This article was written immediately after Creation was not Utopia. Perhaps that will have some perspective. But this is about revealing the true image of God as man rebels.
In Genesis 3:8-19 God comes to meet with Adam and Eve. Notice the snake was not present.
Adam and Eve had a chance to say sorry but instead blame each other, the snake, even God.
God’s hand is forced and He declares very specific judgments on each party involved. Eve’s judgement relates to her role as child bearer and Adam’s judgment relates to his role as provider.
At the end God tells Adam that he started out as dust and will return to dust.
...OK, judgement is complete, but see what happens next...
In Genesis 3:20 Adam names his wife Eve, acknowledging her as the mother of the living. But in Genesis 2:23-24 Adam had simply called her “woman” in acknowledgement that they were one.
In Genesis 3:21 God makes clothes for Adam and Eve.
I need to show you Genesis 3:22-24, first in NASB:
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
NASB is pretty representative of most translations but I want to draw you attention to verse 24 in a New American Bible (NAB) translation dated 2002:11:11. I have not yet found permission to copy this particular version so you will have to follow the link. Basically this translation says that after God drove the man out He settled him east of Eden; and stationed the cherubim and the sword. All the other translations, and even later dated NAB translations, refer to stationing the cherubim and the sword east of Eden, but this “settling” of Adam is not mentioned.
OK, all translations of verse 24 that I have seen start with man being driven out or expelled. This is no surprise, Adam and Eve did not want to leave, but just because God had to force them out, don’t mistake that for anger or rage. All translations end with the cherubim and the fiery sword guarding the way to the tree of life. But this NAB version is the only one to describe man being “settled east of the Garden of Eden” while other translations would describe the cherubim and flashing swords being “stationed” east of Eden and not mention of “settling” man. So I started to look carefully at this verse and made these observations:
But I still felt that this NAB version had captured something of God’s intent. He had not just driven Adam out but God had been careful to settle Adam nearby. But wait, the Amplified Bible has a note alongside Genesis 3:24 that describes the cherubim as “ministering spirits manifesting God’s invisible presence and symbolizing His action”, probably because they are usually pictured close to God or His throne. Later, after Cain kills Abel, Genesis 4:16 says that Cain leaves the presence of the LORD.
Then I realised it! The cherubim were stationed with Adam and Eve to guard them, not to prevent them going back. The flaming sword, described as turning in all directions , was guarding all boundaries of the Garden and all approaches to the tree of life. So although driven from the Garden, and the full, one-on-one presence of God, God still manifest His protection and presence over them. Wow! I bet you just saw this as being driven out and blocked from coming back. Well, I want to tell you something about the presence of LORD – it’s great! Cain did not want to leave it even after God judged him for killing Abel and Adam did not want to leave even after he was judged.
This is the way I think verse 24 should be understood:
Driven out, the man settled east of the Garden of Eden with the cherubim, and the flaming sword, which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
This is hardly any different but the subtle change sees the cherubim there to protect Adam and Eve. The sword is no longer pictured as East of Eden but patrolling all approaches back to the tree of life. It made all the difference to me to see that God stationed the cherubim to protect His children. Even without changing the NASB text, once you see the purpose of stationing the cherubim was not to guard the way back, it becomes obvious.
Let me share this one extra thing having just seen man evicted from the garden. The way back probably required man to cross the rivers that flowed out from each side of the garden and to then pass the flaming sword. What do we see as the entrance to new life in Christ? We go through the waters of baptism and, if you were in the upper room, the baptism of fire. Then we take hold of the sword of the spirit. (Matthew 3:11, Acts 2:3, Ephesians 6:17, Revelation 1:14-16, and 19:12-15)
God is no longer talking to Adam. He uses the “us” word. The only other place He did this was in Genesis 1:26 where He says “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. These are the two critical moments where man is created and where man falls. This is an incredibly intimate revelation of the dialog that is going on between the Father and the Son. After all, man was created to be children for the Father and a bride for the Son.
God had already pronounced judgment on Adam and Eve in the garden. The dust to dust declaration in Genesis 3:19 reinforces man’s mortality but see what is happening. The Tree of Life was still there. Even after God’s judgment, if Adam had chosen to eat from that tree, he could still have lived forever. To me this reinforces the understanding that God did not pronounce or curse Adam with death, but rather God was telling Adam the consequence of sin in Genesis 3:19. And can you also see what an awesome gift God had given to Adam in the Tree of Life?
Knowing good and evil meant that man could judge. Living forever meant that man would not be subject to judgment. Man would be as God. Do you see how this ties in with the start of verse 22, where God said that man had become like “one of us”.
Now, I don’t know if you will be able to see this, but I don’t think even then, after Adam sinned, that the Father and the Son wanted to cut man off from eternal life. Eternity was in their plan from before day 1. But to maintain God’s sovereignty through judgment man had to be denied access to the tree of life.
Wow, when God created Adam, God put Adam in charge of the Garden of Eden, to tend it and to freely eat of its fruits, except one (Genesis 2:8,15,16). Do you think God wanted Adam to eat from the Tree of Life? I was amazed at how much God had entrusted to Adam; even placed at his very finger tips. But then what do I see later in the Bible? God entrusts everything to His son, Jesus (John 3:34-36). Jesus becomes the source of life (1 Corinthians 15:45, John 1:1-5).
Soon after finishing this article, it seemed that a follow up article “The Trees, Sin, and God”, came to mind. Perhaps that would be a good place to try next?