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Genesis 3:17-19

Context

3:17 But to Adam 1  he said,

“Because you obeyed 2  your wife

and ate from the tree about which I commanded you,

‘You must not eat from it,’

cursed is the ground 3  thanks to you; 4 

in painful toil you will eat 5  of it all the days of your life.

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

but you will eat the grain 6  of the field.

3:19 By the sweat of your brow 7  you will eat food

until you return to the ground, 8 

for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust, and to dust you will return.” 9 

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

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

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

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

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

8 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.

9 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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