Read: Genesis 3:1 – 4:26
Crucial aspects of human existence are rooted in the story of the Fall and the on-going tragedy of our first parents.
Discussion Themes and Questions:
- The subtle serpent. The serpent, though not clearly identified as Satan until Revelation 12:7, plays a crucial role in human existence. To what extent does Genesis 3 tell us how we are to relate to God and to Satan? How does that affect the way we relate to each other?
Note: It is significant that the Old Testament nowhere explicitly identifies the serpent as God’s great opponent. In Genesis 3 it is the most subtle of all the creatures God has created, yet plays a strangely subversive role in God’s beautiful new earth. The ambiguity which surrounds the serpent may explain why God could even use it as a symbol of salvation during Israel’s wilderness wandering (Numbers 21:6-9). In ancient Egypt, the serpent was, in fact, a symbol of a good deity and an evil deity. Even in our modern world the serpent coiled around the staff of Asclepius is the symbol of the healing arts.
For further discussion: See Appendix B, “Whatever happened to Satan in the Old Testament?” Chapter 3, from Alden Thompson, Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God?
- The effects of sin. What does Genesis 3 actually say about the effect of sin on human existence? How does this differ from the later teachings of the church? What does Romans 5:12-19 add to the description of the “penalty” that is not spelled out in Genesis 3?
- The relationship between man and woman after sin. Genesis 3:16 is taken by some as a divine mandate for a husband to “rule over” his wife. But the Hebrew is ambiguous. It can be interpreted as a mere description: As a result of sin, the stronger will in fact rule over the weaker, the man over the woman. Or, one can see it as a divine mandate, a command for the man to rule over his wife. What other grounds from elsewhere in the Bible or from Genesis 1-3 would tip the scales one way or the other?
- The first hint of good news. Christians look at Genesis 3:15 as the first reference to the plan of salvation. How clear would that idea be before the coming of Jesus? Why does the serpent dominate our thinking now in ways that were not true of life in the Old Testament?
- First murder. The extent to which sin has shaped humanity is vividly illustrated in the story of Cain and Abel. Does the Bible give us any clue as to why the death penalty was not carried out when Cain murdered his brother?
- First sacrifice. To what extent is the later sacrificial system implied in the narrative which describes Cain and Abel’s reaction to the felt need to “sacrifice”?