Genesis 3:14-24; 6:5-8; 9:8-13.
God's Response to Sin

American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2015, John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


While God hates and judges all sin, He offers grace and mercy to people who trust Him.  You cannot watch TV news without seeing reports of criminal acts on a daily basis. We see crime committed by people from the lowest social/economic levels to the highest. Consider for a moment your experience in witnessing those who have been caught in the act of doing something wrong. What are some typical responses people have when caught?

  • It wasn't my fault. _______ made me do it. I'm not guilty.
  • I'm sorry that I got caught.
  • It was the cop's fault for arresting me.  He shouldn't have been there.
  • It is the fault of the system, the courts and the judges are only here to persecute people.

The rules that society defines, the rules God defines, and the rules people define for themselves often differ. What happens when a personal view of right & wrong differs from society's view? The person who exercises that difference may experience judgment in terms of fines & imprisonment when caught.  Imprisonment causes separation of the individual from society and from their loved ones.  What happens when a personal view of right & wrong differs from God's view? God's judgment can result in loss of fellowship with Him and with the church, loss of opportunities for blessing, lack of trust from others.  Who suffers as a result of our sin?  Both the individual engaged in sin and those who have a relationship with him/her are impacted by it.  Much of the suffering that is experienced in our society can be directly traced back to sin.  Sin has caused people to separate into small societal groups who expend great amounts of energy enforcing that separation through criticism, bigotry, and hatred.

1. Sin Separates

Genesis 3:14-21

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: 15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16Unto 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. 17And 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; 18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19In 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. 20And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

What are some of the judgments that came out of the fall in these verses?

1. The serpent would be cursed, and crawl on its belly eating dust.   The image of the serpent is a metaphor for Satan.  Satan's rebellion against God found its first expression in God's creation with the fall of man.  Because Satan acted on his rebellion, God's judgment on him is final and certain.  Crawling on his belly and eating dust is a reference to Satan's lack of authority.  One with authority stands tall.  No more would Satan ever have any authority.  We find that Satan is absolutely impotent when confronted with the power of the Holy Spirit.

2. The serpent would be the mortal enemy of Eve's offspring.  Eve's offspring is a reference to her "seed."  God made a promise to Eve that through her seed the Lord would come.  As one in rebellion against God, Satan has set himself as God's enemy, and consequently, as the enemy of the seed, that body of people who would be God's chosen, those who are faithful to Him and would eventually form His church.  Likewise, those who would follow Satan (his seed), those who also reject God, would be an enemy of the faith and ultimately experience the same judgment that Satan will.

3.  The seed will bruise Satan's head, and Satan will bruise the heel of the seed.  Like a snake, Satan will attack the offspring of Eve, being a continual nuisance.  However, through the seed, Satan's head would be bruised.  Some translations use the word "crushed."  A few months ago my wife brought to my attention the presence of a snake on the front steps of our house.  I will usually take such a snake and move away from the house.  In this case I took one long look at it, and wearing sneakers, stomped on it's head.  Why?  This was a copperhead snake, capable of doing more than bruising my heel.  I crushed its head in Genesis 3:15 style.  The result?  One dead snake.  (I apologize to the environmentalists, but do note that I never kill a non-poisonous snake.  I actually like snakes (!).  Many theologians refer to the crushing of Satan's head as taking place in the passion and resurrection of Christ.  Others refer to the final judgment of Satan's eternal destruction in John's description of the "lake of fire" in his Revelation.  Personally, I tend to go with the latter argument because Jesus' atoning act has been done, the battle against Satan has been won, yet Satan is still bruising man's heel.

3. The woman would still bear children, but would do so in great pain.  If taken literally, the meaning of this verse is quite plain.  However, when we also consider the context of the literature form used here, we are caused to look a little deeper into the meaning.  The pain of bearing children goes beyond the birth event.  If Adam and Eve could have avoided the fall, their pure and innocent relationship would have continued.  This would have also continued in their children.  However, because sin has entered the relationships, there is much pain associated with those relationships.  There will be great pain when children rebel.  Eve will experience the death of one son at the hands of the other.   There will be great strife among people, resulting in wars, pestilence and death.

4. The woman would be subject to the man. The administration of good in an environment of evil requires a line of authority. Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve would have been equals in all things because no such administration would be necessary.  At the fall, a line of authority was established. See Ephesians, chapter 6 for a study on mutual submission in marriage, and the responsibilities that submission engender..

5. God place a curse on the land he would work. The land would not produce fruit as freely, requiring much work.  Prior to the fall, God provided for all of the needs of Adam and Eve, requiring of them only to "name" the animals.  Unfortunately, we do not have time to chase down this responsibility, but it is plain that their main task was not farming and producing their own food.  They were free to eat any fruit of the garden.  Afterwards they, and we, would grow our own food.  With this, poverty and starvation entered the world as man, as a lazy and sinful creature, has not produced enough or distributed enough to keep everyone fed.  

6. The woman was named. Instead of woman, or "out of man" she was now Eve, "to live".  Her innocent relationship with the man was broken. Eve would now be the mother of all who would follow her, the mother of a seed that would both be righteous and wicked.  She would be the mother of a people who would live in broken relationships, in sin, and in strife.

7. God provided the resources to cloth them, at the expense of the life of the animals from which the skins were made.  .This is the first reference to the physical death of God's creatures.  Before sin came into the world, innocence prevailed.  Their nakedness refers to the innocent and completely intimate relationship that Adam and Eve could have had.  Because of their innocence, like newborn babes, there was nothing wrong with such nakedness, openness, and exposure.  However, once sin entered the world, nakedness engenders lust which gives way to sin, and it is appropriate that, unlike every other creature in God's creation, man would be clothed.

Finally, all of these judgments involved a separation.  There is a separation between God and man, a separation between man and wife, a separation between parents and children, and separation between people.  That separation is caused by sin.  The word, "death" literally means separation.  When Satan told Eve that she would not die by eating of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil he was telling a half-truth.  Adam and Eve did not physically die.  However, their relationships resulted in separation, and those of her seed who live in rebellion against God would be eternally separated from Him.  Yes, they experienced death, as all of her seed has done since.

Genesis 3:22.

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 

Now that God's judgment was stated, its completion is to come. Note that the same wording is used here as is used in the days of creation, again in the plural, the trinity, or the plurality of majesty. What part of the serpent's prophesy is true here?  Adam and Eve, by eating of the fruit, received the knowledge of good and evil, a knowledge shared by God.  Satan's half-truth is exposed.  In this way, Adam and Eve would be like God.  However, this is the only attribute of God that they gained in the experience, where Satan's promise implied the appropriation of his knowledge and authority, something that Adam, Eve, and Satan would never share.

This verse specifically refers to the tree of life, the opportunity for eternal life.  Some people argue that had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would have lived forever in their earthly bodies.  For several reasons I disagree, and the presence of the tree of life is one of them.  God has a plan for man's salvation, but because of sin, it would not come from the source that was present in the Garden.  Adam and Eve were not commanded to stay away from the tree of life.  They had the opportunity to choose God as Lord there in the garden, but instead they chose to rebel.  It is because of this choice they were to be separated from God spiritually until redemption took place. The fact of their physical mortality was evident in their creation as male and female.  Why did they not eat from it before, since it was in the middle of the garden?  When they were in the center of the garden their focus was on the forbidden tree.  When they were faced with the choice of obedience or rebellion, they chose rebellion.   How many of the blessings that God provides do we miss because we place our focus in directions other than that which God would prefer?

One of the consequences of exposed guilt is a loss of trust. When you have transgressed you are no longer trusted. If you are not honest, people will not trust you. What dilemma do you see in this verse?  God can no longer allow Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of life. Adam and Eve are living in sin and rebellion, and God will not accept those who are in rebellion of him to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  He knows what dam and Eve's response would be if He told them not to eat of that tree:  they would eat from it.  Therefore, they cannot be trusted. God had to provide a punishment to go along with his judgment.

Genesis 3:23.

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

What did God do? He sent them out of the garden to till the ground, taking away from them the tree of life and the gift of innocence they originally enjoyed. Note that their responsibility or stewardship did not change. God still provided their needs, and he still treated them with dignity and respect.  Did God say, "good riddance" and turn his back on Adam and Eve, leaving them separated from him totally? Even as people live in sinful rebellion against Him, God still provides for us.  God's Spirit still "moves across the face of the waters," as this world continues to experience both His blessings and His judgments.

Genesis. 3:24. 

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Did Adam and Eve walk humbly out of the garden? We do not know, but the wording here is harsh. God DROVE them out of the garden. The word implies a forceful repulsion. God placed cherubim (or cherubs) at the gate. What are cherubs? Since we have never seen them, we are not sure. We only know them by the way they are described. What do we know about them?

  • They often are described as having wings.
  • They often are shown guarding God's presence.

In ancient art they are illustrated as winged lions or bulls with human faces.

What was the purpose of the cherubim?   They would prevent the return of mankind into the garden with its access to the tree of life, a tree that would give salvation without repentance and faith.  Note that because of the sin of Adam and Eve, we see here that mankind will not, on his own strength or works be able to eat of the tree of life. That is the central point of this event. If man cannot work his way into the garden, how is he to find reconciliation with God, and ultimately, the eternal life that God originally willed?  Only God can provide it.

It is rather obvious that my interpretation of the event of the Garden of Eden goes far beyond the literal story of a man, a woman, a serpent, two trees, and God.  We see in the imagery of the garden the very truths of God's purpose for mankind, the nature of man and of Satan, man's bent towards sin, and the consequences of that sin.  Sin separates us from God, and because of it, eternal life with Him is not available without repentance and faith.  So, God had another plan for our salvation, a plan that He first implied when He made his seed promise to Eve, that though her seed the Lord, the Messiah would ultimately come.  

Genesis 6:5.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

2. Unrepented Sin Continues to Grow.

Remember back to the incident where God challenged Adam and Eve about their sin. What was their response to God when he charged them with their fault? They blamed their acts on someone else.  It is clearly evident that they did repent. They did not fully confess their sin, repent of it, or seek God's forgiveness.  They had appropriated the knowledge of good and evil, and knew what they had to do, but refused.  They chose to remain rebellious against God.   What was the consequence of this? Immediately following Genesis chapter 3 is chapter 4:1-24.  In these verses we see that same rebellion played out in their offspring.  Their son Adam chose to honor God, while their son Cain was self-centered and rebellious against God, despising the necessity of sacrifice to God and hating God for requiring it.  His rebellion also caused him to hate his brother, whose willing sacrifice was acceptable to God.  So, in hatred, Cain killed his brother Abel.  The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in separation of relationships, but the sin of Cain resulted in physical death and the devastation and sorrow that such an event engenders in the life of the family.  

In the chapters to follow we see continued rejection of God.  We see a continually growing gulf between God and man, and a society that becomes more continually corrupt.   Did all people reject God? At most points of history we find a small remnant of people who did not succumb to the sin of the world, but continued to honor God in their lives.   What was the state of man at this point? Where Adam, Eve, Cain, and those who followed them demonstrated rebellion and sin, the people were becoming corrupt to the point that their thoughts were not only evil, but were continually evil.  There was no longer any place for God in their lives.  

What did the evil men of this day lack?  Just as is the case today, the evil man lacked the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  It is no wonder that the world we see today looks so much like the world which came under God's judgment.

Genesis 6:6.

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 

What is a mother and father's response when they find their children have rebelled and rejected them and what they stand for? Any parent suffers grief and pain when the innocent relationship their children had with them is exchanged for rebellion and estrangement.  Does such a separation cause a parent to no longer love their children?  Usually, the love continues, and would continue for all if people were perfect, as God is perfect.  Still, most parents will never fail to love their children, despite their rebellion.

What was God's response the to same situation?  The word used for his response in Hebrew does not translate easily. Looking at a loving parent's response gives us a pretty good picture of the word translated as grieved, or repented, or sorry. The Hebrew word is literally, to sigh. God was hurt deeply over the necessity to judge His creation, and He was grieved at a situation's having risen that demanded such judgment. However, God is omniscient, and always knew the nature of man and always knew the plan of salvation that He had in place.  It was not God's choice that man would rebel, but it was necessary that God give man the ability to do so that they can freely choose faith and trust in Him.

Genesis 6:7.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

3. God Ultimately Judges Sin

God finally came to the point where he desired to destroy sinful man. Again, as with the events of creation, God spoke. Previously the word used for God was Elohim, the plural creating and sustaining name for God. In this event, the word Yahweh is used. This is God's covenant name. This reinforces the emphasis that people had broken their commitment to him.

The word used for the destroying of mankind here is literally "erase". Like an eraser on the blackboard, God is going to remove from creation a portion of that which he created. Note that the destruction would be so complete that it would affect every living creature, that is, all of the earthly creation. Note that the destruction of life is related to the manner of judgment, not the judgment itself. Since God will use a flood, those plants and animals which would be affected by a flood are endangered. It was not God's will to destroy creation. It was his will to judge a sinful mankind that had no potential for repentance in their lifetimes.  The loss of plants and animals is a result, not of God's judgment upon them, but rather the consequences of the sin of man. Again, how often does our sin affect others? Our sin always affects others.  Side note/speculation:  some would argue that the flood did not affect the fish of the sea, and they were exempt from the judgment of the sin of man.  However, from a practical standpoint, if the flood took place as scripture (and archeology) describes, the huge amounts of water that came down from the clouds raised the level of the waters of the earth enough that the salinity of the oceans would have been reduced.  This event would create a large kill of the life in the oceans.)

Genesis 6:8. 

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Again, in the sin-filled world there is always a remnant of people who have not succumbed to sin. There is no indication that Noah's sons were all to have found favor in the eyes of God, but Noah had, and he was responsible for his family, part of the hierarchy of authority that God set up earlier in this chapter and described in Ephesians 6. Why did God find favor in Noah? Noah believed in and had faith in God. He tried to live a righteous life.  Though Noah was not a sinless or perfect man, his faith in God was the source of his righteousness, just as is the case today.  God's plan for relationship with man never changed.  Salvation always has come from faith and trust in God.

Noah's faith proves to be true, because the test of that is still to come. It will take Noah 100 years to build the boat. Nothing is said about the events that transpired through those years, but what certainly was happening during that time? The only motivation Noah had in building the boat was founded on his belief in God and His Word.  Everyone else around him would have considered him eccentric.   There are some references to Noah's continued warning of the people, his preaching of the judgment to come, but his preaching was ignored.  His sons worked with him on the structure, but they must have also had their doubts  The building of the boat was no easy task, and required the continual application of faith in God in its completion.

Genesis 9:8-13.

And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

4. God Made a Covenant With Noah

When Noah, his family, and the animals were all safely in the arc the rain fell. After 40 days of rain the earth was covered with water (7:6-20). The waters began to dry up or recede to the oceans (8:1-5). Finally, the arc came to rest; but Noah did not leave the ark until God told him to do so (8:16-17). As soon as he left the arc he gave thanks (8:18-20).

Why was God in a position to make a covenant with Noah? Noah responded by faith to the word of God, and that placed Noah in a position to receive the grant of grace from God.  No conditions were placed upon Noah in this covenant.  God simply promised what He would do.  Where in Adam, God started the population of the world with a sinful family, through Noah God would start the population of the world with a man of faith.  Becuase of this, God promised that he would never again destroy the population of the world with a flood.

Summary:

1. Sin Separates us from God.  It also separates us from one another and devastates our lives.

2. Unrepented sin grows and overwhelms.

3. Our sin causes great anguish for God.

4. God is a just God and must punish sin.

5. God honors those who put their faith and trust in Him

6. God is always faithful to keep his word.

As a Christian, do you have sins that keep you from being an effective servant? What must we as Christians do to deal with sin?  Let us look into our own lives and ask of God where we are in need of confession and repentance.  Let us then confess these transgressions to the Lord,  turn from our sinful actions and desires, and by so doing place ourselves in a position to receive the blessing of the abundant life that God promises to those who place their faith and trust in Him.