|Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden|
The punishment meted out to Adam and Eve seems severe. What about another chance? It turns out that human suffering is that second chance.
All Adam would have had to do was to cry out to God for help from the serpent. Yet he didn't. Genesis Part 1: God and His Creation looks at this using the example of a good parent who must punish their child to get them to save them from a greater ill.
That singular act in the Garden — crying out for God's help — would have altered the course of human history. Why? Because it would have given expression to the life God's grace intended man to live. Man's faith would have prized the unseen God as his greatest good, no matter how intimidating the serpent or how appealing the fruit. His cry for help would have meant humility and obedience. Instead of love for God, man chose self-love. In his pride, there was silence.The Complete Bible Handbook points out that the Jewish understanding of The Fall is about as opposite as you can get from the Christian view.
Is it any wonder, then, that God allows a measure of suffering to overtake the human creatures? When they lost God's grace, and spiritual blindness set in, they would need some strong incentive to choose to do what they were originally designed to do-put themselves into God's hands, no matter what. Suffering, then, means that God has not given up on His human creatures. He wants them to run into His arms, as every good father delights in the love and trust of his children. He will do whatever it takes, even if it means playing the ogre, to provoke His children to cry out to Him. If Adam and Eve have lost the grace of God in their lives, a loss they will pass on to their progeny, then this kind of suffering and misery, still with us in the world today, is the greatest act of love God could bestow on them and us. Anyone who suffers has an opportunity to experience his own frailty, powerlessness, and desperate need for God's help. One cry will change everything.
Judaism does not see in the Genesis story the "Fall of Man." It may be that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but God stayed in conversation with them. Seeking wisdom and distinguishing between good and evil become essential human attributes. Toiling for food and suffering pain in childbirth are the prices paid for knowledge. For Judaism, if there is a "fall" in Genesis, it is a fall upward into new opportunities of responsibility and achievement. Christians see a radical fault that affects all subsequent humans. The fault of the first Adam has been dealt with by Jesus, who as the second Adam, brings redemption to the world.This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.