Barry Newman's Blog

June 15, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:14 pm

Genesis 3: 22 – 24 – The man and the woman driven from the garden

“And the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (NIV)

Being “banished” from the garden

A number of facets of this final scene have already been mentioned – the knowing of good and evil, the preventing of access to the tree of life and the working of the ground.  One might expect that the reference to “man” in 3: 22 would be to generic man – man without the definite article as in Gen 1: 26 and 2: 5. However, in accord with 2: 23 where the reference is clearly to the man working the ground, it is the man who is spoken of as the one who has “become like one of us”. Furthermore it is that same one who is referred to as being “banished” from the garden.  Of course, the woman is “banished” along with the man for indeed the eyes of both of them had been opened.  Yet the focus is on the man – the one to whom the command had been directly given, the one whom God placed in the garden, the one for whom God fashioned the counterpart helper, the one who failed to exercise any responsibility towards his wife.  Great is the blame to be attached to the man.

The phrase, “the man has now become like (as) one of us” has overtones with Gen 1: 26 – “Let us make man in our image”. It was suggested in an earlier blog series that the reference to “us” in Gen 1: 26 was probably a reference to God and his heavenly court and that what lay behind the notion of “us” was the existence of personal relationships existing between God and other members of his court and amongst those other members themselves. It was also suggested that in order to prevent any misunderstandings, 1: 26 is quickly followed by 1: 27 where the reference is solely to God’s image. The “us” of 3: 22 could also be a reference to God and his heavenly court. Here however, man who was originally made “in our image” has become “like one of us” and in this case, the similarity is not something to delight in.  Rather it is a matter that is regarded as appalling.

What is this similarity?  In conformity with the idea that for the man (and the woman), what happened upon eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was their becoming in some inappropriate way self aware, so here the suggestion is that there is a reference to the self awareness of the members of the heavenly court.  However, their self awareness was not inappropriate.

What the man (and the woman) had become was so seriously inappropriate that God decided that he would not allow such beings to have ongoing life.  Their access to the tree of life was to be denied forever.  And being denied such access meant being banned from the garden.  Being banned from the garden meant having to work the ground to enable vegetation to grow that would provide the food that would enable the man to eat and so live, though such life would have death stamped upon it.  In the end the man (and the woman) would die.  It could be that we are meant to see irony in the statement that the man will have to work the ground from which he was taken.  He came from the ground outside of the garden and he will now have to work at that same ground in order to eke out an existence in the world beyond the garden. And one day, when death for him has its final say, he will become part of that ground that is outside of the garden.

The word, “banished” probably writes too much into the text, the basic sense behind the Hebrew word being, “sent”.  The specific sense of the word varies depending upon context.  However, the Hebrew word translated “drove”, the other word used to describe God’s activity at this point, does seem to have a forceful element to it. In Exodus 2: 17, some shepherds drive some women away from a well and in the title to Psalm 34, reference is made to Abimelech driving out David.  The man and the woman do not go by their own initiative, God does not invite the man and the woman to leave and they do not go after a little prodding.  They are driven out.  We are left in no doubt as to the seriousness of their offence and the utter necessity of their not being allowed to have ongoing existence.


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