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Deeper Commentary


The passage talks about “the serpent”. The words “satan” and “devil” do not occur in the whole book of Genesis. The serpent is never described as an angel. Therefore it is not surprising that there is no reference in Genesis to anyone being thrown out of heaven. Sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). Angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36) , therefore angels cannot sin. The reward of the righteous is to be made equal to the angels to die no more (Lk. 20:35-36). If angels can sin, then the righteous will also be able to sin and therefore will have the possibility of dying, which means they will not really have everlasting life. The characters involved in the Genesis record of the fall of man are: God, Adam, Eve and the serpent. Nobody else is mentioned. There is no evidence that anything got inside the serpent to make it do what it did. Paul says the serpent “beguiled Eve through his (own) subtilty” (2 Cor.11:3). God told the serpent: “Because thou hast done this...” (Gen.3:14). If “satan” used the serpent, why is he not mentioned and why was he not also punished?  Adam blamed Eve for his sin: “She gave me of the tree” (Gen. 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:13). The serpent did not blame the devil - he made no excuse. If it is argued that snakes today do not have the power of speech or reasoning as the serpent in Eden had, remember that a donkey was once made to speak and reason with a man (Balaam); “The (normally) dumb ass speaking with a man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (2 Pet. 2:16). And the serpent was one of the most intelligent of all the animals (Gen. 3:1). The curse upon it would have taken away the ability it had to speak with Adam and Eve. But it was an animal. God created the serpent (Gen. 3:1); another being called “satan” did not turn into the serpent; if we believe this, we are effectively saying that one person can enter the life of someone else and control it. This is a pagan idea, not a Biblical one. If it is argued that God would not have created the serpent because of the great sin it enticed Adam and Eve to commit, remember that sin entered the world from man (Rom. 5:12); the serpent was therefore amoral, speaking from its own natural observations, and was not as such responsible to God and therefore did not commit sin. The serpent was a beast of the field which God had made (Gen 3:1). Yet out of the ground [Heb. adamah- earth, soil] God formed all the beasts of the field, including the serpent (Gen. 2:17). So the serpent was likewise created by God out of the ground- it wasn't a pre-existing agent of evil. Note the snake, as one of the beasts of the field, was "very good" (Gen. 1:31)- hardly how one would describe the serpent according to the orthodox reasoning. The Torah doesn't speak of purely symbolic, abstract concepts; there is always a literal reality, which may then be interpreted in a symbolic way. The serpent, therefore, begs to be understood in this context as just that- a serpent. The view has been pushed that the serpent is to be read as a symbol of our human or animal nature. This would mean that Eve's nature deceived Eve, and such a separation between a person and their nature is problematic to say the least. This view runs into huge difficulties- for how could Eve's nature be punished in a way separate to her punishment, in what way was her deceptive nature created by God like the animals, and how just was Eve's personal judgment in this case... and the questions go on, continuing to be begged the more we think about it. Some suggest that the serpent of Genesis 3 is related to the seraphim. However, the normal Hebrew word for “serpent”, which is used in Genesis 3, is totally unrelated to the word for “seraphim”. The Hebrew word translated “seraphim” basically means a “fiery one” and is translated “fiery serpent” in Numbers 21:8, but this is not the word translated “serpent” in Genesis 3. The Hebrew word for brass comes from the same root word for “serpent” in Genesis 3. Brass represents sin (Jud. 16:21; 2 Sam. 3:24; 2 Kings. 25:7; 2 Chron. 33:11; 36:6), thus the serpent may be connected with the idea of sin, but not a sinful angel. Note that the enmity, the conflict, is between the woman and the serpent, and their respective seed. The serpent is presented not so much as the foe of God, but the enemy of mankind. The promise that the seed of the woman would crush his head is echoed in the words to Cain in regard to sin: "Its desire is for you, but you will be able to master it" (Gen. 4:7). The snake is to be connected symbolically with human sin, not any superhuman Satan figure.

The entire Pentateuch is alluding to the various myths and legends of creation and origins, showing what the truth is. Moses was seeking to disabuse Israel of all the myths they'd heard in Egypt, to deconstruct the wrong views they'd grown up with- and so he wrote Genesis 1-3 to show the understanding of origins which God wished His people to have. The serpent had a major significance in the surrounding cultures. It was seen as a representative of the gods, a kind of demon, a genie. But the Genesis record is at pain to show that the serpent in Eden was none of those things- it was one of the "beasts of the field". No hidden identity is suggested for the serpent in Genesis. J.H. Walton comments: "The Israelites [made no] attempt to associate it [the serpent] with a being who was the ultimate source or cause of evil. In fact, it would appear that the author of Genesis is intentionally underplaying the role or identification of the serpent... In Canaanite literature the role of chaos was played by the serpentine Leviathan / Lotan. In contrast, the Biblical narrative states that the great sea creatures were simply beasts God created (Gen. 1:21). This demythologizing polemic may also be responsible for avoiding any theory of conspirational uprisings for the existence of evil... there is no hint in the OT that the serpent of Genesis 2-3 was either identified as Satan or was thought to be inspired by Satan. The earliest extant reference to any association is found in Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 (first century BC)... the earliest reference to Satan as the tempter through the serpent is in Apocalypse Of Moses 16-19, contemporary to the NT... in the writings of the church fathers, one of the earliest to associate the serpent with Satan was Justin Martyr" (J.H. Walton, 'Serpent', in T.D. Alexander and D.W. Baker, eds, Dictionary Of The Old Testament And Pentateuch (Leicester: I.V.P., 2003) pp. 737/8). Even within Judaism, it is accepted that the idea that the serpent was Satan is not in the text itself, and arose only within later Rabbinic commentary: "The interpretation... according to which the serpent is none other than Satan... introduces into the text concepts that are foreign to it... the primeval serpent is just a species of animal... it is beyond doubt that the Bible refers to an ordinary, natural creature, for it is distinctly stated here: Beyond any best of the field that the Lord God had made" (Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary On The Book Of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1998 ed.) Vol. 1, pp. 139,140).

Now the serpent- If the entire family or genus of snakes were intended, we would expect to read something like "the serpent and his kind". But the language here suggests we are reading of a specific singular animal, a unique creation. I suggest that "the serpent" was a specifically created animal, an "animal of the field" but a special creation, which died for all time as its punishment- thus looking forward to the final, eternal destruction of sin, all forms of temptation and death, as envisioned in Gen. 3:15. The serpent was real enough, but it also represented sin and temptation. But the symbolic must have a basis in the literal and historical. Paul alludes to the serpent as if it were literal (2 Cor. 11:3). The Hebrew word means literally to hiss or whisper, but it also has the idea of experience (s.w. Gen. 30:27 "I have learned by experience"). The root of temptation is the desire for experience, rather than accepting the experiences God plans for us.

Many of the creation myths feature some kind of serpent, but always as some entity far more than a literal animal. The Genesis record alludes to these myths, which Israel in Egypt would have been exposed to and probably accepted, in order to deconstruct them. This doesn't mean that Genesis is myth; the very opposite. It presents God's take on those myths. The myths tend to present the serpent as a dragon figure, similar in appearance to the Biblical cherubim. Some cherubim-like figures uncovered in Egypt are in fact winged cobras (Bernard F. Batto, Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1992) p. 60). But the Genesis record clearly differentiates between the serpent and the cherubim. "Serpents figure in various Ancient Near Eastern myths in a demonic way" (J. R. Porter, The Illustrated Guide to the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 29). The Sumerian god Ningishzida [meaning 'Lord of the tree'] was portrayed as a serpent (John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews & Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary To The Old Testament (Downers Gove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000) p. 32). But the Genesis record is insistent that the truth is different, and that for the Bible believer, the serpent was an animal, not a god, not a cosmic dragon nor a demon, but a literal "beast of the field" created by the one God just as all the other animals were created.

Let's ever remember that Genesis was initially produced by Moses in order to educate the Israelites in the wilderness. The Egyptians venerated the serpent and glorified death as a reward; Moses shows that it is to be abhorred as the symbol of sin, and death is a curse and the wages of sin.

Was more subtle- The great temptation for Israel in their eretz was Canaanite idolatry; the tribes of the land are described with the same word in Ps. 83:3 ["crafty counsel"]. Baal was seen as a god of wisdom; perhaps the literal serpent represented all such idolatry, tempting Israel to ‘play God’, to assume His wisdom, which is the essence of every temptation. As there was a snake who was there in the 'land' of Eden, so there was the equivalent amongst Israel- the false teachers, the tribes who remained, etc., the "serpents of the dust" who would be the cause of Israel's destruction (Dt. 32:24- an evident allusion to the language of the snake in Eden).

Than any animal of the field which Yahweh God had made- This suggests the serpent was indeed an animal, created by God. The serpent was cursed more than the other beasts of the field (Gen. 3:14); the most superior animal was brought down beneath the others, by having to crawl on its belly. Those who argue for a non-literal serpent would presumably have to read this as meaning: 'The serpent was more subtle than any of the animals God had made [although it was not an animal]'.  I suggest the more comfortable reading of the text is: 'The serpent was one of the animals but was the most subtle of them all'. The question of interpretation is hard to resolve by appeal to the original Hebrew alone. The preceding chapters 1 and 2 have stated that all things and all categories of things exist because they were created by God. So the serpent was a created being- in which category was it to be placed, if not as an "animal of the field"? If we are intended to see the serpent as not created by God, then surely that would be stated. The whole context is about creation or bringing into being by God. The implication is surely that the serpent was one of the animals God had made. We can break down the text like this: The serpent [A] was more [B] than [C]. The question is whether [A] is part of [C], i.e. was the serpent [A] one of the 'animals of the field' [C]. The same kind of Hebrew construction is found elsewhere. In each case, the idea would be that [A] is part of and included within the category of [C]. Thus Israel [A] were not more in number [B] than any other nation [C] (Dt. 7:7). But Israel were a nation, included within the [C] category. "I [A] am more foolish [B] than any man [C]" (Prov. 30:2). The writer was a man, he was a member of the category [C]. Likewise Is. 52:14 "His [Messiah's] [A] face was more marred [B] than any man [C]". Messiah was a man, He was part of the category of [C], but He had the most marred face. Ez. 15:2 might be the clearest: "What is the vine tree [A] more than [B] any tree [C]?". The vine tree is a tree, a member of the category [C]. And so the serpent [A] was more subtle [B] than any animal of the field [C]. The serpent was part of that category, it was an animal of the field made by God. Genesis 3 is right at the beginning of the Bible. It would seem to me inappropriate to begin the Biblical revelation with symbolic language. Symbol and figure don't function that way in literature. We begin with literal things, and then later in the literature, those literal things are employed as symbols. Thus Paul truly observed that "it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and only then the spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). When we read Revelation and encounter dragons and the like, the genre clearly demands we understand them as symbolic of other things. But we don't have that kind of genre at the start of the Bible. So whilst the serpent clearly is used to represent things later on in the Bible, I believe that here at the start, it is a literal serpent which is in view.

Sin entered the world by Adam, not by the serpent (Rom. 5:12). But see on Gen. 3:14 eat dust. If the serpent were purely figurative, then we would surely expect to find Paul giving the serpent a place in the entry of sin into the world. But he doesn't. I have suggested that the 'creation' account in Genesis 1 is a dramatic presentation explaining how eretz Israel was prepared for habitation. I then developed the similarities between that eretz and Eden. But Eden was a literal place; and Adam and Eve are understood in later Scripture as literal beings. And so I see no hint within the genre of Genesis 3 which suggests that the serpent is to be read purely symbolically. If Gen. 1:2-2:4 is poetic or dramatic, then there must come some point at which the genre changes- for the rest of Genesis is not in that genre. I suggest that cut off point is at Gen. 2:4. The natural must come before the spiritual and allegorical interpretation of it. Just as Adam represented Israel, and his exile Eastward from the eretz looked ahead to Judah's exile to Babylon, so the creature known as the serpent represented that within the eretz which caused God's people to sin and be expelled from it. Just as Eden, Adam and Eve were literal, so was the "serpent". But as they each represented things, so the serpent did too. The besetting temptation of Israel was the cult of idols, Baal in particular, and this was represented by the creature known as "the serpent". Just as the serpent "deceived" Eve (Gen. 3:13), so the same word is used of how false teachers deceived Israel into idol worship (Jer. 29:8). The Hebrew for "serpent" has a wide range of associations, most of them connected with false worship. Just as Adam and Eve should have not meddled with the serpent and instead brought it under their dominion, likewise Israel were warned not to meddle with those who 'serpent' (AV "use enchantment", the verb form of the noun for "serpent"; Lev. 19:26; Dt. 18:10). The literal animal known as the serpent, which differed, I suggest, from snakes of today, represented various things- not least, the temptations which led to Israel, God's specially created people, being exiled from the eretz. It represents other things too. But this is not to say that "the serpent" is merely symbolic. To say this runs the risk of a serious [and common] error in reasoning, whereby something abstract is made symbolic of something else. 'Love', e.g., an abstract concept, cannot be symbolic of e.g. grace. So a symbolic entity, e.g. "the serpent", could not be itself symbolic of something else, e.g. sin or temptation. Literal things can represent abstract things or point forward to other things- the blood of the Mosaic sacrifices symbolized the atoning work of the Lord; the High Priest symbolized the Lord; the manna symbolized the word of God; the waters of the exodus symbolized the water of baptism, etc. But the symbolism functions because a literal thing or entity is used to represent something more abstract. If Adam, Eve and Eden were literal, and the creation or placement of animals and plants in Eden was literal, then it would seem gapingly inappropriate for a symbolic non literal "serpent" to appear in the record. 

He said to the woman, Has God really said- We note he omits the covenant name of God, Yahweh. The Hebrew interpretted as "really" could mean to the effect that "Yes, although God has said". The AV fumbles towards this with "Yea, hath God said...". The idea would then be to imply 'Although God has surely said this, are you sure that the sentence will really be carried out?'. This would then pave the way for the serpent's lie in :4: "You won't surely die". The temptation here is set up as the archetype of all human temptation. The thought is presented, and the fantasy extends from that thought.

‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’- This was intentionally misrepresenting the commandment. They had been told to "eat, eat!" of all the trees, with the exception of one. Misrepresentation of God's word, making God out to be unreasonable, is at the heart of all temptation. The Lord's wilderness temptations show the same process. God is not unreasonable, and He will not give us any temptation too great for us. Sin is not inevitable; and He doesn't wish us to be disobedient, but rather obedient. It is simply not so that the possession of human nature means that we shall inevitably sin; for the Lord had our same nature, but was undefiled.

3:2 The woman said to the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat- Eve knew the commandment, and that the serpent was either misrepresenting or misunderstanding it. She and Adam had been commanded to "eat, eat!" of all the trees. It was their lack of obedience to this which left them not satiated, not away from the middle of the garden, and therefore prone to greater temptation. She interprets that command to "eat, eat!" as simply meaning that "we may eat". If she had more zealously perceived God's commandment to do positive things, she would not have struggled so much with the one negative commandment- to not eat of one tree.

Adam’s sin is indeed everyman’s. The account of Adam and Eve’s sin is in essence the account of every sin and fall into temptation, and is alluded to on nearly every page of the Bible. God had told Adam to each in abundance from all the trees of the garden (Gen. 2:16,17). Eve tells the serpent that they can simply “eat” (she doesn’t mention ‘in abundance’) from “the trees of the garden” (she doesn’t mention ‘from all of them’; Gen. 3:2,3). If Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s blessings as He intended, there would not have been such a pull into the temptation. Appreciating the blessings God has given us, with regular prayers of thankfulness throughout the day (meal times are a great opportunity to remember to do this) will likewise lead us away from temptation; minimizing His blessings propels us towards it. Each time we fail in this, we are repeating Eve’s sin. Likewise we can discern a positive focus by Eve upon the object of temptation; God had told Adam and Eve to eat in abundance “from all trees of the garden” but not to eat “from the tree of knowledge”. Eve repeats this to the serpent by inserting the word ‘fruit’: “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, but from the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden…”. Focusing on the forbidden fruit in such detail is a sure way to ultimately succumb to the temptation. Or again, the command to not eat of the tree was twisted by Eve into saying that God had commanded that they were to not even touch it. She put a fence around the law [or Adam did, in explaining it to her]- and it had the opposite effect. Paul alludes to this by saying that Jewish regulations such as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch… are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:21-23). In all these things we find Adam to be everyman, to be me, to be you, to be us.

3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’- The command to "eat, eat!" of all the other trees was intended to keep them away from the temptation which was in the midst of the garden. For they would have been moving elsewhere in the garden to all the various trees, to taste their fruits. And they would have had no appetite for anything else, if they were satiated by eating the other fruits. God's commandments are not mere tests of obedience; rather they are designed to elicit obedience, and to make the temptations less attractive. See on :2.

God had not told Adam not to touch the tree. The command not to eat the tree had been given to Adam alone, before the creation of Eve. He had relayed it to Eve, but had placed a fence around the law by telling her not to even touch the tree. He thus reveals a simple understanding of temptation and the need to try to ensure obedience to commandment. But he added to the commandment, rather than explaining to Eve and encouraging her to positively engage in the Lord's work elsewhere in the garden.

3:4 The serpent said to the woman, You won’t surely die- The first lie, continued in various forms throughout all religions, not least in the false doctrine of the "immortal soul". The one true faith is unique in our belief in the mortality of man. And yet sin entered the world by Adam (Rom. 5:12), not by the serpent. The serpent was a special creation, set up and positioned by God as part of the environment required for the testing of Adam and Eve. John Thomas helpfully described the serpent as "amoral", reasoning from an animal viewpoint but not ultimately the first sinner. This torpedoes any idea that the serpent was some kind of sinful being cast out of heaven onto earth. That whole fantasy is not only unBiblical, but is morally and logically as ridiculous as ordering a convicted pedophile and psychopath out of the courthouse into a school playground, with the judge arming him with a rifle.

3:5 Rather God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil- It has been suggested that there was a creation previous to our own, i.e. to that recorded in Gen. 1. It is also conceivable that the present angels came to have an awareness of “good and evil” (Gen. 3:5) through having been in a similar situation to what we are in this life. That some of the beings who lived in that age did sin is not to be ruled out; but all this is the kind of speculation which men love to indulge in. The Bible does not tell us of these things but tells us clearly what we need to know about the present situation, which is that there are no sinful angels; all angels are totally obedient to God.

The temptation here is set up as typical of every temptation. The essential desire is to play God, and to think that God somehow is holding cards close to His chest that He doesn't want us to see, that He is in a sense mean, trying to stop us enjoy ourselves. Perhaps all sin is a form of playing God, whereas Phil. 2 alludes here in saying that by contrast, the Lord Jesus did not even consider grasping such equality with God. The desire to experience "good and evil" is what makes so much fiction and entertainment so attractive to us; it is a vicarious experience ['knowledge'] of good and evil. "Knowing" is often a Hebraism for 'experience'. The idea is not that the woman would receive theoretical knowledge of what was right and wrong. She could experience good and evil, so she thought, in a way which was forbidden. This desire for forbidden experience, or experience beyond our ability to cope with, is what drives so much human lust and misbehaviour. The experience we can cope with has been given to us by God.

'God knows... that you will know good and evil' is a play upon the word "knows", twice repeated. The idea is that God doesn't want you to share His knowledge / experience. Again, God is presented as unreasonable. God does indeed want to share Himself and His nature with us; but we must be educated and prepared for this. The essence of all temptation is to want to snatch it right now, to take the crown without the race or the cross. Hence Phil. 2 alludes to all this, in saying that instead of grasping such equality with God, the Lord died on the cross. We all think we can handle such experience right now; the primitive and inappropriate desires of a child actually continue throughout human life, just in different forms.

3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise- We naturally enquire how she realized all this by merely looking at the tree. Surely there was no visual evidence of all these things. This leads to the suggestion that the serpent was implying that he had eaten of the tree, and had not died. The command not to eat of it was specifically to Adam and Eve.

Pride is the root of our desire for knowledge / experience. The later command not to covet what looks good is very much rooted in a warning not to commit Eve’s sin of seeing the fruit and yielding to temptation (Ex. 20:17 = Gen. 3:6). 1 Jn. 2:16 surely alludes here, demonstrating again that this is the archetypical temptation, the essence of every human temptation; for like Eve, all men "would be wise" (Job 11:12): "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh ["good for food"] and the lust of the eyes ["a delight to the eyes"] and the vain glory of life ["to be desired to make one wise"], is not of the Father but is of the world". The last of the three parallels is especially instructive. Her desire to be wise was in fact the vain glory of life. Her desire for knowledge / experience was related to pride, "vain glory". Babylon and Tyre are presented as the corporate embodiment of all these things; their desire for wisdom and their pride are paralleled in the prophetic condemnations of them (Is. 47:10; Ez. 28:5,7,17).

We have here exhibited the simple fact that desire of itself may be natural; but it is not therefore acceptable to indulge the desire. It is axiomatic that desire is natural; but Eve was called to self control, to not simply do what was her desire. This may sound obvious, but increasingly we are bombarded with the idea that whatever may feel natural is therefore legitimate to fulfil. But the Godly way of life is different, radically so.

It seems that God punishes sin in a way which is appropriate to the sin. Consider how David so often asks God to take the wicked in their own snare- and how often this happens. The punishment of Adam and Eve was appropriate to the sins they committed. What Adam wasn't bothered to do, i.e. have intercourse with his woman, became the very thing which now every fallen man will sell his soul for. They ate the tree of knowledge, they knew  they were naked, and then Adam knew Eve (Gen. 4:1); this chain of connection certainly suggests that sexual desire, whilst not wrong in itself, was part of the result of eating the tree. There is an artless poetic justice and appropriacy in this which seems simply Divine. What they couldn't be bothered to do became the very thing which has probably generated more sin and desire to do than anything else. Adam was to rule over Eve as a result of the fall- the very thing he wasn't bothered to do. Eve's punishment was that her desire was for her husband- perhaps suggesting that she too had no desire for Adam sexually, and therefore was willing to delay obedience to the command to multiply. They were both driven out of the garden- perhaps reflecting how they should have left the garden in obedience to God's command to go out and subdue the natural creation to themselves. Because Adam wasn't bothered  to do this, even when it was within his power, therefore nature was given a special power against man which he would never be able to overcome, and which would eventually defeat him (Gen. 3:17-19). This all shows the logic of obedience; we will be made to pay the price of obedience even if we disobey- therefore it is logical to obey. Note in this context that the Hebrew behind "Desirable to gain understanding" in Gen. 3:6 "can also be translated, without notable alteration, as "desirable in order to become childless"" (H. Reckons, Israel's Concept of the Beginning: The Theology of Genesis 1-3 (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964) p. 270)- suggesting they didn't want to have children, they didn't want to obey the command to multiply. And therefore the curse was that they would indeed have children and suffer in doing so.

The frequent command "You shall not covet" (Ex. 20:17 etc.) uses the same Hebrew word translated "desire" when we read of how Eve "desired" the fruit (Gen. 3:6); yet Israel "desired" the wrong fruit (Is. 1:29). As Eve saw the fruit and fell for it, so the people of Reuben and Gad saw the land East of Jordan and imagined how good it would be to have it, despite having been given 'all the land' West of Jordan to enjoy [cp. Adam and Eve's dominion in Eden] (Num. 32:1,2,7). In all these allusions [and they exist in almost every chapter of the Bible] we are being shown how human sin is a repetition in essence of that of our first parents. The insistent emphasis is that we should rise above and not be like them. And yet this call for personal effort and struggle with ourselves in order to overcome sin is muted and misplaced by all the stress upon a supposed Devil tempting Eve, pushing the blame onto him, and thereby de-emphasizing our role in overcoming sin within ourselves. And so we see so many loud-mouthed condemners of the Devil totally not 'getting it' about the need for personal self-control and spiritual mindedness in daily life and private character.

What were the motives of Adam and Eve for sinning, for accepting the serpent's suggestion? Considering this can help open a window onto the question of the origin of Adam's sin. They were attracted by the idea of "knowing good and evil". But this phrase is elsewhere used in the Bible about how an adult 'knows good and evil', but a child can't (Dt. 1:39; 2 Sam. 19:35; Is. 7:16). Adam and Eve were immature; like children, they wished to 'grow up', they resented the restraints which their immaturity required them to be under; they wanted, just as children want, to be the all-knowing adults / mature people whom they had seen the Elohim as. As children long to escape from what they see as meaningless and onerous restrictions, whilst having no idea what this would really mean in practice and how un-free it would really be- so Adam and Eve were attracted by the idea of having the knowledge of good and evil just for the bite of the forbidden fruit. I find this a perfectly understandable explanation of the motive for Adam and Eve's sin. It seems a quite imaginable exercise of the freedom of choice and behaviour which God had given them. There is no hint that 'Satan made them do it', or that they were 'possessed' by some sinful spirit. They did just what we so often do- misused, wrongly exercised, their freewill and desired that which was inappropriate. Simple as that. There's no need to bring in an external Satan figure to explain what happened.

She took of its fruit, and ate; and she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate- The focus of the camera is zoomed in close up upon the couple and their eating. This sin is that of every man. In this sense, we all sinned "in Adam" (Rom. 5:12 Gk.) and therefore "in Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). We are not unjustly suffering; for each of our sins was a result of succumbing to the same essential temptations as Adam did. Even if we didn't sin "after the similitude" of Adam's sin, we have done so in essence (Rom. 5:14). We would have done the same if we were there; as our own history of sin and weakness makes clear. Eve was deceived; but Adam was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14); yet they both suffered punishment. This opens a window onto the question of whether people are innocent before God if they sin as a result of having been deceived. Sin is sin, and therefore sins of ignorance had to be repented of and atoned for under the Mosaic law. Adam put up no resistance; he didn't remind Eve of the law. Eve believed the lies of the serpent; Adam just "did it". Both received appropriate judgment. Adam may have reasoned that Eve had eaten the fruit and not died; therefore God's word was not sure. In this case, he would have failed to give due weight and detailed reflection to God's word; for the death penalty was to be in the day they ate of it. Perhaps his conception of days was limited, if this happened on the first day of the new world.

The beast systems, as Babylon and Assyria before them, were false Kingdoms of God. The beast has the power to give pneuma to the image / body of the first beast (Rev. 13:15)- an evident mimicry of God’s creation of Adam. They appear to offer, here and now, the things of the Kingdom, and the fleshly-minded are persuaded by them. This is all playing out the drama of Eden again; the serpent offered equality with God, the wisdom of God, when it was actually the wisdom of the serpent. Adam and Eve grasped for what was offered, unlike the Lord Jesus, who refused to grasp at equality with God (Phil. 2 is full of allusion to the events of Gen. 3). What happened in Eden is in essence the epitome, the prototype of all temptation and sin (1 Jn. 2:16 = Gen. 3:6). Every one of our temptations has an element of this; we are tempted to grasp for  what looks like the Kingdom here and now. Pentecostals are an evident example of this; they think they can obtain the full healing and physical ecstasy of the future Kingdom here and now. And on a more common level, there are many of us who reach out for the supposed fulfilment of hobbies, the supposed peace and 'security' of a nice home and bank balance, when these things are actually a false fulfilment, peace and security, the peace and security of Satan's Kingdom which is a counterfeit of the spiritual fulfilment, peace and security of Christ's Kingdom.

3:7 The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves loincloths- Adam and Eve were “made naked” in the sense that they now realized their nakedness. The idea is alluded to in Ex. 32:25 and Mic. 1:11, where we read that Israel were “made naked to their shame” by their idolatry. Again we see Adam’s sin as being presented as Israel’s sin; the punishment of being cast out of the eretz precisely matches that of Israel, who were cast out from the same geographical area. Is. 32:11 also alludes here- Judah are as a naked woman revealed as naked, who makes a loincloth for herself in shame. The fig being a symbol of Israel, we have here the hint that the religion of Israel alone could not cover sin; the blood of the lamb provided by God was needed.

Nakedness being revealed is a figure of judgment (Ez. 16:36,37). And yet we can pass beyond condemnation, through accepting the Divinely provided covering. The images here are used elsewhere of how nakedness can now be covered even in this life; Ex. 20:26; 28:42 has the priests covering their nakedness, Ez. 16:8; Hos. 2:9 speak of God covering Israel's nakedness; and we can now cover our nakedness and be unashamed before God (Rev. 3:18). The idea seems to be that in this life, we can be covered in Christ and therefore be unashamed before God; but ultimately we shall return to the situation in Eden, naked before God and unashamed. We will really believe that our sin is no longer a barrier between God and man; we can be ourselves, unashamedly so. And in Christ we  know something of that even in this life.

3:8 They heard the voice of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden- For Presence, see on Is. 63:9. Strictly, "the face". The idea is surely that they spoke with God face to face before the fall. Revelation concludes the Bible with the promise that we shall [again] see Him face to face when Eden is restored on earth. The cool or evening of the day could well mean that this was the first day of their lives. If the fall happened soon after creation, this would explain why there was no fruit on the tree of life, which according to Revelation bore its fruit every month; and also why Adam and Eve had not yet gone forth and multiplied.

We note that God's presence or face is parallel with His voice. This continues a theme of the narrative; creation was by a word, and God's face is manifest in His word. It is before this that man experiences shame at his disobedience. This is not to elevate Bible study to the point of justification by intellectual prowess. But in our age, God's word and voice is in the Bible, as articulated through the word made flesh, His Son.  

The frequent statements that God will hide Himself from Israel as a result of their condemnation (Dt. 31:17,18; Dt. 32:20; Is. 1:15 etc.) must be balanced against the fact that in reality, it is sinful man who hides himself from God (Is. 29:15; Jer. 23:24; Rev. 6:16). And here in Eden, in wrath God remembered mercy. He didn't hide Himself; instead He went out to encounter those who had hid themselves from Him. David complained that God was hiding His face from him (Ps. 13:1; Ps. 27:9; 30:7 etc.), which suggests that there is an element to which God's face is not now generally hidden from those who live the spiritual life before Him. He hides His face from our sins (Ps. 51:9) if we are justified / counted right in His presence by faith. Part of the new covenant we have entered is that God will not hide His face from us because He has poured out His Spirit upon us (Ez. 39:29). The effects of the fall are being gradually undone in the lives of the believer, through the work of the Spirit. As God walked in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8), so He would walk in the midst of the camp of Israel in the wilderness (Dt. 23:15). Again we see the effects of Adam's personal fall being undone in the experience of God's faithful people, even in this life.

There are many allusions to Adam in the book of Job- Zophar in chapters 11 and 20 accuses Job of being as Adam, and Job denies this by way of allusion and specifically at Job 31:33. But then the whirlwind comes, and God speaks out of it to convict Job that he is indeed as Adam. The translation of ruach hayom in Gen. 3:8-11 as God walking “in the wind of the day” totally misses the point- the idea is of a theophany of ruach, Spirit wind, and Adam trying to hide and shelter among the trees from the blast of the wind. And out of that wind, God speaks and convicts him of his sin. This is what happened to Job as the wind approaches throughout Elihu’s speeches, and then he is called to account and recognition that he is as Adam. The description of Behemoth in Job 40:15 is relevant, for this is the term used for the “cattle” above which the serpent was cursed (Gen. 3:14).

3:9 But Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you?- This and the questions in Gen. 3:11 and Gen. 4:9 are obviously rhetorical; God knew the answers, but was seeking to elicit something from the couple through His questions. And that "something" was repentance; and it could be that we are invited to judge to what extent their repentance was complete. What score would we give them out of ten? What God wanted them to ask themselves was "What have I done?". But He asks Adam "Where are you?". We too need to stop and let ourselves be asked this question in the midst of life. For where we are is effectively who we are, and a function of what we have done. This is why the Hebrew word translated "where" is also rendered "how"- e.g. "How shall I pardon you for this?" (Jer. 5:7).

The gathering is both then and now; our gathering into the net, our first response to the Gospel, is a gathering unto judgment. The Hebrew idea of 'calling' very often implies a calling to give account- e.g. God calling Adam to account (Gen. 3:9), Pharaoh calling Abram to account (Gen. 12:18), and Abimelech likewise (Gen. 20:9- other examples in Gen. 26:9,10; Dt. 25:8). Our calling to the Kingdom is effectively also a calling to give account. The point is, we must act now as men and women will do so on their way to judgment and the meeting with their ultimate destiny. Then we will not be bickering amongst ourselves or worrying about our worldly advantage; then, only one thing will matter. And so now, only one thing matters.

3:10 The man said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself- The rejected one talent man says ‘I was afraid, and so I hid my talent’. Adam said: ‘I was afraid, and I hid myself’. The talent God gave that man was therefore himself, his real self. To not use our talent, to not blossom from the experience of God’s love and grace, is to not use ourselves, is to not be ourselves, the real self as God intended. Adam's fear and sense of shame is presented as being because of hearing God's voice, rather than simply at the physical presence of God. Again we see the supreme status of God's word. But like us so often, Adam laments and admits the consequence of his sin, rather than immediately confessing. In all this we see the frequent pattern of all sin and the slow, Divinely guided struggle towards repentance. 

The Assyrians led Israel away into captivity [s.w. to make naked], "they discovered her nakedness" (Ez. 23:10), and yet in their sin Israel made themselves naked (2 Chron. 28:19 cp. Ex. 32:25; Gen. 3:10).

So many commentators have noted that Gen. 1-3 is one of the most misused and misunderstood sections of the whole Bible. But why? They give no significant explanation. I'd suggest it's because humanity [and that includes theologians and formulators of church doctrine] squirms awkwardly under the glaring beam of the simple record of human guilt. And therefore the serpent has been turned into a superhuman being that gets all the blame; and human sin has been minimized, at the expense of the plain meaning of the text. The whole structure of the Biblical narrative is concerned with the guilt and sin of the man and the woman; the snake isn't where the focus is. Von Rad, in one of the 20th century's most seminal commentaries on Genesis, understood this clearly: "In the narrator's mind, [the serpent] is scarcely an embodiment of a 'demonic' power and certainly not of Satan... the mention of the snake is almost secondary; in the 'temptation' by it the concern is with a completely unmythical process, presented in such a way because the narrator is obviously anxious to shift the problem as little as possible from man" (Gerhard von Rad, Genesis (London: S.C.M., 1966) p. 85). The record keeps using personal pronouns to lay the blame squarely with Adam: "I heard... I was afraid... I was naked; I hid... I ate... I ate" (Gen. 3:10-13; and compare Jonah's similar confession of sin in Jonah 4:1-3- Jonah appears to allude to Adam here). Nobody reading the Genesis record with an open mind would surely see anything else but the blame being placed on humanity; as I have repeatedly stressed, the words 'Satan', 'Lucifer' and the idea of the serpent as a fallen Angel are simply not there in Genesis. They have to be 'read in' from presuppositions, which ultimately have their root in pagan myths.

3:11 God said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?- As noted on :9, these rhetorical questions were not for God's benefit. They were designed to elicit fuller repentance from Adam. It was not the serpent who had told Adam that he was naked. It was Adam's own conscience, enlivened by the forbidden fruit. And so the loving Father's question pierced right through to Adam's conscience and innermost being. He works according to the same pattern in our lives too, arranging situations which elicit such questions and realizations within us. The required answer to the second question was obviously "Yes, and I am very sorry". We are surely being invited to grade the extent of Adam's repentance, in order to more quickly, openly, transparently and fully accept our own failures, and repent as required.

3:12 The man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate- See on Gen. 2:17. As noted on :11, the man did not immediately come to total repentance. He states mitigating factors first, with the implication that God was somehow responsible for his sin because He had given Eve to Adam- and she had led him astray. We are left to conclude that we cannot blame sin on situation, nor on others. Ultimately, there is no situational ethic. We stand responsible for our sins before God, and we need to simply accept that. God makes no comment upon Adam's words; exactly because we are invited by the narrative to assess them. The Lord alludes to Adam's words in Jn. 17:11,24, where He describes His bride likewise as those whom God gave Him- but He died for her, the very opposite of what Adam did, allowing her to lead him to death. 

3:13 Yahweh God said to the woman, What is this you have done?- The question is broad, rather than a specific questioning as to whether the woman had eaten the fruit. What she had "done" was not only to eat the fruit, but to give it to Adam. But she at this stage doesn't respond to that aspect of the question; she wishes to blame everything on the serpent. Her repentance, as it stands at this point, is evidently incomplete; the narrative encourages us to imagine her later reflections and fuller repentance.

The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate- As noted on :12, we are invited to assess the level of repentance here. Like Adam, the woman blames her sin on mitigating factors, rather than simply accepting it and repenting. We are left to assume they repented more fully in due course; the question is left open ended in order to elicit our own reflections and introspection about the nature and extent of our own repentance. For their sin is that of every man and woman. Paul in Rom. 7:11 speaking of how sin  “deceived me… slew me” is alluding here: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate”. In Romans chapter 5 (and see on Rom. 3:23), Paul has repeatedly taught that Adam is everyman. And now he includes himself in this, by applying the language of the failure in Eden to himself. Likewise his finding the commandment ordained to life becoming the means of death (Rom. 7:10,13) may reference Gen. 2:16,17. Yet whilst Adam is indeed everyman to Paul, Adam was perceived as Israel in much Rabbinic writing; and Paul saw himself as the personification and epitome of Israel (see on Rom. 7:9,10). The Greek translated “deceived” really means to seduce. How did sin seduce Paul through or by means of the Law of Moses? Surely in the sense that Paul fell for the temptation to justify himself by means of obedience to that Law. The false prophets of Judaism deceived the people as the serpent did to Eve (s.w. Jer. 29:8; 37:9). But because he didn’t keep the Law perfectly, he was therefore condemned to death, and in a sense, received the sentence- and in that sense sin by means of the Law “slew” Paul. The only other time the word for ‘deceived / seduced’ occurs in Romans is in the practical section, which in this case again alludes to this doctrinal section: “[the Judaizers] by fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple”, as the serpent deceived Eve (2 Cor. 11:3 s.w.). Just as Paul deceived himself, fell to the seductive idea that we can be justified by works of obedience to the Law, so the Judaizers were teaching the same. By so doing, they were sin personified- they were doing the work of “sin”- using the attraction of obedience to a legal code to seduce believers into a position where they were in fact going to be condemned to death- because under that sphere, there can be no justification, no declaring right, for those who have in even one sense infringed Divine law. It’s all a complicated yet powerful way of saying that we simply must not and cannot be in the sphere of relying upon works; which means we have to just accept the gift of salvation by grace, much as all within us cries out against it.

Paul's autobiographical passage in Romans 7, where he describes his sinfulness and the results of it, is actually expressed in terms of Adam's fall in Eden. So many phrases which he uses are lifted out of the LXX of Genesis 3. The evident examples are: "I would never have known what it is to covet, if the Law had not said, You must not covet [cp. Eve coveting the fruit]... when the command came... sin [cp. the serpent] beguiled me... to kill me... sin resulted in death for me by making use of this good thing... who will rescue me now from the body of death?". Adam is presented to us as 'every man'; and so Paul applies this to himself, and yet through the allusion to 'every man' in Adam, he sets himself up also as our example.

2 Cor.11:2 shows Paul likening Corinth ecclesia to the guileless Eve in Eden, not yet having sinned, all innocence and uncorrupted beauty. And yet he saw himself as the Eve who had been deceived and punished by death (Rom. 7:11,13 = Gen. 2:17; 3:13); but he saw them as the Eve who had not yet sinned. This was no literary trick of the tail; he genuinely felt and saw them as better than himself to be- such was the depth of his appreciation of his own failures.

The Hebrew for "serpent" can suggest 'a whisperer'. It was the whisper of suggestion which was the deceit; and such whispering, within our minds, is the basis for our own temptations.

3:14 Yahweh God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all livestock, and above every animal of the field. On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life- There were no rhetorical questions to the serpent, because God was not seeking to lead the serpent to repentance; it was an amoral creature. The Hebrew min translated "above" is also translated "among"; the radical idea is "a part of... out of". The same word is found in Ex. 9:20: "He that feared Yahweh among the servants of Pharaoh"; Ex. 28:1 "Take Aaron and his sons... from among the children of Israel"; Lev. 19:8:"That person shall be cut off from among his people". Both context and the meaning of the word surely require that the serpent was one of, amongst, the livestock and animals of the field- it was an animal. Snakes today can hardly be described as "livestock"- suggesting that the serpent was not a snake as we now know the species.

It's tempting to think that there must be a connection between the serpent and snakes we see today. But snakes do not eat dust; and in any case, there are many varieties of snake. Yet Genesis 3 speaks of a specific creature. My suggestion therefore is that the serpent was a literal animal, on legs, which could speak, or was given the power of speech, like Balaam's donkey. Its punishment was to crawl on its belly and eat dust. It's hard to describe snakes as 'crawling', which implies legs or paws; and they don't eat dust. The serpent was part of the environment required to bring about the testing of Adam and Eve. But its punishment was to crawl and eat dust- and then, this creature died and is now extinct. That is why we continue to read of the man and woman in the record, but nothing more is said about the creature known as the serpent. It died and was never any more, foretelling how the final conflict with the serpent's "seed" or spiritual descendant would likewise end in total and permanent destruction. In the description of Eden restored in Isaiah 65, we encounter the cryptic comment: "And dust shall be the serpent's food" (Is. 65:25), as if to say that although Eden will be restored, the judgment upon the serpent was permanent, and there will be no serpent in the restored Eden. It did not reproduce, in contrast to the curse on the woman, which allowed for reproduction. The comment that he was to eat dust "all the days of your life" could suggest that this creature would eat dust and then die- and never reproduce. The "seed" of the serpent refers to those having the characteristics of the historical serpent.

Phil. 3:19 has a number of allusions to the serpent, the conflict predicted in Gen. 3:15 and the fall of Adam in Eden: “Enemies [cp. ‘enmity’] of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly (s.w. Gen. 3:14 LXX), they glory in their shame”. The context speaks of the Judaizers- they are presented, by way of allusion, as the serpent. 

3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman- In contrast to the friendship between Eve and the serpent. I have argued that whilst the serpent in Eden was a literal serpent, it represents the conflict within the eretz between God's people and sin / temptation / idol worship etc. Ez. 25:15 and Ez. 35:5 use the same word to speak of "the old enmity" between Israel and the other inhabitants of the land. This old enmity continues to this day. The 'oldness' of it refers surely to the enmity in Eden, between the serpent and the children of God. In the first instance, we can imagine some undefined particular conflict between the serpent and Eve. Perhaps she particularly hated the creature, and fought with it until she killed it by a blow to the head, after it had initially wounded her heal. This scenario would be absolutely psychologically likely; and the serpent would likewise have hated Eve. In the bigger picture, Eve's conflict with the serpent speaks of the struggle unto death between her great descendant, the Lord Jesus, and all the things represented by the serpent- the temptations, sins, wicked persons, deceivers who have all the family likeness of that creature.

Gen. 3:15 prophesies that God will put hostility between the serpent and the woman. This is not what we would expect to hear if this were indeed speaking of a pre-existent Christ and Satan. According to the orthodox understanding, the enmity between them occurred in Heaven before Satan supposedly came down to earth. Notice, too, that according to the Biblical record in Gen. 3:15 it is God who created this hostility, whereas the common view implies it was Satan's hatred of God which was the original enmity.

And between your offspring and her offspring- Most usages of zera, “offspring” or “seed”, when referring to a singular individual, refer to an immediate offspring rather than to some far off descendant. Perhaps the promise of salvation could have potentially been fulfilled in a son of Eve, but this didn’t happen, the required conditions weren’t met [whatever they were], and so the fulfilment of the promise was deferred until the Lord Jesus. This kind of promise and then deferment and reapplication of fulfilment is common in the Bible’s prophecies. In Hebrew thought, to be "a son of" something or someone means to be identified with that entity, and to have its characteristics. If indeed the offspring of the woman is the Lord Jesus, we are surely to read Eve ultimately in a positive light; despite her sin and the slowness we have noted in her repentance. That initial inadequacy in repentance was presumably replaced by not only full repentance, but also a spiritually minded desire to put right the damage she had done; not least by perhaps literally fighting the serpent unto its death. It was this characteristic which was seen so fully in the Lord Jesus.

He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel- There's something of a wager here. Either the man kills the snake by hitting it on the head, or the snake will bite the man’s heel. He has to kill it outright, first time. See article "David and Goliath" in 1 Sam. 17. Rom. 16:20 implies that all Christian believers have a part in this victory bruise over the serpent, in finality at the last day. In the Lord's death, we see Judaism as the "generation of vipers" (Mt. 23:33), and the Lord as the offspring of the woman overcoming them and their particular manifestation of the serpent. "His heel" and not "their heel" suggests that the offspring of the woman refers to a singular individual, the Lord Jesus. It refers to all believers insofar as they are in Him.

The Lord was beaten up at least three times: by the Jewish guards, by Herod's men and by the Roman soldiers. In a literal sense He was bruised for our iniquities, and chastised for us to obtain the peace of sin forgiven (Is. 53:5). And the Father surely foresaw all this back in Gen. 3:15, where the promised seed was to be bruised.

We have so often over-reacted against others’ error to the extent that we ourselves almost fall into error. A classic example of this is in our perception of Mary. We all tend to be children, and therefore victims, of reaction. Our recoil so often blinds us to some aspects of value in the things we reject. Over reaction against Roman Catholic abuses can lead us to almost overlook the woman who was and is to be blessed and honoured above all women; the woman whose genes and parenting contributed to the sinless Son of God. Gen. 3:15, the classic prophecy of the birth of Jesus, is actually a specific prophecy of Mary the woman who would give birth to the Lord. It was not to be merely " a woman"   but the seed of a specific woman, the Hebrew implies-  the woman, i.e. Mary. Her spiritual perception is really something to be marvelled at, bearing in mind it was developed and articulated in a teenager who was likely illiterate. All this said, Elisabeth Fiorenza sums up the other side of the reality of Mary: “The [correct image of the] young woman and teenage mother Miriam of Nazareth, probably not more than twelve or thirteen years old, pregnant, frightened and single… can subvert the tales of mariological fantasy and cultural femininity. In the center of the Christian story stands not the lovely ‘white lady’ of artistic and popular imagination, kneeling in adoration before her son. Rather it is the young pregnant woman living in occupied territory and struggling against victimization and for survival and dignity. It is she who holds out the offer of untold possibilities for… christology and theology” (Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus- Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues In Feminist Theology (New York: Continuum, 1994) p. 187).

The mutual antagonism between the two groups of travellers in Proverbs  is rooted in the opposition between snake and woman in Gen. 3:15: "He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked" (Proverbs 29:27).

Gen. 3:15 clearly prophesies the hope of redemption from human sin, through the descendant of the woman [the Lord Jesus Christ]. The pagan myths had no such concept of salvation from sin. Sin against the gods could hasten death and obedience to them could prolong life, but there was no hope of real forgiveness of sin. And therefore there was no hope of eternity in a promised land such as was preached to Abraham in later sections of Genesis and which was developed as a golden thread throughout the entire Bible, namely the good news of the future Kingdom of God on earth. Even a superman like Gilgamesh had to face the day of death, “the unsparing death”. The hope of the resurrection of the human body implied in the promises to the Jewish patriarchs in Genesis and made explicit in later Scripture was simply unknown in the pagan myths. It should be noted too that obedience to Yahweh wasn’t seen as always, in every case, extending mortal life now; because from Genesis onwards, the Bible presents the perspective of God’s future, eternal Kingdom as the time for reward and immortality. There are times when God takes away the righteous from the evil of this life (Is. 57:1- probably alluding to what God did to Joash, 2 Kings 22:20 cp. 23:29). There are other Biblical instances where the wicked have long life and prosperity in this world. This is because the Bible presents the ultimate judgment and reward of human life and faith as being at the last day, and not right now. In Gilgamesh and the pagan myths, only some of the gods had hope of resurrection, e.g. Marduk (as mentioned in the Enuma Elish, Tablet 6:153,154). But humans certainly didn’t. The implication of resurrection in the promises to Abraham, and the specific statements about it in the later Old Testament (e.g. Job 19:25-27; Dan. 12:2), thereby reflects a colossal value and importance attached by God to the human person. What the pagan myths reserved only for a few gods, Yahweh offers to every human being who believes in His promises.

It's noteworthy that the prophecy of Christ's crucifixion in Is. 53:10 underlines that it was God who 'bruised' Christ there. Gen. 3:15 says it was the seed of the serpent who bruised Christ. Conclusion: God worked through the seed of the serpent, God was [and is] totally in control. The serpent is therefore not a symbol of radical, free flying evil which is somehow outside of God's control, and which 'bruised' God's Son whilst God was powerless to stop His Son being bruised. Not at all. God was in control, even of the seed of the serpent. However we finally wish to interpret "the seed of the serpent", the simple fact is that God was in powerful control of it / him. Walter Brueggemann summarizes the situation: “The Old Testament itself offers none of the material through which Satan emerges as the popular figure of tempter and devil. The propensity of Christians to reach such a role in Genesis 3 is to project backward into the text from later texts” (Walter Brueggemann, Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), p. 188).


3:16 To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bear children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you- All judgment is appropriate to the sin which it is a response to. Perhaps Eve ought to have concentrated upon obeying the commandment to multiply, and she could have done so before the fall without pain. She likewise ought to have had more desire to support Adam in his mission and work in God's garden; but instead she desired the serpent's rulership rather than her husband's. And so she was punished by losing the psychological independence which she had previously had. Childbirth had been possible before the fall; that was not the punishment. It was pain therein which was the punishment. Her husband was to have ruled over her in that she was designed to support him in her work; but now she was to have a desire towards him which would effectively rob her of the independence she had once enjoyed and abused. "Desire" is literally a reaching out towards; instead of putting forth her hand to reach out to the forbidden fruit, she would instead reach out towards getting a husband, which would result in him ruling over her.

The same Hebrew words for "desire" and "rule" occur in Gen. 4:16: "And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him" (AV). The referent in the context is unclear; it could be sin, or it could refer to Abel, whom Cain was jealous of. But the idea is that whatever or whoever we desire ends up effectively ruling over us. Whatever is desired comes to dominate the desirer. This is not therefore a command for men to rule over their wives; rather is it an observation on the nature of things, stating that by reason of having a desire for a man, the woman thereby allows the man to ruler over her. And this is part of the curse.

3:17 To Adam He said, Because you have listened to your wife’s voice- Maybe the emphasis is on "your wife's voice", rather than God's voice. Romans 5 describes Adam's failure in a number of parallel ways: "transgression ...sin ...offence ...disobedience" (Rom. 5:19). "Disobedience" translates a Greek word which is uncommon. Strong defines it as meaning 'inattention', coming from a root meaning 'to mishear'. It is the same word translated "neglect to hear" in Mt. 18:17. Adam's sin, his transgression, his offence was therefore not eating the fruit in itself; it was disobedience, neglecting to hear. That this neglecting to hear God's word seriously was at the root of his sin is perhaps reflected in God's judgment on him.

And have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’- There is so often a connection between sin and its punishment. The sin of eating (3:6,12) called forth a judgment which five times uses the word ‘to eat’ in 3:17-19. Clearly judgment is appropriate to the nature of the sin; the judgment is often to actually do the forbidden action.

Cursed is the ground for your sake- The same words are used about the cursing of the ground of eretz Israel because of Israel’s disobedience, with associated cursing of the animal creation there (Dt. 28:18). This yet again confirms that the eretz in view is that of Israel rather than the whole planet. So we are not to imagine the Angels as it were smashing up the whole planet because Adam sinned. Rather, the paradise in Eden, the eretz whose preparation was described in Genesis 1, was again overrun by the vegetation and beasts of the surrounding world; just as happened in a moral sense when God's people went into captivity.

The classical view of the fall supposes that as Eve's teeth sunk into the fruit, the first sin was committed, and soon afterwards Adam followed suite, resulting in the curse falling upon humanity. But was the eating of the fruit in fact the first sin? If it was, then Eve sinned first. Straight away, the Bible-minded believer comes up with a problem: the New Testament unmistakably highlights Adam as the first sinner; by his transgression sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12). So sin was not in the world before his transgression. The ground was cursed for the sake of Adam's sin (Gen. 3:17). This all suggests that Eve wasn't the first sinner. The fact Eve was deceived into sinning doesn't mean she didn't sin (1 Tim. 2:14). She was punished for her sin; and in any case, ignorance doesn't mean that sin doesn't count as sin (consider the need for offerings of ignorance under the Law). So, Eve sinned; but Adam was the first sinner, before his sin, sin had not entered the world. We must also remember that Eve was deceived by the serpent, and on account of this was "(implicated / involved) in the transgression" (1 Tim. 2:14). "The transgression" . Which transgression? Surely Adam's (Rom. 5:14); by listening to the snake she became implicated in Adam's sin. The implication is that "the transgression" was already there for her to become implicated in it by listening to the serpent. This is the very opposite to the idea of Adam  being implicated in Eve's sin. 

The record of Adam's sin and the resulting curse can seem simplistic; the punishment seems to far outweigh the crime, the colossal penalty appears out of proportion to the sin. And yet in that apparent lack of proportion is the very essence of the message- that sin, any sin, is really that serious. There can never again in our understanding be any such thing as a little sin, a breaking of God's law which is inconsequential. The more we reflect upon the deceptively simple record of Adam's sin, the more we perceive how Adam's choice is that of everyman in every sin; it was a choice between a total "yes" or a total "no" to God. The desire was to know "good and evil"; and this term is used as an idiom for "everything" (Gen. 24:50; 2 Sam. 14:17,20), the whole area in between good and evil is in this sense "everything" (cp. Gen. 31:24; 2 Sam. 13:22). Adam and Eve were attracted by the possibility of experiencing everything, of having the total knowledge, the omniscience, which is with God alone. Their failure was more than simply eating a fruit; it involved rebellion and pride, a desire to be equal with God. It was human pride which clearly lead to the greatest fall imaginable; it was man who wanted to rise up to be like God. To fantasize about Satan's pride and fall is to tragically miss the entire point of the narrative. It seems that human religions have struggled by any means to wriggle out of the simple message- that human sin brought about the fall.

 In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life- God had stated that Adam would surely die in the day he ate the fruit. He is made to suffer consequences for his sin, but God forgave him and did not slay him that day. He was told he must till the ground “all the days” [plural] of his life (Gen. 3:17)- reflecting how in wrath God remembered mercy and gave Adam many more days.

3:18 It will yield thorns and thistles to you- The terms occur together only in Hos. 10:8, speaking of judgment to come upon eretz Israel. Is. 32:13 speaks of thorns and briers coming upon the eretz of Israel. Again I suggest we are to see this curse as a de-creation of the paradise prepared within eretz Israel, rather than a global, blanket statement about changed conditions throughout the planet. As thorns and thistles came up in the land [and those plants are unknown in some parts of the planet], so they did again when Israel were driven from their land (Gen. 3:18; Hos. 10:8). As Adam was punished by returning to dust, so Israel would be destroyed by dust (Dt. 28:24). The judgments on the eretz are therefore appropriate to Israel and do not, I suggest, generally describe things on a global scale. Literal thorns and thistles only afflict parts of the planet- they are appropriate to the land promised to Abraham but not to the tundra or the Polar regions.

Prov. 24:30,31 envisage a field overgrown with thorns and thistles as a result of a man's lack of wisdom and hard work. The way of wisdom is to accept the parameters within which we must now live; 2 Thess. 3:10 seems to argue that those who deny these parameters, not working yet expecting to eat, are not to be assisted. We are to work by wisdom to live as far as we can beyond the curse rather than glorifying it.

And you will eat the plants of the field- The command had been to "eat, eat!" of all the trees of the garden. Adam and Eve had presumably not been obedient to this, and therefore were attracted to the forbidden fruit. As noted on :17, the judgment was appropriate to the sin being judged, in this case, the sin of omission in not eating all the fruits of the trees. Now, they were to have to eat the fruit of the earth, in order to survive. Instead of eating the fruits of the trees within Eden, they were to eat the plants of "the field", the area outside Eden.

3:19 By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return- The picture is of a man sweating even as he eats his food. The command to cultivate the earth is therefore an invitation to working on ourselves to bring forth fruit. The simple truths taught here are resisted by almost every culture and religion; there is always the idea of conscious survival of death, and that somehow we are more than dust. It's possible to argue that many aspects of the judgments were specifically relevant to Adam and not necessarily to his posterity; for unlike Adam, we are not taken out of the earth at our conception or birth, we are not built from literal dust. And not all men work in agriculture for a living. And some "eat bread" without labouring for it (2 Thess. 3:10 alludes here), and many do not go on working their fields literally right up to their deaths, as implied here. 

The Hebrew for "ground" is also translated "land". The idea of returning to the land is therefore laced with hope; the same words are used in Gen. 28:15 of Jacob returning to the land promised to Abraham. Likewise of "returning to the land You gave to their fathers" (1 Kings 8:34; Jer. 16:15; Jer. 42:12). It was to therefore be through death and resurrection that we can return to the ultimate land. In wrath He remembers mercy; throughout these judgments there is laced the hope and language of redemption. And in any situation we too are called to discipline others, there must be this same hope and working towards redemption.

The punishment of death which is introduced in early Genesis was created and executed by the same one God who also created the world and the opportunity of eternal life. Gilgamesh and the pagan myths presented whole groups of gods as responsible for and presiding over death and the underworld, and another, separate, pantheon of gods as involved in creation. The Biblical emphasis upon one God is significant and unusual; it is Yahweh who sends man back to the dust from which He created him, and the same Yahweh who is in total control of sheol [the grave or underworld], and in a sense even present there (Dt. 32:22; Job 26:6; Ps. 139:7,8; Prov. 15:11; Am. 9:2). The state of the dead is defined in Genesis as a return to dust, and later Scripture emphasizes that this means unconsciousness, for the righteous merely a sleep in hope of bodily resurrection. This was radically different to the ideas espoused by the peoples amongst whom Israel travelled and lived. The dead dwell in silence (Ps. 94:17; 115:17) having returned to dust, and as such don’t become disembodied spirit beings which were later understood as ‘demons’. The whole concept of demons was in this sense not allowed to even develop in the minds of God’s people by the definitions of death which Moses presented in the Pentateuch.  The utter supremacy of God is taught in the Genesis record in a way it never is in any of the other myths. 

Moses speaks of how God says to each dying man "Return, you children of men" (Ps. 90:3)- as if Moses understood to speak the words of Gen. 3:19 to every man who dies. Likewise the Lord spoke as if the Jews of His day ought to be hearing Moses and the prophets speaking to them in urgent warning (Lk. 16:31); yet despite studying their words syallable by syllable, the Jews didn't in fact perceive it was a living word speaking to them directly and urgently.

3:20 The man called his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living- If Adam only named his wife after the fall, we find yet another reason for thinking that the fall occurred very soon after creation. Everything in the surrounding context here is negative, and this probably is too. Adam first called his wife "woman", but after the fall he called her "Eve" because he recognized she was the mother of living ones. By doing so he seems to be recognizing his failure of not reproducing through her as God had originally asked him. The way they immediately produce a child after the fall is surely an expression of their repentance. The curse upon them involved bringing forth children, and this is effectively Adam’s curse of Eve. Similarly he names his son “Abel”, the Hebrew word usually translated “vanity”, also in allusion to the curse. Read this way, we can more comfortably understand “the mother of all living” as not necessarily meaning that all human beings descended from Eve. For I have demonstrated at length that the focus of the Genesis creation is upon the situation in eretz Israel, and there is no attempt at explaining the origins of things on the level of the cosmos or the planet earth. When we read that Eve was "the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20), this was in its primary application explaining to the Israelites in the wilderness where they ultimately originated from. Israel were to trace their first origins and parents back not merely to Abraham, but to Adam and Eve. Num. 35:3 [Heb.] uses the term to describe the "all living" of the congregation of Israel; indeed, that Hebrew word translated "living" is translated "congregation", with reference to the congregation of Israel (Ps. 68:10; 74:19). Note how the Hebrew idea of 'all living' repeatedly occurs in the account of the flood (Gen. 6:19; 8:1,17 etc.)- which we will later suggest was a flood local to the area which the Israelites knew and which had been ultimately promised to Abraham. "All living" things which were taken into the ark therefore needn't refer to literally every living thing which lives upon the planet, but rather to those species which lived in the flooded area, the earth / land / eretz promised to Abraham. I've explained elsewhere that the garden of Eden can be understood as the land promised to Abraham, perhaps specifically being located around Jerusalem, the intended geographical focus for God's people; and that the term eretz can be used to describe the land promised to Abraham rather than the whole planet.


3:21 Yahweh God made coats of skins for Adam and for his wife, and clothed them- Adam sinned, and God responded to that ineffable tragedy by giving him a “coat” of skin. The same Hebrew word is used concerning the priestly robe. Here we see again the positive nature of our God. There was Adam, pining away in the shame of his sin; and God dresses him up like a priest, to go forward to gain forgiveness for him and his wife; and perhaps later on he used that same coat in coming to God to obtain further forgiveness for others through sacrifice. Rev. 13:8 speaks of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world; so presumably a lamb was slain, setting up the principle that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. And here we meet the idea of the imputed righteousness of the slain lamb (the Christ) being imputed to us. Note that "made" is the same word used of God's 'making' of things in the creation record of chapter 1. That creation was a 'making' from pre-existing material, rather than ex nihilo.

3:22 - see on Gen. 1:7,8

Yahweh God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us- One of a number of examples in Genesis of God being in internal dialogue and almost struggle towards a decision (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 6:3,7; Gen. 8:21,22; Gen. 11:6,7). It could refer to Angels, but it could equally be the Hebrew plural of majesty, whereby a plural is used for a singular being. In a sense, God allowed man to become like Him. This is a guarantee that He is just as capable of allowing us to be coming fully like Him in the promised transformation to the Divine nature at the last day.

Knowing good and evil- The Hebrew idea of 'knowing' effectively speaks of experience or relationship. The idea here is not so much that Adam and Eve now knew how to tell good from evil in moral terms, but rather that they would now experience good and evil. One simple implication is that God almighty has experience of evil; He is not separate from our sufferings nor is He unable to enter into them. And that feature of God was expressed in its ultimate term in His begetting a Son, who would suffer across the entire physical and psychological spectrum of human experience.

If we insist that the "us" refers to Angels, then we reflect that it was presumably in one of the previous creations that the Angels were developed. They have knowledge of good and evil, just as fallen man has. This could suggest that they too had the experience of temptation and choice between sin and obedience. Job speaks of the angels who were charged with folly as if this fact was well known (Job 4:18). John Thomas suggests that the "angels that sinned" in 2 Pet. 2:4 lived at this time. There is no doubt that this passage in Peter, and the parallel in Jude, has some reference to Korah's rebellion. However, there are many such warnings to God's people which combine reference to more than one historical event, and it could be the same here: as if to say, 'History repeats itself. The angels that sinned so long ago went through in principle the same process of apostasy as Korah's company, and you too are capable of falling from grace in the same basic way'.  

Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…- Here again in wrath God remembered mercy. To allow fallen humans to live eternally in that state would have been cruel. Again, judgment for sin still expresses God's grace and sensitivity toward the human condition.

3:23 Therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden- As noted on :22, the "therefore" means that the sending of Adam out of Eden was an act of grace, albeit shrouded in the experience of judgment. We note that the couple are addressed in Adam; "him" and not "them". This may explain why Adam is spoken of in Rom. 5:12 as the "one man" by whom sin entered the world, when in fact it was Eve who appears to have sinned first in chronological terms.

To cultivate the ground from which he was taken- Adam was made from that "ground" and was to return to it. But in his lifetime, he was "to cultivate" that ground. This suggests that human life is lived within the parameters of the curse, but throughout it, we are to cultivate that condition to produce fruit. Solomon makes the point that he who cultivates his ground shall have blessing, and this is the way of wisdom (Prov. 12:11; Prov. 28:19). Again we have the hint that accepting the parameters of our fallen condition, but working within them for fruit, is the way of wisdom and blessing. Indeed Jer. 27:11 speaks of cultivating the ground [the same words are used] within the eretz as the sign of blessing.

3:24 So He drove out the man- Just as Adam and Eve were exiled to the East, so Judah fled East of Jerusalem (Jer. 52:12-16) and then further East, to Babylon. Babylon [which is Babel] was built by men travelling East from Eden (Gen. 11:2). Again we see an identity between Eden and the land of Israel. The garden is not spoken of as being destroyed, suggesting that the hope of returning to Eden was always the ultimate plan God worked towards. The Hebrew for "drove out" is used of the Canaanite nations being driven out of the eretz (Ex. 23:28-31) by an Angel (Ex. 33:2; 34:11), and of Israel too being driven out of the same area (Ez. 36:5; Hos. 9:15). The language of driving out suggests reluctance on Adam's part; another indication that his response to his sin was not initially of an ideal quality. He excused himself, and then resisted the judgment which came. Instead of dying the very day he sinned, Adam was instead driven out of Eden. This seems to be an example of where God can change His mind and ameliorate His judgments, by grace alone, as He did with Nineveh. And He does so even when His grace isn't appreciated by those like Adam who are experiencing it.

And He placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life- Eden, the trees of life and knowledge and the Cherubs are no longer around, and there is no record of their removal. We are therefore encouraged to see this entire situation as the creation account of chapter 1- a kind of vision, which is all the same to be treated as real and literal enough, and yet which cannot be pushed to its final term as literalism. That is not the genre of the material.

It could be argued that the Cherubs were not Angels but some visual representation of Divine entities; on the basis that there was to be no image made of anything in heaven, and yet the pattern of cherubim are found in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:20) and the temple, and here we have what appear to be literal visual replicas, as were the winged figures over the mercy seat. But it has to be said that the visions of the cherubim and living creatures all seem to have Angelic associations. One of the clearest is that the cherubim were to keep "the way" to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24), whereas the keeping of the way is later said to be in the control of Angels- e.g. in Gen. 18:19 the Angels decide Abraham will keep "the way of the Lord", implying  they were the ones guarding it; and in Ex. 32:8 the Angel talking with Moses on Sinai comments "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them" (see too Dt. 9:10,12). But this is not to say the cherubim were themselves Angels. They appear to be identified here with the flaming sword, and we recall  Ps. 104:4 "Who makes His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire".

Umberto Cassuto, as one of Judaism's most painstakingly detailed expositors of the Torah, has observed that the entities referred to in Genesis 1-3, such as the serpent, the cherubim etc., are spoken of in such a way that implies that Israel were familiar with the ideas. Cassuto notes the use of the definite article- the cherubim, the flaming sword- when talking about things which have not been mentioned earlier in the record. He concludes that therefore these things "were already known to the Israelites. The implies that their story had been recounted in some ancient composition current among the people . The intention of Genesis was therefore to define these ideas correctly, to explain to Israel the truth about the things of which they had heard in very rambling and incorrect form in the various legends and epic stories they had encountered in Egypt and amongst the Canaanite tribes.

The Hebrew idea of 'placing' has the sense of tabernacling. Hence Vine: "At the east of the Garden of Eden, He caused to dwell in a tabernacle the Cherubim and the flaming sword". Both the wilderness tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple faced east. The idea was that Adam was being taught that there was a way back to Eden although in this life, Eden was unobtainable in its full sense. And by offering sacrifice and worshipping East of Eden, he was as we are- on the very brink of eternity and direct face to face fellowship with God. Perhaps the fire from the flaming sword devoured the sacrifices as a sign of acceptance. According to Ez. 1:10, the cherubim had faces, and this would explain why Cain lamented that he had been driven out from the faces [plural] (Gen. 4:14 Heb.). In our days we have no such visible sanctuary; but we can in Christ partake in some sense of the tree of life (Prov. 3:18), so certain is the offer and experience of the life eternal for the believer today. We stand both in the tabernacle, and in some hazy sense even beyond it- in Christ.

According to Lk. 19:23, the Lord will shew the unworthy how they could have entered the Kingdom. This is after the pattern of rejected Adam and Eve having the way to the tree of life clearly shown to them after their rejection (Gen. 3:23,24). Again, notice how the judgment is for the education of those judged and those who witness it. He will shew them how they should have given their talent, the basic Gospel, to others, and therefore gained some interest.


Adam: The First Sinner

The classical view of the fall supposes that as Eve's teeth sunk into the fruit, the first sin was committed, and soon afterwards Adam followed suite, resulting in the curse falling upon humanity. What I want to discuss is whether the eating of the fruit was in fact the first sin. If it was, then Eve sinned first. Straight away, the Bible-minded believer comes up with a problem: the New Testament unmistakably highlights Adam as the first sinner; by his transgression sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12). So sin was not in the world before his transgression. The ground was cursed for the sake of Adam's sin (Gen. 3:17). This all suggests that Eve wasn't the first sinner. The fact Eve was deceived into sinning doesn't mean she didn't sin (1 Tim. 2:14). She was punished for her sin; and in any case, ignorance doesn't mean that sin doesn't count as sin (consider the need for offerings of ignorance under the Law). So, Eve sinned; but Adam was the first sinner, before his sin, sin had not entered the world. We must also remember that Eve was deceived by the snake, and on account of this was "(implicated / involved) in the transgression" (1 Tim. 2:14). "The transgression". Which transgression? Surely Adam's (Rom. 5:14); by listening to the snake she became implicated in Adam's sin. The implication is that "the transgression" was already there for her to become implicated in it by listening to the serpent. This is the very opposite to the idea of Adam being implicated in Eve's sin. 

So I want to suggest that in fact the eating of the fruit was not the first sin; it was the final physical consequence of a series of sins, spiritual weakness and sinful attitudes on Adam's part. They were mainly sins of omission rather than commission, and for this reason we tend to not notice them; just as we tend to treat our own sins of omission far less seriously than our sins of commission. What happened in Eden was that the garden was planted, Adam was placed in it, and commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge. The animals are then brought before him for naming; then he is put into a deep sleep, and Eve is created. Then the very first command Adam and Eve jointly received was to have children, and go out into the whole earth (i.e. out of the Garden of Eden) and subdue it to themselves (Gen. 1:28). The implication is that this command was given as soon as Eve was created. There he was, lying down, with his wife beside him, "a help meet"; literally, 'an opposite one'. And they were commanded to produce seed, and then go out of the garden and subdue the earth. It would have been obvious to him from his observation of the animals that his wife was physiologically and emotionally designed for him to produce seed by. She was designed to be his 'opposite one', and there she was, lying next to him. Gen. 2:24 implies that he should have cleaved to her and become one flesh by reason of the very way in which she was created out of him. And yet he evidently did not have intercourse with her, seeing that they failed to produce children until after the fall. If he had consummated his marriage with her, presumably she would have produced children (this deals a death blow to the fantasies of Adam and Eve having an idyllic sexual relationship in Eden before the fall). Paul saw Eve at the time of her temptation as a virgin (2 Cor. 11:2,3). Instead, Adam put off obedience to the command to multiply. There seems an allusion to this in 1 Cor. 7:5, where Paul says that married couples should come together in intercourse "lest Satan (cp. the serpent) tempt you for your incontinency". Depending how closely one reads Scripture, there may be here the suggestion that Paul saw Adam's mistake in Eden as not 'coming together' with his wife.  

But Adam said something to Eve (as they lay there?). He alone had been commanded not to eat the tree of knowledge. Yet when Eve speaks to the serpent, it is evident that Adam had told her about it, but not very deeply. She speaks of "the tree that is in the midst of the garden" rather than "the tree of knowledge". She had been told by Adam that they must not even touch it, even though this is not what God had told Adam (Gen. 2:16,17 cp. 3:2,3). So we are left with the idea that Adam turned to Eve and as it were wagged his finger at her and said 'Now you see that tree over there in the middle, don't you even touch it or else there'll be trouble, O.K.'. She didn't understand, he didn't explain that it was forbidden because it was the tree of knowledge, and so she was deceived into eating it- unlike Adam, who understood what he was doing (1 Tim. 2:14) (1). Adam's emphasis was on not committing  the sin of eating the fruit; he said nothing to her about the need to multiply and subdue the earth.  

The next we know, Adam and Eve have separated, she is talking to the snake, apparently indifferent to the command to subdue the animals, to be their superiors, rather than listen to them as if they actually had superior knowledge. When the snake questioned: "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree..." (Gen. 3:1), Eve was in a weak position because Adam hadn't fully told her what God had said. Hence she was deceived, but Adam wasn't.  

So, why didn't Adam tell her more clearly what God had said? I would suggest that he was disillusioned with the wife God gave him; he didn't have intercourse with her as he had been asked, he separated from her so that she was alone with the snake. "The woman, whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree..." (Gen. 3:12) seems to reflect more than a hint of resentment against Eve and God's provision of her.  Not only was Adam disillusioned with Eve, but he failed to really take God's word seriously. Romans 5 describes Adam's failure in a number of parallel ways: "transgression... sin... offence... disobedience (Rom. 5:19)". "Disobedience" translates a Greek word which is uncommon. Strong defines it as meaning 'inattention', coming from a root meaning 'to mishear'. It is the same word translated "neglect to hear" in Mt. 18:17. Adam's sin, his transgression, his offence was therefore not eating the fruit in itself; it was disobedience, neglecting to hear. That this neglecting to hear God's word seriously was at the root of his sin is perhaps reflected in God's judgment on him: "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife..." rather than God's voice (Gen. 3:17).  

Adam's sin was therefore a neglecting to seriously hear God's word, a dissatisfaction with and effective rejection of his God-given wife, a selfish unwillingness to leave the garden of Eden and go out and subdue the earth (cp. our natural instincts), and a neglection of his duty to multiply children in God's image (cp. preaching and pastoral work). All these things were sins of omission; he may well have reasoned that he would get round to them later. All these wrong attitudes and sins of omission, apparently unnoticed and uncondemned, led to the final folly of eating the fruit: the first sin of commission. And how many of our more public sins are prefaced by a similar process? Truly Adam's sin was the epitome of all our sins. Romans 5 points an antithesis between Adam and Christ. Adam's one act of disobedience which cursed us is set off against Christ's one act of righteousness which blessed us. Yet Christ's one act was not just His death; we are saved by His life too (Rom. 5:10). Christ lived a life of many acts of righteousness and refusal to omit any part of His duty, and crowned it with one public act of righteousness in His death. The implication is that Adam committed a series of disobediences which culminated in one public act of commission: he ate the fruit.  

There are three lines of argument which confirm this picture of what happened in Eden which we have presented. Firstly, Adam and Eve were ashamed at their nakedness. Perhaps this was because they realized what they should have used their sexuality for. Eating the tree of knowledge gave them knowledge of good (i.e. they realized the good they should have done in having children) and also evil (the capacities of their sexual desire?). Adam first called his wife "woman", but after the fall he called her "Eve" because he recognized she was the mother of living ones (Gen. 3:20). By doing so he seems to be recognizing his failure of not reproducing through her as God had originally asked him. The way they immediately produce a child after the fall is surely an expression of their repentance.  

Secondly, it seems that God punishes sin in a way which is appropriate to the sin. Consider how David so often asks God to take the wicked in their own snare- and how often this happens. The punishment of Adam and Eve was appropriate to the sins they committed. What Adam wasn't bothered to do, i.e. have intercourse with his woman, became the very thing which now every fallen man will sell his soul for. They ate the tree of knowledge, they knew  they were naked, and then Adam knew Eve (Gen. 4:1); this chain of connection certainly suggests that sexual desire, whilst not wrong in itself, was part of the result of eating the tree. There is an artless poetic justice and appropriacy in this which seems simply Divine. What they couldn't be bothered to do became the very thing which has probably generated more sin and desire to do than anything else. Adam was to rule over Eve as a result of the fall- the very thing he wasn't bothered to do. Eve's punishment was that her desire was for her husband- perhaps suggesting that she too had no desire for Adam sexually, and therefore was willing to delay obedience to the command to multiply. They were both driven out of the garden- perhaps reflecting how they should have left the garden in obedience to God's command to go out and subdue the natural creation to themselves. Because Adam wasn't bothered to do this, even when it was within his power, therefore nature was given a special power against man which he would never be able to overcome, and which would eventually defeat him (Gen. 3:17-19). This all shows the logic of obedience; we will be made to pay the price of obedience even if we disobey- therefore it is logical to obey. 

Thirdly, there seems evidence that the eating of the fruit happened very soon after their creation. Eve hadn't seen the tree before the serpent pointed it out to her (Gen. 3:6); and consider that they could eat of all the trees, but not of the tree of knowledge. But what about the tree of life? This wasn't forbidden, and yet had they eaten of it, they would have lived for ever. We are told that this tree brings forth fruit every month (Rev. 22:2); so presumably it had not fruited, implying the fall was within the first month after creation. 

The practical outcome of what happened in Eden is that we are to see in Adam's sin an epitome of our essential weaknesses. And how accurate it is. His failure was principally due to sins of omission, of delaying to do God's will because it didn't take his fancy. Time and again Biblical history demonstrates that sins of silence and omission are just as fatal as sins of public, physical commission (e.g. Gen. 20:16; 38:10). To omit to hate evil is the same as to commit it (Ps. 36:4). Because David omitted to enforce the Law's requirements concerning the transport of the tabernacle, a man died. His commission of good didn't outweigh his omission here (1 Chron. 15:13). The Jews were condemned by the Lord for building the sepulchers of the prophets without erecting a placard stating that their fathers had killed them. We have a debt to preach to the world; we are their debtors, and yet this isn't how we often see it (Rom. 1:14). Israel sinned not only by worshipping idols but by thereby omitting to worship God as He required (1 Sam. 8:8). Adam stayed in the garden rather than go out to subdue the earth. Our equivalent is our spiritual selfishness, our refusal to look outside of ourselves into the world of others. Because things like disinterest in preaching or inattention to subduing our animal instincts are sins of omission rather than commission, we too tend to overlook them. We effectively neglect to hear God's word, although like Adam we may make an appearance of half-heartedly teaching it to others. And even when we do this, like Adam we tend to focus on avoidal of committing sin rather than examining ourselves for the likelihood of omission, not least in our lack of spiritual responsibility for others. Because of his spiritual laziness, Adam's sin led Eve into deception and thereby sin, and brought suffering on untold billions. His sin is the epitome of ours. So let us really realize: none of us sins or is righteous unto ourselves. There are colossal ramifications of our every sin and our every act of righteousness on others. 


(1) There are similarities in more conservative Christian groups; e.g. the father or husband who lays the law down about the need for wearing head coverings without explaining to his wife or daughter why.