow it changes the whole flavor, the feel of the whole thing. It’s fitting, in my opinion, that when we study the beginning of sin we start from a place that has picked and pulled at something that was well-made and we have really ended up breaking that which had been good.
The events that take place in Genesis chapter 3 shape not just the rest of the Bible, but the literal world in which we live. Whether you believe the earth’s population began with one man and one woman in a garden or that Genesis 3 is an allegorical story about sin and its effects, the Fall of Man is heavy, and hard to study. It is painful to witness all that was once good and safe turn, and begin to decay.
Their choice to disobey God led Adam and Eve to run from Yahweh’s presence (3:8). It caused them to realize their nakedness, their vulnerability, and to seek to protect themselves (inadequately, might I add) (3:7). All this before Yahweh even comes to declare judgment on them!
When Yahweh comes, the not-so-obvious consequences of their sin are revealed. Each party involved learns of a two-fold fallout from their choices. The serpent’s lies cost him his dignity and ensures that he will be at war with the offspring of the woman all the way up until he loses, up until his head is crushed (3:14-15). The woman’s disobedience earned her pain during childbirth and a twist to relationships between the genders (3:16). The man’s disobedience literally broke the earth, the land would no longer cooperate with mankind’s intentions. On top of that: death (3:17-19).
Before the Fall, humans were defined by their relationship to Yahweh, they were made in His image and they lived in the garden He had made for them to tend and they did His work. After the Fall, a new element of humanity’s nature was introduced-sin. Genesis chapter 3 is where Yahweh declares war on sin and its effects. Even before the full scope of the damage is revealed, Yahweh promises that from the offspring of the woman will come a man who will crush the head of the serpent, the sin-instigator. Even in the moments after humanity broke itself, even as the earth reels from the choices of man, even as His precious creation is poisoned, Yahweh offers hope.