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A. THE LORD’S TESTING OF MAN’S OBEDIENCE (Please read Gen 2:16,17).
God’s decree concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was:
- Man was not allowed to eat of it.
- Should he eat thereof, he would surely die.
Evil already existed.
The name of the tree could imply that evil already existed which indeed was the case for at that time, a number of God’s angels had already revolted against Him.
Man had to exercise his choice whether or not to submit to God.
God created both Adam and Eve of His own free will; they had no say in the matter and only became aware of themselves once they were created and became alive. They, of course, also had no choice in regard to their god. He was their god because He had created them and He ruled over them. He did this in a superb way, providing in all their needs, but this still was not a satisfactory state of affairs. God wanted people that wanted Him. It is rather like a young man that loves a beautiful lady but has to allow her to make her own free choice of him, otherwise their marriage would mean nothing to both of them.
In coming to a decision, man had to consider two important facts.
Firstly, that they were created in His image but were not equal to Him. He was vastly greater than them. He was the Creator and sole owner of all. He alone could have the final say in His universe. The two of them had not created even a single plant or animal and would not have been able to maintain it. If God had suddenly left this world to continue on its own (if He left to go and create another world), how would man have managed to keep the earth, the stars and the sun functioning properly and if anything went wrong, to whom would he have prayed to intervene? No, God was and is needed to keep everything together. So man had to choose God as his god to rule over and maintain all of creation; it made sense.
Secondly, it was abundantly clear that they could trust Him with their lives for they had been experiencing his overwhelming love and care. God had created everything in the Garden perfectly, thereby providing them with concrete evidence to come to the conclusion that He was good, that He was perfect and that they could safely entrust themselves to Him, knowing that He would and could always do the very best for them.
The principle of having a ruler.
Let us compare God’s ruling with what we have constituted for ourselves, namely governments. We all realise that a country needs a government. In the fallen state which we find ourselves, we may choose a political party to rule over the country and the party appoints a president and he appoints a cabinet. The cabinet and president debate on issues such as Education, Policing, Social welfare, etc. then reach a joint decision on how these matters are to be handled. This of course, is what we call a democratic form of government and is preferable to some other forms, but it has its shortcomings and governments split because of different viewpoints resulting in chaos in the country. It would have been better if there had been only one supreme ruler by whose decisions everybody would abide on condition that that ruler would be perfect in every respect: perfect in wisdom, perfect in love, perfect in justice, perfect in holiness, etc. There is of course only One Person that meets all those requirements, namely God, our Creator.
Choosing God was the logical thing to do.
It therefor makes sense for mankind to unanimously choose its Creator as its one and only God and it was the sensible thing for Adam and Eve to have done.
Let us express it in modern idiom: they had to “vote” for Him; to draw their crosses behind His Name. This meant that they had to choose Him as their God, the One Who would have the supreme say in their lives. This relationship did not mean that they were to see Him as a stern judge, but as an Almighty and Loving Father Who would always do only His best for His children; Someone whom they could trust absolutely. The way in which they were to “draw their crosses,” was by deciding whether they would obey him by not eating from the forbidden tree. That would be their vote of confidence or of no confidence.
Actually, this was a very easy test because they were free to eat and enjoy the fruit from any of the many trees and the many varieties of trees, and they were only forbidden to eat the fruit of this one tree.
Possibly a long period of time had passed by during which they had been seeing the tree with its fruit but had not stretched out their hands to pick the fruit and eat it, until one day …
B. THE SNAKE’S ATTACK ON GOD’S CREATION (Please read Gen 3:1-6)
3:1: The snake was craftier/more subtle/wiser/more cunning/shrewder than any of the animals the Lord God had made.
The snake (animal)
The snake, when he was created by God, was not crafty, he was good, for God created no evil; his wisdom turned into craftiness when the sly devil took possession of him and used him as an instrument to accomplish his will.
In fact, at that stage, he was gifted by God with mental abilities above that of all the other animals, abilities approaching that of man in that he could reason and speak man’s language so that Eve did not find it strange when he spoke to her. Perhaps he had done so before. He definitely had legs to walk by, on all fours or even upright, for God stripped him of these as a punishment for sin (3:14). He could even have been a flying animal, endowed with wings like a bird on which he could traverse the garden at great speed. Taking into account that the devil, before he fell from grace, had been the most glorious of all God’s angels (Ezek. 28), the snake probably was the most beautiful and admirable of all of the animals, surpassing them in bodily beauty and in the kingly air and majesty in which he conducted himself.
The snake; the devil.
But suddenly another creature entered the Garden, a creature from another world, the devil. Where did he come from? The answer is found in Rev 12:7-9 where we are told of an uprising of some of the angels headed by the leader of the angels that had taken place in heaven. They were defeated and cast down upon the earth. To learn more about him, we have to read through the Bible, starting with 1 Chron. 21:1 where he is called satan and following through the New Testament where he is referred to as the devil, right up to the book of Revelation. He is the leader of all evil spiritual beings that hate the Lord and fight against Him. In Revelation 12:9 he is described as “The great dragon …- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” From Ezekiel 28 we can deduce that it was because of his pride, that he was condemned and cast out of the presence of God. He then descended to the earth, filled with fury and intent on destroying God’s creation (Rev 12:12) – more about this later on.
The spiritual snake and the animal snake’s collaboration
The devil used the snake, the most glorious of all God’s creatures, to gain entrance into the Garden in an inconspicuous way. Whether he took on the form of a snake or whether he entered into the real snake, is not disclosed to us. The fact that God cursed the snake (the animal) and that the curse is still visible in him till this day, indicate that some guilt had been found in him; perhaps he had allowed the devil to use him to deceive Eve.
He said to the woman … .
Before we look at the devil’s question, let first us go back in time, stand next to the forbidden tree, see Eve approaching and ask her a question or two:
“Hi Eve! What are you doing here today, here at the forbidden tree? Are the fruit of the many other trees no longer delicious and good enough for you? Are you perhaps walking around, wondering what is actually wrong with the fruit of this tree? Why are you here alone; where is your husband whom you are supposed to assist?”
(Let us learn from Eve’s folly to keep a safe distance from everything that is tempting. Scripture warns us to flee (run away) from evil, 1 Tim 6:11).
Then he asked the woman if God really had said that they may not eat of all the trees in the garden.
See how sly the devil is: his first move was to get Eve to talk to him. He does this by asking her a question. His question sounds quite harmless, as though he, being a resident of the Garden, only wanted to learn more about it and its administration.
Eve answered him: “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden…”
Part of God’s command to the married couple, was to take care of the garden/to guard it. This meant that they had to be on guard, alert. Eve failed to do so. She should immediately have asked herself: “Why does he want to know this: what is his reason?” Then she should have come with a counter-attack by asking: “Why are you asking this? What has this to do with you? You are an animal for which God provided its own food; God’s command to us has nothing to do with you.”
Had she asked those questions, the devil would have been placed on the back foot, and she would have been out of the corner. He would have been the one required to answer questions. But alas, she did not do this and the ice was broken for the devil. The snake had won the first round.
When God’s Word is clearly stated about a matter, we must not argue with people who dispute it. All we have to do, is quote Scripture and leave the issue at that.
She answered him that they could eat fruit from the trees in the garden but not from the tree that was in the middle of the garden nor touch it, or they would die.
This was not really what God had said. He said: “You’re free to eat from any tree in the garden/you may freely eat of/from every tree in the garden, …” (2:16). God’s words emphasized the generosity of His gifts, whereas, her words were a sort of watered down “Yyyeess, we may eat from certain trees but from …we may not eat …” There is a lack of gratitude towards her Creator for the wonderful, undeserved gifts He had bestowed upon her.
Ingratitude for all that God has given a person, makes him move closer and closer to the forbidden tree. Secretly, he wonders if a little piece of disobedience won’t, maybe, make him happier. No, the road to fulfillment lies in raising one’s hands towards heaven in gratitude because the Word says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).
Furthermore, she does not quote God’s words correctly, for instance, she speaks of the Tree of Good and Evil as being in the middle of the garden. This is wrong; the Tree of life was in the middle of the garden.
Then the snake said to her that she would not surely die but that God knew that when she would eat of it, her eyes would be opened and she would be like God, knowing good and evil.
The woman’s feeble reaction was like fat on the devil’s fire and his attack grew more vehement. His attack was not so much aimed at the woman, as at God Himself; he questioned the openness, the well-meaning of God and the goodness of his deeds and argued that He withheld the best from mankind.
He maintained that the power to know good and evil was a special ability that would put mankind on an equal footing with God; therefore, he said, by withholding this knowledge from them, He was reserving his best for himself and that they could therefor not entrust Him with their lives and future, but were to rise up and claim this ability for themselves, because it was their right and within their reach.
He did, however, not explain to Eve what the knowledge of good and evil really meant and what consequences it held for them.
Young people are especially vulnerable in this area of their lives and are easily persuaded that grownups, especially their parents, are withholding the best things in life from them. It is only once they had eaten the forbidden fruit, that they discover for themselves the bitter consequences and the sound reasons why it had been withheld from them.
C. MAN’S FALL (Please read Gen 3:3-7).
Eve then came to the conclusion that:
- The tree was particularly attractive/a delight to the eyes.
- The fruit of the tree was, just like all the other fruit, meant to be eaten.
- It should be coveted because it would open one’s eyes, (expand one’s intellectual powers of understanding and the ability to comprehend) so that one would be lifted to the level of God.
- The knowledge of good and evil was very important.
She was misled and was gripped by desire. The tree that had been, a short while before, merely attractive, suddenly became desirable, but she desired something which she did not need. God had seen to it that all her needs were fully met. Neither she, nor her husband had to sit as judges over other people and decide whether they were guilty of some or other crime. They were living in a crime free world, so why covet the ability to discern between right and wrong? The Garden of Eden had only one law: “From a certain tree you may not eat,” and she did not need to be a judicial expert to keep it.
She desired something of which she had heard, but she did not really understand what it was or how it operated. Fleshly desire dominated over logical consideration and weighing up of the pros and cons.
She picked some of the fruit and ate it.
It seems as if she did not only eat one fruit but ate more than one. Possibly, after she had eaten one without suffering any bad consequences, she decided to eat more.
She gave some of the fruit to her husband and he ate it.
It further seems as if her husband was not nearby when she conversed with the snake. Apparently, he only arrived later on because the Bible says that he was not misled by the snake but the woman was (1 Tim 2:14). Because the fruit was offered to him by someone he knew intimately, he relaxed his watchfulness/guardedness. When he saw that she was eating the forbidden fruit without any ill consequences, he cast overboard the warning of the Lord his Creator, took the fruit from her hand and ate it.
Marriage partners that love and trust one-another, can very easily be drawn into sin, the one by the other. (Once my wife and I got born again, we came to an agreement that if one of us would drift away from the Lord, the other one would not go along, but stand firm and try to win the backsliding one back to God and I know of more than one occasion when I was dodging God’s perfect will, that my wife took a stand for the Lord, opposing me. I did the same. That is one of the reasons why we are still following the Lord Jesus side by side. We firstly belong to God and then to one-another.)
Eve, looked, took, ate and shared.
The first look at a forbidden thing usually cannot be helped, but the second look is your own choice. When you decide not to look, the power of the temptation is immediately broken and you walk away a free man/woman, but stealing a second look, is a step towards bondage.
I had a dog that could not resist the temptation of catching chickens. After two thrashings, he had however learned his lesson and when he walked with me and we encountered a chicken in the street, he would immediately move over to the other side of the road and turn away his head so as not to see the chicken. He had learned the danger of the second look; it causes the blood to boil and the boiling blood causes the mind to stop functioning. When you face temptation, the devil is standing right behind you with a pair of handcuffs and the moment you succumb, he slaps them onto your wrists and you become his prisoner as regards that sin.
Secondly; a person falling into sin, is always looking for others to join him for in their doing so, his conscience is relieved and he feels that if others participated, his deed could not be all that wrong.
By choosing to disobey God they chose against Him.
When they ate from the tree, they went against the will of God, demonstrating that they did not trust Him completely as a loving God and Father, and that they chose to use their own intellect to acquire what they considered to be best for them. They drew their crosses behind their own names. In other words, they did not want to be dependent on God.
Let us, by the way, take note that giving them a choice was not the same as leading them into temptation; God never does that (James: 1:13-15).
By choosing against God, they also chose the devil to be their father, whom they would obey.
In John 8:44 Jesus said to the Pharisees that the devil is a liar and that they were his sons. This is a shocking truth: by biting into the forbidden fruit, the changed fathers; suddenly the devil became their father by their own choice.
A human being can never really be without a master; when he chooses to be independant from God, making his own decisions, he unknowingly serves the devil.
- Their eyes were opened.
- They saw that they were naked.
- They stiched fig leaves together to make aprons to cover their nakedness.
- They hid amongst the trees in the garden when they heard the Lord’s voice.
Their eyes were opened as the devil had said would happen, but this brought them no advantage. They gained nothing and lost everything: firstly their innocence and purity.
They learnt to know evil (sin) not merely in the way that someone learns to read or to count which you can safely do without suffering any harm. Learning to know sin, is like walking into a cage of snakes; they will try to kill you by injecting their poison into your body. Evil came into their hearts and thoughts as a stream of wicked thoughts and feelings. Suddenly they experienced emotions that they had never known: anger, dissatisfaction, jealousy, irritability, lack of trust, reproaches and a burning lust for each other’s bodies. The glorious glow of pure love that had joined them together as one flesh, suddenly evaporated. Feelings of guilt and shame overwhelmed and compelled them to sew together aprons of fig leaves to cover their bodies from each other’s eyes, and from the sight of God but even the aprons were not adequate, so they hid from God amongst the trees.
Their inner deterioration was becoming worse and worse like that of a corpse decaying. It was to this inner death that God had referred when he warned them that they surely would die if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Secondly their bodies deteriorated and eventually they would also physically die and return to the dust of the earth.
Knowledge of evil was not like opening the door of a cupboard, examining the contents and walking away if you did not like what you saw; no, they learnt to know evil when it took possession of them. They would not believe God when He warned them against this, but chose to believe the devil that they had never met before and who had never done them any good at all. They believed that God was cheating them. They followed their own way, and trusted their own judgement rather than depending on God’s Word. They had seen His wisdom and power in all that He had created; they had experienced His tender love in His provision for their needs, but they chose to ignore it all.
They betrayed their Friend for He had been more than their creator but a friend who had visited them regularly and had talked with them.
How could Adam, to whom God had given a beautiful wife, believe that the Lord was withholding the best from him?
They had disrupted the order of creation by raising themselves above the One who had created them. They had destroyed the very foundation of their existence. What a pitiful day that was; I wonder if not a shudder went through the Garden?
We will never be able to answer these questions; but deep in our hearts we know that if we had “stood in the shoes” of Adam and Eve, we may have done precisely the same as they did.
D. HOW GOD DEALT WITH THE FALL OF MANKIND (Please read Gen 3:9-24).
The Lord God called out to the man enquiring where he was.
God knew that they needed help urgently. On their own, they would not have managed to climb out of this pit into which they had plummeted.
The omniscient God knew exactly where they were hiding but He did not want to act like a police officer, finding them, then dragging them out from under the trees. He made the first move by calling out to them but wanted them to react to His call and come to Him of their own.
Even today, the Lord is still walking through His broken garden, this world, searching for people who are hiding from Him. Some hide away because they enjoy sinning; others because they fear God’s judgement. They hide behind fig leaves such as a pretence of purity, but these leaves are always tearing, leaving them ashamed when their sins are exposed. When they die, the last leaves of pretence are stripped away and they stand naked before God from Whom they had been fleeing throughout their lives.
Adam eventually answered that he was hiding because he was naked and frightened.
To talk to God about one’s sins is humiliating, but it is the right thing to do; it is a step in the right direction of being saved from our guilt.
- The Lord asked Adam who had told him that he was naked, and if he had eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree.
- He answered saying that the woman whom the Lord had given him had given him the fruit, and then he had eaten it.
- The Lord turned to the woman and asked her what she had done. Her answer was that the snake had deceived her.
Notice how they accused one another; the husband did not only blame his wife, but went on to blame God as well because He had given him the woman, choosing to forget how pleased he was on the day he received her.
As the head of his family he failed for the second time, because he did not accept responsibility for the wrong they had done.
The woman in turn, pointed to the snake and said that he had deceived her; is it not strange that she did not add that the Lord had made that sly animal?
How often don’t we hear the following shouts in our own homes: “It’s not my fault, it’s your fault!” And in a court of law, you’ll hear comrades, who were stealing and murdering together the day before, trying their utmost to shift their guilt onto one another.
Some of the most difficult words to say are: “I am sorry; I was wrong.” Ensure that you have them in your personal dictionary!
God announces their punishment.
Until recently He had been their loving Creator; now He was their impartial judge, taking an unwavering stand for what was right. He did not accept or discuss their excuses because they knew very well that they had done wrong.
The snake was first to be punished:
- He was cursed above all animals.
- He would crawl on his belly.
- He would eat dust.
- There would be enmity between the offspring of the woman and his offspring.
- Her offspring would crush his head.
- He (the snake) would bite the heel of her offspring.
Because the snake had allowed the devil to use him as an instrument to persuade mankind to raise themselves to be God’s equal, he was humiliated into the dust of the earth; he was designated the lowest place of all the animals. Even the lizard had legs and feet, but the snake lost all his limbs and only had a head and a body so that, in order to move, he had to slither in the dust in the sight of the other animals. (Just imagine yourself suddenly losing your arms and legs and having to wriggle your body over the earth to move from one place to another!) Previously he had enjoyed eating green plants with the other animals, but now he had to eat dust.
Fear and estrangement also came between the two people and the other animals, but between mankind and the snake there was nothing less than enmity, the one determined to kill the other.
Verse 15b is very important because it has a deeper meaning, referring to the future attempts of the devil to destroy the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was born of a woman centuries later and Who, in turn, would finally defeat the devil, and cast him into eternal damnation. This happened in part with the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next in the accused box was the woman:
- Her childbearing would be greatly increased; she would give birth with pain.
- Her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her.
Eve was not cursed as the snake was, but had to pay a high price for her self-glorification. Despite the relief which medical science can offer, women all over the world can testify to the truth of God’s Word concerning pregnancy and birth (and so can every man who has stood by when his wife gave birth to a baby.).
At the time of creation, man was not appointed to rule over the woman but, because she allowed herself to be deceived by the devil, her authority to make her own decisions was withdrawn and she was put under the authority of man. Her desire would be for him: she would be dependent on him and turn to him for the satisfaction of her needs. (Later in the Word we shall see how, for the man and the woman whose relationship with God is right, this subordinate relationship has also been re-created into something beautiful.)
Lastly the man had to hear his punishment:
- Because of him, the earth was cursed.
- The earth would produce thorns and thistles.
- With difficulty and by the sweat of his brow he would eat.
- From then on he would eat the plants that grew in the veldt.
At the time of creation, it was the man that was told to take care of the garden; the woman was only created later on to help him with this task. Therefore, the man was primarily responsible for the garden. After his fall, he kept his mandate to cultivate and care for the garden, but it would no longer be sweet effortless labour. The plants in the veldt turned into thorns and thistles and he had to prepare the soil and sow seeds in order to have a harvest and be able to care for himself and his wife. The fruit trees did not produce as abundantly as they had before, so he had to live like an animal and eat the plants of the veldt. Even the animals rebelled against him as he had rebelled against God. No longer would they come willingly to be studied and named; the buck would flee into the foliage of the bush and the lion would roar in defiance if he approached. Naked had this man and woman played in the mild climate which had never been too hot nor too cold, but now it had changed and the sun burnt down upon them. Now they laboured and sweated to make a living.
To God this sort of existence was no longer life; He called it death. He had known precisely what would happen if they would eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree and had warned them that they would die. As from that day, every person, animal and plant is in a state of being dead (in a death mode) while still living.
From the moment a plant germinates or a child is born, they move towards their day of final death. The devil’s advice was lethal poison and yet mankind still continues to lap it up.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
The sentencing was past, the court adjourned; the Judge came down from the bench to stand next to His bewildered children. The fig leaves covering their bodies were torn and dried out; they were ashamed and, possibly shivered from the unknown cold and the Lord’s heart bled for them.
He could not leave them in that condition. If they were to continue to function as rulers over his creation, their shame and guilt would have to be removed and their nakedness covered so that they could again stand in his presence. So He lay hold of innocent animals (perhaps they screamed in fear) and slaughtered them. Their blood flowed. These were the first deaths and the first blood that man had ever seen. God then prepared the skins making comfortable dresses for his two destitute children. I think they looked at him and smiled through their tears and He smiled back and God and mankind were reconciled, their relationship was restored.
The spilling of blood to cover their nakedness, was a very important act of God for thereby He showed that sin had to be punished before it could be forgiven and pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who would die to cover mankind’s sinful nakedness.
To prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life and living forever, the Lord banished them from the Garden and, at the gate, He placed an angel with a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
God knew that to live such a life of death for all eternity, would be indescribably painful. Therefore, He prevented them from causing yet another tragedy to befall them should they eat from the Tree of Life.
Now they were out of the idyllic garden and had to fend for themselves. Pain had come into the world as well as hard work, anxiety, and shame. What a story of woe. What a disappointment for God.
E. CLOSING REMARKS
The rest of the Bible deals with God’s wisdom and love to prepare a new and perfect kingdom for man in the place of the one they had squandered; a kingdom where there will be no place for sin and the devil.
Please ensure that you too, are part of that Kingdom by reading and following the guidelines under the heading “How to become a disciple of Jesus.”