Beginnings (12:) Genesis 3

 Today, we are finishing our discussion of one of the most dramatic chapters in the Bible – indeed, one of the most dramatic chapters in entire human history.

 

Punishment or Protection?

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

We all have seen paintings portraying Adam and Eve as they are leaving the Garden of Eden – sobbing, wringing their hands, desperate in their misery and sorrow. Have you ever thought of this simple fact: with all these tears, with all this wringing the hands, they are going to the very same place where you and I now live – where humanity has lived ever since! Their misery is our misery, we live in the same dark place, the only difference is that we don’t know anything else – but they knew very well what they just had lost.  From their sorrow and frustration upon leaving Gan Eden and going to the only place you and I know, we can only imagine how different and how wonderful that lost place felt. Why did God banish them?

It is traditionally thought that by exiling Adam and Eve, God simply punished them: they disobeyed His command, and He punished them by banishing them from the Garden of Eden—but that’s not what Scripture tells us.

From the verses we just read, we clearly see God’s concern: now that they are  exposed to the knowledge of good and evil, if they now eat of the “Tree of Life”עֵץ הַחַיִּים  (etz hachayim), also located in the Garden, they will remain in that state of misery forever – estranged from God – they and their posterity. God didn’t want that to happen, therefore it is for their own protection and hope that God now banishes them. Exiling them from the Garden was not disciplinary, but merciful and protective.

                                                 

Hebrew insights

So He drove out the man…

I want to show you how much we can learn from Hebrew, even in this short sentence from verse 24. First of all, the Hebrew word translated “drove out” in verse 24, is גָרֶשׁ  (garesh). In Modern Hebrew, most words referring to the divorce of a married couple are derived from this root. Of course, modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew are very different – we can’t read biblical sentences through the lens of modern Hebrew – nevertheless, modern Hebrew can sometimes bring an additional facet to our understanding. In a sense, we can say that God “divorced” humanity from the Garden of Eden, and from Himself, because of the clear danger that the Tree of Life now presented to them.

Sometimes people ask: why did God only drive the man out? Does that mean that He held only Adam responsible for what had happened in the Garden? After all, God never told Eve not to eat of the tree – He told Adam before Eve was even created. Was that the reason that God only drove the man out? Or might there be another explanation?

Of course, the explanation, as always, should be sought in the Hebrew language. I mentioned in this series previously that the Hebrew word “adam” doesn’t refer to a male only. In fact, in Hebrew, the term for “human beings” is Benei Adam – ‘the children of Adam’. The first time the word “adam” occurs in the Bible is Genesis 1:26, when God says: “let us make adam” – and in the next verse, Scripture clarifies: “male and female He created them”. Later, in Genesis 5, we find the same idea: “He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them adam.” Thus, the Hebrew word “adam”, first of all, simply means “human” – and answers the quandary of Genesis 3:24: if “adam” here refers to “human”, it means that both humans, Adam and Eve, were driven out from the Garden.

 

Tikkun Olam

We will conclude this article with the very last sentence of this fateful chapter:

 

He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.[1]

 

Finding this verse at the very beginning of Torah, one just cannot imagine that this would be the end of the story, and this “flaming sword” solution, the final one! It’s impossible to imagine that the One who created us for the Garden of His fellowship, would leave us outside forever, and not reopen a door for us to return. God had to have a plan to remedy this situation; He had to have solution – better than the flaming sword! There is a Hebrew expression, “Tikkun Olam” (literally: “repair of the world”), and after this chapter, one cannot doubt that this book is all about that: about Tikkun Olam, about “repairing the world”, about healing the ills of creation. Of course, one’s understanding of tikkun olam depends on where one stands and what one believes; it depends, first of all, on faith—but all who read these first three chapters of the Bible would know that somehow, mankind has to be restored to the Garden – and that this is what this whole book will be about it.

[1] Gen. 3:24

 

The insights you read on these pages, are typical of what we share with our students during DHB (Discovering the Hebrew Bible) or WTP (Weekly Torah Portion)  classes. If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying  in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for the new students) regarding  our amazing courses (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

I wanted to let you know that my last book, about  Coronavirus and the plagues in the Bible, is ready and available on Amazon.  if you are asking questions about Corona today, maybe this little book will help you to find the answers.  You can get it here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088WZKWKJ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=PRCIEIN9V5PC&dchild=1&keywords=corona+and+the+plagues&qid=1590049997&s=digital-text&sprefix=corona%2Cdigital-text%2C280&sr=1-2

As always, I would appreciate if you can send an email with your thought or comments about this book.

You can get all my books  from my page on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/s?k=julia+blum&i=digital-text&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 

or on this blog: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Francois Aerts

    Shalom Julia, your beautiful article made me wonder about the role of man and the role of the Lord in tikkun olam. I know about this Jewish idea of the “uplifting” of the earth towards heaven through tikkun olam-acts of mankind, but in the final chapters of Revelation we see Heaven coming down to Earth, together with the Lord. I cannot help feeling that the major part in this story is reserved to the Lord, and not to us. To heal the ills of Creation, one needs to be able “to circumcise the heart” of every single man, and as far as I can judge the current state of the worldly affairs, this certainly has not happened yet. I am afraid that the New Creation which the Prophet Isaiah depicts in such a beautiful way, shall only become a reality after a major Divine Intervention, the Real (uppercase) Tikkun Olam !

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Francois, it’s wonderful to hear from you! Personally, I think I agree with you, but it’s important to me to present different approaches here. I am actually thinking about writing a series about Tikkun Olam , the history of the term and the differences in its understanding. It is a fascinating topic, and I believe it would be of interest for many readers.

  2. Beth

    Dear Julia, much thanks and appreciation for your insights into the Word of God. I used to receive the Weekly Torah Portions up until January, and then it stopped. Please how can I receive them again? I really enjoyed them. God bless.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Beth! If you still receive these articles, it means, you are still subscribed, I just changed the series. I had Torah Portion series before the New Year, but I started a new series – Beginning – with the beginning of 2020. And then of course, Corona happened. That’s the reason you are not receiving these Torah Portions anymore. I might still write the commentaries to some Portions from time to time, but this blog is supposed to have different articles and various themes. Sorry for disappointing you, and I really appreciate your support. I hope that one day I would be able to publish a book with Torah Portion commentaries – and then, I will let you know of course!