SCRIPTURE LESSON Joshua 2:1-24;
2 Joshua chose two men as spies and sent them from their camp at Acacia with these instructions: “Go across the river and find out as much as you can about the whole region, especially about the town of Jericho.”
The two spies left the Israelite camp at Acacia and went to Jericho, where they decided to spend the night at the house of a prostitute named Rahab.
2 But someone found out about them and told the king of Jericho, “Some Israelite men came here tonight, and they are spies.” 3-7 So the king sent soldiers to Rahab’s house to arrest the spies.
Meanwhile, Rahab had taken the men up to the flat roof of her house and had hidden them under some piles of flax plants that she had put there to dry.
The soldiers came to her door and demanded, “Let us have the men who are staying at your house. They are spies.”
She answered, “Some men did come to my house, but I didn’t know where they had come from. They left about sunset, just before it was time to close the town gate. I don’t know where they were going, but if you hurry, maybe you can catch them.”
The guards at the town gate let the soldiers leave Jericho, but they closed the gate again as soon as the soldiers went through. Then the soldiers headed toward the Jordan River to look for the spies at the place where people cross the river.
8 Rahab went back up to her roof. The spies were still awake, so she told them:
9 I know that the Lord has given Israel this land. Everyone shakes with fear because of you. 10 We heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea so you could leave Egypt. And we heard how you destroyed Sihon and Og, those two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River. 11 We know that the Lord your God rules heaven and earth, and we’ve lost our courage and our will to fight.
12 Please promise me in the Lord’s name that you will be as kind to my family as I have been to you. Do something to show 13 that you won’t let your people kill my father and mother and my brothers and sisters and their families.
14 “Rahab,” the spies answered, “if you keep quiet about what we’re doing, we promise to be kind to you when the Lord gives us this land. We pray that the Lord will kill us if we don’t keep our promise!”
15 Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, and one of the windows in her house faced outside the wall. She gave the spies a rope, showed them the window, and said, “Use this rope to let yourselves down to the ground outside the wall. 16 Then hide in the hills. The men who are looking for you won’t be able to find you there. They’ll give up and come back after a few days, and you can be on your way.”
17-20 The spies said:
You made us promise to let you and your family live. We will keep our promise, but you can’t tell anyone why we were here. You must tie this red rope on your window when we attack, and your father and mother, your brothers, and everyone else in your family must be here with you. We’ll take the blame if anyone who stays in this house gets hurt. But anyone who leaves your house will be killed, and it won’t be our fault.
21 “I’ll do exactly what you said,” Rahab promised. Then she sent them on their way and tied the red rope to the window.
22 The spies hid in the hills for three days while the king’s soldiers looked for them along the roads. As soon as the soldiers gave up and returned to Jericho, 23 the two spies went down into the Jordan valley and crossed the river. They reported to Joshua and told him everything that had happened. 24 “We’re sure the Lord has given us the whole country,” they said. “The people there shake with fear every time they think of us.”
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
31 By faith Rahab the prostitute wasn’t killed with the disobedient because she welcomed the spies in peace.
SERMON Women of the Old Testament - Rahab
I don’t think sermons on Rahab are common. I don’t recall preaching about her before myself. If you are aware that she is usually known with as Rehab the Harlot, you won’t be surprised that she has a chapter in Liz Curtis Higgs’ famous book, Bad Girls of the Bible. But as Higgs classifies these bad girls, Rehab is under the best heading, “bad for a season but not forever.” It may indeed be that we need to remember her past to value her transition, and the hope it offers the rest of us. But I also want to remember her as someone whose faith was stronger than her fear.
As you know from the readings today, Rahab lived in Jericho, and her home was within its famous city wall. What most of us remember from childhood regarding Jericho is the little ditty, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho….and the walls came a tumblin’ down.” As Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land, Jericho was their first target. Moses and the priest, Eleazer gathered the pilgrims on the plains of Moab, across the Jordan River from Jericho and took a census there. Moses’ story ends there, but not the peoples.
The Lord showed [Moses] the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; 2 all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; 3 also the arid southern plain, and the plain—including the Jericho Valley, Palm City—as far as Zoar.
4 Then the Lord said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.”
5 Then Moses, the Lord’s servant, died—right there in the land of Moab, according to the Lord’s command. (Deuteronomy 34:1-5)
Joshua become the new leader as God had chosen. As the plan to enter the new land unfolded, Rahab of Jericho would also find a new life, because she chose God.
The walls of Jericho were doubled. Higgs said they were 12 – 15 feet apart. Jean Syswerda said they were 20-30 feet thick with each stone weighing 80 ton. Clearly, they were very strong and had enough space between them for solid homes and businesses. They also had a good view inside and outside the city, especially from the rooftop. For Rahab’s business it was convenient to serve travelers as well as citizens.
It’s sometimes said that prostitution is one of the world’s oldest professions. In Old Testament times there were two types. Some served in pagan temples where such intercourse played a part in sacred rituals. This was NOT true in Judaism but it surrounded the Jews as part of most Canaanite religions. Rahab, however, had a private one-woman business serving her customers in the same way we think of prostitutes today.
MacArthur suggests Rahab represented the immoral culture in which she lived. I chose the word immoral. He used far worse language to describe Rahab and her city making it sound as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah, the sin cities of Abraham’s day. (MacArthur, p. 53) Jericho was in Amorite territory which MacArthur claims was a violent, pagan society that God had ordered the Israelites to wipe out, giving the land to Abraham’s descendants instead. (MacArthur, p. 52)
Two spies were sent by Joshua into Jericho for reconnaissance as he and Caleb had once been sent by Moses. Rather than deal with the naysayers he remembered from the past, those who brought back fear causing the freed slaves to wander an additional 40 years, Joshua sent only two trusted men and kept their mission a secret. Their journey to Jericho looks like an Iron Man race to me, minus the bikes. They had a two hour walk to the River then swam across. After that was another 7-mile hike, then slip through the city gate before it closed while avoiding getting caught. (MacArthur, p. 56)
When the men arrived, Rahab’s home was a convenient place to start their assignment. When they knocked on her door it was not as customers, but they took a chance on her location and occupation as cover. Her home was a good vantage point to get a visual on the surrounding area. Her profession meant no one would question two travelers coming and going from her abode at a late dark hour. It also meant she knew how to be discreet and keep a confidence. They took a risk choosing her door, but perhaps God nudged them that this one would be safe.
But someone did notice and passed word to authorities. The king and the people were well aware that Joshua and his thousands were camped across river and their intentions to cross over. The stories of the Israelites coming from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, overcoming armies along the way were well known here. No doubt bits of intelligence on their movements would be rewarded. Someone reported the spies.
So guards came pounding on Rahab’s door, demanding to know where the spies were. There was no point denying they had been there. They had been seen. But Rahab faced a life changing decision in that moment. Could she profit from turning them in? Sure. Would it be better to keep them safe? Maybe. Her decision made; she sent the Hebrew spies up to her roof. Most commentators suggest it wasn’t the first time she had hidden men up there. Then she lied to the guards, “There were a couple of men here, but they left. If you hurry, you might catch them.” Classic, right?
Was lying the right thing to do? No. But… I like the way MacArthur treated this issue, saying there is no reason to condone the lie, but she was suddenly new to the practice of faith and right living. Don’t expect her to get it perfect at the start. Let her take one step at a time; at least she chose to take steps of faith. (MacArthur in Twelve Extraordinary Women discusses this on pate 58)
Rahab had also heard all about the Israelites. She knew these men came from that group. She had also heard about the God they served, different from the gods served by others in her city. I think verse 11 is her faith statement to that point, “We know that the Lord your God rules heaven and earth, and we’ve lost our courage and our will to fight.” (Joshua 2:11) Instead of fighting, Rahab decided to strike a bargain. “Please promise me in the Lord’s name that you will be as kind to my family as I have been to you.” (Joshua 2:12) Her faith may have been for purely practical reasons at this point, but she threw her life on the line for it and pled for the lives of her family members as well.
What symbolized this new faith? The spies told her before she lowered them out the window by a rope, to hang a red cord there later, so they could find her home again and save whatever family she managed to gather there. As Higgs points out, rescue is not what we associate with the color red, if we are talking about a prostitute. A red dress, red lipstick, the red-light district maybe, but a red cord might not indicate salvation to us. However, MacArthur brings a different Bible story to remind us it is a perfect indication of which home is to be saved. (MacArthur, p. 62) When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, they were told by God to mark their doorposts with the red blood of a lamb, so that the angel of death would pass over that home. In the Bible red means salvation; we are told it is by the blood of Christ shed at the cross that we are saved. The red cord Rahab immediately hung from her window was a practical, visible sign that those inside her home were to be saved. Higgs also suggests that confessing our sins is like hanging a sign out the window for the world to see that we are sinners, yet that is precisely how we are saved. She adds this, “Red is a very becoming color when it signifies a confession of our sins and our desire to trust God.” (Higgs, p. 170)
The spies returned to Joshua with their report including telling him about Rahab. When the time came for God’s plan to be put into action, perhaps you remember how it went. The Israelites did not storm the walls of Jericho by their own might. Instead, following God’s instructions, they marched around the walls for seven days in this order: the front guard, seven priests blowing rams horn trumpets, then the priests who carried the ark of the covenant which was God’s mercy seat and presence in their midst, followed by the rear guard. They made one circuit each for six days, but on the seventh day they made seven circles around the city walls. Then when Joshua told them to shout, they let out a great shout while the trumpets blew. The walls crumbled, and the people overtook the city.
One section of wall did not utterly collapse immediately, the one where a red cord hung in the window. Joshua sent the two spies to retrieve Rahab and her relatives keeping the promise they had made when she protected them from the king’s guard. Not only did they spare her life, but they brought her with them to their camp. She and her family continued to live outside their camp, a new life, a new people, worshipping their new God.
We learn later that Rahab wed into the Israelite people; she married a man named Salmon. I’ve always expected he must have been one of the spies who rescued her. Liz Curtis Higgs agrees. It makes a nice story, but it also makes sense. What we do know for sure is how their family continued. Their son was Boaz, and if that doesn’t sound familiar right away, it will next week when we share Ruth and Naomi’s story. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, whose son was Jesse, whose youngest son was David, the shepherd boy who became king. Yes, Rahab the Harlot, redeemed by God, was the great, great grandmother of the much beloved King David, whose family line was promised a king forever, a Savior, a Messiah, a Great Shepherd. This is the earthly family heritage of Jesus.
Five women are named in Jesus’ family tree as recorded in Matthew 1. All five of them could be judged inappropriately by human standards: a seductress, a prostitute, an immigrant, an adulteress, an unwed mother. But God doesn’t see things the way we do. As God spoke to Samuel when he was seeking Jesse’s son to anoint as king, “People judge by what is on the outside, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)
Rahab’s heart had turned to the Lord of Israel, the God known by Abraham and Sarah, the one who created Adam and Eve. Rahab left everything but her immediate family behind her and never turned back to her old way of life. She embraced this God and her new life whole-heartedly.
I judge her somewhat by what I know of her son. Boaz was a remarkably kind, just, and compassionate man who treated women with respect and men fairly. That speaks well to me of both his parents. Rahab was indeed an extraordinary woman. As MacArthur sums up her story, Rahab “is a living reminder that even the worst sinners can be redeemed by divine grace through faith.” (MacArthur, p. 66)
What do we take away from her story? Liz Curtis Higgs suggests four things (pp.175-176):
In this Rahab shows us the path to salvation: she heard, she believed, she found faith, she acted on that faith, and she was saved. (Higgs, p. 168) This pattern is a basic of coming to faith. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing. (Romans 10:17) Therefore, for others to come to faith, we must be sharing God’s Word and our own experience of Christ. The early church grew because those who heard believed, and they were added to the community of faith. But faith will show itself in action, this is the teaching of James 2, that faith without works is dead. The two go together.
One more thought: I’ve always been fascinated by God knocking down those walls. All of us have walls we need to knock down. Maybe someone else built them to segregate those they don’t want around. Maybe we built them to protect ourselves. Perhaps we have even built a wall between ourselves and God.
Years ago when we had Luminate here for a concert, the worship moment that was important to me related to their song, “Fallen Walls.” We had everyone write on a paper bag the confessions they wanted to hide, and out of those paper bags, hiding one inside the other, we made paper bricks and built a wall. At the right moment in their song we knocked that wall down.
The walls of Jericho fell by God’s design when the Israelites followed God’s instructions. The walls in our lives and our world can also come down when we listen to God’s Word for our lives. The tumbling walls spelled destruction for those who didn’t live for God, victory for those who did trust God, and saving grace for Rahab and her family when they chose to belief and trust that same God. What will you let God do with the walls that need to come down? Will you choose faith and action according to God’s instructions?
No matter what your life has been like decades ago, last year, yesterday or even if you messed up this morning, God has extended his grace to you if you choose to follow, to turn and act on that faith.
SCRIPTURE LESSON Genesis 2:4ff, GW
4 This is the account of heaven and earth when they were created, at the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven.
5 Wild bushes and plants were not on the earth yet because the Lord God hadn’t sent rain on the earth. Also, there was no one to farm the land. 6 Instead, underground water would come up from the earth and water the entire surface of the ground.
7 Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the earth and blew the breath of life into his nostrils. The man became a living being.
8 The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. That’s where he put the man whom he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all the trees grow out of the ground. These trees were nice to look at, and their fruit was good to eat. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil grew in the middle of the garden.
10 A river flowed from Eden to water the garden. Outside the garden it divided into four rivers. 11 The name of the first river is Pishon. This is the one that winds throughout Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is pure. Bdellium and onyx are also found there.) 13 The name of the second river is Gihon. This is the one that winds throughout Sudan. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris. This is the one that flows east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to farm the land and to take care of it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man. He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden. 17 But you must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because when you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him.”
19 The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds out of the ground. Then he brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called each creature became its name. 20 So the man named all the domestic animals, all the birds, and all the wild animals.
But the man found no helper who was right for him. 21 So the Lord God caused him to fall into a deep sleep. While the man was sleeping, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 Then the Lord God formed a woman from the rib that he had taken from the man. He brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
She will be named woman
because she was taken from man.”
24 That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, but they weren’t ashamed of it.
Mark 1:9-13, GW
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came out of the water, he saw heaven split open and the Spirit coming down to him as a dove. 11 A voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you.”
12 At once the Spirit brought him into the desert, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was there with the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
SERMON Women of the Old Testament – Eve
As we begin our look at a few of the many women in the Old Testament, I have to begin with Eve, since her story comes in the beginning, in Genesis. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to read about Eve. She is the first chapter of Liz Curtis Higgs’ Bad Girls of the Bible. She is the first of 52 devotions in Jean Syswerda’s Women of the Bible. Last year Mary Marthas worked through a fantasy take on Eve in a book by Paul Young, the author of The Shack. For our series I’m following John MacArthur’s Old Testament choices in Twelve Extraordinary Women. In addition I am using the “Daily Study Bible Series.” Genesis was written by John Gibson. The Women’s Sanctuary Devotional Bible also has brief reflections on each of the women we’ll be looking at.
As we begin with Eve, we want to clear up some misconceptions. Your unfortunate Sunday School memory may be a picture of a woman wearing fig leaves, holding an apple, talking to a snake, with a man nearby. She has been blamed for all kinds of things including your own sin. We don’t actually have a lot of her story, but we can look briefly at her creation, her relationships, her sin, and her sons.
Genesis 1 and 2 contain more than one version of the creation story, but they are not incompatible. They were written in different formats, for different purposes, at different times, and redacted by different editors. I want to highlight Genesis 1:27, the imago dei, which reads like this in the Common English Bible,
“God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.”
Several scholars point out that Eve has “an equal share in God’s image” with Adam. (Women’s Sanctuary Devotional Bible [WSDB], p. 9)
Genesis 2, our reading for today, contains an older narrative. It tells us that God fashioned the first man from the earth and in turn made him responsible for care of the earth. It tells us that this adam (which means the man) was presented with all the creatures and allowed to name them, but still Adam needed a companion more like himself. So God removed a rib while Adam slept, and God built the woman. I have often heard this quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” (quoted by John MacArthur, p. 6)
Eve was called woman, because she was taken out of man, and for once the English word does an admirable job of describing the Hebrew intention. Adam gave her the name Eve, and its definition is her most common description, “Mother of the Living.” Whether you take Eve to be a literal person in history or the symbolic representation of a first female human being, she is the mother, grandmother, great, great, great, great, etc. grandmother of every human born.
Paul Young pictures her as “striking and beautiful” with “noble bearing.” (Young, p.24) She was created before the Fall, so she was as perfect as everything else in creation. In fact, John MacArthur suggests she was the “crown and pinnacle of God’s amazing creative work.” (MacArthur, p. 1)
Eve was created, because God did not think Adam should be alone. Many translations say helper, but the Common English Version says Adam needed a “suitable partner.” (Genesis 2:18) Higgs writes, “This partner had to be as valuable as Adam, as worthy…, as equally created in God’s image.” MacArthur notes “She was his spiritual counterpart, his intellectual coequal, and in every sense his perfect mate and companion.” (MacArthur, p. 5) Gibson emphasizes the purity and innocence of their relationship before the Fall; it was close, mutual, unashamed, loving and caring. (Gibson, p. 118) This well-balanced partnership is what human relationships and in particular marriages were supposed to look like. God’s original intention is what the phrase really should point to when someone says, “You complete me.”
So, we have the first two human beings, perfectly created by God, living in God’s garden we know as Eden or Paradise. They were stewards of the garden and it contained everything they needed not only for sustenance but also for pleasure. They enjoyed a loving relationship with each other and with God. They walked in the garden each evening with their Creator.
Why is it that human beings are never satisfied with such bliss? In Chapter 3 already, temptation leads to sin, and Paradise is Lost.
Philippians 4:12 gives us a clue where things went wrong. Paul wrote from prison, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance.” Adam and Eve should have been perfectly content living in a perfect paradise. Nothing was forbidden to them except to eat the fruit of one tree in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a precaution to protect their innocence. Perhaps as one scholar suggests, God put it there to test their obedience. As another writer put it, Satan used it to test Eve’s contentment. Through the serpent he asked her, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
Well, No, God did not say that exactly; the tempter deliberately misquoted God to throw Eve off balance, a tactic Satan often uses on humans, twisting God’s own Word. Liz Curtis Higgs warns that we need to know God’s Word well, so we recognize when it is being misused. Listening to the serpent was Eve’s first mistake; the serpent should not have been able to talk in the first place. Eve’s second mistake was entering into debate with the tempter; it allowed him to continue to lead her astray by deceiving her. Satan, the tempter, is called the father of lies and the great deceiver for a reason; these are favorite tools to use against our good intentions.
I included as our Gospel lesson today, Jesus’ baptism and temptation in its briefest form from Mark. I wanted to remind us that Satan has tempted even Jesus, but unlike we humans, Jesus withstood it. In the longer version from Matthew, Satan does misquote God’s Word, but since Jesus knows God’s Word and God’s heart better than anyone, Jesus was able to correct the errors.
Unfortunately when Eve tried to correct Satan, she also got it wrong. What God actually said was this, “You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden, 17 but you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!” (Gen. 2:16) Satan twisted it to say any tree. Eve misremembered the prohibition to include touch as well as taste. Then the tempter continued to encourage her with subtle suggestions. As MacArthur puts it, Satan deceived her by appealing to her physical appetite, aesthetics, and “intellectual curiosity.” (MacArthur, p. 13) This would be her undoing. Jean Syswerda says that Eve “came into the world at peace” with God and with her husband. “She never knew the meaning of embarrassment, misunderstanding, hurt, estrangement, envy, bitterness, grief, or guilt until she listened to her enemy and began to doubt God.” (Syswerda, p. 11)
If we would just stay focused on God and not let our attention be turned aside to other desires, we could avoid so much pain and sorrow. Satan’s all too effective tactic was to lure Eve’s focus away from the blessing and contentment of paradise by pointing out to her the only thing that was denied. How often do we do that? Instead of looking at all the positive lovely things around us, we only see the one empty spot, the one annoyance or one grievance. That is our undoing. This is why just a few verses before his comment on contentment, Paul advised his readers in Phil. 4:8, “Dear brothers and sisters, … Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” If we spent more time counting our blessings, perhaps it would be harder for the Deceiver to talk us out of them.
I’ve heard one women’s study ask where Adam was when Eve was being tempted. As head of the family, it was his responsibility to talk her out of it, to tell her no. MacArthur agrees with this, (p.14), but both have sinned, and both have consequences. It would have been great if Adam had overheard the conversation and gently put his hand over Eve’s saying, “No, don’t, we can’t eat that one, remember?” I’d be fine if Adam had picked up a stick and yelled at the serpent, “Get out of here! Stay away from my woman!” But that’s not what happened. I don’t want to contribute to the blame game that fills this story and its interpretation ever since. I want to steer us away from playing the blame game in our own lives, so let’s point out where the blame fails us.
I don’t lay blame on Adam for what Eve did, because she made her own decision. Granted, the serpent deceived her, but Eve should have said NO and walked away.
When Eve offered a bite to Adam, he took it. Hurray for solidarity, but Adam should have said NO, because God said NO. As their innocence was lost, they covered themselves and hid, but when they were found, rather than confessing their sin, the blame game went into full swing.
God asked quite simply, “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen. 3:11) All either of them needed to say was YES, just admit they did wrong. But Adam responded, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” (Gen. 3:12) Well Adam does admit that he ate the fruit, but he managed to blame both God and Eve in the process. Then God asked Eve “What have you done?” (Gen. 3:13) She shifted the blame as well, “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” (Gen. 3:14) No one took responsibility for their own actions, and that foolishness on top of disobedience made the rift in the relationships even wider.
While we’re on the subject of blame, let’s remove the millennia of blame from the poor apple. In spite of the paintings and pictures through the ages, most scholars are convinced it was NOT an apple. Many think it was a pomegranate, though I’ve also heard apricot and fig. I did find one article that said Romans referred to pomegranates as Carthaginian apples. Maybe that’s when things became confused. If it was a pomegranate, God didn’t hold a grudge against it. He commanded representations of pomegranates to adorn the clothing of the first high priest, Aaron. Honestly the Bible just says fruit, so let’s leave it at that.
Much to my surprise and delight, the New Testament lectures I’ve been listening to while driving informed me that we can’t blame Paul for blaming everything on Eve either. Case in point from 1 Timothy says a wife shouldn’t teach or control her husband, basically because she was deceived, not Adam. However, most scholars do not attribute 1 Timothy to Paul, but believe it was written by a later author claiming Paul for authority. This concept has also been used to say women should not be leaders in the church, but the verses in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that have been used in this way, are believed to be editorial additions, and not Paul’s own words. If we look at what is considered authentically Paul in the letter to the Romans, he says this, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (Romans 5:12, NLT) That is the doctrine of Original Sin, and if we are honest, both partners are guilty of leaving us with that legacy.
Gibson’s commentary shares a symbolic view. “The serpent is temptation personified, and the woman and the man are sin personified.” (Gibson, p. 123) He identifies their sin as “disobedience of God…discontent, dissatisfied with what he has given us…self-deceit…rebellion…usurping God’s role and chasing him out of our lives.” When Satan tempted Jesus it was with many of these same things. But the Bible promises us that we can turn away from temptation. One of the most misquoted verses of scripture in our day is actually about dealing with temptation. 1 Corinthians 13:10 does not say God will not give you more than you can handle in the way we often think. What it does say is this, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
I think the most significant lessons the Bible offers us regarding sin is this: Accept responsibility for your own mistakes and choices. Don’t blame others for them. Confess and repent, which means be honest with God about what you have done wrong, then turn away from that sin by turning back to God. God can and does choose to forgive us, but there will still be consequences.
This week Mary Marthas studied another generation’s great temptation and sin, that of King David. By this point in his royal reign over a united kingdom, David had everything he needed and more. He had done well. But one night when he was not on the battlefield with his men, he was on his rooftop gazing not at the stars, but at his neighbor’s wife. Lusting after the one thing that wasn’t his, just as Eve longed for the one fruit she was denied, David managed to break several of the 10 commandments in a very short time. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, committed adultery with her, was jealous of Uriah’s integrity, and had him murdered to cover up the rest. But here’s the thing; when God sent Nathan to confront David with his sin, David didn’t play the blame game. He didn’t justify or rationalize. He didn’t deny his wrongdoing or make excuses. David simply said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) Nathan said God had forgiven David, but nonetheless there would be consequences.
For Adam and Eve and the serpent, there were consequences. The serpent crawls on its belly, and there is enmity between snakes and humans. Some Christians also see in the curses the promise that one day, one of Eve’s progeny will crush Satan, just as the New Testament promises that Jesus overcomes Satan and evil. For Eve and women ever after, there is pain in childbirth. It becomes a mixed blessing. For Adam and all of us, we no longer live in Paradise, and the earth no longer freely yields its produce. Instead we face hard work and challenges.
When we sin, there are natural consequences, and often a ripple effect affecting others, not just ourselves. When we sin, our choices interrupt our human relationships and our relationship with God. Our turning away from God may cause God to be angry with us, but I think, God is more disappointed and heart broken. In Paul Young’s novel Eve turned back to God and was reconciled in a restored relationship. That is what God hopes from us and offers to us through Jesus. As Liz Curtis Higgs sums up Eve’s story, she was “tempted by her flesh, humbled by her sin, and redeemed by her God.” (Higgs, p. 39)
We don’t know much of the rest of her story, but we know Eve gave birth to Cain and then to Abel. She credited God with enabling her to bring forth a man. However, the sin that had entered the world infected their lives, as Cain took the life of Abel. We don’t always remember the last two verses of her story at the end of Genesis 4. It reads, “25 Adam knew his wife intimately again, and she gave birth to a son. She named him Seth “because God has given me another child in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26 Seth also fathered a son and named him Enosh. At that time, people began to worship in the Lord’s name.” Eve’s story ends with hope. It is through Seth and then Enosh that we trace Jesus’ genealogy.