The Ground of Focus: Genesis 3:19

Eve has eaten from the fruit, and Adam has followed suit. They have hidden from God in the Garden, and finally admitted what they have done. Now comes the scene in Genesis 3 where God lines them up and gives three speeches, one to the serpent, one to Eve, and one to Adam. We normally call these curses, they aren’t really curses, they’re consequences. God laid down the rules before the foundation of the world, and he is now telling them what is going to happen because they broke the rules.

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” -Genesis 3:17-19

It’s the last verse in this section we’re really interested in:

A you return
B to the ground
C since (kî) from it you were taken
C´ for (kî) dust you are
B´ and to dust
A´ you will return

The center of this chiasm emphasizes the state of Adam before God put his spirit into him in contrast to his state at this moment. Now that Adam has eaten of the fruit, he is as the dust of the ground from which he was taken.

This isn’t physical death, as most readers assume. People have two parts, a body and a soul. When those two are separated, physical death surely follows. What God is saying here is that as you were spirit separated from body before you were created, you will now be spirit separated from body now. You remain spirit separated from God, but you also become spirit separated from body.

Spiritual death is the result of the sin of Eden —though physical death follows on its heals, spiritual death is what God covers with the institution of the sacrifice, and provides a permanent solution for in the death of Christ.

This chiasm emphasizes the importance of the concept and nature of death in the life of Adam, and hence emphasizes the importance of life in Christ.

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