“And to Adam he said: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, which I commanded you, saying ‘you shall not eat from it’, cursed is the ground in your cause. In stress will you eat from it all the days of your life. Brambles and thorns will it sprout to you, and you will eat the crop of the field. In the sweat of your face will you eat bread, until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken, because dust you are, and to dust will you return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Let’s remember how this scene was originally set. At the beginning of Genesis 2, the writer offers a preamble which basically says ‘when God made heaven and earth, and before any shrub was cultivated, and any crop had grown… no man had ever tilled the ground…’ (ref. Gen. 2:4-5) Finally, the writer has brought us full circle, explaining why men share their lives with back-breaking physical labor – especially in the fields.
The author also reiterates why it happened, but first, there are two minor points which can help us understand the context a little better:
1) Stress. I think ‘stress’ is the emphasis to humans, in order to contrast the stress-free Eden with the post-rebellion world. God speaks the Hebrew itzavon to both Adam and Chavah (Eve). Read this post to understand why I think itzavon = “stress”.
2) Brambles and Thorns. We shouldn’t focus on the physical aspect of “brambles and thorns”, but rather the stress it causes. Yes, these two words are associated with the verb for “prick”, but the aggressive nature of these types of plants is the real focus, i.e. Hosea 10:18, where they are depicted as rapidly overtaking the altar of an idol. Every plant with stingers and thorns – such as blackberries, nettles, thistles, etc. – sprouts rapidly from seed, and can aggressively take over a disturbed field if left to its natural devices. The main takeaway is that though man cultivates a field, thorny weeds would also “sprout”, causing frustration and many man hours to eradicate in the “sweat in his face”… and unnecessary stress.
Aside from these minor points, there is one specific phrase that seems to jump off the page:
“arurah ha-adamah ba-avurekha”
This is an obvious rhyme meaning “cursed is the ground in your cause”. Though the majority of Bible translations read “sake” in place of the Hebrew “abur”, this is a confusing choice. In modern English “sake” is synonymous with “benefit”, which is the exact opposite of a curse! Secondly, abur usually means “cause” or “intent” elsewhere, as in the following examples:
- “And yet for this I have caused thee to stand, so as to show thee [Pharaoh] My power… (Exodus 9:16, YLT)
- “For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.” (2 Samuel 17:14, KJV
- “In order to bring round the appearance of the thing hath thy servant Joab done this thing… (2 Samuel 14:20)
The ground was cursed not for man’s “sake” or “for his own good” as some commentators have suggested, but for Adam’s intentions – chief among them his desire to be his own, autonomous god separate from the Most High’s sovereignty. Adam became carried away with the luxurious fruit of Eden, its running (living) waters, the gemstones, and a physical body continually in its prime – in other words, Adam lived like a god long enough to think he was one! Now, he would find it more difficult to think that way, when he fought aggressive weeds, the sweat in his eyes, and of course, the aging process leading to an eventual death. Real “gods” do not experience any of these stresses of life.
This specific word abur solidifies a lesson reiterated throughout the Word of God: that what we do in rebellion is only sequential to the original intentions within us. This is exactly the same as Messiah Yeshua taught:
“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies. (Matthew 15:18-19)
God has always emphasized from the Beginning that mankind’s intentions are what actually lead to his downfall. Nevertheless, though God seems to be harsh here, I find grace in these songs to both Adam and Chavah, especially in light of the rest of Genesis.
Forsaking today’s political correctness and its lies about gender expectations, the truth is that men and women are better off in intimate marriages. In fact, it’s the only way for society to preserve itself. Genesis 3:16-19 is not just a poetic judgment, it contains commandments designed to set Mankind on a course back to God! Because as soon as we turn the pages of Genesis, what do we see? Instead of the one-man-one-woman pattern of marriage, man “corrupts his way” (cf. Gen. 6:12). Harems were formed by the celebrity-like “Nephilim”, who eventually learned that the easiest way to feed their clans was through violence and unjust gain (cf. Gen. 6:1-13). Presumably, they robbed and killed other clans who grew crops (a serious commodity in times of a curse) “in the sweat of their face.” In the end, God says something similar to what He previously had said about Adam’s “cause”:
“And YHVH said… I will not alter again the ground for the intentions of man, though the conceptions in the heart of man is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21)
Yes, the Hebrew for “intentions” is once again abur, and is synonymous for what we imagine in our minds. It’s the same intentions that led to our expulsion from Paradise, to drown in the Great Flood, and by any and every other course leading to our demise. By that time our intentions will have destroyed us in the End of Days will have destroyed us countless times since the Beginning of time. This is what God says to Adam, and what He’s also telling all of us. Ω