The Time of CreationThe Time of Corruption and the Nature of Sin: Chapter 4 - The Cost of Unrepentant Sin (Genesis 3:14-19)
A Biblical Study of Genesis 3:1 - 9:29 From All-Creatures.org

One of the books in the "Let's Study God's Word Together" series with: Frank L. Hoffman
This Biblical study book seeks to answer the question, "What can we do to overcome sin and restore this world to the peaceable kingdom God created it to be?"

The Time of Corruption and the Nature of Sin - A Study of Genesis 3:1 - 9:29
Chapter 4 - The Cost of Unrepentant Sin (Genesis 3:14-19)

The cost of Adam and Eve's unrepentant sin, and that of the serpent and Satan, though unnamed, is presented in the following verses:

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.

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.

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.
(KJV)

The Lord God has pronounced sentence upon all who were involved in these acts of disobedience.  They had misused their gift of free will.  They had turned that which God had created and intended for good into something evil.  Thus, God turns their own evil upon themselves.

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:

We should note that the Lord God holds the serpent responsible for his own actions, "Because you have done this."  This indicates that the serpent, and other animals, do have the ability to choose between good and evil.  The inclusion of other animals in this statement is evidenced by the fact of including the serpent among the other beasts of the field.  Even though he was more crafty, it doesn't mean that he is a different kind of being.  This is also further evidenced by the fact that animals do indeed have souls and spirits just as we humans have.  There are many people in the world who are afraid to admit this fact, because of the ways in which they treat animals, but this passage indicates that we (humans and non-humans) are all responsible for our own actions.  Just as Adam could have said, "No!", to Eve, and Eve could have said, "No!", to the serpent, so could the serpent have said, "No!" to Satan; thus, the serpent is being held responsible for its own actions.

Rashi makes the point that God didn't ask the serpent why he was disobedient as He did with Adam and Eve, and that if He had asked him, the serpent would have answered in a similar way.  The difference is that Adam and Eve were given the commandment to not eat of the forbidden fruit and to protect the remainder of creation, but they chose to listen to the serpent instead of to the Lord God.[1]

Going back to verse 3:1 again, and the fact that the serpent was described as being "more crafty than any beast of the field", consider the reason for God's action.  The serpent used his ability to deceive and not to edify.  He used his appearance and words to deceive the woman.   The serpent was proud, so now he is being humiliated.

The expression, "On your belly shall you go", presents good evidence that at this time the serpent most likely had legs and possibly hands with which to pick the fruit, and which he used with pride.  They are now being taken away, and the serpent is being reduced to the lowly state of slithering along the ground.

We know that serpents don't actually eat dust, but we have probably heard the expression, "eat my dust", particularly in dirt racing and when people used to travel along dirt roads and trails behind those who kicked up the dust.  Thus the lower a being is to the ground, the more dust "it will eat" in the symbolic sense.  This is an expression to further indicate how low God is reducing the status of the serpent.  And since it will occur all the days of its life, we can assume that this was a permanent change in the state of this being.

Some writers see the cursing of the serpent as being different from the cursing of the earth, and Adam and Eve, as we will shortly see, because the serpent is being changed in bodily form seemingly unlike Adam who must suffer through greatly increased work.[2] However, there was a physical change with Eve and the women of her seed for they will suffer pain in childbirth.  And there is also the possibility that another change took place in the form in which Adam and Eve were created, for they now require clothing for warmth and comfort as well as for modesty, as we know from our own experience.

It is also a well known fact that snakes shed their skins every year as part of their normal sequence of growth.  It is also quite likely that this serpent also shed his skin at that time, too, because of the physical changes to its body.  Keep this in mind when we look at Genesis 3:21.

When we read verse 15,

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.

we get the impression that God is no longer speaking just to the serpent, but to Lucifer (Satan, the devil), too.  We also can see a Messianic message in the verse.

God is also saying that he will now change the nature of the relationship between the woman and the serpent from one of being "family members" and friends, to one of enmity, being hostile to one another with feelings of ill will, and that this state will continue for generations to come, "between thy seed and her seed".  Angels don't reproduce, so this statement indicates that God is still speaking to the serpent, but the following portion of this verse has a much deeper meaning.

Part of this enmity is in the feelings that most people have against snakes, which is a reminder of the curse, but it is not to be taken as our call to crush serpents' heads.  We need to remember Isaiah 11:8, where the child will play with a cobra and will put his had in the viper's den without being harmed, and that in God's greater plan there is redemption for the serpents, too.  The real enmity, however, should be between the children of God and the demonic forces that seek to lead us astray.

Snakes could bite or bruise our heels, and we could stomp them on their heads, but this does not seem to be what God has in mind.  God does not want to bring about death, or impose capital punishment, or He simply could have killed all the perpetrators and started over again.  I believe that this statement is specifically referring to Satan and to Jesus Christ.  Christ will crush the power, or head of Satan, and take back the souls of those who seek His appearing, but in the process, the powers of evil will crucify the Lord of Peace, piercing His heel (foot), which will work against them.

We will see later in our study of Genesis 4:7 a similar message where God tells Cain that "sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you", as a wild beast, or the most crafty of all beasts (a reference to Satan).  And God goes on  to say that he (Cain) must master it (sin).  But how was he, or we today, to do this?  We can do it by and through the power of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 ties together the progression of the seed of the woman to that of Jesus Christ.  And remember Jesus was born of woman and not of man, which is further reason for God to refer to the seed of the woman in this verse rather than the seed of the man.

This is also the time when I believe that Satan was cast out of third heaven, where God and the angels dwell, and confined to lower states of heaven (the air around the earth, physical outer space, and the earth).

There is a very interesting passage in Ezekiel 28:11-19, which is addressed to the king of Tyre, but also appears to be a description of the fall of Satan.   There is also a strong suggestion that the King of Tyre fell under the power of Satan, which is the reason for this dual presentation.  Let's look at a portion of this passage beginning at verse 12c:

12. "You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

13. "You were in Eden, the Garden of God;

We know that the king of Tyre was not in the Garden of Eden, so God must be speaking of someone else through Ezekiel.  I believe it is Satan.  Let's go on.

Every precious stone was your covering;
The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond;
The beryl, the onyx, and the Jasper;
The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald;
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
Was in you.
On the day that you were created
They were prepared.

14. "You were the anointed cherub who covers [or protects],
I placed you there.

There is a good possibility that Lucifer was assigned by God to protect the earth, and instead of doing so he corrupted it for his own prideful gain. He used his glory to entice rather that to glorify God.  Let's go on.

You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.

15. You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created,
Until unrighteousness was found in you.

16. By the abundance of your trade
You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the stones of fire.

Or, from the perfectness of heaven, and from the presence of God in heaven, which ever the case.  If we look at Ezekiel 1:13 we also see a reference to the fire being present in the midst of the heavenly creatures.  I believe that this fire represents the presence of the Holy Spirit, as we also see in Acts 2:3.  Let's continue.

17. "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you.

18. "By the multitude of your iniquities,
In the unrighteousness of your trade,
You profaned your sanctuaries.
Therefore, I have brought fire from the midst of you;
It has consumed you,
And I have turned you to ashes on the earth
In the eyes of all who see you.

19. "All who know you among the peoples
Are appalled at you;
You have become terrified [or terrors],
And you will be no more.

This seems to be the exact same message as the Lord God spoke to Satan in the Garden of Eden.

Let's return to our Genesis passage and what God says to the woman (Eve).

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.

The NASV translates the statement to Eve as: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth",  which is exactly the state that women are in today.  Yet most women still want to engage in a sexual relationship with their husband (hopefully only him), and they mostly desire to have more than one child.  Is this a reminder of our not believing in God and not following his commandments?  I believe it is.

The last statement in the verse, "and he shall rule over you", is one that has been taken to excess by unloving husbands.  God gave the primary responsibility of protecting the earth to Adam, which he failed to do.  He also has given men the responsibility of protecting their families and preserving their marriages, which most have likewise failed to do.   Thus, part of this curse, this judgement, is upon both the husband and the wife.   Remember, that the responsibility of ruling is also to care for and to protect, as we discussed concerning Genesis 1:26 and 28.  So, we could say that the ruling of the man over the woman in this case could also be a blessing, or an act of grace, if the man properly fulfills his role.  A woman has a very difficult time working during the final months of pregnancy and during the period following the birth of the child.   This is the time of her greatest need, and the time when the husband's "rule", love, support, and protection is most needed, as it is to a slightly lesser extent throughout the marriage, which is to endure until death.  But as we shall see as we go on, the ease of doing this in the Garden of Eden has come to an end.

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;

H. C. Leupold suggests that the wording of this verse is similar to that of verse 16 and as such it should read, "And unto the man He said," but this in no way alters the meaning of the verse, except to help expand it beyond the particular man, Adam.[3]

Because Adam failed to listen to God, and because he elevated his wife and possibly the serpent above God by believing what Eve told him and by doing what she said, he has lost his position of ruler of the earth to another (Satan).  And because of this, the earth is being cursed.  This does not mean that the physical earth is being changed by God into something other than the "very good" (Genesis 1:31) creation that He spoke into existence.  It simply means that the good of God's creation is being subjected to the forces of evil, and thus being cursed or corrupted by them.

Adam and all who were in the Garden were blessed with an abundance of food from which they could freely eat without any real effort.  Now with the pending expulsion from the Garden, Adam and all future generations would have to work for their food.  Their sorrow will be in what they had lost until the day of their respective deaths.  In addition, there would be other plants that were undesirable for a vegetable garden, which would have to be weeded out to protect the desirable crops.

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.

Have you ever encountered a thistle after it has gone to seed?   It has barbed seed pods that stick to our clothing and to the fur of animals, as a method of spreading the seeds far and wide.  It is a type of seed that most of us find very annoying when these seeds stick to our clothing.  On the other hand, have you ever encountered a thistle when it is bloom?  It has a beautiful fuzzy blue flower.   The rose is somewhat like this, in that is has a beautiful flower, but along its stem are sharp thorns.  I look upon these flowers as the blessing that comes with a curse, if we are not careful.  It is also a reminder of the ways in which the devil attacks us.  He comes upon us in his beauty, but along with the beauty there are thorns and barbs.

We now must work much harder at following the ways of God, than before the eating of the forbidden fruit.  We must even work to the point of causing a sweat to break out upon our head and body.  We can understand this when it comes to farming and gardening or doing other manual labor, and even when we play, but we seldom look at protecting ourselves from evil with the same effort, and this is exactly what I believe that this passage is telling us.  "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread". 

We also must keep in mind that there is still only a reference to eating only plant foods. We are not to kill or eat animals. God only brings for life; it is Satan who desires blood and death.

Did not Jesus even refer to Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35)?  Did he not tell us to take and eat of his body (symbolically represented by the bread in Luke 22:19)?  We work up a sweat to eat of the bread made with grain.   We also need to work up a sweat to eat of the goodness of the Lord and avoid evil.

There is another aspect to this curse that is related to the covenant contained within the creation of Man.  Man was made of the earth and to the earth he will return.  He was made in perfection, yet when he returns to the earth, he is corrupted, except through the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Thus all the unsaved living and dead add to the corruption and curse of the earth.   And since even the saved sometimes commit evil and simple uncaring, unloving and uncompassionate acts, we all contribute to the corruption and curse of the earth.

With these thoughts in mind, let's go on to the next chapter.


[1] Rashi, Genesis, 32

[2] The Pulpit Commentary, Genesis, 64

[3] Exposition of Genesis, 173

Go on to: Chapter 5 - God's Grace (Genesis 3:20-21)
Return to: The Time of Corruption and the Nature of Sin
Return to: Bible
Return to: Books