GENESIS - CHAPTER 3
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
3:1. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
The fallen spiritual prince of this world, either embodied as a serpent, or using the serpent to do his work, appeared in the domain which his rebellion had ruined, but which had been restored and placed under the dominion of a human head, Adam. There is no evidence of repentance. This evil fallen spirit, having failed in the attempt to usurp God’s place, continued in rebellion, determined by every means in his power to frustrate the divine purposes.
It is significant that he approached the woman and not the man. In 1 Tim 2:14 it is written, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” The implication seems to be that any attempted seduction of Adam would have been impossible. “He was not deceived....” is the clear declaration of Scripture. It seems that it was neither belief of Satan’s lie nor any desire to disobey God, but his deep love for Eve, that led Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. A love that couldn’t save her from the terrible consequences of her folly would share her fate. Since he couldn’t die for her, he would die with her, willingly making her transgression his, though it would cost him his life.
Surely it isn’t difficult to discern in this a picture of the love of Christ, the last Adam, for His bride the Church, “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph 5:25). But what the first Adam couldn’t do, the last Adam could. Christ took our guilt upon Himself, making Himself fully accountable for all our transgressions, and having done so, died, not with us, but for us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5). “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Ro 4:25).
The love of the last Adam went far beyond that of the first, for Christ’s love for the Church was equalled by His love for the Father, and impelled Him to a perfect obedience which made it possible for God, not only to resurrect His Son, but to resurrect from spiritual death every man who would trust that Son as his Savior.
The subtle cunning of the tempter was employed to lead his victim away from the contemplation of the many fruits permitted, to occupation with the one prohibited. Having succeeded in focusing her attention on the one limitation, rather than on her many liberties, he reaped the reward of his evil work.
3:2. “And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:”
3:3. “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.”
Admittedly it isn’t recorded that they had been forbidden to touch the tree, and much has been made of the phrase “neither shall ye touch it,” the accusation against Eve being that she was guilty of adding to the word of God. Be that as it may, it isn’t clear what special significance is to be attached to the phrase, “neither shall ye touch it.”
3:4. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:”
This bold contradiction of God’s word may well have been what led the Lord to declare of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (Jn 8:44).
3:5. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
The tempter, having declared God to be a liar, and obviously anticipating Eve’s question, Why would God lie? proceeded to supply a plausible answer, and thus reinforcing the planted doubt with his own fabricated reason, succeeded in luring the woman into the fatal disobedience that brought death upon the human race.
As happens often, a half truth can be more deadly that an outright lie. They might become “as gods, knowing good and evil,” but what he failed to declare was, that coming into that knowledge by rebellion against God, they would make themselves subject to death, and become the abject slaves of evil, being without power to resist it, their bondage being to himself, the prince of evil.
3:6. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
We have already considered man as a reflection of the divine image in that he is a creature of intelligence, emotion, and will; and in our study of chapter 2:9 we indicated a special significance attaching to the threefold description of this forbidden tree. That significance has to do with Satan’s temptation of Eve, for a careful consideration of it reveals that it was directed to the three areas in which man had been created in the image of God.
Three things are recorded concerning Eve’s view of the tree. It was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and was desirable to make one wise. It isn’t difficult to see the correspondence of each characteristic of the tree to one of the areas in which man reflects the image of his Creator. The intellect is one of the areas in which man has been made in God’s image, and Satan’s inducing Eve to see it as a tree whose fruit would make one wise, is clearly the tempter’s seduction directed to man’s intellect.
The emotional part of man is another reflection of the divine image, and Satan’s appeal to man’s emotion is easily discerned in his focusing Eve’s attention on the tree’s beauty. Her occupation with that helped to distract her from the divine prohibition in regard to its fruit, and led to the tempter’s successful seduction of man in the realm of emotion.
The successful assault on man’s intellect and emotion left only the realm of the will to be invaded, and that was accomplished when the deceiver persuaded the woman to eat. Thus by an act of her own will she defied God’s will which had been expressed in the command, “Thou shalt not eat of it.”
Man, a creature of intelligence, emotion, and will, had stood in the image of God, whose own nature is comprehended in these same three attributes, but with that one act of disobedience the image was marred, and man had become a fallen, ruined creature.
But the God Who had restored the inanimate creation from the ruin brought upon it by the rebellion of its spiritual prince, would perform a greater miracle on behalf of fallen man. He too, would be restored, the price of his redemption being the blood of God’s own Son!
Part of that redemption process required that the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam, be subjected to the same test as that presented to the first Adam, but some of the circumstances were different. The scene of the last Adam’s temptation is recorded in Lk 4:1-13, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, it is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking Him up into a high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou wilt worship me all shall be Thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord they God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.”
The temptation of the first Adam came when he stood as the human head of creation, surrounded by all that the heart of man could desire. The temptation of the last Adam came when He stood as the despised son of a carpenter, surrounded by a barren desert whose wastes failed to furnish even a crust of bread for the forty days of His sojourn there. The temptation of the first Adam came when every circumstance combined to aid the tempted. That of the last Adam came when every circum- stance combined to aid the tempter. It was thus when failure of his scheme seemed impossible that Satan directed his temptation to the intellect, emotion, and will of the last Adam.
What could be more intelligent than for Him Who claimed to be the Son of God, and Who had been fasting for forty days, to turn a stone to bread? But the tempter failed. In the realm of the intellect Christ was inviolable.
The attack upon that part of the Lord’s nature which embraced all that is comprehended in emotion, came in the suggestion that He display His love for the Father in an act which would seem to be the epitome of trusting love, “cast thyself down,” but again the tempter failed.
There remained only one more temptation. If the citadel of the Lord’s will should prove unassailable, then Satan’s attempted seduction of the last Adam had failed. The chagrin begotten by two failures is easily imagined. With what delicate care he must have set about the final assault, but all the schemes of the fallen Lucifer were powerless against the One Whose whole delight was found in doing the Father’s will. He would accept the dominion of the world only in the Father’s time, and from the Father’s hand. In the realm of will, as in that of intellect and emotion, the Lord displayed a perfect integrity.
The testing of the first Adam in the realm of intelligence, emotion, and will, revealed his weakness, and made him subject to death. That of the last Adam manifested His inherent perfection, and declared Him to be, not only beyond the power of death, but to be its mighty Conqueror, He becoming that Conqueror by voluntarily submitting to death, and dying the death incurred by the disobedience of the first Adam, but then rising again from that dread realm for the justification of all who trust Him as Savior.
When that moment came, and God “made Him to be sin for us,” the fallen ruined creature for whom the sinless One was dying, advertised his own fallen state in the superscription he nailed above the cross on which he had crucified his Redeemer. That superscription was written in letters of Greek, Latin and Hebrew; but Greek is the language of the educated world, e.g., “The Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Co 1:22). It repres-ents man’s intellect. Latin was the language of Rome, to whose will the whole world was subject. It represents man’s will. Hebrew was the language of the religious world to whom the command had been given, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” It represents human emotion.
Thus man, fallen, corrupted, ruined in the three areas of his being which reflected the divine image - intellect, emotion, and will - used the three corresponding languages to express his defiance of the God Whose love for the fallen creature was so great that He gave His only begotten Son to make possible the redemption of the ruined rebel.
Relative to that redemption it is instructive to note what is written in Scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pr 9:10). The first step in man’s recovery is that fear which involves the intellect, and impels him to acknowledge himself a ruined, hell-bound sinner, and that leads him to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
The second step involves the will, for salvation must be received by an act of the man’s own volition, and one of the proofs of a genuine conversion is that attitude which says from an honest heart, as did the Lord Himself, “Not my will, but Thine, be done” (Lk 22:42).
The third and final step of that redemption involves the emotions, and is disclosed in what is true only of men and women who have been born again, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Thus by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, the believer, now a new creature in Christ, is enabled again to reflect intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally that he has been made in the image of God.
But conversion doesn’t simply restore the believer to the same state as was enjoyed by Adam before the fall. If that were all it did, then he could, and would also fall again, but it brings him into a state from which he can never fall.
3:7. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
She who had hoped to gain everything by this act of disobedience discovered, too late, that her seducer was “the devil ... a murderer from the beginning,” his false promise, instead of improving her state, had robbed her of life itself. And Adam, whose love for her was greater apparently than his love for God, discovered that that love had robbed him also of everything, including life.
All who believe the devil’s lie, will eventually make the same discovery, only a very few making that discovery in time to be saved. The vast majority make it when it is eternally too late. His promised pleasures are all too soon transposed to pain; his promised sweet proves finally to be bitter poison; his gold, tinsel; his freedom, bondage; the promised life, death. He is a happy man who makes that discovery in time, and avails himself of God’s remedy.
Who can begin to measure the bitter remorse of the man and woman as they stood there in Eden? What a loving God had withheld, the malignant prince of darkness had induced them to take, and possession had transmuted the prize to ashes. They had obtained the knowledge of good and evil, but at a terrible cost - their lives. They discovered that they had lost everything, and the new-found knowledge could do no more than show them their ruin. They had acquired the ability to know evil, but it was knowledge unaccompanied by the power to resist that evil. They had exchanged carefree innocence for the unbearable weight of a moral responsibility they were helpless to fulfill, and their nakedness was the outward evidence of their fallen state.
But they would cover themselves, and since that day man has busied himself with the same futile work of sewing fig leaves together. Fig leaves are the Biblical symbol of mere empty profession, as is clearly seen in connection with the episode recorded in Mk 11:13-21, “And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find anything (fruit) thereon: and when he came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.... And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”
Scripture uses three trees as symbols of Israel: the vine, the fig, and the olive. The vine portrays her as she was in the past, as a vine brought out of Egypt (Ps 80:8); the fig represents her in the present, withered and dead, because, like that literal fig tree cursed by the Lord, she had much profession (leaves), but no fruit of righteousness. But the fig tree will bud again, that budding signifying Israel’s coming to life again as the Church age ends, and Israel’s tribulation time approaches, in which she will be brought to repentance, and a new converted Israel, represented by the olive, will enjoy the Millennium. In regard to that coming when He will establish His millennial kingdom, the Lord Himself said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors (His coming to establish His millennial kingdom)” (Mt 24:32-33).
What began in Eden as the sewing together of fig leaves to cover the evidence of human guilt, had become in the time of Christ, the ornate ritual of Jewish religion, also designed to cover man’s guilt. But the one was as worthless as the other. One thing only can cover sin - the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is written, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9:22), “... the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
3:8. “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”
“Cool of the day” is literally “Wind of the day,” and signifies that it was God the Holy Spirit Who walked in the garden seeking His fallen creature. (Wind, singular, is used throughout Scripture to designate the Holy Spirit, e.g., Jn 3:8 “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Winds, plural, are the symbol of other spirits, holy or unholy, the context making it clear which is designated).
Effective as they may have been to cover nakedness in God’s absence, the worthlessness of those fig-leaf aprons quickly became apparent when God drew near. The righteousness that meets man’s standard doesn’t meet God’s. This is but the symbolic annunciation of the great truth that every attempt of man to cover his sin, except by faith in Christ’s blood, is futile. Man’s best attempt to clothe himself with righteousness is wasted labor, for of man’s best the pronouncement of God is that, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). The great lesson to be learnt is that “fig leaves,” i.e., church membership, prayer, Bible study, moral reformation, philanthropy, self-denial, and all else that man’s fallen imagination might invent, are alike worthless to fit men for God’s presence, to save them from hell and fit them for heaven. There is only one way to be saved from the ruin brought upon man by Adam’s disobedience: trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. To Nicodemus, to the Philippian jailer, to all men, God’s command is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Ac 16:31).
“Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord.” The fig leaves might cover nakedness from human eyes, but not from the penetrating gaze of God. Millions have made this same discovery, tragically, too late. The religion that seemed so adequate in the dim light of earth, is revealed for the worthless thing it is when exposed in the blinding glory of God’s presence.
3:9. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”
It is God Who seeks man, not man who seeks God, and since then God has never ceased to seek His fallen creature, having in view his restoration, not his condemnation, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17), “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10).
“Where art thou?” is not to be construed as acknowledgement of ignorance on God’s part in regard to either man’s position or condition. Both were not only known by God, but foreknown also from eternity. When God asks a question it is never to elicit information, but to produce confession. That question addressed to Adam was so that God might hear from the lips of the fallen rebel the confession both of his position (away from God), and his condition: guilty, ruined, lost, condemned. That confession is the prerequisite of salvation, and the “gospel: which doesn’t require it isn’t the Gospel at all.
3:10. “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Sin blights everything it touches. What had always been a welcome sound in the garden had now become a thing of dread and terror. Until that day when sin entered and Adam died (though death had not yet become a physical reality), he had needed no covering. But now, spiritually dead, and with that death already working in his body, he must be covered and put out of sight symbolically, for burying is simply the covering up of that which is dead. Man’s instinctive need to cover his body is but the symbolic confession of his dead state. And the fear that sin had introduced to Eden, causing Adam to try to hide from God, has continued to stalk man ever since. The voice of God that should be a delight to man’s ears, instills instead terror. The sound that should be synonymous with communion between Creator and creature has become instead the ominous thunder of holiness violated, and man the violator who must try to hide himself from the wrath of an offended God.
But there is only one hiding place: Christ, as it is written, “And a man (the man Christ Jesus) shall be as an hiding place from the wind” (Isa 32:2). The wind, symbol of God the Holy Spirit, was that from which guilty Adam had sought to hide among the trees. There is, however, only one tree behind which sinful man can find a hiding place - that is the tree upon which Christ died for man’s sin.
3:11. “And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”
Again, it is not to be presumed that God’s interrogation implied ignorance on His part. The questions of Omniscience are to elicit confession, not information.
The first part of the question, “Who told thee?” is answered, not by Adam, but by Eve, the one who had been deceived, and even then her answer was indirect. Satan, she said, had “beguiled” her, but it was her own conscience that informed her of her changed and fallen state.
God’s probing question reached the heart of the matter, revealing the rebellion that had ruined man, and called forth at the same time the confession of guilt, apart from which pardon could not be granted. God and His guilty creature were both aware of the identity of the seducer. What God required of Adam is what He requires of all men who would be saved: the confession of deliberate transgression. That confession voluntarily given in time enables God to pardon; withheld until eternity, when it will be compelled, it seals the rebel’s doom.
It was deliberate disobedience of God’s command that had opened man’s eyes to see, not vistas of greater splendor exhibited by new-found knowledge, but the tragic truth that sin brings death.
3:12. “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
This seems to have been an attempt on Adam’s part, not to blame Eve, but God Who had given her. There is perhaps implied condemnation of God, for the emphasis seems to be on the implication that had He not created Eve, the seduction would have been impossible. And as it was in the beginning so has it been ever since. Man looks for someone to blame, being willing even to charge God with fault in a vain attempt to evade the consequences of that for which man alone must be held responsible.
3:13. “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”
As it was with the man, so also was it with the woman. Both attempted to place blame on another, but the end result was the same: both must confess, “I did eat.” Irrespective of what temptation had been presented, or of the means by which it came, nothing could alter the fact that man was morally responsible to obey God his Creator, and he had failed in that responsibility. All men since have been guilty of similar failure.
3:14. “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:”
Scripture is silent as to the inducement offered the serpent to yield himself as the apparently willing instrument of Satan. It is clear that the relationship between man and the other creatures was different in those early days: they could communicate verbally, it would seem, but what is not clear is whether they had moral responsibility, i.e., the ability to know right from wrong as measured by obedience to their Creator’s commands. That animals can distinguish between right and wrong, though in a much more limited way than man, is clear to anyone who has ever owned a pet. The pronouncement of such a terrible curse may imply at least some degree of moral responsibility, and would seem to indicate that even the serpent was not the helpless tool of the tempter, but rather that he played that role by choice and not compulsion.
“Upon thy belly shalt thou go” makes it clear that this was not true of the serpent in the beginning. He may possibly have walked on four legs.
In regard to the dust thenceforth to be the serpent’s food, it is to be noted that the word dust is the same as is used to describe the material of which Adam’s body, and that of the animals, was made, and since serpents do not eat dust, but flesh, the implication may be that the serpent was thereafter to prey on the other creatures, as is the case today. Since flesh was not appointed by God as food for man and some other creatures, until after the flood, this would make the serpent the only flesh eater in the antediluvian age, a fact which would make him feared and shunned by all others, thereby shutting him out from friendship or fellowship with all other things on earth.
Separation is the characteristic of sin. It separates from God, and eventually from others. The characteristic of redemption is the opposite: it unites God and man, and man with man, as it is written, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn 13:35), and in Col 2:2 we read of believers “being knit together in love.”
3:15. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
God continued to curse the serpent beyond the condemnation of crawling, and eating dust (flesh). There was to be also enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and this has been literally fulfilled. Of all creatures, none is more feared and hated than the serpent, but the curse extends far beyond literal enmity between man and serpent. The Scriptural references to Satan are too numerous to leave any doubt that God was alluding to the inveterate enmity that would exist thereafter between man and “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Re 12:9).
That the language was also figurative is clear from such passages as Jn 8:44 where the Lord describes the bitterly antagonistic Jews as the children of the Devil, after having described believers as the spiritual children of Abraham. Clearly God, under the figure of two seeds was pointing, not simply to men and serpents, but also to two classes of men, one consisting of those who are of faith, and the other those without faith. The true Seed of the woman was Christ, but includes all who have faith in Him. The true seed of the serpent will be the coming man of sin, the great anti-Christ, but it includes all who have a similar spirit, i.e., all men in their natural state, for such are also, like Satan, “haters of God” (Ro 1:30).
“It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” points of course to Calvary, where Christ, the Seed of the woman as to His humanity, fulfilled God’s word, and through the “bruising of His own heel,” His death, “bruised the serpent’s head,” i.e., slew Satan.
From that conflict Christ has risen in resurrection glory to await the soon-coming day appointed by the Father when He shall come, first to remove His own from the earth by resurrection and translation, and then come again with them to reign over the millennial earth. From that conflict Satan has emerged a mortally wounded foe, and what earth is experiencing today is the malevolent, frustrated activity of his death throes.
3:16. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Justice required that disobedience be punished, and having meted out the serpent’s recompense, God dealt next with the woman, but it is to be noted that before meting out her punishment, he promised her a “seed” who would fully avenge the wrong she had suffered at the hand of Satan. This is the pattern of God’s dealings with man. While sin, which is disobedience, must be punished, God points men to “the man Christ Jesus” Who has borne the punishment for them, and Whose death enables God to remit the sentence of those who will accept Him, the promised “Seed” as their Substitute and Savior. The poet revealed his understanding of this principle when he penned the words, “With mercy and with judgment, my web of time he wove, and aye the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love.”
The woman’s punishment began with the divine pronouncement relating to sorrow and conception. Both were to be multiplied. Her sorrows would be many, as would be also her children, with sorrow and pain particularly related to the travail in which those children would be born.
The sentence of God extended also to her will, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband,” literally “Thy desire shall be subject to the will of thy husband,” i.e., she was placed under his dominion, a state that apparently didn’t exist before the fall. Having, by her disobedience, forfeited the freedom that had been hers, she was to have that freedom made subject to Adam’s will, “he shall rule over thee.”
In this too God has mingled grace, for he has given woman a natural disposition to be happy in the place of subjection to her husband, and all the present agitation to set aside the divinely ordained order for the sexes has failed to produce the anticipated result: the “liberated” woman is no happier than her “unliberated” sister. Her unhappiness, in fact, is quite often greater.
But, as in so much of Scripture, the greater truth is to be found beyond the literal language. Having prepared Eve to be the completeness of Adam, God declared, “they shall be one flesh,” and though the fall has marred, it has not destroyed that concept. Husband and wife are one, that one consisting of two parts, the man to be the head, and the woman to submit willingly to that headship, see 1 Co 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Nor is this to be construed as the appointment of the woman as man’s inferior, for if that were so it would make Christ inferior to the Father, which He isn’t. It is rather, the declaration of the order established by God, He as Creator having the sovereign right to appoint the order which He in His wisdom knows to be best for His creature.
The willing subjection of the woman to the man is intended by God to be the demonstration of the principle that should govern the life of the believer. That life ideally consists of an activity of the will that will permit nothing to impair the outworking of God’s will, that activity being perfectly balanced by such a submission as will enable the man to say truthfully, “Not my will, but Thine.”
The same principle is portrayed in the animals prescribed for sacrifice according to the Levitical order. Sometimes a male animal was specified, sometimes a female. The male speaks of that activity of the will which will permit nothing to oppose the divine will, while the female points to that yieldedness which makes the man’s will totally submissive to God’s. In this, as in all things, Christ, of course is the perfect Example. In His life is seen the only perfect blending of the two. The dominance of the male is seen in that attitude which overruled all that would hinder His doing the Father’s will, while the submissiveness of the female is seen in Gethsemane when He prayed, “Oh, my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).
The same principle governs electricity. Its power is available only by the combined function of positive and negative. It is so also in the Christian life. The perfect balance of positive and negative, activity and submission of the will, alone produces the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power in a man’s life.
3:17. “And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;”
It is significant that a curse was pronounced directly on the serpent, but not upon either Adam or Eve. In the case of the woman there was punishment, but no mention of curse, and in Adam’s case it was the ground that was cursed for his transgression, it being thus made clear that redemption was possible for man, but not for Satan.
Is this unjust? Was God arbitrarily discriminating against Satan? No such charge can be made against the One Whom Scripture reveals to be the God of absolute justice, those same Scriptures presenting Him also as the God of perfect love. May not this seeming harsher judgment of Satan indicate, perhaps, that he was being accorded what is the due of one who had previously rejected mercy? Or does it declare that responsibility is in proportion to light possessed? Of Lucifer it is written, “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom.... thou hast corrupted thy wisdom” (Ez 28:12-17).
Adam’s condemnation resulted from his having obeyed his wife rather than God, his having eaten what God had forbidden. Sin is always the same. It is disobedience of God, and its consequences are always the same: terrible beyond the ability of man to imagine. The God Who controls the universe cannot permit anything in that universe to refuse His control.
The ground was cursed because of Adam’s disobedience. It is history repeating itself. As the dark, water-covered, lifeless state of the earth in Ge 1:2 was the reflection of the state of its ruined spiritual prince, Satan, now again the condition of the renovated earth reflected the condition of its ruined human prince, Adam, and fittingly so, for the sin of Adam was but the repetition of Lucifer’s: both had aspired to be as God. In the former instance water and darkness were the physical evidence of a spiritual fact; in the latter, thorns and thistles were the evidence.
All the days of his life Adam was doomed to experience sorrow. The passing years revealed that death was working in his body, and as he ate the herb of the field instead of the fruits of Eden, he learned with bitter sorrow that it was simply death feeding on death. Nothing from a cursed earth could sustain life indefinitely.
When men learn that simple fact, that a cursed earth can produce nothing either to give life or sustain it, they have taken a step towards true life, for they are of necessity turned then to look for life in One Who is not of earth but heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3:18. “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;”
The assignment of the herb of the field to be man’s food would seem to indicate not only a difference from what he had eaten in Eden, but in addition, an inferiority in the quality of the new food. The lesson is obvious. There is spiritual food for man in harmony with his Creator, but a different, inferior food for man under divine condemnation.
Scripture abounds with analogies that demonstrate this truth. The raven, type of the natural man, sent out by Noah, feasted on the floating carrion. Not so the dove, which represents both the Holy Spirit, and those born of the Spirit. The prodigal son, away from the father’s house, would have eaten swine’s food. Restored, he feasted on fatted calf. The renewed man feasts his soul on the fine wheat of the Word, while the unregenerate gnaws, unsatisfied on the carrion and husks of a cursed earth. These things are but illustrations of the truth that, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14).
A man’s spiritual state is revealed by what he “eats.” The natural man loathes the “manna,” and lusts for “the onions, leeks, and garlic and fleshpots of Egypt” (Nu 11 and 21), while the renewed man hungers for the “manna” and “wheat” of God’s Word.
Adam’s changed food revealed his changed and fallen state. The herb of the field (the field represents the world) replaced the ambrosia of Eden.
There is peculiar irony in the fitness of the punishment. Adam’s disobedient grasping after the one forbidden fruit, which proved to be deadly even as it was plucked, resulted in his being deprived of everything that had delighted his soul, and in his being left with the far poorer herb of the field for his daily food.
Inasmuch as the field is used in Scripture to symbolize the world, there may be the additional lesson that fallen man must experience a new spiritual birth before he can hope to find enjoyment in heavenly things. In his fallen state his capacity is limited to mere earthly things.
The evidence of the earth’s cursed state were the thorns which it then began for the first time to produce, but a special significance of thorns in connection with the crucifixion is often missed. When those Roman soldiers platted the crown of thorns and placed it on Christ’s head, they had no other thought than to add to His suffering, but like many another, they were unwitting instruments in the hand of God. The transfer of those thorns from the earth to the head of man’s innocent Substitute, was the symbolic announcement of the truth that the curse which should have fallen on the head of the guilty Adam, but which by God’s grace, had lain on the earth for four thousand years, was now being transferred to the head of the last Adam, He being willing to be made a curse so that all who trust Him as Savior might be eternally blessed, as it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ” (Ga 3:13-14).
3:19. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
The pleasant husbandry that had marked Adam’s days in Eden was exchanged for the labor that would weary him and cause his brow to sweat, while the abundance secured by that former husbandry must be exchanged for the parsimony of a cursed earth. And bitter sorrow was made more bitter by the realization that the ground which daily received his sweat, was waiting the day when it would also receive his dead body.
Separated from it by sixty centuries, and viewing it simply as disinterested observers, we cannot but stand in awe of Adam’s stupendous folly, and the equally colossal ruin attending it. Yet such is the cunning skill of man’s arch enemy that in spite of the testimony of Scripture, confirmed by human experience, he succeeds in blinding both the eyes and the understanding of millions of Adam’s sons, so that they dally with his seductions as did their father, and discover too late the enormity of their own folly.
When God declared that Adam should return to the dust, He was speaking only of the body, nor was He indicating cessation of existence. Soul and spirit are not of the dust. Man will exist for ever, either in the torment of the lake of fire, or in the bliss of heaven. Which eternal abode will be his is determined by his decision, made here on earth, to accept or reject Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Except for that unique generation of believers who will be alive on earth when Christ comes to the air to remove His Church from the earth, thereby ending this present age which began on the day of Pentecost, all men, believers and unbelievers alike, must, as to their bodies, return to dust. As for the souls and spirits which lived in those bodies, those of believers ascend instantly to heaven, while those of unbelievers descend instantly to hell.
Believer and unbeliever alike are assured of a resurrection - the body of the former to be raised at the resurrection of life, that of the latter a thousand years later at the resurrection of damnation. The result of those resurrections will be that the believer will receive a new redeemed, spiritual, immortal body in which his redeemed soul and spirit will live for ever in heaven. The unbeliever, however, at the resurrection of damnation, will have a fearfully different experience. His old unredeemed body will be raised from the dust, to be occupied again by his unredeemed soul and spirit raised out of hell, and once again a complete man, he will be cast into the lake of fire, to exist there for ever in torment.
3:20. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.”
In 2:23 he had named her Woman (Hebrew Ishsha) because she was taken out of man (Hebrew Ish), but now he gives her another name, Eve (literally life-giver) because of her new role: she was to be the one through whom all men would come, and particularly THE MAN, the SEED Who would bring redemption.
This is another example of a Scriptural principle already noted. A change of name is indicative of a changed state, e.g., Jacob the supplanter became Israel, a prince of God; Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle.
3:21. “For Adam also and for his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”
Many have supposed that God miraculously produced two skins, and in making that unwarranted assumption have robbed this verse of its proper import. The consistent teaching of Scripture is that, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9:22), and Adam’s sin was no exception to this principle. There could be no remission of his sin until atoning blood had been shed.
Throughout the OT age, atonement was made when the sinner brought the offering prescribed by God (usually a lamb or kid), placed his hand upon its head, thereby identifying himself with it, symbolically transferring his sin to it, confessed his sin, and slew the animal, offering to God that innocent substitute which died the death the man should have died.
By this ritual the offerer was confessing that in sinning he had forfeited his life, but in bringing the substitute ordained by God, he was confessing that he believed God would accept the life of that animal in lieu of his. The ritual of course, points to Calvary where the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Lamb, died as the sinner’s Substitute. That death is effective to atone for my sin, however, only when I do what is symbolized in the offerer’s laying his hand on the lamb’s head: I must identify myself personally with that Substitute by believing that He died for me on account of my sin that had rendered my life forfeit.
It is improper exegesis that sees the remission of Adam’s sin by any other means than the death of an innocent substitute. The plain teaching of Scripture makes clear what happened when Adam and Eve were clothed, each one with a skin. To make possible God’s remission of their sin, each one had to bring a lamb to die as the divinely appointed substitute. As they looked on those two slain lambs, Adam and Eve learned several lessons. First, sin brings death. Second, a gracious God was willing to accept the life of an innocent substitute to make atonement (cover) for that sin. What they may not have seen as clearly as we do today, in the light of Calvary, was that that lamb was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, designated by John as, “The Lamb of God Who beareth away the sin of the world.”
Clothing is used symbolically in Scripture to represent righteousness, either the “filthy rags” of self-righteousness, or the spotless righteousness of Christ. We have already learned that the fig-leaf aprons represented good works, and they were worthless. Man can stand unafraid in God’s presence only when he is clothed with Christ’s righteousness. The skin of the lamb (its covering or clothing), is symbolic of the righteousness that clothed or covered God’s Lamb. Everything else is worthless in God’s sight.
A third lesson they may have learnt was that each one needed a complete skin. Adam’s lamb provided his covering; and Eve’s lamb, her covering. The spiritual lesson is that each man must make a personal appropriation of Christ’s death. It is not enough to believe that Christ died for men’s sins. I am saved only by believing that He died for my sins.
A forth lesson they may have learnt was that each lamb was a figure or type of the promised “Seed” who would come forth in the fullness of time to make the full atonement which the death of those lambs only foreshadowed.
The full story of redemption is told when Eden and Calvary are seen in their relationship to each other. In Eden’s garden the first Adam stood guilty and condemned to death, and at Calvary (also in a garden, see Jn 19:41 “In the place where He was crucified there was a garden,”) that sentence was executed: the last Adam died for the sin of the first. It was only because God had Calvary in view that He could pardon the first Adam. Perfect justice required the life of the transgressor, perfect love provided the Lamb to be man’s Substitute.
The clarity of the symbolic picture is enhanced when we recall the fear of Adam in the garden as he anticipated that moment when he must present himself before God. That same fear is seen in the last Adam, and also in a garden, Gethsemane, when he anticipated the morrow, which would find Him taking the guilty place of the first Adam, and presenting Himself as the Sin-bearer before a Holy God. That fear turned His sweat to “great drops of blood,” and wrung from His lips the plea, “Oh, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).
3:22. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:”
Adam was already like God in that he was a creature of intelligence, emotion, and will, but up to that point he had known evil only theoretically. It consisted of knowing that disobedience was evil, but it would seem that his knowledge did not embrace an awareness of the actual consequences of disobedience. That knowledge he had now acquired. What God knew because He was God, Adam had learned by experience.
The sentence begun in this twenty-second verse is left unfinished, and two reasons suggest themselves for the incomplete sentence. First, God would not permit man to eat of the tree of life, thereby condemning himself to an eternal existence in a state of misery. Second, the consequences of such an act (were God to have permitted it), are beyond man’s power to comprehend. It would seem that the tree of life has the capacity to prolong existence for ever, but to provide pleasure only for those who already possess eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
3:23. “Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”
Eden means delight. The garden prepared for Adam must cease to be his home now that he had become a fallen creature, but, as in providing a covering for Adam, God had had His eye on Calvary, so, in expelling His guilty creature from Eden, God had in view that day when Adam, redeemed through faith in his Substitute, the last Adam, would be received into the eternal glory of the heavenly Eden. From that Eden there will be no expulsion, for only the redeemed will enter it, and such is the efficacy of the redemption procured by the death of the last Adam, that none of the redeemed can ever fall again.
What is written concerning Job is true of Adam and of every redeemed man, “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).
3:24. “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Since two symbolic cherubim guarded the golden Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle, we may perhaps infer that two guarded the gate of Eden, and since sitting is inconsistent with guarding, we may perhaps also conclude that these angelic guardians stood. The outstretched wings of the two who guarded the Mercy Seat would seem also to preclude the thought of their sitting. It is significant therefore, that on the resurrection morning a weeping Mary, “stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and saw two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (Jn 20:11-12).
The guardianship that began with the transgression of the first Adam, ended with the atoning death of the last Adam. By that death a “new and living way” was opened for man to return to God and eat of the tree of life. The guardian cherubim could sit, since the new and living way into God’s presence now lies open to all who will come by faith.
The angelic guardians stood at the east of the garden, indicating that that was the way by which Adam had gone out, so that as he left God’s presence he was going eastward. This is the pattern found throughout Scripture. The east is always connected with departure from God, as the west is with approach to Him. Illustrations of this principle abound in Scripture. In going out from the presence of God, Cain went to the land of Nod (wandering) “on the east of Eden.” The Tabernacle gate was on the east, so that approach into God’s presence required the priest to move westward, and in going out again, to move eastward. The wise men who brought their gifts to the Lord, said, “We have seen His star in the east,” and to have come from the east implies, of course, a movement westward. These are only a few examples. Examination of a concordance, in fact, will reveal that there isn’t a single mention of the east except as being indicative of distance from God.
The obvious spiritual truth being demonstrated is that all men are spiritually where fallen Adam was literally: east, i.e., away from God. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ turns the believer around, so that in contrast with his natural state, which finds each passing day carrying him farther “east,” he begins to walk spiritually “westward,” coming daily nearer to God. It is significant that the west is used tropically to indicate the end of human life. God’s ideal is that the journey of life should find man standing in heaven, but the divine ideal will be realized only by those who trust Christ as Savior.
In concluding our study of this third chapter there are a few things we might mention further. As a result of Adam’s sin, we read of curse and sorrow in verse 17; of thorns, sweat and dust in verses 18 and 19; separation, expulsion and a flaming sword in verses 23 and 24. As a result of the last Adam’s making Himself accountable for the sin of the first Adam, we read that He took the curse upon Himself, for it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Ga 3:13), Christ of course being the One Whom “they slew and hanged on a tree” (Ac 5:30; 10:39).
The sorrow assigned to the first Adam became the lot of the last Adam, for He is described as, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:3-4).
The thorns which grew upon the ground as tangible evidence of the ruin and curse introduced by Adam’s disobedience, were platted into a crown and placed in mockery on Christ’s head when He came forth to die in Adam’s place, that crown being the symbolic demonstration that the curse which had been placed on the ground had now been transferred to Christ.
In regard to sweat, we read that on the eve of His Crucifixion, He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk 22:44).
As to the dust to which Adam would return, it is written concerning the death of the last Adam, “My tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” (Ps 22:15).
Adam experienced separation from God. When the last Adam who “knew no sin,” but Who “was made sin for us,” hung on the cross, He also knew separation from God, and so terrible was that experience that He, “cried with a loud voice ... My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Finally, there was the flaming sword that would slay the guilty Adam were he to attempt to return to Eden. The terrible sword ceased to whirl, its flame quenched, when the last Adam submitted to its deadly stroke at Calvary, becoming Himself, in resurrection, the new and living way by which man could approach God, and stand eternally in the heavenly Eden. In anticipation of that day when Christ would accept the stroke of the flaming sword of divine wrath on behalf of Adam and his ruined progeny, the prophet wrote, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zec 13:7).
Because of the Lord’s willingness to make Himself accountable for Adam’s sin, we read, “And there shall be no more curse” (Re 22:3). Neither will there be any more sorrow, for in Re 21:4 it is written, “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.” The thorn also will disappear, for in Isa 55:13 it is written, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree.” The earth, which now, under the curse, yields its harvests grudgingly, and only in response to the sweat of man’s brow, will be transformed, and produce in such abundance that, “The ploughman shall overtake the reaper” (Am 9:13). The dust of death, of which earth’s deserts are the fitting symbol, will be transformed into life, for it is written in Isa 35:1 “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (For a fuller description of the Millennial earth, all of Isa 35 should be read).
The sorrow with which a fallen Adam went out from God’s presence to a place of separation, will give place to joy and singing when God shall descend to a new earth and dwell with man for ever, as it is written, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them” (Re 21:3).
The sword which first appeared on earth because of Adam’s sin, was the forerunner of countless others forged by man to slay his brother, but Isa 2:4 points to a day when the redemptive work of the last Adam will lead men to, “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”