Genesis 3

Sin changes things! The instant sin is introduced into a matter, things will change — perhaps not immediately but, without question, eventually. Sin also changes us. No one who has ever lived has sinned with impunity. Sooner or later sin will deliver its consequences and demand its payment without regard to rank, race, or riches. One thing is certain, sin will never leave its account books unbalanced.

Sin is only accessible by one avenue — our choices. The most spiritual exercise we engage in on any given day is making choices. Our choices will either draw us closer to God and the blessings that come through obedience, or they will distance us from Him and expose us to the dangers of disobedience. The freedom to make choices lies with us.

God judges sin. God is holy and must hold us accountable for the choices we make. Adam and Eve were the first to taste the bitter consequences of disobeying God. Everything changed when they chose to willfully disregard God’s clear instructions. They discovered that sin did not deliver on its promises and that God had been telling them the truth all along. And, for the first time, they experienced guilt, shame, and fear.

Nothing about sin has changed since Adam and Eve bought in to the serpent’s lies in the garden of Eden. Sin still damages, separates, destroys, ruins, and kills. Satan, the great deceiver, still uses the same tactics — appealing to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle” (1 John 2:16). And God still judges sin.

The Context
For the first time, Eve heard a voice other than God’s in the garden of Eden. Disguised as a serpent, Satan spoke to her. His words sounded so reasonable that they caused her to question God’s words. Satan eventually deceived Eve and she ate the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden and then gave some to her husband. As a result, the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked.

For the first time, Adam and Eve experienced guilt and fear. They covered their nakedness and then hid from God. God called out to Adam and asked the first question in the Bible, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). God wanted for Adam and Eve to consider where they were in relation to Him. Adam’s answer revealed that he understood that he had violated God’s command but he blamed the woman for leading him astray. The woman then blamed the serpent for deceiving her.

For the first time, God pronounced judgment on sin. He cursed the serpent for his role in leading Adam and Eve astray. God then told Adam and Eve the painful consequences they would suffer as a result of their disobedience. God also made clothing out of animal skin for Adam and his wife to cover their nakedness. This means that, for the first time, God shed innocent blood in order to clothe the man and the woman.

For the first time, God promised the coming of a Redeemer — the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. And for the first time, God prohibited Adam and Eve from partaking of the tree of life. God drove them out of the garden of Eden and stationed cherubim, angelic beings, to guard the way to the tree of life.

3:1 Now the serpent [selected by Satan as his instrument; cf. Rev. 12:9; 20:2] was more crafty [cunning; deceptive; Satan chose to use the craftiest of God’s animal creation] than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said [misquoted 2:16-17] to the woman [humanity’s first encounter with evil], “Did God [generic name for God] really say [introduction of doubt rather than request for information], `You must not eat from any [distortion] tree in the garden’?”

Moses introduced an intriguing new character in the story of the first man and woman — the serpent. He affirmed that the serpent was an actual animal created by God and that lived in the garden of Eden. Of all the animals God had created, the serpent was the most cunning, suggesting that it was crafty and shrewd. The serpent initiated a conversation with the woman. Eve seemed neither surprised, threatened, nor disturbed by the serpent’s presence or its speech.

Moses did not offer any explanation for the existence of Satan and evil. Instead, he introduced Satan in the guise of the serpent. The Bible elsewhere affirms that Satan is a master of disguise (see 2 Cor. 11:14). Satan, which means “adversary,” disguised himself as a serpent at the beginning of the Bible and is referred to as “that ancient serpent” (Rev. 20:2) near the end of the Bible.

The serpent asked the first question in the Bible, not to get information but to create doubts about God’s intentions. This sly and cunning creature began his query with the words Did God really say. The tone of these words lean toward creating doubt and suspicion. The serpent asked Eve if God had really told them that they were not allowed to eat from any tree in the garden. This was the first time Eve had heard anyone doubt the truthfulness of God’s word and question the goodness of His divine motives.

3:2 The woman said [corrected serpent’s distortion] to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,

To her credit, Eve tried to correct the serpent. God had provided an abundance of trees in the garden, both to make it a beautiful place and to provide food. The woman acknowledged that God had indeed given them permission to eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. However, in restating God’s command, she omitted the words “you are free to eat” (Gen. 2:16) — words that speak of God’s generous provision. With so many fruit-bearing trees in the garden, Adam and Eve did not need to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.

3:3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch [not a part of God’s instructions] it, or you will [omitted the word “surely”] die.'”

Eve’s reply to the serpent contained additional inaccuracies. She said that God had prohibited them from touching the tree. God had never said anything to Adam about not touching the tree (see Gen. 2:16-17). Perhaps Adam and Eve had discussed that they would neither touch this tree nor eat of its fruit. There is certainly wisdom in keeping a safe distance from the things that can tempt us to sin against God.

Eve also altered God’s original command to Adam by softening the consequences of disobedience. She changed the consequences from “you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17) to you will die. Eve erred by adding to and changing God’s word. When we fail to accurately handle the Word of God (see 2 Tim. 2:15), we become vulnerable to the suggestions of the enemy.

3:4 [the serpent’s counterclaims to God’s command: 1] “You will not surely die [denial that God will punish sin; direct denial/contradiction of what God had said in 2:17; planted doubt in Eve’s mind; cf. Jn. 8:44 re: Satan as “the father of lies”],” the serpent said to the woman.

The serpent moved from questioning God’s goodness to directly contradicting what God had told Adam (see Gen. 2:17). The “father of lies” (John 8:44) called God a liar and continued to sow doubt in Eve’s mind. He insisted that eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would not result in death. Eve should have walked away from the serpent at this point but instead lingered and listened. Satan’s pattern is predictable. He promises to give people what they want so that he can take what they have. However, Satan never delivers on his promises.

3:5 “For God knows [implication: God is selfish and does not want to share His wisdom] that when you eat of it [2] your eyes will be opened [and thus gain knowledge], and [3] you will be like God [divine status], knowing good and evil [or “everything”].”

Satan’s next step was to replace the truth of God with a convincing lie. He characterized God as being unreasonable and unfair. The great deceiver explained to Eve that God had lied because He wanted to keep something from them. God, the serpent insisted, did not intend to put them to death (Gen. 3:4). Instead, He was keeping them from experiencing something greater. Eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would indeed open their eyes. Satan suggested that this fruit held the potential to make them like gods and would endow them with the ability to know good and evil.

3:6 When the woman saw [unfortunately Eve failed to see the destruction her actions would bring] that the fruit of the tree was good for food [appealed to physical appetite] and pleasing to the eye [aesthetically appealing], and [appealed to human vanity] also desirable for gaining wisdom [sight, insight, success], she took [decisive act] some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it [by eating, Adam and Eve no longer believed God, which is the essence of sin; cf. 1 Tim. 2:14].

The serpent never directly told Eve to disobey God’s command but his words did cause her to see God’s command with less clarity. Eve now looked at the tree and its fruit in a different way. The tree no longer seemed dangerous but instead was delightful to look at. Once Satan had minimized the consequences of disobedience and exaggerated the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit, it became very easy for Eve to take the next step. She reached out and took some of its fruit and ate it — and in so doing became the first human being to disobey God.

Once she had eaten the fruit, Eve offered some to Adam, who was with her. These words suggest that Adam was either with Eve when she conversed with the serpent or was close by. When Eve offered Adam some fruit he ate it. Adam, who had directly received God’s specific and clear command, willingly and knowingly violated that command. Later, the Apostle Paul would point to Adam, not Eve, as the one who brought sin and death into the human race because of his act of disobedience (see Rom. 5:12-21).

Note: When were you recently tempted to disobey God? How did you respond to Satan’s tactics? What made the fruit so tempting to Eve? What are some specific ways Satan makes sin look good to us today? If sin is so fun and great, why must Satan disguise the consequences of sin?

3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened [immediate consequence of their sin], and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The most immediate and noticeable consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was that their eyes were opened. Instead of making them God-conscious, eating the forbidden fruit made them self-conscious. They had lost their innocence and became aware that they were naked. However, instead of seeking God and confessing to Him what they had done, the first couple tried to cover up their sin. They sewed fig leaves together to hide their nakedness and then they “hid themselves from the Lord God.” (Gen. 3:8). Life would never be the same again.

Note: What kind of “fig leaves” do we try to sew together in an attempt to cover our sin?

3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day [perhaps reference to particular time of day when they met with God for fellowship], and they hid [one sign of sin is the attempt to hide our sins and ourselves from God] from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

3:9 But the LORD God called to the man [God asked four questions (like the proceedings of a court session)], [1] “Where are you [God knew where they were geographically; question was intended to cause them to consider where they were spiritually; first step in God’s search for the lost]?”

3:10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

3:11 And he said, [2] “Who told you that you were naked? [3] Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

3:12 The man said, “The woman [Adam blamed Eve] you [Adam, by insinuation, also blamed God; Adam saw the good gift God had given him as the source of his trouble] put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I [made a personal choice] ate it.”

Note: Can you describe a time when you played the blame game? What was God’s purpose in questioning Adam and Eve?

3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, [4] “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent [Eve blamed the tempter] deceived me, and I ate.”

3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust [punishment for tempting the woman to eat fruit; represent humiliation and subjection; an expression that carries the meaning of total defeat (cf. Isa. 65:25; Mic. 7:17)] all the days of your life.

Sin always leaves a wake of destruction. God is holy and must deal with and judge sin. The first to experience God’s judgment was the serpent — culpable for its role in leading Adam and Eve to disobey God. He cursed the serpent and told it that it would forever crawl on its belly and eat dust. Eating dust is a metaphor that carries the idea of humiliation and total defeat and a reminder of Satan’s ultimate defeat. This curse set apart the serpent from all of the other wild animals that God had created.

3:15 [cf. Rom. 16:20] And I will put enmity [intense hostility] between you [Satan] and the woman [representing the human race], and between your offspring [Satan’s followers] and hers [Christ; cf. Gal. 3:16]; he will crush [lethal blow; cf. Rev. 20:7-10] your head, and you [Satan] will strike [nonlethal blow] his heel.”

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, they set in motion a spiritual battle between good and evil that continues to this day. God’s words to the serpent are essentially a declaration of war against Satan. God put hostility or enmity between the serpent and the woman. The seed of one would forever be at odds with the seed of the other.

This verse is called the “protoevangelium” or the first gospel because it is the first indication in the Bible of God’s plan to send a Redeemer. Christ is later identified in the Bible as “the seed” (see Gal. 3:16). Satan would strike Christ on the heel at the cross. However, because of His death and resurrection, Christ would crush Satan’s head and win the victory over him.

Note: Genesis 3:15 has been called the protoevangelium, a Latin term meaning “first mention of the gospel.”

3:16 [benefits Satan promised did not materialize, only the consequences of sin; sin may give you what you want, but it will take what you have] To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase [implies that childbirth otherwise would have involved little or no pain] your pains in childbearing; with pain [pain in childbearing was the punishment] you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband [to control him], and he will rule over you.”

God cursed the serpent but He did not curse Adam and Eve. Instead, He defined the consequences of their sin. God had originally blessed the man and the woman and told them to be fruitful and multiply (see Gen. 1:28). However, after the Fall, God told the woman that she would experience intense labor pains in fulfilling her role to be fruitful. Additionally, the woman would be subject to her husband. This is not a mandate for husbands to lord it over their wives or to treat them with disrespect. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (see Eph. 5:22-30).

3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife [instead of God] and [in addition to this, violated a specific command from God] ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed [consequences of human sin extended to creation itself] is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

3:18 It will produce thorns and thistles [plants that offer no nutritional benefit although they rob the soil of nutrients and destroy crops] for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

God had intended for Adam and his wife to be happy in the garden. He had given Adam the meaningful work of tending his beautiful garden home. As a consequence of his disobedience, God told Adam that the ground was now cursed. Just as the woman would experience pain in childbearing, Adam would experience painful labor in working the ground. For the first time he would have to contend with thorns and thistles and troublesome weeds that robbed the ground of nutrients and choked out food-bearing plants. Adam’s work would be tiresome and difficult and serve as a reminder of how sin had drastically changed things.

3:19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground [phrase refers to physical death], since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Adam and Eve lost access to the abundance of food in the garden. A part of the penalty for sinning against God included Adam having to work hard to eke out a living by the sweat of his brow. His work would be much more difficult and much less rewarding. Another result of the Fall was the introduction of death into the human family. Adam and Eve would no longer have access to the tree of life. Instead, they would return to dust, an expression that refers to physical death. Although Adam and Eve lived for many years, they both eventually died and returned to dust just as God had said.

3:20 Adam named his wife Eve [that is, “life”], because she would become the mother of all the living.

3:21 The LORD God made [indicates God’s intention to continue to love and care for humans] garments of skin [to replace the fig leaf coverings (3:7)] for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

3:22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

3:23 So the LORD God banished him [Adam and Eve banished; they became “like” God (3:22), but would no longer be “with” God in the garden; a reminder that sin is costly] from [in order to prevent them from eating from the tree of life (3:22)] the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

3:24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [suggests that this is where the entrance to the garden was located] of the Garden of Eden cherubim [winged angels who functioned as guards (3:24) and attendants (Ezek. 10:3-22)] and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Note: Reflect on a specific occasion when you chose to disobey God. What consequences did you experience? How did your decision affect other people?

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