For a printable copy of this chapter (9) click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

Click here for a pdf of Genesis 13 in Redemptive History: 8.5×11″; A4 paper



1) Gen 3:17–18:  According to the Babylonian creation story Enuma Elish, the gods created people as slaves to do the work that they had tired of doing for themselves, principally to provide them with food,

Marduk announced, “Blood I will mass and cause bones to be. I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name…He shall be charged with the service of the gods that they might be at ease!”.[1]

Based upon Ancient Near Eastern views, humanity exists to toil to relieve the gods.[2]

In contrast, the Lord gave people their sustenance (Gen 1:29; Gen 2:8–9).

God put Adam in the garden to “work,” “serve,” and “cultivate” (avadh) it (Gen 2:15).[3]

That occurred before the fall. Thus, work does not result from sin but comprises a fundamental aspect of reflecting God’s image (John 5:17).[4]



Adam’s fundamental error was “listening to (shamar) the voice of” his wife rather than obeying (shamar) the Lord’s command (Gen 3:1–6). Just as with Eve (Gen 3:16), the Lord did not curse Adam but instead spoke of the outcome of his rebellion.[5]

Since Adam’s sin involved eating, God chose a fitting judgment.[6]

The toil behind the preparation of every meal reminded him of his guilt, making the memory of the abundant supply of food within the garden even more painful (Gen 2:9).[7]

Frustration replaced human mastery over creation (Gen 1:27–30),[8] resulting in alienation from our environment.[9]

God blesses land with abundant water and fertility (Deut 33:13–16). When he curses the ground, it becomes dry and unproductive (Deut 11:13–17).[10]

Since the Lord removed his protection and favor, the soil would yield produce only through hard labor.[11]



The same Hebrew word describes what Eve and Adam each experienced: “pain”  (Gen 3:16),[12] resulting in anguishing brokenness.[13]

Moses likely chose the word for pain used here (itsabon) for its resemblance to the word for a tree (ets), rather than using the typical term. Ultimately, a tree led to their trauma,[14] hardship, pain, and distress.[15]

No longer a delight, work became an enemy.[16] Inedible growth replaced plants needed for food, requiring constant toil (Prov 24:30–34).[17]

Creation itself rebelled against humanity.  Even the creatures over which people had ruled fell into disarray, becoming nature without masters, existing in rebellion and despair. That is our earth.[18]



The version of the Epic of Gilgamesh found in Nineveh reminisces over former times. It describes a garden paradise which Gilgamesh passed through during his quest for immortality.

There lapis lazuli grew as foliage on fruit-bearing trees, while rubies, carnelians, emeralds, and hematite sprouted, rather than thorns and thistles.[19] 

Image via Wikimedia Commons


 a) Read Gen 3:17–18. How do we know that work itself is not an affliction? What effect did God’s curse have upon nature? How does that affect people? What made Adam’s experience similar to Eve’s?




Go to Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18)

[Related posts include Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); The Lord Provides Food (Gen 1:29–30); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); Serving and Keeping (Gen 2:15); Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); An Anguishing Process (Gen 3:16); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Noah Planted a Vineyard (Gen 9:20–21); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Ancient Literature; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: Painful Toil (Genesis 3:17–21)]


[1] “The Creation Epic” (“Enuma Elish”), ANET, lines 6:5–8, 68,

[2] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 3:17.

[3] Holladay, “עָבַד” (avadh), CHALOT, 261.

[4] Jon C. Laansma, “Rest,” NDBT  727–32, 727.

[5] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 81–2.

[6] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 202.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 82.

[8] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 94.

[9] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 133–4.

[10] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 82.

[11] Walton, Genesis, 229.

[12] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “עִצָּבוֹן” (itsabon), BDB, 781,

[13] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 202–3.

[14] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 81.

[15]Holladay, “עִצָּבוֹנ” (itsabon), CHALOT, 280.

[16] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 134.

[17] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 95.

[18] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 134.

[19] “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” ANET, tablet 8.5.47–51, comments on damaged column vi, 88,