Sin and Consequences

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


In this study I would like to examine HaShem’s punishment for sin. Because of the way HaShem always operates, the sin and it’s consequences, are always related. We know this from the Torah:


Shemot (Exodus) 32:34  Therefore now go, lead the people unto [the place] of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.


Shemot (Exodus) 21:22-25  “And {if} men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no {further} injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges {decide.} “But if there is {any further} injury, then you shall appoint {as a penalty} life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:17-22   ‘ And if a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death. ‘And the one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life. ‘And if a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. ‘There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am HaShem your God.’ “


We also see this same principle in the Nazarean Codicil (New Testament):


Matityahu (Matthew) 7:1-2  “Do not judge lest you be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.


There are many more verses, in the Tanach (Old Testament), which demonstrate this character trait of HaShem. With this background, we ought to be able to validate a sin from it’s punishment, or to discern the punishment for a sin. Lets look at some well known sins:


Bereshit (Genesis) 3:1-7   Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,’ You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ “ And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.


So, what was the sin? At first glance, it appears that the first sin was to eat non-kosher fruit: the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, we might say that the first sin was eating non-kosher food forbidden by the oral law. Remember that the Torah had not yet been given. Thus we see that HaShem’s command was verbal.


If we look a little closer, we notice that things are not as we might expect. Notice that the first consequence of their sin, was that their eyes were opened and they “knew“ they were naked. Here is our first connection of the sin and its consequence: Eat from the tree of knowledge, and gain knowledge of their nakedness. Lets see how the consequences pan out in the following verses:


Bereshit (Genesis) 3:8-19   And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return. “


Lets look at the punishment that was meted out to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:


1.  They knew they were naked. - Genesis 3:7


2.  The serpent is cursed to have no legs, to go on its belly, and to eat dust. - Genesis 3:14


3.  God puts enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed. - Genesis 3:15


4. To the woman:  Greatly multiplied pain in childbirth. - Genesis 3:16


5. To the woman:  Desire for her husband. - Genesis 3:16


6.  To the man:  He will rule over his wife. - Genesis 3:16


7.    To the man:  The ground is cursed.  He is to eat from the ground.


8.   To the man:  The ground will grow thorns and thistles for him, and he shall eat plants of the field, and toil in the field for his food. - Genesis 3:18-19


Adam’s consequence seems to be what we are expecting:  He eats non-kosher fruit, and then he has trouble getting kosher fruit for the rest of his life.


Eve’s consequence is unexpected! She eats non-kosher fruit and now she has pain in childbirth? There does not seem to be an obvious connection. While a baby is the “fruit” of the womb, there still does not seem to be this “measure for measure” that we expect from this sin.


Being naked and ashamed seems to indicate that a sexual sin was involved. Recognizing that you are naked involves having some physical, and external, change in your body. This is reminiscent of Moses’ shame when the glow was fading. While Moses was ashamed, he did not indicate that he was naked. Naked is what we are when sex is involved.


Traveling on your belly, without legs or arms, would seem to imply that the sin involved arms and legs. Eating dust would seem to imply a sin involving the mouth. Before it was full of words without value, now it is filled with dust without value.


Pain in childbirth would seem to be the consequence of “creating a child”. However, the Torah does not record that a child resulted from this encounter. Never the less, the consequence seems to be measure for measure, for illicit sex.


Indeed, the Talmud tends to agree with our assessment:


Yevamoth 103b   There,[1] one can well see the reason,[2] since he[3] might possibly mention to him the name of his idol;[4] what evil, however, could be involved here?[5] — That of infusing her with sensual lust. For R. Johanan stated: When the serpent copulated with Eve,[6] he infused her[7] with lust. The lust of the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai,[8] came to an end, the lust of the idolaters who did not stand at Mount Sinai did not come to an end.


Now wait a minute! Isn’t this going off the deep end? Lets go back to the Torah for a moment:


Bereshit (Genesis) 2:15-17  HaShem God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And HaShem God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.


The Torah plainly tells us that the penalty for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, is DEATH. So, why do we have pain in childbirth, naked and ashamed, and thorns and thistles? Why do we have penalties other than death? And, for that matter, why aren’t Adam and Eve dead?


I think the evidence supports the conclusion that there were at least two sins:


1.  The eating of the Tree of Knowledge did result in Adam and Eve dying before they were a thousand years old, which the Psalmist[9] says is one day in HaShem’s sight.


2.  Another sin, probably sexual, which results in Adam and Eve being ashamed of their nakedness, pain in childbirth, and the thorns and thistles.


This concludes my examination of this incident. I believe that I have demonstrated that HaShem dealt with Adam and Eve measure for measure, and that we can discern the sin by examining the punishment. For further study on this subject, please read the study titled:  Fathers.


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This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

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Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

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Olympia, WA 98501


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[1]  In the warning to Laban.

[2] Why even good should not be spoken.

[3] Laban.

[4]  Cf. Gen. XXXI, 30.

[5]  In the incident with Jael.

[6]  In the Garden of Eden, according to a tradition.

[7]  I.e., the human species.

[8] And experienced the purifying influence of divine Revelation.

[9] Psalm 86:12