All was harmonious until the serpent set out to deceive the woman. Up to this time, God and man lived together in peace in the beautiful and bountiful garden. What happens next is an old story with which we are all too familiar. Still, the tragedy of the story of the apple is heartbreaking. It is so plainly powerful that we can apply modern instances of temptation to the exact paradigm of sin we read here in Genesis 3:
- Authority is questioned
- Think beyond what has been ruled
- Act believing that no harm will come
- Sin exposed
- Shift blame somewhere else
Verses 1-13: First sin
The sin begins with a simple question, one that could have led anywhere, a question that the woman does not suspect will have an evil intention. Her innocence seems complete as she quotes to the serpent:
“God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
After this, the serpent’s next statement reveals that his only intention is to deceive. His statement about it not being a sin to eat of that particular tree was a deception, but notice the nature of the deception: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
This statement in itself is not a lie. But take care to look again at the statement. In chapter 2 and verse 17, God said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In this verse, we know now that God meant that to eat the tree would bring mortality upon the man and the woman; they would no longer have endless lives in the garden. Once they had the knowledge of good and evil, their lives would be finite and they would eventually die.
The lie that the serpent makes is based on the woman’s nuanced understanding of this commandment. It appears that the woman thought that she would die immediately if she ate of the fruit from that tree. The serpent, perhaps knowing this, preys on her perspective by telling her that she would not die (immediately), but that she would know the difference between good and evil and that in this respect, she would be like God. Technically, the first part is a lie depending on whether we are looking at the death to come as immediate or eventual. The serpent communicates that the woman would not die immediately and conveniently leaves the part out that she would die eventually. He leaves out the assumed understanding that if she does not eat the fruit of this tree that she will retain her eternal life with God in the garden. This is pure and nasty deception: preying on one’s naivete, mixing in truth and letting them believe the truth in a perverted way. Also, it is true that she would be “like God” in that she would understand the difference between good and evil, but the serpent stresses the idea that she would be like God first, and makes it seem like she would be like God in many more ways than this, not just knowing the difference between good and evil.
Although this story is familiar to us, when we look deeper we can see how expertly the lord of lies deceives the woman. She is corrupted due to this deception. The truly heartbreaking part of the story is that she already had everything she needed to remain obedient to God. Had she only followed God’s command, regardless of what she was told, she would not have committed the sin.
The same is true for the man: had he only stuck to the commandment from God, he would not have committed this sin either. They were both tempted, having been swayed away from obedience by temptation. The very same holds true for you and me in the modern world: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1:14
In verses 12 and 13, the shame of this sin causes the man and the woman to hide, to conceal and to lay blame.
Verses 14-21: First Prophecy
When God decides to curse the serpent, He does so with the future in mind. God makes reference to the coming sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ many, many years in the future. It is astounding to think of, then to understand, the depth and breadth of God’s plan – that it was alive and working ever from the first pages of our Bible and the creation story. God says to the serpent:
“And 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.” Genesis 3:15
This is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ. Because Satan (the serpent) causes sin to come into the world, God requires Christ as a sacrifice to redeem all mankind. Christ received a serious injury (you shall bruise His heel) in that He left God’s side and came to live as a man and suffered and died on the cross. But Christ ultimately defeats Satan when He rises from the dead, proving His divinity once and for all and sealing the obedient with the promise of salvation. Since Satan’s goal is for man to sin and leave God, Jesus wins because his sacrifice brings souls back to God (He shall bruise his head). Also, notice the phrase “between your seed and her Seed,” which identifies the divine Seed (Jesus) as being the seed of woman; Christ was of course born of a virgin woman, which means that this could only mean Him. This is the meaning of Genesis 3:15.
As the result of this sin, all three are punished in the garden, the man, the woman and the serpent. The serpent’s existence and way of life are severely diminished, the woman will bear children in pain as the husband rules her, and the man will be forced to work for his food as he ultimately returns to the dust from which he came.
After this, Adam names the woman “Eve” and they both make the first use of animals for their own purpose: tunics.
Verses 22-24: Exile
The “Us” that God makes reference to is more than likely the plurality of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The tree of life is mentioned again, where if the man were to eat of it, he would live forever. As mentioned earlier in our study of Genesis, the tree of life is mentioned as part of heaven in the book of Revelation.
The man is driven out of this garden paradise for his sin, and will now work for His food instead of having it provided for Him. Then, the garden is sealed off by cherubim and a flaming sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Although there were many wonderful things in the garden, the real loss was that man was no longer in the presence of God.