Genesis: The Fall of Man


Genesis 3


Chapter 3 of the first book of the Bible answers another question man has asked:  How did sin and evil enter the world?  Scholars have called this one chapter the “pivot on which the whole Bible turns.”  It’s certainly an important chapter because it makes clear that sin was not part of God’s original creation.  It also confirms what we all know:  we were created with a free will and the first human pair freely chose to rebel against God.

One noted Bible scholar has described the fall of man like this:

By accepting Satan’s word and Satan’s system in preference to God’s Word and God’s order, they handed over the deed of trust to Satan and enthroned him as the legal ruler.  They transferred their allegiance from the Father of lights to the father of lies.

1.  Steps in the fall of man, Genesis 3:1—6

Bible scholars and students wonder about the temptation.  Why was man allowed to be tempted in the first place?  In reading the creation accounts of the previous two chapters, we discover some interesting facts about man:  he was created innocent; he was created to be an intelligent, rational, and reasoning being; he was created with a free will.  So, man was created innocent, but he was NOT created righteous.  Righteousness is not the same thing as innocence.  Righteousness is innocence that stands up to temptation.

In reading the creation accounts, we discover an interesting thing about temptation:  it will either develop a godly person’s character or it will destroy it.  The Garden of Eden was a real place and it was occupied by two real people:  Adam and Eve.  They were real people in every sense of the word; real people just like we are.  They had emotions and desires and strengths and weaknesses just like we have.  Just as our character is developed over the years, so was theirs.  Our character develops in the face of temptation sometimes, and so did theirs.  Adam and Eve were created to be responsible people; responsible to obey God, to serve God, and to glorify Him in how they lived.

God created man and He gave man a single admonition:

But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.”  (Genesis 2:17  TLB)

There were all kinds of trees in the Garden of Eden and man had access to all of them, save these two.  Why?  Adam and Eve needed to grow and mature and learn.  They needed to learn about themselves; they needed to learn about God; they needed to understand that while they were given dominion over the earth, God had ultimate dominion over all life.  And they needed to develop character.  Their free wills needed to be tested so that Adam and Eve would willingly acknowledge their subordinate position to God.

The serpent was the craftiest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. So the serpent came to the woman. “Really?” he asked. “None of the fruit in the garden? God says you mustn’t eat any of it?”  (Genesis 3:1  TLB)

The entrance of the serpent into the Garden of Eden brought discord into what had been a harmonious world up until now.  Satan chose as his instrument of temptation a serpent.  As originally created, it must have been different from the serpents (snakes) we have today.  Eve wasn’t afraid of it and wasn’t surprised that it spoke to her!  So it’s likely the snakes in Eden were not like they would become after this serpent was cursed.

The serpent approached Eve, not Adam, for reasons not given.  Perhaps it was because she had heard God’s admonition second-hand that Satan reasoned she could be duped more easily.  Whatever the reason, he approached her, pretending to be ignorant and pretending to ask a legitimate question.

Eve’s first mistake was paying attention to the serpent.  Had she followed the admonition of Scripture, the encounter would have gone no further.

So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7  TLB)

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “The Scriptures say, ‘Worship only the Lord God. Obey only him.’ ”  (Matthew 4:10  TLB)

Instead of doing this, Eve actually engaged in a conversation with the serpent, revealing her ignorance.

“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. “It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not to eat. God says we mustn’t eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”  (Genesis 3:2, 3  TLB)

She both added to and took away from God’s Word.

Eve’s second mistake was in looking at the fruit way too long.  In doing so, she was allowing the temptation to take root.  It’s one thing to be tempted with fleeting thoughts and images of sin, but it’s another thing to linger on those thoughts and images too long.

The woman was convinced. How lovely and fresh looking it was! And it would make her so wise!   (Genesis 3:6a  TLB)

Eve’s temptation proved to be such a winning strategy that Satan has stuck to it ever since!  He appeals to the flesh and to the mind.

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.  (1 John 2:16  NKJV)

Both Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit and they discovered the serpent was right:  their eyes were indeed opened.  But like all of Satan’s promises, it wasn’t quite the enlightening experience they had hoped it would be.  Their eyes were opened, but only to their nakedness—all they saw was their shame and guilt.

Eve was duped, but Adam sinned knowingly.  We may speculate as to why.  It has been suggested that Adam sinned so that he could stand by his wife, and in doing so he was essentially choosing his wife over God.  No wonder Paul taught that Adam’s sin was greater.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned…  (Romans 5:12  TLB)

2.  Results of the fall, Genesis 3:7—24

An immediate result of the fall was that both Adam and Eve realized they had done something very wrong and they tried to cover it up.

So they strung fig leaves together to cover themselves around the hips.  (Genesis 3:7b  TLB)

Shame inevitably stands as the corollary of sin.  Before the Fall, man did not have a conscience; he was innocent in every sense of the word.  Sin put a conscience in members of the human race.  You can thank Adam for that little voice inside your head that nags you and accuses you all day and all night long.

Covering up their shame didn’t work, so Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God’s sight.

That evening they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and they hid themselves among the trees.  (Genesis 3:8  TLB)

Disobedience to God always—always—results in estrangement from God.  But then Adam did an astonishing thing that proves all people have inherited his tendency to sin:

“…it was the woman you gave me who brought me some, and I ate it.”  (Genesis 3:12  TLB)

He did what all children do:  blame somebody else!  But it’s not just children who try their best to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.  It seems like Adam tried to blame Eve for his fall, but really he tried to blame God.  Adam’s reason was that if God hadn’t created and given Eve to him, he never would have sinned.   Eve, learning the ropes from Adam, quickly blamed the serpent.

How foolish did these two think God was?  Naturally God completely disregarded those lame attempts at self-justification and proceeded to pronounce a series of curses upon His perfect creation.

God confronted Adam and Eve, and at last He confronted the Serpent.  But He didn’t ask any questions of it.  The serpent, Satan, was ultimately responsible; therefore he would pay the ultimate price.  From a perfect creation, the serpent was devolved into a nasty, loathsome, pitiful creature that would forever crawl along in the dirt.  God spoke to Satan what theologians like to call the protevangelium, or “the first gospel”:

“From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head.”  (Genesis 3:15  TLB)

The first prophecy in Scripture:  the promise of redemption.  It was an indication of the incredible mercy of God that He promised deliverance for man even before He passed sentence on him.

God punished Eve by essentially breaking her heart.

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.  (Genesis 3:16  NKJV)

A mother cannot bring a child into the world without pain and sorrow of some kind.  And, note this, her affections will always be toward her husband but her husband will not return that affection.  Instead, he would rule over her.

God punished Adam by breaking his spirit.

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.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.  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.”  (Genesis 3:17—19  NKJV)

Man would now have to work and work hard.  What should have been a pleasure would now be drudgery.  The world around him was degraded because of what he had done.  Adam would live with that knowledge all the days of his life.  Of note is that while Eve’s affections would always be directed toward Adam, Adam had no such judgment placed on him.  This explains why, even down to this very day, men (husbands especially) exclaim, “I just don’t understand women!” and why women (wives especially) get so frustrated when their husband or boyfriend just doesn’t want to spend as much time with them as they think they should, or they are not as thoughtful as she thinks he should be.   A harmonious life between men and women would now be difficult thanks to the introduction of sin.

God helped Adam and Eve out by replacing the pitiful fig leaf coverings with clothing made from animal skins.  In helping man, animals had to die.  And so man learned that his covering before God would have to come from an atoning sacrifice; that his own efforts would never be good enough.  Just as God provided a sacrifice for Adam and Eve, so He provided One at Calvary for all men.

The final result of the Fall of man was the expulsion of the first couple from the Garden of Eden.  This act may seem mean or harsh, but it was actually an act of supreme mercy.  Had Adam and Eve remained in the Garden, eventually they would have eaten fruit from the Tree of Life, and they would have spent an eternity as sinners with no hope of ever breaking free from that awful enslavement.  Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch make a powerful observation on this point:

In follows that man had not yet eaten of the tree of life.  Had he continued in fellowship with God, by obedience to the command of God, he might have eaten it, for he was created for eternal life.  But after he had fallen through sin into the power of death, the fruit which produced immortality could only do him harm.

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