Monday, September 10, 2012

Genesis 3 - The Temptation and Fall of Man

[Original sin is one of the most often protested theological ideas; and this story of the fall of man seems to really bother some people. The questions mostly revolve around temptation and why God would allow man to be tempted at all. In a world where we have thousands of temptations and countless opportunities to fail, I really don't understand that objection. They had one rule to keep, one prohibition to observe; what could be simpler? The world would only grow more complex as more people were added to the mix, so two people in one ideal place with a single rule is as uncomplicated as life could possibly be.]

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

[Now you will recall that Adam was warned about the "tree of knowledge" back in Genesis 2

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 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."

So right away we know that Eve has been warned about the "tree of knowledge" but that someone has added a "do no touch" to the warning that God originally gave to Adam. But at least Eve knows not to eat of that tree.

I was once asked by a skeptic "Why didn't God tell Adam to watch out for snakes"? He was asserting that the problem was with God's instructions rather than man's disobedience. But there is a clue in the text that reveals the flaw in that argument. The Hebrew word for serpent "nakhash" is the noun form of a word that means divining, enchanting or conjuring up spirits. You will recall from Genesis 2:19 it was Adam who observed and named each creature. So it is reasonable to conclude that the man, who named the serpent as creature divining spirits and whispering incantations, was aware of the deceptive potential of this snake. ]

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 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."

[First the serpent tries to conceal the danger. "Didn't God give you all the trees? It's just another tree." Then he switches to envy to challenge the motives of God. "God knows if you eat of THAT tree you will be like Him." We still see these same challenges today. If you ever tried to warn someone away from drunkenness, drugs, or dangerous sexual temptations, they are likely to accuse you of trying to spoil their fun.

There is formula for temptation: 1. Diminish the risk "you will not surely die?" 2. Sell the benefits "you will be like God".]

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

[Whenever I read this verse it always reminds me of 1 John 2:16

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

So Eve had 3 desires leading her to take from the tree, her flesh "good for food", her eyes "pleasant to the eyes", and her pride "desirable to make one wise". So she took and she ate. Some people ask "where was Adam"? While it is possible he arrived after eve had eaten, the language of verse 6 "her husband with her" suggests that Adam was there the whole time.

What kind of a man lets his wife talk to snakes? We talked about the word for serpent and what that means, this is where a man should stand as the leader protecting his family instead of standing quietly by as a passive observer. But Adam was passive, and the costs to his family is devastating.]

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

[Genesis 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Now they see themselves differently, sin has brought them shame, so they cover their shame with fig leaves. Ever notice how ineffective it is to hide your sin? Can anything really be hidden from God?]

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

["the sound of the Lord God walking", is better read as "the voice of God moving". "Lord God" is "Yehovah Elohiym". So they hear God, and hide from Him. Think of creation and all the stars and planets, how that God knows every part of it; and Adam and Eve try to hide behind a tree. This makes me think of a child covering their own eyes saying "you can't see me".]

9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."

11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" 12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."

[We are experts at self-justification, and avoiding responsibility. Contrast this passage with chapter 2 when Adam first sees the woman and rejoices over her "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh", husband and wife, "we are one"! And then the first man, fails to protect his wife from the dangerous incantations of the serpent, then blames her for his own sin, and even blames God for giving her to him.]

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

[Adam blames the woman and God, Eve blames the serpent, but no one takes responsibility for their own sin. It's like asking a kindergarten class "who took the cookies"?]

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

"Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you shall go,

And you shall eat dust

All the days of your life.

15 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."

[It is no coincidence that serpents, firey serpents, and dragons pervade every culture as symbols of evil. The divining spirits of the serpent were demonic spirits who used to be angels before they were lead into rebellion by Satan himself. So the serpent is more hated than all the other animals, even the non-venomous ones cause your heart to race when you see them unexpectedly.

But even in the curse we see the promise of grace, where the seed of a woman would bruise the head of the serpent (to take away sin), and the serpent would bruise his heal, a far less serious injury.]


16 To the woman He said:

"I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;

In pain you shall bring forth children;

Your desire shall be for your husband,

And he shall rule over you."

[Ladies, what have you inherited from your mother Eve? Literally a pain in the uterus. Humans are fertile in every season; carry their babies for 9 months, and labor in great pain. Even with all that, most women desire a husband and children. Some have interpreted that desire in verse 16 as a desire to rule over your husband implying strife in that relationship for leadership of the family. Even in this difficulty the church is called the bride of Christ, and husbands are called to love, sacrifice and lead in the home, the way Jesus gave himself for the church.]


17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it':

"Cursed is the ground for your sake;

In toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,

And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread

Till you return to the ground,

For out of it you were taken;

For dust you are,

And to dust you shall return."

[As I suggested before, the wilderness outside the garden of Eden is a very different place. In the garden man had every fruit and nut tree that was good for food. In the wilderness man would find hard ground with weeds, and thorns, all these wild plants that were not good for food. So Adam's punishment included a constant frustration with trying to get a good crop out of bad ground. Also included in that is mortality, returning to the ground after death.]

20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

[I'm sure you've hear the term mitochondrial Eve. The mitochondrial DNA women inherit from their mothers, and genetic testing support the belief in one human family, just as the Bible teaches.]

21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

[The coats or tunics of skin imply a blood sacrifice of animals to provide the skins, and symbolize how blood atonement covers our sin, just as those animal skins covered the shame and nakedness of Adam and Eve.

Here we talk about death. Some have suggested that before the fall there was no death anywhere in the animal kingdom. I don't see a justification for that in the text. Everything we know about physics, chemistry, and biology is that it all works through entropy which is decay. Rather than believing immortality was in the body of man before the fall, I see verse 22 teaching that it was a special endowment provided to man through the tree of life.

Therefore evicting man from the garden, depriving them access to the tree of life, was the death sentence that simply allowed nature to take its course rendering us all mortal. This is what makes Genesis 2:17 true; "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die", the day that man left the garden, and the tree of life, is literally the day that he began to die.

Some teach that Genesis 2:17 is talking about spiritual death, or separation from God. As I heard one preacher say "I would believe Genesis 2:17 is talking about spiritual death if it weren't for all the cemeteries". Verse 3:19 makes it clear God is talking about physical decay and death "to dust you shall return". I agree with those say the curse changes everything, but I think that was mainly carried out through this forced relocation to the wilderness. Today we reside in the wilderness, children of the fall, all in need of redemption. For temptations sake we left an ideal place God had prepared for us because of his loving-kindness. For temptations sake the world today neglects the grace of God, and a new place Jesus has prepared for all who believe.]

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