"And to the man He said,
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife you have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it,
cursed shall be the ground because of you;
in sorrow you shall eat of it all the days of your life.
And thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
and you shall eat the plant of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground;
for out of it you have been taken;
for dust you are, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)
And said Jehovah God, Behold!
The man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil.
And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life,
and eat and live forever,
therefore sent him Jehovah God out of the garden of Eden
to till the ground which he was taken from.
And He drove out the man...." (Genesis 3:22-24)
"And he called his name Noah, saying,
This one shall comfort us from our work and the toil of our hands
from the ground which has cursed Jehovah." (Genesis 5:29)
The above are the word by word translations from the "Interlinear Bible" by J. P. Green
From the William Whiston translation of Flavius Josephus's "Antiquities of The Jews" we find
"... the ground should not henceforth yield its fruits of its own accord, but that when it should be harassed by their labour, it should bring forth some of its fruits, and refuse to bring forth others."
There have been proposed many theories concerning the extent of the curse and its consequences to mankind. Following being driven out of the Garden of Eden man left behind the fabled "paradise" and began his life in the "cursed" world. What were the differences? We know that the soil of today is quite varied over the surface of the earth. With some areas being quite fertile and having very deep rich top soil. While other areas have no top soil and nothing will grow. Also the watering conditions vary considerably with areas that are water soaked marsh lands to the deserts where nothing can grow. However, many of the desert areas need only to be watered and they will grow crops abundantly. Also the soil chemistry varies considerably from area to area to the extent that some areas would seem to grow almost any plant to areas that are poisoned by salts. Some plants like the chemistry of one area and other plants like the chemistry of another area. The color of the blooms of some plants are a function of the chemistry of the soil. Some plants like cool or cold areas while other plants like moderate or hot climates. Some like the desert and others thrive only in high humidity. As we know it today the most fertile soils are quite often those that contain a higher percentage of dead and decayed organic materials.
Adam was commanded to "dress it and keep it ", however it seems logical to assume that in the garden the amount of work necessary was relatively minimal for plants to grow abundantly and that the soil, watering and temperature conditions were "very good" for the plants that the Lord choose to provide therein. The climate also being very moderate since the occupants were unclothed at the beginning. This has caused some scholars to postulate a "vapor canopy" condition such that the climate would be much more moderate and more humid all over the earth. However, there was probably a daily heating and cooling effect since from 3:9 we find "And heard they the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze (or cool) of the day," Therefore if the "canopy" was in effect there was still enough sun heating to provide a noticeable difference between the day and the evening.
One factor that greatly effects the soil of today is erosion, whether by water or wind. Heavy rains cause leaching conditions that result in some areas being depleted of beneficial minerals and with other areas having mineral concentrations. We know that thousands of acres of farm land are lost every year due to erosion caused by poor farming practices. Also large storms cause temporary flooding and massive erosion. This again leads many scholars to postulate a more moderate climate with only gentle winds and a very gentle watering of the soil. If Adam and Eve had been placed in a rain forest, the taller vegetation could have provided the climate modifying "canopy". These wonderfully bountiful forests are being rapidly depleted by unwise practices of humans today. Where these forests have existed some communities of people who have used wise conservation practices have lived a wonderfully bountiful existence for centuries.
In Gensis 1:31 the Lord observes that the creation of the "6 days" was "very good". The Hebrew word translated as "good" is transliterated as "towb" (Strong's #2896), which is translated in a wide sense in many other places in the Scriptures as beautiful, bountiful, pleasant, precious, well favored and a number of other similar terms. However, it is never translated as "perfect". If it was the intention to imply that all was perfect there are other Hebrew words that could have been used such as "tamiym" (Strong's #8549) which is used in Genesis 6:9 to describe Noah's generations and in 17:1 where Abram is exhorted to "walk before me, and be thou perfect". "tamiym" is also translated as being whole, without blemish, complete, and undefiled. The point is that many have postulated that there was no death and decay in the garden and in the entire creation at this time before the "first sin" in the garden, and the Hebrew wording would not necessarily support this theory. Also, if there had been no death and decay of plants before and while the garden was occupied by man, its soils would have to have been "bountiful" without the benefit of organic compost which is so much a part of the soil fertility of today and the best tool of all organic gardeners.
CONCLUSION: There have been many theories proposed concerning the nature of "the curse" by many students of the Scriptures. And to date most of them seem to be less than fully satisfying. To Adam and his offspring the main effect was that they had to work and sweat to obtain their food. It would appear that this effect could have been the result of nothing more complicated than a more severe climate than that of the garden. It did not necessarily take an extreme change in the "laws of physics" to accomplish the results of "the curse", as some have theorized.
Appendix A: Can Ice Core data give us an indication of when the Curse was?
The above plot shows the sudden climatic change (in red) which has become a topic of considerable study and theorizing for the scientific community and has been named the Younger Dryas climatic change. Also a while before it we have a warming "spike" called Bolling by the scientific community. As they indicate the dates are "approximate" and data from seven studies including tree rings, varves, coral dating, and Greenland ice cores indicates the termination of the Younger Dryas to be within a range from 10,447 to 11,700 yr. B.P. ( avg. 11,074 +- 627 ) (from Paleo 122(1996)p.114,Table 2). We are here proposing that there is a possibility that the garden of Eden existed during the warming period of the Bolling between 15,000 to 14,000 yr. B.P. and the "curse" began with the termination of Bolling and ended with the termination of Younger Dryas and the flood.
... cursed is the ground for thy sake;
in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
(Genesis 3:17 KJV)
And he called his name Noah, saying,
This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands,
because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.
(Genesis 5:29 KJV)
... I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake;
for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;
neither will I again smite any more every living thing,
as I have done.
(Genesis 8:21 KJV)
To the ancients the main effect of the "curse of the ground" was that they had to toil harder to get the necessary food to sustain their life. And one possible way to make it more difficult to grow and harvest plants would be simply for the climate of the earth to become more severe. Genesis 8:21 is the last mention of the "curse of the ground" in the Scriptures.
Therefore for the proposed theory to possibly be a reality the following conditions must be correct.
1) The garden of Eden would have been planted and man created and put in the garden during the Bolling period when the earth was in a warming trend.
2) With the "curse of the ground" the severe climatic condition was started (Genesis 3:17) and Adam and Eve put out of the garden. At approximately 14,000 yr. BP with the termination of Bolling per the data charts above and below.
The plot above indicates that after the Bolling period the climate around Mt. Ararat was considerably cooler and drier, evidenced by the stopping of the filling of Lake Van, and subsequent lowering over the years to levels more than 300 meters below its present level. (Again there are dating problems and questionable lake level data areas as indicated.)
(modified fig. 3 from http://www.tu-darmstadt.de/ fb/geo/gpi/landmann/ abstract/gusdvs.htm)
3) The Younger Dryas was ended and shortly after was the flood. At approximately 11,000 yr. BP.
4) The end of the Younger Dryas and the flood was also the end of the "curse of the soil" as per Genesis 8:21.
Note that per the data plots, since the Younger Dryas was over, the earth continued its warming trend and the human species has been living in a very nice climatic condition ever since. Many are concerned that this wonderfully climatic condition will soon end either by man's pollution of the earth, a natural disaster, or at the hand of God.
Conclusion: The above proposal is made knowing that very few will be convinced by the above, but, the possibility has surfaced due to recent studies and is there by presented for all that read this to consider. Knowing that for many to consider the possibility they will have to consider making many changes to their concepts of the Genesis record!
The news media is always giving us lots of information about "global warming" and it has become a strong banner to be waved by the politically correct. But if we take another look at the top data plot from the appendix above we see that much earlier in the lightened band to the left there are warming spikes with temperatures reaching higher values than those of the present warm cycle. To put them more in perspective we have overlayed a representation of them on the more current period starting at 20,000 years.
And as we see they are not extremely different from the current pattern except that the past peaks were at higher temperatures. This perspective puts into question the contentions of the politically correct of today that actions of mankind are the cause of "global warming" as many are shouting. Many diverse scientific theories have been proposed as to why the earth's environment undergoes such warming and cooling trends and to date most of them seem to be lacking. There are many diverse cycles, some rather short lived and of low amplitude, and others longer lasting and of more significant amplitude and the influence of the Sun is probably the most dominant factor.