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What really happened on that dark day in the Garden of Eden? Was an innocent minded woman tricked by a slick salesman? Was the serpent really Satan in a physical form? When we hear a story over and over again, we think we understand it. But do we? When we really ponder the events that God describes to us in Genesis, some very disturbing facts come to light. One of them is that our two innocent humans are not as innocent as they first appear.
It is commonly taught that the Fall was the first act of sin human beings ever committed. But was it? God never said this was the first sin. We’ve read that into the text. God never said Adam and Eve were innocent, well-behaved or obedient. We’ve made all that up ourselves.
God is very tight-lipped about His relationship with Adam and Eve. He tells us that He commanded them not to eat from a particular tree in the Garden. He never said that this was the only command that He gave them. He never said His relationship with them was joyful. In fact, what He does share with us implies quite the opposite.
Consider how little interaction we see between Adam, Eve, and God. The only time we see the three of them together is when God shows up to call them out on the fruit incident. Does the tone of that conversation reflect a long and happy relationship between the humans and their Maker? No, it doesn’t. The first thing Adam does is try to blame God for his sin.
The man said, “The woman You put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Gen. 3:12)
This is a shockingly brazen response for a man who is supposed to have a long history of being innocent and good. Where is the remorse? Where is the tearful apology and sincere repentance? There isn’t any. Adam doesn’t repent for defying God. Eve doesn’t repent. Both had opportunity to, but they didn’t. Hm.
If the first humans were as good as we like to pretend, how is it that we find them so quick to turn against their glorious Companion? Isn’t being in the Presence of God supposed to fill us with a desire to honor and cherish Him? Well, yes, this is the effect He has on us when we are aligned with Him in our hearts. But if we are rebelling against Him on a soul level, then we find His Presence to be offensive and threatening and we are quite comfortable with defying Him. How much concern for honoring God did Eve show as she talked to the snake? None.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. (Gen. 3:2-6)
Eve knows what God has said, but she doesn’t care. As soon as she thinks she can personally benefit by disobeying Him, she is happy to do so. Today in the Church, we like to analyze the serpent’s words and try to suggest that he used some ingenious strategy to whittle Eve down. But let’s get real. The snake made one comment and Eve went for it. There was no debate. There was no angst on her part. There was no distress about what God might think. Eve’s actions demonstrate she was all about Eve. We’re told Adam was with her at the time and he is just as swift to jump on board. What kinds of souls today are so swift to defy God as soon as they see something they want? Hardened rebels. When those who sincerely care about pleasing God are confronted with some juicy temptation, how do they react? They struggle. They get squeamish. They question and doubt and it takes them awhile to work up the nerve to blatantly defy the Holy Spirit. Once they do, they feel terrible. When God calls them out on their sin, they hang their heads in shame and fear that He’ll never forgive them. It’s not like Adam and Eve were hungry. It’s not like they felt threatened or pressed for time. SO WHERE WAS THE MORAL STRUGGLE? It wasn’t there because these two were already firmly entrenched in rebellious attitudes against God. This is why they were so swift to break His rule and respond with such snarky attitudes when He came along and called them on it. First they tried to hide from Him. Like that was going to work. Then they brazenly DENIED their guilt. Adam tried to stick the blame onto both God and Eve. Eve blames the snake. The snake doesn’t say anything. Hm.
The snake is a very interesting character in this account. First, we need to realize that the snake is an animal, not a demon. We know this by the kind of curse God dishes out.
Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen. 3:14-15)
If you try and turn this into a Messianic passage you’re going to miss the whole point. God is talking to a physical animal here and He is doling out a curse with physical and emotional elements to it. First, He is going to warp the creature’s anatomy in a negative way. The implication is that the snake used to be able to walk—now it will be reduced to slithering. Next, God promises to create hostility between snakes and humans. For this to be a bad thing, snakes and humans had to have had a positive relationship up until now. Before the Fall, there was harmony between animals and humans. After the Fall, everything changed.
God is clearly holding the snake morally accountable for his actions. In other words, the snake has personally rebelled against God. We’re not used to thinking of animals as being able to choose to obey or defy God. But clearly our view of animals is limited. There is a lot more to this Creation than we grasp. In the Gospels, we find Jesus cursing a fig tree for not having fruit. Was this because God is an unfair jerk with unreasonable expectations, or because there was more going on between Him and that tree than we could see? The answers to these mysteries lies in God’s Character. God is good. God is fair. God is extremely patient, merciful and compassionate. He didn’t suddenly acquire these characteristics after the Fall, He has always had them. So when we assume that God flipped out on goodhearted Adam, Eve and snakey for their first act of rebellion, what are we saying about God’s Character? Aren’t we implying that He’s extremely short tempered? Aren’t we implying that He is intolerant of less than perfection and that He is a harsh and merciless Judge? And yet this is not who God is. God is good. God is extremely generous, gracious, patient, and kind. And yet what we find in Genesis 3 is God acting quite furious and doling out some shockingly harsh curses. No one is offered a second chance. This isn’t at all the God we know. This behavior simply doesn’t match with the God who sent His Son to die for us on a cross, or with the God who spent centuries pleading for rebellious Israel to return to Him. So how can we resolve this discrepancy? Well, we need to look through the Book for other times when we see God lashing out with violent, devastating punishments. Those accounts are certainly there. Korah’s rebellion. Israel being cursed to wander in the desert for 40 years. The priest Eli and his sons being declared as unforgivable. What is it that pushes our gracious God to lash out with violent punishments? It’s the same in every case: hardcore rebellion. Hearts that are refusing to respond to conviction no matter how many chances they are given. It’s never our actions that God responds to, but our heart attitudes. When we are swift to repent, He is swift to forgive. When we stumble out of ignorance, He gently corrects us, He doesn’t come down hard on us. In Eden, God is coming down hard. In Genesis 3, we find a God who is fed up. Knowing what we know about God, it suddenly becomes very clear that the fruit sampling was not the first act of rebellion Adam, Eve, and snakey ever committed. Instead, it was the last straw.
AFTER THE FALL
God has very little to say about Adam and Eve after He curses them. We never hear of them returning to a good place with God. We never hear of them expressing true remorse for what they had done. Instead, we find them raising a son named Cain who is quite comfortable with defying God. No one pressured Cain into offending God with an offering of plants when he knew God wanted animal meat (Gen. 4). Cain clearly knew better, yet when God failed to applaud his rebellion, what was Cain’s response? Not remorse, but rage that he should be held accountable for his own actions. Rebellion hates to be in the presence of obedience, and Cain couldn’t stand having his obedient brother Abel around, so he violently killed him. What a creep. We can’t help but wonder if Adam was rather slack in the discipline department for his son to think he could get away with murdering his brother while his parents were still alive and well. After the death of Abel, God gave Adam a son named Seth. Seth grows up and has a son named Enosh. It’s only then that we are told:
At that time men began to call upon the Name of Yahweh. (Gen. 4:26)
What was everyone doing before this time? Ignoring God? This is yet another hint that Adam and Eve never got around to truly repenting for their rebellion and aligning themselves with God. It seems their son Seth began to seriously pursue righteousness as an adult, and from Seth’s line would come God-fearing men like Enoch and Noah. Meanwhile, Cain’s descendants continued to follow in his wicked example. But what about Adam and Eve? God doesn’t give us any reason for hope. Wouldn’t it be a shocker if the first two humans ended up in Hell?
Why did God decide to Flood the world? Because ALL FLESH had defied Him.
God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. (Gen. 6:12)
God’s definition of ALL FLESH clearly includes humans as well as animals (see Gen. 6). Hm. God is really not having a very fun time of it with this Creation. From the very beginning, all of His creatures choose to use their freedom of choice to choose against Him. And for what? What exactly did God do to inspire such hostility in His creatures? Oh that’s right, He gave them a paradise to live in. He showered abundant blessings down on their heads, and even after they defied Him, He went out of His way to be gracious to them.
The next time you hear someone whining that God was unfair to curse the whole human race because of one couple’s sin, don’t be so quick to side against Him. God IS unfair when it comes to dealing with us—but only to Himself. We have been treating Him terribly since day one. We should have been exterminated in Eden, not simply driven out of it to raise more little monsters who would follow our own rotten examples. EVERY human willfully chooses to defy God at some point along the journey. So then, is God fair in accusing us of sinning against Him? Yes, He is. No one is going to end up in Hell today because of what Adam and Eve did. When souls end up in Hell, it is because of their own defiance—their own willful decision to choose against God. Adam and Eve simply showed us what we were capable of: how even in a perfect paradise, we still went out of our way to spit in the face of our loving Creator.
Reading about what happened in Eden shouldn’t cause us to feel any sympathy for humans. It should only cause us to be filled with awe at how incredibly gracious God is for letting our race survive after the way we treated Him in Eden. Such is the Character of our amazing Creator: goodness and mercy beyond measure. Yet He is not without boundaries. The more we think about Eden, the more we see how right it is that souls who refuse to repent of their rebellion should end up in Hell. Hell is just. What happened in Eden was horrifying.
OTHER BIBLE MYSTERIES:
What kind of animal was Leviathan?
The Name of Yahweh in the Book of Genesis