Every word of the Bible matters. Some sections carry special significance. Some sections are so important that the rest of the Bible cannot be understood apart from them. One of these is the third chapter of Genesis, for it stands between the perfect world of Genesis 2 and the utterly shattered world of Genesis 4. It explains what went so tragically wrong.
Genesis 3 is the subject of Mitchell Chase’s book Short of Glory: A Biblical and Theological Exploration of the Fall. “All of us are born outside Eden,” he explains, “so Genesis 1–3 is a special set of chapters. God makes the world, and specifically a garden, for his people. And there, in the sacred space of Eden, God’s image bearers defy his word and succumb to the tempter. When God exiles them, we are exiled in them too.” This is the great tragedy. Yet all is not lost, for “in that same chapter where God announces judgment, he gives a promise of hope that a deliverer will come one day and defeat the serpent. The rest of the biblical story grows out of the ground of Genesis 3. When we meditate on the content of this chapter, many biblical themes and connections become clear. The events in Genesis 3 become a lens through which to read and understand the progressive revelation of God’s redemptive epic.”
Chase explores a number of the themes that are introduced in Genesis 3 and that then carry on through the rest of the Bible. He begins with sacred space, “the kind of theme that locks the metanarrative together. Sacred space is given, lost, promised, and at last received again. As readers cross the threshold into Genesis 3, they come to a sacred place that God gave his people. God had made the heavens and the earth, and part of his work on earth included a garden in a place called Eden (2:8).” In this chapter we see that sacred space violated and lost, but also the promise that it will be recovered.
From here he turns to the two trees, to the God who walks and talks with his people, to the ancient serpent who leads them astray, and to the idea of taking and eating. And so it goes through several other themes, each of them introduced in Genesis 3 and each of them carrying into the rest of the Bible. In each case, he doesn’t merely explain these themes, but also applies them to the Christian life.
Short of Glory is a relatively small book, but it is one that deals with one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. It explains it, applies it, and calls Christians to live according to it. For those reasons and many more, I highly recommend reading both the chapter itself and this excellent explanation of it.