The Parties Arraigned and Sentenced: Page 8 of 9 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
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.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
Although the whole body may be thrown into a profuse sweat by hard and prolonged labor, yet the face or forehead is the first place where beads of sweat begin to form, and from there they trickle down by the nose or into the eyes, which blurs the sight and causes the eyes to burn. Sweat is caused by the blood being forcefully propelled to the brain, partly through stooping, but principally by the strong action of the muscles. As a result the blood vessels located around the head become swollen through the great flux of blood; the fibers are relaxed, the pores enlarged, and the sweat pours out. In this way, every man‘s labor may put him in mind of his sin and its consequences. The labor used in cultivating the earth for the production of wheat and corn from which bread is made, requires various operations which cause men to sweat, such as ploughing, sowing, reaping, threshing, winnowing, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking; and it may include all the methods and means by which men get their bread. It even happens, that work involving the brain is not exempt from producing a sweat due to the stress that the mind creates: so that every man, no matter what their station of life, is not exempt, more or less, from this sentence, and so it continues until he dies. From now on, man will be dependent on the uncertainties of rain and weather, and his life will be a constant and almost unendurable struggle.
You may notice I did not say anything about women sweating, which I omitted on purpose since I was told by my wife that women do not sweat, they GLOW instead.
till thou return unto the ground;
When man dies he is committed to the ground that has been cursed, and in time he will become once more part of the ground, as his body disintegrates to become dust. This is the final effect of the curse—it will fully attach to him in the end. But by cursing the ground and not the man God is showing him mercy by delaying punishment. The man will die, but not yet. The life of man would be a life of toil and labor to the very end of it: and there is nothing else man can expect in it.
It should be noted that the warning “in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” has not been literally carried out. Neither the man nor the power behind the snake will receive their just deserts as yet. Our God wants us to see that a new phase is beginning in God’s dealings with man. He wants us to know that the man has not fallen because he independently chose to rebel against God, but because another more sinister power dragged him down. Therefore, God will show him mercy, so that he, along with his descendants, can reverse the situation and bring down that evil power. He will yet bruise the head of “the snake.” Yet the sentence has only been delayed because, as God has already stated, one day the ground that has been cursed will receive him. He is only dust, and dust he will become.
The story does not assume that man was created physically immortal, but who knows what might have happened if Adam had not sinned. But the inevitable certainty of death is now seen to increase the sadness of his
earthly life. It is sin which gives death its sting “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56; KJ 2000). The Apostle Paul explains that death could not have entered into the world if sin had not entered first; it was sin that not only introduced death, but has armed him with all his destroying force; the dagger used by death is sin; by this both body and soul are slain.
; and though the Redemption of Christ has not abolished physical death, yet it gives victory over death, by removing the guilt and fear that make it so appalling and hopeless “Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, he himself also shared the same things, so that by his death he might destroy the one who has the power of death (that is, the devil) and might free those who were slaves all their lives because they were terrified by death” (Hebrews 2:14, 15; ISV). One reason Jesus came was to destroy the power of him who first brought death on our race, that is, the devil. It was necessary for Him to be clothed with mortality in order to die, and He needed to die in order to deliver men from the power of sin and give them a glorious hope.
for out of it wast thou taken:
“for out of it wast thou taken” is not the reason for man’s disintegration into the original material from which he was constituted, but rather a reminder that in consequence of his transgression he had forfeited the privilege of immunity from death, and must now return to the soil from which he sprung.
for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
God had said that in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, dying they should die—sin would initiate their transformation into mortal beings, and place them under the influence of a great variety of unfriendly environments in the atmosphere and in their surroundings; from heat, cold, drought, rain, and humidity, until their spirit finds its earthly house no longer tolerable, and returns to God who provided it; and the body decomposes, and is reduced to dust. It is evident from this that man would have been immortal if he never transgressed, and that this immortality depended on his obedience to his Maker. The tree of life, as we have already seen, was intended to be the means of continual preservation. But since no being except God can exist without any assistance, man could not continue to live without a particular supporting instrument; and this supporting instrument under God appears to have been the tree of life.
Man’s body is composed of the same elements as the dust of the earth, and it would be reduced to those same elements by death, but this was not done for the purpose of annihilating man, but to bring him back to his beginning. This shows what a frail creature man is, and what little reason he has to be proud of himself, when he contemplates where he came from and where he must go “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12.7). The body, which is made of dust, and is, in its present state, refined and enlivened dust; at death, returns to its original earth; it becomes immediately a clod of earth, a lifeless lump of clay. Now at death the soul, or spirit of man, returns to God, the Judge of all, who passes sentence on them, and orders those that are good to the mansions of heaven and happiness, and those that are evil to hell and destruction.