Paradise Lost Book 12

Michael continues to relate the story of man (basically covering the whole of the Hebrew Bible). He relates the story of the tyrant Nimrod and his desire to be greater than all men and even God by constructing the Tower of Babel. He tells the story of how God chose one nation, Israel, to be his chosen people and described the line from Abraham, to Joshua, through Joseph, Moses, and Joshua, who finally brought them into the promised land. He described the kingdom of David, the Temple of Solomon, and the Hebrew people’s Babylonian exile and captivity.

Finally, Michael tells of the anointed Messiah who will finally conquer death and right Adam’s wrong. The Son will then ascend to heaven which will be possible for all men who follow God’s law.

Adam rejoices in the fact that the Son of God will be born of his seed, but how will the Son conquer Death?

“Thy punishment he shall endure by coming in the flesh to a reproachful life and a cursed death,” replies Michael.
Michael finishes by telling Adam to add deed to the knowledge which he has been given, add virtue, patience, temperance and love. “Then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far.”

Michael then holds both Adam’s and Eve’s hands and leads them out of Paradise.

Analysis:

Why does Raphael recite the history of mankind, in the form of the Hebrew Bible, to Adam? The reason can be read in Adam’s reaction to every turn of the story. Adam is pained by the fact that one of his sons will kill the other, that humans will again and again disappoint God because of what Adam and Eve have done. Corruption and violence will continue to be a part of human history from this time forward. Thus, the reciting of the story is a punishment for Adam, a demonstration of the consequences of his actions, the evil that he has wrought.

At the same time, there are many positive stories and heroes in Raphael’s narrative: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David and Joshua are all described as heroes who bring mankind back on track with God’s will. The story culminates with Jesus Christ as the ultimate redemption. The story, therefore, also serves as comfort to Adam in order to show him that there will be members of his seed that will act honorable and bring the grace of God back onto mankind. Raphael’s narrative ends with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Adam is filled with the ultimate satisfaction. Adam sees that the Fall was not just necessary, but it exemplifies God’s glory and goodness even more so than creation by coming to conclusion in the story of Christ. The power of God to redeem and forgive mankind through the resurrection of Christ, turning an “evil thing to good,” is an even more powerful act than when God separated darkness from light.
Raphael’s narration, however, does more than just make Adam feel guilty/good about his decisions. It is actually a continuation of the basic theme that Milton established from the beginning, the theme of Fall and ascension, freedom and slavery, reason and animal appetites. The history of mankind is a series of falls from God’s grace, a series of man acting irrationally (opposed to God’s will) and therefore creating corruption. Man turns away, as in the Tower of Babylon, and then returns, in a continual cycle.

So it is with a bittersweet sense of loss mixed with glorious redemption that Adam and Eve, and the readers, leave the Garden. The final image of Adam and Eve walking hand in hand in search of a place in the post-Fall world is a reflection on the journey every man and woman must take in life. Milton balances the corruption of man with the hope of eternal life in grace to give us not a tragedy, but an epic reflection of the condition of humanhood.

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