Hints on Genesis 3

 •  28 min. read  •  grade level: 6
We were speaking of the beautiful character of Christ's coming into the world in humiliation, God coming to win back man's heart to Himself. This goes beyond the chapter, but it is produced in souls at times before forgiveness is known. When there is a clear gospel, forgiveness comes out first, but many are like the poor woman that was a sinner who had her heart towards God or Christ, though she did not know forgiveness yet. There was faith in His person. She was attracted by the grace in Him, and broken down about her sinfulness. So many a pious soul now does not know forgiveness.
It is all a mistake to confound trust with faith, though, no doubt, faith produces confidence, You can hardly separate the two things, but there is this in faith: “he that believeth his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” In Luke 7 it was a living word. But when I have the Spirit of adoption, I am a son. Christ revealed the Father: “I have manifested thy name;” “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” The moment the Son was there, the Father's name could be revealed; but it was not until the gift of the Holy Ghost that they had the Spirit of adoption. But in Christ here below God was coming into the midst of sinners in love and winning back their confidence; and one sees in the poor woman that was a sinner a heart trusting Him, though His work was not completed.
The temptation was “ye shall be as God,” not gods, “knowing good and evil.” Eve takes, eats, and gives to her husband, who eats: thus their eyes were opened. The counterpart is seen (Phil. 2,), and intended as such, in Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” That is, Christ in taking the place of second Adam went exactly opposite to the first one. Adam was in the form of man, and set up to be as God; Christ is not only a man but God, and did not set up like Adam to take what did not belong to Him, for He was God, but, having laid all aside, He became obedient unto death, the death of the cross. He goes down all the way till He comes right down to death, yea, death of the cross—the exact contrast of what Adam did. You see the progress in Eve. When confidence is lost, the woman saw that the tree was good for food: lust comes in. It was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise. Accordingly she eats, and then Adam. He was not deceived: the woman Eve was, and so was in the transgression.
The devil came hiding himself in that serpent, using it as an instrument of mischief.
“Dust” means utter and entire humiliation, as “lick the dust;” “Arise ye that dwell in the dust,” and so on. It is constantly used in this way. In Dan. 12 it is the same, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth.” In the text it is used to express the judgment that shall be upon the power of Satan.
It is curious in the olden times that they used to eat serpents to get wise. And it is wonderful how wide-spread was the idea of wisdom in the serpent. Esculapius had a serpent in his temple. A serpent with his tail in his mouth was the image of eternity, the whole circle was in that. The Agatho-demon, or good demon, in Egypt was a winged serpent. They found represented in Mexico (though I do not know how far you can trust pictures) a woman under a tree and the serpent offering the woman an apple. It was found as a picture. There was a great collection of such things; but it is all dispersed now There were traces of similar things among the Druids, but evidently the Druids came from Persia.
Fallen, they knew good and evil, and that they were naked; they are under the shame of sin; and then we learn how utterly powerless all human means are to hide sin. The moment they hear the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, all the fig leaves are simply nothing. They were, used to cover themselves from one another; but the moment God was there, they say that they are naked. Afterward God made them coats of skins; it was a very different thing when God did it.
We do not know in what words the command was given; it is merely told us generally. It was pressed upon Eve's mind that she was to have nothing to say to it; she does not give exactly the words of God, “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” It was probably her own impression, not the exact words of God—just the main effect produced on her mind.
It is well to remark that, before ever God turned Adam out, he had got away from God: I do not mean his heart merely, but he had a bad conscience; he went and hid himself in the trees of the garden, and that is the first of it. But the great question, besides what had been done, is “Where art thou?” This is a far wider question than that to Cain— “What hast thou done?”
There is no history of man in innocence. The first thing we find in the history of man is the fall. Children were begotten after the fall, and all else follows. The fall comes in first both historically and morally; and so it has always been. The first thing Noah does is to get drunk. The children of Israel made a golden calf even before they had really got the law, though they had just promised obedience. It was the same thing with the priests Nadab and Abihu: they offered strange fire the very first day; and then Aaron was forbidden to go into the most holy place in the garments of glory and beauty. Was not all this serious? It is not a question of the “first day'' exactly, but of their first act noted in scripture. And it is just as true of the church. Peter says “the time is come that judgment should begin at the house of God:” Paul that “all were seeking their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's;” and then John says “even now are there many antichrists; whereby Ave know it is the last time.” All the apostles tell us so, though they stemmed the torrent while there. So Jude says, “of these Enoch prophesied, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment,” &c. There they are, he says; more morally there perhaps than historically.
We see then that man departed from God before ever God turned him out; that is, his conscience drove him away from God, and in the end God drives him out. How God detects everything! “I was afraid because I was naked".... “Who told thee thou wast naked?” Now it comes to what he has done; the first point was, “Where art thou?” To Cain it was, “What hast thou done?”
As a matter of doctrine, I was led distinctly to notice this in the epistle to the Romans; there first it is “all have sinned;” then “by one man sin entered.” Thus it is our condition: “what we have done is proof and fruit of it. Adam cannot be with God at all. Such is his condition; and then God asks, What have you done?
It was God looking for man, perhaps I should hardly say in grace; it was God coming in. Of course God knew everything; but, speaking as to His manner of dealing, He is expecting Adam to have intercourse with Him. God could go and walk there, and, according to the principles of His position, expect that Adam would receive Him as his benefactor. It is, “What has come of you?” so to speak. If one expects. a person to be there, one says, “Where are you?” This brings out of Adam what the real state of the cases was; and when God asks, “how did that come about?” Adam does a base thing, for he says, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” It is “whom Thou gavest.” If You had not given me the woman, I should not have done it! as much as to say, “You may settle with the woman.” And God says “Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife and hast eaten:” this is what He condemns Adam for. And whenever we make an excuse, this in fact is what we are condemned for. Adam listened to the woman instead of to God. People say, “I was tempted,” and this is true; but why did you yield to the temptation? It was not a lie, in the outward sense of a falsehood; but he had followed the woman instead of God.
Then what the woman said was true, “The serpent beguiled me and I did eat.” When the woman of Samaria said “I have no husband” it was true, but the object of it was to conceal the truth for all that. It was legally true but ethically false, true in fact but truth told to conceal the truth all the while.
It is important to remark here that all the judgment stated is in this world simply. There is none of the truth that comes out afterward, when life and incorruptibility are brought to light. Men try to spin this out into what is more (and there is an immense deal more to a spiritual mind): but the actual judgment is in this world. Thus the serpent is not here cast into the lake of fire: God says, “because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust thou shalt eat all the days of thy life.” There is nothing about the final judgment of Satan, “and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” You may see something more there, figuratively and mysteriously prophetical; but that is no present thing; the actual judgment on the serpent is in the former verse.
Another thing to notice here is that there is no promise to man. As regards a great deal of the Arminian system, which is largely infidelity, all of it is cut up by the roots. There is no promise to man. The promise is a future judgment pronounced on Satan which has an application to Adam; for it is clear he was not the seed of the woman. Then on the woman it is merely the sorrows of childbirth, and she is made, not simply a companion, but subject, to her husband.
All depends whether this distinction is made: it is no question of restoring the first man. The promise brings in another man instead of the first. And it was not even by the seed of the man, by any descendant of man as man, though He is the Son of man, but it was the woman it came in by; as we read in Galatians “made of a woman,” and “under the law” too—the two things, one applicable to man, and the other special to some.
What is here is this: God cast out the man; yet Adam fled away from God before he was turned out. But when God turned him out, this was judicial, and God put cherubim there and a flaming sword turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life. That is, Adam was not only going to dust but could not get at life again; it would have been horrible if he could. He was an outcast from God altogether, and this is everlasting misery. Once partaking of the tree of life would have immortalized.
But it is no question here of judgment being everlasting. It is separation from God. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” What was to happen to his soul there is not a word about. The question of the inner man is quite untouched. When God drove him out, the soul did not die; neither was it dust to go back to dust, for soul was not made of dust. But to be driven out was eternal misery, though one must have a spiritual mind in a sense to know really that it is infinite misery to be shut out from God.
As to original sin, it is well to say what we mean by it, as men's thoughts differ widely. We read that “by one man's disobedience sin entered into the world:” there we find that the sin of Adam put him in this position. There are two things in what is commonly called original sin. It does not consist in following Adam, but that I am alienated from God, and also that I have an evil nature. The two go together, just as reconciliation and anew nature go together. My heart is renewed from and to God.
The first is that man departed from God. I have sometimes said, when they have talked about God damning a man for eating an apple, that it is not God shutting man out for an apple, but that man shut out God for an apple. His heart was separated from God, and then he got lusts and self-will instead of subjection. Then follows the judicial part, “Where art thou?” —where? that is, as to my state, not what? a question of my deeds, though men are judged according to their works. When there is spiritual intelligence in me, the first thing that strikes my conscience is my deeds. Ordinary evangelization takes up what man has done; but this alone never sets one clear with God. A soul still has to learn another thing, and that is where he is; that is, that in me, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. But the preacher who dwells on this does not reach the consciences of people. If I take the “What hast thou done?” and the “Where art thou?” then I have all. From this point of view men as men are alike bad, and the prodigal son was as great a sinner when he just crossed his father's threshold, as when he was eating the swine's husks, because he had from the first turned his back upon his father. Nor is the work done in a soul, until it finds out how bad it is in itself, the tree bad, the root bad, itself away from God. My works refer on to the day of judgment; but by what I am I have lost all.
Both are perfectly true of every man. It is works rather in Adam's breaking the law, and still more distinctly in Cain, in whom it is sin against a neighbor or a brother. Adam sins against God. Cain's terrible act brings the inquiry “What hast thou done?” but the what or where we are is a great deal deeper in the testimony of the thing than what we have done.
Nothing is more important than to have these two clear before the mind. “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” This is not what I have done. “By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin:” this too is not what we have done; but “we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God” this is what' we have done, that is sins. The right translation of Rom. 5:1313(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:13) is, “for that all have sinned,” not “in whom.”
The judgment in Gen. 3 was upon Satan, though it was there for Adam to lay hold of. There was no promise to the fallen Adam, no promises to man in sin, any more than innocent. Evil came in by the devil; with man, by temptation. God was over it; this is the reason why He suffered evil and the fall, by reason of a greater good to come in. My answer to him who asks it is, “why, you foolish man, if you had not been a sinner, you would not have had Christ at all.” And this is a true answer too, because it was in God's counsels to introduce and reveal Christ in glory ultimately.
God created not merely stones but moral beings, beings with responsibility; and if responsibility be a fact, there is liability to good and evil, as it means having to answer to Him. To a man in the state described in Heb. 6 there is no restorability: the passage says so. So there is no restorability to angels, because they fell when they were in the good itself. Jude tells us of angels who kept not their first estate.
So Ezek. 28 is commonly, and, I have no doubt justly, applied to the fall of Satan from verse 11. It is not the same as the prince of Tyrus who is judged historically in the beginning of the chapter. “Thou sealest up the sun, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God: every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Then in verse 17, “thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness,” and so on. Under the figure of the king of Tyro clearly, but under figure, we see this, which goes far beyond the idea of a mere king of Tire and, I doubt not, is Satan. The prince of Tire who was there was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand I see no foundation for the king of Tire representing Adam. Satan “was a murderer and abode not in the truth,” so that he is a fallen being. The meaning of the word “covereth” refers to a cherub and gives the idea of protection, I suppose. There is power and beauty in the creature. These precious stones are here in creation, as again in grace in the priesthood, and yet again in glory in the new Jerusalem. All this diversified beauty from God was upon him, and the light shines from the creature as from the precious stones. We have no detail, for God was not teaching men about Satan. He abode not in the truth, he was not kept in dependence by God's power; and angels fell with him, because it says “the devil and his angels.” Where Adam sinned in the presence of good, it was only natural goodness received from God; he was not in the glory of God in the upper creation.
But other angels fell apart from the devil. For scripture says, they are “reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness unto the judgment of the great day;'“ whereas Satan roves all about the world now, and others with him, so that they are not in chains under darkness. Jude says, those that “kept not their first estate but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day; even as Sodom and Gomorrah ant. the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange! flesh are set forth for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” They, doing evil, are set forth for an example, their condition now being an abiding testimony to their judgment. “In like manner” refers to giving themselves over as the cities did. “The sons of God,” in Gen. 6:22That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Genesis 6:2), were angels, just as in Job “the sons of God” presented themselves before God.
All is confusion everywhere except what grace has done whether it be angels or anybody else; no creature stands when left to itself, and so as to angels we read of “the elect angels.” The good angels are looking on, and therefore a woman is to have her head covered. All creatures have a sphere of responsibility—I do not mean Satan of course, but moral creatures. Verse 24 is to be taken literally: why not? The infidel would refuse it and improve man. You do get relief in a way afterward: so Lamech named his son Noah, and said, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed.” It does not say the curse was taken away; but there was a comfort concerning it. There was a certain testimony to the state of things. The curse is not gone; but it was mitigated in its effect. On the other hand, in chapter iv., Cain was cursed from the earth. He got an additional curse: “The earth shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength.” In the garden Adam did not toil to get food: he ate the seed, and the animals ate the grass; but when driven out, he had to toil to get things to eat— “in the sweat of his face.” Then after the flood seed-time and harvest are secured, agriculture in a way is blessed: not the curse gone, but man comforted, so that I should think it is less work to get things out of the earth now than it was before the flood. It would seem that the end of chapter viii. implies a change; for there is a promise that, though there might be toil and difficulty, “yet neither will I again smite [that is, in the flood] any more everything living as I have done, while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” He gives sufficient for agriculture, but the seasons remain. In Israel it was not the labor removed, but the amount of blessing on the labor increased. Adam had to dress and keep the garden, and he might well enjoy it.
In the millennium the labor will continue; but they shall not plant and another eat the fruit, and so on. Still the works of their hands go on. The labor does not cease, nor will it be in sorrow that they eat. The earth shall yield her increase, but men must toil to get it. Scripture shows that some part of the earth will be barren, as marshes shall be given to salt. The actual judgment goes no farther than death in this world, and no farther than the body— this mortal body. “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.” The question of the soul is utterly untouched. Those who oppose the truth as to this identify eternal life with immortality; but when we have eternal life in Christ, we do not cease to be mortal. The whole thing is really a stupid blunder.
I consider that Eve is called “living” there, as being Adam's faith, though you may not lay it down as a dogma. It is remarkable, coming in just after the curse and after the judgment on Satan too. After death has come in, she is called the mother of all living, not of the dying. But it was no object of God to tell us whether Adam was saved or not.
The cherubim are connected with a judicial throne and judicial power, and so always judicial. I speak of it practically so—what judges a thing right as well as what judges a thing wrong. The cherub is always God's judicial authority and power. There were cherubim on the vail in Ex. 26, as over the ark and elsewhere. On the vail it is the symbol of judicial power, so in Ezekiel when He sees them. So it is on the tabernacle: only on the mercy-seat it is judgment for us. It is not merely a throne judging what is wrong, though this is true, but a judgment on my behalf according to what the blood of atonement is. Law takes up man on responsibility; and this is met for me by Another at the mercy-seat. The difference between them and seraphim appears to be that cherubim are judgment according to the responsibility of man-judgment from God of course; and the seraphim have to do more immediately with God's nature. The only place they are expressly mentioned is Isa. 6, and there they cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts.” The only other being that is called a “cherub” is the fiery serpent in the wilderness.
There are two elements of judging with God. The first thing is, Have I maintained that which was set up to be? and the other is the Lord's coming when I shall be in God's presence, Can I then stand in the glory of God? can I abide this test then? In Isaiah, we have first in chapter v. “What could I have done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?” that is, as a vineyard, what has it borne? And then, in chapter vi., Jehovah is seen high and lifted up, and how could a man stand in His presence? “These things spake Esaias when he saw his glory and spake of him.” John 12
In the book of Rev. 4, the four living creatures are seen full of eyes before and behind, crying, “Holy, holy, holy,” having the cherubic and the seraphic characteristics too. It is extremely instructive. “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal, and in the midst of the throne and round about the throne were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind.” So stood the seraphim. “And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle:” this is cherubic. “And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within, and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come:” this is seraphic again. Farther on we find the judgment of the beast and of the false prophet, and then God coming out in His holiness at the end. In Israel we have the cherubim all through; and, when Nebuchadnezzar comes, the judgment on man according to his responsibility. The only thing in which we see the holiness and righteousness of God in itself is the altar outside in brass, and inside the blood put on the golden altar. Thus we have the two obligations (or measures, rather) of righteousness. Israel meets God on the ground of what man ought to be outside at the brazen altar; and then when the blood is upon the mercy-seat, the golden mercy-seat of God, there is the righteousness of God as it is in itself. “The Son of man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” The two attitudes of righteousness in the cherubim are at the gate of Eden, and then upon the mercy-seat. At Eden they bar the way against Adam in judicial righteousness; whereas God was sitting on the mercy-seat, and, though He was not approachable because the vail was there, yet He dealt with man; and, if righteous, He accepted man there; and when the blood was on the mercy-seat, there was that which met the character of God. Therewith God Himself was satisfied, for this was Jehovah's lot. There is more known now, because the vail is rent. Christ's work not only took away my sins, but glorified God in His judicial character. It is His righteousness to justify the believers.
In the garden it was the exclusion of man, but in the cross we find not only the sins borne, but much more; for there is such a work of Christ as glorifies God, as well as puts away our sins. There is Jehovah's lot in full. Towards the poor thief on the cross the Lord will not wait for the kingdom to be set up in grace in the world, but there is a positive going to God where He is. And we have more than sin put away, we have also that which lays the ground for the accomplishment of God's counsels in bringing us in His Son into His presence. This is no part of responsibility; it is nothing of me—putting me into the glory, but the fruit of God's counsels accomplished in Christ. Christ does meet my responsibility by dying; but there is a great deal more than that. His delight was with the sons of men, and He is going to have them in the glory with Himself. Christ glorifies God; and the answer to that is, that He goes into the glory, and this as our forerunner.
It is only in the kingdom, I take it, that the cherubim pass on into any connection with the church. We get inside the heavenly city; what is judicial would be outside. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it, that is, they dwell in their own glory; but the nations of them that are saved walk in the light of it. “We inside, we have the glory of God lightening us, and they outside walk in the light of the city itself. Christ is glorified in His saints, but they who are outside will never see it as we see it inside. So, in the transfiguration, the disciples fear when they see Moses and Elias enter into the cloud. Luke 9:3434While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. (Luke 9:34).
To understand better Psa. 99 which speaks of sitting between the cherubim, let us look at the Psalm from 93 to 100. They are descriptive of the bringing in of the First-begotten into the world. It is a most beautiful series, from the commencement in Psa. 93 to the accomplishment in Psa. 100 Psa. 93 gives the thesis. In the rejection of Christ there was judgment in Pilate, and righteousness in Christ. Taking the world as such, we find the One righteous man absolutely on one side, and judgment in the place of authority on the other; but when Christ comes to reign (ver. 15), judgment returns to righteousness, and they go together. Then it is asked “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” There is the cry of the remnant then. In Psa. 95 is the summons to them to return while it is still called “to-day.” In Psa. 96 the heathen are summoned. In Psa. 97 He is coming. In Psa. 98 He is come. He hath showed His righteousness, He hath remembered His mercy. In Psa. 99, having come and made known His salvation, He sits between the cherubim, taking His place in Jerusalem. Then Psa. 100 summons the nations to come up and worship in peace. Moses being the lawgiver and Samuel the first prophet, the Psalmist takes the originators of things in Israel to call upon the name of the Lord.
Notice the psalms also that go before. Psa. 90 opens with “Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Israel goes back to Jehovah having been their care-taker all through. In Psa. 91 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “Most High” was first stated to Abraham, it is God's millennial name. So what the psalm says is really that, if you dwell in the secret of Abraham's God, you shall have all Abraham's blessing. It is a beautiful conversation, so to speak, in the psalm.