Bible Study: September 15, 2013

Text: Genesis 3:8b-17

“Knowledge of Good & Evil”

It would seem to me that knowledge of good and evil would be a good thing, but God forbids the man and the woman from enjoying the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).

I did a little digging and found out that many serious students of the Bible think the phrase “good and evil” is a Hebrew idiom for “everything.”

(In the same way, we might say “the tree of near and far,” meaning “everywhere.”)

That makes sense to me.

It also helps me begin to unravel why avoidance of this tree was so important. Only God knows everything, so to eat of that tree was to pretend to be God. We humans are still nibbling at that tree!

This week’s text shows just how messed up life becomes when we try to be God.

It also shows us that God means business. After all the fancy footwork by the man and the woman (Genesis 3:10-13), God spells out what happens when we do not trust God’s word. There is something of consequence for everyone: serpent, man, woman.

These verses (Genesis 3:14-19) sound like an effort to explain some of the hardships of life (a broken relationship with creation—3:14-15, an increase of pain and loss of stature—3:16, and the toilsome nature of work—3:17-19).

It is an issue with which we are always dealing: why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people.

Do we find comfort in this explanation in Genesis as to why bad things happen to “bad people”?

Before we get too carried away in these ponderings, we do well to recall the words of Jesus: “(God) makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). That sounds like a level playing field. None of us is God, neither the good nor the bad.

There is good news in the midst of this bad report card for the man and the woman.

Even though they try to hide from God (Genesis 3:8), God does not cut off communication with them. There is a divine prevenient grace that continues to reach toward them even when they have done wrong and when they try to disappear from God’s radar.

This might be a good time to remember that the names “Adam” and “Eve” (that come later in this story) means “ruddy, from the red clay, human being” and “life-giver.” Mercy! This could be our story!

What Someone Else Has Said:

In The Sacred in Music (Westminster John Knox), Albert Blackwell wrote: “We follow Calvin here in understanding our fallen condition as the result of our ‘seeking more than was granted.’”


As you prepare this lesson, let your prayer begin: “O God, can we start over?…”