Another look at Genesis 3. Part III
In my previous post , I tried to make the case that rather than being a bait intended to snare man, the fact that the two trees were planted so prominently in the center of the garden suggests that they represented a moral choice Adam and Eve were to make at some point during their stay in the garden. A snare would not be so prominently displayed, I think, but more importantly we know from the book of James that God does not tempt us to sin.
I have suggested that the course of events recorded in the passage indicates strongly that while both trees were originally accessible to man, once a choice was made for one this was no longer so. I believe, therefore, that if man had made the choice to eat from the tree of life, God would most assuredly have restricted access to the tree of knowledge. God’s governance versus self-governance was what was being presented as man’s chief moral choice in the garden. Man could not have both eternal life and the right to manage his own affairs separate from God’s oversight. God would not permit a created being to have all knowledge, absolute dominion over his own realm and eternal life to boot. This, I have suggested, would essentially have made man a God-type or “mini god”. Chapter 3 v 22 appears to indicate this.
So given this stark choice and man’s unfortunate decision, what was man to expect? We all know how we treat our friends, family, kids etc when they willfully ignore good counsel. If God was a man, I would have expected Him to wash His hands off man completely—to leave him to his own machinations and to the natural consequences of his choice. After all, Adam had been warned and had spurned God’s warning.
Many interpret God’s pronouncements at this point in this manner. But might not the consequences have been a lot worse if God had really left man to face the full consequences of his disobedience? Remember, man by choosing the tree of knowledge had effectively declared his intent to manage his own affairs. Up to this point and as long as Adam and Eve worked under the divine governance, God had significantly lightened their work of caring for their dominion. One example can be found in the provision made for the watering of the Garden of Eden, which I believe was the first automatic irrigation system. A complete abandonment of man to his chosen path could have been a lot worse.
I see therefore, even in the pronouncements made after man’s fall, an inkling of God’s grace. God did allow the natural consequences of sin to play out, but perhaps in a lighter form than what might have been. An obvious example of such muted punishment is the fact that God’s presence remained both with Adam and Eve in the garden and as chapters 4 shows also to their children. We see other indications of the Father’s love in this very moment of man’s fall when we see God fashioning a covering for man from an animal—an animal that had to lose its life—as a first example of the salvation that was to follow much later in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. This picture already sets in motion God’s plan for salvation and we begin to see all the processes that would eventually lead to the death of His son as a covering for our sin. What a great God we serve. He continues to extend that grace to all today.
The whole issue of free choice with muted consequence seems to permeate the Bible. At many points throughout Scripture, we see grace where punishment is expected. One day though, the Bible teaches that God’s full undiluted anger will be poured out. Till then we are charged with the task of spreading the good news of His mercy—a God, who from the beginning of time, has never wished that any should perish but that all will see the light, choose life with Him over death through self-governance. I am awed and overwhelmed by His great love for us manifested throughout Scripture.
I will leave things here but implore someone else to engage this topic. There appears to be a lot in these verses worthy of further study. For example there is the issue of nakedness. What does it mean in these passages; merely physical nakedness or something deeper? Prior to the fall, were Adam and Eve oblivious to their nakedness because they were clothed with God’s righteousness? Did they become aware of their nakedness when they lost this covering? Are sin and death the nakedness we feel when we live outside His government—a desire to hide away from God rather than to come into His presence with boldness? Is this one of the chief blessings purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross—the provision of a garment of righteousness to cover the nakedness of our sin? God bless. – Gaius Columbus
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