Posts tagged: John Greenleaf Whittier

Work A Curse Or a Blessing



King James Bible Online
Genesis Chapter 3: Adam and Eve Are Driven out of Eden

Adam and Eve Are Driven out of Eden
Genesis 3

1 Now the serpent was more subtitle that

any beast of the field which the LORD

God had made.

And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath

God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree

of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent,  We may eat of the fruit of the trees

of the garden:3

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the

midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye

shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch

it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman,

Ye shall not surely die:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened,and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou

eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me,

she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of

the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go,and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between

thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be  to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

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.

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the

mother of all living.

21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to

keep the ways of the tree of life.





The story goes that the “Garden of Eden” was lost to Adam and Eve because she ate of the fruit and “did entice Adam to do the same.”

I’m trying to picture this loss.  A  beautiful garden: food aplenty, sunshine, singing birds, flowing water and???


Just what did Adam and Eve do all day? It appears that Work was a curse.  Ah, maybe play?  Perhaps they played all day: ran marathons, rode bikes, kayaked up and down the stream, hit golf balls, danced…tennis anyone? Did they have wine?

And so Adam and Eve were cursed for disobeying God and eating of the fruit that gave them the knowledge of “Good and Evil.”   She:  “I will multiply thy sorrow in conception; in sorrow will thy bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.   He:  In the sweat of thy face thou shall  eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” And          there was death, “for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. But it wasn’t just the knowledge of good and evil that bothered the Lord: 

And the Lord God said,

” Behold Man has become as one of us to  know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take of the tree of life, and eat and live forever:”     

Confused!  Not sure who the “us” is and “living forever.” now that would be a curse.

Conclusion:  Work,  Death, and Labor pains! seem to be our birth right and, obeying  our husbands!


So just what is “work?”  Dictionary–Work:  “Activity involving mental/physical effort done to achieve a purpose or result.”

I remember my lesson in 7th grade.  The teacher was trying to explain some principle (which I have forgotten) regarding a vague formula.  He had this very large  cabinet near his desk.  He called me up and told me to move it to the other side of the room.  Course he was crazy, but I gave it a try…pushed and pushed…nothing.  He said “Try it again.”  By this time I’d broken a sweat, but had another go at it.  Finally he told me to take my seat.

“Did you work?”  He looked pointedly at me.

“Darn right I worked!”  I was still recovering from my effort.

“Sorry,” and then he launched into some mumbo jumbo about a formula that measured something.

( According to my scientist husband:  Work=force x distance) I got no distance or credit for “trying.”  It seems for me to get credit for “working”.     I had to have moved the object.  Trying  doesn’t cut it.

So the question remains:  “Is work a curse or a blessing?”

The following poem was written  by the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, 1856



One morning of the first sad Fall,
Poor Adam and his bride
Sat in the shade of Eden’s wall––
But on the outer side.

She, blushing in her fig-leaf suit
For the chaste garb of old;
He, sighing o’re his bitter fruit
For Eden’s drupes of gold.

Behind them, smiling in the morn,
Their forfeit garden lay,
Before them, wild with rock and thorn,
The desert stretched away.










 They heard the air above them fanned,
A light step o the sward,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

And lo!  They saw before them stand

The Angel of the The Lord!     

“Arise,” he said, “why look behind,
When hope is all before,
And patient hand and willing mind
Your loss may yet restore?









“I leave with you a spell whose power
Can make the desert glad,
And call around you fruit and flower
As fair as Eden had.

“I clothe your hands with power to lift
The curse from off your soil

Your very doom shall seem a gift,
Your loss a gain through Toil.
“Go, cheerful as yon humming-bees,To labor as to play.”


 White glimmering over Eden’s trees
The angel passed away.


The pilgrims of the world went forth
Obedient to the word,
And found where’re they tilled
the earth
A garden of the Lord!







The thorn-tree caste its evil fruit
And blushed with plum and pear,

And seeded grass and trodden root
Grew sweet beneath their care.





We share our primal parents’ fate,
And, in our turn and day,

Look back on Eden’s sworded gate                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As sad and lost as they.

But still for us his native skies
The pitying Angel leaves,
And leads through Toil to Paradise

New Adams and new Eves!






Perhaps it was the era I grew up in that children were expected to work, to “earn our salt.” It is our children’s heritage also. Although we may not leave them monetary wealth, they all know how to work.  Today’s attitudes toward physical work has changed.  And so we hire immigrants to do the work  that was part  of our daily chores which for me included milking cows,  cleaning chicken houses and barns, picking crops in the summer for “cash” money. “Why do you work so fast, Grandma?”  from my grandson. I learned very early that “Time was Money.”   The money I earned went to purchase my  clothes,  and I wanted a cashmere sweater like the other kids  I also bought my  books for school, nothing frivolous. As children we never felt victimized,  all children were expected to work.   My husband had the same background.His “working” was on the tractor, planting, harvesting berries and doing custom farm work was how he earned  enough to pay his college expenses.

Our children were raised in the suburbs, no tractors, cows, chickens.  One day I heard my oldest son on the phone, “No…I don’t think so.”  He hung up the phone.

“What was that Jeff?”

“Oh, Mr. Piazza wanted me to mow his lawn, but I didn’t feel like it.” Upon his father’s arrival,

I took him aside.

“Hey, kids.”  The three of them stopped eating.  “Your father and I’ve  been talking.  We’ve decided.

No more sporting equipment.  You want a bike, or skis or tennis rackets, whatever, you have to buy it yourself.” (They were 12, 13, 14.)  Their silence echoed.

Finally,  “But…how…where..?

“You have your birthday money. You can mow lawns, shovel driveways, baby sit.”

As so many of our parental decrees, this was a two-edged sword.  Our driveway, lawn, raking of leaves was the last to be accomplished as our three  entrepreneurs scoured the neighborhood for jobs.    The Sears skis, tennis rackets, bikes  were replaced with top line  equipment   In high school the two boys pooled their money and bought a stringing machine to string tennis rackets.  Our daughter went to the town fathers with a proposal to teach tennis lessons at the local  park.  We paid for their  tennis lessons which turned out to be a very good investment for all three won tennis scholarships to top colleges:  University of Arizona, Oregon State, Northwestern.

Both my husband and I might be considered workaholics.  We always have a  project: decks to build, gardens to dig, houses to paint…The results of our efforts are our “Garden  of  Eden.”  Our family lives have not been all work and no play for we know what that does to “Jack.”  We camp, bike, play tennis, windsurf (him not me)     We waited for the children to outgrow us, still waiting. Now they help us with  projects,  we help  with theirs. “Work” remains a family affair.



They are all grown now with children. Have they passed on their “work”  ethic?  Yes, tempered with the opportunity of the times.


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