The Disruption of God’s Intention

The Disruption

of God’s Intention


The account of the fall provides scope for various deductions about the role of Eve, her relationship to her husband, and the consequences pronounced upon them. As with Genesis 1 and 2, it is important not to read into the text our own presuppositions.


What Went Wrong?

Genesis chapter 3 explains how the world went from “very good”, as God had created it, to the world of sin and suffering we know today. In observing how Adam and Eve fell, we see something too of ourselves, for we have all been in the position of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:19: “... I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Genesis chapter 2 ends on a high note with the man and the woman in harmony with God. Chapter 3 introduces the serpent who challenges God’s authority (“You will not die”), doubts the goodness of God’s intentions (“God knows ... your eyes will be opened”), and falsely offers equality with God Himself (“... you will be like God”).

It is a common human failing to doubt God’s warnings, to prefer to decide according to our own judgment, and to rationalise bad actions into good. We see the same today: people scoff at God or deny His existence, prefer superficial materialism to spiritual values, and define wisdom by worldly criteria not by divine.

When the woman takes the forbidden fruit, three reasons are given in the text: the fruit was good for eating, looked attractive, and would bring wisdom, a wisdom like that of God himself.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.                                                    (Genesis 3:6)

Being eager, it appears, to share the supposed blessings with her husband, she gave him the fruit too. According to 1 Timothy 2:14 “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” The woman was deceived by the serpent. The serpent apparently did not approach the man. The text simply says in Genesis 3:6, “... she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” We are left to assume that the woman had told him what the serpent had said (Genesis 3:17). Adam, though having heard directly from God the command “you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:17), sinned knowingly, a much greater sin than being deceived by the serpent which was “more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made” (3:1). Adam too, therefore, became a transgressor, and knowingly.

In both cases, the fault lay in doubting God’s word, in judging by outward appearance, and in aiming to usurp the power of God himself, seeking to become “like God, knowing good and evil”.

There is a paradox here. We are all supposed to become like God:

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.                                         (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Jesus taught us to be perfect like God:

You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.                                                                                                 (Matthew 5:48)

But when Adam and Eve sought to be “like God, knowing good and evil”, they were not seeking moral goodness but power. They sought to take over from God, to run life by their agenda not by God’s. Philippians 2 marks the contrast between Adam and Eve and our Lord Jesus. He did not seek illicit power like they had done:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped ....                                                      (Philippians 2:5-6)

When the man and woman had snatched at equality with God, they both promptly recognised what they had done: “Then the eyes of both were opened” (Genesis 3:7), and they sought to hide from the presence of God (verse 8).

The break down in the relationships is seen clearly as the man casts blame on the woman and on God Himself, and the woman blames the serpent. After questioning the man and the woman, God declares the consequences, holding each responsible:

To the serpent:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman:

“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

To the man:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”                                                                 (Genesis 3:14-19)


The harmony and the goodness which first existed in Genesis 1 & 2 had been marred. The world is no longer “very good”. Despite the increased pain in childbearing, Eve will still wish to be united to her husband.[1] She will wish for the closeness they had before, but he will rule over her instead. Being ruled over by her husband is not regarded as a good or desirable thing: it is one of the bad consequences of the breakdown that occurred when they sinned, and which we observed happening as soon as Adam began to pass the buck for his sin and blame both God and his wife. God’s original scheme was that she should be a suitable companion, a position that was part of the creation that God pronounced “very good”. The husband and wife’s relationship had now become distorted by sin.

Adam was excluded from the garden to prevent him, now a sinner, from eating of the tree and living forever. Death subsequently came on all Adam’s descendants, for they have a mortal father, and they too sinned, as Paul says:

... as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned ....

                                                                                                (Romans 5:12)

God had offered eternal life; this is His wish for mankind, not death. Already there were signs of God’s grace: Genesis 3:15 looked forward to Christ’s conquest of sin; the man named his wife Eve “the mother of all living”, indicating that they would still be “fruitful and multiply”, and God “made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them” (3:20). When Eve had her first child she expressed appreciation to God: “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

God’s message throughout the rest of the Bible concerns the way of salvation by which His first intention for mankind will be realised.


The Return in Christ to God’s Original Intention

The history recorded in the Old Testament frequently demonstrates how far men and women have fallen from the high position which God planned for them. It is only with the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant that God’s original intention begins once more to be realised in practice. Yet, even after the coming of the New Covenant, such has been the nature of society and the sinfulness of human beings that men and women have continued frequently to fall well below that ideal. The Bible presents the ideal before us, and it is one at which we should continually aim. Christ reverses the conflicts involved in the fall. Jesus lived up to God’s ideal:

... as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned ... death reigned from Adam to Moses ... if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.                                                                  (Romans 5:12-17)

Being joined by baptism to Christ we take part in that newness of life now:

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. ... you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ... now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.                                                                       (Romans 6:6, 11, 22-23)



New Creation

In Christ creation begins again. We no longer live according to the human thinking of the old, fallen creation. We have a new start.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself ....

                                                                        (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

That the pre-fall condition is the Christian ideal is indicated by Jesus in his teaching on marriage. When questioned about divorce, where Jewish practice reflected the breakdown in relationships and where husbands had total control over their wives including the ability to divorce them, Jesus quoted the position before the fall as God’s ideal:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?’ So they are no longer two but one.”                                                                                                                   (Matthew 19:4-6)

It is significant that Jesus did not quote, “...your desire shall be to your husband and he shall rule over you”. This is not surprising since one-sided rule by one partner over the other is incompatible with proper companionship in marriage and incompatible with practising the Golden Rule:

... whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.                                                (Matthew 7:12)


Hardness of Heart

How, then, are we to understand the relationships between husbands and wives and men and women that we find in the Old Testament? Again, Jesus provides the answer when questioned on divorce. The reason divorce was allowed under the Law was because of human hardness of heart:

“For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”                                    (Matthew 19:8)

It was not God’s original intention, as Jesus indicated by his reference to creation. Jesus did not take the post-fall situation as his guide; neither should we. When, therefore, we look at the relationships between husbands and wives and when we note the manner in which husbands have mistreated their wives, used concubines, and treated women as of little account, it is obvious that sinful human beings have not lived up to God’s standards as set at creation. This is not because God willed or decreed that they should not do so but because, like Adam and Eve, on account of human sinfulness they have not followed God’s original intention.

The apostle Paul gives a helpful parallel to this in Romans where he shows how sin works and how God allows it to work:

... although they knew God, they did not honour him ... Claiming to be wise, they became fools ...

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity ...

... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.                   (Romans 1:21-28)

Paul prefaces this with the description that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.” This is how it is revealed. God makes plain what He wishes, He teaches righteous conduct to mankind, but if people turn away and ignore Him, He allows them to proceed with their wicked conduct (“God gave them up”). A broken relationship with God frequently leads to broken relationships among people. It is not that God wills this, but it is the result of sin.

The present state of the world is not what God planned for it. In the end “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). And “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).



[1] Some pain in childbirth is inevitable, and childbirth was intended from the beginning (“be fruitful and multiply”, Genesis 1:28). How was the pain to be “increased”? The text does not say, but Adam’s post-fall dominance over Eve can hardly have led to a happy experience in childbirth or any other aspect of married life together. It is doubtful whether pain in childbirth should be considered an application of Genesis 3:16 to all women, since many women do not bear children. The objections by male Victorian clergy to James Young Simpson’s use of anaesthetics for women in childbirth demonstrate an uncaring male insensitivity. Likewise, not all men engage in agricultural labour, despite the sentence on Adam.

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