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Genesis 3:6-19

Context

3:6 When 1  the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, 2  was attractive 3  to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, 4  she took some of its fruit and ate it. 5  She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. 6  3:7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The Judgment Oracles of God at the Fall

3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about 7  in the orchard at the breezy time 8  of the day, and they hid 9  from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard. 3:9 But the Lord God called to 10  the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 11  3:10 The man replied, 12  “I heard you moving about 13  in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 3:11 And the Lord God 14  said, “Who told you that you were naked? 15  Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 16  3:12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave 17  me some fruit 18  from the tree and I ate it.” 3:13 So the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this 19  you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent 20  tricked 21  me, and I ate.”

3:14 The Lord God said to the serpent, 22 

“Because you have done this,

cursed 23  are you above all the wild beasts

and all the living creatures of the field!

On your belly you will crawl 24 

and dust you will eat 25  all the days of your life.

3:15 And I will put hostility 26  between you and the woman

and between your offspring and her offspring; 27 

her offspring will attack 28  your head,

and 29  you 30  will attack her offspring’s heel.” 31 

3:16 To the woman he said,

“I will greatly increase 32  your labor pains; 33 

with pain you will give birth to children.

You will want to control your husband, 34 

but he will dominate 35  you.”

3:17 But to Adam 36  he said,

“Because you obeyed 37  your wife

and ate from the tree about which I commanded you,

‘You must not eat from it,’

cursed is the ground 38  thanks to you; 39 

in painful toil you will eat 40  of it all the days of your life.

3:18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

but you will eat the grain 41  of the field.

3:19 By the sweat of your brow 42  you will eat food

until you return to the ground, 43 

for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust, and to dust you will return.” 44 

1 tn Heb “And the woman saw.” The clause can be rendered as a temporal clause subordinate to the following verb in the sequence.

2 tn Heb “that the tree was good for food.” The words “produced fruit that was” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied.

3 tn The Hebrew word תַּאֲוָה (taavah, translated “attractive” here) actually means “desirable.” This term and the later term נֶחְמָד (nekhmad, “desirable”) are synonyms.

sn Attractive (Heb “desirable”)…desirable. These are different words in Hebrew. The verbal roots for both of these forms appear in Deut 5:21 in the prohibition against coveting. Strong desires usually lead to taking.

4 tn Heb “that good was the tree for food, and that desirable it was to the eyes, and desirable was the tree to make one wise.” On the connection between moral wisdom and the “knowledge of good and evil,” see the note on the word “evil” in 2:9.

sn Desirable for making one wise. The quest for wisdom can follow the wrong course, as indeed it does here. No one can become like God by disobeying God. It is that simple. The Book of Proverbs stresses that obtaining wisdom begins with the fear of God that is evidenced through obedience to his word. Here, in seeking wisdom, Eve disobeys God and ends up afraid of God.

5 tn The pronoun “it” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied (here and also after “ate” at the end of this verse) for stylistic reasons.

sn She took…and ate it. The critical word now discloses the disobedience: “[she] ate.” Since the Lord God had said, “You shall not eat,” the main point of the divine inquisition will be, “Did you eat,” meaning, “did you disobey the command?” The woman ate, being deceived by the serpent (1 Tim 2:14), but then the man ate, apparently willingly when the woman gave him the fruit (see Rom 5:12, 17-19).

6 sn This pericope (3:1-7) is a fine example of Hebrew narrative structure. After an introductory disjunctive clause that introduces a new character and sets the stage (3:1), the narrative tension develops through dialogue, culminating in the action of the story. Once the dialogue is over, the action is told in a rapid sequence of verbs – she took, she ate, she gave, and he ate.

7 tn The Hitpael participle of הָלָךְ (halakh, “to walk, to go”) here has an iterative sense, “moving” or “going about.” While a translation of “walking about” is possible, it assumes a theophany, the presence of the Lord God in a human form. This is more than the text asserts.

8 tn The expression is traditionally rendered “cool of the day,” because the Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruakh) can mean “wind.” U. Cassuto (Genesis: From Adam to Noah, 152-54) concludes after lengthy discussion that the expression refers to afternoon when it became hot and the sun was beginning to decline. J. J. Niehaus (God at Sinai [SOTBT], 155-57) offers a different interpretation of the phrase, relating יוֹם (yom, usually understood as “day”) to an Akkadian cognate umu (“storm”) and translates the phrase “in the wind of the storm.” If Niehaus is correct, then God is not pictured as taking an afternoon stroll through the orchard, but as coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion. In this case קוֹל יְהוָה (qol yÿhvah, “sound of the Lord”) may refer to God’s thunderous roar, which typically accompanies his appearance in the storm to do battle or render judgment (e.g., see Ps 29).

9 tn The verb used here is the Hitpael, giving the reflexive idea (“they hid themselves”). In v. 10, when Adam answers the Lord, the Niphal form is used with the same sense: “I hid.”

10 tn The Hebrew verb קָרָא (qara’, “to call”) followed by the preposition אֶל־ or לְ (’el- or lÿ, “to, unto”) often carries the connotation of “summon.”

11 sn Where are you? The question is probably rhetorical (a figure of speech called erotesis) rather than literal, because it was spoken to the man, who answers it with an explanation of why he was hiding rather than a location. The question has more the force of “Why are you hiding?”

12 tn Heb “and he said.”

13 tn Heb “your sound.” If one sees a storm theophany here (see the note on the word “time” in v. 8), then one could translate, “your powerful voice.”

14 tn Heb “and he said.” The referent (the Lord God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

15 sn Who told you that you were naked? This is another rhetorical question, asking more than what it appears to ask. The second question in the verse reveals the Lord God’s real concern.

16 sn The Hebrew word order (“Did you from the tree – which I commanded you not to eat from it – eat?”) is arranged to emphasize that the man’s and the woman’s eating of the fruit was an act of disobedience. The relative clause inserted immediately after the reference to the tree brings out this point very well.

17 tn The Hebrew construction in this sentence uses an independent nominative absolute (formerly known as a casus pendens). “The woman” is the independent nominative absolute; it is picked up by the formal subject, the pronoun “she” written with the verb (“she gave”). The point of the construction is to throw the emphasis on “the woman.” But what makes this so striking is that a relative clause has been inserted to explain what is meant by the reference to the woman: “whom you gave me.” Ultimately, the man is blaming God for giving him the woman who (from the man’s viewpoint) caused him to sin.

18 tn The words “some fruit” here and the pronoun “it” at the end of the sentence are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons.

19 tn The use of the demonstrative pronoun is enclitic, serving as an undeclined particle for emphasis. It gives the sense of “What in the world have you done?” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).

20 sn The Hebrew word order puts the subject (“the serpent”) before the verb here, giving prominence to it.

21 tn This verb (the Hiphil of נָשָׁא, nasha) is used elsewhere of a king or god misleading his people into false confidence (2 Kgs 18:29 = 2 Chr 32:15 = Isa 36:14; 2 Kgs 19:10 = Isa 37:10), of an ally deceiving a partner (Obad 7), of God deceiving his sinful people as a form of judgment (Jer 4:10), of false prophets instilling their audience with false hope (Jer 29:8), and of pride and false confidence producing self-deception (Jer 37:9; 49:16; Obad 3).

22 sn Note that God asks no question of the serpent, does not call for confession, as he did to the man and the woman; there is only the announcement of the curse. The order in this section is chiastic: The man is questioned, the woman is questioned, the serpent is cursed, sentence is passed on the woman, sentence is passed on the man.

23 tn The Hebrew word translated “cursed,” a passive participle from אָרָר (’arar), either means “punished” or “banished,” depending on how one interprets the following preposition. If the preposition is taken as comparative, then the idea is “cursed [i.e., punished] are you above [i.e., more than] all the wild beasts.” In this case the comparative preposition reflects the earlier comparison: The serpent was more shrewd than all others, and so more cursed than all others. If the preposition is taken as separative (see the note on the word “ground” in 4:11), then the idea is “cursed and banished from all the wild beasts.” In this case the serpent is condemned to isolation from all the other animals.

24 tn Heb “go”; “walk,” but in English “crawl” or “slither” better describes a serpent’s movement.

25 sn Dust you will eat. Being restricted to crawling on the ground would necessarily involve “eating dust,” although that is not the diet of the serpent. The idea of being brought low, of “eating dust” as it were, is a symbol of humiliation.

26 tn The Hebrew word translated “hostility” is derived from the root אֵיב (’ev, “to be hostile, to be an adversary [or enemy]”). The curse announces that there will be continuing hostility between the serpent and the woman. The serpent will now live in a “battle zone,” as it were.

27 sn The Hebrew word translated “offspring” is a collective singular. The text anticipates the ongoing struggle between human beings (the woman’s offspring) and deadly poisonous snakes (the serpent’s offspring). An ancient Jewish interpretation of the passage states: “He made the serpent, cause of the deceit, press the earth with belly and flank, having bitterly driven him out. He aroused a dire enmity between them. The one guards his head to save it, the other his heel, for death is at hand in the proximity of men and malignant poisonous snakes.” See Sib. Or. 1:59-64. For a similar interpretation see Josephus, Ant. 1.1.4 (1.50-51).

28 tn Heb “he will attack [or “bruise”] you [on] the head.” The singular pronoun and verb agree grammatically with the collective singular noun “offspring.” For other examples of singular verb and pronominal forms being used with the collective singular “offspring,” see Gen 16:10; 22:17; 24:60. The word “head” is an adverbial accusative, locating the blow. A crushing blow to the head would be potentially fatal.

29 tn Or “but you will…”; or “as they attack your head, you will attack their heel.” The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) is understood as contrastive. Both clauses place the subject before the verb, a construction that is sometimes used to indicate synchronic action (see Judg 15:14).

30 sn You will attack her offspring’s heel. Though the conflict will actually involve the serpent’s offspring (snakes) and the woman’s offspring (human beings), v. 15b for rhetorical effect depicts the conflict as being between the serpent and the woman’s offspring, as if the serpent will outlive the woman. The statement is personalized for the sake of the addressee (the serpent) and reflects the ancient Semitic concept of corporate solidarity, which emphasizes the close relationship between a progenitor and his offspring. Note Gen 28:14, where the Lord says to Jacob, “Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you [second masculine singular] will spread out in all directions.” Jacob will “spread out” in all directions through his offspring, but the text states the matter as if this will happen to him personally.

31 tn Heb “you will attack him [on] the heel.” The verb (translated “attack”) is repeated here, a fact that is obscured by some translations (e.g., NIV “crush…strike”). The singular pronoun agrees grammatically with the collective singular noun “offspring.” For other examples of singular verb and pronominal forms being used with the collective singular “offspring,” see Gen 16:10; 22:17; 24:60. The word “heel” is an adverbial accusative, locating the blow. A bite on the heel from a poisonous serpent is potentially fatal.

sn The etiological nature of v. 15 is apparent, though its relevance for modern western man is perhaps lost because we rarely come face to face with poisonous snakes. Ancient Israelites, who often encountered snakes in their daily activities (see, for example, Eccl 10:8; Amos 5:19), would find the statement quite meaningful as an explanation for the hostility between snakes and humans. (In the broader ancient Near Eastern context, compare the Mesopotamian serpent omens. See H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon, 309.) This ongoing struggle, when interpreted in light of v. 15, is a tangible reminder of the conflict introduced into the world by the first humans’ rebellion against God. Many Christian theologians (going back to Irenaeus) understand v. 15 as the so-called protevangelium, supposedly prophesying Christ’s victory over Satan (see W. Witfall, “Genesis 3:15 – a Protevangelium?” CBQ 36 [1974]: 361-65; and R. A. Martin, “The Earliest Messianic Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” JBL 84 [1965]: 425-27). In this allegorical approach, the woman’s offspring is initially Cain, then the whole human race, and ultimately Jesus Christ, the offspring (Heb “seed”) of the woman (see Gal 4:4). The offspring of the serpent includes the evil powers and demons of the spirit world, as well as those humans who are in the kingdom of darkness (see John 8:44). According to this view, the passage gives the first hint of the gospel. Satan delivers a crippling blow to the Seed of the woman (Jesus), who in turn delivers a fatal blow to the Serpent (first defeating him through the death and resurrection [1 Cor 15:55-57] and then destroying him in the judgment [Rev 12:7-9; 20:7-10]). However, the grammatical structure of Gen 3:15b does not suggest this view. The repetition of the verb “attack,” as well as the word order, suggests mutual hostility is being depicted, not the defeat of the serpent. If the serpent’s defeat were being portrayed, it is odd that the alleged description of his death comes first in the sentence. If he has already been crushed by the woman’s “Seed,” how can he bruise his heel? To sustain the allegorical view, v. 15b must be translated in one of the following ways: “he will crush your head, even though you attack his heel” (in which case the second clause is concessive) or “he will crush your head as you attack his heel” (the clauses, both of which place the subject before the verb, may indicate synchronic action).

32 tn The imperfect verb form is emphasized and intensified by the infinitive absolute from the same verb.

33 tn Heb “your pain and your conception,” suggesting to some interpreters that having a lot of children was a result of the judgment (probably to make up for the loss through death). But the next clause shows that the pain is associated with conception and childbirth. The two words form a hendiadys (where two words are joined to express one idea, like “good and angry” in English), the second explaining the first. “Conception,” if the correct meaning of the noun, must be figurative here since there is no pain in conception; it is a synecdoche, representing the entire process of childbirth and child rearing from the very start. However, recent etymological research suggests the noun is derived from a root הרר (hrr), not הרה (hrh), and means “trembling, pain” (see D. Tsumura, “A Note on הרוֹן (Gen 3,16),” Bib 75 [1994]: 398-400). In this case “pain and trembling” refers to the physical effects of childbirth. The word עִצְּבוֹן (’itsÿvon, “pain”), an abstract noun related to the verb (עָצַב, ’atsav), includes more than physical pain. It is emotional distress as well as physical pain. The same word is used in v. 17 for the man’s painful toil in the field.

34 tn Heb “and toward your husband [will be] your desire.” The nominal sentence does not have a verb; a future verb must be supplied, because the focus of the oracle is on the future struggle. The precise meaning of the noun תְּשׁוּקָה (tÿshuqah, “desire”) is debated. Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET). However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply. And third, it ignores the usage of the word in Gen 4:7 where it refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.) In Gen 3:16 the Lord announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle. See further Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” WTJ 37 (1975): 376-83.

35 tn The Hebrew verb מָשַׁל (mashal) means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the Lord simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious.

sn This passage is a judgment oracle. It announces that conflict between man and woman will become the norm in human society. It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it. Sin produces a conflict or power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman call a truce and live harmoniously (Eph 5:18-32).

36 tn Since there is no article on the word, the personal name is used, rather than the generic “the man” (cf. NRSV).

37 tn The idiom “listen to the voice of” often means “obey.” The man “obeyed” his wife and in the process disobeyed God.

38 sn For the ground to be cursed means that it will no longer yield its bounty as the blessing from God had promised. The whole creation, Paul writes in Rom 8:22, is still groaning under this curse, waiting for the day of redemption.

39 tn The Hebrew phrase בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ (baavurekha) is more literally translated “on your account” or “because of you.” The idiomatic “thanks to you” in the translation tries to capture the point of this expression.

40 sn In painful toil you will eat. The theme of eating is prominent throughout Gen 3. The prohibition was against eating from the tree of knowledge. The sin was in eating. The interrogation concerned the eating from the tree of knowledge. The serpent is condemned to eat the dust of the ground. The curse focuses on eating in a “measure for measure” justice. Because the man and the woman sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God will forbid the ground to cooperate, and so it will be through painful toil that they will eat.

41 tn The Hebrew term עֵשֶׂב (’esev), when referring to human food, excludes grass (eaten by cattle) and woody plants like vines.

42 tn The expression “the sweat of your brow” is a metonymy, the sweat being the result of painful toil in the fields.

43 sn Until you return to the ground. The theme of humankind’s mortality is critical here in view of the temptation to be like God. Man will labor painfully to provide food, obviously not enjoying the bounty that creation promised. In place of the abundance of the orchard’s fruit trees, thorns and thistles will grow. Man will have to work the soil so that it will produce the grain to make bread. This will continue until he returns to the soil from which he was taken (recalling the creation in 2:7 with the wordplay on Adam and ground). In spite of the dreams of immortality and divinity, man is but dust (2:7), and will return to dust. So much for his pride.

44 sn In general, the themes of the curse oracles are important in the NT teaching that Jesus became the cursed one hanging on the tree. In his suffering and death, all the motifs are drawn together: the tree, the sweat, the thorns, and the dust of death (see Ps 22:15). Jesus experienced it all, to have victory over it through the resurrection.



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