Adam and Eve: What Not to Do after You Have Sinned

Temptation has struck again. It may have been a mere pinprick of desire. Or it may have stormed your soul, leaving you shaken to your core. Either way, you gave in and sinned.

An instinctive response, at least for many of us, is to instantly recoil in shame from God. For someone earnestly seeking to lead a holy life dedicated to God, it can be embarrassing to admit that serious temptation—to any sin—still lurks in your soul and sometimes succeeds in ensnaring you. But the worst temptation is the temptation to cut God out of the picture at precisely the moment we are in most need of salvation.

This could be one of great overlooked lessons of the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall. However one wants to characterize it—disobedience, gluttony, pride—we all know the sinful act at issue was the eating of the forbidden fruit.

But was that it?

The Genesis account, read in light of later Scripture, suggests Adam and Eve continued to err in their response to the first sin:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:7-8).

Consider what Adam and Eve did not do: they did not run to God, confessing their sin and begging forgiveness. Or failing to see God, they did not cry out for Him to show His face. No, Adam and Eve immediately hid themselves from God. In fact, the original Hebrew is a bit more specific: Adam and Eve concealed themselves from the presence of God, or the face of God, as the Douay-Rheims translation puts it.

When God finally confronts them He asks not about the eating of the forbidden fruit. It is, instead, their concealment that is first addressed.

The Lord God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? (Genesis 3:9).

Adam responds with what some biblical commentators view as a faux confession—he confesses his nakedness, but not the actual sin that has been committed. Rather than confessing his sin before God Adam opts for concealment (Genesis 3:10).

Again, in His response God first questions the concealment. Only after that does He finally raise the issue of the sin itself: “Then God asked: ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat?’” (Genesis 3:11).

The story of Adam and Eve, at least as told in Genesis, is not one of redemption. The interrogatory between God and Adam ends with God issuing his sentence, culminating in their expulsion from Eden.

For us, the story is a lesson in what not to do—how not to respond to our sins, and, perhaps more importantly, our awareness of our inclination to sin, what Adam called nakedness and what today, in the technical language of moral theology, we call concupiscence.

For a model of what to do, we must look farther ahead in the Scriptures. In the story of David and his adultery with the wife of Uriah, we have just such a model. Consider David’s response after the prophet Nathan convicts him of his sin:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

David not only admits that he has sinned. He keeps God in the equation: the sin does not exist in a vacuum. He does not say that he has sinned. He says that he has sinned against the Lord. His sin is immediately “put away” away by God—an indication of the sincerity of his repentance, according to St. Augustine.

David furthermore remains in a relationship with God in the aftermath of his sin. Though the sin itself has been wiped away, Nathan tells David that its temporal consequence has not been remitted: the child born to the wife of Uriah will die. David immediately begins a “total fast,” donning sackcloth and lying on the ground—presumably in constant prayer, interceding with God on behalf of his child.

After his child dies, David does not abandon God. Instead, he does the opposite.

Rising from the ground, David washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the house of the Lord and worshiped (2 Samuel 12:20).

David’s response to his sin and its consequences stands in marked contrast to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve cannot even admit their sin. Adam’s confession of nakedness is at best a euphemism for the sin and at worse an evasion from talking about it. David’s confession bluntly acknowledges what has happened. Adam and Eve wear clothes of shame; David dons the clothing of repentance (sackcloth). Adam and Eve hide from the presence of God, David seeks it.

In weighing both stories, we can perhaps read with renewed appreciation David’s prayer in Psalm 51:11-13:

Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from before your face,
nor take from me your holy spirit.

Stephen Beale

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Ann Marie

    Excellent explanation, altho Uriah was the Husband of Bathsheba who was the mother of the child who died as well as the mother of King Soloman. David had Uriah placed in extreme danger in battle to guarantee his death, so he could marry Bathsheba.

  • Stephen Beale

    Dear Ann Marie, the article should have stated “wife of Uriah,” as the language was taken directly from the text. The correction has been made. Thanks, Stephen

  • BillinJax

    Excellent and on target. Spread this one around folks..please.
    You read my mind Stephen and said it much better though.

    The average person’s attempt to recall their many offences
    against God’s commandments for any given time as they prepare to enter the confessional surely falls short of being a complete summary. That is why it is good to add at the end of our error report, “for these and any other times I have failed to
    be faithful to God’s love I am sorry and ask forgiveness”.

    If there is ever a time to be very personal with our Father God it is in the confessional. Our relationship with the Almighty, with the exception of the Eucharist, has no closer personal connection than this. A married couple to have a successful and happy union must share completely the intimate details of their lives with each other. How much more so should we be willing to “tell all” to one who is to judge and determine our eternal fate? It is for his sake that we be honest with him since he already knows every detail and desires hearts that are truly open to his mercy and love. We may think we
    are only talking to the priest when participating in the sacrament of penance
    but we are really talking to our Father and he answers through the duty of the confessor. Holy Mother Church understands this and provides some cover for us at Mass.
    It is important to note that the words of contrition which we recite at mass are very significantly complete as to encompass any and all manner of sin one might bring before God to seek forgiveness. What else is there beyond those “….in my thoughts and in my words¸ in what I have done and what I have failed to do.” This would
    include all sins which were both thoughtfully or thoughtlessly committed and
    acts which were both thoughtfully and thoughtlessly committed as well as those
    imagined only and those willingly carried out. But the confessional is the
    place to be open hearted without fear and this is for our sake if we are to be
    honest with ourselves as well.

MENU