Was Creation Changed by Adam’s Sin?

Genesis Asserts and Romans Confirms That Sin Corrupted the Earth as Well as Humanity.

by Simon Turpin on October 17, 2023
Featured in Answers in Depth

Did the whole creation change because of the consequences of Adam’s sin? Some theologians argue that creation itself was not greatly changed by Adam’s sin.1 However, this view does not adequately deal with key passages in Genesis 1–2 that describe what creation was like before the fall and in Genesis 3 and Romans 8 that tell us how creation did change because of Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 2:17).

Genesis 1

Genesis 1 gives us a historical account of the creation of the world that teaches God created all things in six 24-hour days (Exodus 20:11). The flow of the creation account in Genesis 1 leads us to the pinnacle of God’s creation on day six, when he creates man in his own image (Genesis 1:26–28). Since this is day six, mankind was the first couple (Adam and Eve) who God created to be his viceroys (royal figures, cf. Psalm 8:4–6). Adam and Eve would represent God by “subduing” the earth and “ruling” peacefully and wisely over his creation (cf. 1 Kings 4:24; Psalm 72:1–17). Some theistic evolutionists argue that because the Hebrew word “rule” (rāḏâ) can refer to harsh rule (Isaiah 14:6; Ezekiel 34:4) that Adam’s “rule” over creation must have included killing animals for food and clothing (cf. Genesis 1:29–30, 3:21). However, there is nothing in Adam’s “rule” (rāḏâ) to suggest that he had a combative relationship with living things in creation (cf. Leviticus 25:43, 46, 53).2 Adam was to rule responsibly over creation by controlling its potential and using its sources for mankind’s benefit. The first man, Adam, was blessed and commanded by God to subdue and rule over the entire creation. The blessing itself is primarily about descendants (“Be fruitful and multiply” in verse 28); therefore, the fulfillment of the blessing is related to human “offspring” and the notion of “life.”

Prior to God creating mankind in his image, he had already stated six times that his creation was “good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). After God had finished creating, he saw (rā'â) everything that he had made, and it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).3 In Genesis 6:5, after the fall, God no longer saw good but rather, he saw (rā'â) the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth. The verbal parallels between Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 6:5 show that the narratives contrast the state of mankind before and after the fall.4 In the context of Genesis 1, there is no hint of death, suffering, wickedness, or natural evil in creation.

Genesis 2

Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of mankind (Genesis 2:7, 21–22) on the sixth day of creation and not a secondary and contradictory account of creation to Genesis 1, nor a sequel chapter (cf. Mark 10:6–8). The setting of Genesis 2 is the garden in Eden, in which the Lord God places the man he creates (Genesis 2:8, 15).

Because there was no man to work the ground (Genesis 2:5; cf. Genesis 3:23), the Lord God forms “the man” (hāʾādām) from the “dust” (ʿāpār) of “the ground” (hāʾădāmâ) (Genesis 2:7). The word ground (ʾădāmâ) in verse 5 has to do with the soil, which is cultivated by human enterprise (Genesis 3:17, 23, 4:2, 5:29, 8:21), and it is the same substance from which man is made (Genesis 2:7). There is a play on words in verse 5, “man” and “ground,” indicating that the ground (ʾădāmâ) needs man (ʾādām) to produce a harvest from it. There is another play on words in verse 7 with man (ʾādām) and ground (ʾădāmâ), as man is related to the ground by his very creation. The substance from which Adam was taken was “dust” (ʿāpār), loose surface soil (cf. Exodus 8:16–17), and it is not a metaphor for something (i.e., mortality). It can only mean dust in the context of Genesis 2–3 because it is to dust that Adam will return due to his disobedience (Genesis 3:19; cf. Job 34:14–15; Psalm 90:3). Adam was formed from the dust, and because of his disobedience, he will return to the dust (cf. Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:47–48).

In the garden in Eden, Adam had boundaries, as God gave him a command of what he could and could not do. In Genesis 2:16–17, God gives Adam a command: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” The Hebrew phrase mot tamut, “you shall surely die,” should not be understood as an immediate death sentence but may be understood as “doomed to die,”5 meaning that death will follow because of disobedience but not necessarily immediately (cf. Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 20:9–16). Apart from disobedience to God’s command, there was no natural reason for Adam to die. Those who try to argue that the words of Genesis 2:17 refer to anything other than physical death are forcing the text to say something it clearly does not mean.

Since Adam was created to rule over the entire creation, his disobedience to God’s command would have consequences not only for him and the ground from which he was taken but also for the rest of creation.

Genesis 3

In Genesis 3, after Adam’s disobedience, God pronounces judgment upon him which has two main aspects: 1) the ground is cursed, and 2) Adam will return to the ground (i.e., he will die) (Genesis 3:17–19). Just as with the judgments against the serpent (Genesis 3:14) and the woman (Genesis 3:16), so here the judgments are physical judgments speaking against the idea that the text here is simply describing spiritual death (cf. Romans 5:12–14). Adam’s disobedience is the cause of the ground being cursed (Genesis 3:17).

The contrast between the ground before and after the fall shows that the present state of the ground is not what God intended it to be: it is the result of Adam’s disobedience.

Adam was created to “rule” the earth; however, because of his disobedience, ruling has become a hard task. Because the ground from which he was taken from is now cursed, working the ground for food is difficult (Genesis 3:17). Furthermore, the ground from which Adam was taken now produces thorns and thistles which did not exist before the fall but came into existence after Adam sinned (Genesis 3:18). The contrast between the ground before and after the fall shows that the present state of the ground is not what God intended it to be: it is the result of Adam’s disobedience.

Another result of the fall is that after the flood, the harmony that previously existed between mankind and the animals no longer exists, as all animals will now fear and dread mankind (Genesis 9:2, cf. 1:26–28), and mankind is now allowed to eat meat (Genesis 9:3, cf. 1:29–30).

Adam was created to “subdue” and “rule” creation, and therefore as head over creation, it experiences the consequences of his disobedience. The Hebrew words ʾādām (man) and ʾădāmâ (ground) are closely related and show the related consequences of Adam’s disobedience to the ground from which he was taken (Genesis 2:7). The ground that was cursed was not simply the ground in Eden but the whole earth outside of the garden from which Adam was taken (before he was placed in the garden—Genesis 2:15, 3:23, 5:29). Adam’s disobedience has a ripple effect on the rest of creation (Romans 8:20–22).

The world that God blessed (Genesis 1:22, 28, 2:3) and declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31) has changed as the ground is cursed because the first man, Adam, who was head over creation, disobeyed the command of his Creator.

Romans 8:19–22

In Romans 8:19–22, the apostle Paul draws on Genesis 3:17–19, in which creation is cursed by God due to Adam’s sin. The Greek word for creation (ktisis) in verse 19 clearly refers to the nonhuman creation; the creation is distinguished from humanity in verse 21. The reason why creation is anticipating the revelation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19) is that creation is not what God intended it to be. The creation was subjected to futility by God because Adam’s sin corrupted God’s very good creation (Genesis 1:31; Romans 8:20). In Genesis 1, creation was not in a state of futility (cf. Genesis 1:29–31); therefore, God’s subjecting the creation to frustration must be a reference to the curse in Genesis 3:17.

Before Romans 8, Paul has already shown that Adam’s sin brought about a change in the workings of creation. In Romans 1, he discusses how the fall led to a change in mankind’s view of God, as now in the “futility” (cf. Roman 8:20) of their fallen mind they worship the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18–25). A more specific change in creation is the entrance of sin and death that came into the world through Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:12–19), a clear reference to Genesis 3. In Romans 6:21, Paul continues to refer to the effects of Adam’s sin on our lives, as he argues that the “fruit” (karpos) of sinful living leads to “shame” (epaischynomai) and death (thanatos) (see Genesis 2:25, 3:2–4 LXX).6 In Romans 8:19–22, Paul traces the consequences of Adam’s disobedience to the futility to which creation has been unwillingly subjected and is now corrupted because of his disobedience. Paul even seems to allude to Eve’s groaning in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) when he states, “Creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22).7

In Romans 8, there is a direct connection between the liberation of creation and the liberation of the “sons of God.” This liberation would be lost if the creation has always been in a state of corruption and futility because it would be unconnected to the fallen state of man. The creation itself will be set free from the bondage to corruption and into the glory of the sons of God. In Romans 8:21, the language of the creation being “set free” (eleuthero, cf. Romans 8:2) from its bondage of corruption is incompatible with evolutionary thinking and the belief in an old earth. Since theistic evolutionists and old-earth creationists believe that death, suffering, and natural evil have always been a part of creation (even before man was on the earth), they must explain what creation needs to be set free from and to what it will be restored. Will creation be restored to a state of continuing death and suffering?

The last Adam, Jesus, came to redeem and reconcile not only a fallen humanity but also a fallen creation which awaits its restoration.

The last Adam, Jesus, came to redeem and reconcile not only a fallen humanity but also a fallen creation which awaits its restoration. Adam’s disobedience and its consequences as well as Christ’s redemption are respectively the foundation and blessed hope of the gospel message and the coming restoration of creation.


  1. Old Testament scholar Meredith Kline comments, “The Bible does not require us, therefore, to think of the character and working of man’s natural environment before the Fall as radically different from what is presently the case.” M. G. Kline, The Kingdom Prologue (Hamilton, MA: Gordon-Conwell, 1993), 81.
  2. Although the Hebrew word for “rule” (rāḏâ) can refer to a harsh rule, it is the context that determines the meaning of a word, for example, in Leviticus 25, masters are told not to rule harshly over their slaves. There is nothing in Genesis 1 that suggests Adam’s “rule” was harsh. Adam’s “rule” over the animals does not include killing them for food as God gave mankind plants and fruit for food (Genesis 1:29–30, cf. 9:3), and pre-fall mankind did not need clothing (Genesis 2:25; cf. 3:21). Furthermore, as a righteous man, Adam would have cared for the animals (Proverbs 12:10), as they were his companions (Genesis 2:18–20).
  3. Commenting on Genesis 1:31, Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch state, “God saw His Work, and behold it was all very good; i.e., everything perfect in its kind, so that every creature might reach the goal appointed by the Creator, and accomplish the purpose of its existence. By the application of the term ‘good’ to everything that God made, and the repetition of the word with the emphasis ‘very’ at the close of the whole creation, the existence of anything evil in the creation of God is absolutely denied, and the hypothesis entirely refuted, that the six days’ work merely subdued and fettered an ungodly, evil principle, which had already forced its way into it.” C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 67.
  4. John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 88.
  5. Alter recognizes this: “The form of the Hebrew in both instances is what grammarians call the infinitive absolute: the infinitive immediately followed by a conjugated form of the same verb. The general effect of this repetition is to add emphasis to the verb, but because in the case of the verb ‘to die’ it is the pattern regularly used in the Bible for the issuing of death sentences, “doomed to die” is an appropriate equivalent.” Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation & Commentary (London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 8.
  6. See Lita Sanders, “The Fruit of Sin vs the Fruit of Sanctification: A Pauline Allusion to Genesis 3 in Romans 6 Perspective,” Journal of Creation 30, no. 2 (August 2016): 4–5.
  7. The word στεναγμόν in Genesis 3:16 (LXX) and the word συστενάζει in Romans 8:22 are both related to the verb “to groan” (στενάζω).


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