This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is a joy to review each chapter with the goal of highlighting the theology of the text and showing how each chapter fits within the overall framework of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole.. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
Before considering this crucial third chapter of Genesis, I encourage the reader to ponder long upon the first two chapters, for only then will the tragedy of the third chapter be appreciated. It is unknown how long the man and the woman experienced the bliss of the Garden of Eden, the garden that was planted by God Himself for the first couple to enjoy and tend to. The writer of Genesis, Moses by the inspiration of God, wrote in chapter 2 of the splendid beauty and nature of the earth prior to the Fall and Flood. We have trouble picturing what it must have been like in the Garden before the Fall, because a world without sin is so alien to us. Also, the cataclysmic world-wide Flood changed the earth in many ways, so that all who have ever read Genesis have been aware of their inability to fully imagine what it was like for the first couple to live in the Garden of Eden.
Having read of the perfection of Creation, we are suddenly jarred by these next events. The man and the woman were perfectly innocent and pure, so that they were in no need of clothing. But now we are introduced to a ‘crafty’ character:
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
A mysterious creature steps onto the stage of Scripture, questioning the Word of God. The serpent is unmasked in later revelation as “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He may have appeared to the woman who was tending the garden fairly close to the forbidden tree while the man was far enough away to be out of ear-shot.
2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
The woman answered the question, seemingly undisturbed that she was talking to an animal, telling the snake that they were supposed to leave the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil alone. She stated that the consequence of eating the fruit would be death. The serpent seized upon this:
4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 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.”
So far in Genesis, the LORD has proclaimed what He is going to do, and it has been completely fulfilled and it has been very good. Now, for the first time, the word of the Lord is brought into question, being cast in a bad light. The serpent was suggesting that God’s Word was not true, that God had withheld an important piece of information from the man and the woman when He commanded them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He is making the woman wonder if they could trust the Creator and take Him at His Word. He wants her to think that God is selfishly keeping something from them that would make them like Him.
So the woman looked closer at the tree:
6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, 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.
In this way the serpent deceived the woman into eating the fruit of the tree. Wherever Adam was, he must have seen that the woman ate and was unharmed. So he took the fruit and ate in open rebellion, calling God’s bluff. But they quickly realize it was not a bluff.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
Now they realized their nakedness, and sought to hide their shame. They made loincloths out of fig leaves that would have been awkward and uncomfortable.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
O the grace of God! He did not storm in with thunder and lightning. He did not rain brimstone and fire upon the garden. He walked in the garden, gently and compassionately calling to Adam, giving him a chance to confess His sin. But how sin had already worked upon the minds of the man and woman, for Adam passes the blame to his wife who likewise passes it to the serpent. How devastating are the effects of sin!
The serpent is never given a chance to speak for himself. God lays down punishment for the three individuals.
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
It has long been surmised from this passage that the serpent once possessed some other form of transportation than slithering through the dirt, although the details can only be conjectured. In verse 15, God spoke to the entity behind the serpent: Satan. He Himself would put enmity between him and the woman as well as the seed of Satan and the seed of the woman. This would result in the seed of the woman bruising Satan on the head and Satan bruising the seed of the woman on the heel. The seed of the woman will become known as the Messiah, who would be born of a virgin and crush Satan’s head by His death on the cross (which would only be a bruising on the heel).
16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
God told the woman that the consequences of listening to the serpent’s word over His own would be great pain in childbirth and an unfulfilled desire to rule over her husband.
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
God pronounced a curse upon Adam and the dust from which he was formed. Mankind would toil in the dust for their food all the days of their life. The man found out that the consequences of disobeying God was indeed death, but he would have to live in a dying body for 900 years before finally succumbing to death and returning to the dust.
20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
Adam renamed his wife, trusting in the promise of God that she would become the mother of all the living (Eve = חוה = life/living). Having demonstrated their belief in the promises of God, God slaughtered an animal to make garments of skin to clothe Adam and Eve, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus to die in the place of sinner and clothe them with His righteousness.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
We are again brought into the counsel of the Trinity who discuss the need to protect the man from eating from the tree of life to become immortal in his cursed estate. So the couple were driven out of the garden to a place where they would have to learn to cultivate the ground in order to eat. God placed a cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life. Again, how great is God’s grace to keep mankind from living forever in their wretched estate.
In this way, Paradise was lost. Sin came into the world through Adam, who openly rebelled against the commandment of God, plunging his descendants into utter depravity. We cannot comprehend the man and the woman’s life in the garden, because we cannot imagine even a moment that is not tainted with sin. This is the condition that all mankind suffers from, for all die. The only remedy is the seed of the woman who was born to crush the serpents head. This is the focus of the rest of Scripture: the coming Seed of the woman who will break the curse of sin and restore the perfection of Creation.
Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a woman several thousand years after this fateful day in the Garden of Eden. Being the Son of God, He lived a sinless life, and was therefore undeserving of death. But He was delivered over to death, according to the plan of God, so that the sin of those who believe in Him would be credited to Him so that He would die in their place, satisfying the wrath of God against them, and that God would credit them with His righteousness. All who trust in Him will be legally declared righteous in God’s sight, and there will not be any condemnation against them on the day of judgment, for it was all poured out on Jesus. Jesus paid it all.
God raised Jesus from the dead, validating Jesus’ atonement of sins. God exalted Jesus to His right hand, where He is now to intercede on behalf of those who believe in Him. And one day, He will return to set up His kingdom where there will be no curse, and He will reign forever. The final chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) prophesy that these things will happen. We know the end of the story! The curse will end, and God will reign in righteousness over the New Creation.
Read Chapter 4
Read Chapter 4