Genesis 3: The Fall of Man

This fall of man and subsequent punishment is discussed.

Introduction

The only command God gives mankind after creation is not to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. We are told in Genesis 2:9 that God put every fruit tree that was good for food in the garden and that Adam and Eve were free to eat from any of these trees. They are told that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they would surely die.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:16, 17 KJV
The serpent tells Eve that she won't die from eating the fruit. It's important to note that Eve and the serpent never mention the plentifulness of the garden but focus solely on the exclusion of their ability to eat from that one tree. The serpent, possibly using the fact to his advantage, further suggests that God doesn't not want Adam and Eve to eat of the tree because then they will be like God. Eve succumbs to the temptation of being like God choosing the serpent's word over God's. She further feeds the fruit to Adam. With the knowledge of both good and evil, Adam and Eve were embarrassed by their nakedness and hid from God. After God confronts Adam and Eve, and serves out punishment for all three parties (the serpent, Adam, and Eve).
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The Sin Committed

Many often wonder what was so special about that particular fruit. What was so bad about knowing good an evil? Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place if He didn't want Adam and Eve to eat from it? Why was the punishment so severe? And was the serpent right that they didn't surely die?

The tree represented a choice—a choice to trust God or to follow our own desires. Yes, God could have created man such that he couldn't choose evil, or He could have never put the tree in the garden to tempt man, but there are reasons why man needed a choice. Everything in nature is comprised of opposites (day and night, hot and cold, sickness and health, etc.), and the definition of one is dependent upon the other. If you knew that you would never die, how much would you appreciate today? Without knowledge of the bad things that can happen (and do happen) you would take for granted all the good and it would be meaningless. For example, as a young child and a teen, many people argue with their parents, but as they grow older and understand everything their parents did for them, they have a new found appreciation for the parents. God gave Adam and Eve a choice, knowing they would choose wrong, so that in the end, when mankind gets to Heaven we will appreciate it. People often say God works in mysterious ways, but think of people (who were created in His image[3]), we want people to choose us, be it for a job or for prom queen, as friends or as spouses. The church is often referred to as the bride of Christ, and like every groom who stands at the altar, Christ knows that His church chose Him over all the other possibilities in the world.
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Greed & Pride

So what exactly was the sin that Adam and Eve committed? You'll note that sin isn't actually mentioned in Genesis 3, but Romans 5 confirms that sin entered the world from Adam's transgression.

12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.Romans 5:12-14 KJV
Note the author of Roman's blames Adam for sin entering the world, not Eve! In Genesis 2, God tells Adam not to eat from the tree, and though we are not shown where God tells Eve,it is obvious that she knows through her conversation with the serpent in Genesis 3. So why does the author of Romans blame Adam for the sin? The answer is in Genesis 2:24, man and wife become one flesh.

5For 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. 6And 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.Genesis 3:5, 6 KJV
From the verse in Romans, we know that sin is disobedience of God's law, in this case the act of disobedience came at eating the fruit—this is obvious. What is less obvious is what this says about mankind's nature in general. Man was tempted into eating the fruit with the promise of being like God. This is our weakness. At the thought of power and the chance to be on God's level, Adam and Eve completely disregarded the warning God gave them—God their Creator, God their provider, God who had only looked out for their best interest so far—and chose to listen to the serpent, who had done nothing for them.

Pride led them to believe that they knew better than God, but greed is what made them desire the fruit when they had literally every other fruit in the world for the taking. In Genesis 3:6 the word translating to pleasant in phrase "pleasant to the eyes" is the same root word as the word used in Exodus 20 for law against coveting, and the word translating to desired in the phrase "desired to make one wise" is used in Deuteronomy 5 in reference to coveting[4].
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Punishment

14And 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: 15And 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. 16Unto 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. 17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of 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; 18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19In 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. ... 22And 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: 23Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.Genesis 3:14-19, 22-23
When God speaks to Adam and Eve, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent; neither, takes responsibility for their on action. In turn, God punishes all that are involved.

Serpent

Because the serpent tempted them, God curses the serpent above the other land animal. God tells the serpent that it will go upon its belly and eat dust all its life. Further, God put enmity between the serpent's offspring and Eve's offspring. The serpent's seed is to bruise the heel of Eve's seed, and Eve's seed is to bruise the head of the serpent.

Eve

Next, God curses Eve. For her part in the act, God gives her pain in conception and says that her husband is to rule over her.

Adam

Adam's punishment is not just his own, but a curse to the earth as well. God curses the ground to need a man to till it—remember the verses speaking of man tilling the ground in Genesis 2—and to grow thorns and thistles. Part of Adam's punishment is to till this cursed ground, but also to die ("return unto the ground"). The final punishment God inflicts is to banish them from the garden, specifically from the Tree of Life.
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Identity of the Serpent

Most people agree and assume the serpent is the devil, but there are also biblical passages to prove this fact.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.Revelation 12:9 KJV
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand yearsRevelation 20:2 KJV
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:8 KJV
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Was the Fruit an Apple?

Nowhere in the bible is the type of fruit growing from the Tree of Knowledge mentioned. So why are people set on it being an apple? It is possible that the mix up stems from the fact the malus the Latin for evil, also means apple. This idea has been around since at least the 12th century (which is quite far removed from Moses' day), and picked up popularity until finally appearing in Milton's Paradise Lost, since then it is quite common for people to assume the forbidden fruit was an apple[6]. No one knows what kind of fruit it was and we are not given any description that can help us identify the fruit.
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Points of Interest

Death

A major question stemming from this chapter is Eve's understanding of death. Before eating the fruit, she and Adam were capable of being immortal. They couldn't have actually been immortal because they hadn't eaten of the Tree of Life yet, and God removes them from the garden to prevent them from living forever, but they until they ate the fruit, they were not barred from eating from the Tree of Life which meant it was in God's plan for them to become immortal. With this in mind, we have the question of how much Eve knew and understand about death. Think about when you were a small child, what did you think the word "death" meant? Everything was good at this point (God confirms this after every creation in Genesis 1), so Eve would not have even experienced a cough, sneeze, or itch; there was no such thing as sickness, and there was no such thing as pain. When she was told that she would die if she ate the fruit, and when she discussed death with the serpent, what kind of meaning was she associating with the word death? We now know that are three types of death: the first death, the spiritual death, and eternal death[2].

The First Death

The first death is the death we are all condemned to in Genesis 3:23. Very few people (e.g. Enoch, the 144,000) are permitted to escape the first death and simply join God in Heaven. This death is a physical death in which the body will decay and return to dust (as told in Genesis 3:23) but the soul is preserved. Souls trapped in the first death await the second coming of Jesus in which they will be resurrected in a new body and taken to Heaven or sentenced to the second or eternal death.

4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.Revelation 20:4-6 KJV
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The Spiritual Death

Spiritual death is a separation from God. This occurs when man has turned so far away from God and muddied himself up with so much sin that he cannot communicate with God. Upon dying a spiritual death, which is what Adam and Eve died when they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, we hide ourselves from God and run from Him. During a spiritual death, the dead will be so defiled that they cannot find God (often referred to as lost) because their love of sin obstructs their view and hardens their hearts against what is of God.

1Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.Isaiah 59:1-3 KJV
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The Eternal Death

The Second Death, or the Eternal Death is the final death to be issued on Judgment Day at the end of the world. Those who have chosen to follow Jesus will not suffer the Second Death, but those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will die forever and be cast into the lake of fire. Some believe that this means they will burn forever, this is another trick of the devil saying "ye shall not surely die." The only way to gain eternal life or immortality is by believing in and following Jesus Christ[5], everyone else will die—it will be a painful death, but a death nonetheless.

12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:12-14 KJV
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Garden of Eden Hidden

After man is banished from the garden, it is not destroyed. We are told that God put Cherubims and a flaming sword to keep mankind away from the tree, implying that it is still on Earth somewhere. Some people believe that it was subsequently destroyed in the flood[1]. Personally, I believe that God preserved the Tree of Life, but the Bible does not give us an answer of this matter, so I cannot say for sure.

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.Genesis 3:24 KJV

First Prophecy of Jesus

Genesis 3:15 is regarded as the first messianic prophecy. Jesus is the seed a Eve and the devil or the antichrist is the seed of the serpent. Obviously there is enmity between satan and God's people. It is thought that the serpent bruising the heel of Eve's seed is in reference to Jesus dying on the cross and the seed of Eve bruising the seed of the serpent is the final blow to the devil at the end of the world[4]. Revelation 12:17 supports this theory.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.Revelation 12:17 KJV

The First Sacrifice

As a child, I internalized the verse in which Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make clothes (which I'm guessing were still rather revealing, especially since I can't imagine them having any prior experience with sewing or clothing design), but completely missed the verse where God created clothes for Adam and Eve out of coats of skin. Perhaps the church skips over this as explaining that people used to wear animal hides may be deemed "to graphic" for young children by some, or perhaps they didn't want to tackle the task of explaining the fact that God killed animals to create clothes for both Adam and Eve. The Bible doesn't explicitly tell us why God chose animal skins for clothes, which required killing the animals versus speeding up time and providing them with silk or cotton. However, when taking in to account the fact that God required blood sacrifices as early as in Genesis 4, where we see that Cain and Abel are already offering sacrifices to God until the ultimate blood sacrifice of Jesus, it becomes more plausible that this was God's way of introducing the concept of sacrifice and death to Adam and Eve. We are told in Romans 6:23 KJV that the wages of sin are death, thus upon killing the animals, the death of the animal would have paid the price of Adam and Eve's sin.
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References

  1. Creation Ministries International. "Location of the Garden of Eden". Creation Ministries International. 1999
  2. Forier, Kenneth. "Three Types of Death". 2010
  3. Genesis 1:26 KJV
  4. "Genesis 3 Footnotes". King James Study Bible. Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1988
  5. John 3:16 KJV
  6. Rupp, Rebecca. "The History of the “Forbidden” Fruit". National Geographic. July 22, 2014

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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