Paradise Lost

Genesis 3:1-6

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2014

In the 1600s, the English writer John Milton’s wrote a poem about Genesis 3 called Paradise Lost.  It is considered one of the greatest poems in the English language.  Today, we want to look at the biblical paradise lost.  We want to look at the Fall from Genesis 3.

This is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture.  Every Sunday School student knows the story about Adam, Eve, the Serpent and the Garden.  It is not just a story, it actually happened.

It is one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible. We still today suffer from the effects of their actions on that day.  Adam’s sin did not just affect him, it affected us.  This chapter is as foundational as the first two chapters of Genesis.

If you do not understand, Genesis 3, you cannot understand the rest of the Bible.  If you want to know why there is a world and where the world came from, you have to read Genesis 1.

If you want to know where evil came from and why there is so much evil in the world today, you have to read Genesis 3.  The world that we live in was NOT created by God.  God did not create the world the way it is now.

People today blame God for all of the evil in the world today.  They blame God for all of the atrocities in the world today.  They blame God for all of the ISIS beheadings.  They blame God for the holocaust.  There is only one problem.

God did not create Auschwitz.  Man did.  God did not create evil.  He created a perfect world.  It was not only good; it was “very good”.  It got messed up because of what man did.  It got messed up as a result of the Fall of Man.

The last time we were in Genesis, we looked at the Garden of Eden.  We saw that Adam and Eve lived in a paradise but God gave them some rules to follow.  He gave them a test.  The test involved one prohibition involving one and only one tree in the garden.  God didn’t give Adam and Eve Ten Commandments to follow.

He didn’t give them six hundred commandments.  He gave them one: “Don’t eat from one tree.”  It was a test and in this chapter, we see the results of the test.  They both failed.  They both fell.  Eve listened to a talking snake and Adam listened to his wife.

Basic Observations

1) Moses does not give us a lot of details about this event

Where did this serpent come from?  Who let him into the garden?  Why is this animal talking?  Why isn’t Eve shocked to hear a talking snake?[1] Did other animals in the garden talk?  Why didn’t Adam say anything while the serpent tempted Eve?  Why was he completely silent during the whole thing?  Why was he so passive?  What was the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate?  Was it an apple?

All of the pictures of the Fall in western art have Eve biting into a juicy red apple.[2]  Milton says it was an apple tree (IX. 585). Genesis does not say that it was an apple. The only fruit mentioned in Genesis 3 are figs but it doesn’t say that it wasn’t an apple either.

We will have to ask Adam and Eve that question when we see them in heaven.  Genesis does not give us a lot of details.  It doesn’t answer all of our questions. It gives us a very brief description of what happened on that day.

2) Moses does not use theological terms to describe this event

Genesis 3 has a lot of theological implications but the chapter itself does not use a lot of theological terms.  Genesis 3 doesn’t say anything about “original sin.”  Genesis 3 describes the fall of man but the word “fall” is not used in Genesis 3.

It mentions the first temptation.  It describes a temptation by Satan but the word “temptation” or the verb “to tempt” is not used in Genesis 3.  It doesn’t use the word “Satan” at all.

It gives us the first human sin.  The first person in history to sin was Eve.  She was the first person to take a bite out of the forbidden fruit.  She was the first one to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The text says she SAW, she TOOK and she ATE and yet Genesis 3 does not use the word “sin” at all.  That word is not used until the next chapter (4:7).  It also does not use the word “sinner”.  Moses was not a theologian.  He was not writing a theology.  He was writing history, inspired history.

3) This event contains a lot of role reversals

Role Reversals in Genesis 3:1-6

There are also a lot of role reversals in this chapter.  Many things are completely backwards.  You may or may not have noticed, as we read these verses.

1. A serpent talks to Eve in this narrative.

God didn’t create animals with the ability of speech but in this chapter a snake is talking. That is a role reversal for animals.

2. God created man with dominion over the animals.

In this section, Adam and Eve listen to the serpent, rather than the serpent obeying them. That is a role reversal for man.  Animals are telling people what to do, instead of vice versa.

3. The serpent tempts Eve, not Adam

Adam is the head of the whole human race but when the serpent wants to tempt the human race, he does not go after Adam, he goes after Eve, his wife.

Most people believe they were both there during the temptation.  That is a myth.  If you notice, the text says the serpent spoke to Eve, not Adam (3:1).[3]

If they were both there, he would have addressed both of them.  In fact, Adam did NOT blame the serpent for his sin. He blamed his wife, not the serpent for what he did (3:11-12)[4]. Adam knew animals don’t talk because he spent him time studying them.

That explains why Adam was completely silent when the serpent tempted Eve. He didn’t say a single word.  He did not say anything because he was not there when it happened (so Whitcomb).

If he was there, not only would he have said something but Eve would have turned him and asked him what he thought about this, since he knew the prohibition better than she did.

4. Eve is the leader in this narrative, not Adam

Adam is the head of the house but in these seven verses Eve is the leader and Adam is the follower.  Eve tells Adam what to do and he does it.

5. Eve serves as Adam’s temptress, not his helper

Eve was created to be man’s helper but in this chapter she only helps him into sin.  She eats the fruit and hands it to her husband.  She led her husband into sin. She did this because she listened to the serpent.  She wasn’t just listening to a reptile; she was listening to Satan himself. In Genesis 2, she heard two voices (God’s voice and Adam’s voice).

Now, she heard a third voice, the voice of Satan.  That voice still speaks in our world today and many listen to it.  How do we recognize that voice today when it speaks?  We will answer that today but before we get to it, we must address one additional question.

Identity of the Serpent

How do we know that Satan was present in the garden?  Genesis does not say Satan was there.  In fact, Satan and the Devil are not mentioned anywhere in the Book of Genesis.  Genesis mentions a serpent but the serpent is not an angel but an animal.  It is described as one of the animals of the garden (3:1).  It is a literal animal.  In fact, the curse on the serpent could only apply to a snake (3:14).

God could not tell an angel that it will have to crawl on its belly from now on, since angels do not have bellies.  They are immaterial spirits.  They do not have a physical body to crawl on.  How do we know that Satan is in the garden?  The NT tells us that Satan was there.  A basic rule in how to interpret the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture.

John called the old serpent which tempted Eve “the Devil” and “Satan” (Revelation 12:9).  He gives him three names in Revelation 12.  In fact, in Revelation 20:2, he gives four names for this being: the dragon, the serpent, the devil and Satan.

They all refer to the same person.  Some first century Jews also believed that Satan was in the garden tempting Eve.[5] It is not only a Christian teaching, it is a Jewish teaching.

Satan takes the form of a serpent.  There are two snakes at the temptation.  There is a physical snake and a spiritual snake.  There was a serpent within the serpent.  Satan entered into the body of the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve disguised as a snake. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan finds the body of a sleeping snake and enters it (IX.186-190).

There are many examples in the Bible of demon possession. They possess both people (Matthew 9:32-33; 12:22; 17:18) and animals (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:33). They have the ability of speech.  Many say that this chapter has a talking serpent.  It doesn’t.  Animals don’t talk.

Satan possessed this animal and spoke through it.  Satan was the one doing the talking and he was doing it through a serpent.  Satan opened the mouth of this snake, just as God later opened the mouth of a donkey and talked to Balaam in the Book of Numbers (22:28).  In one case, God was doing the talking through an animal.  In another case, Satan was doing the talking through an animal.

Is Genesis 3 Fact or Fiction?

If Genesis 3 just describes a talking snake, that would make it a fable.  Animals talk in fables.  Ordinary snakes don’t talk.  Not only do snakes NOT talk today, they CAN’T talk.  They don’t have vocal chords.  The only noise they can make is hissing and that is because air is quickly released or taken in through the snake’s mouth.

Ordinary snakes don’t talk.  They do not know about God.  They cannot use reason.  They cannot make moral judgments.  God did not create animals with the ability of speech.  Language was limited to humans and angels.

That is why this has to be more than a normal reptile. All of the animals that God created were good but this one was not good.  He was evil.  He questioned what God said.  He slandered God’s character.  He told people to disobey God.

The literal serpent was created by God (3:1).  He was not evil.  He was good, because everything that God created was good.  The second question is this: What does the rest of the Bible say about Genesis 3?

Case Study in Temptation

What do we learn from Genesis 3?  You say, How does this apply to me? This passage is a case study in temptation.  We learn several things about Satan and about temptation. Some of the same strategies he used in the garden, he still uses today.  They are very effective.  We need to be aware of them.

1. He used a disguise

The lesson here is that Satan disguised his true identity, as well as his true intentions.  He disguised himself as an animal but not just any animal. He appeared as a serpent.  When we think of a snake, we think of something ugly and repulsive and slimy.  That was not what this animal was.  Satan did not use something hideous to tempt Eve.  He used something beautiful, attractive and appealing.

He used an animal that Eve liked and respected.  He didn’t come as an enemy but as a friend (one of the animals under their authority).  He did not appear to her in a threatening manner like a roaring lion.  He appeared gentle and friendly.  He probably began with flattery.  He probably told Eve she was the most beautiful thing God ever created.

He pretended to have Eve’s best interests in mind, when in reality what he wanted was genocide.  He wanted to wreck God’s creation and wanted the whole race to die.  Jesus called Satan “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).  Here, he wanted to murder the whole human race.

Satan still uses disguises today. He uses camouflage.  He does not appear in his true form.  Paul said that he disguises himself today as an angel of light, not as a demon of darkness, to trick and deceive people.

II Corinthians 11:13-15 says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

Satan makes himself look attractive and appealing. He uses education to deceive people. He uses religion to deceive people. He uses ordained ministers to deceive people.   Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “When you are looking for the Devil, don’t forget to look in the pulpit”.  Paul said that his servants are “ministers of righteousness.”

2. He used diplomacy.

Satan was very wise in how he tempted Eve.  He used tact.  He was very good at dealing with people. He did not immediately contradict God or mock him when he fist spoke to Eve.  In fact, he did not even bring up the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He let Eve do that.  I do not even think they were near that tree when the serpent tempted her.

All of the pictures and paintings of Eve being tempted have her right near the tree.  She said, “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.’” (3:2-3). If she was right in front of the tree she would not describe it as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden”.

The main object of Satan’s attack was not Eve but Adam.  Why was Adam Satan’s main target?  Adam was our federal head.  He was our legal representative in the garden. Adam is the head of the race.  The Fall took place when Adam sinned.  According to the Apocrypha (the extra books in the Roman Catholic Bible), the Fall took place when Eve sinned.  The Wisdom of Sirach says, “Sin began with a woman, and because of her we all die” (25:24).

The NT teaches something very different.  The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:12 that “sin entered the world THROUGH ONE MAN” (not “one woman”).  Romans 5:15 says “many died through ONE MAN’S TRESPASS” (not “one woman’s trespass”) I Corinthians 15:22 says “IN ADAM all die”.  It does NOT say “in Eve all die”.

Eve did not bring death into the world.  Adam did.  When Eve sinned nothing happened.  Genesis 3:6-7 says, “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.”  Nothing seemed to happen until Adam ate the fruit.

Satan’s ultimate plan was to get Adam to sin, so why did he go after Eve, rather than Adam?  He knew that if he got Eve, he had Adam.  Most men have a weakness for woman.  Adam had a weakness for Eve. He knew that Adam was blinded by love.  He would do anything for her.

He would rather sin that go on without her.  He didn’t want to lose her.  Adam thought he could not be happy if Eve died or was banished from the garden.  He would rather have her than have God create a new wife for him, so he joined her in sin.  Did Adam do the right thing?  Was he a hero?  No

Adam sinned when he ate the forbidden fruit and all of us were affected by that decision.  He brought spiritual death on the whole race by that one act but his disobedience still served God’s purposes.  God demonstrated incredible grace by promising a Messiah to be one of their descendants. Adam actually became a means of salvation for Eve.  While it is hard for us to understand this, it was actually part of God’s plan.  Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world.

What we have seen is that Satan used the serpent to get to Eve and he used Eve to get to Adam.  He uses people today to do his work.  Satan can speak through other people. He can even speak through a Christian, as well as a non-Christian.  He can speak through an apostle.  He spoke through Peter.  Remember Jesus said he was going to go to the cross and Peter said, “Not so Lord”.

Jesus said “Get behind me Satan”.  He can speak through an Apostle.  We don’t have too many of those today.  He can also speak through an ordained minister.  Remember, Paul said that Satan disguises himself as “a minister of righteousness”.  He can even speak through a spouse.  Here, he speaks to Adam through Eve.

3. He used distortions.

God said they could eat “from ANY tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16).  Satan said, Satan said, “Did God really say, ‘You must NOT eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).  Satan still does that today. He distorts the Word of God. Cultists do this all the time. They use the Bible to justify every one of their false doctrines.  All kinds of passages are quotes out of context.  Whenever the media quotes the Bible, it almost always quotes it out of context.  They have no idea what it actually teaches.

4. He used dissatisfaction

Notice what he said to Eve.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (3:1). He starts with a question that was not asked for information but for temptation.  It was a biased question.  An unbiased question would be, “What are you allowed to eat in the garden and what are you not allowed to eat?”

This was a biased or leading question because the question is worded in a particular way to favor one answer over another.  A biased question implies the answer in its wording.  People still do this today.  There are opinion polls that are biased.  The question implies that God is very unfair.

Satan began with a question that was geared at creating dissatisfaction in Eve with God and with his rules.  Later he said something to make them dissatisfied with God.  He said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

One of the reasons Eve fell was greed.  She lived in a perfect world.  She was married to the perfect husband.  She had a marriage literally made in heaven.  God performed the wedding ceremony.  She enjoyed face-to-face communion with God.  He showed up in the garden on a regular basis.  She had all of her needs met and she wasn’t satisfied.  She wanted something more.  She did not just want access to most of the trees in the garden.  She wanted access to all of them.

5. He used denial

God said, “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall surely die”. Satan said the exact opposite: “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall NOT surely die”.  Satan said, “I know God said that you will not die but I say that you won’t.”  God cannot be trusted.  His Words are not to be taken seriously.  He had no facts or evidence.  He had no proof, just assertions.

Eve believed him.  She did a scientific investigation of the tree.  She did an empirical analysis.  She picked it up and found out that it was edible.  It was not poisonous.  She found that it was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (3:6).  She operated on the philosophy “if it looks good, eat it” (which is similar to the modern philosophy “If it feels good, do it”).

The fruit did look good and she concluded, “The devil is right.  I am not going to die if I eat this.  God is wrong.”  That is strange.  She questioned what God said but never questioned what the serpent said.  She believed what the serpent said over what God said.  Many do that today.  They take what man says over what God says.

Notice that the first doctrine of the Bible that was denied was the doctrine of judgment.  There is no punishment for disobedience to God.  Rebellion against God does not have consequences.  This doctrine is still denied today. The Bible clearly teaches a Hell but many say that there is no hell.  Many other clear doctrines of Scripture are also denied.

6. He used deception.

Jesus called him “the father of lies”.  Jesus said that Satan is not only a liar, he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). He invented lying. The first lie in the Bible was found on the lips of Satan.  He told Eve a whole bunch of lies. There have been many since.  We see some in the rest of the chapter.

When God confronted Adam after the Fall, he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (3:9-10). That was a lie.  He was not afraid because he was naked.  He was afraid because he was guilty.  In the very next chapter Cain lied.  God asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4:9). That was a lie.  He did know where he was.  He just killed him.

Did Satan lie or tell the truth?  God said that the day they ate the fruit, they would die.  Satan said that they would not die and they didn’t die.  In fact, they went on to live for another thousand years. That seemed to come true.  Satan said that when they ate the fruit, their eyes would be open and they were opened after they ate, according to Genesis 3:7.  That also came true.

Satan said that they would be like God and know good and evil if they ate the fruit.  After they sinned, they did become like God.  After they sinned, they did know good and evil.  God said that they did in Genesis 3:22.  Did Satan lie or tell the truth?

Satan does use pure lies but most of the lies he told to Adam and Eve were actually half-truths.  That is the kind of lie that is harder to fight than an outright lie, because they have an element of truth in them.  Alfred Lord Tennison called half-truths “the blackest of all lies”.

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they did not immediately drop dead but they did die that very day.  They died spiritually.  They were separated from God.  That is why they ran from God.  The probably would have died physically that very day had not two animals died in their place as their substitute (3:21). It was the first substitutionary sacrifice in the Bible.   It provided a covering for them.  Satan was the one who lied.  He promised them that they would not die.  They died both physically and spiritually.

Satan promised Adam and Eve that when they ate from the forbidden tree, their eyes would be opened (Genesis 3:5). When they from the tree, the Bible says that their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:7) but this was not a good thing but a bad thing. When their eyes were opened, what they saw was their nakedness, their guilt, their shame and their helplessness.

He told them if they sinned that they would become like God (Genesis 3:5).  In one sense they did become like God. They became morally independent. They decided for themselves what is right and what is wrong.  They became a law to themselves. They created their own moral standard and their own moral code apart from God.  When they ate the forbidden fruit, they signed their own Declaration of Independence. They became their own god and made up their own rules.

This was only a half-truth because, when they sinned, they actually became less like God. God is sinless. God does not know good and evil by experience. When they sinned, they became more like Satan than they became like God.

[1] We do not know how long she was in the garden.  She may not have known that animals were not supposed to talk. It was Adam’s job to study the animals.  Everything was brand new.  Eve lived in a perfect world.  Other very strange things were happening in this garden by our standards, like a lion and lamb being together peacefully. The garden was such a magical place that this may not have seemed that strange.

[2] In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church dominated Europe and the Bible of the Catholic Church was in Latin.  In Latin, the words “evil” (mali) and “apple” (mala) are very close. It is a difference of one letter.  In Hebrew, the two words are not close at all.

[3] Many say this because Genesis 3:6 says “She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it.” The problem with this is that in Hebrew the word “with” is a very unimportant preposition (so Archer, McComiskey).  All that it means is that Adam was with Eve at this point but not necessarily from the beginning.   Adam was with Eve when she ate but not necessarily when she was deceived.

[4] God said that Adam listened to the voice of his wife (3:17).  Eve does not say anything to Adam in Genesis 3:1-6.  Satan spoke to Eve alone (3:1-5).  Both of them ate from the tree (3:6).  That means that there must have been a gap between Genesis 3:5 and Genesis 3:6 in which Adam and Eve discussed what the serpent said to her.

[5] We see this in the Jewish Pseudepigripha (The Life of Adam and Eve) It was written in the first century and identifies the serpent with Satan [see chapters 12-16 (Latin Text) and chapters 17-18 (Greek Text)].

3 Responses to Paradise Lost

  1. Gladys says:

    So they were suppose to die the day the ate the fruit, but they didn’t is that why people who believe in a young earth believe that the death was only spiritual?

    • admin says:

      Death was intended to be BOTH physical and spiritual but they didn’t die physically that day out of God’s grace and because of the sacrifice of two animals (which was part of the OT system in dealing with sin before Jesus came and died). It has nothing to do with a young or old earth. If the animals did not die as a substitute, they would have died physically as well. They eventually died physically. It just came later. Not sure if this helps.

  2. Gladys says:

    You know I remember reading about the 2 animals dying in there place, but I didn’t really understand what that had to do with it, but now that you mention it as an old testament custom for forgiving sin, I get it now. I mean I knew it is how sin was forgiven in the OT I just never considered that the practice went all the way back to the beginning.

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