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Accursed Ground

Cursed is the ground because of you - Gen 3:17

Curse: a prayer or invocation for harm or injury to come upon one: IMPRECATION.

That's Webster's definition of the word curse. To invoke harm upon someone or something. It is a deliberate proclamation of harm. That is the nature and intent of imprecatory prayers in the bible - prayers for God to inflict harm upon the wicked - to curse them for their actions against God or His people. While cursing may be repulsive to some evangelicals (because it's often confused with swearing), it is noteworthy that God cursed. That's right. God curses in the third chapter of Genesis. When we examine the Fall of man, it's quite interesting what we see and don't see.

From the early pages of Scripture, we can witness God's gracious restraint at the attack on His holiness; for in a cosmic act of betrayal, man turns his fidelity away from a loving Creator to follow and worship His archenemy. Man, not only turns his back on a loving God, but like Essau, despises the glorious gifts of liberty and royal rulership for a subordinated and oppressed state under his new wicked master. At this great offense, God could have poured out His wrath destroying all Creation, but He doesn't. Instead, we see Him patiently query man (vs 8-13) on His new state. The intent of the questions was not to inform an omniscient God, but for fallen creatures to become aware of their gross breach, to repent, and seek forgiveness from the offended Creator God. Instead, they deflect blame and ultimately accuse God (vs 12-13) for their tarnished estate. We then see God curse. He curses the wicked serpent for its corruption of man and corruption of the order the Creator God had ordained for the world.

Cursed is the ground because of you...

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you...

Next, God did something marvelously gracious - He curses the ground! Have you ever wondered why He would curse the ground? He doesn't curse the ground to punish Adam - even though the moist and fertile soil would now lose its easy yield - God curses the ground to save Adam. By deflecting the curse away from Adam and onto the ground, God spares Adam His wrath. To use a theological construct - by substituting the ground for Adam, the ground pays for Adam's actions. Saint Paul captures this sentiment when he notes,

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it... For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now... Rom. 8:20,23

Here's what we don't see. We don't see man being cursed by God - at any point. God never reduces nor destroys man's dignity. Man, unlike the serpent, is an image-bearer and that image is an imprint of the living God. Therefore, man not only retains his dignity, but he is even allowed to maintain the royal privilege of naming his wife. But I again ask, why curse the ground? Why not have cursed the seas or the winds or rivers? Why the ground? I have a theory that might shed light.

When we consider the creation events of Genesis 1 and correlate it to Jesus' baptism, we find an interesting pattern. In Genesis 1, we see the Triune God at work in Creation. In this top-down view, we see the Father creating reality (v1) and speaking into the void of darkness to disrupt its rule over Creation (v3). As we continue moving downward in view, we note the Spirit of God brooding over the chaotic dark waters (v2). Moving further downward, we see that on the third day, at the sound of His voice, the waters give way to the rising up of the dry land. It is this dry land that will be the source of all life for man and all the rest of living creatures. It is this dry land that I believe represents Christ - symbolically speaking. The same trinitarian pattern can be seen at Jesus' baptism in Matt 3 except in that narrative, the view point is from the ground up. Note the sequence of events and the persons of the Trinity in the passage:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Unlike the Creation account of Genesis, we begin in reverse order with Jesus breaking up through the water - parting them as He rises up - a symbol of resurrection life as He conquers the waters (representing God's wrath and associated death as seen in the Noaic flood - Rom 6:4). As Jesus rises, we see the Spirit of God descending to alight Him from above. Finally, after the Spirit's descension, we hear the voice of the Father speaking delightfully concerning His Son. When we juxtapose the Genesis and Matthew passages, we note correspondence between Jesus and the dry land.

When the above correspondence is applied, we can now understand why God curses the ground, for in doing so He was signaling that He'd curse His Son - the life bearing bread (which comes from the wheat sown in the ground) and Word of life (from which man would live by - word by word - Matt 4:4). Rather than the easy yield Adam was accustomed to, the ground would now yield thorns or as the LXX states, "thorns and thistles will grow up for you" which the betrayed Savior would be cursed to wear as a crown upon His head for you and me.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us... - Gal 3:13


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