"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 11





Chapter 11: The Judgments of Genesis (1)

Adam and Eve

Chapter 11 Contents 


11.1 Introduction

PART 1: Big Concepts

11.2 The Big Picture of Salvation

11.3 Man's Free Will versus God's Sovereignty

PART 2: All about ‘life'

11.4 The Concept and Vital Necessity of ‘Life'

11.5 Reflecting on the ‘Tree of Life'

11.6 The meaning of ‘Life' and ‘Death' in this context.

PART 3: Aspects of this Judgment

11.7 Additional Elements of the Judgment

11.8 What alternatives

11.9 The Bigger Outcomes of this Judgment



11.1 Introduction


We move into Part 2, to consider the specific judgments of God recorded in the Bible, starting with the account of Adam and Eve in the early chapters of Genesis. Although the sceptics suggest they were not historical figures there is no reason to accept this beyond personal prejudice, shallow doubt and weak faith. Without this historical account, key spiritual issues found in the Bible remain unexplained.


The story of Adam and Eve deals with fundamental issues about life and existence and God, and has a certain element of mystery about it. Because of this and of the complexity of it, we will take up the entire chapter on this first judgment. To try to understand the outcomes of this account we need to look at the wider picture. Be warned this is a long, complex, detailed and complicated chapter but understanding it will bring much fruit in understanding. If you don't take it all in at the first reading, please reread it again and again. We are, after all, trying to see as much as we can behind the scenes, why various things happened.


Their Sin: Disobeying God

The Judgment : Being excluded from the Garden of Eden, from God's presence and from ‘the tree of life'.


The complexity of this chapter is in trying to

    • observe the consequences of this judgment
    • understand the reasoning behind it


PART 1: The Big Concepts


11.2 The Big Picture of Salvation


We have just said above that we need to look at the wider picture to understand the details and outworkings of God's judgments (decisions) here in this particular account.


The wider picture is only revealed in the New Testament where it is made clear that God's plan for mankind and His salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, were formulated before the foundation of the world. Now that is very important, as we'll see in a moment.


To verify that statement note the following teaching from the New Testament leaders (and you can look up the verses to confirm them) ALL of which refer to before the Creation:

  •  Jesus existed with the Father in a loving relationship - Jn 17:24
  •  it was agreed that Jesus was to be the means of salvation for the world - 1 Pet 1:20
  •  it was foreseen how we would come, and who would come, responding to Jesus - Eph 1:4
  •  the Godhead also saw who would not come - Rev 17:8 Rev 13:8
  • -
  •  it was agreed that God's grace would be given us as part of this salvation - 2 Tim 1:9
  •  they agreed they would give us eternal life as part of our salvation - Tit 1:2

The big picture reveals that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, referred to above as the Godhead) decided on the plan of salvation BEFORE they made anything. This brings out a radical conclusion for this account in Genesis of the Fall:

  •  what we call ‘the Fall' (Adam and Eve disobeying God) was not a surprise to God.
  •  God knew it would happened and planned how to work into the ensuing history accordingly.



11.3 Man's Free Will versus God's Sovereignty


These two elements are clearly revealed throughout the Bible:


  •  God has given Man free will, the ability to choose, and included within that must be the ability to love, and the ability to reject.
  •  Without free will, ‘love' is meaningless and we have seen in the earlier chapters that love is a primary characteristic of God and potentially of us.


  •  God's Sovereignty means that God has both the power and the authority to do whatever He pleases, but we should never forget that He also can choose and often He chooses NOT to exercise His power.
  •  His restraint we have seen previously in both the Exodus and the Exile; both demonstrate this.
  •  Explaining God's restraint, holding back from a final judgment, the apostle Peter wrote, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
  •  Although God will hold back from total destruction, He often exercises His sovereignty by bringing our circumstances about that act as disciplinary judgment, as we have considered before, to bring about changes of behaviour in men and women.
  •  Remember God's sovereign power always needs to be seen in the same light as His love and goodness and perfection that we considered in the earlier chapters.


PART 2: All about ‘life' 


11.4   The Concept and Vital Necessity of ‘Life'


Two Possible Starting Points

The atheist believes in a godless evolution whereby chemicals react and produce something else (that is evolution in its simplest form). It doesn't really explain at the most basic level, why the energy produced by chemical reactions goes on to create what we call 'thoughts' or 'awareness' and so on, that which we refer to as sentient life.

However the Bible reveals something completely different about reality - and remember the working premise of this book is to consider "what if all we read in the Bible is actually true, what logically follows - and does it make sense and does it match the reality we know and experience?"  It is a leap of faith but the more we think about it from this perspective, the more grounds we have for realising that it is true to life as we know it.

Life only exists because God exists as THE source of all life, and imparts His life to form spiritual and material existence. That is the basic and fundamental Bible teaching about life.


The New Testament Biblical Testimony

Obviously in Genesis 1 we have the bare bones of Creation – “God said” and it was so. The New Testament teaching ratifies this in various ways:


  • Acts 17:24,25, 28  The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth … he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…..`For in him we live and move and have our being.'
  • Heb 11:3   By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command , so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
  • Col 1:16  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;

And so we could continue but note these verses:

  • Heb 1:2,3  in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe . The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
  • Col 1:17   all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The implication is that the world only continues because Jesus says so. But consider, behind this act of creating and sustaining this world, the idea of ‘life' within living things.


  • Job 12:10  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
  • Acts 17:25   he himself gives all men life and breath

Theologians speak of God's transcendence (He is distinct from and above all creation) and His immanence (He remains in and is involved with His creation). The apostle Paul had these two ideas in mind when he wrote:


  •  Eph 4:4,6 There is ……one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

‘Life' so often in Scripture means ‘a way of living' but here it means the power and ability to be alive.


In the beginning we find this description of the making of Man: “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7)


Because these things are not spelled out we have to assume or suggest various things, so may we suggest the following understanding of the above verse:

‘formed' = brought about

‘from the dust' = from the basic chemical ingredients now already existing

‘breath' = Hebrew 'Spirit' or ‘life principle'

Life Impartation Pictures from the New Testament

The picture conveyed to us, therefore, is of God ‘bringing alive' an inanimate body, taking as lifeless pile of molecules and bringing life into them. We see this here at Creation and we see in in Jesus' ministry in the Gospels, every time he performed a miracle of healing.


So we might say this is the same thing we find in the story of Lazarus (John 11) being raised from the dead, except there we would refer to a ‘dead body', but nevertheless Jesus did speak life into him and into others who he raised from the dead (e.g. Lk 7:12-15 & Lk 8:49-56).

We see the same power at work to bring healing, whether it is to restore deaf ears, open blind eyes, or open mute mouths. If we accept the multitude of examples of this in the New Testament, we should not struggle with it in the Old Testament in the Creation narratives.


‘Life' comes from God. Beyond that it is a mystery to us. We may talk about the heart pumping or brain waves but most would say that a ‘person' is more than just a bunch of molecules and mind or spirit is more than electrical currents or waves within the brain.


Life is power or energy imparted from God who is the source of all power or energy (life).



11.5 Reflecting on the ‘Tree of Life'


We need to move on from basic considerations about the meaning of 'life' to observe in the early Genesis account, references to a ‘Tree of Life':


Gen 2:9 In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

From what we have considered previously, we may suggest that taking from a tree that is described in this way, means that when they took from it, it imparted life. At the very basic level, it means that obeying God imparted life.


Now it should not be a problem to think that there were literally two physical trees there in the garden with fruit on. Whether fruit was an apple, a pear or whatever else is irrelevant. To expand on what we said immediately above, the command that came and the disobedience that followed are highly instructive:


The Command

Gen 2:16,17 "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."


The disobedience

Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.


So the woman literally ate some fruit from this one forbidden tree and in so doing was suddenly aware for the very first time of the difference between good and evil. What she had just done was not good, it was evil – and she knew it. Good was obeying God, evil was disobeying Him – and she had just done the latter.


So if that tree was symbolic and was a means of coming to experience and understanding the knowledge of good and evil, then somehow eating from the other tree must be symbolic of receiving ‘life' from God.


References to the ‘tree of life' occur only here and in the book of Revelation, except for few symbolic references in the book of Proverbs, which we'll quickly note:


i) The Proverbs references:

Prov 3:18 speaking of godly wisdom which involves living righteous lives: She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.

  • this sort of living leads to receiving ‘life' from God


Prov 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

  • as we said above, living righteously opens the way to receive blessing from God

Prov 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

  • in a general sense when God fulfils our dreams, it is like life is released to us.

Prov 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life

  • similarly in a general sense, healing words release life to us.

‘Life' here seems to suggest a higher quality of human existence. In each case it is ‘a tree', a general example or illustration or picture of what happens.


ii) The Revelation references


Rev 2:7 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

  •  the context suggests a reward due to every obedient Christian
  •  the implication is also that the overcomer will be able to continue eating from it and therefore it is everlasting or eternal life

Rev 22:2  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God

  •  in the city of God at the end, the fruit of this tree of life is for every citizen
  • as said above, it is everlasting life

Rev 22:14   Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

  • every believer saved by Jesus receives of this life, everlasting life

Rev 22:19   if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city

  • unbelievers will have no right to this life - they cannot receive everlasting life.
  • note in each case it is ‘ the tree of life', a specific thing - an obedience-bringing source of eternal life.

iii) The Genesis references


We have seen that 'the tree of life' is one of 2 special trees in the middle if the Garden (Gen 2:9) and that they are free to eat of it, the other tree being the only forbidden one (Gen 2:16,17). They are special only in as far as God uses them to teach a principle and bring understanding.


Gen 3:22-24  And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

  •  The reason for the exclusion from the Garden is expressly stated
  •  It is to stop them coming and receiving this life
  •  Again, it also becomes obvious that the life that is being referred to is eternal life – constantly eating from it means no death.

Now when we move into the New Testament, part of the salvation package, if we may put it like that, is receiving God's own Holy Spirit who the scriptures clearly show is THE source of all life. The Christian believer thus is promised eternal life and we find the reality of this is because of the very presence of the Holy Spirit (God Himself) who indwells all believers.


From this it is clear to see that the ‘tree of life' is a symbolic way of saying the very presence of God, in whom is life. Excluding them from this presence means they are excluded from this life source. The reality of this is not made fully clear until we come into the New Testament where this is part of the ‘mystery' that the apostle Paul was so fond of speaking about, God's plan hidden until the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.



11.6 The meaning of ‘Life' and ‘Death' in this context.


Life has been referred to as the ongoing resource that obedience in the Garden would produce, which would stave off death, that 'resource' being God's very own presence.


When the prohibition against eating from ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil' said, when you eat of it you will surely die,” it did not mean ‘immediately' (at least physically). As we have seen from the previous considerations, with the removal of access to the tree of life, with the passing of years the life resource would not be there and eventually physical death would occur.


Although there are some references in the Bible that use death to mean ‘spiritual death' or eternal exclusion from the presence of God, that is not indicated here specifically. However, if in general we usually speak of ‘spiritual death' as meaning the absence of God's presence, then this was about to occur when they are excluded from the Garden and thus from regular intimate contact with God



PART 3: Aspects of this Judgment


11.7 Additional Elements of the Judgment


Recap the Judgment in General Terms

We have seen that the primary or main elements of the judgment on Adam and Eve were

  • to be banished from the Garden,
  • excluded from the presence of God and thus,
  • prevented from having access to the tree of life (the life-giving power that was God.)


Specific Outworkings of this Judgment


When we read on we find there are other things that will change. We will lay the verses out in such a way as to make the different aspects clear:


Gen 3:16-19 To the woman he said,

  • "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.
  • Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,'

  • "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."


It is important to see these things AFTER we have considered the previous issues about life and God being its source. Let's note those changes first of all:

  •  A change of physical experience for the woman
  •  A change in her relationship with her husband
  •  A change in the earth that makes life harder for the man.

Now what do these mean, and why did they occur?


i) Change of Physical Experience for the Woman


  •   The big change that is coming up, that we have already considered, is that for a variety of reasons man will be excluded from living in the presence of God and receiving His life power.


  •   Now when God first created everything His declaration was that it was ALL very good (Gen 1:31) – but that was with His presence there in the Garden with them.


  •   A larger study of the effects of the Fall suggest that in all ways, with God's presence largely removed, the world ‘breaks down'. Sin (the self-centred rejection of God) causes sickness and there are reasons to suggest a variety of other things no longer work as well as they did.


  •   Included in that will be childbirth.


  •   Now a simple study of the range of women's experiences of childbirth suggest they vary enormously, from those that are very difficult, very painful and even life-threatening to those that are easy and even virtually painless. It takes very little thought to suggest that that latter description would almost certainly have been how it was under God's original design, but for a variety of emotional and physical reasons it veered away from that towards the other end of the spectrum as general experience after the Fall and after they are excluded from God's live-giving presence.


  •   (There are some women who would say that the up side of this is that going through such an experience to bring their child into the world leaves them feeling so much closer to the child they have borne.)

ii) Change in her relationship with her husband


  •   With God's close presence it is probable that there would be a more gentle, caring, compassionate and responsive relationship between husband and wife.


  •   With that presence being distanced from them, it leaves it open for them to act out of self and one commentator suggested, “‘To love and to cherish' becomes ‘To desire and to dominate'. While even pagan marriage can rise far above this, the pull of sin is always towards it.”


  •   On one hand there is desire but on the other there is dominance, for such is the way of Sin.


iii) Change in the earth to make life harder for the man


  •   Whether this is literally physical or is spiritual is unclear but if we take the changes for the woman literally, then we should do the same for the man.


  •   God's original mandate was, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Gen 1:29)


  •   Now He speaks, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”


  •   The change is from collecting the fruit of trees, bushes etc., to actively cultivating the ground to bring forth food, which will be hard work.


  •   Again, using what we have considered previously, where the close presence of God is, there is the sequence of blessing, life and then fruitfulness. Where that presence is distanced, that blessing is removed and the earth ‘works' less well. (There have been reports from around the world in recent decades of redeemed Christian communities that have received the blessing of the Lord and their crop fruitfulness has increased amazingly.)



11.8 What alternatives?


In our earlier chapters we said one thing we would do is consider

  • what would be the outcome if the judgment did not happen and the sin simply permitted and
  • what alternative judgments would have been possible.


In order to speculate more comprehensively about the outcome without the judgment (and it has to be speculation because we are not told) we might ask a key question: would what happened without judgment be any different from what happened with the judgments, and if so, how might it have differed?


In considering what might have happened if God had not decreed this judgment, we have to wonder first, how what did happen would be different if the judgment had not occurred.


What DID happen After Eden

The simple approach is first of all to observe what did actually happen after Eden (and then wonder if it would have been different without the judgment).


Initially (before God decreed any change) there already were breakdowns in relationship resulting from the Fall, between them and God, and between each other:

  •  Adam and Eve felt guilty and estranged from God (they hid from him – Gen 3:8)
  •  they blamed one another and refused to accept personal blame (Gen 3:12,13)

but those were more obvious consequences rather than judgment. Nevertheless once they occurred they would be characteristics of those relationships thereafter. Once the deed was done there was no way of stepping back from it and its immediate consequences, which have been seen in mankind ever since as

  • an ongoing sense of estrangement from God (He feels a million miles away)
  • an ongoing estrangement from one another (we so often feel inadequate or defensive or hostile in respect of others)
  • an ongoing propensity to choose the way of self over God's way.

Having gone their own way once, it is quite probable that the couple would stray further afield. Having ‘broken the rules' once (even though it was just one rule) although God did not lay down lots of other rules, it is clear from the ongoing history in Genesis that mankind well and truly fell off the path of God's design for humanity, for example:


i) Cain and Abel

  • Cain murdered Abel even though God was clearly still around if we may put it like that.
  • We'll examine this more fully in the next chapter.


ii) Lamech

  • This man either killed another or threatened to (Gen 4:23)

iii) Pre-Noah

  • (see Gen 6:5) Man, in a very short time, had exercised his free will to do what he liked and it was all against the design of God. (We'll examine this when we examine the Flood)


We emphasise, having once disobeyed God, it is probable that all of these things would have occurred anyway regardless of whether the judgment was imposed or not. Interestingly, as we'll see in subsequent chapters, God is seen there in i) and iii) above seeking to limit the situation.


The Outcome in Absence of the Judgment?

If that judgment had not been imposed, then there are a) obvious consequences and b) not-so-obvious consequences. Let's try and explain.


i) Obvious

If nothing else happened there would be these two outworkings:

  • First, they would still have access to the tree of life.
  • Second, they would now have an uneasy relationship with God.

Their access to the source of life would presumably mean they would be able to live on indefinitely, giving even more time or more opportunities to sin in even greater ways.

The relationship with the Lord would degenerate into that of spoilt children imposing on a weak father. We might suggest that is what happened in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15).


ii) Not-so-obvious

First, we might ask, would God just patting them on the back and saying, “There, there, it's all right, I forgive you,” have redeemed the situation? Definitely not. Satan would have returned and said, “See I was right. Nothing bad did happen, you can do what you like. Go for it! Grow up, be yourselves, do anything you want, it will be all right.”


Second, it is probable therefore, that the ongoing consequences would have been the same in terms of the behaviour of mankind, the only difference being that i) there would be no end to it and ii) maybe allow freedom from consequences which might mean them opening the door to far worse things.


Third, and by far the greatest consequence that comes out of this, is that if God did not act against this disobedience, this evil, then from this point on justice would never have a leg to stand on. If God could wink at one indiscretion then everyone else would have an excuse to say, “Justice doesn't matter,” but that goes against everything every one of us believes. (It may only be when it comes close and we have been violated, but ultimately we all DO believe in justice).



11.9 The Bigger Outcomes of this Judgment

Before we consider specifics, may we suggest what, perhaps, is the most obvious summation of what happened:

1. Adam & Eve decided to be independent of God in their decision making

2. God thus said, very well, I grant you the freedom you want. You will be free of me - but with all that that entails, living outside the Garden separated from me.


Hold on to this analysis when people thoughtlessly declare God is an unkind dictator. Everything about what followed the Fall, was about mankind being made to live out their chosen independance.


Effects of the Judgment

What putting them out of the Garden does is

  •  make them realise that there are always consequences to wrong behaviour, behaviour contrary to God's design, and
  •  make them stand on their own two feet and take personal responsibility, and
  •  acknowledge their failure and need of help (the basis of salvation) and
  •  at the same time uphold justice.

God's Choices

We might also ponder on the following:

  •  God could have simply destroyed them and started off with some completely different creature.
  •  Instead He simply removes them from a place where they would have continually gone to seek blessing, to seek God's life-force, to seek eternal life, to stop aging and to prevent dying – and thus develop their sinfulness on and on.
  •  The fact that they will die means they will only live a limited period in which to develop and this will mean that their personal sinfulness will be curtailed with aging.  

Ongoing Possibilities and Actualities

Furthermore consider:

  •   It will be harder than before but that will not harm them, and God will still be there for them when they seek Him – but it will be a case of when they seek Him.
  •   Having said that, the evidence of ongoing Biblical history is that relationships with God were possible and God goes out of His way to develop them – through Abram and then his son and grandson and then through a nation called Israel, and so on down through history.

Outworking the Plan of God


The key understanding of just what this judgment was, might be summarised as God distancing Himself from mankind and that distancing meaning a reduction in the life-giving properties of His presence, changing how the world works.


At all times we need to review it in the light of our starting point, which was the plan of the Godhead before Creation itself, to persevere with mankind even though free will would bring Sin into the world. His plan, which was revealed and made clear through Jesus, was to work with mankind in such a way that justice would not be denied (and Sin forgotten) but those who would respond to Him could be brought back into a loving relationship with Him.


The ultimate end, via the Cross of Chris, involves many sinful but redeemed humans being restored into a living, loving relationship with God and receiving eternal life – to live it out with Him for ever. This was there all the time behind the things going on as recorded in Genesis 1-3.



Return to top of page