What’s the Big Problem?

| Genesis 3:1-8,15-19,22-24

Biblical Truth: The world is full of brokenness and evil because human beings disobeyed God and brought on themselves and the world God’s judgment.

God’s Commands Are for Our Good: Genesis 3:1-3.

[1]  Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?" [2] The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; [3]  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’"   [NASU]

[1]  The words now the serpent are placed at the beginning of this verse for emphasis. All the stress falls on them. The serpent acts as a man; it raises itself above the beasts of the field which the Lord God had made and it elevates itself to an equality with man. There is something wrong and Eve should have recognized this as soon as the serpent began to speak. But we are not told how the serpent speaks, only that he does. Nor are we told why the serpent goes to Eve and not Adam. We must note that sin serves to overthrow the order of things that God has instituted. With the serpent’s first utterance it becomes apparent that an enemy of God is speaking. The first words uttered form a question, which seems designed to cast doubt upon God’s goodness and yet, at the same time, seems to imply that if the serpent is misinformed, he is willing to be instructed in the matter. Emphasis falls upon the word indeed (or really). It is a sly question, for whatever else it may do, it serves to implant within the mind the idea that God is unduly strict in not permitting Adam and Eve to eat from all the trees.

[2]  Instead of turning away from the serpent the woman engages in dialogue with him, thereby revealing that she did not really realize that the serpent was her enemy and that she did not perceive his evil intentions toward her and her well-being. The serpent had approached the woman as one who had her best interests at heart, and this appearance was a deception. This verse records the first part of Eve’s reply to the serpent. Note the two words that Eve leaves out of God’s instruction concerning eating in the garden. God commanded: From any tree of the garden you may eat freely [2:16]. But Eve, in her reply, leaves out any and freely, the two words that emphasized God’s liberality in giving the entire garden to man.

[3]  The second part of Eve’s reply to the serpent also includes a change from God’s command. Eve adds or touch it to the command not to eat from the fruit of the tree. The Hebrew word used for touch involves more than a mere handling of the tree with the fingers. The word is pregnant in meaning, and apparently suggests touching in the sense of consuming or making the fruit one’s own. For example, in Genesis 20:6, there is reference to God preventing Abimelech from touching Sarah, the wife of Abraham. What is in view is not merely physical contact with another person, but the taking of that person sexually to be one’s own. It would seem that Eve did truly understand that the outward act of partaking of the fruit was really the result or manifestation of an inward desire.

Temptation Strikes at “Me”: Genesis 3:4-6.

[4]  The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! [5]  "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." [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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  [NASU]

[4]  Having first implanted a doubt in Eve’s mind concerning the goodness of God, now Satan advances to a direct denial of God’s command. It is a powerful negative, clearly spoken, so that Eve must now choose between God and the serpent. There can be no halfway station; either she must come out vigorously on the side of God or she must align herself with the serpent. In effect Satan is condemning the concept of absolute authority. The commands of God are harsh and stringent, he implies. He condemns Eve’s attitude of trust in God’s command. The serpent makes it appear to Eve that he has a better knowledge of God than she has. She is confined by her position of trusting in God, of taking seriously His command that she will die if she disobeys. From this cramping position she must be emancipated and move over to a standpoint of “neutrality” from which she can accurately pass judgment upon God and His commands.

[5]  The serpent now passes judgment upon God. His point is to oppose the God of goodness. He would make it appear to Adam and Eve that God in reality is not good, but jealous. Sometimes a half truth is more dangerous than an outright lie. God did know well enough that when the man and the woman disobeyed Him their eyes would be opened, and it was to prevent this sad consequence that He imposed His command. For God’s commands are for our good. The serpent holds out to Adam and Eve the prize of knowledge. But what are the consequences of this knowledge? 

[6]  Now Eve looks at the tree in a different light and sees just what the tempter desired her to see. Not the abomination of sin, not the hideousness of evil stand in her vision, for she has disavowed the faith, cast aside the word of God, accepted the lie, subjected herself to the devil, yielded to a mere sensual judgment, transgressed God’s command and abandoned true knowledge in favor of the false. The word know signifies more than a mere intellectual understanding. It involves an experiencing, so that for Eve to know good and evil as the serpent suggested would be an experiencing of good and evil. What a sharp contrast this was from what God intended for the man and woman. “Do the evil,” the tempter was saying in effect, “in order that you may know the difference between good and evil, from the point of view of evil.” How different was God’s desire that they, merely out of love for Him and obedience to His command, simply because it was His command, should know the difference between good and evil. That God’s law should be the delight of the heart leads to an obedience of God’s commands born out of love to God. Far better it is to say, “God commands this, and although I may not understand all the implications of His command nor even see the reason why He has uttered it, nevertheless, because I love Him, my delight is to obey Him. Merely because He commands is a far stronger reason than all the reasons that the evil one can amass to entice me to disobey Him.” Eve’s love of God and her trust in Him were not strong enough; she was unwilling to obey Him merely because He had commanded. Not only did she eat the fruit but she also gave some of the fruit to Adam who also ate. Up until this point no word has been uttered concerning Adam. Where he had been we do not know. All that we do know is that at the moment when Eve actually partook of the fruit Adam was present, and apparently had done nothing to dissuade her from her action.

Sin Carries Dire Consequences: Genesis 3:7-8,16-19.

[7]  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. [8]  They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [16]  To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."  [17]  Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. [18] "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; [19]  by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  [NASU]

[7]  Now Adam and Eve see good and evil from the standpoint of sinners, from the low level of sin. Before the fall the first man and woman saw things as they actually were. Wherever they cast their eyes they beheld the world that their good God had created and they saw all things as His creation. The knowledge which they now have is one which judges everything from a false standpoint. It sees all from a perverted position. And so nakedness becomes a matter of shame. As unfallen creatures the man and his wife had rejoiced in all things. Now, because of sin, they can really rejoice in nothing. As a result they seek to do what sinners always try to do. They make an effort at saving themselves. In the garden before the fall the man and woman acted in accordance with God’s command. His will was their law, and they gladly yielded to a rejoicing obedience. Now that they have fallen and become estranged from God, however, they act upon their own.

[8]  Not only does sin involve an inward pollution and corruption of man’s heart, but in addition, it involves guilt before God. When we say that a man is guilty before God what we mean is that he is liable to censure and to punishment from God. Realizing that God will punish them and rebuke them for what they have done Adam and Eve seek to hide from Him. The Lord God walking in the garden appears to be a theophany (an appearance of God in human form). These theophanies were pre-incarnate appearances of our Lord in the Old Testament until they found their culmination in the incarnation. They represent God’s most loving and tender condescension so that He might speak to man as friend to friend. That the effort to hide from the Creator God was foolish hardly needs to be said. This is God’s world, and in it there is no escape from His presence. Indeed, there is but one way in which to flee from God, and that is to flee to Him.

[16]  It is well to note that only after God had made a declaration of salvation [3:15], does He rebuke the woman and the man. With respect to the woman, her sexual life is to be one of sorrow. Out of a desire for earthly enjoyment and sensual pleasure, Eve had broken the commands of God. She therefore is to be punished with the sorrows and pains of pregnancy and childbirth. What is the meaning of the phrase: your desire will be for your husband? In the divinely-imposed arrangement the woman was to occupy a certain position of subordination in that she was to be a help to her husband. In the temptation and fall, however, she abandoned this subordinate role and sought to assume a position of leadership. In Genesis 4:7, desire is used to indicate sin’s desire to control and possess Cain. If we apply that meaning of the word to this verse, then we see that the woman’s desire for her husband is to control him; while the husband is to rule over her. Thus we see, as a result of the fall, the battle for control that now exists in the marriage relationship which leads to conflict within the marriage. The only solution to this battle is the transformation of the attitudes and aspirations of both the man and woman through the indwelling Spirit of Christ that occurs after regeneration and through sanctification.

[17]  In eating the forbidden fruit, Adam deliberately disobeyed God, seeking to place himself above God. Is it not apparent that sin disturbs and disrupts all normal relationships? In the original creation God had ordained a harmonious relationship among all His creatures and also between Himself and them. No longer, however, does this relationship exist. In seeking to rise above God man had destroyed that relationship. He now stands at enmity with God, and inasmuch as God is just, He must punish man. Furthermore an estrangement even sets in between the man and the woman as would appear from Adam blaming his wife for his own act. Satan delights in disorder.

[18-19]  The principle taught in these verses is that all labor will be difficult. Here is the culmination of the threat you will surely die. As soon as man had disobeyed God he became mortal. The power of death came over him and the germ of death entered his nature. He was separated from God and in the throes of spiritual, eternal death. The germ must ripen, and when it does man’s body will be dissolved and return to the dust from which he was taken. Death is not the natural end for man, but a tragic punishment for his disobedience.

God Responds to Our Sin: Genesis 3:15,22-24.

[15]  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel."  [22]  Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" —  [23]  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. [24]  So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.  [NASU]

[15]  There is only One that can overcome the tempter; only One who can cause him to be silent and to listen, and that is God. When the evil of the world overwhelms us, may we remember this. Our God can cause the evil one to listen and can pronounce righteous condemnation upon the adversary of men’s souls. It is to promise life to man that the words of this verse are uttered, and such life can come from God alone. In the broadest sense of the term, therefore, this is a proclamation of good news, an announcement to sinful fallen man that God will do something to bring blessing to him. In a position of emphasis, standing at the beginning of the verse as we read it in the Hebrew, is the word enmity. That word overshadows all else and sets the tone for the entire verse. It expresses the very essence, as it were, of the deliverance which God is declaring to mankind. Man’s responsibility is to be at enmity with the evil one and to love God. But sin had reversed things; man was now at enmity with God and friends with the evil one. God enters into this situation and issues a promise to reverse matters back to His intended design. If God does not act, there can be no hope of a reversal. The enmity between the evil one and the woman is not now present at the time when God speaks but must be placed there by God. Only God can do what must be done if man is to be delivered, and this He graciously announces He will do. The seed of the woman will deliver a capital blow, whereas the serpent for his part will deliver a lesser blow. The very language is evidence that God is speaking to one more powerful than a serpent; the one who used the serpent for his evil purposes. To place enmity between the serpent and the woman is to point to something higher than a snake. Here is to be a decisive victory. Not merely will the kingdom over which the evil one rules be defeated, but the very head of that kingdom will receive the capital blow. The way in which man will vanquish Satan is that there will be born of woman One who will obtain the victory. God will not allow man to perish but is determined to save him. And with this verse we are introduced to the plan of salvation. From this verse, we learn that God is taking the initiative. He will do for man what man cannot do for himself.

[22]  God is here declaring that man has now become like Him, in the limited sense that he knows good and evil. The plural (us) indicates that in the Speaker there is a plurality of persons. Man now possesses the knowledge of good and evil, but he misinterprets this knowledge; he leans toward the evil and hates the good. Good and evil he knows from the standpoint of the sinner. God is good and hates the evil. Man is evil and hates the good. In chapter two the tree of life is mentioned first and is described as being in the midst of the garden. There is a reason for this. The tree is of sacramental nature and teaches that life comes from God and that man’s religion is to be God-centered. The garden is the abode which God prepared for man, and in the center of that abode, is God Himself. Man’s being is to be centered about God. All his life is to be devoted to glorifying God and enjoying Him. The tree signifies the life that comes only from God.

[23-24]  These verses point to the fact that God is in control of the situation. It is God’s to decide who may and who may not remain in the garden, and when God decides to drive anyone from the garden, there is no one that can stay His hand. Adam’s expulsion from Eden was not only a sending away [23]; it was a driving forth [24]. His departure must be with haste. He is now a usurper and had no right to be present in the garden. Hence, God drives him forth. So Adam is to live his life upon this earth. In vain will he seek to solve his own problems, to bring peace to his warring world, to stamp out the effects of his sin. And what is most tragic, he will not, unless God from on high enlighten him, even understand the nature of his condition.

Questions for Discussion:

1.      The temptation of Eve gives us insight into some of the schemes with which the enemy also attacks us. What was the serpent trying to achieve by asking Indeed, has God said [3:1]? What is the proper response to such a question [Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 19:7-14]?

2.      What did the serpent’s reply to Eve in verses 4-5 accomplish? Note how this result can only occur after Eve gives an incorrect response to the serpent’s first question. What can we learn here concerning how to respond to temptation in our own experiences?

3.      In verses 7-8, what were the drastic consequences of their sin?

4.      What does the promise of God in verse 15 teach us about His plan of salvation?


Genesis, James Boice, Baker Books.

Genesis 1-11:26, Kenneth Mathews, NAC, Broadman Publishers.

Genesis 3, Edward Young, Banner of Truth.