{10}   STUDY: Forbidden Fruit


        The Fall of man is sometimes traced to the creation of the forbidden fruit. Why did God create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Why did God prohibit man to gain knowledge? How did evil come into the world? These are some of the questions related to the Fall of man.



Why did God create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

[1] The tree is a test of obedience—The tree represents the absolute moral standard that is prescribed by God—morality based on divine command. To obey the command is to express the love for God.

o        There are at least 9 theories on how to define moral standard and why man needs to act morally. However, the only completely consistent theory is the Ethics of Divine Command, that is, moral standard is based on what God prescribes for man. Of course, different religions claim different divine commands but that is a question in a different subject, apologetics.

[2] Love is always a choice—God wants (not needs) love from man. Love must necessarily involve a choice. A love that is under coercion or compulsion is not true love. (Such is the case if God created robot-like humans who could only answer yes to God’s command.) That is why God gave man a choice to choose.

[3] God’s plan is for a perfect world—God could have kept Satan away from Eden and away from Earth. But God planned some eventual paradise far better, a new creation with its total absence from even the threat of evil.


Why did God not allow man to know good and evil?

The answer depends on the meaning of “knowledge of good and evil” which may mean:

[1] acquired sexual awareness and the ability to procreate

o        Support: One of the results of eating the fruit was the recognition of their nakedness (Gen 3:7). Also, to “know” in the OT can refer to having sexual relationship (Gen 4:1). Creation is the power of God; and human procreation is man’s imitation of God’s immortality.

o        Objection: But why would the ability to procreate lead to death? God commanded man to procreate (Gen 1:28). “Knowledge of good and evil” is never linked to sex in OT. The awareness of nakedness was connected with disobedience that brought about guilt.

[2] increased advanced knowledge in everything

o        Support: Dt 1:39 shows how children are dependent upon their parents for the knowledge of “good and evil” while they remain under parental responsibility. Eating the fruit was like a transition from adolescence to adulthood.

o        Objection: The Fall represented a drastic change, not just a transition which would have eventually arrived.

[3] increased human capacity of moral discrimination

o        Support: Similar passages in Dt 1:39 and Isa 7:15-16 describe a child lacking in moral judgment. This may explain why they realize their nakedness.

o        Objection: The knowledge gained was something that was beyond the normal human experience of Adam and Eve. They should already have some power of moral discrimination before the Fall.

[4] acquired divine wisdom in terms of becoming morally autonomous (moral autonomy), and possessing self-determination

o        This is the best explanation. Adam and Eve wanted to be morally independent.

o        Wisdom is possessed by God (Pr 2:6). Man can obtain wisdom, but only through the “fear of the Lord” (Pr 1:7). To obtain this knowledge independent of God was to act with moral autonomy.

o        The eating of the forbidden fruit was an outward act of disobedience but was also an expression of an inward attitude of wanting to be morally autonomous, that is, making own decision and own standard on right and wrong.

o        Their sin was pride, wanting to be like God and to have God’s authority (just as what Satan did).


When and how was the fall of the devil?

Evil came into the world because of the fall of Satan, the devil. The devil is a spiritual being, a real person, probably an angel, created by God (Col 1:16). Angels were likely created on or before the first day of creation because they were described as witnesses to the foundation of the Earth (Job 38:4-7). In Gen 3, the serpent tempting Eve was (or represented) the devil. So the fall of the devil happened between these 2 events (Gen 1:1 creation and 3:1 temptation).

The Bible does not contain any clear information on how the fall of the devil occurred. However, most Biblical scholars (though not all) have pointed to 2 passages in the OT that likely describe this important event. While the 2 passages appear on the surface to be God’s judgment on 2 historical pagan kings, the details describe events that were much more significant in scope.

[1] Isa 14:12-17 appears to be God’s judgment on the king of Babylon. The details and how they relate to the devil include:

[a] fallen from heaven (v.12): God cast the devil out from a privileged position.

[b] Day Star, son of Dawn (v.12): “Day Star” (Heb helel, KJV Lucifer, NIV morning star), referring in classical times to the planet Venus appearing at dawn. The name Lucifer comes from Vulgate (Latin lux ferre, meaning light-bearer). The 2 names probably refer to the devil’s original state, as a shining one.

[c] You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God’ (v.13): The stars refer to the angels. Probably, all angels took orders from him as the chief administrator under God. The devil now desired to be an independent ruler and to receive the recognition belonged to God.

[d] ‘I will set my throne on high’ (v.13): The devil desired to occupy the abode of God, probably desiring equal recognition with God.

[e] ‘I will sit on the mount of assembly’ (v.13): Mount refers to a place of rule. In Isa 2:2; 4:5 and Ps 48:4, the mount of assembly is the centre of God’s kingdom rule. It seems to associate with Messiah’s earthly rule from Jerusalem. Satan was seeking to rule over all human affairs, usurping the place of the Messiah.

[f] ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds’ (v.14): Clouds associate with the glory of God. Satan desired a glory equal to or above God’s glory.

[g] ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’ (v.14): This is the climax of all self-assertion and defiance of God. Satan wants to be like God. He wants to possess God’s power and authority.

[h] who made the world like a desert: The devil caused the destruction of the world.

[2] Eze 28:12-19 appears to be God’s judgment of the king of Tyre. The details and how they relate to the devil include:

[a] you were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (v.12): The devil was created the greatest of all creatures.

[b] you were in Eden, the garden of God (v.13): The devil was present in Eden. Some believe that Eden refers to the heavenly garden of God before the devil’s fall.

[c] every precious stone was your covering (v.13): The devil was bright and glorious.

[d] you were an anointed guardian cherub (v.14): The devil belonged to the cherub class of angelic being. These are probably of the highest order. Among them, he was the anointed one, a privilege given to a God-appointed leader.

[e] you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked (v.14): The devil was in the very presence of God.

[f] you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you (v.15): The devil was created by God to be good but he was corrupted by his own pride.

[g] in the abundance of your trade (v.16) AND the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade (v.18): These phrases may refer the devils’s solicitation of fellow angels to his evil cause which led to the rebellion of a large group of angels (Mt 25:41; Rev 12:9). As many as one-third of the angels might have followed Satan in his defection (Rev 12:4).

[h] you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned (v.16): The devil committed the sin of violence.

[i] I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you (v.16) AND I cast you to the ground (v.17): God cast the devil out of His presence.

[j] guardian cherub from the midst of the stones of fire (v.16): Guardian or covering cherub refer to the devil’s previous role as a guardian and proclaimer of God’s glorious presence and holiness.

[k] your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour (v.17): Reflecting upon his God-endowed beauty and glory, he became enthralled with himself and was lifted up with pride.

[l] I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you (v.18) AND you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever (v.19): The devil’s ultimate punishment is the eternal lake of fire (Mt 25:41, Rev 20:10).


[a] Nature of the devil. Before his fall, Satan seemed to possess the greatest privileges ever given to a creature. Satan belonged to the cherub class of angelic being.

[b] Position. Among the cherubim (plural of “cherub”), Satan was the anointed one, a privilege given to a God-appointed leader.

[c] Habitation. Satan was in the very presence of God as he was twice called a guardian cherub. Even after his fall, he could still appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1).

[d] Perversion. Satan’s sin is arrogance, self-occupation, and violence. He wants to have the same glory, power, and position of God. He perverted other angels from God’s way. In Eden, Satan corrupted man, leading them away from God’s way.

[e] Punishment. Because of Satan’s sin, God cast him from his privileged position. His ultimate punishment will be the lake of fire for eternity. Though he was cast from his exalted position, Satan yet retains some of his great dignity. Even the archangel Michael “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment” (Jude 1:9).


Was the serpent in Gen 3 Satan in disguise?

Gen 3 does not explicitly say that the serpent was Satan. It is described as one of the animals that God created. It was just more cunning than others.

However, there are clear indications that the serpent is either: [1] Satan, or [2] Satan in disguise of a serpent, or [3] a serpent being controlled by Satan and served as Satan’s tool. The reasons are:

o        [a] The serpent could speak. His voice surely came from a supernatural source. However, ancient Jewish legend believed that all animals in Eden could speak.

o        [b] The serpent tempted Eve to disobey God. His communication reflected the mind of Satan.

o        [c] The serpent was later cursed by God as if Satan was cursed (that the serpent’s head will be crushed by the child of the woman and that the serpent will strike the child’s heel, Gen 3:14-15).

o        [d] Satan was described as the “ancient serpent” that leads the world astray (Rev 12:9; 20:2).

o        [e] Other NT verses relate the serpent with Satan (Lk 10:19; Ro 16:20; 2Co 11:3).


Why did Adam and Eve not die as God had warned them?

God said in Gen 2:17: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Yet Adam lived another 930 years. There are different explanations to why Adam and Eve did not die immediately.

[1] 1000 years: In God’s eyes, one day equals to 1000 years (Ps 90:4, 2Pe 3:8). Adam lived only 930 years which is less than one day in God’s standard.

[2] Sovereign God: God did not follow through in order to indicate that He is completely sovereign.

[3] Waiting for repentance: The phrase “die, you will die” appears 14 times in OT. The passages in Eze 3:18; 33:8,14 all indicate that death will be averted if the person repents. God gave them the chance to repent.

[4] Hebrew “day”: The Hebrew “day” does not mean that same day but simply a time period.

[5] God’s mercy: God did not kill them immediately because of his love and mercy. God gave them time to complete His plan of salvation—by giving birth to Seth.

[6] Process: Death is a process that begins with the weakening of the body and leads eventually to death. That day was the first day of this process.

[7] Certainty: The emphasis is on the certainty of death, not the timing of death.

[8] Fruit of life: “Shall surely die” means “will be expelled from Eden and lose the privilege of eating the fruit of life.” This will ultimately lead to death.

[9] Separation from God: Death means the loss of life. The separation from God is the loss of life. For example, Hosea declared that “But he (Ephraim) became guilty of Baal worship and died.” (Hos 13:1) The tribe of Ephraim did not die but was separated from God.

[10] Spiritual death: Adam and Eve experienced physical death later but on the day that they disobeyed God, they experienced immediate spiritual death by: [a] losing the open, free, and trusting relationship with God, and [b] more importantly, losing their eternal life and would eventually experience physical death.

o        For those who believe the tripartite composition of man (3 parts: body, soul, spirit), the spirit of Adam and Eve died on the day of the Fall. [Spirit is the part that communicates with God.]

The 1st explanation is the least supportable and the 10 explanations follow a progression until the 10th explanation which is the best one.


What is meant by the struggle between the “offspring of the woman” and “offspring of the serpent” (Gen 3:15)?

“Offspring” (literal: seed, Heb. zera), though singular, can refer to a single individual or can be a collective noun applied to the whole group. There is a mixture of opinions among Bible commentators. Most interpret “offspring of the serpent” to mean the devil Satan.

[1] If the term “offspring of the woman” refers to humanity as a whole (such as Church Father Chrysostom), then the struggle is between Satan and humanity and eventually man will win over Satan.

[2] The term was used for an individual in LXX, thus referring Gen 3:15 as the prophecy of a Messiah. This interpretation is called the “protevangelium” since it is used as the prototype for the Christian gospel and its first announcement in the Bible. Note that such an interpretation is never clearly used in the Bible.

Church Fathers Justine and Irenaeus interpreted the woman of Gen 3:15 as the virgin Mary so that the “offspring” would then be Jesus Christ. This is apparently supported by other Bible verses. Gal 3:16 refers to Christ as Abraham’s “seed”. Gal 4:4 speaks of Christ as “born of a woman.” Rev 12:9 speaks of the ancient serpent plotting the destruction of the Messiah, the child of the woman. The prophecy in Gen 3:15 will then refer to Christ who will eventually win over Satan (see also Ro 16:20; Heb 2:14).

The reasons for such interpretation include: [a] The offspring was referred to as of the woman. Jesus Christ was born of a woman (virgin Mary), not involving a man. [b] The offspring’s crushing the head of the serpent is a sign of the salvation of Jesus which deals a death blow to Satan. [c] The serpent striking the heel of the offspring points to the piercing of Christ’s feet in crucifixion or to the insignificance of the serpent’s strike (only the unimportant heel was struck) because Christ eventually resurrected. Some believe that bruising his heel refers to Satan’s repeated attempts to defeat Christ during His life on Earth.

[3] Other interpetations: Luther interpreted the seed to mean both humanity in general and Christ in particular. Calvin applied the “seed of the woman” to mean the church under the headship of Christ.


What was the immediate impact of the Fall on man?

The disobedience of man impacted 3 areas of human relationship. Before the Fall (in Eden), these relationships were intact and harmonious. After the Fall (outside Eden), all these relationships were broken.

[1] The relationship of man to God:

In Eden: The man and the woman enjoyed the presence of God without shame, as evidenced by their nakedness (Gen 2:25).

Outside Eden: The couple hid from God and no longer enjoyed the presence of God. Their first child Cain bore the divine curse after the murder.

[2] The relationship of man to the environment:

In Eden: Human life derived sustenance from the garden and exercised dominion over Earth. There was no threat and discord between man and nature.

Outside Eden: The threatening environment forced man into the toilsome work.

[3] The interpersonal relationships within the human family:

In Eden: The human couple recognized their distinctive identity and enjoyed a nourishing harmony. There was no competition or confusion between man and woman.

Outside Eden: The solace of companionship turned into competition and confusion. Human struggle for preeminence resulted in fratricide by Cain.


Did pain and death occur before the Fall? What is the curse of the ground?

Most Christians believe that pain, decay, and death occurred only after the Fall. However, others (including some famous theologians) believe that these 3 conditions could have existed before the Fall. Schaeffer believes that orthodox Christians can have different opinions on whether animals (not man) died before the Fall.

[1] Pain: The Bible did not say the Fall caused the experience of pain. Pain has a function in alerting man to avoid danger and also to take care of injuries. (People infected with leprosy cannot feel pain and are in danger of sustaining serious injuries.) Before the Fall, Adam could have possessed the sensation of pain (perhaps less than our pain today) when he touched some thorns. [In God’s judgment of Adam in Gen 3:18, the inclusion of the thorns may signify that Adam knew that thorns were bad.] The Bible says that Eve’s pain in childbearing would be multiplied or greatly increased, indicating pain was perhaps a part of human experience. Even before the Fall, Adam had to work. After the Fall, his work became much harder and less efficient than it was before, causing him pain.

[2] Decay: Disorder (termed “entropy” in the second law of thermodynamics) is a natural tendency of things in the world. The simple example is the dropping of salt into water. The salt sinks to the bottom. Water and salt are separate and are clearly distinguishable and are in order. Yet, after the salt is dissolved in the water, the salt molecules spread to all parts of the water and the two are not indistinguishable and are in disorder. Since the Fall did not change physical laws which have been in effect since creation, the natural tendency to disorder has always been the rule. The tendency to disorder leads to decay. That is why some Christians believe that decay possibly existed before the Fall. The difficulty of this possition is that decay leads to death and most Christians believe that death did not exist before the Fall.

[3] Death of animals: Most Christians believe that there was no death before the Fall. Therefore, carnivorous activity by various animal species (those with cruel, bloodthirsty, wasteful characteristics) happened only after the Fall. On the other hand, in Gen 1:24-25, there were 2 different kinds of long-legged land mammals: [a] those that are easily domesticated and [b] those that are wild. The first group is herbivorous and the second, carnivorous. It is possible that their carnivorous activities occurred before the Fall. Futher, the carnivorous animals were probably created for a beneficial purpose. They go after the weakest, sickest, and most genetically damaged individuals, and effectively but indirectly enhancing the quality of species of their prey. This position, however, is a minority position. It should be noted that in Isa 65:25, probably describing the Millennium, carnivores will no longer eat herbivores.

[4] Death of man: Ro 5:12 describes that death came to man because of sin (also 1Co 15:21). [Note that the passage teaches about the cause of death of man, not death of animals.] Before the Fall, Adam had no sin and therefore should not have died. Death of man certainly came after the Fall.

o        However, Calvin noted that Adam’s “earthly life truly would have been temporal; yet he would have passed into heaven without death,” thereby receiving eternal life.

[5] Curse of the ground: When God cursed the ground in Gen 3:17-18, only 2 changes are mentioned: [a] Adam’s work would be more difficult, and [b] thorns and thistles would grow to give Adam more problems. Minimally, these changes represent a corruption of the environment so that farming is no longer as easy as before. These environmental changes could include violent and unpredictable weather (hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, drought, rainstorms leading to floods, etc.), diseases, and insects (locusts, etc.). It is also probable that violent geological processes started to occur after the Fall, including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthflows, landslides, avalanches, etc.



        How could we resist temptations? We must realize that being tempted is not a sin. We have not sinned until we give in to the temptation. To resist temptation, we must: [a] pray for strength to resist, [b] run away, sometimes literally (2Ti 2:22), [c] say no, that is, resisting to commit the sin. Blessings and rewards wait for those who overcome temptations: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (Jas 1:12)

        The forbidden fruit represents human effort to be morally independent from God. When God’s commandments are ignored such as in the secular world today, all moral rules can only be relative, leading to moral relativism and subsequent moral corruption.

        Sin affects more than just the sinner. Adam’s Fall led to cursing of the ground. Widespread sin led to the Flood which killed all human beings (except 8 persons), birds, and animals, and destroyed the environment. Our sin can lead to downfall of our children or breaking up of our families.