Law And Grace In Eden


by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler

God’s creation of Man occurred on the 6th day of Creation. This act of creating Man in His Image capped off the entire creation project, resulting in His assessing all as “tov m’od”, “very good”. Adam was the capstone, God’s best and favorite, the pinnacle of what He had made. (8) Then ADONAI Elohim (the Lord God) planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (9) Then ADONAI Elohim caused to sprout from the ground every green tree that was desirable to look at and good for food.” (TLV)

Heretofore, obviously, Adam had done nothing to merit any consideration from his Creator; God was merely operating on the basis of His loving intentions, unmerited favor- grace.

Going further into our narrative, (9b) “Now the Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden, and also the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil… (15) Then ADONAI Elohim took the man and gave him rest in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and watch over it. (16) Then ADONAI Elohim commanded the man, saying, ‘From all the trees of the garden you are most welcome to eat. (17) But, of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you must not eat. For, when you eat from it, you most assuredly will die!’” (TLV)

Here we see that Adam received very few laws: serve as general manager of the garden, and, avoid consumption of the fruit of one tree. Simple, yes?

However, things take a sinister turn.

Soon, God doubles human population by fashioning for Adam a wife, Chava, commonly referred to as Eve. Things go swimmingly for an unspecified amount of time, until the appearance of the serpent in the 3rd chapter. (1) “But, the serpent was shrewder than any animal that ADONAI Elohim made. So, it said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from all the trees of the garden?’ (2) The woman said to the serpent, ‘Of the fruit of the trees, we may eat. (3) But, of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat of it and you must not touch it, or, you will die.’”

(4) “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You most assuredly won’t die! For, God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

The text goes on to tell us that Eve looks at the Tree, admires it as attractive to lead to the result just described, eats some of the fruit, and serves some to Adam, who also eats it. Their eyes are open and they now know evil from much more than a cognitive basis, but now, shame from having distrusted the God Who had loved them and been so generous to them. They ran and hid themselves from the Lord as He visited them in the garden.

Their rebellion caused them to be evicted from the paradise heretofore their home. But, God allows them to continue to live and, though there are consequences such as pain and drudgery, He makes them a stirring promise, found in Genesis 3:15. In the context of condemnation of the serpent, the prophecy is made: “I will put animosity between you and the woman- between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and, you will crush his heel.”

This first prophecy of the coming of the suffering Messiah states that ADONAI will arrange for the undoing of what had just taken place in the lives of man by the suffering (crushing of the heel) of the Messiah. This amazing act is the first example of the application of divine grace toward rebellious mankind. It was the first, but, thankfully, many more were to follow!

Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.