Genesis 3:20-24 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:57 mins 1 sec

Adam's Original Sin; Introduction


Review: Genesis 3:20, "And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living." Eve's designation as the mother of all living indicates the unity of the human race. This indicates that there are no homo sapiens that are not descendants from Adam and Eve, and it indicates that there is one human race. This is important because in distinction from the angels there is a corporate unity in the human race. We will see the significance of this as we go on into some of the doctrines that need to be developed, i.e. the doctrine of the federal headship of Jesus Christ and the idea that there is one human race and we are all related to one another therefore because of the fact that there is one man whose sin affects all of us there is one man, the God-Man, who can die for all of us. Because of this unity of the human race God can provide perfect salvation. That wasn't possible for the angels. Each angel was created individually, so there is no corporate unity among the angels, no procreation among the angels. So Eve is the mother of all living. This is further supported by Acts 17:26 where Paul said, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."


Another thing that flows out of Genesis 3:21 is the principle that there is a resolution to the shame problem. The reality was that Adam and Isha were both naked and not ashamed. Is the shame related to one another or is the shame related to the two of them in relationship to God? The end of chapter two points out that they were naked and not ashamed. The nakedness was not an exposure to one another. The shame was not related to other human beings, the shame has to do with God. Because when we come to Genesis 3:7, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." The context indicates that the covering is designed to cover up their nakedness in relationship to God, not in relationship to each other. Because in verse 8 we read, "And they heard the voice 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 amongst the trees of the garden." So they are trying to solve their problem through their own solution. Verse 10, "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." Their nakedness there is directly related to their fear of God and their exposure of their relative righteousness before the perfect righteousness of God. So this puts a new slant on things, that this has to do with exposure of man's inability, exposure of man's unrighteousness, and exposure of his rebellion.


So God is going to provide a temporary solution to this problem in verse 21 where He makes garments for them of skins. Although this does not tell us specifically that He gave them instructions related to the sacrifice, that He gave them doctrine related to the shedding of blood as it is developed throughout the Scripture, the implication is nevertheless there because in order to make garments of skin there has to be the death of the animal. This verse points out that God provides a perfect solution whereas man's solution was no solution. This is a constant theme throughout the Scripture; that man's solution is no solution and the divine solution is the only solution, and that has implications for everything from salvation to solving problems in life. So this begins at the fall. All man's problems began at the fall and all solutions must begin with the divine solution of salvation, otherwise they are nothing more than temporary fixes, just a patch, and it doesn't work. So operation fig leaves was nothing more than an inadequate attempt to cover up a problem, and even though it had some temporary benefit it had no lasting benefit. A point that we have to understand is that human viewpoint often comes up with all kinds of workable solutions which seem to alleviate the pressure for a while but in the long run there is no adequate solution. In fact, all human viewpoint solutions end up creating more problems down the road than a divine viewpoint solution.


Then in verse 22, "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…" Here we have a divine conversation again  between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Yahweh Elohim is the speaker and it is believed that this refers to the second person of the Trinity; He is the one who reveals Himself. "The man has become" is a qal perfect tense the verb hayah in Hebrew, and the perfect tense (there is no present tense in the Hebrew, there is just the perfect tense and the imperfect tense) can be simple past, and it can also be perfective action which is completed action. We have to look at the context, and the context tells us that when God says that the man has become like one of us He is not simply saying the man became like one of us, simple past, but He is emphasizing the present and ongoing results of a completed action. That is perfective action. The action isn't still going on, it is finished, and He is emphasizing the present results of a past action. When there is a perfective idea here it is emphasizing an action that is over and done with, it is not still going on. The present results are such that man is now in some sense like God, and that means in a sense radically different from being in the image and likeness of God. This is a degenerative state. He has become this way, it represents a change, so that excludes anything related to the meaning of image and likeness.


The first thing we have to ask is: What does this phrase "knowing good and evil" mean? Option one: it refers to human good and evil; option two: it refers to positive righteousness and evil, and that is saying that man was aware of positive righteousness before the fall and now he knows what sin is because he has had an experience with sin. So once again we are back to a conclusion that the knowing here is an experiential knowledge. But that is a problem. If this is experiential knowledge of sin then we have a problem because God is the one speaking here and He says the man has become "like us." God does not have an experiential knowledge of evil. He has an awareness of evil; He knows what evil is by His own intuitive omniscience, but He does not have a personal experiential knowledge of evil. So we have to ask in what sense man knows good and evil as God knows good and evil. In what sense does man after the fall know good and evil in the same way that God knows good and evil throughout all eternity?


There are three basic ways that question can be answered. First of all, we have to understand that all of these come out of the general meaning of the Hebrew word yada. Yada has a lot of different meanings. It can mean to know through observation and experimentation; it can mean to know experientially; it can mean to know intimately; it can mean to know sexually. So let's look at the options here. Basically what we are saying is that the first option is to know something experientially. We can eliminate that because God does not know evil experientially. The second option is that God knows something intellectually or through observation. For God that would be an eternal observation, omniscience, more of an academic intellectual simple cognitive awareness of what something is. Well that may be true but man's knowledge of good and evil at this point is not a mere cognitive act, man is not simply aware intellectually of what sin is. He has sinned, he has an experiential knowledge of sin. So it can't be restricted to a mere academic, intellectual or cognitive knowledge. The comparison indicates that the knowledge man now has is the same as the knowledge God has. So what this does is it eliminates completely the idea that good and evil stand for human good and sin, or even righteousness and sin. It has a different connotation here. What we have is resolved, we think, by the fact that we have in this statement a reconstruction where there is the preposition Lamedh attached to the infinitive construct of the verb yada, and in some case that indicates purpose but here it has more of a gerundive idea of knowing. But the context indicates the idea of determining what good and evil is, and this fits the context best. Because if we go back to the first part of the chapter the serpent comes along and says they won't die, "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be like gods, knowing good and evil." The temptation is to be like God. And God is the ultimate determiner of what righteousness and evil are. It is God's character that is the absolute measuring rod of all ethics, of morality, of fight and wrong in the universe. Man wants to be "like us." Man wants to be the final authority in his life. He has rejected God's authority: God doesn't have the authority to say that this is right or wrong. Eve began to walk into that trap when the serpent asked the question: Has God really said? As soon as he asks that question she starts to look at that tree and think: How do we know He is right? How do we know that if we eat that it is going to be a harmful thing? She put herself in a position of judging the veracity of God's prohibition. By yielding to the question, by even entertaining the question, Eve has put herself in the position where she is acting like God and is questioning God's authority and His right to command and determine moral and ethical absolutes in the universe. So when we look at this phrase, what it means to become like God to know good and evil, it means to act as if you are God, being the final or ultimate reference point for values, morals and meaning in life. Once man put himself in that position he is acting like a little god and he is spiritually dead. He is divorced from God and he has a new problem, separation from God and spiritual death. He is spiritually dead but still physically alive. God has announced that he will eventually return to dust, that physically he is in a position of deterioration and his body is subject to corruption.


He is going to die, but apparently there was one option available to man and that was the tree of life. Because of what God said, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever," it would be possible for man in his deterioration and depravity to be corrupt and spiritually dead and yet to eat from the tree of life and go on living in a corrupt body that would be under condemnation and continue to deteriorate and to shrivel. So God guards them from this horrible fate and erects a guard at the gates of Eden, a cherub with a flaming sword who prevents man from being able to come to the tree of life.


Genesis 3:23, "Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." The word for tilling here is the same word we have in the initial mandate to Adam, the Hebrew word abad, which means to work, or to cultivate. It can mean to serve or to worship, but here it is tied to cultivation so it has the connotation of manual labor. And then the conclusion in verse 24, "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Cherubs were always associated with the holiness of God, and so we see that the area of Eden is still the throne of God, the area of God's presence on the earth, and so the cherubim is stationed there in order to protect the holiness and integrity of God. The implication of sword in Scripture is the power of life and death and governmental power. We think this implies that throughout the pre-flood period in the antediluvian dispensation that God's presence is still on the earth and He is executing judgment. There is no provision for delegation of judicial power to man in that dispensation. The contention is that God is still mediating justice through the angels in the antediluvian world.


The importance of the historicity of Adam and the account of the fall

Is Adam viewed in the rest of Scripture as a historically existing individual? Or is he viewed as some sort of allegorical type or picture? The Scriptures consistently portray Adam and Eve and the story of the fall as a historical event, not as some allegory.

1)  In Luke 3:38 Adam is listed along with all of the other historical figures in the genealogy of Christ. If Jesus doesn't go all the way back to Adam then we can't argue that He is truly human. Adam must be a historically existing individual if he is listed in the genealogy of Christ. The principle in Scripture is that if it just proven in one point it is proven completely.

2)  In Romans 5:14 we are told that Adam is the source of spiritual death for the human race. This is represented in contrast to what Jesus Christ has provided for us in salvation. "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the type of him that was to come." When the Scripture uses type [tupoj] it doesn't mean he did not literally exist because the types all did literally exist but they were used to foreshadow or picture something. If Adam wasn't a historical figure then the entire analogy between Adam and Christ and statement "from Adam to Moses" are rendered meaningless. Therefore to understand the fallen state of the race Adam must be a historically existing individual.

3)  In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul refers to Adam in establishing the reality of the resurrection. So the conclusion is that if Adam wasn't a genuine historically existing individual then there is no resurrection. The argument is that because of Adam's decision physical death entered the human race (v. 21). This isn't spiritual death, it is physical death because the subject is physical, bodily resurrection. Then in v. 45 of the same chapter we read, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul [quote from Genesis 2:7]; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." Paul again draws a parallel and an analogy between the first Adam and the second Adam, and since the last Adam is a historically existing individual, the first Adam must be as well, otherwise the parallel breaks down.

4)  The importance of marriage as a divine institution in then understanding of both marriage and divorce is built on a historically existing Adam and Eve, Matthew 19:1-6. Verse 4, in Jesus' reply to the Pharisees, said: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female." That is from Genesis 1:26, 28.

5)  In the New Testament there are a couple of passages that deal with the role of men and women in marriage and the role of men and women in the local church and the worship setting. 1 Corinthians 11:8, 9; 1 Timothy 2:8-14. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul bases his whole argument for role distinctions in the public worship service of the church on the order of creation. Paul, like Jesus, quotes from Genesis chapters one and two and does not see a contradiction between the two accounts.

6)  Conclusion: If the account in Genesis 1-3 is not historically accurate then there is no basis in the New Testament teaching for sin, salvation, bodily resurrection from the dead, marriage, family, or the distinct roles within marriage and the worship service in the New Testament church. That shows why creation is important. You can't come along and just allegorize or mythologize the first eleven chapters of Genesis as if they are just some sort of morality play because everything that the New Testament teaches is predicated upon the historical accuracy and veracity of that account. If you do away with Genesis 1-11 you may as well do away with the cross, with Jesus, the deity of Jesus, the authority of Scripture. You basically destroy Christianity. That is why Genesis 1-3 is such a battleground, because the devil knows that if you destroy that you cut out the foundation for the rest of the Bible.


The impact of Adam's original sin

1)  The first point has to do with Adam's loss of dominion. This is described in theology as original sin because it was the first sin, it was the sin that mattered. No one can commit any sin that has a billionth of the consequences of Adam's sin. And all Adam did was eat a piece of fruit. Man is placed—Genesis 1:26-28—as God's representative over creation. But when he sinned he abdicated his position to Satan, so that Satan became the ruler of the planet. For example, in Luke 4:6: "And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it." Jesus doesn't dispute it. Furthermore, a couple of the titles that are ascribed to Satan indicate his authority over the planet: 2 Corinthians 4:4, he is called the god of this age; Ephesians 2:2, he is called the prince of the power of the air. Furthermore, he is the king of the kingdom of darkness into which we are all born. This again indicates his position of authority. In Acts 26:18 there is a prayer, with reference to Paul's role as a Gentile missionary: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the dominion of Satan unto God." The word for "dominion" there is the same concept that we have in Genesis 1:26-28. We are born in the dominion of Satan, and under his authority, his power. This is the same ideas presented in Colossians 1:13, "Who hath delivered us from the domain of darkness, and hath transferred us into the kingdom of his dear Son." So there is the contrast between the kingdom or domain of darkness, the dominion of darkness, to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Even though we are still living in Satan's domain we now have a different authority over us and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. 

2)  Man is born in a state of spiritual death. Adam was created in a state where he was spiritually alive but all of his descendants are born in a state of spiritual death. We see this is Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you hath he quickened, even though you were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

3)  Man is born spiritually blind. 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Man is blinded by the message and the ruler of the cosmic system. 1 John 5:19, "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world [cosmic system] lies in the power of the evil one."

4)  Man is condemned because of his relationship to Adam, not because of personal sins. That is one of the most difficult things for a lot of people to understand. You sin because you have a sin nature; you sin because you are a sinner. You are not a sinner because you sin; you were condemned because of your possession of the sin nature and the imputation of Adam's original sin, not because of anything that you did. This goes back to an ancient heresy called Pelagianism which plagued the early church. Pelagius thought and taught that every person was born in the same state that Adam was created in; therefore we are all neutral, and we are condemned because of the decisions we make. And that has been clearly and correctly recognized as heresy since the fifth century AD. The reference point is Romans 5:12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."