Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 1, “Genesis” pp. 81-240.
Part B, “The Land and the Exile (2:25-4:26)” pp. 102-146.
“If chapter 2 portrayed humanity’s earliest state as a prototype of God’s gift of the good land to Israel, then it should come as no surprise that the account of the Fall should also be recounted in terms that bring to mind Israel’s future exile from the land” (Sailhamer 1992, 102). Sailhamer continues his frequently typological approach to commentary as he pursues the Fall and exile from Genesis 2:25-4:26. He views 2:25 as an important transaction due to the mention of the man and woman being naked and unashamed. After the Fall, despite clothing, they are still ashamed. The tempter, we read on p. 103, described as “crafty” is very wise and capable. This is a positive term. Rather than a move of wickedness on the part of the humans, the act is one of folly. “They had all the ‘good’ they would have needed, but they wanted more - they wanted to be like God” (Sailhamer 1992, 103). The move of the woman is seen as an attempt to reach what is good but apart from God’s provision. The attempt at reaching this good resulted in guilt and shame.
Beginning in Genesis 3:8 we find the judgment on sin. Sailhamer observes (Sailhamer 1992, 105) that whenever we hear the sound of the Lord in the Pentateuch it is a coming which provokes fear, notably also in Exodus 20. He also observes the role of trees both as a place of judgment and of provision. Under questioning, though the man tries to sidestep his responsibility, he is honest that he had seen God’s gift and gracious command as what brought him trouble.
Sailhamer points out (Sailhamer 1992, 106) that in the curse upon the snake, woman, and man, we see very little of their thoughts. The intergenerational enmity between the seed of the woman and of the snake results in destruction for the snake himself. In an interesting observation, Sailhamer says, “No attempt is made to answer the ancillary question of the snake’s role in the temptation over against the role of a higher being (e.g., Satan)” (Sailhamer 1992, 107). Later authors make an identification between the serpent and Satan but the author of the Pentateuch does not make it clear. Along with the curses on the serpent, the man, and the woman, even the land is cursed. Sailhamer will point up the theme of land in the future as well, with God delivering his people into a land.
In Genesis 3:21 God provides a covering for the people. The clothing clearly is to reverse the nakedness. Yet it does not necessarily cover the shame. “The author may also be anticipating the notion of sacrifice in the slaying of the animals for the making of the skin tunics, though he has given no clues of this meaning in the narrative itself” (Sailhamer 1992, 109). Sailhamer suggests (Sailhamer 1992, 109) that this is a foreshadowing of the later tunics for priests.
Sailhamer now discusses the exile from the Garden recorded in Genesis 3:22-24. “The penalty is identical to that established by the Mosaic Law: to be put to death is to be ‘cast off from the midst of one’s people’ (Ex. 31:14)” (Sailhamer 1992, 110). He goes on to compare this exclusion to the quarantine used for people with skin diseases. The irony of the people who wanted to be like God and now can no longer be with God is evident.
Finally in this segment Sailhamer discusses the details of the life in exile from Genesis 4:1-26. In this time of exile we see children being born, growing up, entering into worship, having conflict, and repenting. Because s much is contained in such a short chapter, Sailhamer considers the chapter to serve as a “transition and staging narrative” (Sailhamer 1992, 111).
In chapter 4 verse 1 Eve seems to boast in her bringing forth a son. This may be consistent with other attempts to bring forth God’s promises by human efforts, an idea which is hinted at in 4:25 when she speaks of a replacement. Though some will suggest that Cain’s offering was not acceptable because it was not a blood offering, Sailhamer observes both were “offerings” rather than “sacrifices.” The author did not explain the issue so we can bypass it in favor of the author’s concern, which was Cain’s response (Sailhamer 1992, 112). After the very brief narrative of Cain killing Abel, God shows mercy upon Cain and grants him protection, though not without consequences. In vv. 9-14 Cain’s penalty is similar to the exile predicted in Deuteronomy 28 (Sailhamer 1992, 113). On p. 114 Sailhamer suggests that Cain’s words, “my punishment is too great to bear” means something about the greatness of his wrong and God’s inability to forgive it.
Again Sailhamer points to God’s protection on Cain as an example of the cities of refuge (Sailhamer 1992, 114). Then on p. 115 he considers Lamech’s words in just the same way, as he pleads guilt and seeks protection.