Have you ever struggled with sin? Fallen to temptation? Attempted to cover up your shame? Have you ever been hopeless in your pursuit of holiness? The third chapter of Genesis explains the root answer to all these questions. The Fall is the Second Act of God’s story. I pray that in a close study of this text, you will better understand how we are tempted to sin and to see God’s glorious grace, even in the midst of judgment.
The Tempter in the Fall
We are introduced to a new character at the beginning of Genesis 3. A character that will play a prominent role in the rest of the story of the Scriptures. Genesis 3:1a, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field the LORD God had made.” The serpent was a creature that was made by the Lord. Although he was a creature, he was different than the other beasts of the field, for he speaks. Genesis 3:1b, “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” His opening lines reveal his craftiness is directed against the Lord as he questions His command. Scripture reveals to us that this serpent is not a mere serpent, but the Devil.
The Devil is given many names in Scripture. Jesus speaks of him in the New Testament as the father of lies for, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John8:44) Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” He is the Accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). The prince of the power of the air who leads the sons of disobedience, the god of this world who blinds the minds of unbelievers and the adversary who roars around like a lion seeking someone to devour. From his introduction we see a creature who is crafty and who stands against the Lord.
It is important to note that the serpent knows the commands of the Lord. The evil one knows the Word, but he twists it for his own purposes and for the destruction of God’s people. Before we examine his tactics, we must first believe that Satan is real and active in God’s world. The narrative does not explain why the serpent is in the Garden, but simply states that he is there. The serpent is a creature of God, but the passage does not explain the nature and origin of evil. The passage explains the origin of human sin and guilt, but does not attempt to answer all the questions of evil. We know that the Bible never attributes God as the author of evil, but as One who uses evil to bring about good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
The Temptation of the Fall
The tempter begins his temptation by questioning God’s Word. He wants to cause God’s people to doubt his word. Satan loves half-truths. He presents truth mixed with lies. Genesis 3:1-5,
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
Satan twists God’s word, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” If you remember God said, “You may freely eat of any tree in the garden.” The beginning of the temptations starts when Eve start to question God’s word. The tactics are still alive today.
The voice of the evil may not be from a serpent, but may be from a friend, or a news article, or a preacher. Did God actually say, “marriage can only be between a man or a woman?’ One mark of false teachers is those who twist the scriptures for their own benefit. We were promised that in last days there will be false teachers and false hearers. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Temptation begins with doubt, but it leads to denial.
The woman’s response to the half-truths of the serpent reveals how she has already been subtly deceived,
First, she omits those elements in the command, “any” and “freely,” which placed the prohibition in a context of liberality. At this point she still is thinking collectively with her husband, from whom, as the narrator implies, she received the command: “we may eat” (v. 2). Second, Eve identifies the tree according to its location rather than its significance; and third, she refers to “God” as the serpent had done, rather than “the Lord” (v. 3). Fourth, she also adds the phrase “you must not touch it” (v. 3), which may make the prohibition more stringent. Yet to her credit the fear of touching the fruit may have been out of deference for God’s command. For Israel “touch” was associated with prohibition and death or with consecration to God. Finally, she failed to capture the urgency of certain death, “You will [surely] die” (v. 3).
The woman appears to fight temptation, but she has already begun down the path of doubting God’s Word.
The serpent picks up his attack by outright denying God’s Word and questions his character. Genesis 3:4-5,
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The serpent denies that death will happen and then questions God’s motives. The serpent tells the woman what she will gain, but nothing of what she will lose. Satan told the truth. The man and woman’s eyes would be opened and they would be like God knowing good and evil, but he does not what that will mean. The serpent intentionally focuses on all the positives while obscuring all the negatives. Doesn’t temptation begin the same way today? It holds out the promises of happiness, pleasure and comfort without showing the heartache, the emotional guilt and the people hurt in walking in sin.
We see the crafty serpent’s trickery deceiving the woman into the first sin. Genesis 3:6, “So 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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food like all the other trees and a delight to the eyes like all the other trees, but this tree would make her wise. She would be like God, so she took of the fruit and ate. The root sin here is pride. The man and woman usurp their roles as creatures and put themselves in the place of Creator. They did what was wise in their own eyes. Beloved, the root of our sin will always begin with pride.
The Bible speaks of the woman being deceived, but her husband was right there with her. The language of the passage always uses the plural “you” implying that the husband was there during this entire conversation. He could have at any point stopped his wife. He could have spoken up and defended the Lord, but instead he was silent. The Bible said that woman was deceived, but it never says that Adam was deceived. Adam’s silence leads to destruction of the garden. How many times does our silence lead to the destruction of people’s lives? Adam will be the one who is held primarily responsible for this breach of God’s Word.
The temptation in the Garden is still the pattern of temptation today. The apostle John writes,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
The desires of the flesh…our appetites…good for food. The desires of the eyes…our lust…pleasing to the eye. The pride of life…to be like God. Nothing is new under the sun. The best way to overcome an attack from an enemy is to know where he will attack. What are your appetites that can lead you from the Lord? What are your desires of the eyes that tempt you? How are you tempted to make a name for yourself rather than for the Father? Know your weaknesses and plan accordingly.
The Try after the Fall
Immediately after the fall, we see how man and woman tried to cover their shame. They first make their own coverings. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Genesis 3:7) Their eyes were opened and they realized (became aware) that they were naked and they covered themselves. The first reaction to being exposed in their sin was to try and deal with it themselves. Don’t we do the same today? We are exposed in our sin and try to cover it up ourselves. And yet we know that our coverings are insufficient.
Man and women covered themselves because they had become like God knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:8, “And 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.” They lost their innocence and immediately hide from God. They fear God. Their perfect communion with God is broken and they are spiritually separated from him. All sin breaks fellowship with God and with each other.
And although fellowship is broken, the Covenant continues to pursue his people. He knows what has happened, but he calls out to his people giving them the opportunity to admit their guilt. Genesis 3:8-13)
And 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. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Neither the man nor the woman take responsibility for their actions, but pass blame onto another. Adam blames God for giving him the woman and the woman for giving him the fruit. The woman blames the serpent. The Lord graciously calls out to his people, but instead of turning to him they justify their actions. They both admit their sin as they both said, “I ate,” but never confessed their guilt in the transgression.
Beloved, the sin of the man and the woman in the garden is why sin. We are all spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin. Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are all sinners. This is the doctrine of original sin. The core of every human being is no longer good, but evil. We are born in sin and our hearts are inclined to evil because at our very core we are sinful. We all know this to be true. We all have our ways of trying to cover up and blame others, but we all know that we are at fault. We cannot deny our guilt. Sin brings judgment.
The Trouble because of the Fall
The Lord responds to the rebellion in the garden with the pronouncement of judgment towards the rebels,
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:14-19)
In Genesis 1, we see God three times call out his blessing: God blessed the animals, God blessed human beings and God blessed the 7th day. And here we see God issue the first of three curses at the beginning of the fall by cursing the serpent and cursing the ground (He will later curse Cain).
The judgment that God gives is directly related to the purposes in which man and woman were created. The woman was created to bear children and to be a helper fit for her husband, so a woman will now experience pain in childbearing and will have a desire to rule or dominate her husband in marriage. The desire to criticize and control one’s husband has its beginning in the fall. The New Testament teaches that women are called to submit and respect their husbands’ leadership, for those desires are not natural to a fallen world. Adam was placed in the garden to work the land, but now the land will work against him and it will be difficult for him to exercise dominion over it. Work will become hard and the ground will eventually rule over man as man will eventually return to dust. The ultimate punishment of sin is death. Sin brings judgment.
God completed his judgment against Adam and his wife by sending them out of the garden, banishing them from his presence and guarding the way to life.
The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:20-24)
Sin brings judgment. Genesis 3 is clear reminder of the consequences of sin, but it is also full of the glorious hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Triumph over the Fall
Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves after the fall, but their covering was insufficient. Only God could provide a covering. Genesis 3:15 has been termed the protoevangelium, the first gospel. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” There is going to come one from a woman who is going to crush the head of the serpent. Genesis 3:20, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” Despite the pain of childbirth, woman would still fulfill her purpose. Eve would bring forth a son. Genesis traces the seed of the woman, Seth to Noah to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. And the rest of the Bible traces seed of the woman the line ultimately to One who is going to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the seed of woman. Jesus is the New Adam. Jesus would face the temptation of the serpent, not in a Garden, but in the wilderness. After forty days without food, Jesus would stand against the crafty deception of Satan by trusting in the LORD God. Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus was tempted three times and each time overcame temptation with the Word of Truth.
The LORD God made a provision to cover Adam and Eve in the garden. He covered them with the skin of an animal. Blood was shed to cover their nakedness. This covering was only a sign of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent; he would first have to be bruised and bleed, taking the curse of God on a tree. Matthew 27:45-46 speaks of Jesus as he hung on the cross, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We know why Jesus was forsaken on the curse.
We know why he was cursed. He was cursed because he loved us. And Jesus was the only way to get us back to the presence of God. Genesis 3:24, “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” A Cherubim was a symbol for God’s people reminding them that they could not enter God’s presence. The cherubim was placed on the curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. Matthew 27:50-51, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split…” “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) Through the shed blood of the Son of God, the curtain was torn and the cherubim no longer blocked the way to the presence of God. Jesus triumphed over the fall through his death.
Jesus died to pay our curse, but was raised to give us new life. Salvation only comes through judgment. We were saved because our Savior was judged. We celebrate the victory of the Lamb who was slain by enjoying a foretaste of the meal to come. We feast today with the bread and the fruit of the wine as a reminder of what Christ has done in his death and what awaits us in the coming resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is a promise. We come together and proclaim the Lord’s death as the only way to God. The Lord’s Table is for sinners, but for sinners who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ. We demonstrate our trust in Christ publicly through baptism and by committing ourselves to Lord’s church which He purchased with his blood.
 Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 235–236). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.