The Serpent, Sin, and the first Divided House

We have read the two creation accounts, and are set up to read about what we refer to as the Fall of Humanity—the moment humankind sinned against God and was removed from paradise, the moment the power of sin overtook human actions, thoughts, and beliefs. God has instructed people not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the day they eat from it, they shall surely die. At this juncture in the narrative, prior to the Fall, the first people are naked in the garden and feel no shame.

Genesis 3:1-13

1 וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ הָיָ֣ה עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָׂ֖ה יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה אַ֚ף כִּֽי־אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֔ים לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְל֔וּ מִכֹּ֖ל עֵ֥ץ הַגָּֽן׃

2 וַתֹּ֥אמֶר הָֽאִשָּׁ֖ה אֶל־הַנָּחָ֑שׁ מִפְּרִ֥י עֵֽץ־הַגָּ֖ן נֹאכֵֽל׃

3 וּמִפְּרִ֣י הָעֵץ֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּתוֹךְ־הַגָּן֒ אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים לֹ֤א תֹֽאכְלוּ֙ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ וְלֹ֥א תִגְּע֖וּ בּ֑וֹ פֶּן־תְּמֻתֽוּן׃

4 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַנָּחָ֖שׁ אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁ֑ה לֹֽא־מ֖וֹת תְּמֻתֽוּן׃

5 כִּ֚י יֹדֵ֣עַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים כִּ֗י בְּיוֹם֙ אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם מִמֶּ֔נּוּ וְנִפְקְח֖וּ עֵֽינֵיכֶ֑ם וִהְיִיתֶם֙ כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים יֹדְעֵ֖י ט֥וֹב וָרָֽע׃

6 וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְי֖וֹ וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּם־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל׃

7 וַתִּפָּקַ֙חְנָה֙ עֵינֵ֣י שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּ֣דְע֔וּ כִּ֥י עֵֽירֻמִּ֖ם הֵ֑ם וַֽיִּתְפְּרוּ֙ עֲלֵ֣ה תְאֵנָ֔ה וַיַּעֲשׂ֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם חֲגֹרֹֽת׃

8 וַֽיִּשְׁמְע֞וּ אֶת־ק֨וֹל יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים מִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ בַּגָּ֖ן לְר֣וּחַ הַיּ֑וֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם וְאִשְׁתּ֗וֹ מִפְּנֵי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֔ים בְּת֖וֹךְ עֵ֥ץ הַגָּֽן׃

9 וַיִּקְרָ֛א יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹ אַיֶּֽכָּה׃

10 וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אֶת־קֹלְךָ֥ שָׁמַ֖עְתִּי בַּגָּ֑ן וָאִירָ֛א כִּֽי־עֵירֹ֥ם אָנֹ֖כִי וָאֵחָבֵֽא׃

11 וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מִ֚י הִגִּ֣יד לְךָ֔ כִּ֥י עֵירֹ֖ם אָ֑תָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵ֗ץ אֲשֶׁ֧ר צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ לְבִלְתִּ֥י אֲכָל־מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אָכָֽלְתָּ׃

12 וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הָֽאָדָ֑ם הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י הִ֛וא נָֽתְנָה־לִּ֥י מִן־הָעֵ֖ץ וָאֹכֵֽל׃

13 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָאִשָּׁ֖ה מַה־זֹּ֣את עָשִׂ֑ית וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה הַנָּחָ֥שׁ הִשִּׁיאַ֖נִי וָאֹכֵֽל׃

The sinuous lady (v. 1-5)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In this part of the story, we are introduced to a new character, the serpent. Why do you think it was a serpent that tempted Eve? Remember, Moses is writing in the Myth genre. That does not make the story mythology or legend. Stories that fit into the Myth genre may, in fact, correspond to reality. In the Myth genre of the Ancient Near East, the serpent was the bringer of health, wealth, and prosperity. That is why nearly every civilization worshipped snakes to some degree in antiquity. If one could charm a snake, he or she was blessed. So, Moses introduces the serpent as the one who promises life and knowledge—like in the Ancient Near Eastern literature of his time.

This serpent is craftier than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He is the chief of all beasts, immediately setting him up as a counterpart to the man—who is the chief creature. When Moses designates the serpent as the chief of beasts, he does so in order to prepare for wordplay when we get to the end of the chapter. “Beast” sounds like “Eve” in the Hebrew. That’s important because Moses uses wordplay between the two. If we don’t read the Hebrew, we do not know what Moses is doing.

Transliterations from Hebrew

When this serpent speaks to the woman, he speaks as one who has and gives wisdom, “Surely God did not tell you not to eat from any tree in the garden.” From the outset, he twists God’s command to make it sound more severe than it is. Many people do this today by making outright restrictions even though God’s law does not. Has God really said you can’t have any drinks? Has God really said you can’t wear any jewelry? Has God really said you can’t go anywhere, touch anything, or taste? Eve does her best to correct the serpent, even though Adam is God’s direct representative and the one responsible to practice his federal lordship. Adam is not absent (cf. v. 6), he is simply silent. Eve tells the serpent that there is only one forbidden tree, and the consequence for eating from it or touching it is death. In Chapter 2, God only restricted Adam and Eve from eating of the forbidden tree. We don’t know whether God also forbade them from touching it, and that detail simply was not recorded, so we cannot make the claim that Eve is adding to God’s instruction like many do. She may be, but we cannot know for sure. Things are said that are not recorded for posterity.

The serpent responds by questioning God’s claim. You surely will not die if you have the fruit. God knows that you will be like Him, eyes opened and knowing good and evil, if you take fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and eat. After reading Chapters 1 and 2, tell me, are people like God? Yes. People were created, from the beginning, in God’s image. So, the serpent is using something that is already realized in order to tempt Eve. She is already like God, but the serpent’s words sound appealing because she longs to be like God by her nature. The serpent’s promises, thus, are false—setting Moses’s presentation of the serpent contra to other Ancient Near East literature. They praised the serpent for bringing wisdom, knowledge, and life. Moses exposes the serpent as one who makes false promises. No, you can’t actually achieve everlasting youth and wisdom by charming snakes. The same is true for any false god or charm in our day. This is why sincere Christians have no need to practice magic, mysticism, incantations, carry charms, use crystals, or communicate with the other side. From the beginning of the story, the Bible reveals the vanity of using any sort of magical item or prayer to achieve health, wealth, or prosperity. This means that any health, wealth, and prosperity gospel or church is in line with the Ancient Near East legends, not with Scripture. Moses is writing against that, not in favor of it.

Humankind will indeed have her eyes opened, knowing good and evil, but it will be by the experience of committing evil (disobeying God) and not because the fruit of the tree is somehow endowed with magical revealing powers (it is not).

The sin and shame (v. 6-10)

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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

After the serpent points Eve’s attention to the tree, Eve sees that the tree is good for food. It is. Everything God created is good. He has simply forbidden fruit from this tree in order to accomplish a good purpose. The fruit looks delectable. It the tree is desirable to make one wise—which means that eve desires wisdom from the tree not that the tree will actually provide wisdom. Eve takes fruit, eats, and shares with her husband—who is with her.

At the moment they eat the forbidden fruit, Adam’s and Eve’s eyes are opened to good and evil. Before, they only knew good. Now, they have disobeyed God and know what it is to be evil. They feel ashamed and try to cover their nakedness—spiritual and physical. They do not want to be exposed. Again, there is nothing inherently evil about eating from the tree. The only thing that made it evil in this case is God’s restriction. It was not evil to eat from a tree. It was evil to disobey God. In this one act, the first sin, people revealed their nature—which is after God’s kind. They desire to be righteous and have all knowledge. That desire is good. Because they are like God, they try to seek it on their own and prove to be unrighteous. Unrighteousness is simply our trying to have a righteousness that is of ourselves rather than of God. Our righteousness is simply like God’s righteousness, it is not God’s righteousness—so we cannot work to gain our own knowledge, glory, righteousness, health, wealth, or prosperity. Such pursuits are vain. Only God is truly righteous. Only God provides everything we need. Moses is moving the world past snake-charming, both literally and figuratively.

Adam and Eve heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the midst of the Garden in the cool of the day, that’s evening time. Literally, the Hebrew text reads that the voice of Yahweh God is walking in the garden, assigning personhood to the voice of God. Whereas the Spirit of God had omnipresence over the waters of the earth in Chapter 1, now we see that the Voice of God has particular presence, walking in the Garden. This Voice of God is the preincarnate Christ (cf. John 1). Adam and Eve hid from Christ. Jesus calls out, “Where are you?” His question is profound, referring not to mere physical location but spiritual reality. Where is Adam. He is now lost in need of being found. Christ goes and finds him. From the very beginning, this is how things are. When we are dead in our sin, Christ is the one who comes and finds us. Our moment of conversion is the moment we hear His voice, “Where are you?”

Adam answers Jesus. He was afraid when he heard the Voice of God walking in the Garden, so he hid. He hid because he was naked—exposed as unrighteous in his nature.

The blame game (v. 11-13)

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Jesus asked Adam who told him about his nakedness and questioned him about the forbidden fruit. Adam knew about his physical nakedness. He did not know about his unrighteousness, spiritual nakedness, until he failed to obey God. No one told Adam about his nakedness. It was painfully obvious when he failed to bear true righteousness. Ashamed that he could not obey God, he blames his wife for giving him the fruit. Adam failed as the federal head of creation. He failed to protect his wife, sacrifice himself for her and offer himself in her place. Instead, he joined in her sin and blamed her for bringing him down. God designed men to take responsibility in the likeness of Christ, not cast blame. God Himself takes responsibility instead of casting blame even though we are certainly guilty. Jesus asks the woman what she has done. She is culpable but blames the serpent. Neither Adam nor Eve take responsibility for their sin. God doesn’t oppress them about how wretched and depraved they are. We will see that God has something else planned. The serpent has no one to blame for his actions. Surrounded by cultures that exalt the serpent, Moses reveals the serpent, and everything the serpent represents—self righteousness, the gaining of wisdom, health, and wealth for one’s self—a sinuous lie. The serpent is an archetype we need to pay attention to in our own day. We too often try to satisfy our desire for health, wealth, prosperity, and wisdom by trying to gain it for ourselves. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Instead, we fix our eyes on Christ—the one who comes in search of His people to find them even though they are lost. Here, we see the forbearance of election and the role of Christ as the redeemer of His people. Though we love the darkness, hide from God behind whatever we can and try to clothe ourselves in righteousness, Christ comes to find us. In this chapter, we see monergism on display. We see the archetypes set up to be carried by the typology of the rest of the Old Testament and fulfilled in the incarnation of Christ as narrated in the Gospels.

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