17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Gen 3:17-19 KJV)
After Adam and Eve fell, we read these interesting verses that are recorded in Genesis 3:17-19. Doesn’t this sound like farming? They will eat bread by “the sweat of their face”; that sounds like a lot of difficult, hard work– and farming is a lot of difficult, hard work. Whatever you think, it is definitely not easy and I can understand that they ate bread only by their own backbreaking efforts whereas, before the Fall, they just picked their food off of trees.
The “plants” or “herbs”, as the King James Version words it (verse 18), that are now included in our menu, are foods that don’t have seeds in the parts that we eat, such as lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and also tubers like carrots and beets. There are differences of opinion about what was included with the plants in Genesis one and what was included in Genesis three. I suppose you would have to make a lifetime study of plants to really know. We do know that everything has to come from some type of seed but these are foods where the seeds are not in the part that we eat. Whatever opinion you may have about this is “okay”. What is important is that what is described in Genesis one and Genesis three are all plants.
The Value of Plants
Do we hear about these plant foods being full of great life giving substances? We do. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, for example, help to reduce the incidence of cancer. Celery can calm the nerves; carrots can protect our immune system; lemons can support gallbladder and liver function. Is this all those foods do? No, not at all. Should we focus on particular foods because we want to support a particular organ in our body? No, that’s not necessary. Each food has some benefit; how extensive that benefit might be to our cells and organs impossible to know.
How Much Should We Eat?
How many servings of vegetables should we eat? The World Health Organization says that adults should have at least five servings per day. That’s not much because a serving is counted as ½ cup for cooked or raw vegetables and one cup for leafy vegetables. That would amount to ½ cup each of carrots, celery, cucumber and broccoli plus one cup of lettuce. Unfortunately, studies show that 60% – 87% of adults worldwide do not eat even that little bit of produce.
An Easy Solution?
It sounds like a simple enough solution to the health problems of the world but it really is not a good idea to count the number of vegetable servings you eat. Why is that? The reason is that people won’t count servings for very long. Counting servings, calories or carbs or whatever is simply not pleasurable. Besides, it is difficult to improve your health by simply adding something to your diet (or taking something away), even if it is something as good as vegetables. If you add more vegetables to your diet while you continue to eat heaps of unhealthy foods like sugary desserts, dairy (excess protein and fat) and oils, your health won’t improve much, if at all. It’s our total diet – all that we consume – that determines our outcomes.
In verse 19 Adam and Eve are told that they will eat bread. What was their bread like? We don’t know. We do know that bread is made from grain and one of the most common bread making grains is wheat. We’ve all heard of bread being called the “staff of life”. 1 The definition of that phrase is “bread, considered as the mainstay of the human diet.” It is simply a staple (a necessary food) and is always a starch (wheat, rice, rye, millet, etc). The phrase was first used almost 400 years ago and meant that the food was a “support”. 2 That makes sense. Those are the foods that give us our energy, keep us from being hungry and really support our health.
Nutrients for Young Plants
On the other hand, grains are actually the seeds of the plant and therefore are full of stored nutrients to make a new plant grow. Those stored nutrients contain starches (long chains of sugars) that are our body’s preferred source of fuel. Starches supply a slow steady stream of energy that is perfect for our needs. The staff of life in Europe and America has traditionally been whole grain bread but in Asia it has been rice, in parts of South America it’s been potatoes or beans or corn. In other parts of the world it may have been millet, sorghum, barley, winter squash or whole grain pasta.
Are those foods good for us today? They absolutely are. Our bodies still want the clean fuel provided by these foods. When we don‘t supply that energy need, our body gets tired, worn out and we have difficulty thinking clearly. The fuel for our brain requires more of those complex sugar foods than other organs.
Things Were Once Very Good
We are not told in scripture exactly how things changed after the Fall in Genesis three, but we know that the world in which Adam and Eve originally lived (and everything in it) was “very good”. They, and we, have moved off of that perfection and now we need to work to produce the food that will keep us alive and healthy. Even after the Fall of man, all the food used to fuel the body came from plants. From the original “fast and easy” food that we once had we have now added food that requires a little effort before it can be eaten.
“the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground” (Gen 3:17b – 19a Amp).
The Last Word
The whole grains that make bread are the foods made for us. The only difference is that they must be ground to make flour. That gives us more calories but historically the problem for most populations was getting enough calories. Whole grains breads are still valuable, very satisfying and filling. What you put on the bread and what you eat with it may add the unwanted calories and fat that gives bread a tarnished reputation for many people.
Heavy, whole grain breads are as beneficial today
as they ever were and are just as satisfying.
Rice and Beans with Salsa or Vegetables
A very simple but enjoyable meal is beans and rice. That’s not a new combination for anyone; people have been eating beans and rice for decades… maybe centuries. These days you can buy good cooked beans in a can and frozen cooked rice or make rice easily in a rice cooker. There are lots of beans (including lentils and peas) and lots of rices and you can mix any of them together or even a couple of beans and/or a couple of different rices. Add some salsa or some lightly steamed vegetables and you have a meal worth eating. Add seasonings or Tamari sauce and you can fill up.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Retrieved January 16, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/staff-of-life