We Can Learn From the First Human Couple
GOD surveyed the planet Earth. He was preparing it for human habitation. He saw that everything he was making was good. In fact, when this work was done, he declared that it was “very good.” (Genesis 1:12, 18, 21, 25, 31) Before reaching that perfect conclusion, however, God spoke of something that was “not good.” Of course, God did not make anything less than perfect. It was just that his creation was not yet complete. “It is not good for the man to continue by himself,” said Jehovah. “I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”—Genesis 2:18.
It was Jehovah’s purpose that human society enjoy eternal life in health, happiness, and abundance in an earthly paradise. The father of all mankind was Adam. His wife, Eve, became “the mother of everyone living.” (Genesis 3:20) Though earth now teems with billions of their offspring, humans are far from perfect.
The story of Adam and Eve is well-known. But of what practical benefit is it to us? What can we learn from the experiences of the first human couple?
“Male and Female He Created Them”
When Adam was naming the animals, he saw that they had mates and that he did not. So when he set eyes on the beautiful creature that Jehovah had fashioned from his rib, he rejoiced. Realizing that she was uniquely a part of him, Adam exclaimed: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, because from man this one was taken.”—Genesis 2:18-23.
Man needed “a helper.” Now he had one who was just right. Eve was perfectly suited to be Adam’s complement—in caring for their garden home and the animals, in producing children, and in providing the intellectual stimulus and support of a true companion.—Genesis 1:26-30.
Jehovah supplied everything the couple could reasonably desire. By bringing Eve to her husband and thereby sanctioning their union, God founded the institutions of marriage and the family by which society was to be organized. The Genesis account states: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” And when Jehovah blessed the first married couple and told them to be fruitful, he clearly intended that every child be born into a caring family, with a father and a mother to look after it.—Genesis 1:28; 2:24.
“In God’s Image”
Adam was a perfect son of God, made in His ‘image and likeness.’ But since “God is a Spirit,” the resemblance could not be physical. (Genesis 1:26; John 4:24) The likeness lay in qualities that elevated man far above the animals. Yes, implanted in man from the beginning were the qualities of love, wisdom, power, and justice. He was endowed with free will and a capacity for spirituality. An innate moral sense, or conscience, enabled him to distinguish right from wrong. Man had intellectual capacity, enabling him to meditate on the reason for the existence of humans, to accumulate knowledge of his Creator, and to develop intimacy with that One. Thus equipped, Adam had all he needed to fulfill his role as administrator of God’s earthly handiwork.
Undoubtedly, Adam quickly informed Eve of the one prohibition Jehovah had imposed: They could partake of fruit from all the trees in their garden home except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. They were not to eat from it. If they did, on that day they would die.—Genesis 2:16, 17.
Before long, an issue was raised regarding the forbidden fruit. Eve was accosted by a serpent, used as a mouthpiece by an invisible spirit. In apparent innocence, the serpent asked: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Eve replied that it was permissible to eat the fruit of every tree except one. But then the serpent contradicted God, telling the woman: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” The woman began to see the prohibited tree in a different light. “The tree was good for food and . . . it was something to be longed for to the eyes.” Thoroughly deceived, Eve broke God’s law.—Genesis 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:14.
Was Eve’s sin inevitable? By no means! Put yourself in her place. The serpent’s claim completely distorted what God and Adam had said. How would you feel if a stranger charged someone you love and trust with dishonesty? Eve should have reacted differently, showing disgust and indignation, even refusing to listen. After all, who was the serpent to question God’s righteousness and her husband’s word? Out of respect for the principle of headship, Eve should have sought advice before making any decision. So should we if we are ever presented with information contrary to God-given instructions. Yet, Eve trusted the Tempter’s words, desiring to be her own judge of what was good and what was bad. The more she toyed with the idea, the more it appealed to her. What an error she made by entertaining a wrong desire, instead of dismissing it from her mind or discussing matters with her family head!—1 Corinthians 11:3; James 1:14, 15.
Adam Listens to His Wife’s Voice
Eve soon induced Adam to join her in sin. How are we to explain his limp acquiescence? (Genesis 3:6, 17) Adam faced a conflict of loyalties. Would he obey his Creator, who had given him everything, including his beloved mate, Eve? Would Adam seek God’s direction on what he was to do now? Or would the man throw in his lot with his wife? Adam knew very well that what she hoped to gain by eating the forbidden fruit was illusory. The apostle Paul was inspired to write: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:14) So Adam deliberately chose to defy Jehovah. His fear of being separated from his wife was evidently greater than his faith in God’s ability to remedy the situation.
Adam’s act was suicidal. It also amounted to the murder of all the progeny that Jehovah mercifully allowed him to father, since all of them were born under sin’s condemnation to death. (Romans 5:12) How great the cost of selfish disobedience!
The Consequences of Sin
The immediate effect of sin was shame. Instead of joyfully running to speak to Jehovah, the couple hid themselves. (Genesis 3:8) Their friendship with God was shattered. When questioned about what they had done, they showed no remorse, although both of them were aware that they had broken God’s law. By eating the forbidden fruit, they turned their backs on divine goodness.
As a result, God indicated that increased pain would accompany childbearing. Eve would crave her husband, and he would dominate her. Her attempt to grasp independence thus resulted in the exact opposite. Adam would now eat the produce of the ground in pain. Instead of satisfying his hunger without toil in Eden, he would have to struggle to eke out an existence until he returned to the dust from which he had been made.—Genesis 3:16-19.
Finally, Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden of Eden. Jehovah said: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad, and now in order that he may not put his hand out and actually take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite . . .” “The sentence ends in mid-air,” notes scholar Gordon Wenham, and we are left to supply the rest of God’s thought—presumably, “let me expel him from the garden.” Generally, a Bible writer reports God’s complete thought. But here, continues Wenham, “the omission of the conclusion conveys the speed of God’s action. He had hardly finished speaking before they were sent out of the garden.” (Genesis 3:22, 23) With that, all communication between Jehovah and the first couple apparently ceased.
Adam and Eve did not die physically during that 24-hour day. However, they died in a spiritual sense. Irremediably alienated from the Source of life, they began a decline into death. Imagine how bitter their first encounter with death must have been when their second son, Abel, was murdered by Cain, their firstborn!—Genesis 4:1-16.
After that, comparatively little is known about the first human couple. Their third son, Seth, was born when Adam was 130 years old. Adam died 800 years later, at the age of 930, after fathering “sons and daughters.”—Genesis 4:25; 5:3-5.
A Lesson for Us
Besides revealing the cause of the degenerate condition of human society today, the account of the first married couple teaches a fundamental lesson. Any pretense of independence from Jehovah God is sheer folly. Those who are truly wise exercise faith in Jehovah and his Word, not in their supposed self-sufficiency of knowledge. Jehovah determines good and bad, and the essence of doing what is right is obeying him. Wrongdoing means violating his laws and ignoring his principles.
God offered and still offers all that mankind can possibly desire—everlasting life, freedom, satisfaction, happiness, health, peace, prosperity, and discovery of new things. Our enjoyment of all of this, however, requires recognition of our total dependence upon our heavenly Father, Jehovah.—Ecclesiastes 3:10-13; Isaiah 55:6-13.
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Adam and Eve—Mere Myth?
Belief in an original paradise that was lost because of sin was widespread among the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, and others. Common to many accounts was a tree of life the fruit of which would confer eternal life on those partaking of it. So mankind remembers that something tragic happened in Eden.
Today, many dismiss the Bible account of Adam and Eve as mere myth. Yet, most scientists acknowledge that the human race is a single family with a common origin. Many theologians find it impossible to deny that the effects of original sin committed by a common ancestor were transmitted to mankind. Belief that man developed from more than one source would oblige them to say that an original sin was committed by several forefathers. In turn, this would compel them to deny that Christ, “the last Adam,” redeemed mankind. But Jesus and his disciples did not face such a dilemma. They recognized that the Genesis account is factual.—1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:4, 5; Romans 5:12-19.