What came next, God’s pronouncements of the suffering and tragedy to follow, were the natural result of what the man, and the woman, had brought into their world. It’s as though God had warned, do not jump off this cliff, because if you do, the law of gravity will take over, you will plummet to the ground and be crushed to death.
The woman decided God was lying for His own selfish purposes, that He was holding out on her. So, she took the man’s willing hand, and, metaphorically, they jumped off the cliff together. What exhilaration! It must have felt like flying for just a few minutes, that awesome sense of freedom and power…until they realized the ground was hurtling towards them, and they really were going to die.
The Lord turned His attention first to the serpent. YHWH, God of the Covenant, laid out the course of human history: there would be a struggle between the serpent and humankind, tension between those who would love God and those who rejected God, and finally there would come a promised one who, though wounded by the serpent, would ultimately destroy this enemy of God and humanity. There was judgment, but one day mercy would overcome justice, for there would be the hope of a deliverer.
How ishah’s heart must have burned and thrilled, with desperate hope, at God’s words. From that moment forward she waited with focused anticipation for the promised savior, the one who would come from her own body, just as she had come as an ezer – powerful rescuer – for ish, from adam’s own body.
For the woman, the consequences would primarily affect her relationships. Interestingly, God said her pain would be increased, evidence that pain would have already existed, even in the perfection of Eden. We can learn that pain is not necessarily a bad thing, but could be a good thing, able to strengthen and deepen the man and the woman, and their relationship with each other, as well as with God. But now, that pain would be greatly increased.
The word ‘desire,’ here, occurs only two more times in the Bible. The second is found in the next chapter, in God’s warning to the woman’s firstborn son, Cain, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” The last place is in the Song of Songs, where the Prince’s beloved sighs, I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” Whatever the nature of this word, it is used both positively and negatively in scripture to convey a powerful, transcendent longing. To surrender to it is to be filled and enveloped, held completely in its sway. There are only two responses one may have, for there appears to be no middle ground: master it, or abandon oneself to it.
For woman, corresponding to the man as his strength, companion and chief support would not always feel like a blessing or a calling, or a worthy destiny to the woman. Her intense longing for him, and his tendency to want to master her and have dominion over her, like he did over the animals, and not accept her as his equal partner, would make their relationship painful, a struggle, with longing and resistance, both guarded against the other. You and I feel it in our relationships across the board, to this day.
For the man, work would now include stress and frustration, a sense of fruitlessness, as much of his work would produce unacceptable results. In cursing the earth, God not only greatly increased the man’s pain, and frustration, But God also equipped the earth to survive, and even push back against, humankind’s onslaughts. In a hidden way, this curse may have become our severe blessing today, as our hardy planet continues to exist, despite our worst efforts to gut it of all life and resources.
Did ish unconsciously draw his leaves around him, protecting the most vulnerable part of himself, as he heard the Lord’s terrible words? Did isha look mournfully at her man and wonder what the Lord meant about both the longing and rejection to come?
Not only did the man and the woman die spiritually, and in their inner beings, but physical death would be their ultimate end, as no longer would they have access to the Tree of Life.
Life changes on a dime. You wake up to a beautiful day, the warm sun streaming through the window, cheerful sounds of birds singing to each other, everything is right in the world, all is well within. And then the phone rings. Imagine just such a day, as isha woke up to her beloved ish, resting in the crook of his arm on a soft bed of leaves, watching the dappled sun rays around them, wondering what fruit they might have for breakfast. Was it then, in that soft, gentle idyl, the snake slithered near?
Now, crushed in their grief over loss, all the beauty around them taken on with a new reality of sorrow, hardship, enmity, suffering, and death, ish and isha stood before the One Who had always loved them, and saw a new facet of their beautiful God.
Later, God would reveal this about His nature, saying “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Before them yawned millennia upon millennia of their future generations, who would all groan under the burden of sin ish and ishah had brought into the world. The day had begun in such warmth and beauty, in love and joy, in peace and plenty. And now, though the sun still shone, and the birds still sang, their world was plunged into darkness and the sounds of lament.
[Fig Leaves | Pixabay]