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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 3

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Ver. 1. Now the serpent was more subtile, &c.] And so a more fit instrument of that old serpent the devil, that deceiveth all the world. [Revelation 12:9] (a) Good natural parts abused, prove rather as pressmoney to impiety, (b) as he phraseth it, and their wisdom was the crime counselor, {culpa suasoria} as Ambrose speaketh. Wit unsanctified is a fit tool for the devil to work with. Neither is there a likelier anvil in all the shop of hell, whereon to forge mischief, than one that is learned and lewd, wittily wicked. {ingeniose nequam}

And he said,] that is, the devil in the serpent, as the angel in Balaam’s ass. {Satan istius prima fabulae poeta fuit, serpens histrio.} By the ear he brought death into the world; and God, to cross him, brings life in by the same door; for it is, "Hear, and your souls shall live". [Isaiah 55:3] The dragon bites the elephant’s ear, and thence sucks his blood; because he knows that to be the only place which he cannot reach with his trunk to defend. (c) So here, that great red dragon dealt with miserable mankind, setting first upon the woman as the weaker vessel - where the hedge is lowest, there the beast leaps over - and so climbing by Adam’s rib to his heart, as by a ladder, as I said before, out of St Gregory.

Yea, hath God said?] In the Chaldee, Is it true that God hath said? A concise expression, implying that this was not the first of their discourse; something had been said before. (d) It is not safe parleying with the devil. {Satan et si semel videatur verax, millies est mendax et semper fallax.} Halter him up therefore, and stop his mouth (e) soon, as our Saviour did. Or do as the French say in their proverb, When the Spaniard comes to parley of peace, then double bolt the door. The Hollanders are said to make no conditions with the Spaniard, but such as are made at sea, and scaled with great ordinance, &c. (f) He shoots with Satan in his own bow that thinks by parleying with him to put him off.

Hath God said, Ye shall not eat?] Here he began his assault upon our first parents; here, upon Christ, [Matthew 4:3; Matthew 3:17] and here he doth still upon us; endeavonring to elevate (g) the truth and certainty of God’s word, and to weaken our faith in his precepts, promises, and menaces. And here, if he take us out of our trenches, if he can but wring this sword of the Spirit out of our hands he may do what he will with us. Get but the heretics, said that subtle sophister, out of the paper walls of the Scriptures, into the open fields of fathers and councils, and ye shall soon do well enough with them. (h)


Verse 2

Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Ver. 2. And the woman said unto the serpent.] Our first parents were not, in the state of innocency, silly and witless, like young children, as Socinians make them; but very knowing, though but of small experience. But if they fell the same day (a) wherein they were created, as most hold, how sudden was the serpent’s seducing, the woman’s consenting, Adam’s yielding, and God’s executing!


Verse 3

Genesis 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Ver. 3. Neither shall ye touch it.] This is of the woman’s own addition, and of a good intention doubtless. For afterwards, when she had drunk in more of the serpent’s deadly poison, from gazing upon the fruit, she fell to gaping after it, from touching to tasting. (a) He that would not feed on sin’s meat, must beware of the broth; "keep thee from an evil matter," saith Moses. [Exodus 23:7] A good man dare not come near the treachery, though he be far off the blow; he dare not venture on the occasion, lest his tinder should take fire. It is ill playing upon the hole of the asp, or coming too near hell-mouth; (b) for by so doing, you may beseem to drop in. "Watch therefore, and pray" too, "that ye enter not into temptation," saith our blessed Saviour; and mark his reason, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak": q.d., though the spirit purpose otherwise, the flesh will falter, and be foiled: witness the woman here with her "lest ye die." She held the precept in the utmost extent of it, but that which she failed in, was that she minced the matter, and opposed not the commination to the temptation. And see how the devil works upon her weakness, as he watcheth for our haltings, and where to have us on the hip.


Verse 4

Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Ver. 4. Ye shall not surely die.] He saith not, Dying ye shall not die, or, Surely ye shall not die; this had been too plain a contradiction to that word of God that had threatened assured death; but, Ye shall not die in dying; that is, It is not certain ye shall die. And this latter is more nice and ambiguous. She seems to doubt of the certainty of what God had said. He plainly and cleanly impugns it: whereas had God’s word abidden in her, she had overcome that wicked one. [1 John 2:14] The word is compared to mustard seed, which being mixed with vinegar, is, they say, a sovereign medicine against serpents.


Verse 5

Genesis 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Ver. 5. For God doth know, &c.] It should take care of itself because nothing is hidden with God. {Id quod cum Deum non lateat, sibi cavet.} (a) It is remarkable that the devil here charges God with envy, which is his own proper disease; for ever since he himself fell from heaven, he cannot abide that any should come there; but of pure spite hindereth them all that may be. Here he envied that God should be served by man, and that man should be gifted and graced by God. So that he points out, and paints out himself, in saying that God envied man the gift of wisdom. There is nothing more usual with the wicked, than to muse as they use, and to suppose that evil to be in others that they find to be in themselves. Caligula, (b) that impure beast, would not believe there was any chaste person upon earth. And, I dare say, said Bonner to Hawks, the martyr, that Cranmer would recant, if he might have his living - so, judging others by himself, for Papists apply themselves, said our protomartyr, Mr Rogers, to the present state; yea, if the state should change ten times in the year, they would ever be ready at hand to change with it, and so follow the cry, and rather utterly forsake God, and be of no religion, than that they would forego lust, or living, for God or religion. (c)

Then your eyes shall be opened.] There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy. There is also an opening of the eyes of the body to confusion and shame. He promised them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them, as he doth thousands now-a-days, by the cogging of a die, as St Paul hath it {εν τη κυβεια, Ephesians 4:14} giving them an apple in exchange for paradise. Thus of old he cheated Ahab and Croesus (d) with promises of victory; which, when it fell out otherwise, he had a hole to creep out, and save his credit by an equivocation. Thus of latter time he begiled Pope Sylvester II., assuring him that he should never die, till he came to say mass in Jerusalem; he, resolving never to come there, made no reckoning but to live a long time. But it fell out somewhat otherwise; for as he was saying mass in a certain church in Rome, called Jerusalem, fearing nothing, the devil claimed his due, and had it. For he was there and then taken with a strong fever, and lying on his deathbed, he sent for all his cardinals, and declaring before them what a wretched bargain he had made with the devil, selling his soul for the popedom, and deceived by him with promise of long life, he bitterly bewailed his own folly, and advised them to beware by his example. (e) And was not Leoline II., Prince of North Wales, as finely cheated? For, consulting with a witch, he was told that it was his destiny to ride through London with a crown on his head. Hereupon, he growing burthensome to the English Borders, was in a battle overthrown. His head fixed upon a stake, and adorned with a paper crown, was by a horseman triumphantly carried through London; and so the prophecy was fulfilled, A.D. 1282.

And ye shall be as gods.] The serpent’s grammar first taught, saith Damianus, "to bring down God to much; you will be as gods." {Deum pluraliter declinare; eritis sicut Dii.} This the woman understood of the Trinity, as appears, [Genesis 3:22] but the devil might mean it of the angels (so the Chaldee Paraphrast translates it) which had sinned, and now had woeful experience of the good which they had lost, and the evil wherein they lay. "Lo, this only have I found," saith the wise man, "that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions". [Ecclesiastes 7:29] {Ipsi autem quaesiverunt cogitationes Magnatum (so some render it), sive angelorum; apostatarum scilicet.} But they soon sought out the tricks or devices of great ones, that is, of the angels, who, not content with their own station, "forsook it". [ 1:6] So did our Protaplasts.


Verse 6

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Ver. 6. And when the woman saw.] At this portal the devil entered. How many thousand souls have died of the wound of the eye, and cried out, as Eve might here, "When I saw it, I died!" {Ut vidi, ut perii!} (a) If we do not let in sin at the window of the eye, or the door of the ear, it cannot enter into our hearts. "The way to our crimes is through the eyes in our mind." Quintilian said. {Vitiis nobis in animum per oculos est via} Wherefore, "if thine eye offend thee, pull it out." In Barbary, it is death for any man to see one of the Shereefs concubines; and for them too, if when they see a man, though but through a casement, they do not suddenly screech out. (b)

She took of the fruit thereof.] Whatever it were, whether an apple, as Bernard (c) and others gathered out of Song of Solomon 2:3, or a fig, as Theodoret; or a pomegranate, as Mohammed in his Alkoran; or a bad peach; {malum Persicum} or "fruit of Paradise," {Pomum Paradisi}, as the Syrians call a kind of fruit common among them. God created us of nothing, and we offended him for a matter of nothing. All the legions of the reprobate devils, said one, (d) entered into one beast, and, by the Pitho and Suada of that viperous tongue, crept into the bosom of Eve, as it were by all the topic places in logic, figures in rhetoric, and other engines of guile and deceit, till they had brought her into a fool’s paradise, with the loss of the earthly, and hazard of the heavenly.

And gave it also to her husband.] It is probable, saith the same author, that Adam stood by all the time of the disputation; therefore his sin was the greater, that he rebuked not the serpent, &c. And again, I cannot believe, said he, but that the devils in the serpent did as well tempt Adam as Eve, though first they began with her, as a further means of enticing him. Others (e) are of another mind, as that the tempter set upon the woman alone and apart from her husband, as she was curiously prying into the pleasures of the garden; that the serpent crept into Paradise unseen of Adam, who was to keep beasts out of it; that he remained there without being seen by him, and crept out again when he had done his feat; that when she gave him the fruit, she gave him also a relation of the serpent’s promise concerning the force of that fruit, that it would make them wise as God, knowing good and evil, &c., whence he is said to have hearkened to her voice. [Genesis 3:17] And surely, every Adam hath still his Eve, every David his Bathsheba, a tempter in his own bosom, his own flesh, whereby he is so soon "drawn away, and enticed" as a fish by the bait, - beauty (f) is a hook without a bait, (g) as one saith, - till "when lust hath conceived," as here it did in Eve, "it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death". [James 1:14-15] Satan hath only a persuasive sleight, not an enforcing might. It is our own concupiscence that carrieth the greatest stroke.


Verse 7

Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Ver. 7. They knew that they were naked.] Bereft of God’s blessed image; no more of it left than, as of one of Job’s messengers, to bear witness of our great loss. I call it ours, because we were all in Adam, as Levi was in Abraham, or as the whole country is in a Parliament man. tie was our head; and if the head plot treason, all the body is guilty. Hence the prophet Hosea: "O Israel, one hath destroyed thee; but in me is thy help". [Hosea 13:9] So some read it. Had we been by when this wretched "one" destroyed us all; had we seen him stand staggering betwixt God’s commandment and Eve’s allurement, not yet resolved which way to incline, and could have foreseen the danger hanging over him and ourselves, we would surely have cried out to him, Take heed, thou wretch. { Cave miser} And why do we not the same to ourselves, when solicited to sin?, { Alterius perditio tua sit cautio} saith Isidore; and, { cavebis si pavebis} saith another. (a) There is a practical judgment still practised in our hearts. On the one side is propounded the commodity of sin; on the other, the offence whereby we provoke God. So that in the one end of the balance is laid God, in the other sin, and man stands in the midst, rejecting the comnland of God, and accepting of the pleasure of sin. What is this but to prefer Paris before Paradise with Cardinal Bourbon, Barabbas before Christ, a thing of nought before heaven’s happiness? Our first parents were born with the royal robe of righteousness, as those Porphyrogeniti in Constantinople; but the devil soon stripped them of it (the same day, as some think), (b) and so they became sore ashamed of their bodily nakedness, which therefore they sought to cover by making themselves aprons to cover their privities.

Quest. But why did they, and do we still, so studiously hide those parts, rather than their eyes and ears, which they had abused to sin with?

Ans. Because sin has become natural, and derived by generation. [Psalms 51:7 Genesis 5:3] Therefore circumcision was also on that part of man’s body; to show that that which was begotten thereby, deserved in like manner, as execrable and accursed, to be cut off and thrown away, by God. Here some ground their opinion, that it is a sin against nature to look on the nakedness of another. A foul shame it was for old Noah to lie so uncovered in the midst of his tent, but far fouler for those worshippers of Priapus, which Jerome and Isidore make to be that Baal-peor, [Numbers 25:5] that shamed not to say, { Nos, pudore pulso, stamus sub dove, coleis apertis}& c. (c) But in man’s soul is now a πανσεπρμια, the seed of all sin, though never so heinous or hideous. Neither by nature is there ever a better of us; "but as in water face answereth to face, so doth the heart of a man to a man". [Proverbs 27:19] And as there were many Marii in one Caesar, so are there many Caius and Caiaphases in the best of us all. { Totus homo est iuversus decalogus} The whole man is in evil, and whole evil is in man. As the Chaos had the seeds of all creatures, and wanted only the Spirit’s motion to produce them; so our corrupt nature hath all sins in it, and wants but the warmth of Satan’s temptation to bring them into act, if God restrain not. Sure it is, we can stay no more from sinning, than the heart can from punting, and the pulse from beating. The first man defiled the nature; and ever since, the nature defiles the man. As poison put into a cup of wine disperseth itself, and makes it deadly; so original sin polluteth and poisoneth our whole man. And as the whitest ivory turns with the fire into the deepest black, the sweetest wine becomes the sourest vinegar; so here. The more unnatural any quality is, the more extreme will it be, as a cold wind from the south is intolerable, &c. So Adam, "being in honour, was without understanding," and is now in worse case than the very "beasts that perish":, [Psalms 49:20] { Pecoribus morticinis} saith Treme]; the beasts that die of the murrain, and so become carrion, and are good for nothing.


Verse 8

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Ver. 8. And they heard the voice of the Lord.] Either speaking something by himself of that which Adam hath done against his command; as who should say, Hath he served me so indeed? or else calling to Adam in a mighty thunder, as to Pharaoh, [Exodus 9:28] or in a terrible whirlwind, as to Job, [Job 38:1] the better to humble him, and prepare for a sermon of mercy and forgiveness. God poureth not the off of his grace, save only into broken vessels. Christ came to cure not the sound, but the sick with sin: the Holy Ghost is poured out upon thirsty souls only that are scorched and parched with the sense of sin and fear of wrath. [Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 44:3] As the way to Zion was by Sinai, so, unless we desire rather to be carnally secured than soundly comforted, we must pass by Baca to Berachah, by a sight of our sin and misery, to a sense of God’s grace and mercy.

Walking in the garden in the cool of the day.] God did not meet the man angrily, as he did Moses in the inn, when tie had much ado to forbear killing him; [Exodus 4:24] nor as the angel did Balaam, with a drawn sword in his hand to destroy him; neither did he rush upon him, as David ran upon Goliath, and cut off his head; but, with a soft and slow pace (a) (as if he had no mind to it), he comes walking toward them, to do this, his work, "his strange work," [Isaiah 28:21] of sentencing sinners; and that in the cool of the day, too, or towards the evening, as St Ambrose (b) hath it, after the Septuagint. Whereas to show mercy, "behold, he comes leaping (c) upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills." Lo, "this is the voice," and the pace "of my beloved." [Song of Solomon 2:8] God was but six days in making the whole world, yet seven days in destroying one city, Jericho, as Chrysostom long since observed. He scourgeth not his people, "till there be no remedy." [2 Chronicles 36:16] He forbears us, though he "cry like a travailing woman," [Isaiah 42:14] to be delivered of his judgments.

And Adam and his wife hid themselves.] Their covering of fig-leaves, then, was too short; for here they ran with their aprons into the thicket to hide from God. A poor shift, God wot, but such as is still too much in use. "If I have covered my transgressions as Adam," or after the manner of men, saith Job, [Job 31:33] then let this and this evil befall me. The bad heart runs from God, and would run from its own terrors, (d) as the wounded deer from the deadly arrow that sticks in his side; but refusing ordinary trial, it is in danger to be pressed to death inevitably. We have no better refuge than to run from God to God. Bloodletting is a cure of bleeding, a burn of a burn. To close and get in, avoids the blow, &c. Our first parents here, in hiding themselves, did but as the fish which swimmeth to the length of the line, with a hook in the mouth, as one well observeth.


Verse 9

Genesis 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where [art] thou?

Ver. 9. Where art thou?] Not as if God knew not; for he searcheth Jerusalem with lights; yea, himself is the "father of lights," [James 1:17] the great eye of the world, to whom the sun itself is but a snuff. He hath "seven eyes upon one stone"; [Zechariah 3:9] yea, "his eyes run to and fro through the earth"; [2 Chronicles 16:9] and "all things are naked and open" - naked, for the outside, and open, for the inside - "before the eyes of Him with whom we have to deal." [Hebrews 4:13] Simple men hide God from themselves, and then think they have hid themselves from God; like the struthiocamelus, they thrust their heads into a hole, when hunted, and then think none seeth them. (a) But he "searcheth" - so one may do, yet not find - "and knoweth." [Psalms 139:1] "He seeth" - so one may do, yet not observe - "and pondereth." [Proverbs 5:21] Though men hide their sins, as close as Rachel did her idols, or Rahab the spies; though they dig deep to hide their counsels, God can and will detect them, with a woe to boot. [Isaiah 29:15] For "hell and destruction are before him"; [Proverbs 15:11] how then can Saul think to be hid behind the stuff, or Adam behind the bush? At the voice of the Lord he must appear, will he, nill he, to give account of his fear, of his flight. This he doth (but untowardly) in the words following.


Verse 10

Genesis 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I [was] naked; and I hid myself.

Ver. 10. I heard thy voice.] So he had done before his fall, and feared not. "Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" [Micah 2:7] Excellently St Austin, Adversarius est nobis, quamdiu sumus et ipsi nobis: Quamdiu tu tibi inimicus es, inimicum habebis sermonem Dei . Yea, but I was naked, and therefore hid myself. This also was non causa pro causa . There was another pad in the straw, which he studiously conceals, viz., the conscience of his sin. (a) Hic vero non factum suum, sed Dei factum in semetipso reprehendit saith Rupertus. He blames not himself, but God, for making him naked; and so verifies that of Solomon, "The foolishness of man perverteth his way"; [Proverbs 19:3] and then, to mend the matter, "his heart fretteth against the Lord." O silly simple!


Verse 11

Genesis 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

Ver. 11. Who told thee.] His own conscience, awakened and cited by God’s voice, "told him" - as the woman of Samaria said of our Saviour - "all [John 4:29] that ever he did." Before and in the acting of sin, we will hear nothing; but afterwards, conscience will send forth a shrill and sharp voice, that shall be heard all the soul over; such as was that of Reuben to his brethren: "Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child?" &c. [Genesis 42:22] The books of our consciences are now sealed up, and the woeful contents are not read by the law. They remain as letters written with the juice of oranges or onions, which are only to be made legible by the fire of God’s wrath. Then shall the wicked run away (but all in vain). with those words in their mouths, "Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" [Isaiah 33:14] Then shall they tire the mountains with their hideous outcries, Fall upon us, hide us, crush us in pieces, grind us to powder. But how can that be, when the mountains melt, and the rocks rend asunder at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob?


Verse 12

Genesis 3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Ver. 12. The woman whom thou gavest.] Here he rejects the fault upon the woman, and, through her, upon God, who gave her to be with him, or before him; or such another as himself (with reference to that Kenegdo,){ Genesis 2:20} or a help meet for him. This she might have been to him, had he been (as he ought to her) a manly guide in the way to heaven. He should have rebuked her, as Job did his wicked wife, for transgressing God’s law and tempting him to the like. Then had her sin been personal, resting upon herself, and gone no further, had not he hearkened to her voice. But he not only did thus, but instead of agnising his fault, seeks to transfer it upon God; that, since he could not be like unto God in the divinity, which he aimed at, he might make God like unto himself in iniquity; which was to fill up the measure of his sin, that wrath might have come upon him to the utmost, but that God’s mercy was then, and is still, over all his own good, and our bad, works.


Verse 13

Genesis 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Ver. 13. And the woman said, The serpent.] Thus the flesh never wants excuses; nature need not be taught to tell her own tale. Sin and shifting came into the world together; never yet any came to hell, but had some pretence for coming there. It is a very coarse wool that will take no dye. Sin and Satan are alike in this; they cannot abide to appear in their own colour. Men wrap themselves in excuses, as they do their hands, to defend them from pricks. This is still the vile poison of our hearts; that they will needs be naught; and yet will not yield but that there is reason to be mad, and great sense in sinning.


Verse 14

Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, 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 shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

Ver. 14. And the Lord said to the serpent.] The serpent was not examined, because God would show no mercy to him; but presently doomed, because of mere malice he had offended. The heathens (a) called certain devils, Kοβαλοι, quasi χαχοβοθλοι,

η δε κακη βουλη παρ βουλευσαντι κυκιστη

Evil befell him that evil bethought him. As Balaam, that advised evil against Israel, was slain by the sword of Israel. The serpent also hath his part in the punishment, because instrumental to the devil. Both authors, actors, and abettors of evil shall rue it together. The serpent here is first cut shorter by the feet, and made to wriggle upon his belly; secondly, confined to the dust for his diet; which is also, saith an ancient, χαταβρωμα του εχθρου, the devil’s diet: for your adversary the devil - that "ruler of the darkness of this world" [Ephesians 6:6] as he dwells in dark hearts, as so many holes and caverns - so, Behemoth-like, "he eats grass as an ox"; [Job 40:10] yea, dust as a serpent, continually "seeking whom he may devour"; [1 Peter 5:7] and is therefore cursed above all creatures. He hath swallowed down souls, "and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly." [Job 20:15] He sinneth every day the sin against the Holy Ghost, and shall lie lowest in hell. Every soul that he drew thither by his temptation shall be as a millstone hanged about his neck, to hold him down in the bottomless lake.


Verse 15

Genesis 3:15 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.

Ver. 15. And I will put enmity.] Instead of that amity and familiarity thou hast lately had with the woman. And here begins the Book of the Lord’s wars: his hand is here upon his throne, he hath solemnly sworn that he will have war (not with Amalek only, but) with the whole serpentine seed, from generation to generation. [Exodus 17:16] There is also a capital antipathy (saith Bodinus) (a) between the woman and the serpent: so that in a great multitude of men, if there be but one woman amongst them, he makes at her, and stings her about the heel. Pliny (b) also tells us, that the fastingspittle of a man is deadly to serpents; and that if a serpent wound a man, he is no more entertained by the earth, or admitted thereinto. Others (c) tell us that a snake fears and flies from a naked man, but pursues him when clothed or covered. "Put on Christ," and thou art safe. His blood, as Polium, is a preservative against serpents. [Revelation 12:9]

It shall bruise thy head.] And so kill thee quite; as a serpent is not killed dead till knocked on the head, which he therefore carefully saves with the hazard of his whole body. To elude, or elevate (d) at least this sweet promise, this grand charter of our salvation, the devil, no doubt, devised, and by his factors, the poets, divulged that frivolous fable of Hercules, his clubbing down the Lernaean serpent, and cutting off his many heads. But Christ alone is that stronger man, that, drawing the dragon out of his den, hath cracked his crown, destroyed his works, made him to fall as lightning from the heaven of men’s hearts, and "will tread him also under our feet shortly," [Romans 16:1-27] as he hath already done under his own, when "spoiling these principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them on his cross." [Colossians 2:15] As in the mean while, till this be fully done, nibble he may at our heel, but cannot come at our head. Achilles is said to have taken his death by a wound in his heel. But "he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one [the devil] toucheth him not." [John 5:18] That is, Tactu qualitativo , saith Cajetan, with a deadly touch; he thrusteth not his sting so far into him as to do him to death. For Christ, "who is our life," [Colossians 3:4] can as soon die at the right hand of his heavenly Father, as in the heart of a faithful Christian; since "our life is hid with Christ in God"; his life is bound up in his child’s life. He shall make the broken horns of Satan to be the trumpets of his glory, and the cornets of our joy.

Thou shalt bruise his heel.] Not both his heels, but one only; so that he shall stand upon one, though hurt in the other; or if overthrown, yet he shall rise again, and be "more than a conqueror," [Romans 8:37] (e) or "overcome" him that overturned him. He is the victor that breaketh the head; whenas he that bruiseth the heel, though he be an enemy, yet he lies along, and can do no great mischief there. And hereto the prophet seems to refer, when he saith, "Why should I fear in the days of evil, when the inquity of my heels" (that is, when the punishment of mine iniquity that reacheth but to the heels) "shall compass me about? … God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell." [Psalms 49:5; Psalms 49:15] But how wretchedly was Josephus the Jew mistaken here, both in natural and theological history! (1.) In that, in affirming that the serpent before he deceived our first parents had the faculty of speech, went upon feet; but, by reason of that misdemeanour, was amerced of those abilities, and also had poison, as a badge of his enmity toward man, put under his tongue: (2.) In this, as esteeming what was only the instrument in tempting Eve, the principal agent: and the promise, a precept (the observance whereof would prove but of a shallow advantage) that God’s meaning was only this, that every one as he met with a serpent should strike it upon the head, which contained in it somewhat hurtful ¢o mankind. The Chaldee paraphrast attained the mind of the sentence; thus he senseth it: he put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy son and her son: he shall remember what thou didst to him iu the beginning, and thou shalt observe him in the end; i.e., Thou shalt, by thy malicious attempts, endeavour to hinder the consummation of God’s works of mercy, the application of Christ’s merits, as mine author interpreteth him. I conclude with that memorable saying of a holy martyr: - If (f) we had a lively feeling of the serpent’s poison, we could not but rejoice in our Captain, who hath bruised his head. What though the serpent shoot his sting into our heel, and make us halt: yet let us go on, though halting, to heaven; yea, "run with patience the race that is set before us; looking at Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," &c. [Hebrews 12:1-2]


Verse 16

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Ver. 16. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow.] The greatest of sorrows this is, as we are given to understand, both out of divine and human writings. "I had rather die in battle ten times over, than bring forth but once only," said Medea in the tragedy. (a) But we have a better example, in the Ecclesiastical History, (b) of a Roman lady, called Sabina; who, being great with child, was cast in prison for the profession of Christ’s truth. Now when the time came that she should be delivered, and she cried out for extremity of pain, the keeper of the prison asked her why she made such a stir now; and how she would, two or three days hence, endure to die at a stake, or by the sword. She answered, "Now I suffer as a woman, the punishment of my sin; but then I shall not suffer, but Christ shall suffer in me." In peace offerings there might be oil mixed, not so in sin offerings. In our sufferings for Christ there is joy, not so when we suffer for our sins.

In sorrow thou shalt bring forth.] And in sorrow shalt thou bring up, after the birth. {as Genesis 50:23} Children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts. (c) Eve had a great catch of it, when she had got a man-child of the Lord, she called him Cain, a possession, as David did Absalom, his father’s peace. But

Fallitur augurio spes bona saepe suo .”

Excellently St Gregory, Ante partum liberi sunt onerosi, in partu dolorosi, post partum laboriosi .

And he shall rule over thee בפדך .] Yet not with rigour. She must, though to her grief and regret, be subject to all her husband’s lawful commands and restraints. But he must carry himself as a man of knowledge towards her, and make her yoke as easy as may be. It is remarkable that when the apostle had bid "wives, submit to your own husbands," &c.; [Colossians 3:19] he doth not say, Husbands, rule over your wives, for that they will do fast enough without bidding; but, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter unto them."


Verse 17

Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life;

Ver. 17. Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife.] Our English historian, (a) relating the deadly difference that fell out beteen those two noble Seymours (the Lord Protector, and the Admiral his brother) in Edward VI’s time, through the instigation of their ambitious wives, passionately cries out, "O wives! The most sweet poison, the most desired evil in the world," &c. "Woman was first given to man for a comforter," saith he, "not for a counsellor, much less a controller and director." And therefore in the first sentence against man, this cause is expressed, "Because thou hast obeyed the voice of thy wife," &c.

Cursed is the ground for thy sake.] Hence the Greeks and Latins borrow their words (b) for ground of the Hebrew word that signifieth cursed. The curse of emptiness and unsatisfyingness lies upon it, that no man hath enough, though never so much of it. The curse also of barrenness, or unprofitable fruits, "whose end is to be burned." [Hebrews 6:8] The whole earth and the works therein shall be burnt up. [2 Peter 3:10] It was never beautiful, nor cheerful, since Adam’s fall. At this day it lies bedridden, waiting for the coming of the Son of God, that it may be delivered from the bondage of corruption [Romans 8:20]


Verse 18

Genesis 3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

Ver. 18. Thorns also and thistles.] Ubi veritas dixit, quod terra homini spinas et tribulos germinaret, subintelligendum fuit, ait Petrarcha, et rusticos tribulis omnibus asperiores. { a} The clowns of Midian drove Jethro’s daughters from the water they had drawn. Rudeness hath no respect either to sex or condition. Those churls of Succoth were worthily "threshed with thorns of the wilderness, and with briers," and thereby "taught" better manners. [ 8:7-16]

Thou shalt eat the herb of the field.] And no longer feed on these pleasant fruits of Paradise, which by thy sin thou hast forfeited. Thus man is driven from his dainty and delicate diet, to eat husks with hogs, as the prodigal, or at least, grass with the ox, as Nebuchadnezzar, and be glad of it too; as our ancestors, who though they fed not at first on acorns, as the poets fable, yet if they could get a dish of good green herbs, they held themselves as well provided for as if they had all.


Verse 19

Genesis 3:19 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.

Ver. 19. In the sweat of thy face.] Or, of thy nose, as one (a) rendereth it; that sweat that, beginning in thy brow, runs down by thy nose, through thy hard labour. This is a law laid upon all sorts, to sweat out a poor living, to humble themselves, by just labour, to sweat either their brows or their brains, (b) for this latter also is a "sore" occupation, [Ecclesiastes 1:13] and the minister’s toil is compared to that of those that cleave wood; or work hard in harvest. {1 Thessalonians 3:5 Matthew 10:10 1 Corinthians 9:14, &c.} (c)

Shalt thou eat bread.] Not herbs only, as ver. 18. And here take notice of an elegant gradation, together with a merciful mitigation of man’s misery. Thou shalt eat "earth" (ver. 17), "herbs" (ver. 18), and now here, "Thou shalt eat bread," that stay and staff of man’s life under his hard labour (d)

Until thou return unto the ground.] "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord," [Jeremiah 22:29] i.e., "earth" by creation, "earth" by corruption, "earth" by resolution. This is the end of all men, and the living should lay it to heart. In this third of Genesis we find man’s Exodus. This is the first text of mortality, and all comments, yea, all dead corpses (e) concur to the exposition of it.

For dust thou art.] Think on this, and be proud, if thou canst. We were created εικονι θεου, but now we live ει κονι χοιχη, saith Agapetus. Had we so sweet a generation as that little creature Scaliger (f) speaks of, that is bred in sugar, we might have some ground of boasting; but now we may sprinkle the dust of humility on our heads, as the ancients used to do, in token that they deserved to be as far under, as now they were above ground.

And to dust thou shalt return.] By this limitation, God restrains man’s death here threatened, to that earthy part of him, his body. The sorest death occurs when a man "dies in his sins," as those Jews did. [John 8:21] Better die in a ditch a far deal. When he is "killed with death," as Jezebel’s "children," [Revelation 2:23] this is the second death. The condemned person comes out of a dark prison, and goes to the place of execution; so do many from the womb to the tomb, nay, to that tormenting Tophet, to the which death is but a trap-door to give them entrance.


Verse 20

Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Ver. 20. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve.] That is, Life, or Living. Not, per antiphrasim, as some would have it; much less out of pride and stomach, in contempt of the divine sentence denounced against them both, that they should surely die, as Rupertus would have it: but because she was to be mother of all living, whether a natural or a spiritual life; and likewise for a testimony of his faith in, and thankfulness for, that lively and lifegiving oracle. (a) [Genesis 3:15]

The mother of all living.] "Have we not all," as "one father," [Malachi 2:10] so, one mother? did we not all tumble in a belly? "why do we then deal treacherously every man against his brother?" [Malachi 2:10] This one consideration should charm down our rising and boiling spirits one against another, as it did Abraham’s. [Genesis 13:8]


Verse 21

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Ver. 21. Coats of skins and clothed them.] God put them in leather, when yet there was better means of clothing, to humble them doubtless, and draw them to repentance. Whether God created these skins anew, or took them off the backs of sheep and goats killed for sacrifice, to remind man of his mortality and mortification, it much matters not. Our first parents, who, even after the fall were the goodliest creatures that ever lived, went no better clothed: no more did those worthies "of whom the world was not worthy." [Hebrews 11:38] And surely, howsoever our condition and calling afford us better array, and the vulgar, like a Bohemian cur, (a) fawn upon every good suit ( purpuram magis quam Deam colunt ), yet we must take heed that pride creep not into our clothes, those ensigns of our sin and shame, since our fineness is our filthiness, our neatness our nastiness. It is a sure sign of a base mind, (b) though in high place, to think he can make himself great with anything that is less than himself, and win more credit by his garments than his graces. St Peter teacheth women (who, many of them, are too much addicted to over-much fineness) to garnish themselves, not with gay clothes, but with a "meek and quiet spirit," [1 Peter 3:3-4] as Sarah did, and not as those mincing dames, whose pride the prophet inveighs against, as punctually as if he had viewed the ladies’ wardrobes in Jerusalem. [Isaiah 3:1-26] Rich apparel are but fine covers of the foulest shame. The worst is nature’s garment; the best but folly’s garnish. How blessed a nation were we, if every silken suit did cover a sanctified soul: or if we would look upon our clothes, as our first parents did, as lovetokens from God!

Nam, cum charissima semper

Munera sunt, author quae pretiosa facit.

How could they but see it to be a singular favour that God with his own hands should clothe them (though he had cast them out of Paradise for their nurture); a visible sacrament of his invisible love and grace concerning their souls, in covering their sins, and so interesting them into true blessedness. [Psalms 32:1-2]


Verse 22

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Ver. 22. The man is become as one of us.] A holy irrision of man’s vain affectation of the Deity. Quod Deus loquitur cum risu, tu legas cum fletu. Howbeit St Augustine (a) is of opinion that God speaks thus, not by way of insulting over Adam, but deterring others from such proud attempts. Discite iustitiam moniti, &c.

And take also of the tree of life.] And so think to elude the sentence of death pronounced upon him by God; which yet he could not have done, had he eaten up tree and all. He should but have added to his sin and judgment by abuse of this sacrament; which would have sealed up life unto him, had he held his integrity. Multi etiam hodie propter arborem scientiae amittunt arborem vitae: In terris manducant quod apud inferos digerunt. { b}


Verse 23

Genesis 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Ver. 23. Therefore the Lord God sent him forth.] He gently dismissed him, as the word signifies; placed him over against Paradise, in the sight thereof (as Stella (a) observeth out of the Septuagint) that, by often beholding, the sorrow of his sin, might be increased, that his "eye might affect his heart" (b) [Lamentations 3:5] Yet, "lest he should be swallowed up of over-much sorrow," and so Satan get "an advantage of him" - for [2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 2:11] God is not ignorant of his devices - Christ, the promised Seed, was, by his voluntary banishment, to bring back all believers to their heavenly home; to bear them by his angels into Abraham’s bosom, and to "give them to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." [Revelation 2:7] Our whole life here is nothing else but a banishment. That we like it no worse, is because we never knew better. They that were born in hell, saith the proverb, think there’s no other heaven. The poor posterity of a banished prince take their mean condition well-aworth; Moses counts Egypt, where yet he was but a sojourner, his home; and in reference to it calls his son, born in Midian, Gershom, that is, a stranger there. Oh, how should we breathe after our heavenly home! groaning within ourselves, like those birds of paradise naturalists (c) speak of, stretching forth the neck, as the apostle’s word (d) importeth, "waiting for the adoption, even the redemption of our bodies," [Romans 8:23] glorifying God meanwhile with our spirits and bodies, devouring all difficulties, donec a spe ad speciem transeamus , till Christ, who is gone to prepare a place for us, return and say, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise."


Verse 24

Genesis 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Ver. 24. So he drove out the man.] The Hebrews say, God led Adam gently by the hand, till he came to the porch of Paradise, and then thrust him out violently, who hung back, and played loath to depart. That he went out unwillingly, as I wonder not, so that he should strive with God about his going out, I believe not. This garden, planted merely for his pleasure, and all the benefits created for his use and service in six days, he lost in six hours, say some; in nine, say others; the same day he was made, say all, almost. What cause then have all his sinful posterity to distrust themselves! And how little cause had that blasphemous pope (a) to set his mouth against heaven, when - being in a great rage at his steward for a cold peacock not brought to table according to his appointment, and desired by one of his cardinals not to be so much moved at a matter of so small moment, - he answered: If God were so angry for an apple, that he cast our first parents out of Paradise for the same; why may not I, being his vicar, be angry then for a peacock, since it is a greater matter than an apple? (b) Is not this that mouth of the beast that "speaketh great things and blasphemies?" [Revelation 13:5]

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-3.html. 1865-1868.

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