Barry Newman's Blog

March 31, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4b – 3: 24 (part XIX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 12:19 am

The command of Yahweh Elohim

The context in which the explicit commandment of Yahweh Elohim is couched is that man is free to eat from any tree of the garden. It adds clarity to what is entailed by the command.  The man is meant to understand what is allowed and what is not allowed.

The warning, associated with the command, amounting to a disastrous outcome for the man should he disobey, should provide adequate motivation, for obeying the command.  If he disobeys God then “on that day” (NIV “when”) he shall “surely die”. The Hebrew is literally, “dying he shall die”.  Using a verb in this way is an idiomatic device apparently designed to express the sense of certainty.  Other verbs are used in a similar manner, e.g. elsewhere in Genesis, in 32: 12, 46: 4, and 50: 24 and 25.  God’s warning indicates that the outcome following upon failure to obey is absolutely inevitable.

Unless God changed his mind, the sense is not that death would immediately be his experience, but that his death would one day, inevitably, come about.  Upon his being disobedient he is cast out of the garden so that he would have no further access to the tree of life (Gen 3: 22-24).  While we may speculate about ideas such as “spiritual death” and indeed that the man’s relationship with God was permanently damaged as a consequence of his disobedience, the situation that is being portrayed is that the man will inevitably die physically upon disobeying the command.  He will not be allowed to “live forever”.  Physical death will become a cold hard certainty.  Death will be imbedded in his very being.  Dying will be the man’s lot in the near future and that state will come to finality in his death.  His being disallowed access to the tree seals his fate.  He will age – grow old, (as we know old age, his functions will deteriorate)  and eventually he will die.

The man was especially blessed.  He had been made! He existed! But more to the point, he was a living being!  And his world was one of abundance and of enormous significance.  He was to serve the one and only Creator of all things.  He was given access to the tree of life – to have his life sustained.  Such a life could be ongoing.  He may take of the fruit of any tree – but one.  Was this tree there as a test of obedience?  It turned out that way.  Was its fruit always going to be forbidden?  Perhaps this is a silly question though we might explore it later.

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