In the book of Genesis we read the account of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. Everything was created flawlessly and was in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. Think of a world where all humans, animals, birds, insects, plants, trees and even the weather co-existed in complete harmony with one another and with God. No disastrous thunderstorms. No weeds in the garden. No need for “the dog whisperer” or pest control. But more importantly, no sin, no disease, no death. Glorious living. If only it could last.
Unfortunately, the devil (in the form of a snake) sowed the seeds of doubt in the heart of man: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV) Eve, tempted by the appearance of the fruit on the tree and its possibility to give divine wisdom, ate from it and shared it with her husband, Adam, who was by her side.
Immediately, all creation was thrown into dischord – Adam and Eve became ashamed of one another, hid from God and lost their friendship with nature. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to them. After all, God warned them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, since they would surely die if they did (Genesis 2:16-17).
Death didn’t come immediately, which, in a sense, was an act of mercy from God. Nevertheless, something very closely connected to disease, entered creation: pain. In God’s rebuke to mankind he says the following to Eve: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16 ESV), and to Adam: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17 ESV, emphasis added).
The first recorded death in the Bible is of the animal/s sacrificed in order to clothe Adam and Eve after they realised their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). The first human death we find in the very next chapter, and it is not simply any kind of death. It is murder – brother to brother.
From here throughout the rest of Genesis, death is a normal outcome after life, with a 100% certainty. Genesis 5 lists the descendants of Adam – their names, how old they were, followed by the following words: “and he died”. We are not told how they passed away or what caused their death, but in the age we live in today, we can imagine many different scenarios: murder, diseases or simply organs giving up in old age, along with pain and suffering.
Even though we have come to know death as a normal part of life, it always shocks and surprises us. It feels abnormal and strange, and leaves us desolate and heart-broken. Why is that?
As we dig deeper into the Bible, we will find out more about disease and death, and ultimately God’s plan for a renewed creation.