Gen 2: 4b – 3: 24
How would you teach people about the realities of our existence; where we come from;
life and death; good and evil; the ups and downs of living; suffering? You could opt for a
theatrical presentation with a philosophical, theological and scientific approach. I doubt if
your presentation would run for more than one night. That would depend on how many of
the audience came back after interval on the opening night! On the other hand you could
tell a cracking good story. This is what the farmer author of the second creation story did.
It is still popular after 3000 years.
Our perception and image of God depends on our human experience. It is not surprising
that the author makes God a farmer like himself. All life comes from the soil. No wonder,
we see God’s muddy hands shaping the clay and breathing life into “adam”, a human being.
(2: 7) Man’s food supply will come from the trees God planted: (2: 9) Generously, God
supplements the water supply from four rivers. He is equally generous with rich deposits of gold and precious stones. What more could a farmer wish for? This is the paradise created for us and God is right there.
Our farmer author realises that his story is far from complete. Women and sexual attraction need to be explained. “It is not good for man to be alone,” says God. What he really means is: “Surely, I can do better than this lonely creature.” Ever practical, God puts “adam” to sleep and divides him in two. (The rib we have all heard of could also be translated – side.) Male (ish) and female (ishshah) come into existence. No wonder that they are crazy about each other. They are two parts of the original whole, which makes them equal and complimentary.
Humanity is off to a glorious start – life is in our hands. Central in all our lives are two
trees, “the tree of life … and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (2:9b) The
choice is ours. Tension enters the story. How will humanity react? They could not possibly
want to know (experience) evil or would they … ?
The lights dim on the stage, haunting music is heard and a shiver runs through the audience. Silently the snake makes his entry. “Did God tell you not to eat from any of the tress in the garden,” he asks the woman? A talking snake! Snakes only speak in fairy tales and myths. Remember, this is not historical. It never happened. Our farmer author is trying to explain the existence of the good and evil he sees all around him. I feel sorry for the snake because some people have equated him with the devil. There is nothing in the story to justify this assertion. Sorry, Mr Snake.
The snake promises the man and the woman that they will become like gods if they eat
from the tree. Sadly they fall for the trick. “Good and evil”, means that they will know
everything and this is God’s prerogative. They want to be like God. If that happens they
Life becomes one long misery for them.
In a few short lines our author comes up with an explanation for a wide range of facts about life. “Where are you?” God calls. When we think God is far from us, guess who has moved!
Not God! The man and the woman can no longer stand comfortably before God. Their
nakedness, has little to do with how much clothing they have on. It means to be in full view with nothing hidden. Limitations are there for all to see. We may have changed, but our God has not. Shame and disgrace make it difficult to accept ourselves and live with our
mistakes. Now we have to cover-up, pretend – make ourselves look good. No wonder God
asks, “Where are you?”
Who was to blame for this mess? The man blames the woman and God. “The woman
whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree.” The woman blames the
snake. Does this sound familiar?
According to the story, sin explains a multitude of our afflictions: snakes crawl around on
their tummies; woman experience pain in child-birth; “by the sweat of his brow shall you
get bread to eat,” and when you plant crops you had better be ready to do a lot of weeding.
All these had been around for a long time and none of these are a punishment for sin. This
story provides a neat explanation for the unfathomable.
Was all lost in this disaster! No!
Our compassionate, merciful and faithful God takes the initiative and surprisingly, “.. made leather garments,” for them. (3: 21)