Season 1, Episode 10
Series: Journey Through the Old Testament
So, God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. But I used to often wonder why would just forgiving Adam and Eve not work? Couldn’t God have chosen to do that? After all, he is sovereign, he is king, he is righteous and forgiving. Couldn’t he have just said to Adam and Eve that you have done the wrong thing, but I forgive you. And let’s keep this relationship and let’s keep this design moving forward.
The answer to that is no. Just forgiving Adam and Eve itself would not have been sufficient. Human sinfulness, as we looked at earlier, broke apart the very fundamental DNA and structure and fabric of God’s design and creation itself. God forgiving Adam and Eve is an indication of his heart and his love for them. But the design here, what God is looking for, is a two-way street, right?
Recall that at the heart of Adam and Eve’s act of eating the fruit was not merely disobedience, but it was doubt. It was calling into question the very character of God himself. And if this design of God’s Kingdom and his good world is going to flourish and work, something has to be done about the matter of Adam and Eve, of the human heart being able to rightly and consistently trust in its king. At issue here in Genesis 3, as we move toward the end of this section about the fall, is the reality that something radical has changed in human nature.
There’s a great Latin phrase that describes this, perhaps first used by Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in the early part of the life of the church. Hippo is a city on the North African coast, and Augustine had been a church theologian and the pastor and a Bishop over that area. And it may have been Augustine who coined the phrase in Latin, cor incurvatus in se, cor incurvatus in se. You hear in that the word “curve.”
And the phrase quite literally means a heart curved in back on itself. God’s design for human life was to flow from the inside out in love and fellowship with God, in love and fellowship with humanity, and care and stewardship and dominion and enjoyment of the world. Sin bent that twisted that. Refracted that love and bent everything back inward. And that’s the picture in Genesis 4. That the human heart, fundamentally is now inward bent, inward looking, concerned and fascinated only with itself. And this inward curving will destroy everything if it’s left unaddressed.
So, it would not have been enough for God simply to say I forgive you. He has to do something to deal with this curved in heart. This twisted, inwardly bent in heart. And we know the reality of that curved in heart because of what comes next in the story.
Here, the change in human nature is so radical that it takes just one generation for the dynamic between people to move from shame and blame to murder and destruction. Because here in Chapter 4 comes the 4th question that God asks. This is around the story of Cain and Abel. The two brothers they come to bring their sacrifices and for whatever reasons, God is pleased with the sacrifice of Abel and displeased with the sacrifice of Cain and Cain kills his brother, strikes him dead. Then God says to Cain, where is your brother?
You see, when the worship of God is distorted, this is the immediate consequence of human sinfulness: jealousy and self-rule dominate. That’s the curved in heart. So, it’s jealousy, violence, conflict, and murder.
So, beginning with the story of Cain and Abel, Genesis chapters 4 to 11 are the punctuation mark, the exclamation point here on Act 2 in the fall. What’s in focus here is how sin and that bent in human nature, like a stone dropped into the middle of a pond, ripples out across human life and society, and quickly become so pervasive and destructive. So, this next section in the Old Testament unpacks that a little bit makes some very important claims and observations. What you have is a carefully orchestrated narrative, not only of the moral failure of mankind, but how sin inevitably moves from the individual to the social and then to the global.
William Shakespeare opens his great play Romeo and Juliet with these lines:
Two households, both alike in dignity in fair Verona, where we lay our scene.
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
And from forth the fatal loins of these two foes.
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.
The plot of the play centers around this ancient feud, between these two houses in Verona, Italy: the Montagues and the Capulets. And their children, Romeo and Juliet, falling in love. Part way through the play, Romeo’s friend Mercutio dies in the town square after a fatal accident. In his dying words, as he looks around in his friends caught up in this grudge that has poisoned the life of the whole town and all of its citizens and all of its families, he says this before his dramatic death: “A plague on both your houses.” This violence, this grudge, this enmity has infused and infected everything. And that’s exactly the situation here in Genesis 4 to 11.
In chapter four, we see the personal depth of sin being revealed. This moved from Cain several generations later to his descendant Lamech. Cain kills his brother. End of the chapter, Lamech does the same thing, but he brags to his multiple wives boasting about how he had slaughtered a young man just for touching him the wrong way.
Well, both are murder, but the depth, the pride, the bragging, the boasting, this absolute assertion that this is all about me and what happens to me, and I am the one who will be in charge. And Lamech — his boast is you mess with me and it’s going to be far worse for you than what Cain ever did. And with Lamech, this pride in one’s violence and utter power, and control over others, is just a reflection of how deeply infected the human condition has become.
Chapter 6, the picture zooms out. Now we move from the personal depth of sin to the universal depth of sin. And the language here talks about God seeing the wickedness of the human race. The whole earth is in view. And the inclination of the thoughts of the human heart and mind are always evil all the time. Here we get an explanation of sin as being extensive — it is all over all the earth — and it is intensive — it happens all the time.
And so just in this move from Adam and Eve in the garden to their sons, to descendants as generations move by: This is a picture of a global epidemic. And we understand something about epidemics now in our time. This is way worse than coronavirus. Sin, in what it does and what it produces, is a highly contagious, highly deadly virus because it spreads just like that until it is taken over the entire world.
In Genesis 7 to 9, God promises to destroy the world because of how pervasive and extensive and intensive the virus of human sinfulness has become. But in that, God chooses a family, Noah’s family, as a foreshadowing of his promise to deliver and redeem and restore, even though the world is radically broken. The story of Noah will point us forward to characters that will come along later: Abraham, Moses, Jesus. And, indeed, the theme that will run throughout all of the Old Testament that in the midst of God’s judgment upon human sinfulness and all of its levels, God is always going to be at work, providing a way back to him.
But notice here that the flood doesn’t fix the problem. In Genesis 10 and 11, the problem of human sinfulness and what it does now reappears, but it’s far worse. This is a picture of the corporate solidarity of human thin, and here’s what I mean. This is the story of the Tower of Babel. And the Tower of Babel is the architectural centerpiece of a society, a world system that stands in opposition to God as sovereign ruler, not necessarily a direct, explicit challenging to God. But simply by the lack of mere acknowledgement, as if God simply doesn’t exist.
God simply doesn’t matter. He’s irrelevant, he’s inconsequential. This is all about us in our control and our rule.
That’s kind of the world we’re in today. That’s the modern, materialistic, evolutionary world and worldview that we find in much of the modern western world in which we live.
The Tower of Babel here in this section will serve as a larger biblical metaphor throughout the rest of the text that represents the human effort, the human desire ambition to rule over the world without the divine relationship with its creator.
Now, keep in mind we’ve already established going back to Genesis 1 and 2 that God created us as his image bearers; to have a form of his rule over that creation. So, it’s not the desire of humanity to rule or to be great, or even to expand and build the city. That civilization, those things are all consistent with God’s design. The problem is that God himself is excluded. There’s no presence of God. There’s no worship of God. There’s no acknowledgement of God. This is the question of the serpent to Eve there at the tree on a global corporate scale. We can have everything God made that is good on our terms.
And so simply wiping out the world and the people themselves that had done wicked things doesn’t fix the problem. You see, because that virus of sin has become so deeply embedded and so extensive that it’s now inherent to human nature itself; it has become a part of the fabric of the created order in human life.
One other quick comment here about Chapters 5 and 10. We find a list of geneologies. Why is that? Why put all of this in here? Well, while it may get a little boring and cumbersome to try to read through and study this list of names — and it’s certainly hard if we’re going to go read the genealogy’s looking for biblical principles in the genealogies themselves.
But there is a really important reason, several really important reasons in the Bible, the various places that geneologies appear. In God’s communication with us through revelation and the written text of scripture, God is concerned with human history. But God is also concerned with dealing with certain family lines. And part of what these geneologies do is to establish that Abraham and Noah are directly, biologically connected to what happened in Eden. There’s a direct line that flows all the way through this.
In other words, the problems that will appear later in the story, coming up in humanity’s inability and unwillingness and all kind of spiritual depravity are directly related to what happened in Eden. But in the broader view of revelation in the scriptures, this biological line of family human relationships connects to Jesus because the claim will be very explicit and forthright in the New Testament and Paul’s writing that Jesus will come forth as the new Adam, the second Adam, to undo what the first Adam could not. And that only works if Jesus himself is an actual, real part of that historical family line of humanity.
And so, in Act 2 of the Bible’s big story of The Fall, we are left with this picture. And we see it happening with Adam and Eve. We see it happening with Cain and Abel. And we clearly see it here as we come to the end of this section of Genesis 4 to 11.
We take our triangle that we’ve been looking at to help us visualize God designs and pattern for creation. Remember the three sides? God’s presence, God’s people, God’s place. The more in-depth way we can say this is that God’s creation, God’s Kingdom is this: God’s people living in obedient fellowship with him, in perfect, harmonious fellowship with one another, and in responsible enjoyment of his world. That’s creation, but what has the fall done to that picture?
And just a reminder, you can go to the episode show, the episode page on the website, and we’ve got the notes and we have the diagrams and so you can actually have this visual in front of you.
Here’s the picture. Now that triangle is fragmented. It’s broken all apart and now God’s presence– humanity ignores it or rejects it altogether. They lose all awareness and knowledge of God as the story here in Genesis progresses. And God’s people, rather than being in fellowship and harmonious relationships and working together — there’s now violence and conflict between man and wife, between brother, between people. And rather than living in responsible enjoyment, cooperating with God’s incredibly good nature to bring forth life and growth — now there’s the loss of place. The abuse of that place, the conflict between mankind and nature itself. In all aspects with the fall, this triangle of God’s good world is broken all apart.
But the good news in all of this, even with Genesis chapter 3, is that God promises to put this broken world back together. And so, this fragmented, fractured world of violence and separation and loss and the ignoring and rejection of God — that’s the paradigm that is being restored all throughout the rest of the Old Testament story, and indeed the entire biblical account. This is redemption. This is the picture that is woven throughout the entire Bible. The God is putting his broken world back together, reclaiming his lost Kingdom.
See, Genesis tells us what he intended. That’s Act 1. It tells us what our sin did to that design. That’s Act 2. But in both of those, we find how God is going to begin the process of restoring and making that right in reclaiming and renewing his broken creation. And that’s the story we find as we go to Act 3, the story of Israel that will take up the rest of the Old Testament.