If you read the third chapter of Genesis, you might be tempted to say that humans are not cursed. After Adam and Eve betray God and eat of the forbidden fruit, God gives them an overview of the ramifications of their sin. Among the consequences of mankind’s sin, the serpent is cursed beyond all animals and the ground is cursed so that working it will be a painful toil. There is no explicit reference to the word “curse” in direct reference to Adam and Eve. Does this mean that Adam as the representative of humanity was not cursed? Can we really say that humans in sin are cursed? I believe we can.
The first time that we see the word “curse” used upon a human is in Genesis 4:11. When Cain had killed his brother Abel and committed the first murder, God said to Cain, “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brothers blood from your hand.” The ground declared Cain’s guilt and as a result he was under a curse because of his sin. Cain’s curse is that he would be a wanderer and under constant threat of someone taking his life for the murder of Abel.
In the Septuagint (the Greek language version of the Old Testament) this word for curse is katara. It means to place a word of judgment or imprecation upon someone/something. This seems to be the way it is used with Cain. A judgment is placed upon Cain and continually hangs over his head. Cain understands the nature of this judgment and tells God that it is too much for him to bear. With a curse comes the stigma of the curse and the shame of the judgment that remains upon sin. This same Greek word for curse is used in the New Testament when Paul talks about being under a curse if you rely on law keeping. Paul also uses this word in Galatians to say that Jesus became a curse for us. (Gal 3:10-14).
Paul makes a very clear point in Galatians. We are unable to save ourselves in any way. No human is able to meet God’s perfect standard and keep his law and all those who try are under a curse – judgment is declared and hanging over our heads until executed. We all fall short and are under a curse. It is clear from Scripture that humans can indeed be under a curse because Cain was and anyone who didn’t keep the law in Israel was (Deut 27-28). Paul also says anyone who falls short of God’s perfect standard is under a curse. Adam and Eve were created in that perfect standard and were the first humans to fall short of it by bringing original sin into the world. Paul says that the work of the cross removes the curse because Jesus became a curse for us, that is, for all who trust him (or the promise of him) from all time.
One possibility for why we may not find the word ‘curse’ used for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is because of the promise immediately given by God. Perhaps this might even suggest that Adam and Eve believed God’s promise of a seed to crush the serpent’s head and in his provision of a sacrifice to point to the blood being shed for the remission of sin. Jesus (the Seed) didn’t become a curse for the serpent or the ground, just for humans who believe in him. One thing is for sure. Sin has brought every human without exclusion under a curse. That includes Adam and Eve. None of us can remove it on our own merits, but Christ has done it for us.