Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Dust

Here's the second half of Genesis 3. As I said, it's starting to get more interesting.

16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
The Hebrews were a patriarchal society, to say the least. This Just So story justifies the order of society. But how can a just God punish all of Eve's descendants for her single act of disobedience? 
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”
 This is quite odd since humans are evidently already mortal, inasmuch as they haven't eaten of the Tree of Life. It is certainly the human condition that we must work for our daily bread -- or rather at least some of us must. But the ancient Hebrews probably didn't have a leisure class.
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Here's another oddity. God never actually commanded the people not to eat from the Tree of Life. Now all of a sudden he doesn't want them to do it, but they could have at any time! This story is muddled in many ways, but it seems to be trying to explain basic facts of the people's condition: labor, mortality, and patriarchy. Anthropologists have learned that hunter-gatherer people actually work less than agriculturalists, and have more egalitarian societies. Of course they are mortal, but nevertheless perhaps this story does have some resonance with actual history. The fall, however, did not consist in eating from a tree; but rather in learning to plant and reap.


Gay Boy Bob said...

I'm reading all of your posts on the Holy Bible and find them interesting.

I can't wait for your sure to come future series on the Quran.

Don Quixote said...

Can we please have some intelligent comments from people who read this blog? I'm so tired of reading GBB's dumb-ass snark.

Speaking of dumb-ass, GBB, I've told you before that if you're going to combine two or more words to function syntactically as an adjective, you need to hyphenate them. So your banal comment, above, should have read "sure-to-come" ... but please do continue to expose your ignorance through ignorant, perverse comments that are poorly written. But Cervantes really does deserve better. Infinitely better.

I mean, any comment from any writer, even a fairly illiterate one, would be better than your meaningless, invidious but, ultimately inconsequential drivel.

Cervantes said...

I would like to do Quran some day but the Bible is going to take a while. However, the Bible is obviously much more important in U.S. society and politics, which is why it made sense to start there.

I have read Quran, in case you were wondering.