The Fall Part I

Temptation scene, Sistine Chapel Ceiling – Michelangelo, 1508-12

Genesis 3: 1-5 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of  it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil (ASV 1901).

The serpent (Hebrew nachash) is here introduced into Scripture for the first time as the one who brings temptation. The serpent is an actual serpent which Satan the adversary of God and mankind indwelt to communicate with the woman. We see the same intimate pairing of Satan and the serpent in the New Testament in at least three locations (II Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12: 9 and 20: 2). Rabbinical theology affirms the truth of this actual pairing of Satan and the serpent. This is not some quaint myth. This further instructs us to the Wiles of the Devil. He comes in disguise to tempt. In Hebrew, words are formed from a root of three letters. The foundation of the “root” for many Hebrew words yields words that are similar in nature. For example the Hebrew words to rule malach, king, melech and kingdom, malkoot all have the same three-root letters  Mem, Lamed and Kaf Sofiet. The word nachash is the same with the following three letters as the root נָ חָ שׁ: Nun Chet and Shin. From these three root letters the Hebrew language morphs into many words that have a similar nature in addition to the exact same root. The Hebrew word for bronze is nechoshet. In Numbers 21: 9 Moses made a bronze serpent to put and end to the snakes that were killing the children of Israel because they spoke out against Gods plan for them. The Hebrew word nechoshet nachash means a bronze serpent. Jesus referred to this life saving nechoshet nachash in John 3: 14-15 when He identified with it was as Himself being the savior of the world. We see how the various terms have multiple ties to different passages in the Bible. The serpent is no different. It has the quality for the etymology of the Hebrew words as being shiny or luminous. The Hebrew word for the bronze serpent became nechushtan in II Kings 18: 4, which also has the same three root letters. This idea is carried out into the New Testament where Satan is cast as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11: 14). The root letters (word) also morph into a verb meaning, “to practice divination” or “observe astrological signs” as in Genesis 30: 27, 44: 5, 15; Leviticus 19: 26; Deuteronomy 18: 10). This gives us further insight of the nature of the serpent and Satan first introduced in the plain text. Ancient pagan Near Eastern divination frequently made use of a serpent.

The serpent text tells us that the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field. The Hebrew word here for subtle is arum which is a word play on Genesis 2:25 arumeem which is translated as naked and unashamed. We see the contrast of Adam and eve being very open and innocent while the Devil is exposed as shrewd, crafty, cunning, and sly. Satan wanted to obtain through deceit the authority over the earth that he lost because of his own fall. The verse also states that God had made this creature thereby affirming the genuineness of an actual serpent. Many continue to relegate this story to mythology. They say it is only important that we realize that “something” happened to cause sin to come into the world. Neither Jesus nor the New Testament writers took this posture (John 8: 44; Romans 5: 12, 16: 20; I Corinthians 15: 21; II Corinthians 11: 3-4; I Timothy 2: 14). These were actual events that occurred in time and space on this earth.

Satan then began his first challenge to the woman. He starts with slightly misstating what God’s command had been to Adam. God said that he could eat of any tree in the Garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2: 16-17). Eve knew that and so did Satan. But because he wanted to impart doubt he said, “Did God say that yea shall not eat of any tree of the Garden?” God’s command was clear but Satan was making it unclear like liberal theologians who do not like being pinned down to the specificity of words in Scripture. This is where that liberal mindset comes from. It is always dangerous to alter God’s Word either by addition or deletion (Deuteronomy 4: 2; Proverbs 30: 5-6; Revelation 22: 18-19). God will always do exactly what He says He will do.           

Eve, knowing the command from God either through direct communication with God or Adam, restated God’s command quite clearly to the serpent. She knew the penalty for sinning against God for she added lest ye die (Genesis 3: 3b). One Jewish writing the Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 19:3 says that the serpent pushed Eve to touch the tree until she gave in and touched the tree. When she did, she did not die. He then said to her “Just as there is not death in touching neither is there any death in eating.” This is because she added to God’s command the possible prohibition of not touching the tree in addition to not eating of it.

Now Satan goes from instituting doubt in Eve’s mind to outright attacking the penalty God imposed by denying it is true. This is the first lie in Scripture. Jesus called Satan the father of lies (John 8: 44). Satan then moved to a full denial of God’s authority by saying “for God does know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as God knowing good and evil.”Satan was trying to instill a lure into his sin of trying to be like God or usurp God’s authority (Isaiah 14: 12-14). According to Satan, because one has the knowledge of good and evil, one is like God. Since the fall many have thought they were God. They are not of course but they fell for the lie too. Satan is essentially accusing God of being shellfish and denying Eve the opportunity to experience Godlikeness. So Satan had a three-point strategy:

  1. He raises doubts of the efficacy and accuracy of God’s Word.
  2. He directly denies God’s Word by contradicted it.
  3. He claims that disobeying God’s Word would result in a higher good.

Genesis 3: 6 And 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 the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

This passage is a perfect example of individual internal temptation, for sin cannot be blamed on God or heredity (James 1: 13-15). The woman engaged in the sins expressed in I John 2: 16.

1 John 2:16 For 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 (KJV).

She saw that the tree was good for food she engaged the lust of the flesh. She saw that it was delight to the eyes thereby engaging the lust of the eyes. Finally she believed that the tree would enable wisdom (power) not granted by God thus engaging in the Pride of Life. The Lord Jesus faced similar temptations with Satan in the desert after He had fasted for forty days (Matthew 4: 1-11).

                      Satan’s Temptations of Eve and of Jesus

      Temptation            Genesis 3             Matthew 4 
Appeal to physical appetiteLust of eyes and flesh You may eat of any tree (3:1).  You may eat by changing stones to bread (4:3). 
Appeal to personal gainPride of Life You will not die (3:4).  You will not hurt Your foot (4:6). 
Appeal to power or gloryPride of life You will be like God (3:5).  You will have all the world’s kingdoms (4:8–9). 

Next Eve did eat of the fruit but first she took of it. Touching it did not cause her spiritual death only by eating of it did the spiritual death occur. Satan is a liar from the beginning (John 8:44), and this is his lie: one can sin and get away with it. But death is the penalty for sin (Gen. 2:17).

Eve gave some of the fruit to her husband and he ate some too. He was right there with her and was chiefly responsible for stopping her as we will see the next verses. His sin was a failure to be the head of the family exercising God given headship over her. Instead he acquiesced and sinned too.

The Bible points out a major distinction between Adam’s sin and that of Eve. Eve was one the deceived (I Timothy 2: 13-14; II Corinthians 11: 3). I Timothy 2: 14 states that Adam had full knowledge of what he was doing and did it anyway. Therefore he was rebelling against the authority of God’s Word.

Their sin broke the Edenic Covenant as stated by Hosea.

Hosea 6: 7 But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.