1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'"
4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die;
5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
Genesis chapter 3 has this fascinating conversation between Eve and the snake. We are told earlier that God had created a garden in Eden, and he put Adam in this garden, and he put all kinds of good things in the garden, but in the center of the garden he put two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the ancient Middle East, trees often symbolized life, but the focus of the story in Genesis is on the other tree. In 2:16-17, God says, “"You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."”
After that, following the creation account in chapter 2, God created all the living creatures, and then God created Eve. That brings us down to chapter 3, which opens by telling us that “the serpent was more crafty” than any other animal. Snakes in ancient times were symbols of wisdom. The Pharaoh had a serpent figure carved into his crown as a symbol of his wisdom. The mother goddess of ancient Crete carried two serpents as a symbol of her omniscience.
It is to this tradition that Jesus refers in Matthew 10:16 when he instructs the disciples to “be wise as serpents.”
Even to this day, the symbol of the medical profession is a caduceus, a winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it. The caduceus is the ancient symbol of the Greek god Hermes, who was the messenger of the gods, and hence the bearer of knowledge.
So this personification of wisdom, this sly shrewd serpent, said to Eve, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
Now, no one thinks that the serpent was asking for information here. The serpent already knows what God has said. But note the craftiness of the question. Is God so harsh and unreasonable that he would forbid you to eat of all fruit of all these trees? We imagine the serpent looking around the garden at trees loaded with fruit.
Now the woman was created after God told Adam not to eat the fruit, and we might suppose that she did not know the exact wording of God’s prohibition. But her reply to the serpent demonstrates that she does know. She says in V2, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'"
Adam and Eve had such a close relationship with God that they both knew God commands and desires.
But the serpent scoffs at Eve’s reply. He says, "You will not die.” God told you that but God has another motive and another agenda. God knows that if you eat of that fruit, you will be like God, and God does not want equals. God does not want competition. That is why God does not want you to eat of the fruit, so spoke the serpent, so spoke the voice of temptation.
Well that forbidden fruit looked so ripe and delicious that Eve’s mouth was watering just thinking about it. And she wanted to be like God—who would not?--so she ate some, and she gave Adam some and he ate also.
Now you can bring up several things here. If God made Adam and Eve perfectly good, how could they fall so easily into sin? I do not know the answer to that I only know that Genesis tells us that they did commit a sin. Again, a logical person might object that Eve already had knowledge of good and evil before she ate the forbidden fruit. She knew it was wrong to eat it. But that is too deep an argument for me. So let us just take what Genesis says at face value.
Eve has this little debate with the serpent, which she loses, and so she eats the forbidden fruit. And then Adam without any debate at all, apparently without any moral qualms at all, eats the fruit also.
A woman once told me that this is typical male behavior. Adam is totally clueless. His wife tells him to do something. He is not really paying attention anyway. He says, Yeah yeak, OK, OK.” Nobody at home there.
Anyway we read in v7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
They became aware of their sexuality, which is not a sin in itself. The Serpent mostly told the truth when he tempted Eve. That is always the best kind of lie, the lie that is mostly true. Adam and Eve were as Gods in that they were conscious and self-conscious in ways that they were not before. As Genesis puts it, “the eyes of both were opened.”
But some other things have changed too. There is always a price to be paid for sin, and Adam and Eve paid a huge price. We see this beginning in v8: “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” Formerly, they walked confidently with God, but no longer. Now they are ashamed to be in the presence of God. In v9, God calls out to Adam and Eve, saying, "Where are you?"
Now again, you can raise questions here. You could ask, Does not all-knowing God know where they are? Does not God know what has happened? That is not the point. The point is that the relationship that Adam and Eve had with God is broken.
In v10 Adam says, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Adam had formerly looked forward to walking with God. His contact with God had been the most important thing in his life. Now he flees in terror from God. That tells you how much his relationship with God has changed.
God confronts Adam with his sin. In v11, God asks, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Have you done what I told you not to do?
Now Adam is obviously guilty, and he should say so. But like all human beings, like the rest of us, Adam does not want to admit sin even when he is caught. So he kind of conditionally admits his guilt. He says, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." So Adam say, yes, I ate the fruit, but he implies that it was not his fault. The woman gave him the fruit so it must have been her fault, and since God gave the woman to Adam, it must have been God’s fault. Notice that there is not repentance for sin here. Adam does not say he is sorry about his sin, he says it is not his fault.
So then God turns to Eve and God says, "What is this that you have done?" Eve replies, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate." Eve is a fast learner; she has picked up Adam’s technique. She admits she ate it, but it was the serpent’s fault.
Well God does what parents usually do with children who have done wrong and are blaming each other. God punished them all. He curses the serpent and he casts Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. Thus, we read in v24, that God drove out our first parents, “and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”
The garden of Eden represented the connection that Adam and Eve had with God. In the garden they lived in God, they breathed an atmosphere of God. Their relationship with God was as close as it gets. God was like the skin on their bodies, the breath on their lips. Wherever they looked, they saw God. Whatever they touched they felt the presence of God. All that was lost when they broke God’s commandment and ate the forbidden fruit.
It is a characteristic of sin that when we are in the midst of committing the sin we do not think about consequences, or at least we do not think about long-term consequences. Adam and Eve looked at the fruit, wanted it, got it—instant gratification. Only later did they realize the long-term consequences of sin. They had destroyed their relationship with God.
Ulitmately, that is what all sin comes down to. Sin is the destruction of relationships. We live in a network of relationships. We have connections with friends and family and church. We have connections with the environment and with other animals. We have relationships with employers and employees, with people we met briefly in the Mall yesterday and high school classmates we have known most of our lives. All this is good, this is the way we are supposed to be. We are relational beings. We find purpose and meaning in life through our various relationships. Above all, we find purpose and meaning in our relationship with God. Sin comes in when we start damaging and destroying our relationships.
The great relationship we have in our lives is with God. Our connection with God includes all our other connections and supersedes all our other connections. Adam and Eve destroyed their relationship with God. That is what sin did for them. And let’s face it we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. The Apostle Paul was, unfortunately, all too correct when he said that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We are all Adam, we are all Eve, and we have all been cast out the garden of Eden and we are looking for a way back in.
But even though we have broken our connection with God, God has not given up on us. God did not give up on Adam and Eve. We read in chapter 3 that after God had told them that they were cursed and would be cast out of the garden, God made leather garments for them. So here is a trivia question for you. Who is the first seamstress in the Bible? God is. God made clothes for Adam and Eve because he still loved them.
And God still loves us. Even though we are sinners like Adam and Eve, God has provided a way to restore the divine connection in our lives. Christ died on the cross so that our sins might be forgiven and we might be reconciled to God. Do not be like Adam and Eve, repent of your sins and turn to Jesus, and you will find forgiveness and a restored relationship with God.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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