And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you?…
These verses bring before us very distinctly the elements of man's sinful state, and of the redemptive dispensation of God which came out of it by the action of his brooding Spirit of life upon the chaos.
I. THE WORD OF GOD ADDRESSED TO THE PERSONAL CONSCIOUSNESS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW WORLD. "The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? Before that direct intercourse between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man there is no distinct recognition of the evil of sin, and no separation of its moral and physical consequences. The Where art thou? begins the spiritual work.
II. THE PROCESS OF THE WORK OF GOD IS THE CONSCIENCE IS ONE THAT LEADS US FROM THE OUTSIDE CIRCLE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO THE INNERMOST CENTER OF CONVICTION AND CONFESSION. I was naked," "I was afraid," "I hid myself," "The woman gave me of the tree," "I did eat;" so at last we get to the central fact - I broke the commandment, I am guilty towards God. Each lays the blame on another - the man on the woman, the woman on the serpent. But the main fact is this, that when once the voice of God deals with us, when once the Spirit of light and life broods over the chaos, there will be truth brought out, and the beginning of all new creation is confession of sin. After all, both the transgressors admitted the fact: "I did eat." Nor do they dare to state what is untrue, although they attempt to excuse themselves for there may be a true confession of sin before there is a sense of its greatness and inexcusableness.
III. The transgression being clearly revealed, next comes THE DIVINE CONDEMNATION. It is upon the background of judgment that redemption must be placed, that it may be clearly seen to be of God's free grace. The judgment upon the serpent must be viewed as a fact in the sphere of man's world, not in the larger sphere of the superhuman suggested by the later use of the term "serpent." God's condemnation of Satan is only shadowed forth here, not actually described. The cursed animal simply represents the cursed agent or instrument, and therefore was intended to embody the curse of sin to the eyes of man. At the same time, the fifteenth verse must not be shorn of its spiritual application by a merely naturalistic interpretation. Man's inborn detestation of the serpent brood, and the serpent's lurking enmity against man, as it waits at his heel, is rightly taken as symbolically representing
(1) the antagonism between good and evil introduced into the world by man's fall;
(2) the necessity that that antagonism should be maintained; and
(3) the purpose of God that it should be brought to an end by the destruction of the serpent, the removing out of the way both of the evil principle and of the besetments of man's life which have arisen out of it. This "first promise as it is called, was not given in the form of a promise, but of a sentence. Are we not reminded of the cross which itself was the carrying out of a sentence, but in which was included the redeeming mercy of God? Life in death is the mystery of Christ's sacrifice. It pleased the Lord to bruise him " (Isaiah 53:10). "Through death he destroyed him taut had the power of death," &c. (Hebrews 2:14). It must have been itself like a revelation of redeeming love that God pronounced sentence first upon the serpent, not upon man, thereby teaching him that he was in the sight of God a victira of the evil power, to be delivered by the victorious seed of the woman, rather than an enemy to be crushed and destroyed. The sentence seemed to say, Thou, the serpent, art the evil thing to be annihilated; man shall be saved, though wounded and bruised in the heel; the "woman's seed shall be the conqueror, - which was the prediction of a renovation of humanity in a second Adam, a dim forecasting of the future, indeed, but a certain and unmistakable proclamation of the continuance of the race, notwithstanding sin and death; and in that continuance it was declared there should be a realization of entire deliverance. The sentence upon the woman, which follows that upon the serpent, as she was the first in the transgression, is a sentence which, while it clearly demonstrates the evil of sin, at the same time reveals the mercy of God. The woman's sorrow is that which she can and does forget, for joy that a man is born into the world." Her desire to her husband and her submission to his rule do come out of that fall of her nature in which she is made subject to the conditions of a fleshly life; but from the same earthly soil spring up the hallowed blossoms and fruits of the affections, filling the world with beauty and blessing. So have the law of righteousness and the law of love from the beginning blended together in the government of God. In like manner, the sentence upon the man is the same revelation of Divine goodness in the midst of condemnation. The ground is cursed for man's sake. To thee it shall bring forth thorns and thistles, i.e. thy labor shall not be the productive labor it would have been - thou shalt put it forth among difficulties and obstacles. Thou shalt see thine own moral perversity reflected in the stubborn barrenness, the wilderness growth of nature. Yet thou shalt eat the herb of the field, and depend upon it. With sweat of thy face all through thy life thou shalt win thy bread from an unwilling earth. And at last the dust beneath thy feet shall claim thee as its own; thy toil-worn frame shall crumble down into the grave. It was
(1) a sentence of death, of death in life; but at the same time it was
(2) a merciful appointment of man's most peaceful and healthy occupation - to till the ground, to grow the corn, to eat the bread; and it was
(3) a proclamation of welcome release from the burden "when the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." There is no allusion in any of these-sentences to spiritual results of transgression, but that is only because the whole is a representation of the fall, objectively regarded. Just as the serpent is spoken of as though it were only an animal on the earth, so man's sin is spoken of as though it were only his life's error, to be paid for in his life's suffering; but as in the former case the deeper spiritual meaning lies behind the form of the serpent, so in the latter the condemnation which brings toil and suffering and death upon man's bodily frame brings upon his whole nature that which the external infliction symbolizes and sets forth. The life goes down into the dust, but it is the life which by sin had become a smitten, cursed thing; that hiding of it in the dust is the end, so far as the mere sentence is concerned. We must, however, wait for the revelation which is to be made in the new man, - the life coming forth again, - which, though but dimly promised, is yet suggested in the story of paradise. Adam gave a new name to his wife when she became to him something more than "a help-meet for him." He called her, first, woman, because she was-taken out of man.-He called her, afterwards, "Eve," as the life-producing, "because she was the mother of all living." The coats of skin - which were not, like the fig-leaves sewn together, man's own device for hiding shame, but God's preparation for preserving that reverence between the sexes so vital to the very continuance of the race itself - betokened again the mingling of mercy with judgment; for, apart altogether from any theory as to the slain animals whose skins were employed, the Divine origin of clothing is a most significant fact. When we are told that "the Lord God made them coats of skins, and clothed them," we must interpret the language from the standpoint of the whole narrative, which is that of an objective representation of the mysteries of man's primeval life. It would not be in harmony with the tone of the whole book to say in what method such Divine interposition was brought about. To the Biblical writers a spiritual guidance, a work of God in the mind of man, is just as truly God's own act as though it were altogether apart from any human agency. The origin of clothing was an inspiration. Perhaps it is not putting too much into the language to see in such a fact an allusion to other facts. Man is directed to use skins; might he not have been directed to slay animals? If so, might not such slaughter of animals have been first connected with religious observances, for as yet there is no allusion to the use of animal food, save in the indirect form of dominion over the lower creation? In the fourth chapter, in the extra paradisiacal life, the keeping of herds and flocks is mentioned as a natural sequel. Doubtless from the time of the fall the mode of life was entirely changed, as was its sphere. Before sin man was an animal indeed, but with his animal nature in entire subordination; after his fall he was under the laws of animal life, both as to its support and propagation. Death became the ruling fact of life, as it is in the mere animal races. Man is delivered from it only as he is lifted out of the animal sphere and becomes a child of God. The expulsion from Eden was part of the Divine sentence, but it was part of the redemptive work which commenced immediately upon the fall. The creature knowing good and evil by disobedience must not live forever in that disobedience. He must die that he may be released from the burden of his corruption. An immortality of sin is not God's purpose for his creature. Therefore the Lord God shut up Eden. - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?