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Genesis study & commentary

Genesis 3

By Doug Ford
The fall of man;

Chapter 3:1

Suddenly there is 'crafty' in the garden.  The New King James says 'the serpent was more cunning'.  The King James says 'the serpent was more subtle'.  This trait, in and of itself, is not sinful.  It only becomes so, when used for a sinful purpose.  The garden and all that was in it were created by God.  This snake, created by God, used cunning to cast doubt on what God said.   How could this happen?


Last we saw, everything was very good in creation; all the heavens and earth, animals and plants, land and sea, light and dark were all in order.  Did evil now exist in the garden?  We can go to Revelation for a hint; in 12:7 is says:

"That ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."   

In Revelation 20:2 it says:

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

The ancient serpent, this one who leads the whole world astray is the devil, Satan.  It seems that at some point after the seventh day, Satan was cast from heaven. 


Ezekiel 28:12-15

"You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. "You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.


Satan was also a created being; he had been in the Garden.  Satan had been an archangel like Michael before the fall.  Yet we know he was cast from heaven because iniquity was found in him.  He wanted to be like God.  Satan is the serpent of old.  He is the master of deception.  He started out saying "hath God really said?"  And he continues today casting doubt on God's word.  Satan has been successful in breeding contempt against those who love God's word.


The snake was just as much a part of God's creation as any other animal.  Yet, it was this one that Satan chose to work through.   The Hebrew word for snake is 'nacash'.  When used elsewhere as part of a proper name, there is indication it can also mean 'shiny divine being'.  This association probably grew out of the idea Satan was the being behind the snake.  This serpent was in some form that Eve accepted; the serpent itself wasn't evil.  Satan used it to bring deception and doubt.  Is it possible before the fall, the snake was one of the most beautiful creatures in the garden?  We don't really know. 


The text tells us the snake spoke.  Eve was not surprised at a talking snake.  The snake struck up a conversation with her and it appears normal and everyday practice.  Living in perfection, Eve had no reason to suspect any evil, she knew no evil.  There was no suspicion or doubt.  Everything was open and honest and truth.  In saying, "Did God really say?" Satan cast doubt on what God said, and insinuated there must be some mistake.  Satan only included the negative part of the statement and he twisted it to make it a bigger restriction than it really was (any).  He left out the positive part; that they could eat of all the other trees.  He created doubt.


Not only had Eve never experienced anyone doubting God, she never experienced any kind of doubt at all.  The only defense she had against this was her trust of God.  The 'shiny divine' one came to her as a snake, something normal to her.  When he began to speak, he was slithering into what was normal, everyday life.


Note: since Satan had been in the garden before the fall, is it reasonable to think there were other angels in the garden?


In chapter 2 we were introduced to Yahweh Elohim, the personal creator God.  The One who created us in His image.  We saw Him as provider and protector in placing mankind in the garden.  We saw Him as Father as He gave Eve to Adam for his bride.  When Satan begins to speak of God, he uses the term 'Elohim'.  He portrays God as distant and impersonal, mysterious and elusive.  Even in Eve's response, she calls Him Elohim instead of Yahweh Elohim. 


We know Satan's goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He wanted to destroy God's creation, steal is sovereignty and bring spiritual death to His creation.   He didn't come in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork.  He was a beautiful creature that seemed very normal and natural.  The minute she responded to His prompting and spoke to him, she was being drawn into his trap.  Satan is just as cunnings today and continues to steal, kill and destroy.  Jesus said:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  (John 8:44)


Genesis 3:2-3

When eve answered the serpent, she made three changes to what God said. 

  1. Eve corrected the serpent, but not exactly.  She said they could eat from the trees, downplaying, or minimizing the privilege to eat of 'every' tree but one.
  2. Eve also embellished the restriction, adding that they couldn't 'touch' the tree.  God had not given this restriction. 
  3. And finally, she punishment for eating was, "You will certainly die."  This is strong, emphatic, but Eve lessened it to 'you will die'. 

Eve is getting drawn in, we can see it coming.  Think of all the variety of trees that must have been available to her in the garden, yet there was only one tree she was interested in; the tree she was restricted from.  She was already starting to justify what she wanted to do by making God sound unfair.  The snake, one of God's created beings becomes an instrument of Satan.  Eve, in turn, created in God's image becomes a tool of Satan. 


Why did Satan go to the woman?  Was she weak and vulnerable without Adam?  Where was Adam, her protector?  Satan will always attack where you are most vulnerable.  He will poke and prod until he finds a weak spot.  Then he will launch a relentless attack.  We must be on guard to recognize these attacks. 


Genesis 3:4-5

How quickly this woman created in God's image began to doubt the One she reflected, Her creator and Father.  Satan lead her to believe the idea of dying from eating the fruit of this tree was a far-fetched idea; as if God were exaggerating.  It's God's word against the serpent's word; who should she believe?  He quickly followed with the thought that God is hiding something, that He's jealous and withholding something from humanity that they should possess.  This idea of 'knowing good and evil' is divine wisdom.  Satan is offering this wisdom with all the eternal privileges they already possess.  It's as if he is offering her what God has held back using scare tactics.  He's dangling the carrot of moral autonomy in front of her.  What a temptation; she believes she will be able to decide what is best for her; what she will and won't eat.  She does not tie the pursuit of the restricted with the possible loss of the privilege. 


Some have said, that the number one funeral song among unbelievers is Frank Sinatra's My Way.  It starts:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full
I've traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way


There's something about this that appeals to our flesh; to be in charge, to take nothing from anyone, to face the challenges and overcome by our own strength.  The song appeals to the fallen nature and pride that exists in us.  The idea of doing it 'my way' is what got Eve in trouble.


 'You will not surely die' is the first lie told to man and they haven't stopped since.  Satan constantly challenges the word of God.  Then he challenges the judgment – 'You will not surely die.'  Then he'll cause confusion and doubt.  Satan makes it sound like God is protecting His power.


How often have we been caught in Satan's snare of deceit when we are doing something that seems so normal and natural, we can't imagine it is sin?  How often do we listen to that whisper that asks us, "Has God really said?"  We've all found ourselves in that place where we've abandoned our faith and belief in what God has told us.


Genesis 3:6-7

The temptation entered through her sight, it was a delight to her eyes.  This seems to be temptations quickest trigger to sin.  The appeal to our flesh comes right through the eyes.  The appearance of innocence and pleasure and desire were all used as justifications to moral autonomy.  She had decided that God had been keeping something from her and this snake was right.  She came to this decision standing in the garden of paradise, with a perfect life and marriage.  She lived in God's presence.  It just all seems so crazy.  Sin always looks fun or desirable and it often is for a season, but it brings sorrow, pain and misery.  Ultimately, we know from Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh.… It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money.… Joy in God is … extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real.… Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.… The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. The questions present themselves: "Is what the flesh desires really sin in this case?" "Is it really not permitted to me, yes—expected of me, now, here, in my particular situation, to appease desire?"… It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.[1]


Eve saw it, desired it, took it and ate it.  She didn't know what evil was until that very moment when she disobeyed her Father and Creator.  She could not have known what she had just loss for all of mankind.  And while we might look at Eve and angrily say, "Thanks a lot for the mess you created!", we ought to also consider how many times we've done the same.  Instead of trusting in what God has spoken and revealed, decisions are made based on what is seen, thoughts, emotions and feelings.  Like Eve, we trust our own judgment over what God tells us.  Why do we do this?  Why is it so hard to trust Him who is truth?  Why is it so easy to trust ourselves when we know we are our own worst enemy at times?


After Eve had eaten of the fruit, she gave some to Adam.  It says he was with her.  It appears that Adam was at her side all along.  Did he stand by as his wife was deceived?  She gave him some of the fruit and, with no deception, he ate it.  This was a direct transgression without deception on Adam's part.  It was his choice to join her in her sin.


1 Timothy 2:13

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.


Once the sin occurred, they attempted to cover their sin with the works of their hand.  Their eyes were on themselves instead of God and each other.  They saw evil and it was in them as shame and pride enter the garden.  Innocence was gone, fear and guilt gripped them.  They understood temptation and doubt.  Mankind hasn't changed all that much since the beginning.  We still attempt to cover our sin with the work of our hands.    


Revelation 16:15 says:

"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."


The covering of our shame is not in the works of our hands, but in the blood of Jesus.  If He comes as a thief, unexpected, will you be caught naked in your shame, bearing your sin with no covering?  If so, you are without hope.  However, if you have repented of your sin and trusted in Christ, then His shed blood covers us.  We are clothed in His righteousness.  When he comes as a thief, he will see the His righteousness instead of our shame.


Genesis 3:8-11

What kind of sound would God make walking in the garden?  This is the first occurrence of an anthropomorphism in the bible (where the Lord is portrayed as having human qualities).  When God appears as a human in the Old Testament it is a theophany.  What did Adam and Eve hear?  Whatever it sound they heard, they knew it was the Lord.  Was it the sound of singing?  The 'cool of the day' is a difficult phrase here.    The Hebrew word translated to 'cool' is ruach; which is usually translated to spirit or breath.  Adam and Eve went into hiding, now scared to appear before Him, like children racked with guilt for misbehaving.  This was their first experience with fear, the first fear in the world.  They now had experiential knowledge of evil and the affects of it.  The openness of being in fellowship with God was now gone.  He was close enough for them to hear Him walking, yet now so far away.  The cool of day had become uncomfortable.  Instead of enjoying the best of the day in fellowship with God, they hide.  They actually thought they could hide from the Lord. 


Psalm 139:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me,

And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,"

Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,

But the night shines as the day;

The darkness and the light are both alike to You.


When God asked where they were, He already knew.  This was an opportunity for them to confess their sin, to run back to Him in repentance.  But the combination of shame and pride is a powerful enemy.  We've all tried to hide from God, haven't we?  At some point in our life it's happened to each of us.  Maybe that's where you are today.  If so, it's time to renew the relationship through Jesus Christ.  Abide in him and he will abide in you.


Genesis 3:12-13

Adam didn't answer the question; he didn't confess to doing anything wrong.  The question was specifically about eating from the forbidden tree.  This rule was given to Adam directly.  On the surface, it seems as if Adam blamed Eve, she had given him the fruit.  Adam was really blaming God, it was His fault because He gave that woman to him.  He almost implied there was something wrong with her, she was apparently dangerous; a real lose canon!  Adam plays himself off as a victim.  However, God's question was, "did you eat?"  James addressed this victim argument in the New Testament:

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)


Eve was asked a different question, "What is this you have done?"  Eve at least admitted she ate from the tree, but she puts the blame on the serpent.  The serpent's deception made her eat.  We might see this as the first use of the 'the devil made me do it' argument. 


Eve fell to deception while she knew of the rule through Adam.  However, Adam knew better, the Lord told him directly not to eat from the tree.  He stood by Eve and sinned willingly, joining her in her predicament.  It is our self-righteousness and self-justification that grasps the victim argument of blames others for our decision.  We stand boldly with our chest poked out and make decisions as if we were sovereign and we alone will decide what is good for us.  Then when it goes bad we cower and blame and offer excuses.  It is a pathetic sight.  It's never easy to admit we've sinned.  Just think how lame our justifications, arguments and excuses must sound to God.  Mankind hasn't outgrown this self-justification.  It is alive and well in our world today.


Deception brought temptation, leading to disobedience, bringing about sin, leading to the curse and the fall of mankind:

  • Life gave way to death
  • Pleasure yielded to pain
  • Abundance had become meager subsistence
  • The Perfect marriage and fellowship and become alienation and conflict.

Donald Grey Barnhouse has pictured what happened as a three-story house that was bombed in wartime. The bomb had destroyed the top floor entirely, the debris of which had fallen down into the second floor, severely damaging it. The weight of the two ruined floors produced cracks in the walls of the first floor so that it was doomed to collapse eventually. Thus it was with Adam. His body was the dwelling of the soul, and his spirit was above that. When he fell the spirit was entirely destroyed, the soul ruined, and the body destined to a final collapse.[1]


Genesis 3:14-15

The snake is dealt with first; within the curse God offers were see three things.

  1. The snake is cursed.  Any animal causing harm to an image bearer is dealt with harshly.  The serpent is cursed above all the animals.  The snake is defeated and low, on its belly and in the dust.  It is implied this is a new place for the snake as if it were upright or had legs prior to this.
  2. Satan, the words and power behind the snake, is dealt with.  Like the snake, he is defeated.  The offspring of the serpent will be at war with the offspring (seed) of the woman.  The offspring of the woman will crush the head (fatal) while the serpent strikes the heal (non-fatal) of the woman's offspring.
  3. The first gospel (protoevangelium) is revealed.  God's grace is revealed.  It is Christ who would crush Satan's head. 

Adam and Eve would not have known death.  But now physical death had become possible for the first time since creation.  Spiritual death was immediate.  Life as they knew it was dying.  Many believe that from this point going forward, the world began to wind down – dying a slow death – heading toward the end – the Revelation or the apocalypse.  This is the beginning of the end.


Genesis 3:16

The curse brought with it specific life changes for the woman.  The effortless and carefree life of the garden was gone.  It was replaced with a life of turmoil and pain. The woman would now bear tremendous pain during childbirth as a reminder that Eve gave birth to all sin and that at each birth it is passed on.  In many ways the pain did not stop there.  The woman would see the sin in her offspring as she attempted to teach and guide and correct.  The child would offer excuses for sin and cast blame on others and fail to admit any fault.  Ever sin pointed back to this first one. 


The desire of the woman would be to rule over her husband, to conquer and control him, but he would rule over her.  Sin would cause her to struggle with her relationship with the man; with the order of things as God ordained them. 


Genesis 3:17-19

Adam is reminded of his failing and then cursed to a life of hard labor and death.  His body was now mortal and, instead of living in paradise, he now had to work for food.  Instead of tending the cool garden he was now plowing in the hot sun.  His 'painful toil' is the same word as Eve's 'painful labor'.  Instead of a wide variety of trees to eat from, he would grind out a meager existence among the thorns and thistles.  Man's fate was a painful existence and then return to the soil. 


Genesis 3:20-24

The garments of skin presumably came from the death of animals.  God provided a sacrifice that covered their sin.  The first shedding of innocent blood for the covering of mankind.  This shedding of blood was God's provision for mankind in their sinful state.  This was fitting and sufficient where the sewn fig leaves, the work of man's hand, was not. 


Even in their disobedience, God was caring for them.  Grace was displayed.  It is veiled display of the gospel pointing forward to the day when Christ would become the perfect sacrifice for their sin.   


It is God's grace that delivered man and woman from the guilt and fear of the garden.  There was no opportunity for them to remain in constant fellowship with God, He cannot abide in sin.  They had become fallen, lawbreakers.  In addition, it was an act of mercy.  To know evil and then eat from the tree of life and live forever is to be damned to a fallen, eternal existence.  The penalty of physical death because of sin was an act of mercy.  Adam and Eve were cast out and God blocked the way to the garden, for now.   


As death was an escape from sin and eternal damnation, so it is when we die of ourselves and are born again.  The death of our will; the death of our moral autonomoy (where we decide what's best for us), the death of our pride is to die to self.  We come to Jesus with nothing to offer but repentance and faith.  As we die to self, death is our escape from sin.  We are given a new heart when we are born again.


In verse 23 God sent them out of the Garden.  Then in verse 24 it says He drove them out.  It appears they may have been reluctant to go.  Imagine what they were walking away from and what they were walking towards.  They crossed the threshold of paradise and stepped into the fallen world in which we live in today.   Imagine how they must have looked back and wished it might have been different.  Yet, there is no mention of repentance from them.  They had to be keenly aware of all they had lost.


The flaming sword was to protect us from our foolishness.  It would be foolish to be sinful and have eternal life.  In the sword we see a symbol of war of enmity between God and man.  Man had, in a sense, declared war on God.  In the flames we see the consuming fire of God.  God's angels, his sword and consuming fire keep fallen man from the tree of life. 


            In Ecclesiastes (7:29), Solomon wrote, "

Truly, this only I have found:

That God made man upright,

But they have sought out many schemes."


©2019 Doug Ford


[1] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 75). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.