Does Genesis 3:17 Really Say That God Cursed the Ground of the Entire Earth?
by Rich Deem


The cursed creation?

Almost universal among young earth creationists is the idea that the original creation was cursed by God, who changed it as a result of the fall of man. Some claim that the second law of thermodynamics did not begin until the fall, although this idea has recently fallen out of favor because of obvious biblical contradictions. However, the belief is persistent that God created weeds and caused other things to happen to curse His creation after Adam and Eve sinned.

Rich Deem

When Adam was placed into the garden of Eden, he was told that he could eat of every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Eve was created, she was also warned, although the Bible does not indicate if this warning was given by God or Adam (who received it directly from God). When Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced some curses on the guilty parties (Adam, Eve, and the serpent, a.k.a., Satan). Part of the curse given to Adam was the curse of the ground, from which he was to obtain food.

The cursed ground - Genesis 3:17

Let's now look at the curse of the ground from Genesis 3:17-18.

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; (Genesis 3:17-18)

Again, I think that it is important to examine the original Hebrew words to arrive at the most likely translation. The Hebrew word adamah (Strong's # H127) is not most commonly translated "ground." In fact, the most common translation is "land." Therefore, the most likely meaning of the verse is to refer to a geographic area and not to the "ground" in general, which might be thought to refer to all the ground on the earth. This will become significant as we examine the entire context of the garden of Eden.

Creation account - Genesis 2

Genesis chapter 2 describes the location where Adam and Eve were created. This is not a restatement of Genesis 1. Unbelievers have pointed out that the order of events is not the same in each account. Whereas Genesis 1 gives no geographic data, Genesis 2 describes the location of the creation of man in detail. The site was picked by God Himself. Not only that, but God Himself planted the garden and selected the plants "every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food" (Genesis 2:9). My guess is that God did not plant any weeds in the garden. This does not mean that there were no weeds outside the garden. We know from Genesis 2:2-3 that God rested from His creative acts after the sixth day:

And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:2-3)

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding CreationTherefore, unless this text is false, God had already created weeds on the earth prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. In order to claim that God created weeds as a curse, one would have to question the meaning of "all" (repeated twice) in Genesis 2:2-3.

There are some very interesting points to the curse that one should note in the context of Genesis 2. The text says that the garden of Eden was planted by God1 and Adam was placed in the garden and given the assignment of maintaining it. Adam did not have to do any planting in order to eat, since God had done all the planting. It was already self-watered by mists or streams.2 If there were no weeds in the garden, I am not sure what Adam would have to do in order to "cultivate and keep it."3 To accept the young earth interpretation that weeds were not created until after the fall, one would literally have nothing for Adam to "cultivate and keep." My guess is that occasional weed seeds would blow into the garden from outside, sprout, and have to be uprooted.

The curse revisited

Let's get back to the curse. The curse of the ground is three-fold:

  1. "In toil you shall eat of it"
  2. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow"
  3. "you shall eat the plants of the field"

The first point is pretty obvious. Adam was going to have to plant his own crops (instead of eating what God had already planted) and work a lot harder than he had been. The second point is that the weeds were going to grow a lot more. Quite significantly, the text does not say that God created the weeds - only that they would grow. The text says that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden4 into the real world of weeds and untended land (land that was in need of being "subdued"5). The whole key to the curse is the third part. Adam was going to have to work the fields (i.e., crops) and could no longer just go up to a tree and grab some "fast food." The curse for Adam was being kicked out of the garden into the real world.

Conclusion Top of page

If we use the most common translation for adamah, it reads like this, "Cursed is the land because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life." In other words, the land of the garden of Eden was no longer under the protection of God, but the land would revert to its wild, unsubdued state like the rest of the land around the garden. Therefore, the curse of the "ground" was, more likely, a curse directed against Adam for his transgression against God's rules.

¿Dice Realmente Génesis 3:17 que Dios maldijo el suelo de toda la tierra?

Related Pages Top of page

A Matter of Days by Hugh RossA Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.

This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.

References Top of page

  1. And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9)
  2. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. (NASB: Genesis 2:6)
    but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- (NIV: Genesis 2:6)
  3. Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)
  4. So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Genesis 3:23)
  5. And God blessed them [man]; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28)
Last updated April 2, 2006


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