1.1 God’s Speeches To The Serpent And The Man Outside Of Gen 3 16


Many think that God’s three speeches to the participants of the Great Disobedience are similar to each other in pattern and meaning throughout. But this is not so!

Only the first and third speeches, to the rebellious serpent-tempter and to the rebellious man, are strikingly similar. They follow a common six-point pattern which is very different from God’s words to the woman

The First And Third Speeches (3:14-15, 17-19)

From a structural standpoint, there is remarkable correspondence between God’s addresses to the serpent and to the man. Specifically, they follow the same pattern.

1. Both speeches open with the word “Because (ki).” That introductory word serves to justify the additional punishments God is about to inflict on the serpent and on the man.

2. Next, in both speeches, one specific curse (’arur) is pronounced. In Genesis 3 a curse is clearly indicated by the word “curse.” Where the word is absent, there is no curse. The word ’arur occurs no place else in this passage.

3. In both speeches, the specific object of the curse is identified. In the former, the serpent is cursed; in the latter, the ground is cursed. “Cursed are you,” God says to the serpent in v.14. In v.17, “Cursed is the ground—because of you,” he says to the man. God levies these two curses: one on the serpent, one on the ground. The serpent was the tool of the Tempter; and that tool is henceforth cursed. The ground is cursed because of the man, and the man is profoundly impacted by that decree, but the man himself is not cursed. In each case, the objects cursed were chosen by God because they were related to the misdeeds of the wrongdoers. God says to the serpent and to the man, “Because you have [done this]…” and one could add, “cursed is the instrument of your sin.”

4. The nature of each curse involves eating. The serpent will “eat dust.” The man will eat the plants of the field and bread “by the sweat of your face [literally ‘nose’].” (There is an interesting bit of irony built into the text with the use of the words “dust” and “eat.” The man was made from dust; and he will return to dust. Now dust is what this cursed animal will be eating. Interestingly, eating was what brought about the transgression in the first place—that which the serpent wished to tempt them both to do. So the animal who succeeded in getting them to eat, will now himself be eating—dust.)

5. There is a note of duration in both speeches: “… all the days of your life.”

6. At the end of each speech there is a repeated verb, and the corresponding verbs in each segment sound alike. To the serpent God said, “He will bruise (shuph) you on the head and you shall bruise (shuph) him on the heel.” To the man God said, “By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread Till you return (shuv) to the ground, And to the dust you shall return (shuv).” This alliterative word interplay, shuph … shuph / shuv … shuv, is a deliberate stylistic device employed by the author, perhaps to aid in the memorization of these lines.


The six-point description excerpted from Dr. Joy Fleming, Man and Woman in Biblical Unity, pages 23-24.

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