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What the Bible says about Curse, First
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:14-19

Often neglected in favor of more "exciting" prophecies, this first prophecy holds the fundamental principles for understanding the nature of Satan's relationship to Christ and the church, woman's relationship with man, man's relationship with nature, and sin's role in human suffering. Few subjects are more important!

The setting of this prophecy provides the necessary background information we need to understand the full implications of God's pronouncements in these verses. Adam and Eve were still living in the Garden of Eden. Satan, speaking through a serpent, had just deceived Eve into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She, in turn, had persuaded Adam to do the same. These sins demanded the judgment of God, which He expresses as curses that would result from their disobedience.

At first glance, the curses seem severe. These two innocents—babes, really—had no armor "against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). However, they had received instruction from God on the very point in question (Genesis 2:16-17), and this should have been sufficient to deter them. From God's point of view, their actions were sheer rebellion!

In addition, when God inquired about their actions (Genesis 3:11), they neither admitted their transgressions nor sought forgiveness. Instead, they shifted the blame—Adam to Eve, and Eve to Satan (verses 12-13)! Their actions throughout this scenario told God plenty about their character, making his predictions certain.

Thus, what we see is that God did not curse them—they cursed themselves! Because of sin's predictable course, God merely voices the consequences of their actions in prophetic terms. This prophecy, then, includes Satan's ultimate guilt and punishment, mankind's battle of the sexes and struggle to survive, and the need for a Savior to repair the damage they had caused. What we see in microcosm is the plan of God!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part One)

Genesis 3:14

Fossils tell us plainly that before this time snakes looked as they do now, so God did not strip the serpent of legs and/or wings at this time, as some suppose in reading this verse literally. [In the same way, God did not suddenly create rainbows in Noah's day, but gave them new significance (Genesis 9:8-17).] God's words fit the facts better when taken figuratively.

His curse on serpents covers what they symbolize to men, which we can see when the verse is correctly translated. "More than" in Genesis 3:14 has the sense of "apart from," meaning that God sets the snake apart from other cattle or beasts to represent the Devil, the ultimate cause and originator of sin.

Thus, that the snake would crawl on its belly and eat dust is not literal but symbolic. Both of these figures, written in parallel clauses, signify humiliation. Snakes symbolize abasement or ignominy because of sin. Why? God wanted the snake to be a constant reminder, not only to humanity but to Satan as well, that the Devil's ultimate fate will be the humiliation of his gargantuan pride. He will cower on his belly before God and eat dust!

Isaiah uses a different figure, but the result is the same: "Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:15). Since, as far as we know, Satan cannot be destroyed, he must be humiliated and imprisoned. During the Millennium, God will do this by locking him in the Bottomless Pit (Revelation 20:1-3), and after he is released "for a little while" at its end, God will then cast him into the Lake of Fire (verses 7-10).

Ezekiel also brings out this humiliating end:

Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever. (Ezekiel 28:17-19)

The Bible, from beginning to end, repeats the certainty of Satan's ultimate humiliation and punishment. In Genesis 3, God makes sure Adam and Eve know that they had chosen the losing side!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part One)

Genesis 3:14-19

The Bible's first prophecy contains three major curses, one each upon Satan, women, and men. Or does it? The answer depends on one's perspective and time reference.

Certainly, the curse on Satan seems a mixed bag! Men have either been subject to his deceptions or fiercely waging war with him for six thousand years. Yet it is the struggle of the fight that prepares our character to inherit eternal life. We live in hope and faith that God will see the curse through to its end, the total humiliation and imprisonment of the Adversary.

To a woman in labor or to a man sweating out in a field under the sun, God's pronouncements surely feel like curses. Yet, maybe only moments later, the satisfaction and joy in seeing a healthy baby or a job well done can make it all seem worthwhile. We feel grateful that God has given us such blessings.

If nothing else, this should make us think about the "curses" and "blessings" in our lives. Could something terrible turn out for the best? Could seeing "our ship come in" prove our ruin? There is much more to God's gifts and judgments than meets the eye:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" "Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?" For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)

Genesis 3:16

The first curse includes the whole processes of childbearing, from conception to birth. The Hebrew word rendered "conception" in the New King James version (NKJV) includes the entire pregnancy, while "bring forth" can mean both the beginning or end of the birth process. The Revised Standard Version translates these clauses as, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children."

A human female is unique among mammalian creatures in this respect. Animal females generally bear their young without pain and rarely sicken and die during or from the experience. Women, on the other hand, always experience pain and grief throughout their pregnancies—from morning sickness to contractions—and have historically had a very high mortality rate from childbirth. Better nutrition and hygiene have cut the numbers of deaths dramatically, but the pain and grief remain.

Fortunately, God is a God of mercy. He put within the human female the ability to "forget" her pains in childbirth soon thereafter. Jesus Himself mentions this in John 16:21:

A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

This curse on Eve has a direct relationship with the end of the curse on the serpent, which involves the woman's "seed," both general and specific (Genesis 3:15). We can infer that God intends us to understand that, because of sin, producing "seed" to fight Satan and his seed will be made more difficult. In a spiritual sense, the church, "the mother of us all," endures great hardship in producing children of God.

Thus, the Bible testifies, "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matthew 11:12), "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). Even the sinless Christ, the promised Seed, was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3), forced by sin—yet willing—to bear the agonies of human life and death to become the Son of God, the Firstborn among many brethren.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)

Genesis 3:19

The last part of God's curse on Adam involves the brevity of physical life. To this point, death had been mentioned only as a threatened punishment for sin (Genesis 2:17), so it must be assumed that, as long as Adam and Eve remained sinless, they would not die. Paul writes in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned."

God designed His wording of Adam's punishment to link mankind with the earth: He was created out of it, and when he died, he would return to it. His sin had removed him from the environs of the heavenly and forced him to dwell, labor, and die in the earthly. Yet even this has a silver lining:

And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:45-49)

The benefit of a physical body is that it can die! This may sound strange, but it is exactly this fact that makes man able to become immortal sons of God! Men can die and be resurrected, following the pattern set by Christ, receiving eternal life and the rewards of His Kingdom. It is our righteous living in the flesh through the grace of God that qualifies us for this glorious potential.

On the flip side, our physical nature also makes it possible for God to rid the universe of anyone unwilling to submit to Him. Unlike angels, men can be completely consumed in the Lake of Fire—totally destroyed for all eternity and unable to defile the holiness of God's Kingdom. Though God desires "all [to] come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9) and "all men to be saved" (I Timothy 2:4), He has this option should it be needed. Revelation 19:20 shows that it will indeed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)

Genesis 3:19

God pronounces a curse upon mankind after Adam and Eve's sin. It is not that working is a curse; God had previously told them they were to dress and keep the Garden. Rather, the curse is the burden of providing for oneself in a world that has turned its back on God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)

Romans 8:19-22

The apostle says here that God pronounced the curse on the creation "in hope" of "the revealing of the sons of God," which would release it "from the bondage of corruption." God designed the curse on Adam to enhance man's chance to enter His Family! God would rather have done it another way—through His guidance in the Garden of Eden—but since Adam and Eve chose rebellion, He designed Adam's curse to reach the same end by a different means: hard toil, struggle, and eventual death!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 




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