Saturday

26 September 2020

Genesis 3:22-24

… therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. (v. 23)

Psalm 127 

Background

I wonder if you noticed that these verses seem to only talk about Adam; Eve is not mentioned even though both of them must have been thrown out of the garden. “The Lord sent him forth” (v. 23) and “he drove out the man” (v. 24). It would be easy to conclude that this is just another example of sexism, the woman is there but ignored, but possibly there is something deeper going on. We are back to a word play that we noted earlier in the week. The ground or the soil in Hebrew is adamah. When God first creates human beings, he creates adam, the earth creature and when one becomes two, ‘adam’ becomes the name of the male, while the female is called Eve. Hebrew has words for ‘man’ (ish) and ‘woman’ (ishah), so many scholars argue we should translate adam as human rather than man.

Why does that matter? This passage returns to that same word play. What it actually says is God sent him forth “to till the adamah from which he was taken. He drove out the adam”. Even as the couple are thrown out of the garden, we are reminded of the second creation story in Genesis 2. In that story, God creates heaven and earth, but the story pauses when there are no plants or herbs (2:5). We are told they have not happened because God has not sent rain but also because there was no one to till the ground. God then forms humans from the ground. When they eat the forbidden fruit, part of the result is that the adamah is cursed and gaining food will become hard work. So, here, even as most of the story seems to be about exclusion and punishment, there is also a reminder that humans still have a place in God’s purposes for the earth. God has created a fruitful earth, now people are to cultivate the ground from which we came.

To Ponder:

  • Why would God seek to prevent humans from eating from the tree of life?
  • ‘adam’ was sent out to cultivate the ground. In what ways do you share in God’s care for the earth?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.

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