The doctrine of original sin is one that has confounded many throughout the centuries, but especially in recent decades. A talking snake talked Adam and Eve into sinning and that brought condemnation for all of humanity?
That is the teaching of the Bible and the event is picked up again and referenced in the New Testament as the event which brought sin into the world (cf. Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:20-21).
People question this event. Why would God care so much about people eating fruit of a specific tree? I’d ask why man felt so compelled to disobey? And even now, we continue to question the command!
In Genesis 3, we see a paradigm that so often plays itself out in the human heart in regards to our sin. Doubting God’s Word, Distorting God’s Word, rejecting God’s Word, doubting God’s goodness and choosing to disobey.
Doubting God’s Word
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
This is how the serpent begins the discussion with Eve. At the beginning, he introduces doubt when he questions God’s word and asks Did God actually say ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
He is introducing the idea that God’s Word is subject to human judgment and opinion.
Distorting God’s Word
In response, Eve goes to far and ends up misquoting what God had said. Genesis 3:2-3 says:
2 And 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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
The problem is that in Genesis 2:16-17, the specific command is:
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 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 surely die.”
So the Lord commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve changes God’s Word by suggesting that they cannot eat or touch the fruit of this tree. There are other distortions in what Eve says, but for this post, we’ll mainly focus on her adding to what God has commanded.
Rejecting God’s Word
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
The serpent flatly contradicts God’s Word and denies the weight of the consequences for disobedience. Again, we see how these issues with the scripture work their way into our own decisions. We doubt God’s Word, we twist it to make it say what we want it to say, we disregard it when it’s not what we like. The results this leads to are disastrous.
Doubting God’s goodness
The serpent continues to speak in verse 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.”
I love how Ken Mathews sums this up in his commentary of Genesis. In the serpent’s rejection of God’s word, he is implying “God is not good and gracious; he is selfish and deceptive, preventing the man and woman from achieving the same position as “Elohim””
After contradicting God, the serpent explains why the rejection of God’s command will actually be better than obedience. The rest of verse 5 records the serpent saying: your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Once again, this plays into the heart of human sin. We doubt God’s goodness. When we sin against God’s commands, we are acting as though God is holding back something good from us or that we know better than God.
This way of thinking treats God as our adversary.
From temptation to sin
We see the response of Eve in Genesis 3:6:
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.
With her eyes, she sees the fruit of the tree is good. In eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve is seeking out wisdom independent
The serpent had distorted God’s Word but not everything he said was an outright lie. He deceived and tempted eve with half-truths. Indeed the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. But they were open to recognize their nakedness. Eve thought that eating of the fruit of this tree would make her like god. John Sailhamer observed that instead, Adam and Eve realized they weren’t even like each other as shame and hiding were introduced.
In the process of this first sin, we see other issues of the human heart. We see the pride of thinking that she knows better than God. There is also covetousness of thinking that true fulfillment will come from something that Eve lacks. These elements in our decisions to sin and our commissions of sin have played themselves out time and again throughout history.
The end of verse 6 mentions that Eve gave some of the fruit to Adam. We’re not sure if he heard the exchange between eve and the serpent, and there’s no indication as to what his thought process was which led to the eating of the fruit of the tree.
Sin is introduced into the world.
Genesis 3:7 says:
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
The serpent told half-truths. He had given the empty promise that Eve’s eyes would be opened upon eating the fruit. That part was true. For both Adam and Eve, their eyes were opened, and what they saw was their nakedness. The serpent told her she would be like God. This appealed to our desire for glorification. The serpent told Eve that she would have the knowledge of good and evil. That was true too, but what that knowledge brought was the knowledge that Adam and Eve were now evil.
Genesis 3 records nothing good coming of eating this fruit. It’s not depicted as some magical moment of bliss. Their eyes are opened. They have sinned. In their nakedness, they sew together fig leaves to cover themselves. It’s an attempt to hide from their sin. But they cannot hide from an all knowing God.
K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 236.
John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 52.