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.