You Can Break the Cycle—But You Have to Act

Larry Crabb has an old book called The Silence of Adam, in which he makes the case that original sin goes back, in part, to the silence of Adam and the failure of men to step up and lead, a dominant problem throughout human history.

Genesis makes it clear that when God created Adam and Eve, he put Adam in a position of authority—not to lord over Eve, but to serve and protect her. God made Adam first, then gave him the responsibility to name Eve, indicating his leadership role in the relationship.

God then gave Adam the commands of the Garden to relay to Eve and lead her in obedience to them. He’s told to love and protect her like his own body, to lay his life down for her, to prosper her.

We all know what happens in Genesis 3. Let’s just say he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.

Tony Evans points out that the fall came, in part, through Adam’s abdication of his leadership role. Scripture says that when the snake tempted Eve, Adam was “with” her, elbow to elbow, as the Hebrew indicates. In other words, Adam looked on as she ate.

Not only did Adam fail to lead Eve in holiness, he failed to protect her. Knowing full well that God said that if they ate, they would die, he watched to see if Eve would die before he took of the fruit himself.

Evans goes on to say that Adam’s wasn’t first a sin of commission—taking of the fruit—it was first a sin of omission—failing to step up, lead, and protect what God had entrusted to him.

King David has a similar story.

When Amnon failed to protect his sister, Tamar, choosing instead to objectify and assault her, David stood silent. He knew what had happened. But the text tells us that he did nothing. He said nothing. He didn’t respond at all. Counselor Brad Hambrick wrote this about David’s silence:

David sought no justice for Tamar as Deuteronomy 22:25–27 prescribed—and it was David’s obligation as king to see that those divine instructions were followed! Furthermore, based on Absalom’s reaction, we are left to believe that David did not even confront Amnon as a father. The most striking feature of this passage is David’s indifference. And when, as a king, David did nothing, the people around him found it more difficult to act. Tamar was invisible and ignored. Tragedy followed.

After Adam and Eve’s sin, God called out, “Where are you?” It’s a question we want to ask of David as well: David, where were you? When Tamar was abused, where were you? When Amnon required punishment, where were you? When Absalom needed his father, where were you? When the nation needed a model of justice and holiness, where were you?


I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had David stepped in and cared for Tamar, if he had pursued justice on her behalf and brought her home, instead of leaving her defenseless. What if he had given Tamar dignity instead of indifference? What if he had punished Amnon for his crime? What if David had helped Absalom understand his rightful anger, encouraging him to join him in pursuing godly justice? What if, instead of doing nothing, David had stepped in and done something?

We’ll never know for sure, but David’s inaction began a cycle of silence, abuse of power, and selfishness that lasted for generations. No one could break the cycle. They needed a new kind of king.

The future Son of David, the Second Adam, would undo the cycle of passivity and injustice of the first Adam, the first David. When confronted by the snake, like Adam, he didn’t pass the risk on to someone else. He took it himself. When injustice roared all around him, as it did in David’s family, he didn’t let someone else handle it. Instead, he walked the same path of shame that David did when he fled Jerusalem. But he did so, not because of his own failures, but for ours.

This was the only way the cycle could be broken.

Because Jesus has broken the curse of sin, he can inject grace where previously there were only repeating cycles of sin. You can break the cycle. But you have to act.