As a young child, I remember misbehaving and having my mother pronounce punishment for whatever “crime” I had committed against childhood humanity. I used to think, at times, that her punishment was unjust and didn’t fit my offense. And along those same lines, the punishment given to Adam and Eve certainly didn’t fit their offense.
After they had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Bible states that the eyes of both of them were opened – opened to the realities that there were dark forces in the world to counter the goodness they had only known from God. Opened to their human condition and the world in which they lived. And opened to the fact that they had disobeyed God, and He would find out. It almost paints a picture of a childlike existence in the Garden until they had eaten the fruit and their eyes were opened, doesn’t it?
But because of their disobedience, God pronounces judgement. He could have simply destroyed them and started over with the creation of human beings. But God does not do that, even though their disobedience certainly warranted death. Do you notice that He does not start with the woman who was the first one to disobey Him? He starts with the serpent. And the words He uses are, “Because you have done this”, done what you might ask? The serpent had tempted Eve in her naïveté. When Satan entered the serpent, he did not go and tempt the man. The man had the direct command of God and knew exactly what God had told him. However, the woman did not. She had heard the command from man and when the serpent played on the words, she didn’t know the exact truth. Therefore, since the serpent went against God’s command for established humanity, God not only changes the physical appearance of the serpent, but He adds to the punishment of the serpent the eternal damnation that would be coming to him in the future. And the very woman that he tricked would produce generations of people from which Jesus Christ would come. Notice God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush you head and you will strike his heel.” So the descendent of the woman, Jesus Christ, would deal a death blow to Satan and that best that Satan would do would be to organize events to culminate with Christ’s death upon the cross. But little did he know that very act would bring about salvation for all of mankind whom the serpent had desired to see fall short of God’s grace and enter into eternal damnation with his trickery.
And to the woman, God adds no scolding at the beginning, as He did for the serpent, and as He would do to the man. He simply pronounces judgement on her and woman’s punishment speaks of her very function – childbirth. God increased the pains that she was going to experience and gave her an internal struggle that would always cause her to want to rule over her husband, kind of like she did in the garden. However, God would never allow woman to rule man again, although there would always be an internal desire to do so.
But for Adam God offers an additional scolding, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it’…God is telling Adam that he should have known better because he had received the direct command from God Himself. And that no matter what the woman said, Adam should not have listened to her. So God curses the very function of man – which was labor. And then He introduced the death factor, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Up to this point there had been no death. And the very thing which God had told Adam at the beginning was now going to come to pass – “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” And it wasn’t just man who would die. Animals were also affected. The animals that had done nothing wrong were now under the curse because of man’s sin. And the first to animals to die would be used for their skin to cover the nakedness of the man and the woman.
And so, as in many sins, there were innocent victims. Victims who had done nothing to deserve their punishment and had committed no crime.