ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: July 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Family Relationships Before and After the Fall

Let's look at what Genesis says about the male/female/family dynamic, and for the purpose of this exchange, let's look at it in two parts - the 'before-sin' and the 'after-sin' relationship.

Fact 1. Before sin, Adam observed that everything on earth came in matching pairs, and he had no match.
Genesis 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Fact 2. God, who could have made Adam's match any way he wanted to (having made Adam from the very elements), chose to use a piece of Adam, and a specific piece at that. He chose a rib - a part of the body that gives structure to a man and protects his heart (and other vital organs) -a part of the body that is located at the side of man.
Genesis 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.

Fact 3. God delivered her to Adam - Adam didn't go looking.
Genesis 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Fact 4. Adam's response was to conclude (and declare) that his match was verily himself and that she was the perfect match - literally a part of him. For this reason - that a woman and man are a perfect match - the man would leave all that was meaningful to him up until that time and "cleave" (to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch) to his wife, and the two would actually become (or be as) one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Fact 5. They were completely at ease with each other physically/sexually.
Genesis 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Fact 1. Eve trusted her own judgment rather than the explicit word of God.
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Fact 2. Adam put his love for/trust in Eve ahead of the explicit word of God.
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Fact 3. With the introduction of putting something ahead of God, both began to be uncomfortable with who they were.
Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Fact 4. Even though they knew something was wrong, they avoided dealing with it directly, instead choosing to avoid, cover up, and deny the reality of their circumstances.
Genesis 3:7,8 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Fact 5. When confronted with the reality of their circumstances, while they initially admitted what they had done, they immediately began blaming anyone but themselves for their circumstances. The upshot being that they were actually blaming God.
Genesis 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Fact 6. The result of all their failure to put God's word above all else (and I emphasize result) was that they were changed from the 'before-the-fall' relationship. The effect of sin on them would be a chronic tension between the forces of good and evil in the lives of all mankind. (Thankfully the ultimate resolution was promised at the same time.)
Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Fact 7. They would lose the natural oneness that had been the gift and the plan. In its place, woman would look to man for her sense of self worth rather than to God. Her life would be filled with sorrow in general, in sex in particular, and even the unfettered joy of bearing children would now be tainted with heartache.
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he 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.

Fact 8. Man would no longer cleave to his wife, but rather work would consume him. He would be so obsessed with making a living that he would have little time for his family. Because of this, life would be hard all his days, bitter to his natural end, when he would die, leaving everything that had consumed his focus for all those years to be fooled away by those who came after him.
Genesis 3:17 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; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 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.

Fact 9. Grown men and women would be dependent upon their parents for some of the most basic needs rather than being able to provide for themselves.
Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Fact 10. Parents would ultimately need to put up barriers between themselves and their children for the overall good, going so far as to put them out of the house and cut them off from inheritance in extreme cases.
Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Now let's review and draw some conclusions.

Before the fall, Man craved the company of a mate. He yielded his choice to God, who then provided him with the perfect mate, rather than seeking to solve the problem for himself. Having waited upon God and having received the perfect, God-given mate, he not only cleaved to her himself, but prophesied that all mankind to follow would do the same. (Remember, he was prophesying for sinless man.)

He intuitively (in his sinless condition) recognized that Man was to leave all else and to become one with his mate (excepting God, of course). Even the name he gave her indicated by its very meaning that she was a part of him.

The fall came about because both Man and Woman put their self interest ahead of God's explicit word. (This point cannot be overemphasized, either in understanding what went wrong or in recognizing the solution to undoing the harm that was done.)

The characteristics that have plagued and destroyed families ever since, very rapidly became apparent.

1. Acting on one's own volition rather than consulting/communicating with spouse
2. Denying and covering up the results of bad choices and enabling the spouse to do the same by not making him/her accountable for their choices
3. Blaming others rather than taking responsibility for one's choices/actions
Additional problems that plague and destroy families were foretold.

For women:
1. Insecurity, lifelong unfulfillment that even childbearing ultimately can't assuage, domination by the stronger sex
For men:
1. A lifetime of all-consuming hard work and sweat that takes all his focus and energy and makes him intolerant and impatient for gratification when he gets a few minutes to relax. See anything you recognize there? :-)
In the end, it is only by aiming at the 'before-the-fall' ideal, while at the same time recognizing the 'after-the-fall' realities, that we can begin to realize the wholeness that God had and has in store for us.
God didn't make women to need a man's support in order to feel good about herself, and he didn't make man to be so preoccupied with life that he can't nurture his wife - sin did that. Our work in this, as in every area of our lives, is to offset the effects of sin insofar as is possible by seeing what God's ideal was and by His grace trying to achieve it.
© Dennis Farley
July 2007