Humanity’s Relationship with Humankind, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #33)


Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 3:17-19 which reads: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is 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; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul:

“The woman is frustrated in her natural relationships within the home: painful labor in bearing children and subordination toward her husband. The man is frustrated in his activity to provide food. Each experiences pain by these reversals. Man’s natural relationship to the ground, to rule over it, is reversed; instead of submitting to him, it resists and eventually swallows him. The earth, frustrated by the Creator’s assignment to disharmony, longs for restoration. Labor itself is a blessing because man’s work reflects the activity of the working God. Physical death is both a judgment and a blessing. It renders all activity vain, but delivers the redeemed from earthly frustration and opens the way to an eternal salvation that outlasts the grave.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Martin Luther. He said: “For some years now I have read through the Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.”

Our topic for today is titled: “Humanity’s Relationship with Humankind (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Two relationships are addressed by the curse recorded in Genesis 3:6 — that of mother and child and that of husband and wife. While the text speaks of childbirth, more than the physical pain of birth seems to be involved. First, generally where the Hebrew word here translated “pain” is used, it means “vexation, grief, anguish” or some type of emotional pain. Second, the phrase “your pains in childbearing” renders a difficult expression — literally, “your pain and your conception.” While scholars have usually taken the phrase to mean physical pain in the process of giving birth, other possibilities include an accelerated birthrate or, coupled with the next phrase, other types of pain experienced later in the parenting process. This latter meaning is borne out by historical evidence when we evaluate the struggles between parents (mothers especially) and their children. Part of the pain a parent experiences “in childbearing” is the emotional pain as a child grows and does not live up to the expectations of the mother or father.

The second relationship noted in Genesis 3:16 is that of husband and wife. the observation is addressed to the woman, but the object of the relationship is the man. The expression “your desire will be for” is used only one other time in the Old Testament, and that is in the next chapter, where Cain is told by God, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you.” The phrase seems to suggest a seeking of dominance. In the next clause of Genesis 3:16 (“and he will rule over you”), the Hebrew word for “and” may just as likely be translated “but”, so what we seem to see here is conflict between the previously complementary couple. Thus, rather than a smoothly running hierarchy, we now have competition, with each person seeking to advance the self rather than the world.

This passage then sets the pattern we see in human relationships. Although specifically addressed only to the original couple, the results have clearly spread throughout the human race. It is a pattern of self-seeking and personal advancement at the expense of others; it is a picture of grief and sorrow as a result of failed relationships.


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