A Comparison of Genesis 2:17 and 3:4 in light of the understanding of the Creation of Man and Woman

In my studies of the New Testament book of Hebrews I have come across some incredibly interesting information. Today, as I am working through Hebrews 2:14-18, I was puzzled at the phrase used in verse 14. We read, “…the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (ESV) This led me on a journey. I am looking at an overview of the devil’s work throughout Scripture.
In keeping with the typical evangelical understanding of the devil, I went straight to Genesis 3. Now, in my reading of Scripture, in both the creation story of humanity (Genesis 1:26-31) and in the fall of humanity (Genesis 3:1-6) man and woman were given the same command to avoid eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequences would be death.

However, in Genesis 2, we see a parenthetical view of the creation of man. In this account, man was formed first, given the commands concerning paradise, and then after naming animals God drew woman from one of his ribs. Below you will find a comparison of the command given to man (Genesis 2:17) and that of the statement made by the serpent to woman (Genesis 3:4).

 

Genesis 2:17

Hebrew Gen 2 14

 

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (ESV)

 

Genesis 3:4

Hebrew Gen 3 4

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (ESV)

 

I have color-coded our words for ease of reference. The first word found in the almost identical statements by God and the serpent is Maveth.PNG. This word is a Qal infinitive absolute. Arnold and Choi describe this as “both ‘atemporal’ and ‘apersonal,’ meaning that only the context determines the time/aspect features of the action, as well as the subject of the action itself.” (Arnold and Choi, 2003) The word means natural death, and the scope of death in Scripture ranges from human beings to animals and plants. The structure of the Hebrew text, then, offers us further clarification as to who will die and when (relatively speaking).

The next word TMaveth (in Genesis 2:17) and Tmavethn. (in Genesis 3:4) are practically identical.  The only difference (besides the paragogic nun) is the ending. The word in Genesis 2:17 is a Qal Imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, singular. In the context, God is giving man the command that should he eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of God and evil “dying he would die” (author’s translation). The word in Genesis 3:4 is a Qal Imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, plural. The difference is found in the number. God, in Genesis chapter two, speaks to man, singular. In Genesis chapter three, the serpent speaks to woman and man, plural.

This may seem to be an insignificant point, but to me it has great implications. Here are a few:

  • When God created humanity, he created both male and female. This is stressed in Genesis 1:27. When it says that “God created man in his own image” (ESV) the word used for the collective of humanity is the singular word Adam.PNG , from which we derive the proper name Adam. When we look at Genesis 3:9, shortly after woman and man ate the fruit God addresses man (Adam.PNG) and asks him (singular), where he was. It is not until man blames his wife (Genesis 3:12) that God begins to address them individually. Thus, according to the beginning account of humanity, man and woman were so combined as to be seen as one.
  • While it may appear, on the surface of the text, that God only gave the commands to man, this is not the case. Some theologians and scholars use this to prove a complementary view of the male-female relationship. For example, see Andreas Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundations, 24-26; David Lee Talley, “Gender and Sanctification: From Creation to Transformation A Comparative Look at Genesis 1-3, the Creation and Fall of the Man and the Woman, and Ephesians 5, the Sanctification of the Man and the Woman in a Redemptive Marriage Context”, in Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Spring 2003, 6-16. However, the Hebrew reveals that man and woman were oneNow, it is easy to simply take the definition of one and apply it in an incorrect manner. The Hebrew word can mean one in number or a collective of a group. For our understanding of the male-female relationship, it is quite helpful. The man and woman, one, were issued the commands regarding the keeping of the garden.
  • This has further implications for marriage roles today. Rather than seeing the husband as the king of his castle, or wives as subservient, the original Edenic nature of the male-female relationship is equality. Certainly there are physical differences between the sexes, but at creation when “God saw everything that he had made…it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, ESV)

If you would like more information for an egalitarian point of view, check out this excellent resource: Christians for Biblical Equality.

What are your thoughts? How do you see the creation account’s implications for today?

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Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 31

Sometime (we are not told how long) after the agreement between Laban and Jacob a strife began to rear its ugly head. Laban’s sons were becoming jealous as Jacob was receiving all the material wealth their father had (of course we know that God was blessing Jacob, but apparently Laban and his sons did not see this, though Laban would soon find out that God was with Jacob). After the command came from God for Jacob to leave and return home, the discussion initiated between Jacob and his wives about the treatment they had received from Laban. Apparently, though Laban had made an agreement with Jacob, he changed it ten times. Additionally, Laban had squandered his daughters inheritance creating an even larger division in the family.

Understandably, then, Jacob attempts to leave without notifying Laban. Of course Laban becomes angry and then pursues Jacob, not only to find out what he was doing but also to find his daughters and many grandchildren. During the pursuit God appears to Laban in a dream and warns him not to speak good or bad. Finally Laban overtakes Jacob. A lengthy discourse takes place between the two. Rachel even made the mistake of stealing Laban’s idols but gets away without her father finding out. Jacob and Laban then make an agreement never to seek the ill of the other and then they depart, never to meet again.

Thankfully we are out of the whole childbearing battle from the previous two chapters! But we are still in the midst of family strife. Now the strife involves “extended” family. Boy could we spend a great deal of time here! Suffice it to say, we must be careful how we interact with family, and that includes extended family. A great deal of hurt can come from a foolish word, an action that was done in the wrong spirit, or even the disapproval. I have experienced this kind of hurt, and it takes a long time to heal, and the pain is still there. So as we live our lives, let’s work hard at avoiding the strife that Jacob and his family had the unpleasant experience of dealing with at this time.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 30

The family feud continues from the previous chapter. The battle back and forth between the wives of Jacob continues. It almost reminds us of something that would be off a reality TV show! After Leah and Rachel stopped bearing children they then gave Jacob their servants, Zilpah and Bilhah, in order to have more sons. It’s  mockery of how things should be done! There is even an exchange where Rachel “allows” Leah to sleep with Jacob for some mandrakes Reuben gave her. Finally the two (or really four) stopped giving birth to children.

The story then makes a huge move where Jacob requests to be able to leave Laban and return to his homeland. Laban and Jacob work out a deal and then Jacob retrieves what he and Laban had agreed to for his service.

The lessons here are pretty much the same as the previous chapter. The wild events that are taking place in Jacob’s family would be comical if it weren’t so sad. At any rate, it should become apparent to us that the best way to have a balanced family life is not to have more than one wife, to not play favorites, and to not to attempt to circumvent God’s plan.

The other lesson, as with the previous chapters, is to simply be honest. Just work out your details with your fellows before there is a problem. In Jacob’s case, Laban had turned into what Jacob was turning away from, a cheat. So in your dealings with others, be honest!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 29

In chapter 29 Jacob arrives at his destination, finds the woman of his dreams, and then through a series of events begins what had to be the most dysfunctional family in the Bible.

To begin, he makes his way to a well where shepherds have gathered to water their sheep. Whenever Rachel arrives he is love struck. I can sympathize with him, for whenever I see my wife I feel as though I could move a mountain. And that is just about what Jacob does! He moves the stone away and begins to help water the sheep. Then after some crying and kissing, he goes on to meet Laban, Rachel’s father (who also happens to be Rebekah’s brother and Jacob’s uncle).

After the emotional meeting of the families, the real trouble begins. I don’t know about you, but I almost enjoy seeing Jacob get a little taste of his own medicine. Laban and Jacob reach an agreement on the price for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob serves his time and works for his goal. The day finally came and Jacob is married. The next day he discovers that he had been deceived! Laban switched daughters and gave Jacob Leah instead! I always am reminded of how Jacob had deceived his father and cheated his brother, how Isaac lied about Rachel being his wife, and how Abraham started it with his lies about Sarah.

Either way you look at it, the whole situation is messy. Laban then agrees to allow Jacob to work for Rachel (again). Jacob serves his time (again). He finally is awarded with his precious wife! They marry and then more trouble comes. Of course the time span that takes place in this chapter is large (14+ years!) but eventually the two wives (and their concubines) give birth to twelve sons to Jacob.

What can we learn from all this? A whole lot!

To begin with, as the old saying goes, what goes around comes around! The Bible calls this “sowing and reaping” (see Galatians 6.7-8). In Jacob’s case his deception of his father brought about his being deceived. How often do we do someone wrong or commit some unknown sin, only to have the same thing done to us in the future! This is a good initiative for us not do things to others just for the simple fact that it will come back to bite us. (Not that this should be a main reason, but it is a good motivator!)

Another lesson we can learn is that we should deal honestly with people. If we make an agreement we should avoid any future changes. We should be up front and state our business plainly. Jess said it this way, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matt. 5.37, ESV)

Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn is to keep the family the way God intended, one man and one woman (see Genesis 2.24). Imagine the grief that Jacob would have avoided being satisfied with one wife! (I understand that Leah is not the one he loved nor the one he had worked for, but the fact that he consummated the marriage without knowing it was not Rachel is a little odd.) When we attempt to overstep the boundaries God has placed on us we place ourselves on the top of a slippery slope.

Let’s place ourselves on firm ground and not make the same mistakes that these people did! What are some things you see in this account in Jacob’s life that we can learn from? Please feel free to share!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 28

The chapter continues the story from chapter 27. Jacob had just deceived his father, included God in his lie, and caused his brother Esau to want to kill him. After a short exchange between his parents, Isaac then bids Jacob to return to the homeland and find a wife there (as did his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac).

The writer of Genesis then includes an almost parenthetical paragraph of Esau’s marriage  to another wife. So he married again, in addition to the wives he had already married (see 26.34).

So Jacob set out to travel back to Harran to find a wife. During this journey he rests, placing his head on a rock for a pillow. As he was sleeping the vision of the ladder reaching to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it comes to him. Then God grants the same blessing upon Jacob that he had previously given to Abraham and Isaac. Upon waking Jacob realized that he was in the presence of God. He then made a vow to become a follow of God if God would provide for his needs and bring him safely back to his home.

This journey for Jacob would prove to be one that would have a significant effect on the rest of his life. He is slowly beginning to change from the heel catcher to the prince of God. Now before we are too harsh on Jacob, let’s remember our own spiritual journey. I imagine that most of us are like Jacob, at first we were dirty scoundrels. We were the trouble makers, the liars. But slowly, as Jacob was, we are being made more like Jesus. So as we walk through the rest of this book, we are really walking by a mirror. It is my hope that as you and I look at our reflection that we see our own journey from being heel catchers to princes with God.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 27

Here is, to me, one of the saddest chapters in Genesis. Esau made the mistake of selling his birthright (see chapter 25), but now Jacob (through the leading of his mother) deceives both his father and Esau. What’s worse is that Jacob does so using the Lord’s Name (27.20). Eventually Jacob achieves his goal, receiving the blessing from his father, but at the cost of lying and destroying any semblance of family unity. Perhaps Jacob’s future favoritism was in part due to the favoritism of his own parents. Needless to say, this time Jacob created such a hostile atmosphere that Rebekah had to tell him to go to her brother’s land and stay there until Esau cooled off. Unfortunately for both Jacob and Rebekah, the two would never meet again. Let this be a lesson for us today, that when we try and do things our way rather than allowing The Lord to either open a door or completely take care of the issue, it will result in unnecessary hardship.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 26

The book has shifted it’s focus from Abraham to Isaac. Isaac now has the same blessing pronounced upon him by God.

Following in Abraham’s footsteps, Isaac instructs his wife to lie in order to protect him. Abraham wanted Sarah to say she was his sister in order to save his own hide (see chapter 20.2, 12). Abraham was telling a half-truth, for they were in fact related. In Isaac’s case, however, he was not telling the truth at all. While they came from the same family, he was not her brother. And so we see the sin of the father visiting the son. As with Abraham, Abimelech eventually found out and rebuked Isaac. And the thing Isaac feared (death at the hands of Abimelech or his people) was the means by which he was protected!

The next big thing in this chapter involves conflict. Isaac meets with a similar event when the herdsmen of Abimelech argue with his own. Unfortunately Isaac did not display the same ability to address and correct this conflict. It was not until later in the chapter that the issue was fixed (26.28-29). We would do well to practice Abraham’s approach rather than that of his son.

And lastly we see how closely the heart of a parent is tied up in the children. In Esau’s case, he broke his parents hearts by marrying outside their family. This was a much more serious offense than may meet the eye, for marrying another tribe or country typically involved taking on their idol(s). For Isaac and Rebekah, Yahweh was THE God to worship, and to include anything else was a grave sin. So with Esau’s decision came great heartache. And with us today, we have the ability to make or brake our parents hearts, and our children have the same.