Did God curse Adam and Eve? Was there a curse on all creation?

Question / Comment - Did God curse Adam and Eve? Was there a curse on all creation?

Greetings from Philadelphia, I recently found your site because I was looking for some Bible studies and study tools. I bless God for you and the gift he has given you for his Glory. My Question: After doing the study on Gen.3, I'm curious to know if what God said to both Adam and Eve was a curse or judgment and if it was judgment what really is the difference from it being a curse? Lastly, God told Eve that the pain would be significant in child birth and that her desire would always be for her husband, what is the significance of the pain and what women feel toward the men they love? What was God making a point of other that her disobedience? God Bless You and your Family.

JPN Reply:

Greetings from Tauranga!

There are obviously a few mysteries in this passage. Some things we can say and some that are difficult to get to the bottom of. And I should say that I'm no expert on these matters. But for what it is worth, here are a few thoughts:

It is clear that God did pronounce a curse. He cursed the serpent (vs 14) and the ground (vs 17). But the Bible never says that he cursed Adam or Eve. Some do say that they were cursed but to do so you are reading something into the text that it does not specifically say. Certainly there was a punishment or consequence for their sin which would totally affect all areas of their lives.

The Bible dictionary says of a curse:

"When God pronounces a curse, it is, a., a denunciation of sin (Nu. 5:21, 23; Dt. 29:19-20), b. his judgment on sin (Nu. 5:22, 24, 27; Is. 24:6), and c., the person who is suffering the consequences of sin by the judgment of God is called a curse (Nu. 5:21, 27; Je. 29:18). However, for the Hebrew, just as a word was not a mere sound on the lips but an agent sent forth, so the spoken curse was an active agent for hurt. Behind the word stands the soul that created it. Thus, a word which is backed by no spiritual capacity of accomplishment is a mere ‘word of the lip’ (2 Ki. 18:20 rvmg.), but when the soul is powerful the word is clothed in that power (Ec. 8:4; 1 Ch. 21:4)."

So while a curse and the consequences of sin are similar, you could say that a curse is more of a direct desire to cause hurt or misfortune where as what God said to Adam and Eve was the natural consequences of reaping what they had sown.

In terms of the pain in childbirth, it is interesting that the same word is used of childbirth and God's pronouncement to man that he would have to toil in the ground in the following verse - 'Itstsabown' is the word which literally means toil, suffering, labour. I only bring this up cause it can read a little different between versions:

NIV: "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children."

KJV: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children."

I actually read one book that doesn't think the original statement was to do with childbearing at all. It said that "the word used in it's original vowel-less state fails by two letters to spell conception. Without these two letters the word means sighing or groaning and is used this way in the Septuagint" (the Greek translation of the Hebrew text done by 70 Rabbis). I'm not sure if this is correct or not.

There is also some disagreement over the word 'teshuqa' that is translated 'desire' in 'Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

According to Dr John MacArthur, the word comes from an Arabic root meaning 'to compel, to urge, to seek control'. It is also used in Gen 4:7. After comparing it with this verse he said that 3:16 would rightly read 'your desire will be to control your husband, but he will rule over you."

So, I guess the moral of the story is that God was saying that the effects of the fall would be felt everywhere. In creation itself (which still groans longing to be free - Rom 8:22), in the toil and suffering that life would now present to both man and woman, in personal relationships between one another where control and desire would replace harmony and self sacrifice. Everything is messed up.

But... and it is a good but... before announcing all this, the promise of a savior is given that would defeat the serpent:

"and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shalt bruise his heel."

And it will certainly be a great day when

"The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name... and there shall be no more curse." (Zech 14:9-11)

While it may not answer all your questions, for what it's worth I hope it helps.
From a different reader

Greetings from Asheville!

I need some clarification. I read your article "Did God curse Adam and Eve." It is seems obvious that only "the serpent" and "the ground" were cursed. In doing some research on the subject on the curse in Genesis, I have read some twenty books. All but one declare that Adam and Eve were cursed. As a bible teacher, it would seem strange for me to go against the mainline thinking that Adam is cursed. I am conflicted in my spirit about the subject. I guess what I am asking is why do so many bible commentators feel that Adam and Eve were cursed. What are they basing this on?

Also could you please clarify for me the Scripture from Romans where "creation is subjected 'to vanity--frustration'" Again commentators claim that creation was cursed. Is there somewhere in Scripture that states that creation is cursed? I just don't understand.

Depravity--I believe in the depravity of man. Where in Genesis 3 is man's depravity exposed? Is it in the fact that after the fall he gained the knowledge of good and evil? Or in the fact that they experienced guilt, shame and fear?


JPN Reply:

Having read 20 books on the subject then you are probably in a better place than I to answer this question! I would say that some Bible commentators say that Adam and Eve were cursed because there was a judgement pronounced because of their actions at the fall in Genesis 3 so they take this as a 'curse'. I think some talk in general terms about the 'curse of the fall' or 'the curse of sin' to govern all that came about because of Adam and Eve's disobedience. For me, I agree that there was a judgement and that there were VERY serious consequences for their sin. But, as I said in the initial answer, if you are looking specifically at the passage to see what was and was not 'cursed' (by using that word) you only find that Satan/serpent and the ground were cursed. Maybe it is 'splitting hairs'. Some would say that Adam was cursed indirectly through the curse being placed on the ground as scripture specifically states that this curse upon the ground was 'because of you'.

Genesis 3:17 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.

So Adam, and Eve for that matter, would be specifically affected because of the curse that came upon the ground. I would say that some commentators talk generally about the 'curse' upon mankind in terms of the sinful nature that we have. I see this as the direct result of disobeying God, sinning, and eating from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil for we see the effects of eating from that tree straight away - even before God comes and asks them what they have done and subsequently pronounces the judgement for sin and the curse upon the serpent and the ground. The Bible Knowledge commentary state the following concerning the judgement:

'These punishments represent retaliatory justice. Adam and Eve sinned by eating; they would suffer in order to eat. She manipulated her husband; she would be mastered by her husband. The serpent destroyed the human race; he will be destroyed.'

So, bottom line: Technically speaking I only see God specifically calling a 'curse' upon the Serpent and the ground so that is why I wrote (and write) as I do. But to be perfectly honest, it probably is splitting hairs. Some will call the consequences of the fall 'the curse of sin'. Others will talk about the judgement and consequences of the fall. Unless we can clarify clearing that there is a difference between the two it probably doesn't matter all that much. Least not for me anyway. The important point is that we realise that we all suffer the consequences of that fall and all have sinned and all can be redeemed in Jesus Christ!

Concerning the curse upon creation:

Genesis 3 says that the ground was cursed. From this commentators would see the larger picture of 'creation' and I think that is fair enough for God wasn't trying to outline everything that would happen because of the fall just in Genesis 3. Some of the consequences and changes would be seen as mankind lived out their lives. For example, God doesn't say how the animal kingdom would be affected - yet we see that the fall affected all areas of creation including animals that prey upon one another (which will be put right in the Messianic Kingdom when Jesus reigns.) Anyway, back to your question. So Genesis 3 only talks about the curse upon the ground. The fuller revelation and effects of this come out later. For example, in Psalms we read that:

Psalms 102:25-27 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (26) They will perish, but you remain;they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. (27) But you remain the same, and your years will never end.

So the fuller effects of the fall mean that this 'first' creation will not last forever. It is actually in a state of decay. It is actually wearing out just like an old garment wears out. Why? Because it has been subjected by God for that purpose. When did He subject it for this purpose? Not at the initial creation (for then it was 'good') but at the fall. After the fall of mankind, which affected all aspects of creation, God's purpose didn't exist in the first creation any longer. It was all contaminated by the effects of the fall. God's purpose and plan now lies in a 'New Creation'! Both for mankind (to be a new creation in Christ!) and for a whole new heavens and a new earth in which to dwell. One totally separated from any sense of sin. Now that is going to be awesome! And so, as we read in Romans where Paul expands on this further:

Romans 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to frustration (or futility), not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

So creation is groaning and it is wearing out like that old garment. But as seen, God has wonderful plans for something much better!

Concerning 'depravity' in Genesis 3:

When we look at the very first thing mentioned after eating from the wrong tree we see the following:

Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Prior to the fall they had lived in a state of innocence being dependant and focused upon God. As soon as they disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil the scripture says their 'eyes were opened and they realized they were naked.' In other words, they became 'self focused' not 'God focused'. The serpent had told them

Genesis 3:5 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'

This was a part truth in this like most of his lies. Their eyes were opened and knowing good and evil they were now in a position that they thought they could live without God. They could make their own choices. Be their own little god if you like. They could do their own thing. This is really the curse of mankind if you want to call it that. Created to live in dependence upon God and be in a relationship with Him, man now thought that they could be man (or woman) without God! That is the source and heart of depravity.

It is also useful to remember that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil also resulted not just in evil - but in some trying to be good. It pushes man in both directions. Yet the key is that it is all done with a self focus independent of God. A self focused, proud heart that tries to do what it thinks best, making it's own decisions. Yet with the inward guilt of its obvious failings it still tries to sew little pitiful fig leaves to cover its shame. Mankind has done this with 'religion' and 'good works' all its life.

It is also good to remember that 'depravity' doesn't mean 'continually as wicked as they can be'. I heard Stuart Briscoe speak a couple of months back and he said about total depravity:

'Dr. J.I. Packer put it this way: "Total depravity means not that at every point man is as bad as he could be, but that at no point is he as good as he should be." That is the fundamental human condition in a nutshell, according to Scripture. Some people try to persuade people they are totally rotten and despicable, utterly, thoroughly, totally depraved. People, understandably, react to that! They think the preacher is saying, "At every point of your life you are as bad as you possibly could be." Rather, there is no point in our lives at which we are as good as we should be. We have come short of God's glory. '

Genesis 3:8-12 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, (2) and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, (3) and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" (4) The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Carrying on in Gen 3 I have highlighted a few things to think about which I'll mention briefly. If a self focus was the first result from the fall, the second would be 'hiding from God'. Mankind has been trying to do that ever since. In fact they would like to get rid of the thought of God entirely! 'God is dead', 'There is no God', "We can answer all things with science and mans intellect - we don't need God anymore'...Yeah right! The third result is an inward fear or sense of guilt. And the fourth is a blaming of others instead of being accountable for your own sin. Genesis 3 is as relevant today as it was straight after the fall! And obviously we see in Gen 4 the further consequences of the fall where jealousy, bitterness and anger raise their head resulting in the first man born upon this earth killing his own brother.

In short: At the heart of the fall and of depravity is SELF! Whether it is trying to be good or trying to be bad, it is still mankind thinking that he can be his own god, make his own decisions, and thus still believing the lie of the enemy that man can be man without God. And you only have to turn on the evening news to see how well that is going!

Hope this helps.

God Bless

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