Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 4:11-12

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

This is very powerful imagery that God evokes: the earth’s mouth having to receive the blood of an innocent, and thereafter refusing to yield its increase to the one who was responsible. God speaks of the earth as a sentient being, capable of taking offense and returning a consequence.

What we do to this earth matters. Our actions works their way into its soil and change its behavior. If nature seem chaotic and violent, might it not be because it is ruled by violent and evil stewards? How might the forces of nature change if all mankind suddenly gave up any violent disposition? Joseph Smith once counseled that ‘men must become harmless, before the brute creation.’ Perhaps if we achieved peace with all our fellowmen then the earth would be willing to have peace with us, too. Then, at last, the lion might lie down with the lamb.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 4:8-10

8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

All it took was one generation for mankind to find out the deepest depths of what sin one can do to another. To murder a fellow-person is contrary to our very nature, but Cain had found out how to break that barrier inside of him, and having introduced the idea it would now be repeated many times over.

The first instance of murder, and also the first account of lying. Adam and Eve may have hidden themselves in shame, but when God called for them and asked what had happened they told the truth. Telling the truth is a natural instinct for each of us, and to lie also requires another breaking of something inside. But Cain was able to do that as well, denying knowledge of what he had done, and then following it up with a most damning statement of cold indifference.

I wonder if Cain really thought that God could be deceived. Did he not realize that every soul was in God’s hand, and that “not a single sparrow falls to the ground” without God knowing it? In fact, God’s omniscient awareness and compassion is the one encouraging note in all this story. Cain had opened Pandora’s Box, and this first murder has been followed by an unfathomable number ever since. But while we as a people may have become desensitized to the act of killing, it is good to know that God knows and mourns each and every one.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 4:3-5

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his coffering:

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

This account doesn’t give an explanation for why God respected Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Several theories have been made, each seeming credible in their own way, but there is no telling which—if any—of them are the actual real reason why. And I don’t think it really matters.

As I have mentioned before, what is useful to me is how this story resonates with similar experiences of my own life. I ask myself what it teaches about me, more than what it teaches about Cain. And this account reminds me of how I used to make sacrifices of time and energy to try and offset all the wrong things I was doing in my addictions. I was fundamentally warped inside, harming myself and those around me, but devoting hours of service to my church in the hope that I could tip the scales in my favor.

And you know what? It never worked. Just like in Cain’s story, I felt like God had no respect for my offerings. All of that effort and it just wasn’t going anywhere, I was running in place without ever moving forward. And like Cain I felt angry about it. It seemed cruel to me that God just wouldn’t care about what I did. I was trying so hard, why wasn’t He seeing that and fixing me?!

In hindsight, though, it would have been immensely cruel for God to have supported me in that moment. If He had done so, it would have affirmed all my broken philosophies. It would have led me to believe that I really could offset all my sins if I just did enough other works that were good. There would have been no grace in my life, no inviting God to come into my heart as it was now to heal it, no coming to see Him as He really is.

So yes, I have been Cain, rejected and angry, but I know now that when God rejects an offering it is meant only as a kindness to His child.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:22-24

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:

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

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.

Verse 22 suggests that if Adam and Eve had eaten of the tree of life at this point they would have become immortal, which would mean living forever in their fallen state. It was therefore a great act of mercy that God drove them from that temptation and placed a guard over it.

This notion of living forever has obsessed man ever since. For millennia we have told of the Fountain of Youth, of the Nectar of the Gods, and more recently of medications and de-aging practices that stretch this short life out longer and longer. We may have all manner of pain in this life, but the notion of losing it still terrifies us, and we would give anything to escape that end.

Of course God promises us that death is only a portal to something better. He assures that a short walk into the dark gives way to a bright light at the other end. But it takes great faith to trust in that, and all of us have days where we would trade God’s promise of heaven for Eden’s tree of life. We would limit ourselves to eternity in the fallen world if given the chance. And this is perhaps the ultimate struggle we face. Learning to stop clutching to our world of pain, letting go of control, and just trusting that we will be caught in unseen glories.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:21

21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

When Adam and Eve discovered their naked shame they tried to hide it behind an apron of fig leaves, and we all do the same thing. We create all manner of guises to try and conceal the things that we are ashamed of. We might assume a persona of just not caring whether we’re a good person. We might try to overcompensate with a show of false piety. We might become depressed and define ourselves entirely by our wrong. We might try to distract from the pain with media or busyness. There are many ways that we make fig leaves, masks that are different from the authentic self we were born to be, anything that prevents others from seeing the wound inside.

But fig leaves are very inadequate clothes, and God provided to Adam, to Eve, and to us a different solution. The skin that He offered to our first parents is symbolic of the body of Christ. He invites us to surrender our mask, and replaces our shame with the purity of the Lamb. And this new vestiture isn’t about hiding our shame, it is about replacing it. Those that have been washed clean have a sense of being given a new and once-more-innocent soul. And one of the best analogues to that fresh feeling is pulling on a clean set of clothes, just like God gave to Adam and Eve.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:20

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

I had never noticed before that Eve did not receive her name until this very moment. In fact Adam may not have had a name either. In Hebrew, the word for “adam” simply means “man,” and the same word is translated interchangeably into both “Adam” and “man” in my English bible. Thus, during this time in the garden, God is simply speaking to them as “the man” and “the woman.” But at the moment of transition Eve, at least, is receiving a new name.

And notice that Eve’s name is not one of shame. The Hebrew word behind our English “Eve” is “chavah” or “havah,” which means “to give life.” It is a very beautiful and powerful name, a name that frankly wouldn’t have been applicable to her before she fell and gained the ability to conceive and bear children.

This points out the fact that Adam and Eve may have received a curse, but there was a blessing within that curse. Toil and pain were their inheritance, but so were children. Sin and condemnation had been introduced, but eventually so would a Savior and a redemption. Adam and Eve had passed from a glory, but they came into another, and with a promise to return to the first. And when they returned to that first it would be with new titles and honors, including “mother of all.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:17-19

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;

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

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.

Here Adam is told of a cursed earth, of hard labor and sweat before having any bread, of a war against the land just to live, and this description fits my native land perfectly. I live in central Utah, the middle of a desert, where it is possible to grow fruits and vegetables and trees…but it is not easy. Today we cheat and import richer dirt and foreign plants to help us out, but my progenitors extracted their lives from the land inch-by-inch.

And even in the more flourishing parts of the world there is still a strong sense of strife in nature. Consider the monarch butterfly, which has a symbiotic relationship with the milkweed plant. The monarch butterfly, when still a caterpillar, feeds exclusively on the plant’s leaves, and after transforming into a butterfly pollenates its flowers. Neither can live without the other.

But also each kills the other by the thousands! The caterpillars have a ravenous appetite, and consume and destroy vast numbers of the milkweed plants as they grow. They would overrun the species entirely if it weren’t for the fact that the plants lethally defend themselves. They secrete a sap that drowns massive numbers of the caterpillars when they are still young, cutting their numbers to a mere fraction! These two parts of nature may rely on one another to live, but there is still a great, mortal strife between them, and this is a common theme in nature: life, but only through a heavy, struggling burden.

In sorrow shalt thou eat. Thorns and thistles. We raise out of the dust, we struggle until we can struggle no longer, then we collapse back into the dust. It is a bleak life, to be sure, but it is still a life.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:16

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.

Let’s face it, this is a hard verse, and it has implications that can be very hurtful. It has been used as the justification behind some truly atrocious customs, customs that have made a staggering number of women live as second-class citizens. And if all that oppression was solely the cruelty of man, that would be one thing…but does this verse suggest that it is also the will of God?!

Well, to answer that I consider my personal experiences, and I must conclude that such a notion is entirely incompatible with the God that I see loving my wife and daughter. The God that I see has just as much passion for them as He has for me and my son. He is remarkably devoted to them, He fiercely fights for them, He is near to them at every moment. I have never seen in Him a desire to subjugate them to another, but rather to free them.

So how do I resolve verses like these? I think the natural response would be to try and apologize for it, to give some interpretation that makes all of the inconvenient elements go away. And frankly yes, a number of such possible interpretations do occur to my mind, and perhaps one of those could be the correct interpretation….but also perhaps none of them are.

If I started to preach any one of those ideas as the truth, I would be putting words in God’s mouth, which I do not have any right to do. Only He can provide the perfect clarification, and thus far He has not provided that to me. And so I must conclude that I do not know how this verse is meant be read…but I do know that God loves his daughters, and that He loves them just as much as His sons.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:14-15

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:

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.

Having obtained Adam and Eve’s confession, God now addresses each of his children. And yes, that includes his child Satan. God will address each in the order of their offense: Satan first for tempting Eve, Eve second for falling to that temptation, and Adam last for taking the fruit from his wife.

The King James Version of the bible translates the fate of the serpent as having his head “bruised,” but other translations have noted that the Hebrew word used (shuph) is commonly used to say “break” or “crush.” Thus the serpent may snap on man’s heel, but man will outright kill the serpent.

Which is a wonderfully encouraging prophecy from God! Here are Adam and Eve, having been compromised by the devil and are about to be cast out into the fallen world. Their heels have definitely been punctured, but they are being told that in the end they can have the victory over this foe. This prophecy was generally made true when from the ranks of mankind was found a Savior who defeated Satan and offer reclamation to every fallen man and woman.

But this prophecy can also be true of us on an individual level. We may succumb to temptation once, twice, or many times, constantly nipped at the heels by our foe, but each of us retains the hope to overcome. Many the addict has found a power that they didn’t know was in them, crushed their personal viper underfoot, and moved on with a life restored.