As you read about what happens in Genesis chapter three, you’re certain to find some things that should be familiar to everyone.
For example, is there anyone who hasn’t been tricked or deceived by someone else? Well, that happens in Genesis chapter three. Is there anyone who hasn’t made a horrible choice and lived to regret it later on? That happens in Genesis chapter three as well. Is there anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to fall into temptation and knowingly do something that they shouldn’t have done? These are things that are common to the human experience and we see all of them occur in Genesis chapter three.
Genesis chapter three also answers some basic questions about why things are the way that they are in our world today. For instance, have you ever really thought about why the world can be such a bad place? Have you ever asked yourself why people lie, cheat, steal, and even kill each other? Have you ever wondered why things like disease and death exist? Have you ever thought about why so many things seem to have no purpose or meaning in life? Have you ever wondered how everything got to be this way?
But the truth is that we can narrow these questions down even further. For example, have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I do things that I know are wrong? Why do I do things that I know are going to hurt myself and other people? Why does there always seem to be so much pain in my life? Why do things seem so meaningless and without purpose in my own life?”
You see, if we are really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there are some things that are very wrong in our world today. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that things are really not the way they should be. And if we’re really, really honest with ourselves, we must confess that we are not the way we should be either.
Genesis chapter three tells us how things got to be the way they are today and once you know how everything got broken, it then becomes a lot easier to know how to get them fixed.
If we were to think of Genesis chapter three in terms of a theatrical drama, it would be resemble a play with four main characters. The first character enters with the specific intent to deceive someone else. Character number two is set up as the target of that deception. The third character enters but knowingly does something wrong. The fourth and final Person is left to come in, clean up the mess, and start the process necessary to make everything right.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'” (Genesis 3:1-5).
Now when most people think about a serpent today, the image of a snake-like creature is probably what comes to mind. So let’s imagine that you are walking along in the garden of Eden and all of a sudden, a talking serpent comes up to you and starts having a conversation. If you were in that situation, would you respond by continuing the conversation as if this was nothing out of the ordinary?
For most people, the answer would be probably not. This may be an indication that the serpent mentioned in Genesis chapter three was not like the snakes or serpents that we know today, at least not at the beginning. But we’ll talk more about that as we move on towards the end of this chapter.
Anyway, it might be tempting to read these verses and think, “Wait a minute- I just read in the first two chapters how God made everything. It says that God saw that everything He made was good. The one thing that wasn’t good was for the man to be alone and God fixed that by making a woman. Now this serpent suddenly shows up out of nowhere and starts telling lies- what’s up with that??”
Well, as it turns out, Eve is having a conversation with a creature that is either personified by the devil or possibly with the devil himself. We can say this with certainty because the last book of the Bible identifies the individual who is really behind what’s happening in these verses.
You see, the book of Revelation speaks twice about, “…that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan…” in Revelation 12:9 and Revelation 20:2. So we know that this serpent in Genesis chapter three is either Satan himself or some type of creature that he is using as a tool for his purposes.
So how did this come to be? Where did this cunning, crafty, subtle liar in the garden of Eden come from?
Well, probably everyone has heard of the devil, a being who is also known as Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, and so forth. Satan is sometimes portrayed as a comical individual with a red suit, horns, and a pitchfork. Sometimes he is depicted as God’s opposite, a kind of “anti-god” or evil god who is locked in an eternal struggle for people’s souls. But in reality, the devil is neither a clown or God’s “anti-equal.”
The individual that we call “the devil” is actually a fallen angelic being. “Satan” is his name and “devil” is his title or “job description” if you want to think of it that way. The word devil means “accuser.” It comes from a word that means, “a false witness.” (1) The name Satan means “adversary” which implies that he is an enemy or opponent. (2)
Contrary to what many people believe, the Bible does not represent Satan as a myth or a legend but as an actual being. For example…
- Satan has the ability to reason (Job 1:9-10)
- He has emotions (Revelation 12:17)
- He has desires (Luke 22:31)
- He has plans (Ephesians 6:11)
- And he has the ability to carry out his intentions (2 Timothy 2:26).
So where did Satan come from and how did he end up in the garden of Eden? Well, there are two Old Testament passages that have some information on Satan and his beginnings. These two passages are found in the Biblical books of Isaiah (in chapter fourteen, verses twelve to fifteen [14:12-15]) and Ezekiel (in chapter twenty eight, verses eleven to nineteen [28:11-19]).
For example, if you read Ezekiel 28:12-13, you’ll find that it tells us how God instructed the prophet Ezekiel to “Take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre.” Tyre was an ancient city that was located on the coast of the Mediterranean sea with residents who had done some things that really offended God.
However, when you go on to read what God tells Ezekiel to say, you’ll find that the subject is a guardian angelic being who was on the holy mountain of God in Eden. So it seems that Ezekiel was doing much more than just speaking to the king of this city- he was speaking of someone who was the real power behind that king’s actions.
And who was that “someone”? Well, Isaiah and Ezekiel tell us about a being who was, “…the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). He was blameless in all his ways until he became proud of his beauty. At that time, wickedness was found in him and he grew corrupt because of his splendor according to Ezekiel 28:15-17. Finally, he began to plot to take over the throne of God saying, “…I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14).
(1) Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.
(2) The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993
In fact, we can learn a lot more about Satan’s origin by taking a closer look at Isaiah 14:13-14…
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High'” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
These statements have been called the five “I will’s” of Satan. Let’s take a look at each of them and see what they can tell us about who Satan is and what he is all about…
- “I will ascend to heaven.” Heaven is the place of God and it appears that Satan wanted to rise to a position of equal (or greater) importance than God.
- “I will raise my throne above the stars of God.” Scholar-types believe that the word “stars” is a reference to other angelic beings. This tells us that Satan wanted to have the same rule and authority over other angels as God does.
- “I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.” Earlier in the book of Isaiah it says that, “…the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2). So it appears that one of Satan’s goals was to replace God as the highest authority and have everyone look to him instead of God.
- “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds.” This is a poetic way of saying that Satan wanted to be the highest, greatest, and uppermost being in the universe.
- “I will make myself like the Most High.” This tells us that Satan wanted the same power, authority, and worship as God.
Because of this attempt to overthrow God and put himself in God’s place, Satan’s name was changed from Lucifer (which means shining one or morning star) to Satan (adversary). Satan was thrown out of heaven according to Isaiah 14:12 but he apparently still has some sort of limited access (you can see Job 1:6-10 for an example).
The Bible doesn’t tell us when all this happened, but we know that these things must have occurred sometime before Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden because Satan coordinated that event in the personage of this serpent.
In the Bible, Satan is referred to as…
- The evil one (Matthew 6:13)
- The wicked one (1John 2:13)
- A liar and a murderer (John 8:44)
- A deceiver (Revelation 20:10)
- The ruler of this world (John 12:31)
The Scriptures describe Satan as an intelligent, crafty, and relentless being. In fact, Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan accuses God’s people day and night, which indicates that he never gets tired and he doesn’t give up. He is also so powerful that he is apparently a match even for the archangel Michael (see Jude 9).
If all that wasn’t enough, the Bible also describes Satan as a master of deceit who can assume different forms to suit his purposes when necessary (see 2 Corinthians 11:14). This may explain why the being that the woman is speaking to in Genesis 3:1-5 is identified as a serpent. It also may explain why she was so unconcerned about having a conversation with a talking serpent- his appearance may have been altered in a way that made him appear to be totally non-threatening.
So what’s the very first action taken by the devil in the personage of this serpent? Well, he doesn’t come in and immediately start wrecking everything- he simply opens up a conversation: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1).
While that may seem like an innocent question, it’s really not when you think about it. Notice that the question isn’t, “What did God say?” The question is, “Did God really say that?” It’s almost as if the serpent has heard something so incredible that he couldn’t believe it: “God really said that?!? You can’t eat the fruit from any tree in the garden?”
Now you have to watch carefully to really understand what’s going on here. For instance, did you notice how the serpent cleverly rephrased what God actually said back in Genesis 2:16-17? In that passage, you may remember that God said to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” That’s a positive statement with almost unlimited freedom and one small restriction.
But the serpent turns this into a negative statement by taking what God actually said and rephrasing it to maneuver the woman into focusing on this one limitation. You see, the motivation behind this question wasn’t to get a better and more accurate understanding of what God said. As we’ll see, the real motivation was to suggest to the woman that God was holding something back from her. The suggestion was that God had made some sort of mistake in putting any restrictions in place.
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die'” (Genesis 3:2-3).
Now it’s easy to say, “Well, this woman shouldn’t have spoken to that serpent to begin with” because we all know how the story turns out. However, it is true that Eve could have handled this situation in a better way. For instance, she could have said, “God’s decisions are up to Him. I’ve seen enough from God to know that I can trust Him when He says that something is not good even if I don’t totally understand why.”
But even so, she starts off OK with her answer: “God said we could eat fruit from any tree in the garden…” (CEV). It might have been better if she said, “We can freely eat from the trees in the garden…” which is what God actually told Adam, but this seems like a pretty good start.
But notice that she identifies this tree as,“…the tree that is in the middle of the garden…” and not as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Maybe she thought that this tree was like any other tree in the Garden of Eden; the only difference was that you couldn’t eat any fruit from it. In any event, it doesn’t seem like she associated it with the knowledge of good and evil. Perhaps Adam simply told her, “See that tree over there- don’t eat anything from it.”
Anyway, here’s where things really start getting off course: “…You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” So what’s the problem with that? Well, the first part is OK but the second part added something that God didn’t say. Here’s exactly what God told Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
“…You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
God never said anything about coming into contact with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil- He just said, “Don’t eat any fruit from it.” It might have been a good idea not to touch that tree, but there’s a big difference between taking a reasonable safety precaution and saying that God said something when He really didn’t.
This tells us where Eve’s weak point was: she had a shaky understanding of what God said. First, she left out the word “freely” that we talked about earlier. Then she added something that God didn’t say about coming into contact with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The truth is that Eve could have made a hammock or built a tree house in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil without going against anything that God said. As long as she didn’t eat any of it’s fruit, she would have been OK.
Of course, Eve is not the only person who has ever added to something to God’s Word. For example, there are many well-known sayings that are often thought to be Biblical but really don’t come from the Bible. See if you can identify which of these well-known sayings appear in the Bible and which ones don’t…
- God helps those who help themselves
- God is love
- The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
- Trust your heart
- Do to others as you would have them do to you
- Live and let live (1)
This example demonstrates why it’s important to know what God’s Word really says. Eve didn’t, and that’s why she is about to get into trouble…
“…God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman” (Genesis 3:4).
Here is an outright, in-your-face denial: “You’re not gonna die.” Since this directly contradicts what God told Adam earlier in Genesis 2:16-17, the serpent also implies that God is a liar as well. These words spoken by the serpent also hold some other bad implications about God when you think about it…
- It implies that God did something wrong because He didn’t tell the truth
- If God didn’t tell the truth when He said that eating this fruit was bad, then the opposite must be true- it actually must be something good
- So if eating this fruit was something good then why didn’t God want her to have it?
Now if God was really lying (as the serpent claimed), then there had to be a reason for it. That part comes next…
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
The serpent’s explanation was that God wasn’t truthful because He was afraid. He claimed that God was afraid that Eve would learn that she could become like God too. This wasn’t true of course, and given what we know about Satan, it seems that he is trying to accuse God of the very same thing that he himself was guilty of (see Isaiah 14:14).
Now it’s one thing to know that something is wrong by identifying it, but it’s another thing to know that something is wrong by experiencing it. Adam and Eve didn’t need to learn what was wrong by doing something wrong because God had already identified it for them. This principle also holds true for people today. You can avoid a lot of the hurt and pain that often comes by experience by reading the Scriptures and allowing God to identify and help you avoid things that are wrong.
Unfortunately, you can’t always believe everything that someone tells you; we’ll find out why next.
As we said earlier, there are four major characters found within Genesis chapter three. We’ve already seen two of these characters (the woman and the serpent) in the opening verses. We also know that God is the fourth and final character, so the last missing person is Adam- and we’ll find out where he’s been in a little while…
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…” (Genesis 3:6a).
Along with our four major characters, there are also four important things that occur in this verse. First, notice we’re told that the woman “saw … the fruit of the tree.” Now does this mean that she had never seen that tree and it’s fruit ever before? Well, Eve was certainly aware of the tree and it’s fruit before her conversation with the serpent, but now she “saw” it in the sense that she was considering it, dwelling on it, and thinking about it.
So the first important thing to remember from this verse is that it’s possible for someone to look at something but never really “see” it. It’s possible to be aware of something but never really consider it or think about it. Eve now began to see this tree and consider it’s fruit from the wrong perspective. The problem is that once you start thinking about doing something wrong, it’s only a short step towards actually doing something wrong.
OK, so what was it that she saw about this tree and it’s fruit? That’s the next important thing- she saw that “…the fruit of the tree was good for food.” Now there’s nothing really wrong with that, is there? After all, people have to eat, right?
While that’s certainly true, don’t forget that this event takes place in the Garden of Eden, the most perfect place that has ever existed on earth. The Garden of Eden already had plenty of great stuff to eat and the woman was free to eat as much of it as she wanted. This tells us that Eve made the mistake of focusing on what she didn’t have instead of focusing on all the great things that God had already provided for her.
So if she didn’t need to eat the fruit off this particular tree then why did she go after it? That part comes next: it was, “…pleasing to the eye.” This is another easy concept for people to understand today. You see, people often get into all sorts of trouble because they go for something that looks good but may not be good.
“…the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was… pleasing to the eye…” (Genesis 3:6a)
It’s possible for something to look good, but not be good. For example, someone may purchase a car just because it looks good on the outside but later regret that decision when their new car starts breaking down. A good-looking car doesn’t count for much when your friends begin to make fun of you because your car won’t start.
Or let’s say that someone gets into a relationship with another person who is physically attractive only to find out later that physical attractiveness by itself is definitely not the best way to make relationship decisions.
These are two modern-day examples of what can happen when you make choices that are based strictly on what’s “… pleasing to the eye.” Unfortunately, people often duplicate Eve’s mistake in Genesis chapter three by making decisions based on what looks good but not necessarily on what is good.
Finally, we’re told that the woman also saw that this fruit was, “…desirable for gaining wisdom.” It’s possible that Eve looked at this fruit and thought, “This is something that’s going to make me wise- I don’t want this serpent to think that I’m stupid.” Like so many people today, Eve was encouraged to do something wrong because someone else dishonestly told her that it was a smart thing to do. This means that we are now looking at the first recorded example of someone caving in to peer pressure.
So the woman saw that the fruit of this tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom. This is exactly what the New Testament will later describe as,“…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16 NKJ).
The “lust of the flesh” part relates to how the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food even though she already had plenty of other good things to eat. The “lust of the eyes” part is obvious: she saw that the fruit of this tree was pleasing to the eye. Finally, the “pride of life” was tied up in the fact that she saw that eating this fruit was desirable for gaining wisdom.
So this whole situation is like a speeding automobile that’s heading right for the cliff. But there’s still one person left who can apply the brakes and steer this car away from disaster. We’ll see what that person does next.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6).
In the first five verses of Genesis chapter three, we’ve seen that Eve has been involved in a conversation with a serpent who is either Satan himself or a creature that Satan is using as a tool for his purposes. Now in reading these verses, you might think that Eve and the serpent have been carrying on a private conversation, but a closer look at Genesis 3:6 tells us that this is not the case.
You see, someone else has also been there during this conversation. That “someone else” was Adam. How do we know that Adam was there during this conversation? Well, we know that Adam was there because Genesis 3:6 tells us, “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her…” (emphasis added).
In other words, Adam was there with his wife during this incident but apparently said nothing during the conversation. When Eve made the decision to disobey God and eat some of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it seems that Adam simply went along and joined her without saying a word. Unfortunately, this “non-action” on Adam’s part is going to lead to some serious consequences.
For instance, have you ever noticed that whenever the Bible talks about what happened in Genesis chapter three, Adam is always the one who takes the responsibility for what occurred? You can find one example of this in the New Testament book of Romans where it says, “Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world” (Romans 5:12 CEV). Another example is found in the Old Testament book of Hosea which tells us, “Like Adam, they have broken the covenant — they were unfaithful to me…” (Hosea 6:7).
However, Genesis 3:6 tells us that Eve was actually the first person to disobey God, so why does Adam have to take the blame? Well, remember that Adam was the one that God spoke to about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so he was the one who was accountable to God to make sure that His instructions were carried out. The problem is that Adam didn’t take the lead in making sure that he and his wife did what God told him to do.
If Adam had stepped in during Eve’s conversation with the serpent instead of standing by and saying nothing, then things might be very different today. But Adam chose not to step up and make sure that he and his wife maintained a God-honoring relationship. So while Eve was certainly responsible for doing something wrong, Adam also had accountability as well- that’s why he gets the blame.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7).
You may remember that we talked earlier about how the concept of “nakedness” in the Garden of Eden involved more than just a lack of clothing. It also carried the idea of being totally open and exposed as a person.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were free to be totally open and exposed to each other both physically and emotionally. There were no secrets, no head games, and no facades in their relationship. They had nothing to hide from each other because there was nothing to hide. Adam and Eve had the complete freedom to explore and enjoy everything that their relationship could offer without any secrets.
But now that they had done something wrong, things were different. Before, there was nothing to hide. Now they both felt that they could no longer be totally open and exposed with each other. Before, no cover ups were necessary. Now they realized that there were things that they wanted to hide and conceal from each other.
But Adam and Eve weren’t only hiding things from each other…
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid'” (Genesis 3:8-10).
It’s important to notice what God does not do here. Remember, we’re told that Adam and Eve heard God as he was walked in the garden. It doesn’t say that God immediately ran up to them in anger as soon as they ate the forbidden fruit. It doesn’t say that God incinerated them with a lightning bolt from heaven for what they had done. It doesn’t say, “Then the LORD God appeareth to the man and woman to visit His vengeance upon them for their disobedience” or anything like that. It just says that God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
Now compare what God did to Adam and Eve’s response. We’re told that God looked for them but they tried to hide from Him behind some trees in the Garden. This illustrates one of the most basic consequences of sin- when you do something wrong, it separates you from God. God went looking for Adam and his wife but they separated themselves from Him because of what they had done.
“But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:9).
A person who doesn’t care very much about spiritual things may look at this verse and think, “Are you kidding me? Why would God ask Adam where he was? If God is supposed to know everything then how come He didn’t go directly to where Adam and Eve were hiding? This may seem like a good question at first glance but it doesn’t really give this verse the attention that it deserves when you stop to think about it.
Let’s consider the question that God asks here: “Where are you?” What does that question imply to you? Well, one implication might be that God asks this question because He doesn’t know the answer. But the Scriptures tell us that God is all-knowing (see Psalm 147:5), so it’s not like God is asking the question because He needs some information.
So if God is not asking this question for His own benefit, then why is He asking it? Well, the answer is that God is really asking this question for someone else’s benefit. You see, the question “where are you” also implies that someone is not where he or she is supposed to be.
For instance, let’s say that you have plans to meet someone after school. If you show up at the designated time and place and the person that you’re supposed to meet isn’t there, then what are you likely to do? If you’re like most people, the chances are pretty good that you’ll try to contact the person that you’re supposed to meet and say, “where are you?” Why? Because the person that you planned to meet is not where he or she is supposed to be.
In a similar way, the question “Where are you?” told Adam and Eve that they were not where they were supposed to be. Remember that human beings were created to love God and have a relationship with Him (see Matthew 22:35-38) but Adam and Eve had now separated themselves from the relationship that God created them to have with Him. They were no longer in the place with God where they were supposed to be.
In any event, the answer to God’s question comes in verse ten…
“He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid'” (Genesis 3:10).
Before, Adam and Eve had no reason to hide from God. Now they did. Before, they had no reason to be afraid of God. Now they had a reason. Before, there was no need for Adam and Eve to feel self-conscious about their appearance. Now there was.
So Adam gave God an honest answer but it won’t be long before the two people involved in this mess start trying to shift the blame.
So God didn’t immediately respond in anger or take revenge on Adam and Eve for what they did. Their choice to disobey God led to consequences that He traced right back to the source: “Have you eaten fruit from the tree I warned you about?” (TLB).
As we saw last time, this question didn’t help God by providing Him with information that he didn’t already have. This question really was for Adam’s benefit. You see, Adam was faced with two choices in responding to God’s question. He could choose to be honest and upfront with God about his actions or he could choose to respond to God in some other way. Unfortunately, Adam chose to go with option number two…
“The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it’ (Genesis 3:12).
So what’s the first thing Adam does? Well, instead of taking responsibility for what he did, Adam starts first by trying to blame Eve. Notice that in his response to God’s question, the first two words out of Adam’s mouth are, “The woman…”
Now this is bad enough, but the next thing that Adam does in response to God’s question is to try and blame God as well! He says, “The woman you put here with me…” (emphasis added). The obvious meaning behind this statement was for Adam to imply that his wrongdoing was God’s fault because God had given him a wife. Notice that Adam doesn’t say, “I did something wrong and I take full responsibility for what I did.” Instead, he first tries to suggest that it was really Eve’s fault and then he tries to put the blame on God.
“Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate'” (Genesis 3:13).
To her credit, Eve answered God’s question in a much more honest way. She said, “The serpent lead me astray- I was tricked into doing what I did.” Like Adam, Eve also tried to shift the blame and avoid responsibility for what she did, but at least she put the responsibility where it really belonged: “The serpent deceived me…”
So now that God has heard Adam and Eve’s explanation (not that He needed to), He’s going to talk to them about the consequences of their decision next. But before He gets to that, He first has something to say to the bad guy…
“So the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life'” (Genesis 3:14).
This verse is worded in a way that implies continuous action. So the idea is that the serpent was either still there with Adam and Eve or at least close enough for God to speak to after they both finished admitting what they had done.
Now as we said earlier, the serpent in Genesis chapter three is either Satan himself or some type of creature that he is using as a tool for his purposes. So what was the motivation behind Satan’s actions here in the Garden of Eden and what could he possibly gain? Well, based on what we know about the devil from the Scriptures, here’s one possibility.
First, we should recognize that the Bible refers to Satan as “…the god of this world…” (2 Corinthians 4:4 KJV). The way that Satan got to be the “god of this world” is through what happened here in Genesis chapter three. Remember that humanity had received a God-given responsibility for taking care of the earth in Genesis 1:28 but Satan has now persuaded the first human couple to follow him instead of God. The effect of that decision separated Adam and Eve from their Creator and subjected them (along with that responsibility) to Satan’s leadership instead.
But the earth is just one planet in a gigantic universe. Why would a being as powerful as Satan even want to bother with these two insignificant little humans on one insignificant little planet? Well, the answer is that it wasn’t so much about who these humans were- it was more about what they could do. You see, these two unimportant little human beings had one ability that he didn’t- they had the ability to reproduce themselves.
So what’s the big deal about that? Well, think about it- with the right leadership and influence, these two human beings could eventually produce billions of other human beings who would also conform to the example of their very first parents in following Satan’s lead. And what would that accomplish? Well, we got the answer to that question when we looked at Isaiah chapter 14…
“‘I will ascend to heaven… I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14).
Ultimately, Satan wants the same (or greater) power, authority, and worship as God. An army of human beings under his influence and direction could help him achieve that. In fact, Revelation 20:7-9 tells us that Satan will actually attempt to gather such an army in the future. But for now, everything starts with the first man and woman here in Genesis chapter three.
However, there was one flaw in this plan- God wasn’t having any of it.
It’s interesting to see that when God does speak to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, He doesn’t ask any questions as He did with Adam and Eve. God doesn’t ask the serpent to provide an explanation or give his side of the story. There are no discussions, no excuses, and no debates of any kind- instead, God comes right down with the verdict…
“…Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life'” (Genesis 3:14).
While pigs, sheep, and cattle are not very dignified animals, they at least get to stand up on their own legs. Now God has delivered a sentence that has condemned the serpent to live and crawl along on the ground in the dust below everything else- even the livestock.
But that’s not all…
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The word “enmity” seen above refers to a feeling of hatred or hostility towards someone or something else. (1) It also carries the idea of antagonism, dislike, and mutual opposition between two or more people. Now a feeling of enmity between the serpent and the woman is not too difficult to understand. Since Eve was a victim of the serpent’s deception, it’s easy to understand why she would feel a sense of dislike and opposition towards him. But what about that part where God refers to“…your offspring and hers”? What does that allude to?
Well, when God makes this reference to “your offspring” it can only mean that the devil has descendants of some sort. Now we’re not talking about some kind of horror movie with “children of the devil” or anything like that. “Your offspring” is a reference to those people who have the same kind of attitude towards God that the serpent does.
For example, this would include someone who wants nothing to do with God or those who choose to live as if God did not exist. It would include someone who is openly hostile towards God or someone who just isn’t interested in anything involving God at all. Either way, such people are following along in the very same pattern originally created by the devil whether they realize it or not.
“…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
So now that we’ve talked about God’s reference to the serpent’s offspring, let’s look at this allusion to the woman’s offspring. As it turns out, this next passage will prove to be one of the most important portions of Scripture in the entire Bible: “…he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
First, the word “he” tells us that God is speaking about one specific individual who will eventually come through the lineage of this woman that Satan has tricked. This specific person will also take a specific action: “…he will crush your head…” In other words, this person will ultimately inflict a fatal injury upon the serpent.
But what about that “…you will strike his heel” part? Well, we might be able to understand this reference better if we think of it in terms of a prizefight. For example, a fighter with a wounded heel might be in a bad position to fight, but he will still be able to strike at his opponent. However, a fighter with a fatal head injury is someone who has completely lost their fight.
That’s the idea behind“…he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The woman’s offspring will be wounded (you shall bruise His heel), but he will ultimately get in the last shot that permanently ends the fight.
Scholar-types call this portion of Scripture the protoevangelium (pronounced pro-toe-ee-van-gel-ee-um). The beginning part of this word (“proto”) means “first.” This term may sound familiar because it’s still used as a part of other words today. For instance, when we talk about a “prototype” of something, we’re speaking about the very first example of an item. That’s because “proto” refers to something that is the original or very first example.
The root of the second portion of this word (“evangelium”) is “evangel,” a word that means “good news.” Evangel is another familiar term because it forms the basis for other well-known modern words like “evangelize” and “evangelism.” So when taken together, the words proto and evangelium create the very first example of the “good news” in all the Bible.
There is no doubt that this verse refers to Jesus’ ultimate defeat of Satan. When Jesus became a human being, He placed Himself in a position where the enemy could strike at him and inflict damage. That damage occurred when Jesus was beaten, whipped, and hung on a cross. But with His death and resurrection, Jesus permanently ended the conflict between Satan and humanity that started here in the Garden of Eden.
Every decision carries it’s own set of consequences. Bad choices usually lead to bad consequences and a decision to knowingly do something that God says is wrong is never a good option. So here in Genesis 3:16, God now begins to talk with Adam and Eve and tell them about the bad consequences that will come from their decision to do what He warned them not to do.
God starts first with the woman and tells her that she will experience two consequences for her actions. First, there will be a physical consequence: “…I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing…” Second, there will also be an emotional consequence for her as well: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Now the word “desire” that we see here in Genesis 3:16 is a word that means to reach out or long for something. (1) But how would this apply as a consequence for Eve? In what way would she reach out or long for her husband and why would that matter?
Well, remember that Genesis 2:18 tells us that, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” You might remember that in this context, the word “suitable” refers to someone who is comparable and completely equipped to be the right partner. That “someone” of course, turned out to be the woman that God created in Genesis 2:21-23.
So when God says, “Your desire will be for your husband…” it tells us that Eve will continue to look for certain things from her husband. It implies that she will continue to look for that same kind of comparable and corresponding relationship that she enjoyed with him previously when everything was perfect. She will still continue to desire and reach out for the same kind of companionship that she had always enjoyed with her husband up to this point.
But now, her husband will not be a partner like he was before- now he will be a ruler. Her husband will no longer be someone who was suitable like he was before- now he will become someone who will govern her.
(1) Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you'” (Genesis 3:16b).
Now before we continue, we should make sure that we are very clear on something. Before anyone gets the idea that the Bible tells us that it’s OK for “men to rule over women” in this verse, we should first remember that God originally created men and women in His image as two equal components of humanity. We can say this because Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NLT). So God created these two parts of humanity as different but equal, with both parts equally created in God’s image.
We also need to be aware that the Bible never says that God approves of this change in Adam and Eve’s relationship. Unlike other portions of Genesis where we’re told that, “…God saw that it was good…” Genesis 3:16 doesn’t say that it was good or right that “…he will rule over you.” This verse simply tells us about a certain consequence that will come about as a result of Eve’s decision to disregard God’s warning. It tells us that there is going to be a radical shift away from what God originally created male/female relationships to be.
So what does this verse mean for people today? Well, we can say that one result of what happened in the Garden of Eden is that male/female relationships now often fall far short of God’s original design. At best, women often seem to receive a lot less than what they really want or desire in many relationships. For instance, we might say that guys often deliver a lot less emotional connection, a lot less understanding, and a lot less desire to really listen and communicate with their partner in many male/female relationships today.
At worst, the unfortunate truth is that men have historically dominated and intimidated women in many different cultures and in many different ways over the centuries. At various times throughout history, women have not received the same rights and privileges as men and are still viewed as unworthy of certain rights in some cultures today. One historical consequence that has come about as a result of what happened in the Garden of Eden is that men have often come to regard women as subjects to be ruled over instead of partners that God has blessed them with.
But that’s only half the story- the other half comes next…
Now that we’ve seen what God said to Eve, let’s take a look at what God says to Adam about what he had done…
“Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19).
Remember that Adam’s job in the Garden of Eden was to tend the Garden and take care of it (see Genesis 2:15). That work must have been rewarding and enjoyable for Adam before he made the decision to disobey God because now everything has changed:“Because of what you have done, the ground will be under a curse. You will have to work hard all your life to make it produce enough food for you” (Genesis 3:17 GNB).
There’s something else that’s important to recognize but may be easy to overlook in these verses. Did you notice that when God spoke to Adam, the very first thing that God said to him was,“Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you…” So does this mean that Adam made a mistake in listening to what his wife had to say? Well, the problem was not so much that Adam heard the words she spoke; the real problem centers around what he did with what he heard.
You see, the problem was not that Adam listened to her; it’s that he listened to her. Here’s the difference- Adam listened to his wife instead of taking the right course of action. Remember that God had already spoken to Adam about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When the serpent came along and suggested to his wife that she ought to do something else, Adam should have stepped in. Adam should have acted to deal with the situation and make sure that he and his wife both did what God had told him to do. Instead of listening to her, he should have taken the responsibility to do what God had said.
Adam should have acted on what God had told him. Instead, he chose to listen instead of act on was right and that’s one reason why they each got into so much trouble.
“…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17b-19).
Adam’s decision to disregard God’s warning affected more than just his relationship with Eve. This one small decision to do something that God said was wrong had an effect on the entire planet as well as everyone who followed.
Just imagine if you were in Adam’s position and you had to live out the remainder of your life with the memory of these words: “…the ground is cursed because of you” (NLT, emphasis added). This reminds us that a decision to disregard what God says may lead to consequences that reach farther than we ever imagined.
Now you may remember that we asked some important questions about life earlier on in our look at this chapter. For instance, why do so many things appear to have no purpose or meaning in life? Why does it seem like we work so much but accomplish so little? Why do we invest so much but often get so little back? Well, Genesis 3:19 provides us with the answers to those questions.
One consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was that it began a cycle of futility that still exists to this day. “Futility” is a word that means “useless and without purpose” and Genesis 3:19 tells us how that cycle would play itself out in Adam’s life…
- Adam came from the dust
- He would spend the rest of his life trying to grow things to eat out of that dust so he could survive
- His work would be difficult and produce a poor return on his investment
- Then went back to the dust after he died.
- Following his death, Adam’s lifeless body would decay and serve the next generation that was trying to grow things to eat out of the dust.
This cycle of futility was far different from God’s design for humanity that we saw in Genesis chapters one and two. In the first two chapters of Genesis we saw things like life, growth, and progress. But here in Genesis chapter three, we now see death, deterioration, and regression.
Everything was now subject to death because two people did something wrong. It was a small act with a big impact that continues to this day.
Everybody fully knows and understands the truth about what we read in Genesis 3:17-19. Everyone knows and understands that everything eventually wears out, breaks down, and stops functioning. This is true for living and non-living things alike: Batteries run out of power, automobiles rust, buildings fall apart, bridges and roads break down, and all living things eventually die.
These things all follow the same basic cycle that Adam brought about after he ignored God’s warning: “…you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).
Now up to this point, Adam’s partner has been called a female (Genesis 1:27), a helper (Genesis 2:18), a woman (Genesis 2:23) and wife (Genesis 2:24). Now, she gets a personal name: Eve. In the original language of this verse, the name Eve means life giver. So what’s the significance of this particular name? Why would Adam pick the name “life giver” for his wife when wasn’t a mother and didn’t have any children?
Well, let’s not forget what God said to the serpent earlier in Genesis chapter three: “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Remember that the word “he” (as in “he will crush your head”) tells us that God is speaking about one specific individual.
God is talking about one particular person who will eventually come through the lineage of this woman that Satan has tricked. This specific person will also take a specific action: “…he will crush your head…” In other words, this person will ultimately inflict a fatal injury upon the serpent.
In giving his wife the name “life-giver,” Adam clearly recognized the meaning of what God said in Genesis 3:15. It meant that even though Adam and Eve would both eventually die because of what they had done, humanity would continue through the offspring that God would give to his wife. This name also expressed Adam’s belief that God would make good on His promise to send Someone who would eventually crush the serpent.
So this name demonstrated Adam’s faith and belief that God would give his wife children and produce a deliverer who would fix what he had done wrong.
“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
Whenever someone disregards God and does something wrong, there’s always a price to pay. We see the first example of that price here in Genesis chapter three.
Genesis 3:21 tells us that “…the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (NLT). Now if Adam and Eve both received leather clothing to wear, then what does that imply about how those clothes was made?
Well, if they each had a fur coat or leather jacket, then it must mean that whatever was originally wearing that fur or leather wasn’t wearing it any longer. So Genesis 3:21 tells us that something had to die in order for Adam and Eve to be clothed.
Remember that God gave Adam fair warning about the death penalty that would come into effect if he chose to ignore God’s warning (see Genesis 2:16-17). Now that penalty is further executed in the death of an innocent animal to cover the physical results of what Adam and Eve had done. Later on, we’ll see the death of an innocent Person to cover the spiritual results of what Adam and Eve (and everyone who followed them) had done.
This simple act of making clothes for Adam and Eve should also tell us a lot about the character of God. The truth is that God could have obliterated Adam and Eve for what they did, but He chose not to. God could have wiped them out for their act of disobedience if He wanted to, but God instead chose to make clothes for them.
You see, God obviously knew that things were going to be very difficult for Adam and Eve in the future. As we’ll soon see, Adam and Eve will no longer be allowed to live in the Garden of Eden as a consequence of what they had done. But before God sends them out into the world, He graciously sets them up with clothing that will allow them to survive outside the protected environment of the Garden.
Before Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, everything in the Garden of Eden was perfect. The weather was great. There weren’t any diseases. There weren’t any dangers from plants or animals. It was the kind of place where someone could walk around without any external protection and never have to worry.
Now things were different and fig leaf clothing just wasn’t going to be good enough. God knew that Adam and Eve would need something better and He made sure to provide it for them.
“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil…'” (Genesis 3:22a).
Did you notice that Genesis 3:22 quotes “the LORD God” as saying, “The man has now become like one of us…” (emphasis added). This combination of singular and plural usage is another clue that gives us some insight into the nature of God.
You may remember that we’ve already spent some time looking at the use of this term “LORD God” in the Scriptures. In the original language of Genesis, the term “LORD God” is “Yahweh Elohim.” Yahweh is the personal name of God and Elohim is a two part word: the first part (“El“) means “strong. great or mighty.” The “im” portion indicates a plural ending. So the use of this word Elohim in the Scriptures tells us something about the nature of God; it tells us that He is One, yet more than one.
We’ve also talked about how it would ordinarily seem to be a contradiction to say that something can be one yet more than one at the same time. For example, if we were to say that God is one being and more than one being at the same time and in the same way, then that would be a definitely be a contradiction.
But if we were to say that God is one in substance (or essence) and one or more in persons, then the contradiction no longer exists. This is how we have come to the understanding that the God of the Scriptures is three Persons in one substance, essence, or being. This also explains how the LORD God (singular) can say that the man has now become like one of us (plural).
So Adam and Eve had become “like God” in the sense that they now had direct experience with both good and evil. This means that there was something of an element of truth in what the serpent told them earlier: “‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Of course, it’s one thing to know about right and wrong as an idea or a concept; it’s something very different to know about right and wrong by actually doing something wrong as the serpent suggested. Adam and Eve rejected God’s warning about eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and as a result, they came to know about good and evil in a way they had not known before.
“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken” (Genesis 3:22-23).
Why would God be so concerned about Adam and this tree of life? Well, let’s think about what happened to Adam and Eve as a result of their decision to disregard God’s warning that, “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). We’ve already seen one aspect of that death occur in Adam and Eve’s separation from God because of what they had done.
But what if Adam and Eve could never physically die? What if they could eat this fruit from the tree of life and become physically immortal? If that happened, then it would mean that Adam and Eve would be eternally separated from God in a physical body that would grow old, but never die.
So in saying, “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” God actually prevented humanity from serving an eternal death sentence- an eternity of separation from God while confined to a physical body that grew older but could never die. This gracious act of God tells us that even though people are separated from Him, God doesn’t want them to permanently remain that way.
“After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
So Adam and Eve have now lost the paradise of Eden and can’t go back anymore. But let’s say that someone today wanted to take a look at where the Garden was located. Would it be possible for someone in the 21st century to find out where the Garden of Eden once existed? Well, the answer is probably not.
Remember that landscape of the Earth was greatly changed by the great flood that will happen later on in Genesis chapter 6. That means that it’s unlikely that the Garden of Eden survived, at least in the form that Adam and Eve knew it. But even if the Garden of Eden was unaffected by the flood, the chances are pretty good that it eventually began to break down and deteriorate over time just like everything else that surrounded it.
Even if the Garden of Eden still survived today, it would probably be unrecognizable from everything else that surrounded it.