The page of Ear, Hand, Foot that elicits the most questions is this one:
“Adam and Eve sinned with their ears.” That makes sense. “Cain their son sinned with his hands” by attacking Abel and killing him. Got it. “The sons of God sinned with their…” Huh? Where did that come from?
First of all, I want to explain the pattern of “Adam, Cain, sons of God,” since that’s not how most people mentally organize the book of Genesis. The early chapters of the Bible tell of three falls. Adam and Eve fall in the Garden, sinning against God directly. Cain falls in the land outside the Garden, sinning against his brother. Finally, in Genesis 6, it says:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose.
And Yahweh said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them: the same became mighty men, who were of old, men of renown.
And Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:1-5, WEBUS)
There’s a debate about who these “sons of God” are exactly (see HERE) but whoever they are, it’s clear from the text that they sin by intermarrying with unbelievers, the “daughters of men” who don’t fear God. They chase after strange women and strange gods. The kind of idolatry they engage in is so egregious that it provokes God to send the Flood and wipe humanity off the face of the earth.
Elsewhere in Scripture, idolatry is described as chasing after false gods (Psalm 16). Those who fear God are commanded to follow Him, which the Israelites literally do in the wilderness (Deut. 1). Later, believers are commanded to follow Christ (Matt. 4, Luke 9). Sin is, partly, choosing to walk your own path rather than one laid out for you by God (Psalm 125). In this way, idolatry is a sin of the feet.
Another common metaphor used to describe idolatry is adultery. Israel is married to God, and any dalliance with idols violates that marriage covenant (Ezekiel 16). The sons of God were not only committing idolatry by wandering away in their hearts. They wandered away in their lives, too, showing that they had forgotten God by making marriage covenants with unbelievers.
Ear, Hand, Foot matches these three “falls” with the faithful obedience of Abram, Jacob, and Joseph. After God punishes the arrogance of the builders of Babel by confusing their speech, He calls a man out of Ur with His voice. Out of everyone in Mesopotamia, Abram understands the words of God.
The primary conflict in Jacob’s life is between him and his brothers. His literal brother, Esau, hands over his right of inheritance as the older son, then grows violently angry when Jacob claims it. Rather than fight with his brother, Jacob flees to another relative, who cheats him for over a decade. Never, through all of these betrayals, does Jacob act violently against his brothers. He succeeds where Cain failed.
Joseph is enslaved and sent to Egypt, a hotbed of idolatry. Potiphar’s wife recognizes his goodness and wants to bring him down. The story is usually treated as a warning against sexual temptation, especially for successful men, and it certainly is that. But there’s also a strong indication that, by committing adultery, Joseph would have been unfaithful to his God as well as to Potiphar, his earthly master. Instead, Joseph literally flees the “daughter of man.”
Of course, all three patriarchs act faithfully with their ears, hands, and feet. The purpose of Ear, Hand, Foot isn’t to exhaustively list all the great things about Abram, Jacob, and Joseph (you can read Genesis for that!). It’s simply to illustrate a pattern. Hopefully, once you recognize the pattern, you’ll start seeing it all throughout Scripture.