Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 1: Genesis, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
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?
1. Porro serpens erat callidior omni bestia agri, quam fecerat Jehova Deus: et dixit ad mulierem, Etiamne dixit Deus, Non comedetis ex omni arbore horti?
2. And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
2. Et dixit mulier ad serpentem, De fructu arborum horti vescimur.
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.
3. At de fructu arboris quae est in medio horti, dixit Deus, Non comedetis ex ea, neque contingetis eam, ne forte moriamini.
4. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
4. Tunc dixit serpens ad mulierem, Non moriendo moriemini.
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.
5. Scit enim Deus quod in die qua comedeits ex ea, aperientur oculi vestri, et eritis sicut dii, scientes bonum et malum.
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.
6. Et vidit mulier quod bona esset arbor ad vescendum, et quod delectabilis esset oculis, et desiderabilis arbor ad intelligendum: et tulit de fructu ipsius, et comedit: deditque etiam viro suo qui erat cum ea, et ipse comedit.
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.
7. Et aperti sunt oculi amborumipsorum, et cognoverunt quod nudi essent: et consuerunt folia ficus, feceruntque sibi cingula.
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.
8. Audierunt autem vocem Jehovae Dei deambulantis per hortum ad auram diei: et abscondit se Adam et uxor ejus a facie Jehovae Dei, in medio arborum horti.
9. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
9. Vocavitque Jehova Deus Adam, et dixit ei Ubi es tu?
10. And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
10. Et ait, Vocem tuam audivi in horto, et timui, quia nudus eram, et abscondi me.
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?
11. Tunc dixit, Quis indicavit tibi quod nudus esses? nonne ex ipsa arbore de qua praeceperam tibi ne comederes, comedisti?
12. And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
12. Et ait Adam, Mulier quam dedisti ut esset mecum, ipsa dedit mihi de arbore, et comedi.
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.
13. Dixitque Jehova Deus ad mulierem, Cur hoc fecisti? Et ait mulier, Serpens seduxit me, et comedi.
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:
14. Et dixit Jehova ad serpentem, Quia fecisti hoc, maledicuts eris prae omni animali, et prae omni bestia agri: super ventrem tuum gradieris, et pulverem comedes omnibus diebus vitae tuae.
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.
15. Et inimicitias ponam inter to et inter mulierem, et inter semen tuum et inter semen ejus: ipsum vulnerabit to in capite, et tu vulnerabis ipsum in calcaneo.
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.
16. Ad mulierem dixit, Multiplicando multiplicabo dolorem tuum, et conceptum tuum: cum dolore paries filios, et ad virum tuum erit desiderium tuum, ipseque dominabitur tibi.
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;
17. Adae vero ait, Quia paruisti voci uxoris tuae, et comedisti ex arbore de qua praeceperam tibi, dicens, Non comedes ex ea: maledicta terra propter to: in labore comedes eam cunctis diebus vitae tuae.
18. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
18. Et spinam et tribulum germinabit tibi, et comedes herbam agri.
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.
19. In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donec revertaris in terram: quia ex ea sumptus es: nam pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
20. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
20. Et vocavit Adam nomen uxoris suae Hava, quia ipsa est mater omnis viventis.
21. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
21. Fecitque Jehova Deus Adae et uxori ejus tunicas pelliceas, et induit eos.
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:
22. Tunc dixit Jehova Deus, Ecce, Adam factus est tanquam unus ex nobis, sciendo bonum et malum: nunc autem ne forte mittat manum suam, et accipiat etiam de arbore vitae, et comedat, et vivat in seculum.
23. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
23. Et emisit eum Jehova de horto Heden, ad colendum terram ex qua sumptus fuerat.
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.
24. Et ejecit Adam, et collocavit ab Oriente horti Heden cherubim, et laminam gladii versatilis, ad custodiendum viam arboris vitae.
1. Now the serpent was more subtil In this chapter, Moses explains, that man, after he had been deceived by Satan revolted from his Maker, became entirely changed and so degenerate, that the image of God, in which he had been formed, was obliterated. He then declares, that the whole world, which had been created for the sake of man, fell together with him from its primary original; and that in this ways much of its native excellence was destroyed. But here many and arduous questions arise. For when Moses says that the serpent was crafty beyond all other animals, he seems to intimate, that it had been induced to deceive man, not by the instigation of Satan, but by its own malignity. I answer, that the innate subtlety of the serpent did not prevent Satan from making use of the animal for the purpose of effecting the destruction of man. For since he required an instrument, he chose from among animals that which he saw would be most suitable for him: finally, he carefully contrived the method by which the snares he was preparing might the more easily take the mind of Eve by surprise. Hitherto, he had held no communication with men; he, therefore, clothed himself with the person of an animal, under which he might open for himself the way of access. Yet it is not agreed among interpreters in what sense the serpent is said to be םורע ( aroom, subtle ,) by which word the Hebrews designate the prudent as well as the crafty . Some, therefore, would take it in a good, others in a bad sense. I think, however, Moses does not so much point out a fault as attribute praise to nature because God had endued this beast with such singular skill, as rendered it acute and quick-sighted beyond all others. But Satan perverted to his own deceitful purposes the gift which had been divinely imparted to the serpent. Some captiously cavil, that more acuteness is now found in many other animals. To whom I answer, that there would be nothing absurd in saying, that the gift which had proved so destructive to the human race has been withdrawn from the serpent: just, as we shall hereafter see, other punishments were also inflicted upon it. Yet, in this description, writers on natural history do not materially differ from Moses, and experience gives the best answer to the objection; for the Lord does not in vain command his own disciples to be ‘prudent as serpents,’ (Mt 10:16.) But it appears, perhaps, scarcely consonant with reason, that the serpent only should be here brought forward, all mention of Satan being suppressed. I acknowledge, indeed, that from this place alone nothing more can be collected than that men were deceived by the serpent. But the testimonies of Scripture are sufficiently numerous, in which it is plainly asserted that the serpent was only the mouth of the devil; for not the serpent but the devil is declared to be ‘the father of lies,’ the fabricator of imposture, and the author of death. The question, however, is not yet solved, why Moses has kept back the name of Satan. I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who maintain that the Holy Spirit then purposely used obscure figures, because it was fitting that full and clear light should be reserved for the kingdom of Christ. In the meantime, the prophets prove that they were well acquainted with the meaning of Moses, when, in different places, they cast the blame of our ruin upon the devil. We have elsewhere said, that Moses, by a homely and uncultivated style, accommodates what he delivers to the capacity of the people; and for the best reason; for not only had he to instruct an untaught race of men, but the existing age of the Church was so puerile, that it was unable to receive any higher instruction. There is, therefore, nothing absurd in the supposition, that they, whom, for the time, we know and confess to have been but as infants, were fed with milk. Or (if another comparison be more acceptable) Moses is by no means to be blamed, if he, considering the office of schoolmaster as imposed upon him, insists on the rudiments suitable to children. They who have an aversion to this simplicity, must of necessity condemn the whole economy of God in governing the Church. This, however, may suffice us, that the Lord, by the secret illumination of his Spirit, supplied whatever was wanting of clearness in outward expressions; as appears plainly from the prophets, who saw Satan to be the real enemy of the human race, the contriver of all evils, furnished with every kind of fraud and villainy to injure and destroy. Therefore, though the impious make a noise, there is nothing justly to offend us in this mode of speaking by which Moses describes Satan, the prince of iniquity, under the person of his servant and instrument, at the time when Christ, the Head of the Church, and the Sun of Righteousness, had not yet openly shone forth. Add to this, the baseness of human ingratitude is more clearly hence perceived, that when Adam and Eve knew that all animals were given, by the hand of God, into subjection to them, they yet suffered themselves to be led away by one of their own slaves into rebellion against God. As often as they beheld any one of the animals which were in the world, they ought to have been reminded both of the supreme authority, and of the singular goodness of God; but, on the contrary, when they saw the serpent an apostate from his Creator, not only did they neglect to punish it, but, in violation of all lawful order, they subjected and devoted themselves to it, as participators in the same apostasy. What can be imagined more dishonorable than this extreme depravity? Thus, I understand the name of the serpent, not allegorically, as some foolishly do, but in its genuine sense.
Many persons are surprised that Moses simply, and as if abruptly, relates that men have fallen by the impulse of Satan into eternal destruction, and yet never by a single word explains how the tempter himself had revolted from God. And hence it has arisen, that fanatical men have dreamed that Satan was created evil and wicked as he is here described. But the revolt of Satan is proved by other passages of Scripture; and it is an impious madness to ascribe to God the creation of any evil and corrupt nature; for when he had completed the world, he himself gave this testimony to all his works, that they were very good. Wherefore, without controversy, we must conclude, that the principle of evil with which Satan was endued was not from nature, but from defection; because he had departed from God, the fountain of justice and of all rectitude. But Moses here passes over Satan’s fall, because his object is briefly to narrate the corruption of human nature; to teach us that Adam was not created to those multiplied miseries under which all his posterity suffer, but that he fell into them by his own fault. In reflecting on the number and nature of those evils to which they are obnoxious, men will often be unable to restrain themselves from raging and murmuring against God, whom they rashly censure for the just punishment of their sin. These are their well-known complaints that God has acted more mercifully to swine and dogs than to them. Whence is this, but that they do not refer the miserable and ruined state, under which we languish, to the sin of Adam as they ought? But what is far worse, they fling back upon God the charge of being the cause of all the inward vices of the mind, (such as its horrible blindness, contumacy against God, wicked desires, and violent propensities to evil;) as if the whole perverseness of our disposition had not been adventitious. 154 The design, therefore, of Moses was to show, in a few words, how greatly our present condition differs from our first original, in order that we may learn, with humble confession of our fault, to bewail our evils. We ought not then to be surprised, that, while intent on the history he purposed to relate, he does not discuss every topic which may be desired by any person whatever.
We must now enter on that question by which vain and inconstant minds are greatly agitated; namely, Why God permitted Adam to be tempted, seeing that the sad result was by no means hidden from him? That He now relaxes Satan’s reins, to allow him to tempt us to sin, we ascribe to judgment and to vengeance, in consequence of man’s alienation from himself; but there was not the same reason for doing so when human nature was yet pure and upright. God, therefore, 155 permitted Satan to tempt man, who was conformed to His own image, and not yet implicated in any crime, having, moreover, on this occasion, allowed Satan the use of an animal 156 which otherwise would never have obeyed him; and what else was this, than to arm an enemy for the destruction of man? This seems to have been the ground on which the Manichaeans maintained the existence of two principles. 157 Therefore, they have imagined that Satan, not being in subjection to God, laid snares for man in opposition to the divine will, and was superior not to man only, but also to God himself. Thus, for the sake of avoiding what they dreaded as an absurdity, they have fallen into execrable prodigies of error; such as, that there are two Gods, and not one sole Creator of the world, and that the first God has been overcome by his antagonist. All, however, who think piously and reverently concerning the power of God, acknowledge that the evil did not take place except by his permission. For, in the first place, it must be conceded, that God was not in ignorance of the event which was about to occur; and then, that he could have prevented it, had he seen fit to do so. But in speaking of permission, I understand that he had appointed whatever he wished to be done. Here, indeed, a difference arises on the part of many, who suppose Adam to have been so left to his own free will, that God would not have him fall. They take for granted, what I allow them, that nothing is less probable than that God should he regarded as the cause of sin, which he has avenged with so many and such severe penalties. When I say, however, that Adam did not fall without the ordination and will of God, I do not so take it as if sin had ever been pleasing to Him, or as if he simply wished that the precept which he had given should be violated. So far as the fall of Adam was the subversion of equity, and of well-constituted order, so far as it was contumacy against the Divine Law-giver, and the transgression of righteousness, certainly it was against the will of God; yet none of these things render it impossible that, for a certain cause, although to us unknown, he might will the fall of man. It offends the ears of some, when it is said God willed this fall; but what else, I pray, is the permission of Him, who has the power of preventing, and in whose hand the whole matter is placed, but his will? I wish that men would rather suffer themselves to be judged by God, than that, with profane temerity, they should pass judgment upon him; but this is the arrogance of the flesh to subject God to its own test. I hold it as a settled axiom, that nothing is more unsuitable to the character of God than for us to say that man was created by Him for the purpose of being placed in a condition of suspense and doubt; wherefore I conclude, that, as it became the Creator, he had before determined with himself what should be man’s future condition. Hence the unskilful rashly infer, that man did not sin by free choice. For he himself perceives, being convicted by the testimony of his own conscience, that he has been too free in sinning. Whether he sinned by necessity, or by contingency, is another question; respecting which see the Institution, 158 and the treatise on Predestination.
And he said unto the woman The impious assail this passage with their sneers, because Moses ascribes eloquence to an animal which only faintly hisses with its forked tongue. And first they ask, at what time animals began to be mute, if they then had a distinct language, and one common to ourselves and them. The answer is ready; the serpent was not eloquent by nature, but when Satan, by divine permission, procured it as a fit instrument for his use, he uttered words also by its tongue, which God himself permitted. Nor do I doubt that Eve perceived it to be extraordinary, and on that account received with the greater avidity what she admired. Now, if men decide that whatever is unwonted must be fabulous, God could work no miracle. Here God, by accomplishing a work above the ordinary course of nature, constrains us to admire his power. If then, under this very pretext, we ridicule the power of God, because it is not familiar to us, are we not excessively preposterous? Besides, if it seems incredible that beasts should speak at the command of God, how has man the power of speech, but because God has formed his tongue? The Gospel declares, that voices were uttered in the air, without a tongue, to illustrate the glory of Christ; this is less probable to carnal reason, than that speech should be elicited from the mouth of brute animals. What then can the petulance of impious men find here deserving of their invective? In short, whosoever holds that God in heaven is the Ruler of the world, will not deny his power over the creatures, so that he can teach brute animals to speak when he pleases, just as he sometimes renders eloquent men speechless. Moreover the craftiness of Satan betrays itself in this, that he does not directly assail the man, but approaches him, as through a mine, in the person of his wife. This insidious method of attack is more than sufficiently known to us at the present day, and I wish we might learn prudently to guard ourselves against it. For he warily insinuates himself at that point at which he sees us to be the least fortified, that he may not be perceived till he should have penetrated where he wished. The woman does not flee from converse with the serpent, because hitherto no dissension had existed; she, therefore, accounted it simply as a domestic animal.
The question occurs, what had impelled Satan to contrive the destruction of man? Curious sophists have feigned that he burned with envy, when he foresaw that the Son of God was to be clothed in human flesh; but the speculation is frivolous. For since the Son of God was made man in order to restore us, who were already lost, from our miserable over throw, how could that be foreseen which would never have happened unless man had sinned? If there be room for conjectures, it is more probable that he was driven by a kind of fury, (as the desperate are wont to be,) to hurry man away with himself into a participation of eternal ruin. But it becomes us to be content with this single reasons that since he was the adversary of God, he attempted to subvert the order established by Him. And, because he could not drag God from his throne, he assailed man, in whom His image shone. He knew that with the ruin of man the most dreadful confusion would be produced in the whole world, as indeed it happened, and therefore he endeavored, in the person of man, to obscure the glory of God. 159 Rejecting, therefore, all vain figments, let us hold fast this doctrine, which is both simple and solid.
Yea, has God said? This sentence is variously expounded and even distorted, partly because it is in itself obscure, and partly because of the ambiguous import of the Hebrew particle. The expression יכ ףא ( aph ki ,) sometimes signifies “although” or “indeed,” and sometimes, “how much more.” 160 David Kimchi takes it in this last sense, and thinks that many words had passed between them on both sides, before the serpent descended to this point; namely, that having calumniated God on other accounts, he at length thus concludes, Hence it much more appears how envious and malignant he is towards you, because he has interdicted you from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But this exposition is not only forced, it is proved to be false by the reply of Eve. More correct is the explanation of the Chaldean paraphrast, ‘Is it true that God has forbidden? etc.’ 161 Again, to some this appears a simple , to others an ironical interrogation. It would be a simple interrogation, if it injected a doubt in the following manner: ‘Can it be, that God should forbid the eating of any tree whatever?’ but it would be ironical, if used for the purpose of dissipating vain fear; as, ‘It greatly concerns God, indeed, whether you eat of the tree or not! It is, therefore, ridiculous that you should think it to be forbidden you!’ I subscribe the more freely to the former opinion, because there is greater probability that Satan, in order to deceive more covertly, would gradually proceed with cautious prevarications to lead the woman to a contempt of the divine precept. There are some who suppose that Satan expressly denies the word which our first parents had heard, to have been the word of God. Others think, (with whom I rather agree,) that, under the pretext of inquiring into the cause, he would indirectly weaken their confidence in the word. And certainly the old interpreter has translated the expression, ‘Why has God said?’ 162 which, although I do not altogether approve, yet I have no doubt that the serpent urges the woman to seek out the cause, since otherwise he would not have been able to draw away her mind from God. Very dangerous is the temptation, when it is suggested to us, that God is not to be obeyed except so far as the reason of his command is apparent. The true rule of obedience is, that we being content with a bare command, should persuade ourselves that whatever he enjoins is just and right. But whosoever desires to be wise beyond measure, him will Satan, seeing he has cast off all reverence for God, immediately precipitate into open rebellion. As it respects grammatical construction, I think the expression ought to be translated, ‘Has God even said?’ or, ‘Is it so that God has said?’ 163 Yet the artifice of Satan is to be noticed, for he wished to inject into the woman a doubt which might induce her to believe that not to be the word of God, for which a plausible reason did not manifestly appear.
Of every tree of the garden Commentators offer a double interpretation of these words. The former supposes Satan, for the sake of increasing envy, to insinuate that all the trees had been forbidden. “Has God indeed enjoined that you should not dare to touch any tree?” The other interpretation, however, is, “Have you not then the liberty granted you of eating promiscuously from whatever tree you please?” The former more accords with the disposition of the devil, who would malignantly amplify the prohibitions and seems to be sanctioned by Eve’s reply. For when she says, We do eat of all, one only excepted, she seems to repel the calumny concerning a general prohibition. But because the latter sense of the passage, which suggests the question concerning the simple and bare prohibition of God, was more apt to deceive, it is more credible that Satan, with his accustomed guile, should have begun his temptation from this point, ‘Is it possible for God to be unwilling that you should gather the fruit of any tree whatever?’ The answer of the woman, that only one tree was forbidden, she means to be a defense of the command; as if she would deny that it ought to seem harsh or burdensome, since God had only excepted one single tree out of so great an abundance and variety as he had granted to them. Thus, in these words there will be a concession, that one tree was indeed forbidden; then, the refutation of a calumny, because it is not arduous or difficult to abstain from one tree, when others, without number are supplied, of which the use is permitted. It was impossible for Eve more prudently or more courageously to repel the assault of Satan, than by objecting against him, that she and her husband had been so bountifully dealt with by the Lord, that the advantages granted to them were abundantly sufficient, for she intimates that they would be most ungrateful if, instead of being content with such affluence they should desire more than was lawful. When she says, God has forbidden them to eat or to touch, some suppose the second word to be added for the purpose of charging God with too great severity, because he prohibited them even from the touch 164 But I rather understand that she hitherto remained in obedience, and expressed her pious disposition by anxiously observing the precept of God; only, in proclaiming the punishment, she begins to give ways by inserting the adverb “perhaps,” 165 when God has certainly pronounced, “Ye shall die the death.” 166 For although with the Hebrews ןפ ( pen ) does not always imply doubt, yet, since it is generally taken in this sense, I willingly embrace the opinion that the woman was beginning to waver. Certainly, she had not death so immediately before her eyes, should she become disobedient to God, as, she ought to have had. She clearly proves that her perception of the true danger of death was distant and cold.
4. And the serpent said unto the woman Satan now springs more boldly forward; and because he sees a breach open before him, he breaks through in a direct assault, for he is never wont to engage in open war until we voluntarily expose ourselves to him, naked and unarmed. He cautiously approaches us at first with blandishments; but when he has stolen in upon us, he dares to exalt himself petulantly and with proud confidence against God; just as he now seizing upon Eve’s doubt, penetrates further, that he may turn it into a direct negative. It behaves us to be instructed, by much examples, to beware of his snares, and, by making timely resistance, to keep him far from us, that nearer access may not be permitted to him. He now, therefore, does not ask doubtingly, as before, whether or not the command of God, which he opposes, be true, but openly accuses God of falsehood, for he asserts that the word by which death was denounced is false and delusive. Fatal temptation! when while God is threatening us with death, we not only securely sleep, but hold God himself in derision!
5. For God doth know. There are those who think that God is here craftily praised by Satan, as if He never would prohibit men from the use of wholesome fruit. But they manifestly contradict themselves, for they at the some time confess that in the preceding member of the sentence he had already declared God to be unworthy of confidence, as one who had lied. Others suppose that he charges God with malignity and envy, as wishing to deprive man of his highest perfection; and this opinion is more probable than the other. Nevertheless, (according to my judgments) Satan attempts to prove what he had recently asserted, reasoning, however, from contraries: 167 God, he says, has interdicted to you the tree, that he may not be compelled to admit you to the participation of his glory; therefore, the fear of punishment is quite needless. In short, he denies that a fruit which is useful and salutary can be injurious. When he says, God does know, he censures God as being moved by jealousy: and as having given the command concerning the tree, for the purpose of keeping man in an inferior rank.
Ye shall be as gods. Some translate it, ‘Ye shall be like angels.’ It might even be rendered in the singular number, ‘Ye shall be as God.’ I have no doubt that Satan promises them divinity ; as if he had said, For no other reason does God defraud you of the tree of knowledge, than because he fears to have you as companions. Moreover, it is not without some show of reason that he makes the Divine glory, or equality with God, to consist in the perfect knowledge of good and evil; but it is a mere pretense, for the purpose of ensnaring the miserable woman. Because the desire of knowledge is naturally inherent in and happiness is supposed to be placed in it; but Eve erred in not regulating the measure of her knowledge by the will of God. And we all daily suffer under the same disease, because we desire to know more than is right, and more than God allows; whereas the principal point of wisdom is a well-regulated sobriety in obedience to God.
6. And when the woman saw This impure look of Eve, infected with the poison of concupiscence, was both the messenger and the witness of an impure heart. She could previously behold the tree with such sincerity, that no desire to eat of it affected her mind; for the faith she had in the word of God was the best guardian of her heart, and of all her senses. But now, after the heart had declined from faith, and from obedience to the word, she corrupted both herself and all her senses, and depravity was diffused through all parts of her soul as well as her body. It is, therefore, a sign of impious defection, that the woman now judges the tree to be good for food, eagerly delights herself in beholding it, and persuades herself that it is desirable for the sake of acquiring wisdom; whereas before she had passed by it a hundred times with an unmoved and tranquil look. For now, having shaken off the bridle, her mind wanders dissolutely and intemperately, drawing the body with it to the same licentiousness. The word ליכשהל ( lehaskil ,) admits of two explanations: That the tree was desirable either to be looked upon or to impart prudence . I prefer the latter sense, as better corresponding with the temptation.
And gave also unto her husband with her From these words, some conjecture that Adam was present when his wife was tempted and persuaded by the serpent, which is by no means credible. Yet it might be that he soon joined her, and that, even before the woman tasted the fruit of the tree, she related the conversation held with the serpent, and entangled him with the same fallacies by which she herself had been deceived. Others refer the particle המע ( immah ,) “with her,” to the conjugal bond, which may be received. But because Moses simply relates that he ate the fruit taken from the hands of his wife, the opinion has been commonly received, that he was rather captivated with her allurements than persuaded by Satan’s impostures. 168 For this purpose the declaration of Paul is adduced,
‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman.’
But Paul in that place, as he is teaching that the origin of evil was from the woman, only speaks comparatively. Indeed, it was not only for the sake of complying with the wishes of his wife, that he transgressed the law laid down for him; but being drawn by her into fatal ambition, he became partaker of the same defection with her. And truly Paul elsewhere states that sin came not by the woman, but by Adam himself, (Ro 5:12.) Then, the reproof which soon afterwards follows ‘Behold, Adam is as one of us,’ clearly proves that he also foolishly coveted more than was lawful, and gave greater credit to the flatteries of the devil than to the sacred word of God.
It is now asked, What was the sin of both of them? The opinion of some of the ancients, that they were allured by intemperance of appetite, is puerile. For when there was such an abundance of the choicest fruits what daintiness could there be about one particular kind? Augustine is more correct, who says, that pride was the beginning of all evils, and that by pride the human race was ruined. Yet a fuller definition of the sin may be drawn from the kind of temptation which Moses describes. For first the woman is led away from the word of God by the wiles of Satan, through unbelief. 169 Wherefore, the commencement of the ruin by which the human race was overthrown was a defection from the command of God. But observe, that men then revolted from God, when, having forsaken his word, they lent their ears to the falsehoods of Satan. Hence we infer, that God will be seen and adored in his word; and, therefore, that all reverence for him is shaken off when his word is despised. A doctrine most useful to be known, for the word of God obtains its due honor only with few so that they who rush onward with impunity in contempt of this word, yet arrogate to themselves a chief rank among the worshippers of God. But as God does not manifest himself to men otherwise than through the word, so neither is his majesty maintained, nor does his worship remain secure among us any longer than while we obey his word. Therefore, unbelief was the root of defection; just as faith alone unites us to God. Hence flowed ambition and pride, so that the woman first, and then her husband, desired to exalt themselves against God. For truly they did exalt themselves against God, when, honor having been divinely conferred upon them, they not contented with such excellence, desired to know more than was lawful, in order that they might become equal with God. Here also monstrous ingratitude betrays itself. They had been made in the likeness of God; but this seems a small thing unless equality be added. Now, it is not to be endured that designing and wicked men should labor in vain, as well as absurdly, to extenuate the sin of Adam and his wife. For apostasy is no light offense, but detestable wickedness, by which man withdraws himself from the authority of his Creator, yea, even rejects and denies him. Besides it was not simple apostasy, but combined with atrocious contumelies and reproaches against God himself. Satan accuses God of falsehoods of envy, and of malignity, and our first parents subscribe to a calumny thus vile and execrable. At length, having despised the command of God, they not only indulge their own lust, but enslave themselves to the devil. If any one prefers a shorter explanation, we may say unbelief has opened the door to ambition, but ambition has proved the parent of rebellion, to the end that men, having cast aside the fear of God, might shake off his yoke. On this account, Paul teaches use that by the disobedience of Adam sin entered into the world. Let us imagine that there was nothing worse than the transgression of the command; we shall not even thus have succeeded far in extenuating the fault of Adam. God, having both made him free in everything, and appointed him as king of the world, chose to put his obedience to the proof, in requiring abstinence from one tree alone. This condition did not please him. Perverse declaimers may plead in excuse, that the woman was allured by the beauty of the tree, and the man ensnared by the blandishments of Eve. Yet the milder the authority of God, the less excusable was their perverseness in rejecting it. But we must search more deeply for the origin and cause of sin. For never would they have dared to resist God, unless they had first been incredulous of his word. And nothing allured them to covet the fruit but mad ambition. So long as they firmly believing in God’s word, freely suffered themselves to be governed by Him, they had serene and duly regulated affections. For, indeed, their best restraint was the thoughts which entirely occupied their minds, that God is just, that nothing is better than to obey his commands and that to be loved by him is the consummation of a happy life. But after they had given place to Satan’s blasphemy, they began, like persons fascinated, to lose reason and judgment; yea, since they were become the slaves of Satan; he held their very senses bound. Still further, we know that sins are not estimated in the sight of God by the external appearance, but by the inward disposition.
Again, it appears to many absurd, that the defection of our first parents is said to have proved the destruction of the whole race; and, on this accounts they freely bring an accusation against God. Pelagius, on the other hand, lest, as he falsely feared, the corruption of human nature should be charged upon God, ventured to deny original sin. But an error so gross is plainly refuted, not only by solid testimonies of Scripture, but also by experience itself. The corruption of our nature was unknown to the philosophers who, in other respects, were sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, acute. Surely this stupor itself was a signal proof of original sin. For all who are not utterly blinds perceive that no part of us is sound; that the mind is smitten with blindness, and infected with innumerable errors; that all the affections of the heart are full of stubbornness and wickedness; that vile lusts, or other diseases equally fatal, reign there; and that all the senses burst forth 170 with many vices. Since, however none but God alone is a proper judge in this cause, we must acquiesce in the sentence which he has pronounced in the Scriptures. In the first place, Scripture clearly teaches us that we are born vicious and perverse. The cavil of Pelagius was frivolous, that sin proceeded from Adam by imitation. For David, while still enclosed in his mother’s womb, could not be an imitator of Adam, yet he confesses that he was conceived in sin, (Ps 51:5.) A fuller proof of this matter, and a more ample definition of original sin, may be found in the Institutes; 171 yet here, in a single word, I will attempt to show how far it extends. Whatever in our nature is vicious — since it is not lawful to ascribe it to God — we justly reject as sin. 172 But Paul (Ro 3:10) teaches that corruption does not reside in one part only, but pervades the whole soul, and each of its faculties. Whence it follows, that they childishly err who regard original sin as consisting only in lust, and in the inordinate motion of the appetites, whereas it seizes upon the very seat of reason, and upon the whole heart. To sin is annexed condemnation, 173 or, as Paul speaks,
‘By man came sin, and by sin, death,’ (Ro 5:12.)
Wherefore he elsewhere pronounces us to be ‘the children of wrath;’ as if he would subject us to an eternal curse, (Eph 2:3.) In short, that we are despoiled of the excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, of the light of reason, of justice, and of rectitude, and are prone to every evil; that we are also lost and condemned, and subjected to death, is both our hereditary condition, and, at the same time, a just punishments which God, in the person of Adam, has indicted on the human race. Now, if any one should object, that it is unjust for the innocent to bear the punishment of another’s sin, I answer, whatever gifts God had conferred upon us in the person of Adams he had the best right to take away, when Adam wickedly fell. Nor is it necessary to resort to that ancient figment of certain writers, that souls are derived by descent from our first parents. 174 For the human race has not naturally derived corruption through its descent frown Adam; but that result is rather to be traced to the appointment of God, who, as he had adorned the whole nature of mankind with most excellent endowments in one man, so in the same man he again denuded it. But now, from the time in which we were corrupted in Adam, we do not bear the punishment of another’s offense, but are guilty by our own fault.
A question is mooted by some, concerning the time of this fall, or rather ruin. The opinion has been pretty generally received, that they fell on the day they were created; and, therefore Augustine writes, that they stood only for six hours. The conjecture of others, that the temptation was delayed by Satan till the Sabbath, in order to profane that sacred day, is but weak. And certainly, by instances like these, all pious persons are admonished sparingly to indulge themselves in doubtful speculations. As for myself, since I have nothing to assert positively respecting the time, so I think it may be gathered from the narration of Moses, that they did not long retain the dignity they had received; for as soon as he has said they were created, he passes, without the mention of any other thing, to their fall. If Adam had lived but a moderate space of time with his wife, the blessing of God would not have been unfruitful in the production of offspring; but Moses intimates that they were deprived of God’s benefits before they had become accustomed to use them. I therefore readily subscribe to the exclamation of Augustine, ‘O wretched freewill, which, while yet entire, had so little stability!’ And, to say no more respecting the shortness of the time, the admonition of Bernard is worthy of remembrance: ‘Since we read that a fall so dreadful took place in Paradise, what shall we do on the dunghill?’ At the same time, we must keep in memory by what pretext they were led into this delusion so fatal to themselves, and to all their posterity. Plausible was the adulation of Satan, ‘Ye shall know good and evil;’ but that knowledge was therefore accursed, because it was sought in preference to the favor of God. Wherefore, unless we wish, of our own accord, to fasten the same snares upon ourselves, let us learn entirely to depend upon the sole will of God, whom we acknowledge as the Author of all good. And, since the Scripture everywhere admonishes us of our nakedness and poverty, and declares that we may recover in Christ what we have lost in Adams let us, renouncing all self-confidence, offer ourselves empty to Christ, that he may fill us with his own riches.
7. And the eyes of them both were opened . It was necessary that the eyes of Eve should be veiled till her husband also was deceived; but now both, being alike bound by the chain of an unhappy consent, begin to be sensible of their wretchedness although they are not yet affected with a deep knowledge of their fault. They are ashamed of their nakedness, yet, though convinced, they do not humble themselves before God, nor fear his judgements as they ought; they even do not cease to resort to evasions. Some progress, however, is made; for whereas recently they would, like giants, assault heaven by storm; now, confounded with a sense of their own ignominy, they flee to hiding-places. And truly this opening of the eyes in our first parents to discern their baseness, clearly proves them to have been condemned by their own judgment. They are not yet summoned to the tribunal of God; there is none who accuses them; is not then the sense of shame, which rises spontaneously, a sure token of guilt? The eloquence, therefore, of the whole world will avail nothing to deliver those from condemnation, whose own conscience has become the judge to compel them to confess their fault. It rather becomes us all to open our eyes, that, being confounded at our own disgrace, we may give to God the glory which is his due. God created man flexible; and not only permitted, but willed that he should be tempted. For he both adapted the tongue of the serpent beyond the ordinary use of nature, to the devil’s purpose, just as if any one should furnish another with a sword and armor; and then, though the unhappy event was foreknown by him, he did not apply the remedy, which he had the power to do. On the other hand, when we come to speak of man, he will be found to have sinned voluntarily, and to have departed from God, his Maker, by a movement of the mind not less free than perverse. Nor ought we to call that a light fault, which, refusing credit to the word of God, exalted itself against him by impious and sacrilegious emulation, which would not be subject to his authority, and which, finally, both proudly and perfidiously revolted from him. Therefore, whatever sin and fault there is in the fall of our first parents remains with themselves; but there is sufficient reason why the eternal counsel of God preceded it, though that reason is concealed from us. We see, indeed, some good fruit daily springing from a ruin so dreadful, inasmuch as God instructs us in humility by our miseries and then more clearly illustrates his own goodness; for his grace is more abundantly poured forth, through Christ, upon the world, than it was imparted to Adam in the beginning. Now, if the reason why this is so lies beyond our reach, it is not wonderful that the secret counsel of God should be to us like a labyrinth. 175
And they sewed fig - leaves together . What I lately said, that they had not been brought either by true shame or by serious fear to repentance, is now more manifest. They sew together for themselves girdles of leaves. 176 For what end? That they may keep God at a distance, as by an invincible barrier! Their sense of evil, therefore, was only confused, and combined with dulness, as is wont to be the case in unquiet sleep. There is none of us who does not smile at their folly, since, certainly, it was ridiculous to place such a covering before the eyes of God. In the meanwhile, we are all infected with the same disease; for, indeed, we tremble, and are covered with shame at the first compunctions of conscience; but self-indulgence soon steals in, and induces us to resort to vain trifles, as if it were an easy thing to delude God. Therefore unless conscience be more closely pressed there is no shadow of excuse too faint and fleeting to obtain our acquiescence; and even if there be no pretext whatever, we still make pleasures for ourselves, and, by an oblivion of three days’ duration, we imagine that we are well covered. 177 In short, the cold and faint 178 knowledge of sin, which is inherent in the minds of men, is here described by Moses, in order that they may be rendered inexcusable. 179 Then (as we have already said) Adam and his wife were yet ignorant of their own vileness, since with a covering so light they attempted to hide themselves from the presence of God.
8. And they heard the voice of the Lord God . As soon as the voice of God sounds, Adam and Eve perceive that the leaves by which they thought themselves well protected are of no avail. Moses here relates nothing which does not remain in human nature, and may be clearly discerned at the present day. The difference between good and evil is engraven on the hearts of all, as Paul teaches, (Ro 2:15;) but all bury the disgrace of their vices under flimsy leaves till God, by his voice, strikes inwardly their consciences. Hence, after God had shaken them out of their torpor, their alarmed consciences compelled them to hear his voice. Moreover, what Jerome translates, ‘at the breeze after midday,’ 180 is, in the Hebrew, ‘at the wind of the day;’ 181 the Greeks, omitting the word ‘wind,’ have put ‘at the evening.’ 182 Thus the opinion has prevailed, that Adam, having sinned about noon, was called to judgment about sunset. But I rather incline to a different conjecture, namely, that being covered with their garment, they passed the night in silence and quiet, the darkness aiding their hypocrisy; then, about sunrise, being again thoroughly awakened, they recollected themselves. We know that at the rising of the sun the air is naturally excited; together, then, with this gentle breeze, God appeared; but Moses would improperly have called the evening air that of the day . Others take the word as describing the southern part or region; and certainly חור ( ruach ) sometimes among the Hebrews signifies one or another region of the world. 183 Others think that the time is here specified as one least exposed to terrors, for in the clear light there is the greater security; and thus, they conceive, is fulfilled what the Scripture declares that they who have accusing consciences are always anxious and disquieted, even without any danger. To this point they refer what is added respecting the wind, as if Adam was terrified at the sound of a falling leaf. But what I have advanced is more true and simple, that what was hid under the darkness of the night was detected at the rising of the sun. Yet I do not doubt that some notable symbol of the presence of God was in that gentle breeze; for although (as I have lately said) the rising sun is wont daily to stir up some breath of air, this is not opposed to the supposition that God gave some extraordinary sign of his approach, to arouse the consciences of Adam and his wife. For, since he is in himself incomprehensible, he assumes, when he wishes to manifest himself to men, those marks by which he may be known. David calls the winds the messengers of God, on the wings of which he rides, or rather flies, with incredible velocity. (Ps 104:3.) But, as often as he sees good, he uses the winds, as well as other created things, beyond the order of nature, according to his own will. Therefore, Moses, in here mentioning the wind, intimates (according to my judgment) that some unwonted and remarkable symbol of the Divine presence was put forth which should vehemently affect the minds of our first parents. This resource, namely, that of fleeing from God’s presence, was nothing better than the former; since God, with his voice alone, soon brings back the fugitives. It is. written,
‘Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I traverse the sea, if I take wings and ascend above the clouds, if I descend into the profound abyss, thou, Lord, wilt be everywhere,’
This we all confess to be true; yet we do not, in the meantime, cease to snatch at vain subterfuges; and we fancy that shadows of any kind will prove a most excellent defense. Nor is it to be here omitted, that he, who had found a few leaves to be unavailing, fled to whole trees; for so we are accustomed, when shut out from frivolous cavils, to frame new excuses, which may hide us as under a denser shade. When Moses says that Adam and his wife hid themselves ‘in the midst of the tree 184 of Paradise,’ I understand that the singular member is put for the plural; as if he had said, among the trees.
9. And the Lord God called unto Adam . They had been already smitten by the voice of God, but they lay confounded under the trees, until another voice more effectually penetrated their minds. Moses says that Adam was called by the Lord. Had he not been called before? The former, however, was a confused sound, which had no sufficient force to press upon the conscience. Therefore God now approaches nearer, and from the tangled thicket of trees 185 draws him, however unwilling and resisting, forth into the midst. In the same manner we also are alarmed at the voice of God, as soon as his law sounds in our ears; but presently we snatch at shadows, until he, calling upon us more vehemently, compels us to come forward, arraigned at his tribunal. Paul calls this the life of the Law, 186 when it slays us by charging us with our sins. For as long as we are pleased with ourselves, and are inflated with a false notion that we are alive, the law is dead to us, because we blunt its point by our hardness; but when it pierces us more sharply, we are driven into new terrors.
10. And he said , I heard thy voice . Although this seems to be the confession of a dejected and humbled man, it will nevertheless soon appear that he was not yet properly subdued, nor led to repentance. He imputes his fear to the voice of God, and to his own nakedness, as, if he had never before heard God speaking without being alarmed, and had not been even sweetly exhilarated by his speech. His excessive stupidity appears in this, that he fails to recognize the cause of shame in his sin; he, therefore, shows that he does not yet so feel his punishment, as to confess his fault. In the meantime, he proves what I said before to be true, that original sin does not reside in one part of the body only, but holds its dominion over the whole man, and so occupies every part of the soul, that none remains in its integrity; for, notwithstanding his fig-leaves, he still dreads the presence of God.
11. Who told thee that thou wast naked ? An indirect reprimand to reprove the sottishness of Adam in not perceiving his fault in his punishment, as if it had been said, not simply that Adam was afraid at the voice of God, but that the voice of his judge was formidable to him because he was a sinner. Also, that not his nakedness, but the turpitude of the vice by which he had defiled himself, was the cause of fear; and certainly he was guilty of intolerable impiety against God in seeking the origin of evil in nature. Not that he would accuse God in express terms; but deploring his own misery, and dissembling the fact that he was himself the author of it, he malignantly transfers to God the charge which he ought to have brought against himself. What the Vulgate translates, ‘Unless it be that thou hast eaten of the tree,’ 187 is rather an interrogation. 188 God asks, in the language of doubt, not as if he were searching into some disputable matter, but for the purpose of piercing more acutely the stupid man, who, laboring under fatal disease, is yet unconscious of his malady; just as a sick man, who complains that he is burning, yet thinks not of fever. Let us, however remember that we shall profit nothing by any prevarications but that God will always bind us by a most just accusation in the sin of Adam. The clause, “whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat,” is added to remove the pretext of ignorance. For God intimates that Adam was admonished in time; and that he fell from no other cause than this, that he knowingly and voluntarily brought destruction upon himself. Again, the atrocious nature of sin is marked in this transgression and rebellion; for, as nothing is more acceptable to God than obedience, so nothing is more intolerable than when men, having spurned his commandments, obey Satan and their own lust.
12. The woman whom thou gavest to be with me . The boldness of Adam now more clearly betrays itself; for, so far from being subdued, he breaks forth into coarser blasphemy. He had before been tacitly expostulating with God; now he begins openly to contend with him, and triumphs as one who has broken through all barriers. Whence we perceive what a refractory and indomitable creature man began to be when he became alienated from God; for a lively picture of corrupt nature is presented to us in Adam from the moment of his revolt.
‘Every one,’ says James, ‘is tempted by his own concupiscence,’ (Jas 1:14;)
and even Adam, not otherwise than knowingly and willingly, had set himself, as a rebel, against God. Yet, just as if conscious of no evil, he puts his wife as the guilty party in his place. ‘Therefore I have eaten,’ he says, ‘because she gave.’ And not content with this, he brings, at the same time, an accusation against God; objecting that the wife, who had brought ruin upon him, had been given by God. We also, trained in the same school of original sin, are too ready to resort to subterfuges of the same kind; but to no purpose; for howsoever incitements and instigations from other quarters may impel us, yet the unbelief which seduces us from obedience to God is within us; the pride is within which brings forth contempt.
13. And the Lord God said unto the woman . God contends no further with the man, nor was it necessary; for he aggravates rather than diminishes his crime, first by a frivolous defense, then by an impious disparagement of God, in short, though he rages he is yet held convicted. The Judge now turns to the woman, that the cause of both being heard, he may at length pronounce sentence. The old interpreter thus renders God’s address: ‘Why hast thou done this?’ 189 But the Hebrew phrase has more vehemence; for it is the language of one who wonders as at something prodigious. It ought therefore rather to be rendered, ‘How hast thou done this?’ 190 as if he had said, ‘How was it possible that thou shouldst bring thy mind to be so perverse a counsellor to thy husband?’
The serpent beguiled me . Eve ought to have been confounded at the portentous wickedness concerning which she was admonished. Yet she is not struck dumb, but, after the example of her husband, transfers the charge to another; by laying the blame on the serpent, she foolishly, indeed, and impiously, thinks herself absolved. For her answer comes at length to this: ‘I received from the serpent what thou hadst forbidden; the serpent, therefore, was the impostor.’ But who compelled Eve to listen to his fallacies, and even to place confidence in them more readily than in the word of God? Lastly, how did she admit them, but by throwing open and betraying that door of access which God had sufficiently fortified? But the fruit of original sin everywhere presents itself; being blind in its own hypocrisy, it would gladly render God mute and speechless. And whence arise daily so many murmurs, but because God does not hold his peace whenever we choose to blind ourselves?
14. And the Lord God said unto the serpent . He does not interrogate the serpent as he had done the man and the woman; because, in the animal itself there was no sense of sin, and because, to the devil he would hold out no hope of pardon. He might truly, by his own authority, have pronounced sentence against Adam and Eve, though unheard. Why then does he call them to undergo examination, except that he has a care for their salvation? This doctrine is to be applied to our benefit. There would be no need of any trial of the cause, or of any solemn form of judgment, in order to condemn us; wherefore, while God insists upon extorting a confession from us, he acts rather as a physician than as a judge. There is the same reason why the Lords before he imposes punishment on man, begins with the serpent. For corrective punishments (as we shall see) are of a different kind, and are inflicted with the design of leading us to repentance; but in this there is nothing of the sort.
It is, however, doubtful to whom the words refer, whether to the serpent or to the devil. Moses, indeed, says that the serpent was a skillful and cunning animal; yet it is certain, that, when Satan was devising the destruction of man, the serpent was guiltless of his fraud and wickedness. Wherefore, many explain this whole passage allegorically, and plausible are the subtleties which they adduce for this purpose. But when all things are more accurately weighed, readers endued with sound judgment will easily perceive that the language is of a mixed character; for God so addresses the serpent that the last clause belongs to the devil. If it seem to any one absurd, that the punishment of another’s fraud should be exacted from a brute animal, the solution is at hand; that, since it had been created for the benefit of man, there was nothing improper in its being accursed from the moment that it was employed for his destruction. And by this act of vengeance God would prove how highly he estimates the salvation of man; just as if a father should hold the sword in execration by which his son had been slain. And here we must consider, not only the kind of authority which God has over his creatures, but also the end for which he created them, as I have recently said. For the equity of the divine sentence depends on that order of nature which he has sanctioned; it has, therefore, no affinity whatever with blind revenge. In this manner the reprobate will be delivered over into eternal fire with their bodies; which bodies, although they are not self-moved, are yet the instruments of perpetrating evil. So whatever wickedness a man commits is ascribed to his hands, and, therefore, they are deemed polluted; while yet they do not more themselves, except so far as, under the impulse of a depraved affection of the heart, they carry into execution what has been there conceived. According to this method of reasoning, the serpent is said to have done what the devil did by its means. But if God so severely avenged the destruction of man upon a brute animal, much less did he spare Satan, the author of the whole evil, as will appear more clearly in the concluding part of the address.
Thou art cursed above all cattle This curse of God has such force against the serpents as to render it despicable, and scarcely tolerable to heaven and earth, leading a life exposed to, and replete with, constant terrors. Besides, it is not only hateful to us, as the chief enemy of the human race, but, being separated also from other animals, carries on a kind of war with nature; for we see it had before been so gentle that the woman did not flee from its familiar approach. But what follows has greater difficulty because that which God denounces as a punishment seems to be natural; namely, that it should creep upon its belly and eat dust. This objection has induced certain men of learning and ability to say, that the serpent had been accustomed to walk with an erect body before it had been abused by Satan. 191 There will, however, be no absurdity in supposing, that the serpent was again consigned to that former condition, to which he was already naturally subject. For thus he, who had exalted himself against the image of God, was to be thrust back into his proper rank; as if it had been said, ‘Thou, a wretched and filthy animal, hast dared to rise up against man, whom I appointed to the dominion of the whole world; as if, truly, thou, who art fixed to the earth, hadst any right to penetrate into heaven. Therefore, I now throw thee back again to the place whence thou hast attempted to emerge, that thou mayest learn to be contented with thy lot, and no more exalt thyself, to man’s reproach and injury.’ In the meanwhile he is recalled from his insolent motions to his accustomed mode of going, in such a way as to be, at the same time, condemned to perpetual infamy. To eat dust is the sign of a vile and sordid nature. This (in my opinion) is the simple meaning of the passage, which the testimony of Isaiah also confirms, (Isa 65:25;) for while he promises under the reign of Christ, the complete restoration of a sound and well-constituted nature, he records, among other things, that dust shall be to the serpent for bread. Wherefore, it is not necessary to seek for any fresh change in each particular which Moses here relates.
15. I will put enmity . I interpret this simply to mean that there should always be the hostile strife between the human race and serpents, which is now apparent; for, by a secret feeling of nature, man abhors them. It is regarded, as among prodigies, that some men take pleasure in them; and as often as the sight of a serpent inspires us with horrors the memory of our fall is renewed. With this I combine in one continued discourse what immediately follows: ‘It shall wound thy head, and thou shalt wound its heel.’ For he declares that there shall be such hatred that on both sides they shall be troublesome to each other; the serpent shall be vexatious towards men, and men shall be intent on the destruction of serpents. Meanwhile, we see that the Lord acts mercifully in chastising man, whom he does not suffer Satan to touch except in the heel ; while he subjects the head of the serpent to be wounded by him. For in the terms head and heel there is a distinction between the superior and the inferior. And thus God leaves some remains of dominion to man; because he so places the mutual disposition to injure each other, that yet their condition should not be equal, but man should be superior in the conflict. Jerome, in turning the first member of the sentence, ‘Thou shalt bruise the head;’ 192 and the second, “Thou shalt be ensnared in the heel”, 193 does it without reason, for the same verb is repeated by Moses; the difference is to be noted only in the head and the heel, as I have just now said. Yet the Hebrew verb whether derived from ףוש ( shooph ,) or from הפש ( shapha ,) some interpret to bruise or to strike , others to bite 194 I have, however, no doubt that Moses wished to allude to the name of the serpent which is called in Hebrew ןופיפש ( shipiphon ,) from הפש ( shapha ,) or ףוש ( shooph ). 195
We must now make a transition from the serpent to the author of this mischief himself; and that not only in the way of comparison, for there truly is a literal anagogy; 196 because God has not so vented his anger upon the outward instrument as to spare the devil, with whom lay all the blame. That this may the more certainly appear to us, it is worth the while first to observe that the Lord spoke not for the sake of the serpent but of the man; fur what end could it answer to thunder against the serpent in unintelligible words? Wherefore respect was had to men; both that they might be affected with a greater dread of sin, seeing how highly displeasing it is to God, and that hence they might take consolation for their misery, because they would perceive that God is still propitious to them. But now it is obvious to and how slender and insignificant would be the argument for a good hope, if mention were here made of a serpent only; because nothing would be then provided for, except the fading and transient life of the body. Men would remain, in the meanwhile, the slaves of Satan, who would proudly triumph over them, and trample on their heads. Wherefore, that God might revive the fainting minds of men, and restore them when oppressed by despair, it became necessary to promise them, in their posterity victory over Satan, through whose wiles they had been ruined. This, then, was the only salutary medicine which could recover the lost, and restore life to the dead. I therefore conclude, that God here chiefly assails Satan under the name of the serpent, and hurls against him the lightning of his judgment. This he does for a twofold reason: first, that men may learn to beware of Satan as of a most deadly enemy; then, that they may contend against him with the assured confidence of victory.
Now, though all do not dissent in their minds from Satan yea, a great part adhere to him too familiarly — yet, in reality, Satan is their enemy; nor do even those cease to dread him whom he soothes by his flatteries; and because he knows that the minds of men are set against him, he craftily insinuates himself by indirect methods, and thus deceives them under a disguised form. 197 In short, it is in grafted in us by nature to flee from Satan as our adversary. And, in order to show that he should be odious not to one generation only, God expressly says, ‘between thee and the seed of the woman,’ as widely indeed, as the human race shall be propagated. He mentions the woman on this account, because, as she had yielded to the subtlety of the devils and being first deceived, had drawn her husband into the participation of her ruin, so she had peculiar need of consolation.
It shall bruise 198 This passage affords too clear a proof of the great ignorance, dullness, and carelessness, which have prevailed among all the learned men of the Papacy. The feminine gender has crept in instead of the masculine or neuter. There has been none among them who would consult the Hebrew or Greek codices , or who would even compare the Latin copies with each other. 199 Therefore, by a common error, this most corrupt reading has been received. Then, a profane exposition of it has been invented, by applying to the mother of Christ what is said concerning her seed.
There is, indeed no ambiguity in the words here used by Moses; but I do not agree with others respecting their meaning; for other interpreters take the seed for Christ, without controversy; as if it were said, that some one would arise from the seed of the woman who should wound the serpent’s head. Gladly would I give my suffrage in support of their opinion, but that I regard the word seed as too violently distorted by them; for who will concede that a collective noun is to be understood of one man only? Further, as the perpetuity of the contest is noted, so victory is promised to the human race through a continual succession of ages. I explain, therefore, the seed to mean the posterity of the woman generally. But since experience teaches that not all the sons of Adam by far, arise as conquerors of the devil, we must necessarily come to one head, that we may find to whom the victory belongs. So Paul, from the seed of Abraham, leads us to Christ; because many were degenerate sons, and a considerable part adulterous, through infidelity; whence it follows that the unity of the body flows from the head. Wherefore, the sense will be (in my judgment) that the human race, which Satan was endeavoring to oppress, would at length be victorious. 200 In the meantime, we must keep in mind that method of conquering which the Scripture describes. Satan has, in all ages, led the sons of men “captive at his will”, and, to this day, retains his lamentable triumph over them, and for that reason is called the prince of the world, (Joh 12:31.) But because one stronger than he has descended from heaven, who will subdue him, hence it comes to pass that, in the same manner, the whole Church of God, under its Head, will gloriously exult over him. To this the declaration of Paul refers,
“The Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,”
By which words he signifies that the power of bruising Satan is imparted to faithful men, and thus the blessing is the common property of the whole Church; but he, at the same time, admonishes us, that it only has its commencement in this world; because God crowns none but well-tried wrestlers.
16. Unto the woman he said . In order that the majesty of the judge may shine the more brightly, God uses no long disputation; whence also we may perceive of what avail are all our tergiversations with him. In bringing the serpent forward, Eve thought she had herself escaped. God, disregarding her cavils, condemns her. Let the sinner, therefore, when he comes to the bar of God, cease to contend, lest he should more severely provoke against himself the anger of him whom he has already too highly offended. We must now consider the kind of punishment imposed upon the woman. When he says, ‘I will multiply thy pains,’ he comprises all the trouble women sustain during pregnancy 201
It is credible that the woman would have brought forth without pain, or at least without such great suffering, if she had stood in her original condition; but her revolt from God subjected her to inconveniences of this kind. The expression, ‘pains and conception,’ is to be taken by the figure hypallage, 202 for the pains which they endure in consequence of conception. The second punishment which he exacts is subjection. For this form of speech, “Thy desire shall be unto thy husband,” is of the same force as if he had said that she should not be free and at her own command, but subject to the authority of her husband and dependent upon his will; or as if he had said, ‘Thou shalt desire nothing but what thy husband wishes.’ As it is declared afterwards, Unto thee shall be his desire, (Ge 4:7.) Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.
17. And unto Adam he said . In the first place, it is to be observed, that punishment was not inflicted upon the first of our race so as to rest on those two alone, but was extended generally to all their posterity, in order that we might know that the human race was cursed in their person; we next observe, that they were subjected only to temporal punishment, that, from the moderation of the divine anger, they might entertain hope of pardon. God, by adducing the reason why he thus punishes the man, cuts off from him the occasion of murmuring. For no excuse was left to him who had obeyed his wife rather than God; yea, had despised God for the sake of his wife, placing so much confidence in the fallacies of Satan, — whose messenger and servant she was, — that he did not hesitate perfidiously to deny his Maker. But, although God deals decisively and briefly with Adam, he yet refutes the pretext by which he had tried to escape, in order the more easily to lead him to repentance. After he has briefly spoken of Adam’s sin, he announces that the earth would be cursed for his sake. The ancient interpreter has translated it, ‘In thy work;’ 203 but the reading is to be retained, in which all the Hebrew copies agree, namely, the earth was cursed on account of Adam . Now, as the blessing of the earth means, in the language of Scripture, that fertility which God infuses by his secret power, so the curse is nothing else than the opposite privation, when God withdraws his favor. Nor ought it to seem absurd, that, through the sin of man, punishment should overflow the earth, though innocent. For as the primum mobile 204 rolls all the celestial spheres along with it, so the ruin of man drives headlong all those creatures which were formed for his sake, and had been made subject to him. And we see how constantly the condition of the world itself varies with respect to men, according as God is angry with them, or shows them his favor. We may add, that, properly speaking, this whole punishment is exacted, not from the earth itself, but from man alone. For the earth does not bear fruit for itself, but in order that food may be supplied to us out of its bowels. The Lord, however, determined that his anger should like a deluge, overflow all parts of the earth, that wherever man might look, the atrocity of his sin should meet his eyes. Before the fall, the state of the world was a most fair and delightful mirror of the divine favor and paternal indulgence towards man. Now, in all the elements we perceive that we are cursed. And although (as David says) the earth is still full of the mercy of God, (Ps 33:5,) yet, at the same time, appear manifest signs of his dreadful alienation from us, by which if we are unmoved, we betray our blindness and insensibility. Only, lest sadness and horror should overwhelm us, the Lord sprinkles everywhere the tokens of his goodness. Moreover although the blessing of God is never seen pure and transparent as it appeared to man in innocence yet, if what remains behind be considered in itself, David truly and properly exclaims, ‘The earth is full of the mercy of God.’
Again, by ‘eating of the earth,’ Moses means ‘eating of the fruits’ which proceed from it. The Hebrew word ןובצע ( itsabon ,) which is rendered pain , 205 is also taken for trouble and fatigue . In this place, it stands in antithesis with the pleasant labor in which Adam previously so employed himself, that in a sense he might be said to play; for he was not formed for idleness, but for action. Therefore the Lord had placed him over a garden which was to be cultivated. But, whereas in that labor there had been sweet delight; now servile work is enjoined upon him, as if he were condemned to the mines. And yet the asperity of this punishment also is mitigated by the clemency of God, because something of enjoyment is blended with the labors of men, lest they should be altogether ungrateful, as I shall again declare under the next verse.
18. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth . He more largely treats of what he has already alluded to, namely, the participation of the fruits of the earth with labor and trouble. And he assigns as the reason, that the earth will not be the same as it was before, producing perfect fruits; for he declares that the earth would degenerate from its fertility, and bring forth briers and noxious plants. Therefore we may know, that whatsoever unwholesome things may be produced, are not natural fruits of the earth, but are corruptions which originate from sin. Yet it is not our part to expostulate with the earth for not answering to our wishes, and to the labors of its cultivators as if it were maliciously frustrating our purpose; but in its sterility let us mark the anger of Gods and mourn over our own sins. It here been falsely maintained by some that the earth is exhausted by the long succession of time, as if constant bringing forth had wearied it. They think more correctly who acknowledge that, by the increasing wickedness of men, the remaining blessing of God is gradually diminished and impaired; and certainly there is danger, unless the world repent, that a great part of men should shortly perish through hunger, and other dreadful miseries. The words immediately following, Thou shalt eat the herb of the field, are expounded too strictly (in my judgment) by those who think that Adam was thereby deprived of all the fruits which he had before been permitted to eat. God intends nothing more than that he should be to such an extent deprived of his former delicacies as to be compelled to use, in addition to them, the herbs which had been designed only for brute animals. For the mode of living at first appointed him, in that happy and delightful abundance, was far more delicate than it afterwards became. God, therefore, describes a part of this poverty by the word herbs , just as if a king should send away any one of his attendants from the upper table, to that which was plebeian and mean; or, as if a father should feed a son, who had offended him, with the coarse bread of servants; not that he interdicts man from all other food, but that he abates much of his accustomed liberality. This, however might be taken as added for the purpose of consolation, as if it had been said, ‘Although the earth, which ought to be the mother of good fruits only, be covered with thorns and briers, still it shall yield to thee sustenance whereby thou mayest be fed.’
19. In the sweat of thy face . Some indeed, translate it ‘labor;’ the translation, however, is forced. But by “sweat” is understood hard labor and full of fatigue and weariness, which, by its difficulty produces sweat. It is a repetition of the former sentence, where it was said, ‘Thou shalt eat it in labor.’ Under the cover of this passage, certain ignorant persons would rashly impel all men to manual labor; for God is not here teaching as a master or legislator, but only denouncing punishment as a judge. And, truly, if a law had been here prescribed, it would be necessary for all to become husband men, nor would any place be given to mechanical arts; we must go out of the world to seek for clothing and other necessary conveniences of life. What, then, does the passage mean? Truly God pronounces, as from his judgment-seat, that the life of man shall henceforth be miserable, because Adam had proved himself unworthy of that tranquil, happy and joyful state for which he had been created. Should any one object that there are many inactive and indolent persons, this does not prevent the curse from having spread over the whole human race. For I say that no one lies torpid in such a degree of sloth as not to be under the necessity of experiencing that this curse belongs to all. Some flee from troubles, and many more do all they can to grasp at immunity from them; but the Lord subjects all, without exception, to this yoke of imposed servitude. It is, nevertheless, to be, at the same time, maintained that labor is not imposed equally on each, but on some more, on others less. Therefore, the labor common to the whole body is here described; not that which belongs peculiarly to each member, except so far as it pleases the Lord to divide to each a certain measure from the common mass of evils. It is, however, to be observed, that they who meekly submit to their sufferings, present to God an acceptable obedience, if, indeed, there be joined with this bearing of the cross, that knowledge of sin which may teach them to be humble. Truly it is faith alone which can offer such a sacrifice to God; but the faithful the more they labor in procuring a livelihood, with the greater advantage are they stimulated to repentance, and accustom themselves to the mortification of the flesh; yet God often remits a portion of this curse to his own children, lest they should sink beneath the burden. To which purpose this passage is appropriate,
‘Some will rise early and go late to rest, they will eat the bread of carefulness, but the Lord will give to his beloved sleep,’
So far, truly, as those things which had been polluted in Adam are repaired by the grace of Christ, the pious feel more deeply that God is good, and enjoy the sweetness of his paternal indulgence. But because, even in the best, the flesh is to be subdued, it not infrequently happens that the pious themselves are worn down with hard labors and with hunger. There is, therefore, nothing better for us than that we, being admonished of the miseries of the present life, should weep over our sins, and seek that relief from the grace of Christ which may not only assuage the bitterness of grief, but mingle its own sweetness with it. 206 Moreover, Moses does not enumerate all the disadvantages in which man, by sin, has involved himself; for it appears that all the evils of the present life, which experience proves to be innumerable, have proceeded from the same fountain. The inclemency of the air, frost, thunders, unseasonable rains, drought, hail, and whatever is disorderly in the world, are the fruits of sin. Nor is there any other primary cause of diseases. This has been celebrated in poetical fables, and was doubtless handed down, by tradition, from the fathers. Hence that passage in Horace: —
“When from Heaven’s fane the furtive hand
Of man the sacred fire withdrew,
A countless host — at God’s command —
To earth of fierce diseases flew;
And death — till now kept far away
Hastened his step to seize his prey. 207
But Moses, who, according to his custom, studies a brevity adapted to the capacity of the common people, was content to touch upon what was most apparent, in order that, from one example, we may learn that the whole order of nature was subverted by the sin of man. Should any one again object, that no suffering was imposed on men which did not also belong to women: I answer, it was done designedly, to teach us, that from the sin of Adam, the curse flowed in common to both sexes; as Paul testifies, that ‘all are dead in Adam,’ (Ro 5:12.)
One question remains to be examined — ‘When God had before shown himself propitious to Adam and his wife, — having given them hope of pardon, — why does he begin anew to exact punishment from them? Certainly in that sentence, ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,’ the remission of sins and the grace of eternal salvation is contained. But it is absurd that God, after he has been reconciled, should actually prosecute his anger. To untie this knot, some have invented a distinction of a twofold remission, namely, a remission of the fault and a remission of the punishment, to which the figment of satisfactions was afterwards annexed. They have feigned that God, in absolving men from the fault, still retains the punishment; and that, according to the rigour of his justice, he will inflict at least a temporal punishment. But they who imagined that punishments are required as compensations, have been preposterous interpreters of the judgments of God. For God does not consider, in chastising the faithful, what they deserve; but what will be useful to them in future; and fulfils the office of a physician rather than of a judge. 208 Therefore, the absolution which he imparts to his children is complete and not by halves. That he, nevertheless, punishes those who are received into favor, is to be regarded as a kind of chastisement which serves as medicine for future time, but ought not properly to be regarded as the vindictive punishment of sin committed. If we duly consider how great is the torpor of the human mind, then, how great its lasciviousness, how great its contumacy, how great its levity, and how quick its forgetfulness, we shall not wonder at God’s severity in subduing it. If he admonishes in words, he is not heard; if he adds stripes, it avails but little; when it happens that he is heard, the flesh nevertheless perversely spurns the admonition. That obstinate hardness which, with all its power opposes itself to God, is worse than lasciviousness. If any one is naturally endued with such a gentle disposition that he does not disown the duty of submission to God, yet, having escaped from the hand of God, after one allowed sin, he will soon relapse, unless he be drawn back as by force. Wherefore, this general axiom is to be maintained, that all the sufferings to which the life of men is subject and obnoxious, are necessary exercises, by which God partly invites us to repentance, partly instructs us in humility, and partly renders us more cautious and more attentive in guarding against the allurements of sin for the future.
Till thou return . He denounces that the termination of a miserable life shall be death; as if he would say, that Adam should at length come, through various and continued kinds of evil, to the last evil of all. Thus is fulfilled what we said before, that the death of Adam had commenced immediately from the day of his transgression. For this accursed life of man could be nothing else than the beginning of death. ‘But where then is the victory over the serpent, if death occupies the last place? For the words seem to have no other signification, than that man must be ultimately crushed by death. Therefore, since death leaves nothing to Adam, the promise recently given fails; to which may be added, that the hope of being restored to a state of salvation was most slender and obscure.’ Truly I do not doubt that these terrible words would grievously afflict minds already dejected, from other causes, by sorrow. But since, though astonished by their sudden calamity, they were yet not deeply affected with the knowledge of sin; it is not wonderful that God persisted the more in reminding them of their punishment, in order that he might beat them down, as with reiterated blows. Although the consolation offered be in itself obscure and feeble, God caused it to be sufficient for the support of their hope, lest the weight of their affliction should entirely overwhelm them. In the meantime, it was necessary that they should be weighed down by a mass of manifold evils, until God should have reduced them to true and serious repentance. Moreover, whereas death is here put as the final issue, 209 this ought to be referred to man; because in Adam himself nothing but death will be found; yet, in this way, he is urged to seek a remedy in Christ.
For dust thou art . Since what God here declares belongs to man’s nature , not to his crime or fault , it might seem that death was not superadded as adventitious to him. And therefore some understand what was before said, ‘Thou shalt die,’ in a spiritual sense; thinking that, even if Adam had not sinned, his body must still have been separated from his soul. But, since the declaration of Paul is clear, that
‘all die in Adams as they shall rise again in Christ,’
this wound also was inflicted by sin. Nor truly is the solution of the question difficult, — ‘Why God should pronounce, that he who was taken from the dust should return to it.’ For as soon as he had been raised to a dignity so great, that the glory of the Divine Image shone in him, the terrestrial origin of his body was almost obliterated. Now, however, after he had been despoiled of his divine and heavenly excellence, what remains but that by his very departure out of life, he should recognize himself to be earth? Hence it is that we dread death, because dissolution, which is contrary to nature, cannot naturally be desired. Truly the first man would have passed to a better life, had he remained upright; but there would have been no separation of the soul from the body, no corruption, no kind of destruction, and, in short, no violent change.
20. And Adam called , etc . There are two ways in which this may be read. The former, in the pluperfect tense, ‘Adam had called.’ If we follow this reading, the sense of Moses will be, that Adam had been greatly deceived, in promising life to himself and to his posterity, from a wife, whom he afterwards found by experience to be the introducer of death . And Moses (as we have seen) is accustomed, without preserving the order of the history, to subjoin afterwards things which had been prior in point of time. If, however we read the passage in the preterite tense, it may be understood either in a good or bad sense. There are those who think that Adam, animated by the hope of a more happy condition, because God had promised that the head of the serpent should be wounded by the seed of the woman, called her by a name implying life.’ 210 This would be a noble and even heroic fortitude of mind; since he could not, without an arduous and difficult struggle, deem her the mother of the living, who, before any man could have been born, had involved all in eternal destruction. But, because I fear lest this conjecture should be weak, let the reader consider whether Moses did not design rather to tax Adam with thoughtlessness, who being himself immersed in death, yet gave to his wife so proud a name. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that, when he heard the declaration of God concerning the prolongation of life, he began again to breathe and to take courage; and then, as one revived, he gave his wife a name derived from life ; but it does not follow, that by a faith accordant with the word of God, he triumphed, as he ought to have done, over death. I therefore thus expound the passage; as soon as he had escaped present death, being encouraged by a measure of consolation, he celebrated that divine benefit which, beyond all expectation, he had received, in the name he gave his wife. 211
21. Unto Adam also , and to his wife , did the Lord God make , etc . Moses here, in a homely style, declares that the Lord had undertaken the labor of making garments of skins for Adam and his wife. It is not indeed proper so to understand his words, as if God had been a furrier, or a servant to sew clothes. Now, it is not credible that skins should have been presented to them by chance; but, since animals had before been destined for their use, being now impelled by a new necessity, they put some to death, in order to cover themselves with their skins, having been divinely directed to adopt this counsel; therefore Moses calls God the Author of it. The reason why the Lord clothed them with garments of skin appears to me to be this: because garments formed of this material would have a more degrading appearance than those made of linen or of woolen. 212 God therefore designed that our first parents should, in such a dress, behold their own vileness, — just as they had before seen it in their nudity, — and should thus be reminded of their sin. 213 In the meantime, it is not to be denied, that he would propose to us an example, by which he would accustom us to a frugal and inexpensive mode of dress. And I wish those delicate persons would reflect on this, who deem no ornament sufficiently attractive, unless it exceed in magnificence. Not that every kind of ornament is to be expressly condemned; but because when immoderate elegance and splendor is carefully sought after, not only is that Master despised, who intended clothing to be a sign of shame, but war is, in a certain sense, carried on against nature.
22. Behold , the man is become as one of us 214 An ironical reproof, by which God would not only prick the heart of man, but pierce it through and through. He does not, however, cruelly triumph over the miserable and afflicted; but, according to the necessity of the disease, applies a more violent remedy. For, though Adam was confounded and astonished at his calamity, he yet did not so deeply reflect on its cause as to become weary of his pride, that he might learn to embrace true humility. We may add, that God inveighed, by this irony, 215 not more against Adam himself then against his posterity, for the purpose of commending modesty to all ages. The particle, “Behold,” denotes that the sentence is pronounced upon the cause then in hand. And, truly, it was a sad and horrid spectacle; that he, in whom recently the glory of the Divine image was shining, should lie hidden under fetid skins to cover his own disgrace, and that there should be more comeliness in a dead animal than in a living man! The clause which is immediately added, “To know good and evil,” describes the cause of so great misery, namely, that Adam, not content with his condition, had tried to ascend higher than was lawful; as if it had been said, ‘See now whither thy ambition and thy perverse appetite for illicit knowledge have precipitated thee.’ Yet the Lord does not even deign to hold converse with him, but contemptuously draws him forth, for the sake of exposing him to greater infamy. Thus was it necessary for his iron pride to be beaten down, that he might at length descend into himself, and become more and more displeased with himself.
One of us . Some refer the plural number here used to the angels, as if God would make a distinction between man, who is an earthly and despised animal, and celestial beings; but this exposition seems farfetched. The meaning will be more simple if thus resolved, ‘After this, Adam will be so like Me, that we shall become companions for each other.’ The argument which Christians draw from this passage for the doctrine of the three Persons in the Godhead is, I fear, not sufficiently firm. 216 There is not, indeed, the same reason for it as in the former passage, “Let us make man in our image,” since here Adam is included in the word Us; but, in the other place, a certain distinction in the essence of God is expressed.
And now , lest , etc . There is a defect in the sentence which I think ought to be thus supplied: ‘It now remains that in future, he be debarred from the fruit of the tree of life;’ for by these words Adam is admonished that the punishment to which he is consigned shall not be that of a moment, or of a few days, but that he shall always be an exile from a happy life. They are mistaken who think this also to be an irony; as if God were denying that the tree would prove advantageous to man, even though he might eat of it; for he rather, by depriving him of the symbol, takes also away the thing signified. We know what is the efficacy of sacraments; and it was said above that the tree was given as a pledge of life. Wherefore, that he might understand himself to be deprived of his former life, a solemn excommunication is added; not that the Lord would cut him off from all hope of salvation, but, by taking away what he had given, would cause man to seek new assistance elsewhere. Now, there remained an expiation in sacrifices, which might restore him to the life he had lost. Previously, direct communication with God was the source of life to Adam; but, from the moment in which he became alienated from God, it was necessary that he should recover life by the death of Christ, by whose life he then lived. It is indeed certain, that man would not have been able, had he even devoured the whole tree, to enjoy life against the will of God; but God, out of respect to his own institution, connects life with the external sign, till the promise should be taken away from it; for there never was any intrinsic efficacy in the tree; but God made it life-giving, so far as he had sealed his grace to man in the use of it, as, in truths he represents nothing to us with false signs, but always speaks to us, as they say, with effect. In short, God resolved to wrest out of the hands of man that which was the occasion or ground of confidence, lest he should form for himself a vain hope of the perpetuity of the life which he had lost.
23. Therefore the Lord God sent him forth 217 Here Moses partly prosecutes what he had said concerning the punishment inflicted on man, and partly celebrates the goodness of God, by which the rigour of his judgment was mitigated. God mercifully softens the exile of Adam, by still providing for him a remaining home on earth, and by assigning to him a livelihood from the culture — although the labourious culture — of the ground; for Adam thence infers that the Lord has some care for him, which is a proof of paternal love. Moses, however, again speaks of punishment, when he relates that man was expelled and that cherubim were opposed with the blade of a turning sword, 218 which should prevent his entrance into the garden. Moses says that the cherubim were placed in the eastern region, on which side, indeed, access lay open to man, unless he had been prohibited. It is added, to produce terror, that the sword was turning or sharpened on both sides. Moses, however, uses a word derived from whiteness or heat 219 Therefore, God having granted life to Adam, and having supplied him with food, yet restricts the benefit, by causing some tokens of Divine wrath to be always before his eyes, in order that he might frequently reflect that he must pass through innumerable miseries, through temporal exile, and through death itself, to the life from which he had fallen; for what we have said must be remembered, that Adam was not so dejected as to be left without hope of pardon. He was banished from that royal palace of which he had been the lord, but he obtained elsewhere a place in which he might dwell; he was bereft of his former delicacies, yet he was still supplied with some kind of food; he was excommunicated from the tree of life, but a new remedy was offered him in sacrifices. Some expound the ‘turning sword’ to mean one which does not always vibrate with its point directed against man, but which sometimes shows the side of the blade, for the purpose of giving place for repentance. But allegory is unseasonable, when it was the determination of God altogether to exclude man from the garden, that he might seek life elsewhere. As soon, however, as the happy fertility and pleasantness of the place was destroyed, the terror of the sword became superfluous. By cherubim, no doubt, Moses means angels and in this accommodates himself to the capacity of his own people. God had commanded two cherubim to be placed at the ark of the covenant, which should overshadow its covering, with their wings; therefore he is often said to sit between the cherubim. That he would have angels depicted in this form, was doubtless granted as an indulgence to the rudeness of that ancient people; for that age needed puerile instructions, as Paul teaches, (Ga 4:3;) and Moses borrowed thence the name which he ascribed to angels, that he might accustom men to that kind of revelation which he had received from God, and faithfully handed down; for God designed, that what he knew would prove useful to the people, should be revealed in the sanctuary. And certainly this method is to be observed by us, in order that we, conscious of one own infirmity may not attempt, without assistance, to soar to heaven; for otherwise it will happen that, in the midst of our course, all our senses will fail. The ladders and vehicles, then, were the sanctuary, the ark of the covenants the altar, the table and its furniture. Moreover, I call them vehicles and ladders, because symbols of this kind were by no means ordained that the faithful might shut up God in a tabernacle as in a prison, or might attach him to earthly elements; but that, being assisted by congruous and apt means, they might themselves rise towards heaven. Thus David and Hezekiah, truly endued with spiritual intelligence, were far from entertaining those gross imaginations, which would fix God in a given place. Still they do not scruple to call upon God, who sitteth or dwelleth between the cherubim, in order that they may retain themselves and others under the authority of the law.
Finally , In this place angels are called cherubim, for the same reason that the name of the body of Christ is transferred to the sacred bread of the Lord’s Supper. With respect to the etymology, the Hebrews themselves are not agreed. The most generally received opinion is, that the first letter, כ ( caf ) is a servile letter, and a note of similitude, and, therefore, that the word cherub is of the same force as if it were said, ‘like a boy.’ 220 But because Ezekiel, who applies the word in common to different figures, is opposed to this signification; they think more rightly, in my judgment, who declare it to be a general name. Nevertheless, that it is referred to angels is more than sufficiently known. Whence also Ezekiel (Eze 28:14) signalizes the proud king of Tyre with this title, comparing him to a chief angel. 221
“Quasi non accidentalis esset.” As if it had not been accidental, where the word accidental is used in the sense of the schoolmen and logicians, as opposed to the word essential. — Ed.
The reader will observe that Calvin is here putting forward the argument of an objector. — Ed.
“Mesme il luy a preste le serpent.” — French Tr.
On the intricate subject of Manichaeism, and its various cognate heresies, the reader may refer to the Bampton Lectures of the late Dr. Burton, who, with incredible erudition and industry, has searched the records of ancient and modern times, and has examined, with the greatest candor, the various conflicting sentiments which have been entertained by learned men in reference to this question. The fundamental error of Manes seems to have been, that, with nearly all the Oriental philosophers of antiquity, he held the necessary and independent existence of matter, which, in his view, was the origin of all evil. — See Burton’s Bampton Lectures, p. 294; and Lardner’s Credibility, etc. part 2, c. 63.
Calvin’s Institutes, Book III c. 1 Vol. 2, p. 73, of the Calvin Society’s edition.
“Being under a final and irreversible doom, he looked on God as an irreconcileable enemy; and, not being able to injure his essence, he struck at his image. He singled out Adam as the mark of his malice, that by seducing him from his duty, he might defeat God’s design, which was to be honored by man’s obedience, and so obscure his glory, as if he had made man in vain.” — Bates’ Harmony of the Divine Attributes.
יכ ףא, “Hebraeis tantundem valet interdum ac Latinis, Etiamsi, vel enimvero; interdum, quanto magis.”
See the Chaldee paraphrase in Walton’s Polyglott. The Latin translation is as follows: “Verumne est quod dixit Deus, non comedatis ex omni arbore horti?” Gesenius gives the same explanation: “Solte denn das wahr seyn, dass Gott gesagt haette?” “Can it be true, that God has said?” etc. — Ed.
“Cur praecepit vobis Deus,” etc. — Vulgate.
“Vertendum censeo, Etiamne, vel Itane?”
“Neither shall ye touch it.” “The woman herself adds this, which certainly in the divine law we are not permitted to do.” — Peter Martyr’s Commentary on Genesis.
“Ne forte moriamini,” lest perhaps ye may die.
“Moriendo moriemini.” תומת תומ. ( Mot tamoot .)
“Sumpta a contraria ratione.”
The meaning of the passage seems to be this: Satan had first said in plain terms, “Ye shall not surely die;” and then, to confirm his position, had argued that, supposing God had forbidden the tree, he must have done it out of envy, lest he should be compelled to raise them to an equality with himself, and therefore on no possible supposition had they any ground to fear; for they had only to eat in order to be beyond the reach of his vengeance. — Ed.
So our great Poet: —
He scrupled not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Paradise Lost, Book IX
“Scatere,” send forth as from a fountain.
Calvin’s Institutes, Book II, chap. 1, 2, 3.
“Merito in peccatum rejicimus.”
“Peccato annexus est reatus.”
“Quod animae ex traduce oriuntur.” — “Que les ames procedent de celle d’Adam.” That souls proceed from that of Adam. — French Tr.
It can be scarcely necessary to inform the reader, that a controversy of some magnitude engaged the attention of the learned, on the subject to which Calvin here alludes; namely, whether the souls of men are, like their bodies, propagated by descent from Adam, or whether they proceed immediately from God. The supposed descent of the soul from Adam was said to be ex traduce, by traduction. — Ed.
To the question, ‘Why God did not create man without a possibility of sinning’, Peter Martyr replies: “Because such a state could not be suitable to the nature of any rational creature; since the creature, as a creature, remains infirm and feeble; whereas, also, he is not entirely one with the rule by which he is to be directed, (otherwise he would be God, the chief good, and chief rectitude,) it follows, that his nature may diverge from that rule. It was, however, possible for grace to confirm him so that he should not sin, which is believed to be the state of angels and of saints in heaven. But that dignity or reward would not be so highly esteemed, if this fallible and inconstant state of man had not preceded it.” — Peter Martyr, in Gen., fol. 14. Tiguri, 1579. — Ed.
“Ex foliis perizomata.”
“Imo si nullus fucus suppetat, facimus tamen nobis delicias, et tridui oblivione putamus nos bene esse tectos.”
What immediately follows is here given in the original:
“Quaeritamen potest, si tota natura peccati sordibus infecta est, cur tantum una in parte corporis deformitas appareat. Neque enim faciem vel pectus operiunt Adam et Heva: sed tantum pudenda quae vocamus. Hac occasione factum esse arbitror ut vulgo non aliam vitae corruptelam agnoscerent quam in libidine venerea. Atqui expendere debebant, non minorem fuisse in oculis et auribus verecundiae causam, quam in parte genitali, quae peccato nondum foedata erat: quum aures et oculi inquinassent Adam et Heva, et diabolo quasi arma praebuissent. Sed Deo fuit satis, extare in corpore humano aliquam pudendam notam, quae nos peccati commonefaciat.”
“Ad auram post meridiem.” Vulgate.
םויה חורל, ( leruach hayom ).
Τὸ δειλινόν. Sept.
This criticism, it is presumed, cannot be maintained. It seems to derive no countenance whatever but from some passages of Scripture, which speak of God as scattering his people to the four winds of heaven. (See Jer 49:32, and Jer 52:23.) The common interpretation given in our version, “the cool of the day,” as applied to evening, is supported by the highest authorities, such as Cocceius, Schindler, Gesenius, and Lee. Le Clerc, however, adopts the same interpretation as Calvin. — Ed.
וגה ץע ךיתב. ( Betok aitz haggan .) “In medio ligni Paradisi.” — Vulgate. Εν μέσω του ξύλου του παραδείσου — Sept. Where the singular number is used in each case. It may be translated, “in the midst of the wood of Paradise;” and wood may be, as in English, used collectively for a number of trees, a forest, or a thicket. Calvin, in his version, translates the clause, “in medio arborum horti.”
“Ex multiplici arborum complexu.”
“Vitam Legis.” The life or power of the law. — See Ro 7:6.
“Nisi quod de arbore,” are the words which Calvin gives. The expression of the Vulgate really is — “Nisi quod ex ligno.” There is no difference in the sense. — Ed.
“Nonne ex ipsa arbore... comedisti?” as in our own version.
“Quare hoc fecisti?” — Vulgate.
“Quomodo hoc fecisti?” תישע תאז-המ
See Bishop Patrick’s Commentary.
“Conteres caput.” The version of the Vulgate is, “conteret caput.” But this does not affect the validity of Calvin’s criticism, his object being to show the inpropriety of translating the same Hebrew word by Latin words of such different meaning as contero and insidior. — Ed.
See Cocceius, Gesenius, and Professor Lee, sub voce ףוש. — Ed
There would appear greater force in Calvin’s criticism if this had been the name given to the serpent in the narrative of Moses. The word here used, however, is שחנ, ( nachash ,) which gives no countenance to the supposed reference; besides, the word quoted by Calvin only refers to a particular kind of serpent, not to the whole species. — Ed
Anagogy. This word is inserted from the original for want of a more generally intelligible term in our own language to express the author’s meaning. It is from the Greek Αναγωγή, which signifies “a raising on high, especially elevation of the mind above earthly things to abstract speculations, (in ecclesiastical writings,) to the contemplation of the sublime truths and mysteries of Holy Scripture.” The meaning of Calvin is, that there was an intentional transition from the serpent to the spiritual being who made use of it. — Ed
“Et les decoit en se masquant de la personne d’autruy.” — French Trans.
See the Vulgate. “Ipsa conteret,” — She shall bruise. The following judicious note from Professor Lee’s Hebrew Lexicon confirms the criticism of Calvin: — “The attempt that has been made gravely to justify a blunder of the Vulgate, which here reads ipsa for ipse, is a melancholy proof of the great neglect of the study of Hebrew in this country. Any one acquainted with the first elements of the grammar would see that, to make the Vulgate correct, we must substitute רפושת for ךפושי, and הנפושת for ונפושת,” — that is, both the form and the affixes of the verb would require alteration, in order to accommodate themselves to the change of gender. — Ed
The judicious reader will hardly acknowledge the reasoning of Calvin to be valid. The whole subject here referred to is discussed with great learning and acuteness, as well as with great force of language, by Bishop Horsley, in his second Sermon on Peter 1 Pet. 1:20, 21. — Ed.
“Quum dicit, Multiplicabo dolores, complecitur quicquid molestiae sustinent mulieres, ex quo gravidae esse incipiunt, fastidium cibi, deliquia, lassitudines, aliaque innumera, usque dum ventum est ad partum, qui acerbissima tormenta secum affert. Est enim credibile,” etc.
The use of one word for another.
“In opere tuo.” — Vulgate . The Septuagint makes the same mistake; Εν τοῖς ἕργοις σου. In thy works.
The primum mobile of ancient astronomy was held to be the ninth heaven, which surrounded those of the fixed stars, planets, and the atmosphere, and was regarded as the first mover of all the heavenly bodies. These bodies were at that time supposed to be carried round the earth by this powerful agent, while the earth itself remained as the center of the system. The Newtonian philosophy put all such theories to flight. — Ed.
“Quod vertunt dolorem.” In Calvin’s own text it is, “In labore“; in the Vulgate, “In laboribus.” Gesenius renders the word “Saure Arbeit,” severe labor. — Ed.
“Sed etiam dulci temperamento condiat.”
“Laquelle non seulement appaise l’aigreur des douleurs, mais aussi leur donne saveur, meslant le sucre parmi le vinaigre.” — Which not only relieves the sourness of griefs, but also gives them savor, mixing sugar with the vinegar. — French Trans.
"Post ignem aetheria domo
Subductum, macies et nova febrium
Terris incubuit cohors;
Semotique prius tarda necessitas
Leti corripuit gradum.” — Hor. Carm. in. Lib. I.
“The punishments inflicted by God are the remedies and the restraints of our vitiated nature.” — Peter Martyr, in Genesis fol. 17.
“Quasi ultima linea.” “Comme le bout.” — French Trans.
“Vocasse eam vivificam.”
It is probable, however, that more than this is here meant. The Hebrew word הוח, ( chavah ,) Eve, is in the Septuagint rendered ζωή, life ; and, as Fagius observes, Adam comforted himself in his wife, because he should, through Eve, produce a posterity in which (as parents in their children) they should be permanently victorious. — Pol. Syn. — Ed
“Quia [vestes] ex ea materia confectae, belluinum quiddam magis saperent, quam linae vel laneae.”
“As the prisoner, looking on his irons, thinketh on his theft, so we, looking on our garments, should think on our sins.” — Trapp.
For an ample discussion of the reasons why a more comprehensive view should be taken of this subject than Calvin here adopts, the reader may turn to Dr. Magee’s learned “Discourses and Dissertations on the Scriptural Doctrines of Atonement and Sacrifice;” where he will see, that the origin of the clothing with skins was most probably connected with a previous appointment of the sacrifice of animals. — See Magee, note 52:— Ed.
“Adam quasi unus.”
Bishop Patrick, who contends for the interpretation here opposed, says, “Like one of us. These words plainly insinuate a plurality of Persons in the Godhead, and all other explications of them seem forced and unnatural; that of Mr. Calvin’s being as disagreeable to the Hebrew phrase as that of Socinus to the excellency of the Divine nature.” — Ed.
שרג, ( gairesh ,) to expel, drive out, or eject by force.
“Cum lamina gladii versatilis.” ברחה טהל, ( lahat hacherab .)
“A candore, vel adore.”
“בורכ, ( cherub .) An image like a youth, which the Chaldeans call יבר, ( rabia .)” — Schindler . Other writers give a different derivation, and consequently a different meaning to the word. But Professor Lee says, “It would be idle to offer anything on the etymology; nothing satisfactoroy having yet been discovered.” — See Lexicon. — Ed
Primario angelo. It is clear that Ezekiel, in the chapter referred to, has both the garden of Eden and the ark of the covenant in his view, when speaking of the king of Tyre. Thus, in the 17th verse, it is said, “Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God;” and, in the next verse, “Thou art the anointed cherub that acovereth;” (namely, that covereth the ark,) “and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God.” — Ed.