Paradise Lost | Study Guide

John Milton

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Paradise Lost | Book 12 | Summary

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Summary

Archangel Michael continues telling Adam about the future with the story of Nimrod. Nimrod was a tyrant who challenged God's knowledge when he ordered his citizens to build a tower in an attempt to reach Heaven. This disobedience led God to interfere and stop the tower from being built. He also punished humans by forcing them to speak different languages, when they had previously communicated easily in one tongue. Michael also tells Adam the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Moses invents laws as interpreted from commandments by God, and Michael tells Adam that man needs these laws because otherwise they do not know how to behave justly.

Michael also tells Adam how the Son will be transformed into the human being Jesus and will ultimately die for the sins of man. Jesus will then rise from the dead, overcoming Satan's corruption. The risen Jesus will spread the message to mankind that if they are obedient to God, they will be rewarded with an eternal afterlife in Heaven. Adam is relieved to hear this, as he had feared that death was the ultimate punishment. In a way, Adam sees this as a superior outcome to the alternative of never having sinned.

Michael finally escorts Adam and Eve out of Paradise, and they are reassured that they will still be able to be with God one day. They enter the new world.

Analysis

In many ways Nimrod's disobedience of God echoes Satan's; he believes that he can trick God and attain knowledge that is not his to have. This sense of pride is a fatal flaw of both Nimrod and Satan. God shows that he will punish those who attempt to gain power that is not theirs to wield. Milton also draws a political parallel, inferring that while he sees God as a just ruler since he is fair and merciful, man is more easily corrupted and unable to wield power correctly.

Just as the actions of Adam and Eve are powerful enough to affect the lives of all humans throughout time, Jesus's sacrifice has the capacity to redeem them. Jesus is positioned as a counterpoint to Adam, as both Adam's fall and Jesus's redemption are essential components of humankind's relationship to God from then on. This is in keeping with Christian dogma, as Jesus is often called the New Adam or Second Adam.

Adam's epiphany that the fall is ultimately a good thing is poignant. Even though he has been shown all the suffering of future generations, he also sees that God is ultimately merciful to those who are repentant. Adam realizes that if there is no suffering or death, there is also no salvation or afterlife in Heaven. After glimpsing the scope of suffering and redemption, he is able to see the bigger picture and the ultimate good his fall has served for humankind.

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