A Bible Lesson on Genesis 3

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

We come now to Genesis 3 and the fall.  This is a fundamental, key passage of Scripture.  Without it, we don’t know the real condition of man.  We have no explanation of why and how things are the way they are.  We can’t account for them.  Blaise Pascal, the famous Christian mathematician put our state this way: “What sort of freak then is man?  How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!”  Gut level, we know the world we live in is both wonderful and grand, and at the same time broken and flawed.  Gut level, we know that’s the way all humanity is too.  But how is that???  Francis Schaeffer rightly said that we must either maintain that the world is normal, and pronounce all of the misery, heartache, and evil in it to be normal, or have a real explanation of why it is abnormal/flawed.  Only the truth of the account of Genesis 3 provides a sane explanation of the way the world is.  The space and time reality of the account gives us sanity in understanding the way we and the world are.

Genesis 3:1 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’?”

The serpent, directed by Satan, approaches Eve.  He begins his work on her with a fairly innocuous sounding question, as if to engage her in a theological discussion.  But the intent is to plant the seeds of doubt in her mind and flatter her.  Kidner: “The incredulous tone—’So God has actually said…?’—is both disturbing and flattering: it smuggles in the assumption that God’s word is subject to our judgment.”

Notice that the serpent misquotes God, but more important than that, deliberately misrepresents the real intent of God’s command.  Genesis 2:16-17 is a statement of freedom, granting real liberty to man, but graciously warning him of the limits of that freedom and the sad but inevitable consequences of violating those limits.  Man, as a creature, can have real liberty only within bounds.  Outside those bounds is not liberty, but disaster, and God lays that out for Adam.

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.’ ”

Eve (and any one of us for that matter) is no match for Satan outside the protection that God had provided.  She has God’s Word on the matter.  That is her protection.  But she is a dead duck already when she begins to dialogue about its appropriateness with her Creator’s sworn enemy.  Who in the world does she think she’s talking to here?   Who is this creature to be questioning God’s Word?  Who is she to be discussing the matter?   For her to do so, to put herself somehow in the seat of a judge or authority, has already sent her sliding down the slope from which there is no recovery.

Compare again Genesis 2:16-17 to 3:2-3 and notice the difference in tone.  In 2:16-17 there is the tone of liberty.  Here, as Eve represents the situation, there is the tone of oppressive restriction.  “We may eat fruit (ho hum) … but God did say …”  Notice too what Eve does here.  She adds to the Word of God.  She says “neither shall you touch it.”  Can’t you hear here the whining of a kid “my parents are so mean, they won’t ever let me do anything”?  We have no record that God said any such thing.  It’s almost as if Eve wants God’s Word to them to be heavy and burdensome, so that she can get some sympathy from the serpent.  Satan knows how to play her like a violin.

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

The conversation began with a question intended to plant doubt.  Now there is a plain denial that what God has said is really true.  Think how totally crazy this is!  Here is a creature saying that the very One that made him and that personally defines goodness and truth is not to be believed.  Here is another creature listening to and believing a fellow creature in the place of the Creator.  It is flat insane.  It makes no sense, and that is the nature of our sin and rebellion against God our Maker.  Does the God of universe speak the truth or does He not?  The origin of human sin is denial of the truth of God’s speaking, and the goodness of His will for His creatures.  And the first truth denied is the truth of judgment.

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.”

The serpent not only makes God out to be a liar, but gets Eve to replace God’s wonderful, generous, loving, protective motives with a mean-spirited, selfish kind of outlook.  He tells Eve that God is holding onto some good stuff that He doesn’t want to share with her.

Notice the two things that the serpent holds out to Eve here.  First is the lure of knowledge.  You will know the deep stuff that only God knows.  Second, the knowing of this stuff will put you in God’s class.  You, Eve, the creature, will be godlike.  It’s not enough that you were created in the image of God or that God created you for relationship with Himself.  If you will only break that fellowship and disobey, why Eve, you the creature will be a little god yourself!!!  Remember that it is exactly this desire to be god that caused the fall of Satan in the first place.  That temptation and false promise is one that human beings never seem to quit falling for.  Humans are not content to be creatures, but wish instead to be “gods” of one sort or another.

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.

IJohn 2:16 speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life as coming not from God, but the world, and as leading men into sin.  The pattern there is the pattern here.  Eve sees that the fruit will satisfy hunger, that it is real nice looking, and thinks about the possibility of being god-like.  It’s too much for her.

It is an important contrast to look at the temptation of Jesus in Matt 4:1-11.  Satan tempted Him to satisfy His hunger (the lust of the flesh), showed Him the kingdoms of the world (the lust of the eye) and tempted Him to do something spectacular by throwing Himself from the pinnacle of the temple (the pride of life).  In all cases, Jesus answered with the Word of God … “it is written.”  Instead of clinging to what God had plainly said to Adam, Eve treated it lightly, misquoted it, twisted its intent.  In the end, she had abandoned her protection and was no match for the devil.

Then she wasn’t content to have broken God’s command herself, but felt compelled to secure Adam’s participation in her evil.  That too is characteristic of the human condition.  We seem to want company in the pigpen of sin.  We tend to delight when someone else falls into what has ensnared us.

Eve was suckered/deceived.  She played around with ideas she had no business considering, and was suckered step by step into eating.  Adam doesn’t have that excuse.  There is no record of the serpent speaking with him.  He seems to decide in cold blood that he’s going to follow Eve against the clearly stated Word of God.  His sin is deliberate.

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.

Their embarrassment at being naked is somehow indicative of their sin and loss of innocence.  Having chosen to step outside the boundaries that God set for them, they need to be covered in each others presence and in the presence of God.  They are separated from each other and from God.  Because they’ve broken fellowship with God, they are embarrassed to be seen for what they are and sew together fig leaves to cover themselves.

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.

How absurd, both for Adam and Eve and for us.  They know that they have done wrong and that in doing so, have assaulted the honor of their Creator.  So what is their response (and that of most humans ever since)?  They try to hide … like God can’t see them???  Really?  He doesn’t know every thought and intent of their hearts and ours?  Do we think that by making ourselves busy or otherwise ignoring God, that He doesn’t notice our rebellion?  Adam and Eve are here playing ostrich.  They are out in plain sight, but somehow think that they can hide.

9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Can’t God see?  Of course God can see.  This is the plea of an injured party for the transgressor to come clean, to come out into the open and admit guilt, to be honorable enough to accept the just consequences of real moral wrong.  I don’t think there is a thundering, earthshaking voice full of wrath here.  Instead, it’s the voice of a heartbroken parent whose kid has just made a sham of the family’s most cherished trust and has consequently, in a permanent and serious kind of way, really harmed fellowship within the family.

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.”

The honorable and right thing to do (indeed the only rational thing to do) would be to confess immediately and take the consequences.  That’s not the human way, however.  It is part of our nature that we prefer to stonewall things, to try to pretend that all is OK until we are unmistakably cornered.

Notice what Adam and Eve got in trade for their righteousness and freedom within God’s boundaries.  FEAR!  They had no reason to be afraid of God prior to the fall.  They had freedom to live unconcerned within God’s boundaries.  They chose instead to cower in the trees because of their moral choice to disobey.

11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Apparently before the fall, their nakedness meant nothing to Adam and Eve.  The fact that it had come to mean something was evidence that all had changed.  Adam is beating around the bush (no pun intended).  God gets to the point, still giving Adam a chance to admit his guilt.  But (sigh) look what Adam says.  Anybody that doesn’t understand that this story is true hasn’t paid attention to human behavior.

12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

What an attempt to weasel out of responsibility.  And do not miss the fundamental attack on the good providence of God here!  Adam tries to put the blame for his willful sin onto God.  After all, it was God that made the woman, wasn’t it!!?? When we try to excuse ourselves for wrong on the basis of our circumstances, it is the same deal.  We’re accusing God of evil.  If He orders our circumstances and it’s not our fault but that of our circumstances when we do wrong, God must be the problem.  Adam may not recognize it, but this is blasphemy.  God neither does wrong nor causes anyone to do wrong.  And if it’s not God’s fault, it’s the woman’s fault, right?  Anybody but me God!  Finally, Adam admits that he did eat.

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.”

Eve’s confession is not much cleaner.  She speaks the truth in that she was suckered by the serpent, but fundamentally, she ate and the guilt is her own.

The consequences of this are cataclysmic.  The next 6 verses describe the curses that followed on the heels of the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  Not only were Adam and Eve estranged from God, but the very nature of the physical universe was changed by the fall.  Decay and death entered the world.  The physical world was broken in parallel with Adam and Eve’s relationship with God.

As we look at those verses, we must think in proper terms about what has happened here.  We by nature look at them from our now-fallen position and think of humanity as the big loser in this whole story.  But that is off the mark.  It is first God who has suffered here, who is the injured party.  HIS world that He repeatedly delighted in and pronounced as good, is now broken/cursed.  The humans He made in His image have broken relationship with Him and defaced that image.

But His marvelous grace is already evident in verse 15.  God, at infinite cost to Himself, will at the proper time provide the means to rectify the mess that Adam and Eve have made, and redeem us their offspring and the whole universe with us.

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 for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

I don’t know exactly all that is implied here.  I do know that family life post-Genesis 3 is not always the wonderful harmonious edifying cooperative joyous situation that Adam and Eve experienced before the fall.

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.”

Human beings, both made of dust and breathed into by the Spirit of God, having defaced the latter become fully subject to the former.  We face hardship and return to the dust.  We hear these statements as primarily punitive.  But truly they are redemptive.  Without the need to labor and face hardship and die, we’d be in even worse shape than we are in this time after the fall.  The tough stuff of life works to keep us busy and out of moral trouble, and constantly reminds us of our utter dependence upon our Creator.  If we are paying attention at all, we are brought up short in our foolish assumption that the universe centers around us and that we are self-existent and immortal.  And that drives men and women to regain sanity through salvation in Christ.

20  The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

There may be here a Messianic reference in Eve’s name.

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.

Adam and Eve chose to try to make life independent of God, their Creator.  That can’t somehow be overlooked.  Things can’t go on they were before.  Their choice is honored.  Moral choices are taken seriously by the I AM.  And with moral choices for wrong comes human misery.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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