One of the many, potentially fool-hardy and doomed to failure, projects I’ve given to myself in the recent past is a reading of the whole of the Bible. Currently, I’m lost somewhere at the tail end of Exodus, unable to find the time each day to devote to the project (the time is there, it’s been lost to distraction). Here are some fragmentary observations on my progress thus far.
Adam is created on the sixth day, goes to sleep, and wakes up on the seventh day to a bride. Primordial creation thus culminates in a marriage on the seventh day, just as the progression of creation through time, i.e. history, culminates in a marriage on the day of rest that is eternity. The seven days of creation therefore prefigure the sweep of temporal history.
Eve, at the instigation of the serpent, sees “that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold” (Gen. 3:6). In this we might see a type of all temptation, the glittering appeal of earthly goods that drag our vision away from God, while promising to elevate us to, perhaps beyond, Him. Further, we might see in Eve and Adam’s individual transgressions two characteristic types of sin, this seizing of the “good to eat, fair to eyes, and delightful to behold as a means of illegitimately rising in the cosmic hierarchy, to “be as Gods,” supposing that we can attain the higher through means of the lower, and the abdication of our authority/responsibility, respectively. On the latter, which I feel is more typically ignored, Adam knew better, there was nothing compelling him to follow Eve, but he did it anyway, without the serpent needing to tempt him. Milton draws this out wonderfully in Paradise Lost.* Similarly, it seems especially significant that each sinner in turn, when questioned by God, seek to deflect blame by blaming the lower. Adam blames Eve, Eve the serpent, while the serpent remains mute.
Their eyes are indeed opened upon eating the fruit, but what do they see? That they are naked. How pathetic! The knowledge they gain is their own wretchedness, and they are afraid of God, now aware of their nakedness before Him, their insignificance.
They create woefully insufficient garments of fig leaves, which God replaces with a garment of skins, the first animal sacrifice hallowed by God. But the blood of a beast is insufficient to pay the debt incurred by the original transgression, it buys only a temporary reprieve.
We see this same hierarchy in the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, the fruits of the earth given by the former disrespected in favor of the firstlings of the flock offered by the latter.
Cain’s murder of Abel as a sort of human sacrifice. “If my gift of the lowest is insufficient, might it be rectified by taking the life of the higher?” But this is a grave transgression, because human life is not ours to give, reinforced by the Binding of Isaac.** Rather than be nourished and made fruitful or gained through the blood of man, the brother blood-soaked earth cries out to heaven, and Cain is made a wanderer, “a fugitive and a vagabond.” Compare Abram, whose inheritance of the promised land is consecrated through animal sacrifice.
*The passages detailing the Fall are, in my opinion, Milton’s finest and the only part of the poem I actually enjoy.
**God alone can offer man as sacrifice and only through that offering can we attain more than temporary reprieve. Of course, He does so and infinitely more at Golgotha.