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Relationship to Genesis 1-11b. Chapter 2-3 is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The relationship of Chapter 2-3 to the rest of the Adam-Noah cycle is discussed at Genesis 1-11b.
Story. Genesis 2-3 consists of seven major sections:
- Verses 2:4-17: Adam, placed in Garden, commanded not to eat tree of knowledge
- Verses 2:18-25: Lord says not good to be alone, Eve, unaware naked
- Verses 3:1-5: serpent induces Eve to transgress by eating fruit
- Verses 3:6-7: Adam & Eve eat and discover nakedness
- Verses 3:8-13: Where art thou? Adam & Eve admit eating fruit
- Verses 3:14-21: Lord pronounces curses, ground cursed for man’s sake, coats
- Verses 3:22-24: Adam and Eve know good from evil, driven from Garden, prevented from eating of tree of life
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 2-3 include:
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- Gen 2:4-5: Garden Translated from the Hebrew Gan--a garden enclosed by walls, such as in a courtyard or temple, separated off from the rest of the world.
- Gen 2:8: Eden. The name "Eden" seems to connote "a well-watered place."
- Gen 2:13: Ethiopia. The Hebrew word translated as "Ethiopia" in verse 13 is kush. In the context, the word more likely refers to a region of Mesopotamia rather than to the African country. Modern translations generally translate the word literally as "Cush."
- Gen 2:18-19: Help meet. The Hebrew word translated as "help meet" in verses 18 and 20 is ezer, usually translated as "helper" in modern translations. Usually when ezer appears in the Old Testament, it refers to God or Jehovah as the help or helper, such as in Psalm 70:5.
- Gen 2:22: Woman. The English word "woman" does not, in fact, have a meaning of one being taken out of man. See Etymology of Woman for a proper etymology.
- Gen 2:23: Man. Prior to verse 23, the Hebrew word translated "man" has been "adam," from which Adam gets his name. As an adjective, "adam" means "ruddy." When not used as a name, the noun means "earth." In vese 23, however, the word used is "ish." Its meaning (other than "man") isn't certain, but it may mean something like "that which exists." When used to mean "man," "adam" refers to either an individual or to humans in general. The word "ish," however, refers to specific individuals rather than to men or humans in general. The Hebrew word translated "woman" is "isha." Obviously it sounds very much like "ish," the word for "man," just as the English "woman" sounds very much like "man." "Isha" may be a variation of "ish."
- Verses 3:1: Subtile. The Hebrew word aruwm, translated as "subtil" in verse 1, in this context probably has meanings such as "sly," "crafty" or "cunning," all negative qualities. However, eight times in the book of Proverbs, such as in Proverbs 22:3, aruwm is translated as "prudent," a positive quality. Perhaps a good English equivalent of this word might be something such as "shrewd" or "highly aware" — a personal quality that can be used for good or evil. The use of this word suggests that the serpent was intelligent and knew exactly what he wanted to say.
- Gen 3:15: Enmity. The word enmity means roughly hatred. Enmity here is translated from the Hebrew word eybah. In both Hebrew and English the word has the same root as enemy. Enmity is essentially the feeling one has for an enemy. Merriam-Webster's definition suggests that enmity is a positive, active, and typically mutual hatred or ill will.
- The Lord puts enmity, or hatred, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The seed of the woman refers to people. The serpent represents the devil. His seed could refer to those who followed him in the pre-mortal life. It also may refer to those who follow Satan in this life; as Alma 5:41 indicates, those who follow Satan in this life become his children.
- Why would God put enmity between people and those who follow Satan? One reason may be that hatred of evil can serve as a barrier between us and evil (see also Amos 5:15). This reasoning may be similar to the reasoning the Lord gives for cursing the Lamanites (2 Ne 5:21-22). Nephi tells us that the point of that cursing was to make the Lamanites loathsome to the Nephites unless the Lamanites repented—this loathsome-ness served as a barrier. (Loathsome is less harsh then enmity; note though that we are also told that the Nephites hated the Lamanites because of their curse (Jacob 3:5).)
- Verse 15 seems to suggest that this enmity will lead to conflict. Just after God says he will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, he follows by saying that the woman will bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent will bruise the heel of the woman's seed. This verse shouldn't be read though as condoning attacks on evil. Mormon tells us, rather, that it is through the wicked that the wicked are punished Morm 4:5. Further to attack evil is inconsistent with what Jesus's teaches. In Matt 5:39 he tells us not to resist evil. Similarly in Rom 12:21 Paul tells us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. Though God gave us enmity for evil, Jesus and Paul place restraints on how that enmity should be exercised. (See also Prov 20:22, Rom 12:9.)
- Gen 3:15: It. The word translated as it is the Hebrew hu, a singular masculine pronoun that can also be translated as he, which is done in many modern translations as well as the Joseph Smith Translation (Moses 4:21). The argument for translating hu as it is that in Hebrew it grammatically agrees in number and gender with the word for offspring. Some translators have even translated hu in this context as they, since offspring refers to more than one person. Some early translations used by Catholics also have used the word she here, apparently based on some early Latin manuscripts that may have been erroneous.
- Gen 3:15: Bruise head, bruise heel. Christianity has traditionally, at least as far back as Ireneaus, interpreted Genesis 3:15 messianically: Jesus, the offspring of Eve, would crush Satan on the head. Those advocating this view sometimes quote Paul, who uses similar language in Romans 16:20.
- See discussion page about these "curses of the Fall".
- Redeemer of the Fall. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, not only were they cut off or fell from the presence of the Lord, but their natures as well as all living things upon the earth also became “fallen.” In addition, Adam and Eve — and their posterity — were to suffer more consequences.
- To Eve the Lord said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” To Adam, the Lord said, “… cursed shall be the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground, for thou shalt surely die …” [Moses 4:22-23].
- Jesus Christ was foreordained to remedy the effects of the Fall and to bring mankind back into the presence of the Lord. He likewise had to suffer the effects of the Fall. As we look at each “curse” in relation to mankind and Jesus Christ, we can more fully understand the aspects of His atoning sacrifice.
- Gen 3:17-19: Thorns and thistles. The curse of thorns and thistles is obvious to mankind. But as many physical things can teach us spiritual truths, we should also look at this curse with spiritual eyes. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul stated, “But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you …”[Hebrews 6:8-9].
- In Isaiah 10:17 we read, “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.”
- In these verses, thorns and briars refer to wickedness, not plants. On a spiritual level, we can see the effects of the fall in ourselves as the brother of Jared so succinctly said, “… because of the fall, our natures have become evil continually” [Ether 3:2] — and as King Benjamin stated, “an enemy to God” [Mosiah 3:19]. Instead of naturally “bearing the good fruits” of kindness, patience, forgiveness, and so on, our natural tendencies are “thorns and briars” of pride, selfishness, envy, and other forms of wickedness that if left unchecked, will crowd out the spiritual good fruit. [see parable of the sower, Matthew 13:22]
- When we come to a realization of our carnal or fallen nature, we can plead as King Benjamin’s people for the application of the atoning blood of Christ [Mosiah 4:2] and pray that we can have “this wicked spirit rooted out of our breast” [Alma 22:15] — not only to receive a remission of our sins, but to become “born again” and become new creatures in Christ [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that the natural man can be overcome. Not only did Christ pay for the “briars and thorns” of our fallen nature in Gethsemane, He was also “wounded for our transgressions” [Isaiah 53:5] with a literal crown of thorns and pierced to the cross with “thorns” of iron. He bore the symbols of the Fall that He has paid the price for.
- Gen 3:15: By sweat of brow we earn our bread. Adam was told that by the sweat of his face, he would eat his daily bread. We know that for most of us, long hours and hard work are required to make a living. On a spiritual level, since we are cut off from the presence of the Lord, it requires hard work to earn our spiritual bread. Jesus said, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” [John 6:29] Jesus Christ offers us “living bread” if we will come unto Him, for He is the Bread of Life [John 6:33]. Yet it takes effort to obtain the word of the Lord. In the scriptures we read of those who “wrestled in mighty prayer before the Lord’ [Enos 1:2], who fasted and prayed many days to know certain truths [Alma 5:46]. The scriptures clearly indicate that we must nourish our faith with great diligence and good works.
- Christ’s work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man [Moses 1:3] also required intense labor. He has declared that He has “suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.” [3 Nephi 11:11] We read in Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink — nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” Christ “sweat as it were great drops of blood” [Luke 22:55] as He bore the sins of mankind, another symbol of this curse of the Fall.
- Gen 3:16: Sorrow in Bringing Forth Children. The Lord told Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.” Because of their fallen nature, children do not always grow up obedient, full of patience and willing to serve one another. Parents often experience much sorrow in child- rearing.
- Jesus Christ, in order for mankind to become His spiritually begotten sons and daughters, also experienced great sorrow in the conception and bringing forth of His children. In Matthew 26:36-38 we read, “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane … and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’” In His sufferings in our behalf, He became the great “Deliverer” and “Father” as He paid the price or “delivered” us from sin. As we partake of the Atonement in our lives, we become His spiritually begotten children. After King Benjamin’s people experienced the cleansing power of the atonement in their lives, they entered into a covenant to be obedient to the will and commandments of the Lord. Because of that experience and the covenant, they were called “the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.“ [Mosiah 5:6-7]
- Abinadi also testified, “… that when his soul has been made a offering for sin, he shall see his seed … for these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?” [Mosiah 15:10 & 12] Isaiah said, “He shall see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11, emphasis added].
- Gen 3:16: Wives Subject to husbands. Because Eve yielded unto temptation in the Garden, she was told, “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Throughout the ages, women have been oppressed and mistreated because of unrighteous dominion. However, Jesus Christ has instructed His prophets to teach the people the proper order of marriage. Paul counseled, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it … So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself [Ephesians 5:25, 28]. Our latter-day prophets have likewise counseled husbands to love and respect their wives.
- Paul used the analogy of the relationship of Christ to the church as husbands to wives. In one way, we can view Adam as a type of Christ and Eve as representative of mankind. It was Eve who succumbed to temptation and was doomed to the Fall, or spiritual death in being cut off from the presence of God. Adam had a choice and he partook that “man might be” (2 Nephi 9:25). Likewise Jesus Christ did not yield to temptation, but “partook that I might finish my preparations unto the children of men” (Doc. & Cov. 19:19). Eve (or all mankind) in order to be redeemed from the effects of the “fall,” needed to covenant to yield her will to her husband, Adam, which is a type of Christ.
- The scriptures use the imagery of a marriage covenant with Christ being the bridegoom and the church as the bride [Revelations 19, Doctrine & Covenants 33:17, 65:3, 133:19]. Hosea teaches us of this covenant relationship with the Lord. He also shows that we, the covenant bride, have played the “harlot” and have gone after other lovers, breaking that covenant relationship. When we come to a realization that these other lovers do not bring us happiness, then we shall say, “I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now” [Hosea 2:7].
- When we return to Christ, the faithful husband, He promises, “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.” [Hosea 2:14, 19 “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (which means husband); and shalt call me no more Baali (which means master) [vs. 16].”
- Death. Adam and Eve were told, “For thou shalt surely die” as a result from partaking of the forbidden fruit. Spiritual and physical death was a result of the Fall. Adam and Eve and all mankind, because of the Fall and our sinful natures, are cut off from the presence of God — hence the first spiritual death. Jesus Christ suffered spiritual death when he vicariously became unclean when he took upon himself the sins of the world. It was the first time he had experienced the separation from the Father and he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
- And as “In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1st Corinthians 15:22), all mankind suffer physical death. Christ also suffered physical death. He overcame both physical and spiritual death through the resurrection and the atonement in order to open the way for each one of us to be resurrected and redeemed from our sinful nature and to be brought back into the presence of the Father.
- In this “fallen” world, mankind was put in a position of spiritual and physical death. Because Jesus Christ chose to be our Savior, He took upon Himself the effects of the Fall and overcame them. He took upon Himself our sicknesses, pains, infirmities, and our sins so that He would know how to truly succor us and blot out our transgressions according to the power of his deliverance (Alma 7:11-13). Truly “there is no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” [Mosiah 3:17].
- Gen 3:17-19, 23: Tilling the ground as governing or stewardship. Upon creating Adam and Eve, God gave them dominion over all animals (Gen 1:26-28) and gave them plants and animals for food. (Gen 1:29-31). Dominion over the food chain can be exercised in either of two ways. Dominion can be exercised as a predator, or as a hunter gatherer, by raiding available food sources and then perhaps moving on. Alternatively, dominion can be exercised as an agriculturalist, or as a farmer or herder, by raising and caring for a stable food supply. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to dress and keep it. (Gen 2:15). Upon being driven from the Garden, Adam was told to till the ground and to earn his bread by the sweat of his face. (Gen 3:19, 23). Adam was thus instructed to exercise dominion over his food supply as an agriculturalist who raises and cares for his food supply. In other words, Adam was instructed to govern his food supply rather than simply predating upon it.
- The first city mentioned in the Bible is wicked Babel. (Gen 11:4-5). But in the Joseph Smith Translation, the first city mentioned is the City of Enoch, which is portrayed as the ideal human society. (Moses 7:19, 63, 68-69). Cities are large population centers with formal power structures that can only exist when mankind effectively governs not only the food chain but also mankind itself. The informal chieftain of a band of nomadic raiders exercises dominion like a hunter gatherer or a predator, moving into an area, taking what is available, and then moving on. The king of a city or a state must exercise dominion like an agriculturalist or a governor, caring for his subjects in order to draw sustainably upon a stable tax base. God is frequently described as a king with a throne (D&C 76:92-93; Rev 4:1-3), and his creations and habitation are often described as kingdoms. (D&C 88:36-39; 1 Ne 15:33-35). God does in fact nurture and care for his subjects in order to take glory to himself (Moses 1:39). And the ideal society in all of human history was a city, a mode of living that requires competent governance.
- Within this context, the statement that Adam was to till the ground, and thus learn to govern his food supply rather than merely predating upon it, is not a punishment. To the contrary, it is an important lesson for children of the Eternal King who seek to become like him (Matt 5:48; discussion here) and who seek, as wise stewards over a few things (Matt 24:45-47; 25:21), to inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions (D&C 132:19; also see D&C 121:46), all of which must be governed rather than predated upon.
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Prompts for further study
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- Gen 2:5: The creation story in Genesis 1 is clearly different from that in Genesis 2. For example, in chapter 1, the creation takes six days, in this chapter it takes one (verse 4); in 1 the earth begins as a mass of water, but in 2 the land is already there (verse 5-6); in 1 the two sexes are created at the same time, but in 2 male is created before female; in 1 the plants are created on the third day--before the creation of humans--but in 2 man is created before the plants (verses 7 and 9); and in 1 the living creatures were created before humans, but in 2 they are created afterwards (verse 19). How do we account for these differences? Why is each account important to us? What does each teach that the other does not?
- Gen 2:7: Is verse 7 purely symbolic? Was Adam also a literal son of God, but not born in the flesh (or in other words mortality)? (See the genealogy of Christ in Luke 3:38, Paul's discussion of the two Adams (or two gods) in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 especially verses 45-50.)
- This verse is related to a lot of our religions language. For example, inspire means "to breath into," and spirit means, literally, "breath." What is the point of this language? In other words, what does it teach us? (As you think about this question, consider John 3:8.)
- Gen 2:8: What typological significance might the Garden of Eden have?
- Gen 2:9: The tree of life is an important symbol in the Book of Mormon. Why do Book of Mormon writers dwell on the tree of life and not on both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge?
- Gen 2:9: What does the word "knowledge" mean if we are talking about knowing good and evil?
- Gen 2:11-14: Obviously is it important that Eden is the source of much water. What kinds of things are associated with water? What kinds of things might that suggest?
- Gen 2:15: What does it mean to dress the garden? What does it mean to keep it? One translator says that Adam's job was "to serve and to guard." What do you think of that translation? What does Adam's job in the Garden mean to us? Do we have any similar job?
- Gen 2:16-17: How do you explain this commandment in light of the fact that it was necessary for Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree? How can God forbid what must be? Do you read "you shall die" as a threat of punishment? Or is it a way of making the choice between the two trees mutually exclusive?
- Gen 2:17: Could the Father be "responsible" for mortality? Immortality? Or did his two literal or figurative sons have to bear the weight of this responsibility?
- Gen 2:17: Why did it take one (Michael/Adam) to create the conditions of mortality and another (Christ) to create immortality? Was there no other way to accomplish this?
- Gen 2:17: According to this story, where did Adam live before he was placed in the garden? Why don't we know more about humans before they enter the garden?
- Gen 2:17: How does a correct understanding of the Fall change our views of the Atonement? Which event was more essential, or could one exist with out the other?
- Gen 2:18: Why is it not good for man to be alone? Aside from the things we bring to this story because we know the doctrine, are there things suggested by the Bible itself?
- Gen 2:18: Notice that the Adam is promised "an help meet" rather than "an helpmeet"--two words rather than one. "Meet" means appropriate. What kind of helper would be appropriate to Adam? What kind of help does Adam need at this point in the story? Later?
- Gen 2:19: What is the significance of Adam naming the animals?
- Gen 2:19-20: In this version of the story, Verse 18 prepares us for the woman's creation and verse 21 tells us of that creation, but these two verses break up the story of her creation. Why? What do they have to do with the creation of the woman?
- Gen 2:20: Does the end of this verse help us understand what verses 19 and 20 have to do with the creation of Eve? What happened to Adam as he named the animals; what did he discover?
- Gen 2:23: Does this verse help us understand what the story of Eve's creation teaches us? Given the important role naming has played in this story, is there anything significant about the fact that Adam names Eve? If so, what?
- Gen 2:24: Who is speaking in this verse, Adam or the writer? What does it mean to leave father and mother? What does it imply? What does it mean to cleave to a person? What does it mean to be one flesh?
- Gen 2:25: What things might the couple's nakedness signify? Why should they be ashamed? What is the purpose of this verse?
- Gen 3:7: Were both (or all four rather) of their eyes opened at the same time? Did Adam and Eve eat the fruit at the same time? Why the need to clothe themselves?
- Gen 3:14: What does it mean for the serpent to be "cursed above all cattle"?
- Gen 3:14: What does it mean for the serpent to eat dust? Is there a difference here between God who creates Adam from the dust, and the serpent, who is forced to eat dust but creates nothing? Or a difference between the serpent eating dust and Adam who comes from dust, and returns to dust? Man is created from dust after the mist comes up and makes the dust into clay--does this verse indicate that the serpent is forced to live in a pre-clay (mortal) state of dust?
- Gen 3:15: Who is the serpents seed?
- Gen 3:17: Cursed is the ground for your sake. Why is a curse given for Adam's sake? How does a curse over the earth (or the ground, rather) benefit Adam?
- Gen 3:22: Was there death on this earth prior to Adam partaking of the fruit (before answering see Bible Dictionary entry for the fall)?
- Gen 3:22: If there was no death previously, how does this fit into popular views of theological evolution, evolution or other controversial issues? Can current views of science be reconciled with the creation account, or is this simply a matter of faith?
- Gen 3:22: Is the death referred to in verse 22, a spiritual or physical death? Or both?
- Gen 3:22: How do we find our way to our own "tree?" Can we partake (of the atonement) and live forever after we overcome our sins?
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- James Faulconer's exegesis about some aspects of community from Genesis 2 and 3.
- Gen 2:9: Tree of life and Asherah: Asphodel P. Long suggests a connection in an address titled "Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah: Continuity of a Goddess symbol in Judaism?" The First Sophia Fellowship Feminist Theology Lecture, The College of St. Mark & St. John. Plymouth. 4th December 1996.
- Gen 3:6-7: For more links on the proper response to evil see the Topical Guide retribution and forebearance.
- Gen 3:14-21: In the Fall 1991 General Women's Meeting, Gordon B. Hinckley (then the first counselor in the First Presidency) said that it is to wrong use verse 16 to justify abuse of women by their husbands (Ensign magazine, November 1991, page 97). He went on to say: "My own interpretation of that sentence is that the husband shall have a governing responsibility to provide for, to protect, to strengthen and shield the wife. Any man who belittles or abuses or terrorizes, or who rules in unrighteousness, will deserve and, I believe, receive the reprimand of a just God who is the Eternal Father of both His sons and daughters."
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