In Genesis 3 we have the account of an event which changed everything about human life. The details describe the change in the relationship between God and his creatures, between his human creatures themselves, and between these creatures and their environment. The chapter tells us why we no longer live in Eden, with all its pleasures and delights. It tells us why we live in a world of problems, of frustrations, of disappointments and of fears.
The details in the chapter are not wide-ranging, in the sense that there are many other consequences of sin that are not mentioned. No mention is made of suffering, of wars, of crimes, and countless other effects. I don’t suppose it entered the minds of Adam and Eve that they would experience murder within their family. Neither does the account mention that many people would not get married. Instead, it focuses on the situation as it was and considers some issues that belonged to Eve and on some issues that belonged to Adam. From these issues, we can derive general principles.
First, Adam and Eve experienced shame. They became aware of their nakedness. They had been created naked, although some think that they were clothed with glory and had no need for a covering. When they sinned, they lost that glorious covering and stood naked before God. They sensed that they were now unfit to be seen by God. But the root of their shame was in what they now felt in their hearts.
Second, Adam and Eve were afraid of God. They attempted to hide from his presence (v. 9). Before they sinned, there had been nothing to be afraid of. God was their provider, their companion. They had been warned by him of the consequences of disobedience, which was death. Now they were dreading his reaction to their sins. As we think of their response, we should note that it is appropriate to be afraid of God. After all, he is the sovereign judge. It is a sign of intelligence to be afraid of God’s condemnation and a sign of foolishness to imagine that somehow we don’t need to be.
Third, they attempt to blame others for the situation; Adam blames Eve, she blames the serpent. What a sad commentary on the effects of sin. Adam admits he has sinned, but does not confess that he is to blame. Instead he blames the one whom God had given to him as his companion. ‘Rather than bear the blame, he will fling it anywhere, whoever may suffer’ (H. Bonar). And this attempt not to accept blame is instantaneous. Adam and Eve did not have to learn to blame others, this reaction came with the sin. Adam even tried to blame God because it was him who had created the woman. We can summarise Adam’s admittance of his sin as bold, blasphemous and blaming.
Fourth, God also indicates that there would be conflict within the family, when speaking from Eve’s perspective he says that she will attempt to control her husband, but will not be able to. What is being said here is not a reference to the modern concept of equality. Instead, Eve is told that God’s judgement on her will affect profoundly the two basic roles of wife and mother. Instead of harmony, there will be conflict. Instead of pleasure, there will be pain and danger. As John Piper puts it, ‘This is a description of misery, not a model for marriage.’
Fifth, God judges the man by ensuring that his role as provider will be a difficult and frustrating one. Life will involve sorrow and disappointment, and will ultimately close in death. The way his situation is depicted is like a battle between Adam and the ground, with the ground winning because eventually Adam, as do all humans, will return to dust when he dies.
As we think of these verses, we have to admit that they accurately describe the human situation. Human lives are marked by disappointment, dangers, and death. It is easy to see that is the case. Yet many people fail to consider that our difficulties are described in Genesis 3, with the explanation that we have them because we have sinned. But the chapter does explain the universality of sin, the existence of death and the inability of the human race, despite all its technological advances, to change human nature.