Genesis and Commentaries

John Calvin, from Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis >> note 1

Calvin's commentary on Genesis was widely influential among Protestants. It places special emphasis on the place of work in Eden, the role and duties of wives, and especially the predestinating decree of God determining the Fall.

 

1:26. "In our image, etc."

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By this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth. For there was an attempering in the several parts of the soul, which corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence flourished, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and molded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order.

2:9. "And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow."

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No corner of the earth was then barren, nor was there even any which was not exceedingly rich and fertile: but that benediction of God, which was elsewhere comparatively moderate, had in this place >> note 2 poured itself wonderfully forth. For not only was there an abundant supply of food, but with it was added sweetness for the gratification of the palate, and beauty to feast the eyes. * * * We now understand what is meant by abstaining from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; namely, that Adam might not, in attempting one thing or another, rely upon his own prudence; but that, cleaving to God alone, he might become wise only by his obedience. Knowledge is here, therefore, taken disparagingly, in a bad sense, for that wretched experience which man, when he departed from the only fountain of perfect wisdom, began to acquire for himself.

2:15. "And the Lord God took the man."

Moses now adds, that the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation. Whence it follows, that men were created to employ themselves in some work, and not to lie down in inactivity and idleness. This labor, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt from all trouble and weariness; since, however, God ordained that man should be exercised in the culture of the ground, he condemned, in his person, all indolent repose. Wherefore, nothing is more contrary to the order of nature, than to consume life in eating, drinking, and sleeping, while in the meantime we propose nothing to ourselves to do. Moses adds, that the custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain.

2:16. "I will make him an help."

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Certainly, it cannot be denied, that the woman also, though in the second degree, was created in the image of God; whence it follows, that what was said in the creation of man belongs to the female sex. Now, since God assigns the woman as a help to the man, he not only prescribes to wives the rule of their vocation, to instruct them in their duty, but also pronounces that marriage will really prove to men the best support of life.  * * * I confess, indeed, that in this corrupt state of mankind, the blessing of God, which is here described, is neither perceived nor flourishes; but * * * if the integrity of man had remained to this day such as it was from the beginning, that divine institution would be clearly discerned, and the sweetest harmony would reign in marriage; because the husband would look up with reverence to God; the woman in this would be a faithful assistant to him; and both, with one consent, would cultivate a holy, as well as friendly and peaceful intercourse.

3:1. "Now the serpent was more subtil."

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It offends the ears of some, when it is said God willed this fall; but what else, I pray, is the permission of Him, who has the power of preventing, and in whose hand the whole matter is placed, but his will? I wish that men would rather suffer themselves to be judged by God, than that, with profane temerity, they should pass judgment upon him; but this is the arrogance of the flesh to subject God to his own test. I hold it as a settled axiom, that nothing is more unsuitable to the character of God than for us to say that man was created by Him for the purpose of being placed in a condition of suspense and doubt; wherefore I conclude, that, as it became the Creator, he had before determined with himself what should be man's future condition.

"And he said unto the woman."

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The artifice of Satan is to be noticed, for he wished to inject into the woman a doubt which might induce her to believe that not to be the word of God, for which a plausible reason did not manifestly appear.

3.6: "And when the woman saw."

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Now, after the heart had declined from faith, and from obedience to the word, she >> note 3 corrupted both herself and all her senses, and depravity was diffused through all parts of her soul as well as her body. It is, therefore, a sign of impious defection, that the woman now judges the tree to be good for food, eagerly delights herself in beholding it, and persuades herself that it is desirable for the sake of acquiring wisdom; whereas before she had passed by it a hundred times with an unmoved and tranquil look. For now, having shaken off the bridle, her mind wanders dissolutely and intemperately, drawing the body with it to the same licentiousness.

"And gave also unto her husband with her."

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The opinion has been commonly received, that he was rather captivated with her allurements than persuaded by Satan's impostures. For this purpose the declaration of Paul is adduced, "Adam was not deceived, but the woman." >> note 4 But Paul in that place, as he is teaching that the origin of evil was from the woman, only speaks comparatively. Indeed, it was not only for the sake of complying with the wishes of his wife, that he transgressed the law laid down for him; but being drawn by her into fatal ambition, he became partaker of the same defection with her. * * * We may say unbelief has opened the door to ambition, but ambition has proved the parent of rebellion. * * * For never would they have dared to resist God, unless they had first been incredulous of his word. * * * I have nothing to assert positively respecting the time, so I think it may be gathered from the narration of Moses, that they did not long retain the dignity they had received; for as soon as he has said they were created, he passes, without the mention of any other thing, to their fall. If Adam had lived but a moderate space of time with his wife, the blessing of God would not have been unfruitful in the production of offspring; but Moses intimates that they were deprived of God's benefits before they had been accustomed to use them.

3:16 "Unto the woman he said."

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When he >> note 5 says, "I will multiply thy pains," he comprises all the trouble women sustain during pregnancy.

It is credible that the woman would have brought forth without pain, or at least without such great suffering, if she had stood in her original condition; but her revolt from God subjected her to inconveniences of this kind. * * * The second punishment which he exacts is subjection. For this form of speech, "Thy desire shall be unto thy husband," is of the same force as if he had said that she should not be free and at her own command, but subject to the authority of her husband and dependent upon his will.

She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.

3:17 "And unto Adam he said."

[This labor] stands in antithesis with the pleasant labor in which Adam previously so employed himself, that in a sense he might be said to play; for he was not formed for idleness, but for action. Therefore the Lord had placed him over a garden which was to be cultivated. But, whereas in that labor there had been sweet delight; now servile work is enjoined upon him, as if he were condemned to the mines.


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