When we read Genesis 3 we are immediately aware of a multi-level tension.

In the perfect, sinless world of Genesis 1 and 2 the essential distinctions between God and humans, man and woman, and humans and the natural world did not cause divisions: God and humans were at peace, man and woman were at peace, humans were at peace in and with the natural world. In addition, in Genesis 1 and 2 the individual human experienced an unconscious peace with themselves.

In Genesis 3 every level of peace was shattered. Although we did not immediately die physically, ‘death’ entered bringing alienation, division and separation into every relationship.

Division and alienation within – Genesis 3:7
In Genesis 2:25 the perfection, innocence, unity and peace that characterized the original perfect, sinless humans is expressed by the statement ‘they felt no shame’.  The destruction of this is reported in Genesis 3:7 immediately following their rejection of God. Here we are told ‘the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked’. This looks at first glance like division between the man and the woman, but it is essentially the first expression of human self-rejection. Satan’s promise ‘your eyes will be opened’ [3:5], had indeed come true. But the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ he promised was something bad, not something good. It brought in a destructive self-awareness within the individual that tortures and fractures people right up to the present. Our rejection of God and his command brought a death and a division within our own being. We are our own worst enemy. We consistently embrace self-destructive, self-negating thought patterns. We live with a sense of self-rejection and a self-focused fear of rejection by others. Even in our pride there is a constant necessity to promote ourselves and justify ourselves. We are divided within.

Division and alienation between humans – Genesis 3:12
Accompanying this separation between the individual human and his own being is a parallel separation between humans. The relationship of peace, unity and mutual acceptance that characterized the relationship between Adam and Eve in 2:25 is shattered. Their now destructive self-awareness is accompanied by a destructive awareness of, and vulnerability in the presence of, the other and the other’s opinion. Their inner shame and division has automatically created a division between them, separating them from each other. They now feel compelled to protect, defend, preserve and justify themselves, even if it means further severance and disconnection from the other. Instead of peacefully fulfilling their God-given role of imaging him they, having chosen life cut off from God, now live cut off from each other, with the perceived necessity of presenting and preserving their own image.

Division and alienation between God and humans – Genesis 3:8-10
The choices made in Genesis 3:1-6 separated the human from God: they constitute a rejection of God and his word, a turning away from the original dependent, trusting, face-to-face relationship with God. Here in 3:1-6:

Human doubt of God’s goodness began.
Human disobedience of God’s command began.
Human division from God began.

In this rebellion man becomes severed from his source, his sustenance, his purpose/goal and his identity as human. The immediate result was isolation, disorientation and alienation from God.  
Alone, cast adrift by this human choice, we who were made for relationship with God and with our neighbour, now, as well as the inner and relational severances noted above, also experience:

Fear in the presence of God [3:8,10]
Guilt in the presence of God [3:8.10]
Separation and alienation from God [3:8,10].

These are the automatic elements of division from God that immediately began with this original human sin.

Division and alienation between humans and nature
As we will see when we consider the judgement imposed by God, the relationship between us and our natural environment also changed. Nature became the context of the human struggle for survival that began in Genesis 3 and continues to this day.


It is into this context of division and alienation that the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the one way of reconciliation, offering us the restoration of peace with God, with each other and within ourselves.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016