Barry Newman's Blog

June 7, 2011

Science and Genesis 3: 1 – 24 (part XX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:37 pm

The three judgements

In Walsh’s terms, “each decree imposes two punishments, one involving an essential life function, the other a relationship.”  What is also of significance is how the three judgments are linked.  The relationship problem for the serpent involves itself and the woman. The relationship problem for the woman involves herself and the man.  The relationship problem for the man involves himself and … ? At this point we might have expected that for the man his problem involved himself and God. Instead, if the suggestion above is appropriate, the problem was between himself and the ground – almost it seems somewhat of a come down.  Not God, but the ground.

There is a sense in which if the man’s relationship breakdown was portrayed as involving God, then that would have said something false about the relationship between God and the woman and God and the serpent.  All were under the judgement of God and all were thereby clearly estranged from God.  What then is the significance of “ground”.  The serpent was one of those creatures made on Day 6.  It is one of many.  The woman is special – she was fashioned from a chunk of the man.  The man is special – he was formed from the dust of the ground.  The man’s relationship with God is in a sense mediated through the ground.  For the writer to indicate that for the man, in the judgment of God, the problem is the ground, is perhaps an elliptical way of referring to the fact that his problem is with God without thereby implying that the serpent and the woman did not have a similar problem.  However, perhaps we are seeing too much in the man’s relationship with the ground as a consequence of seeing too close a parallel among the three judgments.

It is noteworthy that while the serpent and the ground are both subject to a curse from God, neither the woman nor the man are cursed.  Surely the hearers/readers are thereby encouraged that with the man and the woman all is not lost. Humankind is not subject to an everlasting all-pervasive ban.  God still has some part for them to play and he will not abandon them.  They stand in a relationship with him that is not that of the serpent or the ground.  For them there is hope.

Reference is often made to the order in which the serpent and the woman are addressed.  A popular idea is that what we are given is an order which is the reverse of what God originally intended.  Originally the order was the man, the woman and then the serpent.  Now it is the serpent, the woman and then the man.  The point of the latter ordering could be to indicate that the proper order has been reversed but the hearer/reader knows this from what occurred anyway.  However, the order in which God addresses the three could simply have been dictated by other considerations such as, increasing the suspense, beginning where the drama began and finishing where it finished, or simply having the order correspond to what in principle remained, the correct order, moving from lower in the order to higher in the order.  Whatever the intention of the writer, that there was an inversion of order is clear from how the drama unfolded.  The serpent deceived and persuaded the woman; the woman was attracted to the idea of eating the fruit, ate the fruit and then gave it to the man; the man, absolutely limp – minded and refraining from exercising any responsibility, then ate.  This was the man to whom God had spoken directly.

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