What Was, What is, and What Will Be the Human Condition

Humanity is first seen in the Bible in the acts of God on the sixth day of creating "the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:27-30). God creates humanity in his image, blesses them, commands them to multiply, gives them dominion over the earth, and prescribes their diet. Genesis two describes the creation of humanity in greater detail and introduces the garden of Eden with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here also God gives his commandments regarding the trees of the garden.

These initial pictures of humanity portray them in harmony with God, one another, and the earth. Here there are no harsh words for the first couple, but there is God's blessing and his recognition that all "was very good." Adam rejoices at meeting his wife, and they are not ashamed to be exposed to each other and the world. The animals of the earth do not run in fear from Adam, but they receive names from their appointed master. The glorious garden is open and available to the first couple.

These initial pictures, however, do not capture humanity's present state. The fundamentals of humanity's present condition are seen in Genesis 3. Vss. 1-7 describe the first act of human disobedience toward God. This act attacks and wounds humanity's relationship toward God. In the rest of the chapter, God makes his presence known and the wounded relationship with God becomes visible. The first couple feel shame and fear; they try to cover their nakedness and to hide from the presence of God. They also suggest that God is partly responsible for their disobedience (Genesis 3:12-13). The first couple, however, not only wounded their relationship with God, but they aligned themselves with a power that opposes God and calls him a liar. They chose to believe the creation--the serpent--instead of the creator--God. Before the rebellion of the first couple, there was the rebellion of the serpent. Also, the couple's submission to the authority of the serpent is an attack on their relationship to the world; they have failed to rule over the serpent according to God's commission to them.

Having a wounded relationship with God and a new relationship with the serpent, the first inter-human relationship begins to suffer. Not only are the first couple unable to be exposed to each other any longer, but Adam looks to his wife as the source of his disobedience.

In Genesis 3:14-19, God outlines the consequences of the disobedience of the serpent and the couple. The serpent is cursed with a lowly existence, and God will break up the new relationship between the serpent and humanity. The woman will be given pain in childbearing, and the marriage relationship will no longer be a relationship of equals. Nature will be transformed, and gaining food from it will be more difficult. The first man will return to dust--he will die.

Another consequence of disobedience for the first couple is exile from the garden and the tree of life. Mortality is confirmed; God's statement that the first man will return to dust is being established.

From Genesis 3, therefore, one sees a humanity estranged from God, from each other, and from the world around them. Since the time of these broken relationships, humans have been attempting to bridge these gaps and to find internal peace.

The portrait of humanity's present condition, however, would be bleak and incomplete if one did not take note of one other thing that God does after the first couple's disobedience: The LORD God made tunics of animal skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Here is a sign that God still cares for humanity. God could have sent them out of the garden without anything. Here also God actively provides a replacement for humanity's attempt at dealing with their shame. They had put fig leaves together to cover themselves, but now God provides a fuller garment. God goes further than just providing the clothes; God himself clothes them. God's provision in this instance points to a solution to humanity's broken relationships: Trust God to deal with it. There is also here a hint about how God will deal with healing humanity's broken relationships. God did not provide tunics made of linen, but tunics that required the life of another.

The present human condition then is not only filled with broken relationships and human attempts to mend them; it also includes a God who has not turned away from the disobedient, but has given them salvation. This is the picture that is found not only in Genesis 3, but the rest of the Bible. And within this picture is a hint of what will one day be the human condition: a humanity that is in communion with God, with each other, and with the world around them. This restoration of relationships will exist because God has shown mercy to his wayward creations.

(c)1999 Ian R. Brown, this document may be freely copied and distributed so long as the source is noted with the copy: http://www.andrews.edu/~irbrown/Condition.htm
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