Thoughts on the Fall: A Reflection on Genesis 2 and 3

In my last post, I wrote about how the creation account in Genesis 1 reveals much about who God is and who we are. It reveals God’s creativity, his power to make things happen, his ability to bring about life and human flourishing, and his love for all of creation. The account then ends by saying we were created in the image of God. I believe this means that we are supposed to reflect those same qualities. We are to be creative, make things happen, speak life into people, work to bring about human flourishing, and love and care for all of creation. We have a high calling, and this sets us apart from the rest of creation. We are God’s favorite part of creation, and he finds pleasure in our existence. 

All of this is great, but it raises some questions for me. What if I am trying to be creative and make things happen, but I run into roadblock after roadblock? What about people who are cruel and work to oppress and subjugate others to their own will? What about people who want to gain power through impoverishing others? If we are called to love and care for creation, why have we harmed or even destroyed so much of our environment?

I think we have to take some time to consider our current human condition. It’s easy to think God is withholding something from us at times. At least it is for me. We might think that we know what is best for us. Or maybe we believe that God does know what’s best, but he doesn’t actually have our best interests at heart. Maybe he has the ability to do good for us, but he somehow doesn’t care about us or our situations. 

In Genesis 2 and 3, I believe Adam and Eve fell into the same way of thinking. Adam and Eve were convinced that they could become just as wise as God and that God was holding that back from them. The serpent brought with him a force that wanted to unravel the beauty and order God had given to the universe. Humanity, who had power and dominion, would be a perfect target because of their special place. Human decisions have the power to change the world, whether that’s for better or for worse.  

It seems that when humanity fell, all of creation fell. Everything was damaged. Work became hard and toilsome, and much of our time is now spent beating back the thorns and thistles of life. Our relationship with God was severed. As Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves, our creativity, which was once in line with the goodness and beauty of God, became a way to cover our shame and hide from truth.

Adam and Eve did learn about the difference between good and evil the the serpent promised, but they also tragically learn that God was not actually withholding any good thing from them. He was actually doing quite the opposite.  

After God finds Adam and Eve, he confronts them, and we see the first physical death of the Bible. That first death is not that of Adam or Eve. God kills an animal and uses its skin to make a covering for Adam and Eve.

Now, why is this significant? I believe that even in this early passage, we see that God already planned for a substitution. We failed, but he would send someone who wouldn’t fail. We deserve punishment, but he would send someone who would absorb our punishment.

Here are at least two* foreshadowings I see of a future Messiah: 

  1. Though he bruised man’s heel, man would also crush the serpent’s head. God tells Adam that the serpent will bruise his heel. Literally this is talking about snake bites, but this also has rich symbolic meaning. In Romans 5, Jesus is referred to as the new Adam. Where Adam (or we) failed, Christ succeeded. When Adam (or we) fell to temptation, Jesus withstood temptation. His death and resurrection was the crushing of the serpents head and the reversal of the curse of the fall. 
  2. Christ would be the lamb sacrificed to cover our sin and shame. Like the animal sacrificed in Genesis, Jesus was sacrificed to cover our shame. He absorbed our punishment on the cross and removed our guilt. 

Though we have messed up and fallen short of our high calling, and though we have used our God-given power and influence to inflict harm, our Savior has come to forgive us and free us. He came to restore us to our original purpose, and we can once again learn to walk in our high calling and purpose. 

* I have heard people say that Adam calling his wife Eve because she is the mother of all living was prophetic. I had always taken this somewhat literally. However, some people take this to mean that even though Adam and Eve were spiritually dead, one day the Messiah would be born through her line. He would give life to people, and in that sense also, she is the mother of all living.