“God saw that it was good."

A Twilight Musing

In the Genesis 1 account of creation, we are told five times that God judged what He had created “good,” including his looking at the completed creation and saying that “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  In chapter 2, it is made clear that the setting of the Garden of Eden was the perfect environment for mankind to partake of and participate in all of this goodness.  It had “every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food” (2:9).   Only in the prohibition against eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is there any mention of evil.  In chapter 3, however, we have the disastrous substitution of human judgment of what was “good for food” (3:4), and the natural good of God’s creation was overturned.  What was formerly “very good” is turned into inhospitable ground and difficult farming, sorrow, pain, and death.  The light with which God’s good creation began has now been turned into darkness which, like the sin-cursed ground, has to be tilled at great sacrifice to bring God’s good out of it again.

The fact that light was the first element spoken into existence in God’s creation, which He repeatedly endorses as “good,” indicates that there is an elemental connection between Light and Goodness as characteristics of God.  Together they show the intertwining of God’s existential indefinability (as physical light is paradoxically both wave and particle) and His non-referential Moral Perfection.  All light and all goodness are derived from Him.  God’s Light was foundational to the rest of creation so that in that Light could be seen God’s Goodness in the rest of His creation.  God judged it to be good only by the Light that He Himself had created; and as long as the morally enabled and responsible humans He had created judged their lot by that same Light, all was well.

When Eve consented to the suggestion of Satan that she change the way she perceived the forbidden fruit (she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” [3:6]), the result was, ironically, that “the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (3:7).  It was just as the Serpent promised, that “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:3).  What he does not tell them is that seeing what God sees without His essential Light and Goodness as protection turns all goodness on its head and brings disorder and destruction, rather than the blessing of seeing only what God has granted us to see at the time.

Although the short poem below is in immediate reference to the gathering of daily manna, it has a broader application, and the last two lines are especially relevant to the Fall of Adam and Eve.


(Exodus 16: 19-21)


Sufficient to the day

Is the good thereof:

Honey-sweet wafers,

Dawn's measure of graceful bread.

But dread of want tomorrow

Crowds out the bounty of today;

Blessings seized out of season

Turn to worms and decay.


                                                -- Elton D. Higgs (1977)



Image: "Beams" by Furbychan. CC License. 


Elton Higgs

Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals. (Ed.: Dr. Higgs was the most important mentor during undergrad for the creator of this website, and his influence was inestimable; it's thrilling to welcome this dear friend onboard.)