4. The Fall of Man (Genesis 3:1-24)
If the fall of man were to have occurred in our times, one can hardly conceive of the consequences. I would imagine that the American Civil Liberties Union would immediately file suit—against God and in defense of Eve and her husband (the order of the two is not accidental), Adam. The suit would probably be pressed on the grounds of an illegal eviction. “And after all,” we would be told, “this alleged sinful act was performed in the privacy of the garden, and by two consenting adults.” But most of all we would be told that the crime (if indeed there was one) and the punishment were totally out of proportion. Could God really be serious in what this account claims to report? Because of a mere bite of some ‘forbidden fruit’ the man and woman are evicted and will suffer a lifetime of consequence? And more than this, that due to this one act the whole world and all mankind continue to suffer the evils about us?
Those who do not take the Bible seriously or literally have little difficulty here. They simply write off the third chapter of Genesis as a myth. To them it is merely a symbolic story which endeavors to account for things as they are. The details of the fall present no problems for they are not fact, but fiction.
Evangelicals probably have tended to console themselves with the reminder that this was the long ago and the far away. Since the fall occurred so long ago, we do not tend to face the issues that glare at us from this passage.
But several serious questions do arise in connection with the account of man’s fall. Why, for example, must Adam assume primary responsibility when Eve is the principle character in the narrative? To put the question in more contemporary terms, why did Adam get the blame when Eve did all the talking?
Furthermore, we must give thought to the severity of the consequences of man’s partaking of the forbidden fruit in the light of what seems to be a rather trifling matter. What was so evil about this sin that brought about such a harsh response from God?
The structure of the first chapters of Genesis demands this description of man’s fall. In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we read of a perfect creation which received God’s approval as being ‘good’ (cf. 1:10,12,18,21). In chapter 4 we find jealousy and murder. In the following chapters mankind goes from bad to worse. What happened? Genesis 3 answers this question.
And so this chapter is vital because it explains the world and society as we observe it today. It informs us of the strategies of Satan in tempting men. It explains the reason for the New Testament passages that restrict women from assuming leadership roles in the church. It challenges us to consider whether or not we continue to ‘fall’ as did Adam and his wife.
Here is not a chapter that we will regret having studied, however. It does depict the entrance of sin into the human race and the severity of the consequences of man’s disobedience. But beyond man’s sinfulness and the penalties it demands, there is the revelation of the grace of God. He seeks out the sinner and provides him with a covering for sin. He promises a Savior through whom this whole tragic event will be turned into triumph and salvation.
The serpent suddenly appears in verse one rudely and without introduction. Adam, Eve, and the garden we are prepared to find, for we have seen them before. The serpent is said to be one of God’s creatures, therefore, we must take this creature literally. While it was an actual snake, later revelation informs us that the beast was being used by Satan, who is described as a dragon and serpent (cf. II Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; 20:2).
While we may wish to know the answers to questions pertaining to the origin of evil, Moses had no intention of supplying them for us here. The point God wishes to make is that we are sinful. To pursue more distant causes only removes our responsibility for sin from the focus of our attention.
Notice especially the approach which Satan takes here. He does not come as an athiest, or as one who would initially challenge Eve’s faith in God.54 Satan may manifest himself as a Madalyn Murray O’Hair, but very often it is as an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). Satan often stands behind the pulpit, holding a Bible in his hand.
The wording of Satan’s inquiry is significant. The word ‘indeed’ (verse 1) is dripping with innuendo. The effect of it is this: “Surely God could not have said this, could He?” Also the word God (“Has God said,” (verse 1) is interesting. Moses has been using the expression “the Lord God,” Yahweh Elohim:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). But when Satan referred to the Lord God it was merely God. This omission is indicative of Satan’s rebellious attitude toward almighty God.
Satan’s initial approach is to deceive, not deny; to cause doubts, not disobedience. Satan came to Eve as an inquirer. He deliberately distorted the command of God, but in such a way as to imply, “I may be wrong here, so correct me if I am mistaken.”
Now Eve should have never begun this conversation. It was a complete overturn of God’s chain of authority. That chain was Adam, Eve, creature. Adam and Eve were to express God’s rule over His creation (1:26). Eve would no doubt have rebuked such a conversation if it were not for the manner in which it was initiated by Satan.
Had Satan begun to challenge the rule of God or Eve’s faith in Him, her choice would have been an easy one. But Satan erroneously stated God’s command. He stated the question so as to appear that he was misinformed and needed to be corrected. Few of us can avoid the temptation of telling another that they are wrong. And so, wonder of wonders, Eve has begun to walk the path of disobedience while supposing that she was defending God to the serpent.
Did you notice that Satan has not mentioned either the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What a subtle attack! His question brought the forbidden tree to the center of Eve’s thinking, but without any mention of it. She brought it up. By his question Satan has not only engaged Eve in dialogue, but he has also taken her eyes off of the generous provisions of God and caused her to think only of God’s prohibition. Satan does not wish us to ponder the grace of God, but to grudgingly meditate upon His denials.
And this is precisely what has imperceptibly taken place in Eve’s thinking. Eve has revealed her change of attitude by several ‘Freudian slips.’ While God said, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” (2:16), Eve said, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat” (3:2). Eve omitted “any” and “freely,” the two words which emphasized the generosity of God.
Likewise Eve had a distorted impression of the severity of God in prohibiting the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She expressed God’s instruction in these words: “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die” (3:3). But God had said, “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (2:17).
While exaggerating the prohibition to the point where even touching the tree was evil, Eve had unconsciously downplayed the judgment of God by omitting the word ‘surely,’ and by failing to report that death would come on the day of the offense. In other words, Eve emphasized God’s severity, but underestimated the fact that judgment would be executed surely and soon.
Satan’s first attack on the woman was that of a religious seeker, in an effort to create doubts about the goodness of God and to fix her attention on what was forbidden as opposed to all that was freely given. The second attack is bold and daring. Now in place of deception and doubt there is denial, followed by the slander of God’s character: “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely shall not die!’” (Genesis 3:4).
God’s words of warning were not to be understood as the promise of certain punishment, but as the mere threats of a self-centered deity.
We may wonder at the dogmatism of Satan’s denial, but it is my opinion that this is precisely what weakened Eve’s opposition. How could anyone be wrong who was so certain? Many today, my friend, are convinced more of the dogmatic tone of a teacher than they are by the doctrinal truthfulness of his teaching. Dogmatism is no assurance of doctrinal accuracy.
Satan’s fatal blow is recorded in verse 5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
Many have tried to determine precisely what Satan is offering in verse 5. “Your eyes will be opened,” Satan assures them. In other words, they are living in a state of incompletion, of inadequacy. But once the fruit is eaten, they would enter into a new and higher level of existence: they would become “like God.”55
As I understand Satan’s assertion, the statement is deliberately elusive and vague. This would stimulate the curiosity of Eve. To know ‘good and evil’ may be to know everything.56 But how could Eve possibly grasp the specifics of the offer when she did not know what ‘evil’ was.
One of my friends tells me that women are, by nature, more curious than men. I do not know if this is so, but I know that I have an active curiosity as well. The mysteriousness of this possibility of knowing more and living on some higher plane surely invites speculation and consideration.
I find an illustration on this play upon human curiosity in the book of Proverbs:
The woman of folly is boisterous, she is naive, and knows nothing. And she sits at the doorway of her house, on a seat by the high places of the city, calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight; ‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,’ and to him who lacks understanding she says, ‘stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant’ (Proverbs 9:13-17).
The women of folly is herself naive and unknowing, but she entices her victims by offering them a new experience, and the fact that it is illicit simply adds to the appeal (verses 16-17). That is the kind of offer which Satan made to Eve.
Satan, I believe, leaves Eve with her thoughts at this point. His destructive seeds have been planted. While she has not yet eaten the fruit, she has already begun to fall. She has entered into a dialogue with Satan and now she is entertaining blasphemous thoughts about God’s character. She is seriously contemplating disobedience. Sin is not instantaneous, but sequential (James 1:13-15), and Eve is well on her way.
Notice that the tree of life is not even mentioned or considered. Here before Eve were the two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Seemingly it was not a choice between the one or the other. She only saw the forbidden fruit. It, alone, appeared to be ‘good for food and a delight to the eyes’ (verse 6), and yet in 2:9 we were told that all the trees had these features in common. But Eve had eyes only for what was forbidden. And this tree offered some mysterious quality of life which appealed to the woman.
Satan lied outright in assuring Eve that she would not die, but he simply failed to tell her the fine print in his promise of what the forbidden fruit would offer. Having studied that tree for some time (I would imagine), she finally determined that the benefits were too great and the consequences were unreasonable and therefore unlikely. At that moment she snatched the fruit and ate it.
One may shake his head at Eve’s action, but the real wonder is that Adam seemingly without hesitation succumbed to Eve’s invitation to share her disobedience. Moses employs 5 3/4 (Gen. 3:1-6a) verses to describe the deception and disobedience of Eve, but only a part of one sentence to record Adam’s fall (Gen. 3:6b). Why? While I am not as dogmatic on this possibility as I once was, two words of Moses could give us the answer: “with her” (verse 6):
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eye, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).
Is it possible that Eve was never alone with the serpent?57 Could it be that Moses, by these two words, ‘with her,’ is informing us that Adam was present throughout the entire event, but never opened his mouth? If he were there, listening to every word and assenting by his silence, then it is little wonder that he simply took the fruit and ate it when it was offered by Eve.
It is something analogous to my wife and I sitting in the family room. When the doorbell rings, my wife gets up to answer it while I keep on watching my favorite TV program. I can overhear my wife letting in a vacuum cleaner salesman and listening with increasing interest to his sales pitch. I do not want to stop watching my program, so I let the conversation continue, even to my wife signing a contract. If she were then to come into the room and say to me, “Here, you have to sign this, too,” it will come as no shock if I sign it without protest. By default I have allowed my wife to make a decision and I have chosen to go along with it.
If Adam were not present throughout the entire dialogue between the serpent and his wife, one can still conceive of how it may have happened. Eve independently could have eaten the fruit and then hastened to tell her husband of her experience. I can well imagine that Adam would want to know two things. First, he would want to know if she felt any better—that is, did the fruit have any beneficial effect on her. Secondly, he would want to know it if had any detrimental effect. After all, God had said that they would die that very day. Had she found the fruit pleasurable and as yet sensed no harmful effect, Adam would surely be inclined to follow his wife’s example. What a tragic error!
Verses 7 and 8 are particularly informative, because they instruct us that sin has its consequences as well as its punishment. God has not yet prescribed any punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve, and yet the consequences are inseparably coupled with the crime. The consequences of sin mentioned here are shame and separation.
The nakedness which Adam and Eve shared without guilt was now a source of shame. Sweet innocence was lost forever. Remember, there was no man in the garden but the two of them. But they were ashamed to face each other without clothing. Not only could they not face each other as they had before, but they dreaded facing God. When He came to have sweet fellowship with them, they hid themselves in fear.
God had said that they would die in the day that they ate the forbidden fruit. Some have puzzled over this promise of judgment. While the process of physical death began on that fateful day, they did not die physically. Let us recall that spiritual death is separation from God:
And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (II Thessalonians 1:9).
Isn’t it amazing that the spiritual death of Adam and Eve occurred immediately—that is, there was now a separation from God. And this separation was not one imposed by God; it was initiated by men.
I must digress to say that the spiritual death experienced by Adam and his wife is the same as that of today. It is the alienation of man from God. And it is that which man himself chooses. It is his preference. Hell is God’s giving men both what they want and what they deserve (cf. Revelation 16:5-6).
God Seeks, Sifts, and Sentences Man
The separation which Adam and Eve brought about is that which God seeks to bridge. God sought out man in the garden. While Satan’s question was designed to bring about the fall of man, God’s questions seek his reconciliation and restoration.
Notice that no questions are asked of the serpent. There is no intention of restoration for Satan. His doom is sealed. Take note also of the order or sequence here. Man fell in this order: serpent, Eve, Adam. This is the opposite of God’s chain of command. While God questioned in the order of authority (Adam, Eve, snake), He sentenced in the order of the fall (snake, Eve, Adam). The fall was, in part, the result of the reversal of God’s order.
Adam is first sought by God with the question, “where are you?” (verse 9). Adam reluctantly admitted his shame and fear, probably hoping that God would not press him on this issue. But God probed more deeply, seeking an admission of wrongdoing: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (verse 11).
Thrusting at least a part of the responsibility back upon the Creator, Adam blurted out, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (verse 12).
Both Eve and God must share in the responsibility for the fall, Adam implied. His part was mentioned last and with as little detail as possible. And so it will always be with those who are guilty. We always find mitigating circumstances.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives (Proverbs 16:2).
Then Eve is questioned, “What is this you have done?” (verse 13).
Her response was little different (in essence) than her husband’s: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (verse 13).
It was true, of course. The serpent did deceive her (I Timothy 2:14), and she did eat. The guilt of both, while a feeble effort to excuse or at least diminish human responsibility was made, had been clearly established.
Such must always be the case, I believe. Before punishment can be meted out, the wrong-doing must be proven and acknowledged. Otherwise punishment will not have its corrective effect on the guilty. The penalties are now prescribed by God, given in the order of the events of the fall.
The Serpent Sentenced (vss. 14-15)
The serpent is first addressed and his punishment established. The creature, as the instrument of Satan, is cursed and subject to an existence of humiliation, crawling in the dust (verse 14).
Verse 15 addresses the serpent behind the serpent, Satan, the deadly dragon: “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; … ” (Rev 12:9).
There is to be, first of all, a personal animosity between Eve and the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman” (verse 15).
Such enmity is easy to comprehend. But this opposition will broaden: “And between your seed and her seed” (verse 15).
Here, I believe God refers to the battle of the centuries between the people of God and the followers of the devil (cf. John 8:44ff).
Finally, there is the personal confrontation between the seed58 of Eve, the Messiah, and Satan: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (verse 15).
In this confrontation Satan will be mortally wounded while the Messiah will receive a painful, but not fatal wound.
How beautifully this prophecy portrays the coming Savior, Who will reverse the events of the fall. This is that of which Paul wrote in retrospect in the fifth chapter of Romans:
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:14-17).
While the prophecy of verse 15 is somewhat veiled, it becomes more and more evident in the light of subsequent revelation. It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that the Jews, according to the Targum, regarded this passage as Messianic.59
The Woman’s Penalty (vs. 16)
It is only fitting that since Satan attacked mankind through the woman that God would bring about man’s salvation and Satan’s destruction through her. This has already been revealed to Satan in verse 15. Every child born to woman must have troubled Satan.
While salvation would come through the birth of a child, it would not be a painless process. Woman’s sentence comes at the center of her existence. It deals with the bearing of her children. But in the midst of her labor pains she could know that God’s purpose for her was being realized, and that, perhaps, the Messiah would be born through her.
In addition to labor pains, the woman’s relationship to her husband was prescribed. Adam should have led and Eve should have followed. But such was not the case in the fall. Therefore, from this time on women were to be ruled by men: “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (verse 16).
Several things must be said concerning this curse. First of all, it is one which is for all women, not just Eve. Just as all women must share in the pains of childbirth, so they must be subject to the authority of their husbands. This does not in any way imply any inferiority on the part of women. Neither does it justify the restriction of voting rights or withholding equal pay and so on.
For those who refuse to submit to the biblical teaching concerning the role of women in the church—that women must not lead or teach men, and not even speak publicly (I Corinthians 14:33b-36; I Timothy 2:9-15)—let me say this. The role of women in the church and in marriage is not restricted to Paul’s teaching, nor is it to be viewed as only related to the immoral context of Corinth. It is a biblical doctrine, which has its origin in the third chapter of Genesis. That is why Paul wrote,
Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says (I Corinthians 14:34).
To those men and women who wish to disregard God’s instruction I must say, that is precisely what Satan desires. Just as he drew Eve’s attention to the restriction of the one tree, so he wants women to ponder the restriction placed upon women today. “Throw off your shackles,” he urges, “Find self-fulfillment.” “God is keeping you from what is best,” he whispers. And it is a lie! God’s rules have reasons, whether we understand them or not.
For the men, I hasten to add that this verse (and the biblical teaching on the role of women) is no proof text for male superiority or for some kind of dictatorship in marriage. We are to lead by love. Our leadership is to be at our own personal sacrifice, seeking what is best for our wife (Ephesians 5:25ff). Biblical leadership is that patterned after our Lord (cf. Philippians 2:1-8).
The Punishment of Men (vss. 17-20)
Just as Eve’s punishment related to the center of her life, so is the case with Adam. He had been placed in the garden, now he will have to earn a living from the ground “by the sweat of his brow” (verses 17-19).
You will notice that while the serpent is cursed, it is only the ground which is cursed here, and not Adam or Eve. God cursed Satan because He does not intend to rehabilitate or redeem him. But already the purpose of God to save men has been revealed (verse 15).
Not only will Adam have to battle the ground to earn a living, he will eventually return to dust. Spiritual death has already occurred (cf. verses 7-8). Physical death has begun. Apart from the life which God gives, man will simply (though slowly) return to his original state—dust (cf. 2:7).
Adam’s response to God’s penalties and promise is revealed in verse 20: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.”
I believe this act evidenced a simple faith on the part of Adam. He accepted his guilt and punishment, but focused upon the promise of God that through the offspring of woman the Savior would come. Eve’s salvation (and ours as well!) would come through her submission to her husband and through the bearing of children. Adam’s naming the woman, Eve, which means ‘living’ or ‘life’ showed that life would come through Eve.
God is not just a God of penalties, but of gracious provision. Thus, He made for Adam and his wife garments from the skins of animals to cover their nakedness. A veiled prophecy of redemption through the shedding of blood is not, in my opinion, an abuse of this verse.
A Severe Mercy
Satan’s promise had, in a backhanded way, come true. Adam and Eve had, in a sense, become like God in the knowing of good and evil (verse 22). But there is a great difference as well as some similarity. Both man and God knew good and evil, but in a vastly different way.
Perhaps the difference can best be illustrated in this way. A doctor can know of cancer by virtue of his education and experience as a doctor. That is, he has read of cancer, heard lectures on cancer, and seen it in his patients. A patient, also, can know of cancer, but as its victim. While both know of cancer, the patient would wish he had never heard of it. Such is the knowledge which Adam and Eve came to possess.
God had promised salvation to come in time through the birth of Messiah, who would destroy Satan. Adam and Eve might be tempted to gain eternal life through the eating of the fruit of the tree of life. They had chosen knowledge over life. Now, as the Israelites too late tried to possess Canaan (Numbers 14:39-45), so fallen man might attempt to gain life through the tree of life in the garden.
It would seem that had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life they would have lived forever (verse 22). This is the reason God sent them out of the garden (verse 23). In verse 24 the ‘sending out’ of the two is more dramatically called ‘driving out.’ Stationed at the entrance of the garden are the cherubim and the flaming sword.
“How cruel and severe,” some would be tempted to protest. In today’s legal jargon, it would probably be called ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ But think a moment, before you speak rashly. What would have happened had God not driven this couple from the garden and banned their return? I can answer it in one word—hell. Hell is giving men both what they want and what they deserve (cf. Revelation 16:6) forever. Hell is spending eternity in sin, separate from God:
And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (II Thessalonians 1:9).
God was merciful and gracious in putting Adam and Eve out of the garden. He kept them from eternal punishment. Their salvation would not come in a moment, but in time, not easily, but through pain—but it would come. They must trust Him to accomplish it.
I cannot help but think of Paul’s words when I read this chapter, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22).
There is sin, and there is judgment. But the chapter is interlaced with grace. God sought out the sinners. He sentenced them as well, but with a promise of salvation to come. And keeping them from hell on earth, He provides them with a covering for the time and full redemption in time. What a Savior!
Before we focus our attention on the application of this chapter to our own lives, consider for a moment what this Passage would mean to the people of Moses’ day. They had already been delivered out of Egypt and had been given the Law. They had not yet entered into the promised land.
The purpose of the books of Moses (which includes Genesis) is given in Deuteronomy chapter 31:
And it came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, ‘Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death? Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands’ (Deuteronomy 31:24-29).
In many respects Eden was a type of the promised land and Canaan was the antitype. Canaan, like Paradise, was a place of beauty and plenty, a ‘land of milk and honey’ (cf. Deut 31:20). Israel would experience blessing and prosperity so long as they were obedient to the Word of God (Deut 28:1-14). If God’s laws were set aside, they would experience hardship, defeat, poverty, and be cast out of the land (28:15-68). In effect, Canaan was an opportunity for Israel to experience, to a limited degree, the blessings of Eden. Here, as in Eden, God’s people were faced with a decision to make: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity” (Deut 30:15).
Genesis chapter three is far from academic or mere history. It was a word of warning. What happened in Eden would again occur in Canaan (cf. Deuteronomy 31:16ff.). They would be tempted to disobey, just as Adam and Eve were. Serious consideration of this chapter and its implications were essential to Israel’s future.
The chapter is distinctly prophetic as well, for Israel disobeyed and chose the way of death, just as the first couple in the garden. As Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, Israel was put out of the land. But there is hope as well, for God promised a Redeemer, Who would be born of woman (Gen 3:15). God would chasten Israel and bring her back to the land (Deut 30:1ff.). Even then Israel would not be faithful to her God. She must look to the Messiah of Genesis 3:15 to bring her final and permanent restoration. Israel’s history, then, is summarized in Genesis 3.
For us there are many applications. We must not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (II Corinthians 2:11). The manner of his temptation is repeated in the testimony of our Lord in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12). And so he will continue to tempt us today.
Genesis chapter three is vital to Christians today because it alone explains things as they are. Our world is a blend of both beauty and beastliness, of loveliness and that which is ugly. The beauty which remains is evidence of the goodness and greatness of the God Who created all things (cf. Romans 1:18ff). The ugliness is the evidence of man’s sinfulness (Romans 8:18-25).
From what I can tell, the present state of God’s creation was one of the crucial elements in Darwin’s move from orthodoxy to doubt and denial. He did not behold the orderliness of creation and say to himself, “Oh, this must have occurred by chance.” Instead, he looked at the cruelty and ugliness and concluded, “How could a loving, all-powerful God be responsible for this?” The answer, of course, is found in this text in Genesis chapter three: man’s sin has turned God’s creation inside-out.
The only solution is for God to do something to bring about redemption and restoration. This has been accomplished in Jesus Christ. The penalty for man’s sins have been borne by Him. The consequences for Adam’s sins need not destroy us. The choice which confronts us is this: Do we wish to be united with the first Adam or the last? In the first Adam we are constituted sinners and are subject to physical and spiritual death. In the last we become new creatures, with eternal life (physical and spiritual). God has not placed two trees before us, but two men: Adam and Christ. We must decide with whom we will identify. In one of these two our eternal future rests.
There is much to be learned here about sin. Essentially sin is disobedience. Notice that the initial sin did not seem very serious. It might be thought of as a trivial thing. The seriousness of sin can be seen in two significant facts, which are clear from our text.
First, sin is serious because of its roots. The eating of the forbidden fruit was not the essence of the sin, but merely its expression. It is not the source of sin, but its symbol. The partaking of that fruit is similar to the sharing of the elements, the bread and the wine, of the Lord’s table, that is, the act expresses something much more deep and profound. So the root of the sin of Adam and Eve was rebellion, unbelief, and ingratitude. Their act was a deliberate choice to disobey a clear instruction from God. It refused to gratefully accept the good things as from God and the one prohibition as for their good as well. Worst of all, they viewed God as being evil, miserly and threatened, as Satan had portrayed Him.
Secondly, sin is serious because of its fruits. Adam and Eve did not experience a higher form of existence, but shame and guilt. It did not provide them with more to enjoy, but spoiled what they previously experienced without shame. Worse yet, it brought about the downfall of the entire race. The beginnings of the effects of the fall are seen in the rest of the Bible. We see the results of that sin today, in our lives and in society. The result of sin is judgment. That judgment is both present and future (cf. Romans 1: 26-27).
Let me tell you, my friend, that Satan always emphasizes the present pleasures of sin while keeping our minds from their consequences. Sin is never worth the price. It is like the rides at the State Fair: the ride is short and the price is high—incredibly high.
But let us not concentrate upon the sins of Adam and Eve. We should not be shocked to learn that the temptations are the same for men today as in the garden. And the sins are the same as well.
Madison Avenue has taken up the cause of the evil one. Advertising urges us to forget the many blessings we have and to concentrate upon what we do not possess. They suggest that life cannot be experienced fully without some product. For example, we are told, “Coke adds life.” No, it doesn’t; it simply rots your teeth. And then we are urged not to consider the cost or the consequences of indulging ourselves with this one more thing which we need. We can ‘charge it to MasterCard.’
I suspect that there is a bit of a smile forming on your face. You may suppose that I am really getting far afield. Consider what the Apostle Paul tells us about the meaning of Old Testament truths to our present experience:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved (I Corinthians 10:1-6).
What kept Adam and Eve from everlasting blessing was their desire to have pleasure at the cost of unbelief and disobedience. Such, Paul writes, was also the case with Israel (I Cor 10:1-5). The same temptations face us, but God has given us sufficient means to be have victory. What are these means?
(1) We are to understand that denials (doing without, prohibitions) come from the hand of a good and loving God:
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
(2) We must realize that denials are a test of our faith and obedience:
And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
Doing without is not God’s keeping us from blessing, but preparing us for it:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (Heb 11:24-26; cf. Deut 8:6ff)
(3) When we are kept from those things which we think we want we must be careful not to meditate upon what is denied, but upon what is graciously given, and by Whom. Then we must do what we know to be God’s will.
But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, in order that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God (Deut 20:17-18).
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if any thing worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you (Philippians 4:6-9).
Almost daily we find ourselves repeating the sins of Adam and Eve. We ponder what we are forbidden to have. We begin to distrust the goodness of God and His graciousness to us. We worry about things that are really inconsequential. And often, in unbelief, we take matters into our own hands.
Many times I find Christians seriously contemplating sin, knowing it is wrong, and realizing that there will be consequences, but foolishly supposing that the pleasure of sin is greater than its price. How wrong! That was the error of Adam and Eve.
May God enable us to praise Him for those things which He forbids and to trust Him for those things which we need and He promises to provide.
“The overture of this dialogue is thoroughly pious, and the serpent introduces himself as a completely serious and religious beast. He does not say: “I am an atheistic monster and now I am going to take your paradise, your innocence and loyalty, and turn it all upside down.” Instead he says: “Children, today we’re going to talk about religion, we’re going to discuss the ultimate things.” How the World Began (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961), p. 124.
55 Some point out that ‘God’ (‘like God”), in verse 5, is the name Elohim, which is plural. They suggest that we should translate it, “You shall be like gods.” Such a possibility, while grammatically permissible, does not seem worthy of consideration. The same word (Elohim) is found in the first part of verse 5, where God is referred to.
56 “So far as knowledge of good and evil is concerned, one must remember that the Hebrew yd’ (‘to know’) never signifies purely intellectual knowing, but in a much wider sense an ‘experiencing,’ a ‘becoming acquainted with,’ even an ‘ability.’ ‘To know in the ancient world is always to be able as well’ (Wellhaussen). And secondly, ‘good and evil’ may not be limited only to the moral realm. ‘To speak neither good nor evil’ means to say nothing (Gen 31.24,29; 2 Sam 13.22); to do neither good nor evil means to do nothing (Zeph 1:12); to know neither good nor evil (said of children or old people) means to understand nothing (yet) or (any longer) (Deut 1:39; 2 Sam. 19:35 f.) “Good and evil” is therefore a formal way of saying what we mean by our colorless ‘everything’; and here too one must take in its meaning as far as possible.” Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), pp. 86-87.
57 “She partakes of the fruit, she gives to her husband, and he eats also. Someone may ask: ‘Where was Adam all the time?’ The Bible does not tell us. I assume he was present there, because she gave the fruit to him: ‘her husband was with her.’ More we cannot say for the simple reason that the Bible does not say more.” E. J. Young, In the Beginning (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), p. 102.
58 The word seed (zera) can be used collectively as well as individually (cf. Genesis 4:25; I Samuel 1:11; II Samuel 7:12). Here in Genesis 3:15 it is used in both senses, I believe. Kidner states, “The latter, like the seed of Abraham, is both collective (cf. Rom 16:20) and, in the crucial struggle, individual (cf. Gal 3:16), since Jesus as the last Adam summed up mankind in Himself.” Derek Kidner, Genesis (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 71.