What did God mean when he said “cursed is the ground because of you” after Adam sinned?

Genesis 3-17 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;

It is most commonly understood that after Adam sinned God cursed the ground because of that sin. (some do say that God cursed Adam but this is not biblical so I won’t be discussing that here)
In this understanding God dealt out a punishment for Adam’s sin. It was God who imposed a penalty, a sanction for Adam’s sin. God used his power and authority to curse the ground as punishment for this transgression. This however also makes God directly responsible for the now cursed ground. It is actually because of GOD and NOT Adam’s sin that the ground is cursed. Adam’s sin is the reason why God cursed the ground but it was God who ultimately inflicted the curse upon the ground. In this model, in this understanding God has become the dictator inflicting punishment for disobedience. Making God’s rule regarding eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil arbitrary. A made up rule by God simply because he had the power to do so and because he chose to create it. God runs his universe like a Roman emperor. God has rules and when they are broken he must inflict justice and punish the lawbreakers.

However is that what this verse really states. Is this the kind of God that is really being portrayed in this verse. A dictator who used his power to apply a punishment to the whole of humanity based on one man’s single infringement of his arbitrary law.

The Bible states that God is Love.

1 John 4-8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

How loving is God to inflict a punishment not only for Adam but for the whole of humankind based on this one disobedient act?
This of course as I stated is the traditional view and understanding of this verse. But what kind of God is being inferred? what kind of character is being applied to God through this understanding? Of course God CAN do as he wants, he is the creator, this universe is his, if he wishes to create laws and punish for breaking those laws then as the creator God can do just that. BUT God cannot simply do as he pleases and still remain “love”. The Bible also says he is good and upright.

Psalm 25-8 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

The Bible also says that God is righteous in all his ways.

Psalm 145-17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

We are told that Gods ways are not like our ways

Isaiah 55- 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

Dictatorships are a human construct. Imperial rule is not a righteous way for things to be run. 
God cannot be love, he cannot be good and he cannot be righteous while imposing punishments to the whole of humanity based on arbitrary laws. These ideas are totally contrasting they are not logically compliant.

So it needs to be asked, Is there a different way to look at this verse? Is there a different understanding that can be applied to God’s statement? Is it at all possible that God is not the dictator that so many Christians have made him out to be? Is it possible God’s justice is not the same as humanistic justice?(please see my writing on the character of God)

Before God “cursed” the ground everything in creation was “good”.

Genesis 1- 31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

However evil already existed seeing everything that was was created before Adam sinned. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was already in place in the garden of Eden. Evil wasn’t created because of sin. Adam and Eve simply had no knowledge of what good and evil were until they partook of the fruit of the tree and “their eyes were opened” or more simply put, they became aware of what good and evil were. Adam and Eve now knew of the evil that already existed.

We are also told that when God created the garden of Eden he planted all the trees that were good for food. There is no mention of any thorns or thistles growing there.

Genesis 2- 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

In the following verse from Genesis 3-17 we are told thorns and thistles would be brought forth to Adam.

Genesis 3-18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

This does not say that God created thorns and thistles so that they would now be brought forth to Adam because Adam needed to be taught a lesson.

But we are told that Adam was sent from the garden of Eden.

Genesis 3-23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So 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.

Adam was told he was going to have to work the ground for his food, no longer was it going to be simply available to him. Thorns and thistles would come as a result of sin and the creation now deviating from the design.

Genesis 3- 19In 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.

Adam’s expulsion from Eden however was NOT because God was inflicting a punishment but because he did not want them to also eat from the tree of life and live forever.

Genesis 3-22And 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:

God did not inflict a punishment when he stated “the ground is cursed because of you” God was pronouncing the now inevitable reality. The natural consequence of deviating from God’s design.

We see the same thing in another verse often used to show God as dictatory.

Genesis 3- 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.

This verse used to show that God impossed a punishment on the woman (often used to show God as male chauvinist. But this is a verse that is also completely twisted and misunderstood. However what God was actually doing was again pronouncing reality. Humans who had gone against God and “self”ishness had entered into humanity God simply stating the fact that the strong dominate the weak and the weak seak to be protected by the strong.

God had given man dominion over his creation.

Genesis 1- 26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Man was “in charge”, creation was for man to enjoy, to tend to look after.

Genesis 2- 15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The creation was good. The land plentiful. All Adam had to do was to look after the creation that God had made and which God had declared good.

He was given all that he required to live he only had one thing he was not to do and that was to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

But because of Adam’s disobedience sin entered into the world

Romans 5-12 Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

God didn’t curse the ground he simply stated the fact that the ground was now cursed because sin was now in the world. The creation would now suffer because of sin.

Romans 8- 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Creation was now subject to the deviation from everything being deemed good. The world was “cursed” not by God but because God knew the result of sin and that the inhabitants of earth would defile it. Which is exactly what happened.

Isaiah 24-5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

Jeremiah 12- 4 How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

Jeremiah 12-11 They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.

Psalm 107-34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.

We know it wasn’t long before we are told of the first person to biblically defile the ground.

Genesis 4- 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

God’s “curse” was actually a simple declaration of the future. Through the wickedness of man because of sin. It was because of SIN not because of God that the ground was cursed.

Thorns and thistles were the natural result of the ground being defiled NOT as a punishment from God.

It is the devil that “planted” the thorns and thistles when he enticed Eve into going against the word of God. As Jesus told in his parable.

Matthew 13- 24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

The parable explained

Matthew 13- 36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

Genesis 3-17 sets us up to interprete the rest of the Bible. If we start off at the beginning with the wrong understanding of God’s character, who God is, why he says what he says and why he does what he does we are likely going to interpret the entire Bible in a completely wrong way. If we however understand that God is not a dictator he is not a Roman emperor and does not run his universe like he but that God is love the consequences of sin become natural rather than imposed.

The Bible says that the WAGES of sin is death NOT the punishment for sin.

Romans 6-23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Death is the natural result of sin not God’s imposed punishment. God’s laws are by way of design not through mere force and might. Transgression of God’s laws lead to natural consequences not imposed ones.

It is SIN that cursed the ground not God.

Categories: Doctrinal questions

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