When Adam was commanded not to eat from the tree of knowledge, G-d presented him with the punishment (Ber 2.17):

וּמֵעֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת׃

but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.

So "you shall die" was the punishment, as I understand. However, it looks that "things went emotional" (please edit) when G-d started to curse the serpent, Eve and Adam, things that were not detailed in the commandment:

וּלְאָדָם אָמַר כִּי־שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ וַתֹּאכַל מִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכֲלֶנָּה כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ׃

To Adam He said, “Because you did as your wife said and ate of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ Cursed be the ground because of you; By toil shall you eat of it All the days of your life:

So let's say I'm speeding, and a cop stops me. I'm liable to the full punishment outlined in the law, but not to additional curses, humiliation, hatred etc.

So it is either that the curses should have been elaborated in the commandment or G-d should have terminated Adam as promised.

Why G-d cursed Adam and Eve and the Serpent contrary to the wording of the punishment in the commandment?


2 Answers 2


Rav Hirsch points out on Genesis 3:14-15 that the words used show that

the speech to the serpent had been preceded by the speech to the woman, and that this had been preceded by that to the man. Accordingly ארורה האדמה בעבורך, the earth had already been cursed for the sake of mankind. The whole world, including its animal life, had already been doomed to suffer by Man's sin, for his sake i.e. as a means for his betterment, but the serpent most of all.

Rash Hirsch explains in Bereishis 3:18-19 that Adam was never cursed. Since this is still within the first days of Creation, Adam's action caused a change in the nature of the universe in order to allow him to attempt to raise himself back to his original level.

One consideration does however seem to us of the utmost importance. In the whole of this verdict of Hashem, the curse is pronounced only against the ground and an animal, but in no wise over Man. Mankind is in no manner whatsoever placed under a ban for his first disobedience. In all that was said, not a single syllable altered by a hairbreadth Man's high calling or his ability to reach and fulfill it. Only the stage on which, and the external circumstances under which he has to accomplish his mission are altered for his benefit. The mission itself, his God-like calling and his God-like competence for it remains undisturbed.

Rav Hirsch explains In Bereishis 3:17 that the translation of אֲרוּרָ֤ה הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ בַּֽעֲבוּרֶ֔ךָ is the ground will be cursed **for your sake**

So here: not because you sinned, but for your betterment, for your sake, ארורה וגו, is the ground to be restrained in its development. I will not let it develop freely any longer, it will no longer smile at you, will no longer of its own will offer you its products, only with renunciation of s grest deal will you be able to enjoy any of it, בעצבון תאכלנה. The purpose of this blight on the blessing of the soil is to habituate Man to this עצבון. "Every sacrifice brings a profit" (Prov. XIV,3) is still today a principle of education. Giving things up makes a man free, brings out his better, nobler self, makes him independent of external things, of that which the world offers or denies, and allows him to fid his own true worth in faithfulness to Hashem, and at the same time his undisturbable happiness. Into this school of renunciation Man was now to be led.


I’ve heard two approaches to this, but I don’t have a source for either one.

  1. These aren’t curses, nor punishments; simply facts. Because they ate from the tree, this is the natural consequence of the action, the reality in which they now live. It’s no different than a parent telling a child that if they take an extra cookie, they have to go to their room, and when the child eats it, he gets a stomachache. “That wasn’t the deal! You only told me I’d go to my room, not that I’d have a stomachache!” (I thought I had heard this in the name of Michtav MeEliyahu, but it seems this is Rav Hirsch’s approach.)
  2. These are punishments not for eating but for their subsequent deferring blame (Adam to Chavah, Chavah to the snake) rather than taking responsibility for their actions. Had they owned up to their sins and expressed remorse, these punishments would not have been placed on them.
  • The issue with the stomachache example that you mentioned is that a parent can't control the natural consequences, whereas G-d is the one who sets the rules of nature. If a parent could make it so there'd be no stomachache after a cookie, they would.
    – user9806
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:45
  • @user9806 Hashem usually doesn't interfere with the natural order of the world, except in extreme circumstances.
    – DonielF
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:53
  • See my answer here.
    – Turk Hill
    Nov 1, 2020 at 22:42

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