THE SERPENT CASTS A SHADOW OF DOUBT ON THE WORD OF GOD
We come now to what some consider to be the most important chapter of the Bible. It is conceded, I believe, by all conservative expositors to be just that. Chapter 3, is believed to be the pivot of the Bible. If you doubt that, read chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, omit chapter 3, and then read chapters 4–11. You will find that there is a tremendous vacuum that needs to be filled, that something has happened.
For instance, in Genesis 1 and 2, we find man in innocence; everything is perfection, and there is fellowship between God and man. But the minute you begin with chapter 4 of Genesis and read just as far as chapter 11, you find jealousy, anger, murder, lying, wickedness, corruption, rebellion, and judgment. The question is: Where did it all come from? Where did it begin? Where did the sin originate? Actually, I do not think it originated in chapter 3 of Genesis, but as far as man is concerned, here is where it began.
Let me quote for you the statement of another concerning chapter 3:
Here we trace back to their source many of the rivers of divine truth. Here commences the great drama which is being enacted on the stage of human history and which well nigh 6,000 years has not yet completed. Here we find the divine explanation of the present fallen and ruined condition of our race. Here we learn of the subtle devices of our enemy, the devil.
Here we behold the utter powerlessness of man to walk in the path of righteousness when divine grace is withheld from him. Here we discover the spiritual effects of sin, man seeking to flee from God. Here we discern the attitude of God toward the guilty sinner.
Here we mark the universal tendency of human nature to cover its own moral shame by a device of man’s own handiwork. Here we are taught of the gracious provision which God has made to meet our great need. Here begins that marvelous stream of prophecy which runs all through the Holy Scriptures. Here we learn that man cannot approach God except through a mediator.
In this first section we have the setting for the temptation of man.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.
- The word “subtle,” as used here, is not negative, but rather positive; everything that God made before the Fall was positive; it describes qualities such as quickness of sight, swiftness of motion, activity of self-preservation, and seemingly intelligent adaptation to its surroundings.
And he said unto the woman,
- Not a fable; the serpent before the Fall had the ability of limited speech; Eve did not seem surprised when he spoke to her!
Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the Garden?
- The serpent evidently lent its faculties to Satan, even though the Evil One is not mentioned. That being the case, Satan spoke through the serpent, and questioned the Word of God.
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
And the woman said unto the serpent,
- Proclaims Satan leveling his attack against Eve, instead of Adam; his use of Eve was only a means to get to Adam.
We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the Garden:
- The trial of our first parents was ordained by God, because probation was essential to their spiritual development and self-determination; but as He did not desire that they should be tempted to their Fall, He would not suffer Satan to tempt them in a way that would surpass their human capacity; the tempted might, therefore, have resisted the tempter.
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
- Eve quoted what the Lord had said about the prohibition, but then added, “neither shall you touch it”.
THE SERPENT DENIES THE WORD OF GOD
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
- Proclaims an outright denial of the Word of God; as God had preached to Adam, Satan now preaches to Eve; Jesus called Satan a liar, which probably refers to this very moment [Jn. 8:44].
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened,
- This suggests the attainment of higher wisdom.
and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
- This, in effect says, “You shall be Elohim.” It was a promise of Divinity. God is Omniscient, meaning that His knowledge of evil is thorough, but not by personal experience. By His very Nature, He is totally separate from all that is evil. The knowledge of evil that Adam and Eve would learn would be by moral degradation, which would bring wreckage. While it was proper to desire to be like God, it is proper only if done in the right way, and that is through Faith in Christ and what He has done for us at the Cross.
THE MAN AND WOMAN DISOBEY THE WORD OF GOD
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
- This presents the lust of the eyes.
and that it was pleasant to the eyes,
- This presents the lust of the flesh.
and a tree to be desired to make one wise,
- This exemplifies the pride of life.
she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat,
- This constitutes the Fall of humanity.
and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
- This refers to the fact that evidently Adam was an observer to all these proceedings;
- Some claim that he ate of the forbidden fruit which she offered him out of love for her; however, no one ever sins out of love;
- Eve submitted to the temptation out of deception, but “Adam was not deceived” [I Tim. 2:14]; he fell because of unbelief; he simply didn’t believe what God had said about the situation;
- Contrast Verse 6 with Luke 4:1-13; both present the three temptations, “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life”; the first man falls, the Second Man conquers.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
And the eyes of them both were opened,
- This refers to the consciousness of guilt as a result of their sin.
and they knew that they were naked;
- This refers to the fact that they had lost the covering light of purity, which previously had clothed their bodies.
and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
- Now, the sinners clothe themselves with morality, sacraments, and religious ceremonies; they are as worthless as Adam’s apron of fig leaves.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
- It may seem odd that God is described as walking in the garden, since “God is a spirit” ( John 4: 24 ). The language is most likely a way of portraying the closeness that has characterized the relationship between God and the two humans to this point. One may assume that Adam and Eve’s “walk” up to now has pleased God, and they have welcomed the opportunity to walk with Him whenever He comes into the garden. That situation is about to change.
And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
- Adam and his wife no longer welcome the sound of God’s approach. The trees of the garden that have been given to them for their pleasure and enjoyment ( Genesis 2: 16 ) are now used as a shield to hide behind. The two are trying to avoid having to face the Lord.
And the LORD God called unto Adam , and said unto him, Where art thou?
- God already knows where Adam is, of course. God asks Where art thou? because Adam needs to know that God desires a word with him.
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
- Adam’s admission of being afraid signals the end of the closeness that has characterized the relationship that he and Eve have enjoyed between themselves and God to this point. The nakedness that had produced no shame previously ( Genesis 2: 25 ) is now a source of shame. Adam is not fully naked at this point since both he and Eve have clothed themselves ( 3: 7 ). But even though Adam has covered his physical nakedness, he senses that he has not covered it enough to be comfortable in the presence of God.
- It is tragically, painfully clear at this point that the serpent has lied. Yes, the eyes of the two humans are open as the serpent had promised ( Genesis 3: 5 , 7 ); but “knowing good and evil” (v. 5 ) is not the pleasurable experience that the serpent had led them to believe it would be. Adam “knows” he is guilty of the evil of breaking God’s commandment; he “knows” he can no longer be close with God. It would have been far better for him simply to have trusted and obeyed God than to possess the bitter knowledge that he has acquired through disobedience.
And he said , Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
- Again, it is not information that God seeks as He questions Adam. Rather, the questions are designed to get Adam to realize something. The second of the Lord’s questions goes straight to the heart of the matter: has Adam disobeyed the clear command given him by his Creator?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
- Adam avoids giving direct answers to the Lord’s questions. Instead, Adam points an accusing finger at the woman— the very person whom he had earlier described ecstatically as “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” ( Genesis 2: 23 )! Now it appears that he wants nothing to do with her. Adam even suggests that some blame be placed upon the Lord since Eve is the woman whom thou gavest to be with me. Perhaps Adam is implying that being “alone” would not have been such a bad thing after all, in contrast with what the Lord had stated ( 2: 18 ).
- Adam is correct when he says she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. That is indeed what happened according to Genesis 3: 6 . But for Adam to create a scenario that absolves him of all guilt and responsibility is a consequence of the fall that humans continue to practice and perfect. We call it “blame-shifting.”
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
- Now God speaks to the woman. The tone appears a bit softer than that used with the man. Perhaps this is because the man had received from the Lord himself the command not to eat from the forbidden tree ( Genesis 2: 17 ), while the woman apparently knows of the command from the man. Even so , the woman knew about this command before breaking it ( 3: 2 , 3 ).
- Eve admits more of the truth than Adam does. Her statement the serpent beguiled me may reveal some blame-shifting on her part, but the key word beguiled indicates that she knows that a deception has occurred. The serpent is the source of the deception. The bliss and delight that he implied would belong to the man and the woman are nowhere to be found.
THE DESIGN OF GOD FOR THE FUTURE
This man, this creature that God has made, has now turned aside from God, and God must deal with him and must judge him.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
- Since the serpent has been the instrument of deception, God addresses him first in judgment. God’s pronouncement of a curse on the serpent above all cattle, and above every beast of the field seems to say that all other creatures will suffer negative effects as a result of sin’s entrance into the world (see Romans 8: 22 , 23 ), but the serpent will be punished more severely than they.
- Some suggest that the words upon thy belly shalt thou go imply that the serpent stands upright prior to this curse. But this phrase may mean that the serpent’s crawling will now carry with it a meaning of contempt that was not present previously. The idea of eating dust likely signifies humiliation or shame, which it does elsewhere in Scripture (see Psalm 72: 9 ; Isaiah 49: 23 ; Micah 7: 17 ).
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
- The enmity, or hostility, mentioned here is reflected to some extent in the aversion most people have to snakes. But the language of this verse, especially toward the end, points to a deeper spiritual hostility that understands the seed of the serpent to be linked with Satan and all who carry out his evil intentions (compare John 8: 44 ). Satan’s continuing desire is to ruin lives by deceit (just as he ruined Eve’s ), thereby thwarting God’s righteous purposes toward those created in His image (compare Revelation 12: 9 ).
- In time, however, one seed (descendant) of the woman fulfills God’s purpose by dealing Satan a death blow. This is pictured here as striking the enemy’s head. Jesus does this by means of His death on the cross ( Hebrews 2: 14 , 15 ; compare 1 John 3: 8 ). That Satan is to bruise his heel indicates that Satan inflicts a measure of suffering on the Son of God, but this in no way causes the kind of damage that Jesus inflicts on Satan.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
- God turns His attention to the woman. Childbearing was to occur as a part of God’s plan prior to the fall ( Genesis 1: 28 ), but now the process of multiplying through childbearing will be accompanied by a multiplying of sorrow, referring primarily to the pain involved in giving birth.
- Some suggest that a part of this sorrow includes the understanding that any child will enter a world greatly tainted by sin. Who can foresee what aspects of the curse of sin lie ahead for a newborn baby as he or she matures? Despite a parent’s best intentions, a child will experience the sorrows of life in a fallen world— and for some that sorrow will be especially tragic.
- Another consequence for the woman is stated, one that affects the relationship between husband and wife: and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. This has been interpreted in various ways. One idea is that it means she will still desire her husband in spite of the pain of childbirth, and that he will use that to dominate her in the relationship.
- It seems better, however, to view this statement as a description of the tension, in the sense of a power struggle, that will characterize the relationship between a husband and a wife as a result of the fall. The harmony and unity that was so eloquently expressed by Adam when the Lord brought the woman to him ( Genesis 2: 23 ) will now be a struggle to maintain.
- No man should interpret the language of this verse as a license to mistreat his wife. He must honor God in the way he treats his spouse, a principle discussed by Paul, who uses Christ’s love for the church as a model ( Ephesians 5: 25 ).
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee , saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
- Now addressing the man, God makes Adam’s blame clear: he hast hearkened unto the voice of [his] wife rather than to God’s voice. Then the man’s punishment is pronounced: cursed is the ground for thy sake. Like the woman, the man will experience his own version of sorrow; it will come in his efforts to bring forth food from the ground. God had placed the man in the Garden of Eden “to dress it and to keep it” ( Genesis 2: 15 ). This task was intended to be a source of satisfaction as the man worked in harmony with his Creator. Now, however, such work will be much more of a drudgery or toil.
- Thus the important tasks given for the man and the woman will still be done: children will to be born and crops will be harvested. But the struggle to carry out these duties will always be a reminder of the high price of disobeying God.
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you;
- Thorns and thistles were not originally in the creation of God, this being a result of the curse, which is a result of the sin of man.
and you shall eat the herb of the field;
- This would not now grow freely, as originally intended, but only now with great care and great labor.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread,
- This food will be obtained by hard labor.
till you return unto the ground;
- The life-source, which was formerly in God, is now in food, and which is woefully insufficient.
for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.
- The Power of God alone could keep the dust alive; that being gone, to dust man returns.
THE DOCTRINE OF REDEMPTION INTRODUCED
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
- The story ends with some final arrangements. The woman needs a name, and Adam served as the namer-in-chief earlier (Genesis 2: 19, 20). He gives her a hopeful name, one based on the word for living. Adam understands that Eve will produce babies and multiply the number of humans (1: 28).
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
- Following the devastating announcements of discipline, God proceeds to demonstrate an act of grace: He makes coats of skins for the couple.
- The two have already made coverings of fig leaves for themselves ( Genesis 3: 7 ), and we wonder if the additional covering of skins foreshadows the system of animal sacrifices that God will institute later. Nothing is said in the Bible about this.
- The immediate message to Adam and Eve is what should not be overlooked: the God who has just disciplined them still cares deeply for them.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
- The author gives a divine detail at this juncture: the gist of God’s rationale for expelling the two from the garden. Things have changed, and sin has caused a loss of innocence for the man and his companion.
- God foresees that Adam has become as one of us. The “us” is not specified. Some see this as God’s addressing His heavenly council of angels (compare Job 1: 6). Others see it as conversation between the three persons of the Triune. Still others see it as the “plural of majesty”.
- To lose access to the tree of life signs the death warrant of Adam and Eve. Instead of living forever, they will age and eventually die. Another future feature of the New Jerusalem is year-round access to the tree of life, planted in or straddling the river of life (Revelation 22: 2).
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
- Perhaps this verse offers one reason why the Lord has clothed the couple: to prepare them for life away from the garden of Eden, from which they are now expelled. In verse 22 (not in today’s text), God gives the reason for their eviction— so that they, in their fallen condition, will not eat of the tree of life and live forever. This is an act of discipline, but it is also one of grace. Sin-cursed humanity must be protected from itself. Unchecked sin would be catastrophic.
- The Hebrew word translated till is the same as that translated “dress” in Genesis 2: 15 . The man will continue to do the work he was doing in the garden, only now he will do so with the grim awareness that the ground from which he has been made is cursed ( 3: 17 ). He has no one to blame for this sad outcome but himself.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
- The Lord takes extraordinary measures to prevent contact with the precious tree of life, posting a guard of heavenly beings known as Cherubims (compare Ezekiel 10: 20).
- Although stated as guarding the east side of Eden, the implication is that the Cherubims prevent any approach to the special tree. This raises a question: Why didn’t God just destroy the garden and its location.
- The Bible does not address this issue specifically. Given that the garden of Eden is not to be found anywhere today, God either did destroy it eventually or allowed forces of nature to overtake it.
- Traditionally, the garden is located in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. We search in vain, though, to find this exact spot.
- We will only see it restored as the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22.
I hope that you have really enjoyed this post,
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