Temptation and Fall. Gen 2:25-3:7
When we get into the story of the temptation and the fall in Genesis chapter three there is clearly a human viewpoint approach to the study of this section. Human viewpoint approaches usually want to relegate this to some form of myth and that it was written simply to explain how certain things came to be in history, how animals came to be a certain way, perhaps why people wear clothes. It is basically thought of as just a story and there is no real history here. However, if we take the time to compare what is said here in just seven short verses with, for example, a myth such as Pandora's Box, which was a Greek myth used to teach about the origin of evil, we see that there are certain elements in myths that are similar to all the different myths, whether and ancient near eastern myth, an Asian myth or Greek myth. There is a certain amount of fantastic information there that just goes beyond credibility, whereas when we look at the biblical story of the fall and the introduction of evil into the human race it is a very concise episode. The Holy Spirit always uses an economy of words and doesn't get into a lot of extraneous detail that would satisfy the curiosity of most of us. Another attempt is to sort of spiritualize the story, once again rejecting the fact that it would be a literal historical event, and thinking that is was merely representational. At this point all kinds of odd explanations come to play. For example, one writer would say that there is no real serpent and that this is a literary device to explain what is going on inside of Eve's head. Also the allegorical approach is predominant, especially in Roman Catholic theology where it really isn't literal, it just represents sexual knowledge. Embedded in that is the idea that somehow sex is inherently evil, and then once they discovered sex then everything went downhill from there. All of that refuses to take the Scriptures as a literal, historical event that took place approximately four of five thousand years before Christ.
In chapter two there is really a shift that takes place between verse 24 and verse 25. The chapter break should come in verse 25. There we read that the man and his wife were naked and not ashamed. The reason we make the paragraph break between v. 24 and v. 25 is one the basis of vocabulary. We have the word "naked" which in the Hebrew simply means to be naked, but the word is repeated in chapter three verse seven. There we discover that the word is not only repeated but now is a source of disgrace and shame and exposure and guilt. This forms what is called an inclusio, the Latin term, or the Greek term epanadiposis. They both have the same idea, i.e. the repetition of a word or a phrase at the beginning of a section and at the end of a section. That is what would be called in the army, bracketing, and that basically circles the topic, and by repeating material at the beginning and at the end it emphasizes the material that comes in between. So it forms an inclusio here from Genesis 2:25 to 3:7, and that becomes the main section.
The emphasis in chapter two as we have seen is on the perfect environment created by God. Thus when we come to chapter three and we see the fall we realize that it can't be blamed on insufficient information. That is a sub-theme in this whole section: the sufficiency of God and the rejection of God's sufficiency. The fall can only be blamed on the personal choice of the individuals involved. And thus even though it is not written as an explanation of evil it does give an answer as to how evil entered into the world. God created everything good, it was man who mucked everything up by making a disobedient and rebellious decision. At the beginning there is a complete openness, and innocency, and in a sense almost naivety when it comes to evil. There is no awareness of the evil that can come from sexual manipulation and sexual distortion. So they are naked and not ashamed. The word "ashamed" is the Hebrew word bosh, and it means to fall into disgrace through failure. It has the idea of a sense of guilt over failure as well as the ideas of confusion, dismay and embarrassment. So none of these things are present here, there is nothing but pure optimism and hope. Everything is positively good. The man and the woman are not created neutral, they are created with the positive righteousness of God because they are created in His image. However, it is an untested righteousness. The test is whether or not they will follow God's instructions related to the prohibition of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we look at this beginning we see in 2:25 that they are both "naked," arummim, which is a plural form of a cognate noun as the word we run into in 3:1 describing the serpent. The serpent is the craftiest or wiliest creature of the beasts of the field that God created. The words "craftiest" or "wiliest" is the Hebrew word arum, so obviously writer is making a point here, he has a pun going here to draw our attention to the fact that man as created is unashamed, there is integrity in both the man and the woman, and yet the serpent, when he comes along, by this play on words the author is indicating that it is this very integrity of the creature that is going to be the target of the serpent. What we see in this section is that man moves from the innocent, uncorrupted nakedness to vulnerable shameful nakedness. He moves from integrity as one created in the untarnished image of God to guilt and the corruption of that image of God. This is one of the most dramatic stories in all of Scripture and it is covered in such sparseness that we have to take some time to develop what happens. It is great drama and it is told with tremendous finesse.
Verse 1, "Now the serpent." The structure of the grammar here at the beginning uses the Hebrew conjunction waw plus a noun, which is always a disjunctive idea. So it is bringing out a contrast, and the contrast is with that which is before: the naked man and woman who have integrity and were unashamed are contrasted with the serpent who is more cunning. The word there for serpent is the Hebrew word nachash, the normal word for serpent or snake but it also has some other interesting uses. For example, Isaiah 27:1, "In that day the LORD with his severe and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the fleeing serpent, even leviathan that twisted serpent; and he shall slay the reptile that is in the sea." This isn't the normal serpent, so when we think of nachash and the serpent or the snake in the garden there are a couple of things we need to pay attention to. First, this is used to describe a mighty sea creature that in many passages in the KJV was translated as a dragon. This is a huge dinosaur type of creature, so it is a huge reptilian creature that is pictured also in Revelation 12:9, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan"—the judgment on the devil and Satan who is pictured as a dragon is the fulfillment of Isaiah 27:1. In Hebrew imagery they reach back into their past and pick up this early Israelite myth that did not have anything to do with Scripture and used that imagery of Leviathan in his struggle and revolt against God, and so the Leviathan becomes a picture of Satan. All of the ancient peoples had a mythology where they have in their creation mythology a revolt of the sea against their god or gods. This revolt of the sea—this is why the sea was always pictured as uncontrolled. Back in Genesis 1:2 when we talked about the Spirit of God hovering over the depths. That word always has this negative connotation of uncontrolled, rebellious sea, the salt sea. And there is no salt sea in the future creation. Mythology always has some sort of remnant memory of what truly happened. It doesn't tell us what happened, but these ancient mythologies are corrupt, corroded versions of what had actually happened. So embedded in these ancient legends is the idea that there is this primeval revolt among the gods, which is comparable to the angels, and this revolt is led by a creature called Leviathan. This Leviathan is not a simple snake but more like a dragon type of creature. So when we look at this we think about what kind of creature this is in the garden and we think that it is nachash, but it is not just a simple serpent, it is much more than that because there are other references to this creature that have him as a much larger creature and more dynamic role. But whether he is small or large we can't tell, nevertheless the serpent is the symbol and the picture of the one that led the revolt against God in eternity past.
This creature is said to be arum, more cunning, crafty or subtle. That indicates that the knowledge that the serpent had was insightful when it came to watching the woman. So he doesn't just show up on creation day plus one, he sits back and observes. He has been observing the relationship between the woman and the man and has decided on the most effective course of action. Their weakness is their naivety, their ignorance of good and evil—remember that good and evil here is not a contrast between good versus evil. The word here is not talking about righteousness but good in terms of human good and evil in terms of sin. The word "evil" can also be applied in some places in Scripture to that which appears to be good but is really destructive. In many places in the Old Testament the word "evil" relates to that which is sinful—and their unawareness of their vulnerability and how they can be taken advantage of, and they are unaware of the consequences of sin, evil and rebellion. So the use of the cognate here is to focus the mind of the reader on the target: the integrity of the man. And the serpent decides that the woman is the most likely target of success.
The next thing we see here is that the serpent is more cunning than any beast of the field. If we go back to Genesis 1:24, 25 it talks about God creating the beasts of the earth. Then in chapter two when on the sixth day when God created Adam and then brought forth the beasts of the field there is a contrast. The beasts of the field is a term that relates to the domesticatable animals that exist in the garden. For example, there are sheep in the garden. The beasts of the field indicates that this serpent lived in the garden, and that this was a domesticatable animal and had some sort of regular concourse with Adam and Isha. This suggests that this is why there was no real surprise when it started talking. We know that certain changes took place after the fall. One of those obvious physiological changes was that the serpent was to crawl on its scuts. Furthermore, it seems that the serpent had some vocal ability in some sense, or maybe this happens rather early and caught the woman off guard, we don't know. That is just one of the enigmas in the passage. But the serpent speaks because it is indwelt by Satan.
As for the identification of the serpent, God does give us a clue as to how this started in two chapters in the Old Testament: Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Ezekiel 28:1ff, "The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus," and the first part of this funeral dirge is in reference to the prince of Tyre. But there is a change in verse 12 which is a second part of this dirge: "Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus." We know for extra-biblical data that there was a leader in Tyre, but the king of Tyre is really the power behind the throne, because the things that are said of the king of Tyre could never be said of any human king, especially any human king in Tyre. This passage is coming under a tremendous amount of attack today by all kinds of liberals and it is beginning to influence a number of evangelicals. Unfortunately several of the more recent study Bibles argue that this cannot and does not refer to the fall of Satan. The problem is that even though various scholars make the contention that this is basically a borrowing of some basic Canaanite or near eastern myth no ancient Canaanite or near eastern myth has ever been discovered that even comes close to what is mentioned in this passage. In other words, it is just a rejection of what the Word indicates. And if you take this out of the Scriptures it has damaging theological consequences because it opens the Bible up to an eternal dualism, because if this doesn't tell us about the origin of sin in the universe then nowhere do we have anything telling us about the origin of sin or evil in the universe and so there is nothing to indicate that it had a beginning anywhere.
We see here that this king of Tyre was the seal of perfection. That was never said anywhere of any human being. "…full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." The adjectives here just mount up, describing the perfection of this creature. Verse 13, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God." This is not talking about the Eden of Genesis chapter two, this is talking about the Eden that existed on the earth prior to Genesis 1:2, because the description of Eden here doesn't match the Eden of Genesis two. "…every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created." If we were a Jew reading this the imagery that would come into our head would be a picture of the high priest and the breastplate, the ephod of the high priest, which had the precious and semi-precious stones on it. The Jewish high priest had twelve stones on the ephod for each of the twelve tribes and there are only nine stones mentioned here. Furthermore, there is a reference to the musical ability of this creature in the last part of v. 13. Verses 14, 15, "Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth [covers the throne of God]; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." It repeats this idea of sunless perfection, that this cannot be a human king. Verse 16, "By the abundance of thy trading they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire." Tye was a major center for commerce and trade and so this uses that imagery that apparently this creature (Lucifer before the fall) traded on his influence. And the idea that he was the anointed cherub indicates something about a priestly role, and apparently we derive from this text (we can't be dogmatic) he had some sort of priestly function in relationship to the angels. And instead of receiving the worship for God he wanted all of that worship for himself. And so verse 17, "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee." That relates to his judgment.
The details of that sin, his heart being lifted up, are in Isaiah chapter fourteen which is a prophecy of the future fall of the king of Babylon. Think about this. Isaiah 14 is written in the seventh century BC, but it is looking forward to an event when this king is going to be judged. This actually takes place at the second coming of Christ. So the vantage point is looking to the future, but it is looking to a point in the future that looks back on the immediate judgment that just took place on this king. Verse 12, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer…" The word is not Lucifer in the original, that comes from the concept of light. The Hebrew word has the idea of bright and morning star. "… son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" When did he weaken the nations? All through human history, culminating in their final weakness during the Tribulation period. Notice it is past tense, it is over with. Verses 13, 14, "For thou hast said in thine heart." So it is looking at this time and reflecting back on the original fall. "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [the angels]: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation [i.e. to rule over the assembly of the angels], in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds [the glory of God]; I will be like the most High." These five "I wills" summarize Satan's arrogance and his fall. The conclusion: v.15, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the lowest depths of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms." So it is looking forward to the time of his judgment and realizing that when he is judged people will look at him and ridicule him and wonder how they could have been misled by this creature.
So this is the origin of Satan, the origin of sin in the universe, and man is created to resolve the angelic conflict. After Satan fell he took one third of the angels with him. Those angels went with him in revolt against God, and eventually God judged those angels. In that judgment Satan challenged the integrity of God. We don't have specific scripture on that but we infer it from the fact that it is in Genesis chapter three that the serpent challenges the integrity of God. This seem to be his modus operandi throughout history: to challenge and attack the integrity of God and the goodness of God. And along with that Satan wants to prove that he, the creature, can successfully rule creation apart from the creator. So God in grace is demonstrating that the creature cannot live independently from the creator, and that when the creature does that there is always destruction. It doesn't matter what the creature does. It may not be a sin of any consequence. It may be an act that no one would classify as something that is moral or immoral. Eating a piece of fruit is not on your list of immoral actions, but it was an act of disobedience to God, the creature exerting his independence from God that is the source of all the sin, suffering, death, misery, warfare, horror, famine that we see. It comes from the creature acting independently from God. We think that it is just a minor thing, and we look at what happened in Genesis three as if it was some minor thing that they eat this fruit, but look at what God has to do to reverse the consequences. He has to send His Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. He has to go through thousands of years of earth's history in order to bring about the resolution of the consequences of their actions in chapter three. So God has created man in order to demonstrate His grace, to demonstrate His integrity, to demonstrate through human history that the creature cannot live independently from the creator. God works things out and allows things to develop through the course of human history so that every possible permutation of creaturely independence is going to be demonstrated to be fallacious. God is going to show that it never works under any circumstances or under any condition.
He allows Satan to test the creature and the serpent takes first assault on the woman and he does it in an extremely subtle manner. He is not going to go for that head-on frontal assault but he is going to carefully address the subject. The question that he asks is, "Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" He doesn't say God is wrong but by the way he forms the question he is suggesting that somehow God is leaving something out, that somehow there is something good that God is withholding from the creature. By raising the question, Has God said? the serpent is challenging the integrity of God. But there is something that is more insidious about this approach. By asking the question this way he immediately puts the woman in a position of judging God. If she falls for the question she puts herself in a position that is going to predetermine her defeat. God has said one thing, the absolute value. That absolute value is that if they eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there will be certain death. The serpent is going to come along and say no death. So there are competing truth claims. What the serpent is saying to the woman is, You need to be the one to decide who is true. By buying into the question she is elevating herself to a position where she, the creature, is going to determine whether God's statement has ultimate value or the serpent's statement has ultimate value. It's like answering the question: Have you stopped beating your wife yet? However she answers this question she is in trouble. The solution is to turn her back on the serpent and to walk away. But by answering the serpent she has already put herself into a trap that can go in no other direction other than to culminate in her eating the fruit, because she is elevating herself into the position of judging the veracity of God's statement.
In verse two we see the beginning of her answer. "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden." But notice she is leaving things out. God didn't say they could just eat from the trees of the garden, He said they could eat from all the trees in the garden except one. She is leaving out that qualification of all. She is beginning to diminish what God has said. She is deluding the Word of God. "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." God didn't say that. God said, "You shall not eat it," but when she quotes God, not only does she add something about not touching it but she also misstates the severity of the prohibition. When she says, You shall not eat it, she reduces the significance of that, it is not stated in as strong a prohibition as God originally stated it. She diminishes it by adding the phrase "lest you die." By changing the consequences from You shall certainly die to Lest you die, she weakens the penalty. Her statement backs off the absoluteness of the penalty just a little bit. So the changes that she makes dilutes God's Word and weakens the mandate. But the serpent gets it right when he responds to her.
Verse 4, "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die." In the Hebrew there is the negative plus an infinitive construct plus an imperfect tense verb. The normal way to write this in Hebrew is to put the negative between the infinitive construct and the imperfect tense verb. God said, "You will certainly die" and He used that phrase of that infinitive construct plus the imperfect, and so rather than break that up by putting the negative before that phrase the serpent is making an extremely strong statement that God is wrong, that He said you will certainly die and I'm saying you will not certainly die. So he changes up the grammar in order to make sure that the point is made that he is 180 degrees opposite the statement of God. He is opposing what God said. So the serpent accurately states the penalty but he rejects it, he says it is not real. This is all part of the ongoing lie that man wants to buy into, that there are no consequences to disobedience, that we are going to get away with sin, that God is going to wink at sin, is not going to see our sin, and somehow we are going to get away with it. Furthermore, the serpent goes on from a simple rejection of what God said to an explanation that impugns the integrity of God, v. 5: "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." In other words, God's real motive is so you won't have everything He has, He is being selfish, He is not good, He doesn't have your best interests at heart, He has lied to you about the penalty, the only thing that is going to happen to you is that you are going to become like God. An so he holds out the temptation of the promise of divinity. This idea for the creature to be like God is this same temptation that he fell into. He wanted to be like God, and the irony here is that the woman who, like the man, is supposed to exercise dominion over these creatures is now going to be led by this subordinate animal to get to deity. She has just had the wool pulled over her eyes.
It is furthermore an attack on the sufficiency of God's provision. He didn't tell you everything you needed to know, He left some really important facts out. That is how Satan has always attacked the Word of God. There is always an assault on the Word of God. First there is an assault on its integrity and it is always followed by an assault on its sufficiency. We have seen that in the 19th and 20th centuries. There has been a tremendous assault on the integrity of God's Word. For example, it's not infallible, it's not inerrant, and liberal theology has made its statements and these have seeped into conservative evangelical theology. But even when conservatives stood up for the inerrancy and infallibility of God's Word where they lost it was on the doctrine of sufficiency. They lost it because science comes along and says it's great to tell us about the origins, the Bible is great to tell us about the cross and salvation, great to tell us about our spiritual life, but from science we know all of this information and so we can have a better understanding of origins from science and we don't have to pay attention to what the Bible says about science. So we lost the battle of sufficiency. Then it went to sociology, and sociology has its roots at the same time period as evolution. And sociology comes along and says man can understand its social relationships and marriage and families and cities and countries much better without paying attention to what the Bible says. The bible is just antiquated information, you don't need to pay attention to the Bible, it has nothing to do with social organization or social structures. Then we have psychology. Psychology comes along and says you ought to understand behavior problems and why you do the things they way you do them, and you don't need to pay attention to the Bible. The Bible isn't sufficient, it just tells you about spiritual things, not about the soul. And if you want to know about the soul then you come to psychology. All of this is evil; all of this is deceptive; all of this is an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture which is an indirect attack on the integrity of God. When people buy into Darwinistic evolution or any compromise on the literal six-day, twenty-four-hour creation of Genesis chapter one, when they buy into sociology, and into psychology, then they are completely immersed in the devil's thinking and they are under the control of the cosmic system. They are operating in the field of good and evil.
In verse 6 we see the woman's response. She begins to really look on this fruit, it is attractive. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."
We need to pay attention to a couple of words here. The first word is the word "pleasant." This is a word in the Hebrew which has a basic meaning of that which is pleasing or pleasant, to have a longing for something, something that is desirous, and something that one would lust after. This word is used in the context of the Mosaic law in Deuteronomy 5:21, "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's." The second word is the word "desirable" which is translated "covet" in Deuteronomy 5, which joins both of these words together. And if you were a Jew reading this account that the woman looks on the tree and she sees it pleasant and desirable, the words that you would hear in Hebrew are words that speak of being covetous and lustful in the Mosaic law. We miss so much in the English! The writer is using these words in such a sophisticated manner as he writes the episode in Genesis chapter three. The second word is the word desirable. This is the Hebrew word chamad which means to lust, to covet or to desire. This word is also used in Exodus 20:17, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." So as she looks on the tree she begins to lust and covert, and this automatically culminates in eating the fruit. Now this whole action really is viewed as one action. Nothing is a sin yet, but once she starts down the road it's an irreversible process and once she begins to think that she can evaluate God it's going to automatically culminate in her disobedience to the divine prohibition.
Notice how the writer ends this. It is very rapid. She took, the fruit, she ate, she gave her husband, and he ate. He wraps it up very quickly and very succinctly, there is no drawing out of the details. Many people look at this and try to interpret it in some sort of allegorical manner. But we should observe how the New Testament handles it. The New Testament does not look at this in an allegorical manner. We see how Paul handles it in many places but one in particular is 1 Timothy 2:12-14, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Paul is giving instructions on how the church should conduct itself in the first century and his explanation isn't grounded in 1st century attitudes towards the sexes. He goes back to creation. Paul in the New Testament builds sex relationships, the relationships between the two sexes on a literal understanding of Genesis chapters two and three.
Then verse 7 gives us the consequences of the disobedience. "And the eyes of them both were opened." This is spiritual death. They were to die immediately. They didn't die physically but they died spiritually. "… and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." Now there is exposure, there is guilt, there is disgrace, there is shame, and they have to cover it up. Notice that God hasn't shown up yet and they are already having to cover up the problem. They are immediately exposed and they try to solve it on their own terms. This is man's problem, he doesn't understand the ultimate issue is always spiritual. The human solution is always a failure. Adam and Eve tried to solve their problem by sewing fig leaves together and covering themselves. That never works. This is the picture of human good. There is nothing sinful in what they are doing but it is an inadequate, farcical solution to the problem. The human solution is never a solution, the only solution is the divine solution. The only solution is a complete and accurate understanding of the Word of God and an unshakeable trust in the integrity of God. It is only on this basis that man, the creature, can live as God intended.