Posts Tagged 'serpent'

Genesis: The Fall of Man

Eve 

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.

MAN AND HIS SIN PROBLEM

eden apple

Throughout the days of Creation in Genesis, after each thing and creature God created, He pronounced them as being “good.” Yet in looking around at our world, we would be hard pressed to say everything in it is “good” today. There is sickness, crime, violence, disease, and trouble all over. God certainly never created any of those things, so the question thinking people ask is, Where did evil come from? Naturally the Bible tells us.

1. Sin is real

In spite of man’s best efforts to dismiss the reality of sin, sin is real. Over the centuries since the Fall, man has created ingenious ways to excuse or justify his sin. Here are some of the more familiar philosophies man has developed in response to the sin problem.

Atheism

The atheist believes there is no God; if there is no God, then it follows there can be no sin. Man may harm others, and he may harm himself, but since there is no God, his evil acts are not sin.

But the Bible teaches something very different. It teaches that all wrongdoing, regardless to whom it is directed, is really directed against God, and therefore all wrongdoing is sin.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)

Determinism

This philosophy teaches that man has no real freedom of choice. He thinks he does, but in reality his choices are determined by outside forces or laws. Determinism teaches that a person is not always responsible for his wrongdoings.  Man, according to the determinist, is just a helpless slave to his circumstances.

Once again, the Bible teaches something completely different. Man was created with a free will and is able to choose between good and evil. This is implied in every exhortation and command.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

One of the consequences of determinism is the notion that “sin” is a sickness and the “sinner” should be pitied, not punished for his wrongdoing.

Hedonism

Hedonism, a philosophy named after a Greek word for “pleasure,” is a philosophy that teaches the most important thing in life is for the individual to be happy, no matter what. Behind this philosophy is the desire to lessen the severity of sin, blurring the line between right and wrong. In our society today, the most common expression of hedonism is in the area of marriage and relationships. Many a marriage, even Christian marriages, has ended when one partner claims they are unhappy and would be happier with someone else.

The problem with modern hedonism, practised by many ignorant Christians, is that the individual justifies his sin, claiming that the evil act he just committed may be wrong for some, or may be wrong sometimes, but that in his particular case, what he did wasn’t really sinful.

But the Bible never allows for exceptions in the case of sin. When it comes to sin and human behavior, there are no “special circumstances” whereby an evil act may be justified.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

Evolution

Those who believe in evolution think sin is nothing more than man giving into the base behavior common to his less evolved ancestors. If man evolved from animals, then sin is merely “animal-like” behavior and eventually, in time, all that “animal-like” behavior will be evolved out of man.

The Bible teaches that man was created by God in God’s image. Man did not grow out of an animal and is not the product of a random collection cells.

2. The essence of sin

The beginning of sin is temptation, even though temptation to sin in NOT sin. Jesus Himself was tempted, yet because He never gave into those temptations, He is said to have lived a sinless life. Temptation to sin is all around us. There is no way to avoid temptation. Therefore, the problem of sin runs much, much deeper than any temptation.

Temptation

a. Two trees in the Garden

Genesis 2 is a remarkable chapter. In it, we have all the background information on man’s Fall. This chapter tells us what man’s first home was like. It speaks of man’s intelligence and his first occupation in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 speaks about the first couple and the first wedding. It speaks also of two trees, which some have called “the two trees of Destiny.” In the Garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17)

Notice neither tree is described as being sinful. Man was given complete freedom to satisfy his need for food with just one caveat: he could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Was there something evil about the tree? Was there something wrong with its fruit? No there wasn’t.  Did God put that tree there to tempt Adam and Eve?  Absolutely not!  God did not then and He would not now ever tempt anybody to sin.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… (James 1:13)

That one tree was placed in the Garden of Eden to provide a test whereby man could freely choose to serve God in obedience, developing the kind of character that mirrors God’s.

b. The source of temptation

Many people miss the point of what happened in Genesis 3. Many people think man was tempted by the tree of knowledge, but the Bible does not say that.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ” (Genesis 3:1)

The temptation to sin came, not from a tree, but from the serpent, Satan. Now, we don’t see serpents running around whispering into the ears impressionable young women today. Today, Satan works through other people. For example, we read this in Matthew 16:22, 23–

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

What was Peter doing? He was trying to convince Jesus to find another way to fulfill His mission without having to die. There wasn’t an evil bone Peter’s body, Satan was working through one of Jesus’ friends and Peter didn’t realize it.

c. The subtly of temptation

Temptation to sin is always subtle. Rarely is temptation obvious. In the Garden, Satan first went to Eve. She was “the weaker vessel,” which modern Bible readers often misunderstand. Eve was “the weaker vessel” because she never directly heard the prohibition from God. She heard it second hand from Adam. Satan twisted God’s words and caused Eve to doubt three aspects about God and God’s prohibition:

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was withholding something very good from her. In effect, she began to doubt the goodness of God.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God didn’t really mean what He said. She began to doubt His righteousness.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was jealous of man; that He didn’t want man to become as smart as He is.

3. The guilt of sin

Adam and Eve both knew they bore responsibility for their actions. It is true that Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent, but inside they knew what they did was wrong. They saw their nakedness and tried to cover themselves. They tried to hide from God. No, these two people knew what they did was wrong.

The one who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

Just as Adam and Eve tried to hide among God’s creation, so man, especially Christians, will hide either in the pleasures of sin or in the midst of God’s blessings.

4. Judgment of sin

When man sinned, God pronounced three separate judgments, Genesis 3.

The Serpent

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:14)

The curse seems to suggest that originally the serpent may have been beautiful and may have walked upright. Because it became an instrument for man’s fall, it was cursed and degraded in appearance. But why was the serpent cursed if it was only a tool in Satan’s hands? Peter was a similar tool, yet he wasn’t cursed. It’s because of verse 15:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

God would use the serpent’s curse as a type and a prophecy of the curse upon Satan and the powers of evil. Adam in particular, but all men in general, needed to see the horrendous repercussions of what Satan did when he tempted man to sin. This is also meant to be an encouragement to man. Even though man sinned, man remained an upright creation. The serpent, however, did not. In other words, even though the curses upon men and women were about to come, there would be hope.

The woman

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. ” (Genesis 3:16)

This seems to suggest that originally bearing children would not have been painful for women. The second part of the woman’s curse must be viewed in light of man’s curse.

The man

Work had already been appointed for man (Genesis 2:15), but the penalty for his sin was that the work would suddenly become hard and lifelong. It would be disappointing and it would be arduous. The curse on man was certainly far-reaching, affecting even the environment.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

But notice within the marriage relationship between men and women, while the curse upon women would be that “her desire would be for her husband” alone, man was not similarly cursed. His desire, within that relationship, would NOT just be for his wife. That does not excuse infidelity or thoughtlessness or selfishness, but it may explain why there exists between men and women a sort of “great divide” in their ways of thinking and in their expressions of emotions.

Finally, notice there is a death penalty associated with sin. Man was created with capacity of not dying physically; he could have lived indefinitely in his present body and state had he not sinned.

While the relationship that existed between God and the first couple suffered on account of their sin, their communion with God was restored, “sort of,” thus overcoming spiritual death. But it was now a different kind of communion. Man could approach God, but only through prayer and repentance. For man to return to God in a personal way, he must now do so through death.


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