{9}         Gen 3:1-24  Sin in Eden


Part C. Temptation and the Fall (3:1-24)

C1.      Temptation by the snake (3:1-7)

C2.      Consequences of the Fall (3:8-19)

C3.      Expulsion (3:20-24)

        Here is the end of the ideal world which God created. The paradise that was lost in Gen 3 will not be regained until Rev 21.



3:1       serpent: Something bad suddenly appeared in the whole scene that had been “good”.

the serpent was: Heb. hayah may be translated “had become” (similar to Gen 1:2 because of its abnormal word order).

o        The serpent was “made” by God. This dismisses any notion of a competing dualism which holds that the force of good and the force of evil both existed since the beginning.

o        In ancient world, the serpent was both an object of reverence and of contempt. It conveyed the ambivalent meanings of life/recurring youth as well as death/chaos, and also good wisdom as well as bad cunningness. The Bible shows the same ambiguity: one one hand, the rejuvenating effects of Moses’ bronze serpent (Nu 21:8), its respected shrewdness (Mt 10:16), and on the other hand, its venomous death (Ps 58:4), its role as divine opponent (Isa 27:1).

crafty: the Hebrew word (arum) is close the word “naked” (arom, Gen 2:25) and the word “cursed” (arur, Gen 3:14). The use of these words may be a deliberate way by the author to link them together.

o        “Crafty” may not be a negative characteristic. It can mean prudent (Pr 13:16), meaning acting out of knowledge to avoid foolish action. Here, however, it has a negative meaning of scheming (Ex 21:14) or cunning (Job 15:5).

he said: Wouldn’t Eve be surprised or even scared when the serpent used human speech? The Hebrew word for “said” (amar) can cover communications from vocal speech to private thoughts of the heart (e.g. “plan” in 2Ch 13:8; “search your hearts” in Ps 4:4). That is why some people speculate that it was non-vocal psychic speech, or perhaps the serpent demonstrated the apparent harmlessness of the fruit by eating it. Though such explanation is possible, this is insufficient to explain the detailed speech in the temptation. The solution is probably Satan appearing as a serpent and Eve was ignorant of the supernatural presence because everything was new to her.

Did God actually say?: The serpent compelled an answer by asking a question (interrogation), faking an expression of surprise that God would prohibit them from eating any fruits (misrepresentation). Satan did not controvert outright the saying of God (Gen 2:16); rather he questioned God’s motivation with the subtle addition “actually say.”

o        The absence of the name Yahweh in this passage (v.1-5) shows that the relationship with God as Covenant Lord was under attack.

‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’: God permits eating fruits from every tree with one exception, yet the serpent turned it to total prohibition. The “you” in v.1-5 is in plural form.

o        The incorrect quote turned something from God that was good into something bad. Note that the change was so small that might trap the unsuspecting. This is a common tactic of the devil: using half truths to trap unsuspecting Christians, e.g. turning from human freedom into justifying abortion. This has been the same story in almost every ethical issue.

o        Here, Satan reworked the wording of God’s command slightly by: [a] adding the negative “not” at the head of the clause, which together with “any” expresses an absolute prohibition; [b] omitting the emphatic “freely”; [c] placing the clause “from any tree” at the end of the sentence, thereby robbing God’s command of its nuance of liberality.

o        The attack of Satan included 3 parts: [a] questioning whether God’s command was reasonable or not (v.1), [b] denying the danger of disobedience (v.4), [c] suggesting the benefits of disobedience (v.5).

o        Some translate the verse as the beginning of a false statement which is immediately cut in midsentence by Eve’s objection (in v.2) that the ban is not on all the trees: “And he said to the woman, ‘Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden—’”

3:2       “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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen 3:2-3, ESV)

o        NIV: “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.’” (NIV)

o        COMPARED TO WHAT GOD SAID: ESV: “You may surely 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 surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17, ESV)

o        NIV: God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17, NIV)

o        Eve appeared to have changed what God commanded; some commentators attribute this to Eve’s mistake of not remembering the exact command. If this is true, then it was the weakness of Eve that led to her fall to temptation. The differences include: [a] Eve’s “of the fruit of the trees” to God’s more generous “of every tree”; [b] Eve’s “neither shall you touch it” was not from God; [c] Eve’s “tree that is in the midst of the garden” (could refer to one of two trees) to God’s “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” [d] Eve’s “lest you die” to God’s more definite “you shall surely die”.

o        On the other hand, these accusations against Eve may not be justified because: [a] Eve got the command indirectly from Adam and Adam might be the one who altered the words. [b] When Adam retold the command, he might not use the exact words, just like when we retold the Ten Commandments. (e.g. Would “Honour your parents” be incorrect when the original 5th commandment was “Honour your father and your mother”? On the other hand, the common alteration from the original 9th commandment “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour” to “You shall not lie” is a significant deviation.)  [c] If God had repeated His command directly to Eve (no evidence of this in the Bible, although this is not impossible), He might have included the “not touching” part to prevent them from temptation. [d] The fear of “touching” the fruit might have been out of Eve’s reverence for God’s command.

3:3       neither shall you touch it: Some observed that Eve enlarged the divine prohibition by adding a ban on touching to the one on eating. This perhaps encouraged her to violate God’s command because: having touched the fruit, and seeing no ill effect, she proceeded to eat. This, however, is speculation and as seen from above, it is perhaps false accusation.

o        What Eve retold (to the serpent) was sufficient as a commandment. The original commandment was directed to Adam alone so that the singular “you” was used. Eve understood that the commandment was for both of them so that she correctly used the plural “you”.

3:4       “You will not surely die”: Satan completely negate God’s command. The negative word “not” at the head of the clause contradicted the woman’s preceding claim.

The plural “you” in v.1-5 as well as the phrase “her husband, who was with her” (v.6) indicate that Adam was at the scene (or close by) when the temptation took place. He did not intervene probably because he agreed with Eve. Therefore, Adam had to bear the full responsibility for the Fall.

o        In naming the animals, Adam was aware of their characteristics, including the shrewdness of the serpent which Eve might not be aware of. Adam, therefore, had no excuse because he was not misled (1Ti 2:14).

3:5       For God knows: direct attack on God, accusing God as being selfish and deceptive, because He had knowledge but not allowing man to have knowledge.

Satan suggested 3 benefits for man’s disobedience:

o        [a] eyes will be opened: seeing something not seen before; visual pleasure.

o        [b] you will be like God: the main temptation: to become our own god. This is the main cause of the Fall of Adam and Eve, as well as Satan. We need to beware of this deadly pride.

o        [c] knowing good and evil: morally autonomous; no need of being told by God what is good and what is bad, being able then to make own judgment. Some use 1Sa 14:17,20 to explain that “knowing good and evil” is the same as to be like God; it means to know everything.

These are precisely the problem of the presentday secular worldview. [a] They want to view the world in their own way; [b] they put themselves in the position of God; [c] they make judgment on what is right and what is wrong, not according to the standard of God, but according to themselves, the new “gods”. [d] Furthermore, what they try to achieve what they wish for immediately (KJV: “in the day”, literal translation: “in the time” of disobedience). It is a temptation for instant gratification of man’s desires.

Satan’s words were later shown to be both true and false—half truths. He spoke only about what they would gain, but avoided mentioning what they would lose in the process.

o        [a] The man and woman did not immediately die physically, BUT their expulsion from the garden meant a symbolic “death” for the excommunicated (see 1Sa 15:35—16:1).

o        [b] Their eyes were indeed opened, BUT they were rewarded only with seeing their nakedness.

o        [c] They became like God in gaining moral independence, BUT they achieved isolation and fear.

o        [d] They obtained knowledge of good and evil, BUT they were burdened with guilt and embarassment. They obtained knowledge in exchange for death.

3:6       good for food: satisfying the appetite. In many cases in the Bible, errors were made because of food and appetite, e.g. Esau sacrificing his position for food, Israelites blaming God for lack of food in the wilderness, Corinthians committing sin in the manner and in the location of eating.

o        “Good” (Heb tob) can mean beautiful, preferable, beneficial, righteous. In this case, what was beautiful and preferable in human eyes proved to be not beneficial and not righteous in God’s eyes.

o        The desires—appetite, appreciation of beauty and gaining of wisdom—are probably all legitimate and can be satisfied in a God-ordained manner (in this case all the fruits, beautiful garden and a whole world to explore and master).  Problems occur when we disregard and ignore God’s Words. (Holman)

delight (Heb. ta’awah) to the eyes: satisfying the visual sensation (1Jn 2:16). “Pleasing” can be translated as covetous (Ex 20:17). The Hebrew word means something that is intensely desired, appetite, and sometimes specifically lust. Therefore, it can be translated “lust to the eyes.”

to be desired (Heb. nehmad): linking to the intense desire above.

to make one wise (NIV: for gaining wisdom): It is tragic that the pursuit of wisdom is an unwise decision in this case.

3:7       eyes were opened: They had knowledge but not the kind of knowledge that they expected.

knew: realized. The word echoes the tree of knowledge.

naked: new knowledge of old reality. It is also possible that the old reality (their bodies) had actually changed. Often, the guilty conscience warns us that something is wrong.

3:8       walking in the garden: anthropomorphic description of the approach of God. Since God is a spirit, it was the voice that was moving, not any physical form. The word has an underlying meaning of being habitual, indicating that God came to speak to Adam and Eve frequently, perhaps everyday.

cool of the day: literally, “to the wind of the day”; afternoon or twilight, when the cool wind blows.

3:9       Where are you?: God of course knew where they were. This is simply an expression of God’s concern for them. God knew what happened but He only asked a question, not a charge or a denunciation. Perhaps He permitted the guilty to admit the sin and to repent.

o        “You” is singular, focusing on the individual liability of Adam.

3:10     afraid: the natural consequence of sin because of inner guilt. Sinful man is afraid of God because He is holy and just, and because they will face judgment and punishment.

because I was naked: The real reason for hiding is fear. Notice that they had already covered themselves with fig leaves and were no longer naked.

3:11     Who told you?: God’s questions did not indicate His lack of knowledge but were simply ways to appeal to Adam’s conscience and to help him to repent. The 2 questions are rhetorical, not expecting any answers. With His questions, God let Adam know that He knew someone else other than Adam was involved, and that Adam had eaten the forbidden fruit.

commanded: God reminded Adam of the seriousness of His command.

3:12     the woman whom you gave to be with me: Adam did not immediately admit his disobedience. Instead, he blamed Eve and then blamed God who created Eve for him.

o        Adam tried to project himself as the victim, not the offender. The two “gave” words charged that God “gave” the woman to him and in turn she “gave” him the fruit. He refused to be responsible. But sin was the deliberate choice of Adam and each person is responsible for his own sin (Jas 1:13).

o        Today, those who deny personal responsibility also portrait themselves as victims. Those who commit crimes blame the cause on their upbringing or on the evil society. Unfortunate, the society follows this trend toward irresponsibility by portraiting criminals as victims.

o        Adam blamed the Judge and implied that if God had not send Eve, he would not have disobeyed. He charged that God’s good gift was malicious.

o        Someone whom he regarded as good now became bad. Sin has the effect of turning everything good into bad. Sin has also the effect of alienating human beings from each other.

3:13     What is this that you have done?: God turned to Eve and again used a question to appeal to Eve’s conscience (not to get the facts which God already knew). It could mean: “Will you admit your fault?” Eve’s response was similar to Adam. She did not admit her disobedience but instead blamed the serpent. At least she did not blame God for creating the serpent.

3:14     cursed (Heb. arur): The word (similar sound to “crafty”, Heb. arum) is a decree or pronouncement against someone by legitimate authority. Only God can actually impose this decree. Even if spoken by a man, the power carrying out the malediction can come only from God.

o        This type of curse is different from imprecation (Heb. ala) which invokes misery against a person or thing.

Sin leads to curse; curse is the opposite of blessing (Gen 1:22,28; 2:3); sin changes blessing into curse. In OT, the emphasis of curse is on the exclusion of the cursed party from the covenant (separate from God). The serpent was not allowed a defence because God knew what happened and Satan was already excluded from God’s grace.

There is a correspondence between the serpent’s crime and the nature of the judgment. God does not render judgment arbitrarily.

o        Note that only the serpent and the ground were cursed, not Adam and Eve.

above all livestock and all beasts of the field: It may imply that all animals were cursed while the serpent was cursed the most. The sentence can also be translated: “You cannot stay with the livestock and wild animals,” meaning that the serpent would be isolated from the rest of animals.

on your belly: This punishment led some Jewish interpreters to think that before the curse, the serpent originally might have legs like other animals.

eat dust: highest form of humiliation, usually after being defeated in battles (Ps 72:9; Isa 49:23). The humiliation is echoed in the fall of Satan (Isa 14:12,15; Eze 28:16-17).

The serpent’s punishment included: [a] consignment to crawling on its belly in a life of humiliation and subjugation; [b] eating of dust all its life; [c] its ultimate destruction by the wounded “seed” of the woman.

3:15     enmity: permanent enmity. It describes a life-and-death struggle between combatants.

you, your offspring, her offspring (literal: seed): all singular, although it may refer to an individual or to a group. The word “seed” occurs 59 times in Genesis; the majority of them are used in the genealogical lineage of the chosen family.

bruise: (2 times) The Hebrew uses what appear to be homonyms, the first verb meaning “to trample,” the second, identical in form, probably referring to the hissing sound of the snake just before it bites.

o        The strike at the human heel is appropriate for a serpent since it slithers along the ground. The bruise that it causes will be much less serious than the bruise of being struck at its head.

3:16     pain (Heb. itsavon) in childbearing: birth pangs, the physical and emotional pain during the 9-month pregnancy of a woman.

desire for husband: 3 possible interpretations:

o        [a] “Desire” can have the meaning of “rule over”; “for husband” could be translated as “against husband”. Then the two sentences may mean that there will be a mutual struggle for power. She would attempt to control her husband, but she would fail because God has ordained that the man exercises his leadership role in the family.

o        [b] The more likely explanation is that women’s desire for love and sex, and the wish for childbirth will be controlled by the husband (see SS 8:6).

o        [c] Some view the desire as the emotional and economic reliance on her husband. In other words, she acted independently of her husband in eating the fruit, and the result was that she would be dependent on and submissive to him.

and he shall rule over you: The word “rule” (Heb. masal) means governance (Gen 1:16,18) or exercise of jurisdiction (Gen 24:2; 37:8; 45:8,26). However, it is different from the way man subdues or dominates (Heb. rada) the lower orders of creation.

o        Some believe the word “and” is better understood as “but”, thus referring to the struggle between the sexes.

o        Some believe that this is a simply restatement of the order of creation.

The woman’s punishment impacted her 2 primary roles: [a] childbearing: need to endure painful and hard labour, similar to the painful toil that Adam needed to endure (v.17); [b] relationship with her husband: a tainted relationship with struggles.

3:17     God’s judgment on Adam was the longest one because Adam was the one who received His command directly.

cursed is the ground: can mean “from your perspective, the ground is cursed” because thorns and thistles will make Adam’s farming work harder.

in pain: (Heb. itsavon; NIV: painful toil): same word as Eve’s “pain”, needed to work harder to get food.

all the days of your life: same as what the serpent got; the same phrase is not in Eve’s judgment; perhaps Adam and the serpent were judged as more sinful than Eve.

3:18     thorns and thistles: symbolizing human failure and divine judgment (Pr 24:31; Isa 34:13). The ground that was his source of joy and life (Gen 2:15) became the source of pain. However, God’s grace assured that the man would still derive sustenance from the ground for survival.

3:19     by the sweat of your face: The result of judgment is not the addition of work but the increase in difficulty of work. Work itself is not a curse.

to dust you shall return: final words of God’s judgment, fulfilling His command that disobedience means death—man (adam) would become once again “ground” (adama).

The man’s punishment included: [a] lifelong, toilsome labour, and [b] death. The man bore the greater blame for his conduct and therefore was the direct recipient of God’s death sentence. God did not immediately take Adam’s life but banned him from the rejuvenating power of the tree of life.

3:20     Eve: Hebrew word (hawah) is phonetically similar to the root for “life” (Heb. hayah). The English word “Eve” follows the Greek translation Zoe which means life. Previously Adam called Eve “woman” which emphasizes Eve’s origin and her relationship to “the man”. Now, the word “woman” would be applied to all female persons and Eve was given a personal name. The new name emphasizes Eve’s destiny and her relationship to the whole human race. The name given by Adam perhaps reflected Adam’s faith in what God revealed: the prospect of having offspring.

mother of all living: the renewal of hope, a reminder of “life” immediately after the judgment of death.

3:21     made (Heb. asa): This word was used many times in creation. Now it is used to save Adam and Eve. It points to God as the Creator and the Saviour.

o        Creation and salvation are the two major themes in theology.

garments of skins: long clothes down to the knee or the foot, better protection than the coverings in v.7. The skins were from animals, thus involving death. Some take this as an allusion to animal sacrifice. Some take this as the sign of Christ’s salvation, pointing to the covering of human sinfulness through death.

clothed them: God made clothes before their expulsion. These clothes provided them with adequate protection to cover their embarassment and to preserve them in the new hostile environment. This shows God’s grace and mercy even in dispensing judgment.

3:22     like one of us: can refer to divine contemplation or the trinity of God. Some translate this verse as a lament: “Behold, what has become [by sin] of the man who was as one of us! Formed, at first, in our image to know good and evil—how sad his condition now.”

live forever: God did not want Adam and Eve to live forever because an eternal life in sin is a painful life. It was not one of fear of usurpation but rather of sympathy for the misery man must endure. It was an assurance that their pitiful state was not consigned for eternity.

Question: Can the fruit from the tree of life give eternal life?


o        [a] No, it would not have given them eternal life but only a delusion that they could live forever. Further, Adam and Eve might have already eaten from the tree of life before the Fall. Jamieson: “This tree being a pledge of that immortal life with which obedience should be rewarded, man lost, on his fall, all claim to this tree; and therefore, that he might not eat of it or delude himself with the idea that eating of it would restore what he had forfeited, the Lord sent him forth from the garden.” That is, the tree is only a symbol of eternal life.

o        [b] Yes, it has a rejuventing power and man could live forever if they have persistent or continuous access to the tree of life. But God would not want them to live a miserable life forever. At the end of the world, in the eternal city of God, the tree of life will perpetually produce fruit to those who believe (Rev 22:2,14,19).

3:23     sent them out: God ordered them to leave Eden.

to work the ground from which he was taken: It was a reminder about the origin of man from dust, and the ground to which he would go after death. In Eden, Adam was the cultivator of a specially prepared garden, now he must develop his own garden by working the ground which was under God’s curse.

3:24     drove out: Apparently, they were unwilling to leave and were therefore driven out. The expulsion was decisive and definitive.

east of the garden: The entrances to the tabernacle and to the temple were also facing east. Eden symbolized the place where God meets man, just like the places of worship.

placed the cherubim: Cherubim were winged angels who served personally to God the Father. Their presence indicated God’s presence; they covered the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:17-22); they were also present in the temple (Eze 41:18).



        God always fulfils His promises, both positive and negative.

        God gave a choice to man to decide whether they love Him or not. Today, God may give us an opportunity in real life situations to test our love for Him.

        Sin (e.g. the Fall) usually passes through a process: [a] questioning God’s word, [b] questioning God’s intention, [c] temptation by half truths, [d] temptation by material or emotional gains, [e] temptation to gain power and to gain autonomy from God.

        Satan made Eve forget all that God had given her and, instead, focus on the one thing she couldn’t have. In the same way, we fall into trouble when we dwell on the few things we don’t have rather than on the countless things God has given us. The next time when you feel sorry for yourself about what you don’t have, consider all you do have and thank God.