From Eden to the City of Man

In the book of Genesis, beginning with the creation of man in the image of God one can trace the relationship between man and creation and man and Creator. Though it is familiar to us, we ought often to rehearse the creation account as God creates ex nihilo, out of nothing, until He gets to man whom He creates from the ground. This relation is highlighted through the words used for ground, adamah, and Adam, adam. Though man is created from the ground, nevertheless he is created in the image of his Creator to be both His representation and representative on earth.

This relationship between man and creation and man and Creator is further signified by the command given to man to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion clearly signifying that man was set above the rest of creation by his Creator. In chapter 2 of Genesis we find not another creation account, but a closer look at the creation account of man. There we see that there was an anticipated need for someone to work the ground (Genesis 2:5). However, later we read that this role in the garden was more than just the first farmer, as Adam was put in the garden to guard and keep it, a phrase used elsewhere in conjunction with priestly duties (Genesis 2:15). There is then an intrinsically linked relationship between man both working the ground and worshiping the Creator. As this creation account nears its culmination we find one final addition, namely woman. Whereas man was the glory of God, woman was the glory (or crown) of man (1 Cor. 11:7). This too was noted by the name ishshah as woman was created from man, ish.

The creation narrative leads us unfortunately to the fall of man by the introduction of sin and disobedience by man to God’s commands. Given what we observed earlier in Genesis, specifically as man’s relationship with both creation and Creator are formed, it begs the question how, if at all, are these relationships impacted? In Genesis 3:15 as God moves His indictment from the serpent to the woman (Eve), we note that her punishment was specifically related to pain in childbirth a direct counter to the command to multiply. Further, despite the obstacle of pain, the desire would still be there. The ability to multiply would now occur only by overcoming the obstacle. Then with Adam, tied to the land as we have seen, this relationship is now hampered by the obstacles that the land would introduce which also would bring pain. The ability to take dominion, work the land, and bring forth bread would now occur only by overcoming the obstacle. Additionally, because of their sin man would now die and return to the land from which they were brought forth. One final aspect needs answered, namely the relationship between man and Creator. We are told that this too is hindered and interrupted as the first couple is exiled from Eden. Presumably what was previously unhindered, unrestrained access to God is now altered in some way, yet we know from the next pericope concerning Cain and Abel that God is still present and communicating with man.

It is here, in Genesis 4 that we observe man now outside the garden, still in some sort of relationship with God and the land as Cain works the ground and Abel keeps the sheep. After Cain’s murder of Abel, signifying man’s increase in sinfulness, we would again expect a similar judgment legislated by God impacting both man’s relationship with Creator and creation. The passage for our consideration is cited below:
10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:10-16
As with his parents, so too here with Cain we read of the dual aspects of the punishment. First, God tells Cain that he is cursed from the ground. This is an important distinction from the punishment God handed down subsequent to the original fall. There we saw that the serpent was cursed (Genesis 3:14) and the ground was cursed (Genesis 3:17). Despite common acceptance that Adam and Eve were cursed, the passage indicates otherwise as the curse is specifically levied on the serpent and the ground with Adam and Eve experiencing the effects of the fall. However, here in the episode with Cain we find God actually does levy a curse on him, which puts him in company with the serpent. With Adam, the ground was cursed because of his sin. With Cain, he is cursed from the ground. In verse 12 we find this further defined by God as that the ground will no longer yield its strength. In understanding how this is applied, we have to carry forward the ground’s curse from Adam. Remember that above this curse meant that the ground would present obstacles in Adam’s way to hinder his ability to bring forth it’s blessing. However, now with Cain he would have the same obstacles but the ground would NOT yield it’s blessings. In other words, he could work the ground all he wanted and not only would his efforts be frustrated but they would be futile.

The second aspect of Cain’s curse is, as expected, a doubling down of the original exile. Whereas Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, here God sentences Cain to a life of wandering on the earth as a fugitive. As Cain understands his punishment he concludes that he has been driven both from the ground and from the face of God. This second exile is in someway different from the first. Presumably, Cain will no longer have direct access to God. Though his earlier access seemed limited in some way as compared to the Garden, even this will now too be taken away. To his punishment, Cain appeals that it is too harsh, likely not because he’s been driven from either the ground or the face of God, but because the fugitive status and wandering leave him vulnerable to vengeance, “whoever finds me will kill me.” To this God graciously gives Cain a sign, either an actual visible mark or an oath of protection, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” From here we find Cain beginning his wandering from the presence of God moving further east from Eden (recall Gen. 3:24), settling in the land of Nod, which means wandering.

Finally we want to conclude our study by observing the contrast that is both made and implied between Adam, Eve, and eventually Seth who remained “east of Eden” working the ground in the presence of God and Cain who not only wandered from the presence of God and had the blessing of the ground removed from him, but he continued in his rebellion. In Genesis 4:17 we read that Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore a son who they named Enoch, meaning dedicated. A fair interpretation of the situation recognizes that God exercises common grace towards Cain by giving him a son. However, it seems Cain dismisses recognition of God’s graciousness by naming his son Enoch, likely not a reference to being “dedicated” to God, but instead builds a city and names it Enoch. With this city building enterprise Cain rejects his wandering status, embracing a kind of “I’ll show you” attitude, distrusts the sign/oath of protection placed on him by God (a city is security), and begins a civilization of self-sufficiency and cultural development apart from God.

This in effect is the birth of the City of Man and it has continued in opposition to the City of God ever since. This City building through the efforts of man apart from God is precisely where we find ourselves today. Man in his rebellion seeks safety and security apart from God, additionally being far removed from both Creator and creation.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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