After Adam sinned God made several judgements in Genesis 3:14-19, having first given Adam and Eve a chance to repent. In the judgements there were only two curses pronounced. One was against the snake and one was against the ground. Adam and Eve were not specifically cursed. Then Cain was cursed after he murdered Abel in Genesis 4:11. In this article I want to share insights behind these events.
Other insights to the curses are in Rules of Paradise, Creation was not Utopia, The Post Fall Picture and I will not repeat those here since they require significant context.
I felt the need to establish a couple of general principles about curses, but I found that any attempt to validate such principles need to deal with major topics like: blessing and curses; grace and mercy versus judgement and consequences; and love and discipline. I may deal with some of these later, but for now I will just offer these opinions and hope that they are fairly evident:
Curses are specific. They are addresses to specific individuals, lineages, or people groups. The consequences or effects are specific and named.
Not everything that we think is bad is a curse. God disciplines those whom He loves. Discipline is not a curse! Sin brings judgement, not a curse (unless forgiven).
God has a purpose when He curses. (God’s purpose through Jesus was to be saved from judgement by being forgiven.)
Genesis 3:14-15 – The snake is cursed:
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Genesis 3:16 – Increased pain to the woman, but not described as a curse:
16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
Genesis 3:17-19 – The ground is cursed and Adam’s toil (pain) is a result of this:
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 4:10-11 – Cain is cursed:
10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”
The snake is Satan who has been cast out of heaven never to return. Now see how all the elements of verses 14-15 describe this:
No curse against the animals is described, but snake is described as cursed “more than” the animals. The animals were created out of the ground (Genesis 2:19) but not given the “breath of life”, so they had no spirit, and so they were never going to have an eternal life in God’s presence. So cursed more than this means that Satan will not only never return to heaven, but will be cast into the Lake of Fire!
The snake is made to crawl on its belly. In other words it is constrained to the ground. This pictures Satan unable to leave this mortal realm and return to heaven.
The snake eats dust. Man is but dust of the earth. So Satan will oppress and prey on mankind. It also suggests that there is no heavenly manner (food) for the Satan.
The enmity between the snake and the woman’s descendants describes the battle between man and Satan. Satan strikes at the heel as Jesus was nailed to the cross. But Satan’s head is crushed showing his ultimate defeat.
Cain had chosen to be a farmer, to grow crops. The curse means that he can no longer do this. But more than this the curse says that he will be a restless wanderer. Here are some observations:
In Genesis 4:13 Cain immediately recognises the significance of his punishment. He knows he must leave the safety of God’s presence established where God had resettled Adam and Eve after evicting them from the garden. So like Satan’s curse, Cain lost access to the presence of the Lord.
Satan is also pictured as restlessly wandering the earth in Job 1:7. Away from the Lord’s presence there is no peace. (Jesus restored this peace to us in John 14:27, the blessed assurance of being reconciled to God.)
In Genesis 4:17 Cain built or founded a city. Then verses 20 and 21 describe his descendants working with bronze and playing musical instruments. So although Cain was blocked from farming, he and his descendants were free to turn their hands to technology and music.
It seems funny that Cain is to be a restless wanderer, only to see him build a city. But can you imagine how a farmer feels when he is forced to leave the land and live in a city? No peace! I actually think Cain was trying to re-establish a presence that he lost when he was sent away.
OK, it’s obvious that the ground will not easily produce food for Adam. This is a judgement on Adam and all his descendants. Now cursed things are separated from God. We saw that with the snake and Cain. But can you now understand why we no longer see God walking with man face to face as He did in the Garden? For example, God appeared to Israel on the mountain in Exodus 19:16-25. Why all the fire and smoke? ...Because the ground is cursed!
God no longer walked in the Garden. In fact we do not see that personal level of visitation again. There are instances of God appearing but are better understood as the Angel of The LORD visiting on behalf of God, and He uses Angels to manifest His presence. (e.g. Genesis 18, Genesis 22:11-18, Exodus 3:2, Exodus 14:19, Exodus 23:20-21, Exodus 32:34)
Evil cannot come into God’s presence. If so, fire comes out from His presence and consumes it. So now, when the full presence of God is manifest we see God shield himself in clouds of smoke like an interface layer to separate Him from the cursed ground. And where God does touchdown, fire comes out from His presence and melts the mountain tops. The fire of God purifies that which it touches, so enabling God to touchdown. These are the images that Israel saw when God appeared to them on the mountain and are preserved in Psalm 97:5 and other places.
See also Numbers 17:2-3, Deuteronomy 4:24, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Hebrews 6:8, Hebrews 12:18-29, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12. Notice that in the New Testament the fire is for the unbelievers because Jesus sacrifice has made holy all those who belong to him.
I really developed this in Creation was not Utopia. But in brief, Adam needed the Tree of Life to live forever, so Adam must have been created mortal. God did not curse Adam with death but Adam lost access to the Tree of Life because he could not have both the Knowledge of Good and Evil as well as live forever. God wanted Adam to live forever and that is why he was not to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
If Adam had been immortal, then in changing him back to mortal, God would have made Himself the author of death. But God is the author of life (Acts 3:15). Adam was created mortal with a free choice to live forever. The Tree of Life provided that. Today our choice for eternal life is found in Jesus.
Now here’s the twist. Rather than curse Adam, God cursed the ground. This cut God off from all that He had created and described as “very good”. Too often we mistakenly focus on what it seems God did to His creation when Adam sinned. And I’m not denying that Adam’s sin had terrible consequences, but can you now see how God sacrificed His access to all that He created in order to spare Adam and Eve. And later God sacrificed all that He had left in His son to reconcile man to Himself.
I’ve got to say it again. God could have vaporised Adam and Eve, but rather than have them harmed or permanently cut off from Him, God cut Himself off from this world. Rather than harm His children, God suffered the loss.
This cursed world will pass away but He has already prepared a new Heaven and a new Earth for His children. A new earth where man can again walk with God.
22 “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.”
In Luke 23:15, Pilate declared that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death. Even the criminal crucified next to Jesus declared the same in Luke 23:41. But the High Priest, in Matthew 26:66 and Mark 14:64, declared Jesus as deserving death. It was probably this very scripture in Deuteronomy that prompted the Jews to ask for the bodies to be taken down before the Sabbath that started that evening. (John 19:31)
In John 8:29 Jesus is talking about his death but says that his Father was always with him. Jesus had never known separation from his Father. But now, nailed to the tree, this curse and the pronouncement of the High Priest, has separated Jesus from his Father. That is why he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). There was nothing to live for without his Father and he then died.
Jesus took the death that we deserve. Jesus took the curses that befall us. As a Christian I cannot be cursed or possessed. Galatians 3:13-14 says it all:
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”-
14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Here are some points that came to me as I was developing this article. I did not seem to need them but maybe they will help you:
It’s worth noting examples where man has cursed or bound himself under oath and it has come back against the one who said it. (Psalm 109:17, Genesis 12:3, Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 31:32 and Genesis 35:19. Saul and Jonathan and the honey. Balaam in Numbers 22 and Numbers 31:8. Shimei and David in 2 Samuel 16:7 and 1 Kings 2:39-46. You can ultimately see where it ends up in Revelation 16:9-21)
Grace = getting undeserved good. Mercy = not getting deserved bad things.
Swearing seems to be a bit like cursing in that it can bring things back on you. Don’t do it – let your yes mean yes. (Matthew 5:33-37)