The Temptation of Man
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In this chapter, one could say, the main action of the plot of the Bible begins. However, the fall of man is more than just a plot element. It is the most significant event in the history of mankind: more significant than any war or victory; more significant than any scientific breakthrough or natural disaster; more significant even than the death and resurrection of Christ, for Christ’s advent would not have been necessary if man had never fallen.
Every aspect of our lives is affected by the fall and by the sin that the fall introduced to the world. In our careers, we toil under the curse of the fall. As a society, we live in strife. In our bodies, we suffer pain and sickness. Even our leisure-time activities are influenced by the fall: the arts are expressions of man’s anguish as a result of man’s fallen state; lyrics in music often reflect failed relationships, failed due to selfishness, pride, deceit, etc.; sports and competition are driven by man’s desire to exalt himself over others. The fall has seriously affected our ability to relate to one another and to live at peace with one another. Most importantly, the fall has seriously affected our ability to relate to God and to live at peace with Him. The main theme of the Bible concerns the restoration of our relationship to God and the redemption of man from his sinful state, climaxing at the cross of Christ, which made the way for us to return to God. Just as man chose to rebel against God in his sin, so man can also choose to return to God by accepting the sacrifice of Christ to pay the price for his sin. Thus, Christ’s sacrifice, in a sense, undoes the event of the fall and brings man back to God. This is what the story of the Bible and, indeed, this is what the history of mankind is all about.
Moses, the author of Genesis, here introduces us to the serpent, the instrument that Satan used to deceive Eve and bring about the fall of man. That it is Satan that indwells the serpent is confirmed by other Scriptures. The Lord relates through Ezekial that Satan was in the Garden of Eden: “You were in Eden, the garden of God” (Ezek. 28:13). Christ alludes to Satan’s deception of Eve as murder, as He spoke to the Pharisees: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). John, in the book of Revelation, specifically identifies the serpent when he describes a future incarnation of Satan as “the great dragon”: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9). So, there is no doubt that it was Satan who used the serpent to deceive Eve.
Moses chooses to relate the episode of the fall from the point of view of Adam and Eve. There is no indication that Adam and Eve realized that a spiritual being, Satan, was inhabiting the serpent. I believe that God did not allow Satan to appear to Eve in his own form, because it probably would have awed Eve. God allowed Eve to be tempted by Satan in the form of an animal so that she would not think that the tempter was a superior being to her. Man was specifically tasked to rule over the animals (cf. Gen. 1:26,28). As a ruler, rather than listen to the serpent, Eve should have punished the serpent for being in open rebellion against the Lord. Thus, one reason for the fall is that man failed to carry out properly the service that God assigned to him.
Moses informs us that “the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (vs. 1). Satan presumably chose the serpent because of this trait. Satan took advantage of the craftiness of the serpent to use the serpent to deceive Eve. In the same way, Satan looks for character traits in us that he can use for his advantage. Be careful of the enemy using your weaknesses for his work. If you are prone to anger, lust, pride, abuse of power, be careful lest the enemy use you.
Having studied the animals while he was naming them, Adam was most certainly aware of the serpent’s craftiness. Satan, therefore, approaches Eve, who apparently did not have as much knowledge concerning the animals as Adam did, since she did not exist when the animals were named. So, we see that Satan shrewdly chose to focus his attack on Eve because she was less prepared to counteract the temptation. The tempter is shrewd. We must be on guard and be aware of his devices. The Bible is full of examples of Satan’s work. We should study the Word of God with this in mind in order to learn from these examples, so that we will not fall into the same traps.
Satan begins by asking, “Did God really say...?”. True to Satan’s nature, this question is replete with deception. First, Satan depersonalizes the Lord by calling Him “God”. Throughout the second chapter of Genesis, which describes the foundation of God’s relationship with Adam and Eve, God is referred to as “the Lord God”. As explained in the last issue of Scripture Studies, the designation “Lord” (“YHWH” in Hebrew) is the personal name of God. Since this designation is used in chapter two and also later in chapter three, we must assume that Adam and Eve normally addressed God using His personal name “Lord”. Satan, however, refers to the Lord as “God”, presumably with the motive of depersonalizing Him. In doing so, Satan turns his conversation with Eve into a theoretical discussion about some abstract entity (“God”), instead of about a personal friend of hers, the Lord. Many do this today. They treat God as some abstract being rather than the personal God that He is. Those of the world must be made aware that God is intimately concerned with and involved in the affairs of His creation, and not an unfeeling, impersonal essence.
The question “Did God really say...?” can be interpreted two ways:
1. Casting doubt on what God said. In other words, the question could be interpreted as saying: “Are you sure that you heard right? Did God really say that?” So today, many will ignore the command of God because Satan sows the seed of doubt as to whether God really did make such a command.
2. Questioning the motive of God’s saying it. In other words, the question could be interpreted as saying: “Are you kidding? That’s pretty unreasonable. Did God really say that?” And again today, many will ignore the command of God because they perceive that the command is unreasonable. Those who do this are putting themselves above God: They do not understand the motive for the command, so the command must be unreasonable. Instead, they should realize that God is wiser than they are. True obedience to God is to be satisfied and content with the command of God, even not knowing the reason behind it, trusting in the fact that God is righteous, holy and good.
So, Satan’s first tactics during his conversation with Eve is both to cast doubt upon and to question the command of God.
Moses goes on to relate what “the woman said to the serpent”. Eve’s first mistake was to listen to Satan. She should have said, as Christ did, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23). Eve’s second mistake was to listen to Satan with interest. We should never try to dwell on the words and ideas of Satan. He is shrewder than we are, easily able to deceive us. Eve’s third mistake was to respond to Satan. Seeing Eve’s openness and eagerness to carry on the conversation, Satan jumped right in and continued with his deception. We must learn from this episode: do not respond to Satan, do not be interested in Satan and his evil, do not even listen to him. Satan is powerless in temptation if we do not entertain his advances. As James exhorts: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
The root of Eve’s being deceived was in her incorrect handling of God’s Word. In her answer to the serpent, Eve corrupted the Word of God in three ways:
1. She took away from God’s Word. In Gen. 2:16, God said that they were “free to eat” or, more accurately, they may “freely eat” (see NAS, RSV, KJV, et. al.) from all of the other trees in the garden. Eve merely said that they “may eat”. This omission may seem trivial, but it is significant in that it causes emphasis to be placed upon the prohibition from eating from the one tree, rather than the allowance to eat from all of the other trees.
2. She added to God’s Word. Eve related to the serpent that God said “you must not touch” the tree. There is no record of God making that prohibition. This addition to God’s Word is significant in that it pictures God as making unreasonable prohibitions. We must be careful that we do not add to God’s Word and, thus, misrepresent the character of God. The area in which I have most seen people add to God’s Word concerns the observance of the Sabbath. I have heard of well-meaning Christians prohibit skiing, golfing, sewing, going to Disneyland, etc. on Sundays. In doing so, they portray God as One who does not want His children to have any fun! They also deny the fulfillment of the Sabbath law by the rest we find in Christ (cf. Heb. 4:9,10; Col. 2:16-17).
3. She modified God’s Word. In Genesis 2:17, God said that when they eat of the forbidden fruit that they “will surely die”, stating in no uncertain terms that they will die. In Gen. 3:3, Eve related that God told them not to eat of the forbidden fruit “lest you die” (see NAS, RSV, KJV, et. al.), as if to say maybe they will die and maybe they won’t. Thus, she weakened the certainty of the punishment of disobeying God.
So, we see that Eve, when dealing with the temptations of Satan, misused the Word of God. This is contrasted to Christ’s resistance of temptation by accurately citing Word of God in Matt. 3. Knowing the Bible accurately is a powerful weapon in the resistance of temptation. Be prepared! Study and know the Word of God accurately, so that you may resist in the time of temptation.
Satan took advantage of Eve’s misuse of God’s Word. He quickly chimed in “You will not surely die”, which was a direct contradiction to the words of God in Gen. 2:17. Satan was capitalizing on Eve’s implied doubt as to whether they will really die for eating the forbidden fruit.
Satan says the same thing today. He says to many, “you will not surely die”. The belief that God will not really punish sinners is prevalent. Many, even some in the pulpit, deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment. . To deny the existence of hell is to contradict the Word of God (for the Bible clearly affirms its existence, see Isa. 66:24; Matt. 3:12; Matt. 13:42; Matt. 18:8; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:8), is to water down the holiness of God (by implying that those who have not been cleansed from sin can enter His presence) and is to deny the righteousness of God (by implying that God will allow sin to go unpunished). More significantly, to deny the existence of hell is to claim that Christ’s sacrifice for us was futile. Why would we need a Savior if there is nothing to be saved from?
Again, even today, Satan says to many: “You will not surely die”, and he makes the statement with emphases in different places. Sometimes he says, “You will not surely die”, as if to say, “You are a ‘good’ person. Why would God punish you?” Sometimes he says, “You will not surely die”, as if to say, “It is by no means certain that you will die. There must be another way out.” Sometimes he says, “You will not surely die”, as if to say, “The punishment for sin could not possibly be death, but surely something weaker.” Whatever the emphasis, this statement is dangerous. There is only one way to escape the punishment of death for sin, and that is by acceptance of the atoning sacrifice for sin of Christ on the cross.
Satan goes on to say to Eve that she will not die “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (vs. 5). Here, Satan not only casts doubt on the truth of the punishment, but also casts aspersions on the motive of God for making the command. Satan is, in effect, saying, “You will not surely die. God only said that because He does not want you to become like Him.” Satan here is denying that God loves us unselfishly; Satan is denying that God desires only the best for us. And as it was in the beginning, so it is now. Satan claims that the command of God is to keep us from enjoying life. However, the more that you study and obey the law of God, the more that you realize that the law is for our good. Why are we so apt to believe Satan, yet disbelieve God? Satan says that God does not love us, but there is an extremely powerful argument that supports the fact that God indeed does love us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Satan may say that God does not love us, but God demonstrated His love for us.
Satan told Eve that if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would “be like God, knowing good and evil”. This was a true but misleading statement from the father of lies. Yes, she would be like God in that she would have the knowledge of good and evil; but, in dying spiritually, she was to lose her holiness, thus becoming less like God in that respect. Her exaltation from the knowledge of good and evil was to be miniscule as compared to the fall that resulted from her sin.
The desire to “be like God” tempts many. Some false religions appeal to people because they promise that one can “be like God”. The desire for knowledge also tempts many. We have the mistaken belief that more knowledge is good and invariably brings happiness. This is not so. On the contrary, the knowledge of good and evil brought death to the first man and woman, just as it brings death today.
The Sin of Man
6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
After her encounter with Satan, Eve viewed the tree as she never had before. She “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom”. Often, through the influence of Satan, we view the forbidden things with pleasure, the perverted things with passion, the shameful things with pride. The glass he holds in front of our eyes colors to make sin enticing, desirable, even permissable; yet, that same glass blinds us to the destruction of sin. Eve no longer viewed the fruit as the bringer of death, but as the giver of pleasure.
The three elements of temptation that confronted Eve when she then looked at the fruit are elements found, either singly or collectively, in all temptation, even in the present day (cf. I John 2:16, KJV):
1. Lust of the flesh: she saw that the fruit was “good for food”. Bodily desires, when improperly channeled, are the source of many temptations.
2. Lust of the eyes: the fruit was also “pleasing to the eye”. Jesus summed up the danger of allowing our eyes to dwell on things that we should not: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23).
3. The pride of life: she saw the fruit as “desirable for gaining wisdom”. All men, from the youngest age, have a desire to be the best, to exalt themselves over others. This attitude is contrary to the teachings of Christ. When the disciples were arguing about which of them would be considered the greatest, Jesus said to them: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25,26). Christ Himself is our example in this, for He, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6,7).
Interestingly, these three elements were also used by Satan to tempt Christ in Luke 4. Christ was told by Satan to break His fast by turning the stones into bread, trying to appeal to the fleshly desires. Christ was shown by Satan all the kingdoms of the world over which He could reign, trying to appeal to the lust of the eyes. Christ was told to jump off the pinnacle of the temple and cause the angels to come to His rescue, trying to appeal to the pride of life. Note also the order of the three elements of temptation in the narrative: first, “good for food” then “pleasing to the eye” then “desirable for gaining wisdom”. Satan works from the outside to the inside, appealing to the physical desires with the goal of winning over the heart. This is the opposite of how God works. God works from the inside to the outside. He desires first a repentant heart, then He works to change the external behavior. Many hesitate to turn to God, saying, “My life is a mess.” We must realize that God does not expect us to come to Him in a perfect state. God sent His Son so that we would not have to be holy to come to Him. Come to Him first, as you are, then He will transform you.
Moses then relates that “she took some and ate it”. In addition, “she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it”. And so, death entered the world. Paul states that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12).
Eve was not content just to eat the forbidden fruit herself, but “she also gave some to her husband”. Note the progression of her sin: first she looked upon the forbidden fruit, then desired it, then took it, then ate it and finally gave it to her husband. We are not content just to sin ourselves; unfortunately, we must corrupt others too. Sin loves company. We feel comforted when we hear that others sin in the ways that we sin. This is wrong. We must detest sin, in ourselves and in others.
Interestingly, throughout the Bible, Adam, not Eve, gets the blame for the fall of mankind. The Lord, speaking to Israel through Isaiah, reminds us: “Your first father sinned” (Isa. 43:27). Paul relates that “sin entered the world through one man” (Rom. 5:12). He goes on to say that “death reigned from the time of Adam” (Rom. 5:13). Elsewhere, Paul teaches that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Why does Adam get the blame? Two possible reasons:
1. It was Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, that brought the fall of mankind in toto. If Eve had sinned but Adam did not, mankind would not have fallen. Eve would have eventually died, but Adam would have continued to live. Though, to carry on the human race, Adam, quite possibly, would have lost another rib!
2. Eve was deceived. All mention of Eve in the Bible outside of the book of Genesis speaks of her as being deceived. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (II Cor. 11:3). “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (I Tim. 2:14). The fact that she was deceived does not lessen her responsibility for the sin, but it does point out a striking contrast between her sin and Adam’s. Eve was deceived; but Adam knew full well what he was doing. Adam knowingly chose to obey Eve and die, rather than to obey God and live. Adam loved the creature more than the Creator. This set up Adam as a “pattern” (as Paul says in Rom. 5:14) of Christ. Just as Christ chose to die to be with His bride (the church), so Adam chose to die to be with His bride (Eve). However, as Paul argues in Rom. 5:15-21, “the gift is not like the trespass” (Rom. 5:15). Adam’s death was a consequence of disobedience to God and resulted in death for all mankind, but Christ’s death was in obedience to God and resulted in life for mankind.
In any case, both Adam’s and Eve’s sins resulted in death. They both took of the forbidden fruit and ate it. Whether deceived or not, it was their choice to disobey the direct command of God.
The immediate result of their sin and the obtaining of the knowledge of good and evil was guilt and shame: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” (vs. 7). The first sin brought into action the first evidence of a conscience. Their desire was to immediately cover their sin. However, even though their sin was against God, instead of going to Him to seek atonement, they try by their own means to cover their sin and to appease their guilt. By sewing “fig leaves” together, they try to cover their sin. This same means is used today. Many think that by their own works that they can balance out the consequences of their sin. We see many “fig leaves” today: feeding the poor, giving money for the work of God, religious rituals, church-going, etc. These are noble works but they do not cover one’s sin in the sight of God or save one from the death that results from sin. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). It is only through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross that we can atone for our sins.
To contact us: