By Josiah Blake Tidwell
From The Creation to The Fall.
Gen. Chs. 1-3
Problems Solved. This simple narrative solves some of the great problems about which philosophers have speculated and before which scientists have stood baffled. Every child of the human race has asked, "What is the origin of the material world, what is the origin of life, and what is the origin of sin?" In general the philosophers held (and most of what science says concerning these matters is not science but speculative philosophy) that matter was eternal and simply asked how it came to its present state. One group, the materialists, held that an active principle inherent in the matter working through long ages, brought about the present state of things. Another group, the pantheists, held that every thing emanated from a common divine substance, working everywhere in nature. But this brief story lets at rest all this inquiry. It informs us that matter was not eternal nor did it come into existence by chance, but it was created out of nothing by our eternal God. The story incidentally sets forth the majesty and glory of God and man's dependence upon and his obligation to God. It also explains the origin of sin and of all man's ills and death.
Creation of Man. The Story of the preparation of a residence for man is told in five brief paragraphs. For concision, picturesqueness and concreteness, this narrative is not excelled in all literature. It shows how God acting as a creating Spirit through six successive periods of light and darkness prepared the world and put man in it. In the matter of the creation of man the presence and activity of Jehovah is especially emphasized. He shaped the body out of the dust of the earth and breathed into the nostrils of that human form that which made him become a living soul. It was the breath of God that gave life to man and hence he will return again to dust when that breath is withdrawn. Concerning the creation of woman it is better to admit that her creation was supernatural just as was man's. Her creation was to provide for man a helpful companionship so that his development and happiness might be complete. Her creation out of a part of man's body and to meet an inborn need provides the eternal grounds of marriage and the basis upon which they are in marriage to become one flesh and by reason of which man must "love his wife as his own flesh." Man is created in the image of God and like the Creator has intelligence and will and is given authority to rule over the earth.
Man's Home and Occupation. No sooner was man created than was planted in the far distant east a garden that should be to him a home and provide therein for his physical and spiritual needs. Where that garden was located is not known with certainty. Occupation was, however, provided so that he might exercise and develop each part of his nature. He exercised his mind in naming the animals and in some way the tree of good and evil was destined to be for his blessing. His soul had fellowship with Eve his helpmate and God his creator. This garden also had in it a life-giving tree that gave them the possibility of enjoying an endless life should they remain near it and continue to eat its fruit.
The Temptation. The study proceeds on the basis that there was already a race of fallen beings in the universe. Satan was the chief of these and had the mysterious power of tempting others to follow him. He assumed the form of a serpent-a creature least likely to be suspected and thereby deceived Eve the weaker. The temptation had several elements: (1) The talking serpent was to her in the nature of a miracle; (2) Eve had not heard the command of God herself (it was given before her creation) but had learned it from Adam. The devil therefore raised a doubt as to whether God really forbade it; (3) The question implies a doubt concerning the goodness and wisdom of God; (4) It appeals to the lust of flesh, to the pride of the eye and to the pride of life. It was beautiful, good for food, and to make her wise even like God; (5) In this appeal to curiosity there is an implied dare; (6) She was told that she had a mistaken idea of the penalty-that she should "not surely die."
In all this it will be noted that the temptation was to fall upward. All the motives-the satisfaction of natural appetite, the desire for knowledge and power and the love for beauty were in themselves worthy. The temptation was to better herself. Such it is always. Adam was not directly approached, but he willfully disobeyed without being beguiled as was the woman. The chief blame, therefore, fell upon him.
The Fall and Punishment. The fearful consequences of their sin are felt at once. They are changed so that they are conscious of guilt and endeavor to hide themselves from Jehovah. Thus they acknowledge their unfitness for fellowship with Him. Their soul having lost communion with God, they become corrupt. This is spiritual death. They were banished from the garden and forced to struggle for food. Their bodies became subject to pain and death by separation from the animating spirit. They could not longer eat of the life-giving tree of the garden. The earth was cursed so that instead of ministering to man's pleasure and support, it would produce much to his hurt. The woman in her unredeemed state was to be in subordination to her husband. The sad story of downtrodden women in heathen lands of all times since then, and even today wherever Christ is not known, tells something of the awful results of her sin.
The Hope Offered. The gloom of this sad story of their punishment was relieved by an element of hope. The man and his wife are not beyond the pale of God's love. There is given a promise (3:15) which assures the coming of one, who would contend with the tempter and would finally crush his head and repair the damage of the Fall. All of the rest of the Bible unfolds the plan and work of God in fulfilling this promise. There is beginning with Cain and Abel and running through the entire scripture a record of the conflict caused by the enmity between the seed of woman and that of her seducer. This conflict is to end when Christ the "seed of the woman" shall return to reign and shall cast his adversary into the bottomless pit. Along with this promise he also provided for them garments of the skins of animals such as were suited to their new and hostile environment and in which most writers find a suggestion of the covering of righteousness that comes to guilty sinners through the death of Jesus. Then too there was erected at the east of the garden an alter of worship not unlike that provided in connection with the Tabernacle later and where God dwelt in mercy and could be approached. Here was opened up a way by which they might after being forgiven again have a right to the tree of life and live forever.
Some Teachings of this Story. Back of this story are many truths worthy of most careful study. They constitute the basal facts of all history and religion. The following are put down as among the most vital: (1) Back of all nature is a personal Creator and Ruler who has the tenderest solicitude and care for man, as the highest product of his creation. (2) There was an orderly progress in creation from the more simple and less important to the most complex and most important. (3) All things were made for man and his comfort. (4) Marriage is a sacred obligation growing out of the very character of man and woman who were made for each other and each can, therefore, meet the deepest needs of the other. (5) Sin does not originate in God but in man's yielding to his baser instead of his nobler and diviner motives. (6) Sin as a cause brings its own punishment, the worst of which is the separation of the individual from harmonious relations with God, which is spiritual death.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The condition of the material universe when God began to prepare it for man's abode. (2) The six creative days or periods and what was created in each. (3) The special emphasis upon the presence and activity of God in the creation of man and woman. (4) The divine interest in and preparation for the happiness of man. (5) The home prepared for them. (6) The lessons about marriage, its purpose, basis, etc. (7) The law and place of testing in the formation of character. (8) The ills of life that are the results of some one's sin. (9) The nature and results of the curse upon the man, upon the woman, upon the tempter. (10) God's care for man after the Fall and the provisions for his recovery. (11) The revelation of God made by these three chapters. (12) The image of God in man.