Sneaking under flaming sword
In a melodramatic motion, once again the expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise is portrayed... West Benjamin depicts “the fallen humanity” - symbolized by Adam & Eve- in a romantic style full of theatrical gestures and clashes of blinding light and shadowy darkness.
The sinners wear fur robes because God clothed them in "coats of skins”: A probable foreshadowing of the robe of Christ's righteousness! Eve is on her knees as if she couldn’t stand unashamed in God’s presence. Adam in shielding his face indicates his own gloom after the doom!
With his full energy reflected in his flying hair, undulating cloak, elevated hands and swept wings, the angel accentuates “the expulsion” of the human figures from Eden. The serpent, now cursed among creatures, slips away on its belly to eat dust. The sharp beam of light overhead refers to the "flaming sword" in Genesis.
Is it God’s wrath against humans?
No!! We have to understand that God’s exile of Adam & Eve is a “severe mercy” but a mercy! Because if Adam & Eve have had access to the other tree – that of eternal life – to eat from its fruit: that would have resulted in staying sinful eternally!! That means causing hell on earth in an eternal hopelessness!!!
Another interesting detail in the painting sits in its rear planes. It is a significant “motif”: an eagle swoops upon a bird, while a lion chases horses…. The world undoubtedly lost its harmony after Sin; however, one can meditate further over this detail of the scene and speak of a symbolism implying earth as “a field of battle.”
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
No doubt it’s a prophecy of redemption, but it is also a portrayal of human coming history: a spiritual war between the children of Eve - eventually children of Christ, son of Mary, new Eve - and the children of the devil. On the cross Satan will bruise the heel of Christ but this same wounded Christ shall crush Satan’s head destroying his power. And since this victory is given to us as a grace: we rejoice!! Nevertheless, this grace doesn’t cancel the battle, because there will always be a free will … thus there will always be those who will accept God’s way but, sadly, those who reject it too!! Accordingly, we fight! but we fight with a confidence that ‘His kingdom cannot fail.’
This spiritual warfare is rendered in Augustine’s (City of God) where the saint represents our human history to be a great spiritual fighting field between “the City Of God” and “the City of the World”.
Dr. kreeft, a Christian philosopher and writer, reaffirms the above statement beautifully! He says:
“Mankind has been at civil war with itself because part of it is still at revolutionary war with God… our human history is neither a mere doom nor a mere blessing… between the old paradise of Eden lost and the new paradise of heaven to be gained this world will always remain, for all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, full of pain in childbirth and thorns and thistles in sweaty work: neither a snake pit nor a hot tub, but a battlefield…”
And dr. kreeft concludes by an alerting fact:
“The temptation is to creep under the angel’s flaming sword, to try to create a heaven on earth- without God! The 2 most popular forms of this are the oriental form of ignoring real physical evils by creating a so called inner paradise through yoga (or other forms of East Asian meditation practices )…. And the western form of ignoring real spiritual evils by building a technological heaven on earth.”
For that reason, may we be thankful for “the thorns” that keep us awake!! Because these “fake-paradises” - that appear at the beginning to be real and successful- tend to hypnotize us only to be doomed to failure! No paradise without God …so, let us hang on to the Lord’s cautioning against the lures of the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and let us hear His warning from Jeremiah’s lips “Woe to those who cry, peace! Peace! When there is no peace” (Jer 6:14)