The fall of Mankind

                                    A study of Genesis 3 By Brett Wilton

 

In this chapter of the Bible we will see the unchangeable (Nu23: 19) character of God, His love and provision of merciful grace to fallen man. In contrast to Gods character we are introduced to the deceptive nature of the devil, the “father of all lies” (Jn8: 44), and his destructive influence on mankind leading to the demise of a broken creation. Finally we will see that even though mankind had fallen, God already had his redemptive solution at hand. All of this remarkable truth in just the third chapter of the Bible.

The Temptation of Mankind

Gen3: 1-5 Now 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’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but 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.’”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” NIV

 

In the opening verse we are instantly introduced to “the serpent[1] (Devil)” who “was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made”. From the outset it’s made abundantly clear that the Devil is smarter than both you and I, but all those who are saved through Christ can take a hold of and grasp the reassuring words spoken in 1Jn4: 4, “that he who is in you, is greater that he who is in the world”. The heart of the Devils nature is quickly revealed the instant he speaks, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Through these very words he questions the very integrity and truth of Gods character. Is God truly good? Does He really have your best interests at heart? Did God really say that? In reply Eve misquotes God and says, “…You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”NKJ. In here lies the danger of not truly knowing Gods word and character, with the Devil being only too quick to exploit Eve’s apparent lack of knowledge, which quite ironically is the thing she believes she will later gain. You can just see the rye smile on the serpents face as he launches into the first outright lie recorded in the bible “you will surely not die” but will “be like God”. This in essence is one of the lies the devil still uses today, ‘go on sin, there’s something to be gained and surely there are no consequences for that sin!’ In these remarks we also get a glimpse of the real nature of the Devil who in truth wishes himself to “be like God”(Isa14: 12-15).

 

Gen3: 6-7 When 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.  Then 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. NIV

 

Out of all the vastness of the Garden of Eden, (the sheer quality, quantity and diversity that God had created), Eve bought the lie and believed the Devil (His creation) and not God (The creator). She saw that “the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom”.

 

What was the result of this so desired wisdom? “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked”NKJ. All they had achieved was an over powering knowledge of self, the result of which is always the same, separation from God. This is also true of those saved through Christ, for unless we come to the point where we realize that our old self has most certainly died in Christ (Rom6: 6) we will always struggle to have communion with God. Daily we need to take up our cross and acknowledge we are dead to self (Lk9: 23) and allow Jesus to live his life through us (Rom8: 1). Just as the knowledge of self brings separation from God, so to the knowledge of His love for us, expressed through Jesus sacrificial life, only serves to draw us closer to him. Then “neither height nor depth[2], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom8: 39). The instant their eyes were opened to their nakedness they began to make coverings for themselves. Just as this is a picture of Adam and Eve trying through self-effort to cover their sin before God, it is also a picture of our self-effort (or works) in the eyes of God. With the best we could ever produce being a bunch of fig leaves sown together, easily broken, ripped, and torn, what a pitiful covering for sin!

 

The definition of wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge; sadly wisdom was never mentioned by God, only that they would gain the “knowledge of good and evil”. In effect they would gain the knowledge of good but no power to do good, the knowledge of evil but no power to avoid it (Rom7: 19).

 

Gen3: 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. NIV

 

Even though Adam and Eve had made their covering for sin the knowledge of self was still too overwhelming when in the presence of God “and they hid”. No matter how much one tries (or works) to feel acceptable to God, our overwhelming conscience will never allow us to draw close to him. The only way we can come to God is through his Son, Jesus. It’s only through us truly identifying with the fact that on the cross not only were our sins taken away through his blood but also that our old self truly died there as well. Our sins are taken away but also our sinful nature died as well. This however is not the state we are left in, as surely as Jesus rose again, so also a new life has been imparted to us. As we grow in God we slowly begin to realize that in order to truly live we need to allow Jesus to live his life through us, for when we try to live out of our own strength it will only be as strong as those fig leaves sown together, easily broken, ripped and torn. This is a daily thing in which we, in all that we do, realize fundamentally we cannot do it and simply rely completely on God, just as Jesus always submitted everything in his life to the father (Jn5: 19).

 

Gen3: 9-13 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” NIV

 

Finally, in response to God’s calling to Adam, in which we can just see him cowering and yelling hesitantly to God from behind the bushes “I was afraid”, well “because I”, well I “was naked; so I hid.” Could this really be, could Adam finally have gained some wisdom from this promised knowledge, for after all “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Psa111: 10)? Could he actually be accepting some responsibility for his actions? Sadly the answer is a resounding ‘no’! His new prideful nature, with its overpowering knowledge of self, responds to God’s simple question of ‘why’? By saying, “the woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit, and I ate it.” This is a quantum leap from before their sin where Adam gladly said to God about Eve “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” and in which he identified the both of them as being of “one flesh”(Gen2: 23-24). But now Adam in his fallen state and with his new found wisdom puts the blame squarely on God, after all it was “the woman you put here” that caused me to sin. Pride reared its ugly head, no fear of God here, what a truly sad state of affairs, not just for Adam but also for us as well, for that’s our nature revealed as well! There’s not much God can do with man, when man can’t see his need for God.

 

Now God turns to Eve who says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” God does not question this deception, and the fact of her being deceived[3] is mentioned in the New Testament (1Tim 2:13-14, 2Cor15: 20-24). But the point being made by God through Eve is clear, the huge importance in our lives of knowing the truth about Gods character, his goodness, and his love. In Him is only truth and no matter what transpires in our lives through trials and testing He only wants what is best for us. For all of us today God has, through his grace, provided a way to know His true character. This is through His Word the Bible, which is brought to life through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus sent Him to be our helper (Jon16: 13-14) and to “help us in our weakness”(Rom8: 26). “For my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor12: 9). That is to say when we truly realize we are weak and fully rely on God we are made strong, not by anything in us but in His strength and His strength alone.

Gods Judgment

Gen3: 14-15 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV

 

Now we see Gods judgment firstly on the serpent[4] (Devil), “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.” The offspring of woman will constantly be at odds with the devil, with the ultimate fulfillment of the Devils head being crushed through Jesus’ death on the cross. He has “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” and now “He waits for His enemies to be made his footstool”(Heb10: 12-13). Where the earth is Jesus footstool (Isa66: 1), that is to say, that through Jesus death on the cross (His heel being struck) He would effectively crush all power the Devil has on earth.

 

Gen3: 16-19 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” NIV

 

Next are the judgments of Eve and Adam, in this judgment all of creation also falls into this broken state. This is evident by the introduction of the thorns and the thistles and mans painful toil for food. Up to the fall, Adam had enjoyed daily fellowship with God but in all truth when God said, “You will surley die” (Gen 2: 16-17) He not only meant that “from dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (physical death) but also that man would die spiritually. That part of man that could fellowship with God would also “surely die”. This is the state we are born into today, spiritually dead, where that part of us that could fellowship with God does not exist. All we have is that over powering knowledge of self. Just as Adam was spiritually dead and separated from God, so it is for us today. In order to be saved and again enjoy spiritual fellowship with God, we also would surely need to die. This is exactly what Jesus achieved on the cross, if we would just believe in Him. For not only did Jesus die on the cross but also my old self (fallen nature) died there as well.

Gods Gracious provision

Gen3: 21-23 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. NIV

 

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them”; in this verse we see the unchangeable character of God who in his abundant mercy and grace provides an acceptable covering for the sin of Adam and Eve through the shedding of blood. The garments that are given by God, to remove their nakedness, aptly illustrate this covering for their sin. What a great picture of what God’s ultimate solution would be through the shedding of the infinitely more precious blood of Jesus on the cross in order to “cover over a multitude of sins”(Jas5: 20). But unlike these perishable garments given to Adam and Eve, which provide a temporary[5] covering for sin, Jesus would provide an “imperishable”(1Pe1: 23) covering for us when we believe in him. Through his new creation in us we once again can freely commune with God. Just as the covering God provided is infinitely better than the sewn fig leaves (our works), so Jesus’ sacrifice is infinitely better than the perishable covering of the sacrificial animal, which was, but a type of what was to come.

 

It constantly amazes me how consistent God’s teaching is throughout the bible, for He is not “a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

 



[1] The creature here is a literal serpent or snake that the Devil used in his temptation of humanity. A clear connection between the Devil and the serpent is expressed in Rev12: 9, 20: 2.

 

[2] The sheer magnitude and depth of God’s love is also expressed so beautifully in Eph8: 18-19 “…may (we) be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” NKJ. Width, being the immensity of Jesus sacrifice in which his saving grace applies to all of humanity, if they would just chose to accept this free gift. The length of this grace means that it applies to all of eternity. The depth reflects the depth from which we were taken from sin to be saved and also the depth to which Jesus love for us took him, to become a man on earth, to bear our sin for us and to be separated from the Father through His death on the cross. But we are not left there, as the height refers to how Jesus was then lifted up to heaven, just as we will be raised up to be with him one day in the heavens (Eph2: 6).

[3] In Mat4: 1-12 you can see how Jesus under the same testing circumstances resists the Devil; in all his answers he was always in complete reliance on God. He new who God was, the truth of his character and word. He also new exactly what the Devil was, just a creation and not to be served or worshipped.

 

[4] After studying this chapter of Genesis I think it’s hard to view a snake in the same light as I did in the past. It will be a reminder of how humanity fell through unbelief in God, God’s judgment on his creation, and his gracious provision to cover our sin. This is aptly illustrated in Num21: 9 with Moses and The Bronze Snake. Just as Adam and Eve had unbelief in God’s goodness and provision so too the Israelites complained and grumbled in unbelief against God. Its quite fitting God sends the “venomous snakes” to strike their feet and you can just hear God saying “have you forgotten what caused the original fall of mankind? Will you never get past your unbelief of my goodness and provision for you?”. After the people repented, God in His grace provided. For He instructed Moses to make a “bronze snake” and “put it on a pole; so anyone who is bitten can look at it and live”. This is such a great picture of what Jesus would achieve on the cross, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up”(Jn3: 14). Brass, in the bible, speaks of judgment. The pole represents the cross on which Jesus was lifted up to bear the judgment (bronze) of mankind’s sin (the serpents temptation of mankind). Once bitten by the snake all that was required was for them in faith to look upon the bronze snake and believe they would be saved. This is the same for us today in that all we need to do to avoid the judgment of our sins is to in faith look to Jesus and believe.

[5] The temporary nature of the covering provided by the sacrificial animal is further illustrated by Gods requirement of a yearly (continual) animal sacrifice for the “sins of the Israelites” (Lev16: 1-34). This is in stark contrast to the everlasting covering provided “through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 9: 11 – 10: 14)