Lessons from the Fall

Genesis 3:7-24

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2014

We are doing an in-depth study of Genesis 1-11.  If you recall, there are four main parts to the first eleven chapters of Genesis: creation, fall, flood and judgment of the nations.  We have already looked at the topic of creation and today we will finish the topic of the Fall.

Genesis 3 is divided into two parts: The Fall (3:1-6) and the Consequences of the Fall (3:7-24). It is a rather depressing chapter.  The chapter begins with a temptation and ends with an expulsion.  In this chapter, the serpent enters the garden.  Eve is tempted. Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. The whole earth becomes cursed and Adam and Eve leave paradise. God didn’t politely ask them to leave.  He did NOT send them out of the garden.  Genesis uses a strong word here. He threw them out of paradise (3:24).

Apparently, they did not want to leave.  God drove them out and guarded it with angels and these angels, so they don’t try to sneak back in.  He doesn’t use just any angels.  There are many different kinds of angels.  God puts some of his top angels there to guard the garden and they were armed.  He puts Cherubim there.  It is the first mention in the Book of Genesis of angels.

Adam and Eve go from holy, innocent and pure to sinful, fallen and depraved.  They go from happy, peaceful and richly blessed to miserable, pathetic and even homeless but, even in this chapter; there is a ray of hope.  There is an amazing promise in this chapter.  We see the gospel in this chapter.  There is a beautiful picture of the gospel here.  This chapter is full of lessons and applications for us today.  It gives us lessons about God, man, sin and salvation.  I want to look at all of those lessons today.

Lessons on God

We learn some things about God in this chapter.  Genesis is not just a book of history.  It tells us about God.

1.  God is Personal.

What is the evidence from this chapter?  Genesis 3:8 says, “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.”  God has fellowship with Adam and Eve in the garden.  God is not a Deist.  He does not create the world and then leave it.  He created the world and wants to have fellowship with His creatures.  He wants to have fellowship with us on a daily basis.

God walked in the garden and talked to Adam and Eve.  Apparently, this was not the first time He did this.  He did this regularly.  How is this even possible?  Does God have a body?  No.  God is a spirit.  Jesus said that “God is a spirit” (John 4:24).  God does not have legs and feet.  If God does not have legs and feet and a body, how can you hear the sound of him walking?

This is most likely a theophany.  A theophany is a visible manifestation of God in human form.  God does not have a body but often appeared to people in human form.  This may have been the pre-incarnate Christ who walked in the garden and had face-to-face fellowship with Adam and Eve.

There is another way we see that God is relational in this chapter. We see that God seeks out sinners.  After man sinned, God was the one doing the seeking and the one who was doing the hiding was man, not God.  God said to Adam, “Where are you?”  Adam does not say to God, “Where are you?” He still does this today.  Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost.  When we sin, Jesus seeks after us.  Fallen sinners do not seek God.  Paul said, “There is NONE who seek after God” (Romans 3:11)

2. God is Righteous.

Each chapter of Genesis so far has described a different aspect of God’s character.  In chapter one, He is the Creator.  In chapter two, He is the Law-giver.  In chapter three, He is the Judge.  What kind of a judge is God?

  • He is fair.

This is a model for justice today.  God does not punish people arbitrarily. God waits until all of the facts are brought forth before He punished anyone. In this chapter, we have a crime, a trial and a sentence.  If you remember, the serpent asked the first question in the Bible.

The serpent said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (3:1). Questions are not all bad.  God asked a few questions Himself.  He asks Adam and Eve four questions.  He asked, “Where are you?” (3:9). He asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” (3:11). He asked, “Did you eat from the tree I commanded you not to eat from? (3:11). Finally, he asked, “What is this that you have done?” (3:13).

All of the questions went to Adam and Eve.  God did not ask the serpent a question, since serpents don’t talk. Eve was the first one to sin but God asked Adam the first question because he was the head of the race.  In fact, he asked Adam three questions.  He only asked Eve one question, “What is this that you have done?”

Now God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  He did not ask these questions to get information but to get a confession but He did not do anything until all of the facts were brought forth, which shows that God is fair.

  • He is holy.

God is a strict judge.  He is not lenient.  The standard was pretty high.  He holds people accountable for their actions.  He doesn’t excuse their behavior. They committed one sin and they are kicked out no longer welcome in God’s presence.  He doesn’t even give them a second chance.

God created Adam perfect.  He gave him one very clear commandment to follow.  He warned them about dangers.  He said if you eat from the tree, bad things will happen to you but He also created him with free will and He allowed him to fail.  I sometimes wonder why God doesn’t stop people from doing stupid things.

That’s what I would have done but God allows us to do some stupid things.  He allows people to screw up their lives.  God also held Adam and Eve accountable for their actions.  He holds us accountable for our actions as well. Paul says, “We must all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ”. God held Adam accountable for the revelation He gave him.  He only had one commandment to keep.

He will hold us accountable for the revelation He has given to us.  It is easy for us to criticize Adam for breaking the commandment God gave him and wonder why he did not obey God when He gave him a clear commandment.  How are we doing with the commandments God gave us?  We all have done exactly what Adam did.  In fact, God gave us more commandments to follow that He gave Adam.

  • He is impartial.

God treated all the individuals involved in the Fall fairly.  He doesn’t let any of them off the hook.  How many actors were involved in the Fall of Man?  There were four.  There was Adam, Eve, the snake and Satan who was in the snake.  The snake was judged first.  Then Satan was judged.  Then the woman was judged and finally man was judged.  The longest judgment goes to the man.  It is three verses long (3:17-19).

Judgment of the Fall

The first one cursed is the snake.  It seems strange to us.  How could God hold an animal responsible for its actions?  Animals are not moral agents but we do the same thing today.  If an animal kills someone, we euthanize the animal, even though it is not a moral agent.

How is the snake cursed?  It is to crawl on its belly and eat dust (3:14).  Does this mean that snakes used to have legs?   Genesis does not say that but it implies it. In fact, even evolutionists believe that snakes used to have legs.

All animals were cursed in the Fall but the serpent was cursed even more. The serpent was clever above all of the animals of the field and now is cursed above all of the animals of the field.  Snakes do not literally eat dust, although they may get dust in their mouths.  It is a picture of humiliation, not a description of their diet.  In the Millennium, when Jesus rules and reign on the earth, the curse on animals will be lifted for all animals, except snakes (Isaiah 65:22).

Another way it is curses is that there is enmity between Eve and the snake.  She used to look at the serpent as a friend.  Now she sees it as an enemy.  Most people today do not like snakes either.  There is a natural revulsion for them.  This is true on the physical level and on the spiritual level.

There is also a hostility that exists between Satan’s children and God’s children.  There is a hostility between saved people and unsaved people (I John 3:13; John 7:7; 15:18).  The unsaved are called in the NT “an offspring of serpents” (3:7; 12:34; 23:33), not an offspring of bears or lions.

But this curse goes beyond the snake to the one who possessed the snake.  It predicts the defeat of Satan.  God was talking about the woman (she) and her seed but then He changes and uses the pronoun “he”.  God says to the serpent, “He will crush your head.”  Who is the he?  It is the first prophecy of Jesus.  It is the very first prophecy of the Messiah in the Bible.  The woman’s seed will defeat the serpent.

Jesus will not crush the seed of the snake but the snake itself.  The way you kill a snake is to step on its head but because it is so low, all it can do is to strike your heel.  Satan’s doom was sealed at the cross (John 12:31) but the sentence will not be carried out until after the Millennium (Romans 16:20; Revelation 20:10).

How is Eve punished?  Eve suffered as a wife and mother.  She now has to go through a lot of pain just to have kids.  Her kids will not be born sinners.  In fact, her first child turned out to be a murderer.  Her husband will also be a sinner.  She has a natural desire for marriage but when she gets married she often finds herself in an oppressive environment.

Her husband rules over her and that is a strong term which suggests harshness, not kindness.  It is not the way things should be but the way they will be now as a result of the Fall.  Genesis 3:16 is one of the most abused verses in the Bible.  It is a prediction, not a command[1]. It is a role reversal for Eve.  Before the Fall, she had the role of leadership.  She was the main actor.  After the Fall, the man became the dominant one and the woman found herself subservient to her husband.

Women suffer at home as a result of the Fall.  Men suffers on the job. Adam suffered as a farmer and provider.  He suffered as the breadwinner.  His curse involves hard labor, painful toil. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (3:17).  This would take place all of his life. God told Adam, “By the sweat of his brow he will eat your food until he return to the ground” (3:19)

3.  God is Love.

How do we see that God is love, even in this chapter of judgment?  He could have destroyed Adam and Eve immediately. Instead, God promised to send the Messiah.  Satan used Eve to bring destruction into the world.  God says that He will use Eve to bring the Savior into the world (3:15).  He did not have to do that.  It was an act of love and mercy. God promised to use a member of the human race, one of Eve’s descendants, to defeat Satan.  He will crush the head of the serpent.

What is a second way we see God’s love in this chapter? He gave them clothes to wear. Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” God did not have to do that but He had mercy on them. Here they were dressed in these fig leaves. Fig leaves were the biggest type of leaves in that part of the world but they do not make very good clothes.

God gave them some clothes that were more comfortable, and more durable.  They would last much longer and were not uncomfortable to wear.  They would have also been more effective than fig leaves.  They covered more of the body.  Instead of wearing a loin-cloth which barely covered them, they wore a coat.

A third way that God demonstrated love was by kicking them out of the garden.  Genesis 3:22-24 says, “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. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Now that sounds like an act of judgment, not an act of love.  It was actually both.  It was tough love.  How was it an act of love?  It would have been disastrous if sinners ate from the tree of life and lived forever, like we see in the movie Tuck Everlasting.  They would have been confirmed in sin.  God prevented that from happening by kicking them out of the garden.  He did it for their own good. He didn’t do it because He was jealous and wanted to keep them away from another godlike quality (immortality).  God allowed them to eat from this tree before the Fall.  There is no evidence that they did.

Lessons on Sin

Their sin was serious.  It doesn’t seem that serious to us.  Their only sin was to eat a piece of fruit off of a tree.  It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to us.  It is not like they raped or killed someone but it was serious.  It was pure rebellion.  It is like when you tell a little child not to eat a cookie and they look at you, smile and do it anyway, only these were not children.  Adam and Eve were adults and their actions were a direct challenge to God’s authority.  Their actions will go down in history as the most expensive meal in history.  What do we learn about sin in this chapter?  We learn several things.

1) Sin results in division (3:7-8, 15)

Sin causes a separation.  There are many separations in this chapter.

  • There is a separation between people and animals.

We see that in Genesis 3:15 with the enmity between Eve and the serpent.

  • There is a separation between people and other people.

There is not just a separation between people; there is a separation between the sexes.  The battle of the sexes has now begun (3:16).  It is not just a separation between people; it is a separation between family members.  Spouses are divided.  Adam and Eve are not getting along.  They used to be close to each other.  They used to have intimacy.  Now they are arguing and fighting with each other and blaming each other for what happened.

They were both at fault.  Eve was at fault for listening to the serpent.  She was duped.  She was tricked into sinning.  She comes across as a little naive.  Adam was at fault for doing nothing to get her to stop her and for not acting as the spiritual leader of the family.  Adam comes across as the weak male.  He knew what the right thing was to do but he didn’t put his foot down.  He didn’t stand up for what he knew was the right thing to do.

  • There is a separation between people and God

Sin separates people from God.  “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” (3:8).

Why did they hide? They were afraid. Who were they afraid of?  God. Why were they afraid?  They heard the sound of God coming.  He had not even said a word to them but they knew he was coming.  They could hear him and they knew that they were in big trouble.  They heard the sound of God coming and they ran.

Why were they afraid of God?  They had never been afraid of Him before?  God gave them a command.  The broke the command and here comes God.  It was God’s presence that terrified them and the reason it terrified them was because of sin.  It was just the sound of God walking towards them that utterly terrified them, like a criminal who hears the police sirens coming toward him or a child doing something wrong but hears someone coming.  It is the sound that causes them to be afraid.

When one of our children was really little, my wife heard one of them in the kitchen, getting a cookie out of the cookie jar.  She burst into the room and said very loudly “What are you doing?”  Our son was so scared that cookies went flying in the air.  When she asked what he was doing, he said, “I sneaked a cookie”.  Only here, God did not sneak up on Adam and Eve and scare them.  His presence alone terrified them because God is holy and they are now sinful.

Sinners instinctively hide from God.  It is the natural response of sinners before a holy God.  “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:16-17 NIV)

2) Sin results in shame (3:7)

Why were they ashamed?  What caused the shame?  The text says that they were naked.  After they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, we are told that “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” and they were ashamed. That is a little strange.  They were naked before and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25 says, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”  Why are they ashamed now?  They were smart people.  Didn’t they know that they were naked before?  Why would they suddenly realize this face only after they sinned for the first time? Very few people even try to address this.  I have never heard a preacher try to answer this one.

I would like to suggest one possible answer to this question.  There is an ancient Jewish view that Adam and Eve were clothed with light before the Fall.[2]  They were clothed with garments of light.  Where do they get that idea?  There are some strong arguments for that view.  Angels are clothed in a bright light.  They have this glow around them. That is what people in the Bible saw when they encountered an angel.  They saw a bright light.

When we get to heaven, we will be clothed in light.  Daniel 12:2-3 says: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Matthew 13:43 says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” God is clothed with light.  Psalm 104:2 says that he is clothed with light as with a garment.  That tells us what God wears.  I Timothy 6:16 says that God dwells “in unapproachable light”.  Adam and Eve were made in his image and were clothed in light was well.

After Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their heavenly clothes. They lost this garment of light because they were no longer righteous and they realized that they were naked. That is why they did not realize this before and they were ashamed.

Right after they sinned, they experienced shame.  Shame was illustrated through nakedness.  The shame of their nakedness pictured the shame of their sin. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked.  It was a picture of complete innocence, like little children who run around naked.  After they sinned, nakedness became a picture of sin and shame.  They were not just naked on the outside; they were naked on the inside.  They had spiritual nakedness, as well as physical nakedness.

Lesson on Man

This chapter is all about excuses.  God confronts Adam and Eve about what they did and what did they do?  They blame other people.  They pointed the finger at someone else.  As the joke goes, “Adam blames his wife.  Eve blamed the serpent and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.”  Actually, if the serpent could talk, he would have blamed Satan who possessed him.  None of them took responsibility for their actions.  Instead, they rationalized their sin.

People do the same thing today and try to pass the buck, as the very first humans on the planet did.  Even our President does that.  He came into office and blames everything on Bush and when he does not get something passed that he wants (like immigration), he blames the Republicans, even though the first two years of his administration he had control of both houses of Congress.  We do the same thing.  It is called blame-shifting. Proverbs 19:3 says, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord”.

We screw our own lives up and then we want to blame God, instead of taking responsibility for our actions.  Why did Eve sin?  Eve said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (3:13). That was true but the implication was that it was the serpent’s fault.  If you did not have the serpent in the garden, I would not have eaten.  If my circumstances were different, I would not have eaten.  The truth is that “The devil made me do it” is a bad excuse.”  The devil cannot make us do anything.  He can tempt us to do evil but he can’t force us to do evil.

God asked Adam, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (3:10). The first part of that was true.  Adam did hear God and was afraid but he completely lied about the reason he was afraid.  Adam uses modesty as his excuse.  He says, “I am naked.  You caught me at a bad time.  I am not really dressed for the occasion.

You have to excuse me.  I am not in fit condition to see you.  It is really the result of the way you made me.  You did not give me any clothes.  I just realized how inadequate that is.” Adam says, “I am naked and that is not a good thing.”  God says ‘that is not the problem.  The problem is that I gave you a clear commandment and you broke it,” as a friend of mine so eloquently put it.[3]

God asked Adam a direct question, Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  He said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (3:12). Once again, Adam blames God.  Adam says to God: “It’s the woman’s fault and it is really your fault because you gave me this woman.  If you gave me a different woman, this would not have happened.  I messed up only because you messed up.”

There is one very good thing that Adam did in this chapter.  He is an example of us today.  When Adam was confronted, he completely blew it.  He blamed others.  When Adam was sentenced, he accepted it.  He didn’t whine or complain.  He didn’t say this was unfair, like Cain would say in the next chapter.

Adam had an amazing response, after hearing everything God said. “Adam named his wife Eve,because she would become the mother of all the living.”  He took something positive from this terrible sentence.  He heard God talk about the “seed of the woman” and believed Him.  He took God at his word and apparently looked forward to this.  He must have been a family man.  He names his wife “Eve” (3:20).  She did not have this name until after the Fall.  What was her name before?  She didn’t have one.  She was called “woman” before (2:23).  Her name went from isha to havah.

Lesson on Salvation

There are two different ways to deal with sin in this chapter.  They are represented by two suits of clothes: fig leaves or animal skins.  They represent two ways to deal with sin.  They are two ways to provide a covering for sin.

The way Adam and Eve tried to tried to cover the shame and guilt of their sin before a holy god was by their own efforts.  They used self-made garments.  It represents salvation by human effort (church membership or baptism or good works).  People still try to do this today.  It is called fig-leaf religion (man-made attempts at atonement).

God provided another way to deal with sin.  His way of dealing with sin involved death.  In order to make coats of skin from an animal, you have to kill the animal.  Two animals died that day.  One died for Adam and died for Eve.  They were not killed for food but to provide a covering for them.  It was the first time that blood was shed in the garden.  An innocent victim had to be killed, because of the biblical principle “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

The covering that God provided did not just cover their body.  It covered their sin.  It foreshadowed the death of Christ and the righteousness that he provides, which is different from the righteousness that we can provide.  God provided for Adam and Eve what they could not provide for themselves.  Adam and Eve did nothing; God did it all.


[1] Taking this section as a command leads to many absurdities. Women would be commanded not to use pain killers during childbirth (3:16). Christian farmers would be commanded not to use any farm equipment to make it easier to produce crops, since it says “through painful toil you will eat all the days of your life” (3:17). It would be unbiblical to use weed-killers because “the ground will produce thorns and thistles to you” (3:18).  Deodorant would be unbiblical because we are commanded to eat food “by the sweat of our brow” (3:19).  Retirement would be unbiblical because Adam was to work until he died (3:19) and not quit working at sixty-five. White-collar jobs would also be unbiblical because they work inside in an air-conditioned building, rather than outside in the sun working up a sweat (3:19).

[2] Pseudepigrapha (Apocalypse of Moses 20:2; III Baruch 4:16) and other Jewish sources (Midrash Rabbah – Genesis XX:12; Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 229b; L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:79).

[3] http://www.cyber-chapel.org/sermons/genesis/mp3/gen_3_6b_12.mp3

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