Genesis Chapter 3 Bible Study: One little bite - The fall of mankind

Genesis Bible Series

Genesis Chapter 3 Bible Study: One little bite - The fall of mankind

by I Gordon


There are certain chapters in the Bible that speak volumes about human beings throughout all generations. This, my friend, is probably one of the biggest! It is the story of the fall of mankind and I believe we will all be able to see ourselves through the events of this chapter. We shall also see and contrast the characters of God and the Devil, for in this chapter, for the first time, we are introduced to 'the serpent' and see the deceptive nature of the devil, the 'father of all lies' (John 8: 44). 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

Genesis 3: 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 the reassuring words spoken in 1John 4: 4, 'that he who is in you, is greater that he who is in the world'. The heart of the Devil's nature is quickly revealed the instant he speaks, for he says '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. Did God really say that? Is God truly good? Does He really have your best interests at heart? In reply, Eve misquotes God and says, '...You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'. 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.

Can you see the rye smile on the serpent's 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 (and one taken hook line and sinker by the New Age movement!) - 'Go on, don't worry about what God said... there's something to be gained and surely there are no consequences for disobeying Him' 'In fact, God is keeping great knowledge and power from you... you can have it. You don't need to be reliant upon God anymore. He is keeping great things from you. You can be like Him you know! You can be like God! Just take a little bite...' Here we find a little truth mixed with much error which is always the enemies way. And in these deceptive words we also see a glimpse of the real nature of the Devil who in truth wishes himself to 'be like God' (Isa 14:12-15) and hates all whom God loves.

So would Eve take the bait?

Eve takes the bait!

Genesis 3: 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

The book of 1 John tells us about a threefold temptation facing all that walk on this planet. He writes:

1 John 2:16 'All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' 

This is the same temptation that Eve faced for she saw that 'the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh) and pleasing to the eye (lust of the eyes), and also desirable for gaining wisdom (the pride of life)'.

And through faith in the Devil's lie, she reached out and took from that which she was not allowed. Not that the blame can be shouldered completely upon Eve's shoulders for the question has to be asked 'Where was Adam when Eve did this?' Well, the text tells - "She also gave some to her husband who was with her!' Where was Adam? He was there... saying nothing... preventing nothing. Nice one Adam!

So what was the result of this so desired wisdom? 'Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked'. All they had achieved was an overpowering knowledge of self, the result of which is always the same - separation from God. 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. For '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' (Rom 8:39). Notice also that as soon as their eyes were opened to their nakedness they began to make coverings for themselves. Mankind has been doing this ever since. Spiritually speaking, mankind can see that they are exposed and try in a vain attempt to make a covering for their sinful lives. 'Religion' in all it's many forms is mankind's attempt to cover himself through his own efforts. But the best we can ever produce through our own means and effort is a bunch of fig leaves, easily broken, ripped and torn... what a pitiful covering for sin!

O mankind... Where art thou?

Genesis 3:8-13 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. 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.' 

If trying to cover their nakedness was the first thought and action of Adam and Eve after the fall, here is the second: hide from God! Note also God's first response and question to mankind after the fall - 'Where are you?' This hiding on man's part, and searching on God's part, has been repeated billions of times ever since that fateful day. Even the Son of Man, Jesus, was sent to 'seek and save that which was lost'. In response to God's calling to Adam, we hear a cowering little voice speak out from behind the bushes 'I was afraid, I'm um, well, I'm 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' (Psa 111:10)? Could he actually be accepting some responsibility for his actions? Sadly the answer is a resounding 'no'! The first reaction of man when questioned by God as to whether he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is 'the woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree...' In other words, let's deflect the blame as soon as we can! "It wasn't me", Adam declares, "it was the woman's fault! And I didn't even ask for her... You God, you were the one who gave her to me! So really it's the woman, and er, um, well partially you God that have caused this!" How telling these verses are of a fallen humanity. Self focused, hiding from God, blaming one another and not taking responsibility for their actions. Here is the state of humanity since that day.

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, 2 Cor 11: 3-4). But the point being made by God through Eve is clear; there is a huge importance in our lives of knowing the truth about God's 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 (John 16: 13-14) and to 'help us in our weakness' (Rom 8:26). 'For my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor 12:9). That is to say when we truly realize we are weak and fully rely on God, we are made strong by His strength alone.

Gods Judgment and Ultimate Victory

Genesis 3:14-15 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.' 

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.' Here is the first verse promising one who would come and crush the enemy. A male offspring of the woman would crush the serpents head, but in doing so he would be struck on the heel. The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is of course the crushing of the enemy through Jesus' (the seed of the woman) death on the cross. Yet to do so He had to die. But through that death He dealt a killer blow to the enemy for He has 'offered for all time one sacrifice for sins' (Heb 10:12) and 'having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.' (Col 2:15) He shared in our humanity "so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.' (Heb 2:14-15)

Genesis 3:16-19 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.' 

Next are the judgments of Eve and Adam and 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 until the fall, Adam had enjoyed daily fellowship with God but God had said that if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they 'will surely die' (Gen 2:16-17) This was not only physical 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, in that we are born spiritually dead. In it's place is an over developed and over powering knowledge and focus on 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 for us 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 so that we can now live in newness of life in Him.

God's Gracious provision

Genesis 3:21-23 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. 

'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'(Jas 5:20). But unlike these perishable garments given to Adam and Eve, which provide a temporary  [5]  covering for sin, Jesus would provide an 'imperishable' (1Pet 1:23) covering for us when we believe in him. Through his new heart and spirit in us, we once again can freely commune with God. And 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 Eph 3:18-19 '...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 knew 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 disbelieved 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 look in faith 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)