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The sweat of your brow

Genesis 3:19; Luke 22:39-46 The Authorized Version can’t take credit for this one.  It translates Genesis 3:19 as “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” If they were even more literal they might have said “In the sweat of thy nostrils…”! But, unsurprisingly, it’s the more idiomatic translation “By the sweat of […]

Dust to dust

Genesis 3:14-19; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 As a minister I have often stood beside the grave as they lower the coffin.  It’s my job to say these famous words: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” Each phrase picks up on biblical imagery. Adam was made from adamah meaning earth.  And humanity is “dust and […]

Fig leaves

Genesis 3:7,21 It’s a cover-up for something shameful.  But it’s hasty and inadequate.  That’s “fig leaves” in the popular understanding.  And it’s precisely the meaning of fig leaves in Genesis 3. An hour earlier, Adam and Eve were walking around Paradise as king and queen.  They were naked and unashamed. But the minute they eat […]

Pride goeth before a fall

Proverbs 16:18; Isaiah 14:12-15 There’s something so fitting about an arrogant fool cut down to size. —  The Bond villain declaring “I am invincible” seconds before his grisly death. —  The cocky athlete slowing down for the cameras and then tripping before the finish line. —  The deluded despot, overstretched and finally overthrown. At these […]

Forbidden fruit

Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-5 Just the phrase ‘forbidden fruit’ makes our mouths water.  And that fact tells us everything we need to know about the kind of humanity we have inherited. “Forbidden fruit” is not a phrase directly from the Bible but it has become a shorthand to refer to “the fruit of the tree of […]

They were naked and were not ashamed

Genesis 2:25; 3:6-13 Genesis chapter 2 is a very common wedding text.  And then at the rehearsal the minister has to coach a blushing bridesmaid through the final verse of the reading.  Gulping, they exclaim, “Is this really in the Bible?!” “They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  (Genesis […]

One flesh

Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:21-33 There are three prominent prepositions used about Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.  For, From, and To.  She is for him.  From him.  Then brought to him. Which means the whole thing is heading towards a fourth preposition.  And I’m afraid I can’t avoid all the connotations of this next word, but let’s hold […]

To leave and cleave

Genesis 2:24; Psalm 63 It’s no accident that the key verbs of Genesis 2:24 rhyme.  The King James translation was written to be read aloud.  They would have been glad to find a rhyme that so naturally arises from the Hebrew.  And certainly preachers for the last four centuries have enjoyed the fact that their […]

Bone of my bones

Click for source Genesis 2:23; Zephaniah 3:14-17 It was not good for the man to be alone.  The beauty of the garden, its endless delights, the challenges of work, the excitement of exploration were not enough for Adam.  And swans, dolphins, baboons, wombats, poodles – none of them solved this ‘aloneness’ either. Creation in and […]

Spare Rib

Click for source Genesis 2:18-25 “Spare Rib” was a feminist magazine launched in 1972.  Its title was a defiant play on the account of Eve’s creation in Genesis 2.   ‘Woman is far more than a spare rib’, was the message. And the Bible would agree.  Eve’s origins are far more exalted than Adam’s.  He came from […]