Surprise number one, straight off the top.
The chapter in Genesis most folks know off the top of their skulls, of course, starts out with “In The Beginning”, and runs through “Let There Be Light!” and a bunch of “and the evening and the morning”s along the way. But frankly, how God created the universe just invites arguments between good-meaning, God-fearing Christians. What’s important is THAT God created the universe, not how, and that’s beyond dispute. More important is the fact that He created us to watch over the rest of the animals and the vegetation on the earth, to be the managers of His Work.
MOST important, however, in this initial section of the Bible is the sharp detour from “Adam and his bride living in paradise” to “Adam and his bride have to work for a living and are forever banned from the Tree of Eternal Life”, because of the introduction of sin to humanity. Amidst that, the source of that sin (innate within us as imperfect flesh, but motivated by the devil) and the implications of that sin are shown, along with some subtle details that are worth mentioning herein as well.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And 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 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of 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 fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
All right, we’ve discussed why we think this chapter is so important, so let’s dive into some particulars. This is the first (AND a very specific) example of how the devil works on us. Notice that he approached the woman – not that she was the weaker or more susceptible in general, but she wasn’t the one who actually heard God’s instructions about the tree! (The Lord tells Adam in 2:16-17, and in the very next few verses creates “a helper for him”, over verses 18 through 25.)
Secondly, he specifically misquotes God, mostly to confuse the woman. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of ANY tree in the Garden?'” Of course not! But once she’s disagreed with his quotation, the actual quote is now up in the air. To her credit, she quotes God correctly, despite the snake’s subterfuge. So the devil switches to one of his favorite tactics: the best lie is one with as much truth as possible. In this case, his statement is almost more true than God’s was! God told Adam that they would surely die; someday, they will now, of course, but not immediately. The devil points that out, and also correctly points out what the fruit WILL do for them. The lessons in the Bible demonstrating how the devil works on us are some of the most important sections in the Bible, and Genesis 3 is the opening salvo in our course.
A seemingly minor point, but worth mentioning: the only place where God the Father is ever shown walking on the face of the earth is here, in verse 8 of Genesis 3. Once sin has been introduced into man’s world, of course, He can’t do that any more.
More important is for us to realize WHY God forbid Adam and Eve from remaining in the Garden. First of all, the key sin was NOT eating the fruit (I don’t have to tell you it wasn’t an apple, do I?). The important point was not the crime, but the cover-up. It wasn’t having eaten the fruit; it was blaming someone else for THEIR sin. Adam blames the woman, and the woman blames the snake. I cannot help but wonder what might have happened had they stood tall and admitted their guilt, bravely awaiting their punishment.
Second, the punishment for the humans is as much for their protection as anything – as most of His “punishments” are over the course of the two Testaments. Were they to stay within the Garden, as They point out in verse 22 (where we see one of the few discussions amongst the Trinity in Scripture), they would gain eternal life by eating from the other Heavenly tree, and being sinful beings living for eternity on earth, the humans would NEVER be reunited with God. So to banish them from the Garden was the kindest thing God could have done for them.
Finally, a little detail that always needs to be pointed out to young Christians who fear that the crucifixion was some kind of tragic mistake on Christ’s part – Look at what God says to the devil, in the form of the slithering snake, in verse 15…
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
I’ve substituted the more accurate “seed” for “offspring” in the ESV text to make a point. Because it’s not just that it’s her offspring that gets into the fray – it IS specifically her “seed”, as the King James says. (For once, the KJV is the more accurate version!) All women have offspring, but traditionally it’s the man who provides the “seed” to create the offspring. In only ONE case in history was there no human male father to provide “seed”… the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, who many thousands of years later would indeed “bruise (the devil’s) head” by defeating him and death upon His arrival in Israel. All that would get bruised of Christ’s? His heel – and His palms.
Now, all of that is here for one purpose – to assure us that everything about Jesus Christ’s appearance on earth was PLANNED, right down to the crucifixion. I’ve often wondered what, say, Samuel or King David or other BCE Jewish thinkers thought of that verse, since the Messiah had yet to appear and the referent to that verse did not yet exist in their history. In fact, in retrospect, there’s so much of Jesus permeating the entire Old Testament that it seems impossible that the Sadducees and Pharisees didn’t recognize Him when He began His ministry. And it seems that when they dealt with Him personally, most of them did come to recognize Him as the forecast Messiah, but denied His divinity to save their positions and authority on earth. Bad trade-off.
But for US, it’s clear that even in the initial events of human history, God had the entire story already prepared. God the Son would be the eventual sacrifice that would balance the scales and conquer sin and death for man, allowing US to rejoin God in Heaven after our time on earth was complete.
NEXT in our series: GENESIS 22 – Abraham sets our priorities in order.