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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 4-24

1. The Garden of Eden 2:4-3:24

This story has seven scenes that a change in actors, situations or activities identifies. [Note: For a different narrative analysis, see Waltke, Genesis, pp. 80-81.] Moses constructed this section of Genesis in a chiastic (palistrophic, crossing) structure to focus attention on the central scene: the Fall. The preceding scenes lead up to the Fall, and the following scenes describe its consequences. [Note: Wenham, p. 50.]

A Scene 1 (narrative): God is the sole actor, and man is passive (Genesis 2:4-17).

B Scene 2 (narrative): God is the main actor, man plays a minor role, the woman and the animals are passive (Genesis 2:18-25).

C Scene 3 (dialogue): The snake and the woman converse (Genesis 3:1-5).

D Scene 4 (narrative): The man and the woman are primary (Genesis 3:6-8).

C’ Scene 5 (dialogue): God converses with the man and the woman (Genesis 3:9-13).

B’ Scene 6 (narrative): God is the main actor, man plays a minor role, the woman and the serpent are passive (Genesis 3:14-21).

A’ Scene 7 (narrative): God is the sole actor, and man is passive (Genesis 3:22-24).

The story of the Garden of Eden begins with a second, more detailed account of the creation of humankind that Moses gave as an introduction to the Fall and its consequences.

"More light is shed on the relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by a consideration of a literary structure that occurs throughout the entire book of Genesis: First, less important things are dealt with rapidly, and then the things more important to the central theme of the Bible are returned to and developed more fully." [Note: Schaeffer, pp. 40-41.]

Note the following contrasts between the accounts of man’s creation.

Genesis 1:1-2:3Genesis 2:4-25
Name of GodElohim (Strong One)Yahweh (Covenant-keeping One)
PurposeFacts of CreationGod’s relationship with human creatures
EmphasisThe world generallyHumankind specifically

Moses identified Yahweh, the God who called Abraham (Genesis 12:1) and the God who delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:15), with Elohim, the God who created the cosmos. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 20.] The name "Jehovah" comes from combining the vowels of the Hebrew adonay ("lord") with the consonants of the Hebrew Yahweh (i.e., YHWH).

"In Genesis 1 ’elohim (God) refers to God’s transcendence over the world, while in Genesis 2-3 yhwh (LORD) speaks of God’s immanence with his elect. When the narrator combines the two names, he makes a bold assertion that the Creation God is the Lord of Israel’s history. Just as God ordered creation, he orders history. All is under God’s sovereign control, guaranteeing that Israel’s history will end in triumph, not in tragedy." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 34.]

Verse 1

Who was the tempter? Among evangelicals there are two major views regarding the identity of the serpent.

It was a literal snake.

a. Moses called it a beast of the field (Genesis 3:1).

b. Though snakes do not speak, Satan could have spoken through a snake. He did this through demoniacs in Jesus’ day. Also, a spirit being spoke through Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:21-30).

c. God judged a snake in this case (Genesis 3:14). [Note: See Jacqueline Tabick, "The Snake in the Grass: The Problems of Interpreting a Symbol in the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Writings," Religion 16 (April 1986):155-67, who traced the symbolic use of the snake as a servant of God, a symbol of rebellion against God, and a creature independent of God.]

2. It was Satan himself described here as a snake.

a. God called Satan a serpent elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Revelation 20:2).

b. Satan can and does speak as recorded elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Job 1).

c. What he said here is in character for Satan who is the "father of lies" (John 8:44).

Probably the tempter was Satan who possessed and controlled a literal snake. Temptation came to Eve disguised, unexpectedly, and from a subordinate, as is still often true.

The pattern of temptation observable here is one Satan has used often and still uses (cf. the temptations of Achan, David, and Jesus Christ).

Satan’s first step was to plant a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind concerning God’s ways (Genesis 3:1-3). The key phrase is "from any" (Genesis 3:1). Satan focused Eve’s attention on God’s one prohibition. He suggested that God did not really want what was best for Adam and Eve but rather was withholding something from them that was essentially good. He hinted that God’s line of protection was actually a line that He drew because He was selfish. Satan still tempts women to believe that God’s role for them is primarily for His benefit rather than for their welfare. [Note: Family Life . . ., p. 99.]

The Hebrew word translated "crafty" (’arum) does not mean wicked as much as wise. Eve’s sin was not so much an act of great wickedness as it was an act of great folly. She already had all the good she needed, but she wanted more. She wanted to glorify self, not God.

Verses 1-5

The temptation of Eve 3:1-5

As in chapters 1 and 2, the word of the Lord is very important in chapter 3. Here Adam and Eve doubted God’s integrity. This pericope also has something to teach about the acquisition of wisdom. Chapter 2 anticipated God’s gift of the Promised Land to the original readers, and chapter 3 anticipates their exile from it. [Note: Idem, "Genesis," pp. 48-49.]

Verses 2-3

Eve was vulnerable to this suggestion because she distorted the word of God. She added to it "or touch it" (Genesis 3:3).

"In her reply to [the serpent’s] question, she perverted and misquoted three times the divine law to which she and Adam were subject: (1) She disparaged her privileges by misquoting the terms of the Divine permission as to the other trees. (2) She overstated the restrictions by misquoting the Divine prohibition. (3) She underrated her obligations by misquoting the Divine penalty." [Note: W.H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary, p. 48.]

God reveals His character through His word. When we do not retain His word precisely, a distorted concept of God is often the result. This led Eve to doubt God’s goodness.

The serpent’s claim directly contradicted the main point of chapters 1 and 2, namely, that God would provide what is good for mankind.

"It is because ’Yahweh Elohim’ expresses so strongly the basic OT convictions about God’s being both creator and Israel’s covenant partner that the serpent and the woman avoid the term in their discussion. The god they are talking about is malevolent, secretive, and concerned to restrict man: his character is so different from that of Yahweh Elohim that the narrative pointedly avoids the name in the dialogue of Genesis 3:1-5." [Note: Wenham, p. 57.]

One natural tendency that we have when we do not understand or recall God’s word precisely is to make it more restrictive than He does. This is what Eve did. This is a form of legalism.

Verses 4-5

The second step in Satan’s temptation was to deny God’s word. In denying it he imputed motives to God that were not consistent with God’s character. God’s true motive was the welfare of man, but the serpent implied it was God’s welfare at man’s expense.

This added suggestion seemed consistent with what the serpent had already implied about God’s motives in Genesis 3:1. Having entertained a doubt concerning God’s word, Eve was ready to accept a denial of His word.

What the serpent said about Eve being as God was a half-truth. Ironically she was already as God having been made in His image (Genesis 1:26). She did become like God, or divine beings (Heb. ’elohim), in that she obtained a greater knowledge of good and evil by eating of the tree. However, she became less like God because she was no longer innocent of sin. Her relationship with God suffered. Though she remained like God she could no longer enjoy unhindered fellowship with God (Genesis 3:24). The consequent separation from God is the essence of death (Genesis 2:17).

The first doctrine Satan denied in Scripture was that sin results in death (separation from God), or, we could say, the doctrine that God will not punish sin. This is still the truth he tries hardest to get people to disbelieve.

Verse 6

Having succumbed to temptation Eve disobeyed God’s will. Whereas the serpent initiated the first two steps, he let Eve’s natural desires (her flesh) carry her into his trap.

All three avenues of fleshly temptation are present in Genesis 3:6.

1. She saw that the tree was "good for food" (the lust of the flesh: the desire to do something contrary to God’s will, i.e., eat the tasty fruit).

2. It was a "delight to the eyes" (the lust of the eyes: the desire to have something apart from God’s will, i.e., possess the beautiful fruit).

3. It was "desirable to make one wise" (the pride of life: the desire to be something apart from God’s will, i.e., as wise as God, or gods). It was the quest for wisdom that led Eve to disobey God. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 51.]

Eve saw, coveted, and took the fruit (cf. Joshua 7:21; 2 Samuel 11:2-4). We perceive, then lust, then act.

"We have already noted . . . how the scenes themselves are arranged in a concentric palistrophic pattern (ABCDCBA). Within this central scene, the same device is used; the midpoint ’and he ate’ employs the key verb of this tale-’eat.’ On either side we have the woman’s hopes of eating, ’good to eat,’ ’delight to the eyes,’ ’giving insight,’ balanced by its effects, ’eyes opened,’ ’knowing they were nude,’ ’hiding in the trees.’ These contrasts are deliberately drawn." [Note: Wenham, p. 75.]

"The proposition that an adult can gaze at anything is ludicrous and naive, for gazing is too often followed by desiring and sinning." [Note: Davis, p. 90. Cf. 9:20-27.]

In view of Jesus’ statement that a lustful look is as sinful as an overt act of sin (Matthew 5:27-28), did Eve commit the first sin when she desired the forbidden fruit? Sinful desires are sinful, but temptations are not sins until we respond by giving in to them. Eve did this when she ate the fruit. Until she did that, she was only experiencing temptation.

"Here is the essence of covetousness. It is the attitude that says I need something I do not now have in order to be happy." [Note: Hamilton, p. 190.]

"What Adam and Eve sought from the tree of knowledge was not philosophical or scientific knowledge desired by the Greeks, but practical knowledge that would give them blessing and fulfillment." [Note: K. Armstrong, In the Beginning, p. 27.]

Ignorance or disregard of God’s word makes one very vulnerable to temptation (Psalms 119:11). These conditions produce distrust, dissatisfaction, and finally disobedience. Failure to appreciate God’s goodness leads to distrust of His goodness. God’s prohibitions as well as His provisions are for our good.

"The root of sin should be understood. The foundation of all sin lies in man’s desire of self-assertion and his determination to be independent of God. Adam and Eve chafed under the restriction laid upon them by the command of God, and it was in opposition to this that they asserted themselves, and thereby fell. Man does not like to be dependent upon another, and subject to commands upon another, and subject to commands from without. He desires to go his own way, to be his own master; and as a consequence he sins, and becomes ’lord of himself, that heritage of woe.’" [Note: Thomas, p. 49. Cf. Waltke, Genesis, p. 103.]

God has always asked people to believe and trust His word that His will for us will result in our blessing. However, Satan has always urged us to have experiences that will convince us that we can obtain even greater blessings. He says, "Try it; you’ll like it!" But God says, "Trust me, and you’ll live." Satan’s appeal to get us to experience something to assure ourselves of its goodness directly contradicts God’s will for us. It is the way of sight rather than the way of faith.

Adam chose to obey his wife rather than God (cf. Genesis 3:17).

Verses 6-8

The Fall 3:6-8

In this section the relationship that God had established with man, which is the focus of the creation story, is broken. We can gain great insight into human nature from this story. Adam and Eve’s behavior as recorded here has been repeated by every one of their descendants.

"It is hardly too much to say that this chapter is the pivot of the Bible . . . . With the exception of the fact of Creation, we have here the record of the most important and far-reaching event in the world’s history-the entrance of sin." [Note: Thomas, p. 46.]

". . . Genesis does not explain the origins of evil; rather, the biblical account, if anything, says where evil does not have its source. Evil was not inherent in man nor can it be said that sin was the consequence of divine entrapment. The tempter stands outside the human pair and stands opposed to God’s word." [Note: Mathews, p. 226.]

Verses 7-8

The separation that sin produces in man’s relationship with God stands out clearly in these verses. Their new knowledge that the serpent promised would make them as God actually taught them that they were no longer even like each other. They were ashamed of their nakedness and sewed fig leaves together to hide their differences from each other (Genesis 3:7). [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 52.] Perhaps they chose fig leaves because fig leaves are large and strong.

The "cool" of the day is literally the "wind" of the day. God came to Adam and Eve in this wind. He came in a wind earlier in Creation (Genesis 1:2) and later to Job (Job 38:1), Israel (Exodus 20:18-21; cf. Deuteronomy 5:25), and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11).

"A more complete transformation could not be imagined. The trust of innocence is replaced by the fear of guilt. The trees that God created for man to look at (Genesis 2:9) are now his hiding place to prevent God seeing him." [Note: Wenham, p. 76.]

Genesis 3:7 marks the beginning of the second dispensation, the dispensation of conscience (or moral responsibility). Adam and Eve had failed in their responsibility under the dispensation of innocence; they were now sinners. They had rebelled against a specific command of God (Genesis 2:16-17), and this rebellion marked a transition from theoretical to experiential knowledge of good and evil. Their new responsibility now became to do all known good, to abstain from all known evil, and to approach God through blood sacrifice, which anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. As a period of testing for humanity, the dispensation of conscience ended with the Flood. However people continued to be morally responsible to God as He added further revelation of Himself and His will in succeeding ages (cf. Acts 14:14-16; Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 4:2).

Eve did not die at once physically, but she did die at once spiritually. She experienced alienation in her relationship with God. Death means separation in the Bible, never annihilation. Sin always results in alienation: theologically (between God and man), sociologically (between man and man), psychologically (between man and himself), and ecologically (between man and nature). We might also add, sexually (between men and women) and maritally (between husbands and wives).

Three kinds of death appear in Scripture: physical-separation of the body and soul (the material and immaterial parts of the person), spiritual-separation of the person and God, and eternal-permanent separation of the person and God.

The Apostle Paul wrote that Eve was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). This does not mean that women are by nature more easily subject to deception than men.

"There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the woman was inferior to the man in any way or more susceptible to temptation than he was." [Note: Susan Foh, Women and the Word of God, p. 63.]

"The tempter addresses himself to the woman, probably not because she is more open to temptation and prone to sin, for that is hardly the conception of the Old Testament elsewhere. The reason may have lain in this, that the woman had not personally received the prohibition from God, as Adam had." [Note: Gerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, p. 45.]

She may have received God’s word through Adam. Perhaps Satan appealed to Eve because she was not only under God’s authority but also under her husband’s authority and, therefore, more inclined to think God was withholding something from her.

"It is interesting to observe that when this sin is referred to throughout Scripture, it is not referred to as the sin of Eve-but rather as the sin of Adam! The phrase in Genesis 3:6, ’with her,’ seems to suggest that Adam was at Eve’s side when she was tempted by Satan. As God’s theocratic administrator, and as the appointed head of the family, it was Adam’s responsibility to safeguard Eve and to assure that she remained in submission to the command of God. But Adam failed in his God-given responsibility and permitted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit." [Note: Pentecost, p. 37.]

Adam, however, was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). He sinned with his eyes wide open (Genesis 3:6 b). Eve’s was a sin of initiative whereas Adam’s was one of acquiescence. [Note: Hamilton, p. 191.] Too much aggressiveness by a woman and too much passivity by a man still are tendencies of the respective sexes. Death "passed unto all men" (Romans 5:12) when Adam sinned because Adam, not Eve, was the head of the human race under God’s administration (cf. Genesis 3:18-23). [Note: See Jimmy A. Milliken, "The Origin of Death," Mid-American Theological Journal 7:2 (Winter 1983):17-22.]

Some commentators have interpreted eating the forbidden fruit as a euphemism for having sexual intercourse. [Note: E.g., E. A. Speiser, Genesis, p. 26.] They say that the original sin was a sexual sin. However the text makes such an interpretation impossible. Eve sinned first (Genesis 3:6), she sinned alone (Genesis 3:6), and God had previously approved sex (Genesis 1:28).

"Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 2:25) does not idealize nudity but shows why human beings must wear clothes. With the Fall came a tragic loss of innocence (together with resulting shame). When people’s minds are enlightened by the gospel, they understand their moral frailty and practice customs of dress that shield them against sexual temptation." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 103.]

The timeless lesson of these verses is that victory over temptation to violate God’s good will depends on a thorough knowledge of God’s word and unwavering confidence in God’s goodness. As Israel faced temptations to depart from God’s revealed will from the pagans she encountered, this record would have provided a resource for remaining faithful, as it does for us today. Often these temptations attract because they promise superior blessing and fulfillment, even divinity. Therefore, knowing God’s word is extremely important (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Deuteronomy 6:13-25; Psalms 119:9-16). Satan tempted Jesus similarly to the way he tempted Eve. However, Jesus overcame victoriously by accurately using the word of God to remain faithful to the will of God. True wisdom comes by obeying, not disobeying, God’s word.

Verses 9-13

God’s confrontation of the sinners 3:9-13

This section begins to relate the effects of the Fall. We now see the God who was creator and benefactor in chapters 1 and 2 as judge (cf. Genesis 1:3-4). He first interrogated the offenders to obtain a confession, then announced new conditions for life, and finally provided for the sinners graciously. The sinners’ responsibility was to confess their sins and to accept and trust in God’s provision for them (cf. 1 John 1:9).

Note that God took the initiative in seeking out the sinners to re-establish a relationship with them. Evidence of God’s love is His unwillingness to abandon those He loved even when they failed to do His will. His approach was tender as well as gracious (Genesis 3:9; Genesis 3:11; Genesis 3:13).

"In . . . spite of the apparent similarity in expression to pagan religions the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament reveal all the more remarkably a sharply contrasting concept of deity." [Note: Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Anthropomorphism in Ancient Religions," Bibliotheca Sacra 125:497 (January-March 1968):29.]

The text records several effects of the Fall on Adam and Eve.

1. They felt guilt and shame (Genesis 3:7)

2. They tried to change these conditions by their own efforts (Genesis 3:7).

3. They fled from God’s presence out of fear of Him (Genesis 3:8; Genesis 3:10).

4. They tried to blame their sin on another rather than confessing personal responsibility (Genesis 3:12-13).

The fact that Adam viewed God’s good gift to him, Eve, as the source of his trouble shows how far he fell (Genesis 3:12). He virtually accused God of causing him to fall by giving him what he now regarded as a bad gift.

Verses 14-15

Effects on the serpent 3:14-15

God’s judgment on each trespasser (the snake, the woman, and the man) involved both a life function and a relationship. [Note: J. T. Walsh, "Genesis 2:4b-3:24: A Synchronic Approach," Journal of Biblical Literature 96 (1977):168.] In each case the punishment corresponded to the nature of the crime.

"Curses are uttered against the serpent and the ground, but not against the man and woman, implying that the blessing has not been utterly lost. It is not until human murder, a transgression against the imago Dei, that a person (Cain) receives the divine curse . . ." [Note: Mathews, p. 243.]

1. The snake had been crafty (Heb. ’arum), but now it was cursed (Heb. ’arur). It had to move on its belly (Genesis 3:14). Some commentators take this literally and conclude that the snake had legs before God cursed it. [Note: E.g., Josephus, 1:1:50.] Others take it figuratively as a reference to the resultant despised condition of the snake. [Note: E.g., Leupold, Exposition of Genesis , 1:162; Kidner, p. 70; Mathews, p. 244.]

2. It would eat dust (Genesis 3:14). Since snakes do not literally feed on dust, many interpreters take this statement figuratively. Eating dust is an expression used in other ancient Near Eastern writings to describe the lowest of all forms of life. In the Bible it also describes humiliation and total defeat (cf. Psalms 44:25; Psalms 72:9; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17).

God revealed later through Isaiah that serpents will eat dust during the Millennium (Isaiah 65:25). Presently snakes eat plants and animals. Perhaps God will yet fulfill this part of what He predicted here in Genesis concerning snakes in the millennial kingdom. This is a literal interpretation. If this is correct, then perhaps we should also take the former part of the curse literally, namely, that snakes did not travel on their bellies before the Fall. Alternatively Isaiah may have meant that serpents will be harmless after God lifts the curse on creation in the Millennium.

3. There would be antagonism between the serpent and human beings (Genesis 3:15 a). This obviously exists between snakes and people, but God’s intention in this verse seems to include the person behind the snake (Satan) as well as, and even more than, the snake itself.

". . . the seed of the serpent refers to natural humanity whom he has led into rebellion against God. Humanity is now divided into two communities: the elect, who love God, and the reprobate, who love self (John 8:31-32; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). Each of the characters of Genesis will be either of the seed of the woman that reproduces her spiritual propensity, or of the seed of the Serpent that reproduces his unbelief." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, pp. 93-94. Cf. p. 46.]

4. Man would eventually destroy the serpent, though the serpent would wound man (Genesis 3:15 b). This is a prophecy of the victory of the ultimate "Seed" of the woman (Messiah) over Satan (cf. Revelation 19:1-5; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). [Note: See John Sailhamer, "The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44:1 (March 2001):5-23.] Most interpreters have recognized this verse as the first biblical promise of the provision of salvation (the protoevangelium or "first gospel"). [Note: See John C. Jeske, "The Gospel Adam and Eve Heard: Genesis 3:15" Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 81:3 (Summer 1984):182-84; and Walter C. Kaiser Jr., "The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest," Bibliotheca Sacra 130:518 (April-June 1973):135-50.] The rest of the book, in fact the whole Old Testament, proceeds to point ahead to that seed.

"The snake, for the author, is representative of someone or something else. The snake is represented by his ’seed.’ When that ’seed’ is crushed, the head of the snake is crushed. Consequently more is at stake in this brief passage than the reader is at first aware of. A program is set forth. A plot is established that will take the author far beyond this or that snake and his ’seed.’ It is what the snake and His ’seed’ represent that lies at the center of the author’s focus. With that ’one’ lies the ’enmity’ that must be crushed." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 55. See also Mathews, pp. 246-48.]

"The text in context provides an outline that is correct and clear in pattern but not complete in all details. Numerous questions are left unanswered. When Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, the details of the climax were filled in and specified, but the text does not demand to be reinterpreted. Nor does it demand interpretation in a way not suggested in context." [Note: Elliott E. Johnson, "Premillennialism Introduced: Hermeneutics," in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus, p. 22. See also Darrell L. Bock, "Interpreting the Bible-How Texts Speak to Us," in Progressive Dispensationalism, p. 81; and Wenham, pp. 80-81.]

God cursed all animals and the whole creation because of the Fall (Romans 8:20), but He made the snake the most despicable of all the animals for its part in the Fall.

"Words possess power. God’s words of blessing and of curse are most powerful. They determine our lives." [Note: Pamela J. Scalise, "The Significance of Curses and Blessings," Biblical Illustrator 13:1 (Fall 1986):59.]

Verses 14-21

The judgment of the guilty 3:14-21

As the result of man’s disobedience to God, the creation suffered a curse and began to deteriorate. Evolution teaches that man is improving his condition through self-effort. The Bible teaches that man is destroying his condition through sin. Having been thrice blessed by God (Genesis 1:22; Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:3) the creation now experienced a triple curse (Genesis 3:14; Genesis 3:17; Genesis 4:11).

"In the Bible, to curse means to invoke God’s judgment on someone, usually for some particular offense." [Note: Wenham, p. 78.]

Nevertheless God also began recreation with the promise of the seed, the land, the dominion, and the rest for trust in His powerful word.

Genesis 3:14-19 reveal the terms of the second major biblical covenant, the Adamic Covenant. Here God specified the conditions under which fallen man was to live (until God lifts His curse on creation in the messianic kingdom; Romans 8:21). The elements of this covenant can be summarized as follows. God cursed the serpent (Genesis 3:14) but promised a redeemer (Genesis 3:15). He changed the status of the woman in three respects: she would experience multiplied conception, sorrow and pain in motherhood, and continuing headship by the man (Genesis 3:16). God also changed Adam and Eve’s light workload in Eden to burdensome labor and inevitable sorrow because of His curse on the earth (Genesis 3:17-19). Finally, He promised certain physical death for Adam and all his descendents (Genesis 3:19).

Verse 16

Effects on women 3:16

1. Eve would experience increased pain in bearing children. There evidently would have been some pain in the process of bearing children before the Fall, but Eve and her daughters would experience increased pain. The text does not say that God promised more conception as well as more pain. [Note: Cf. Schaeffer, p. 93.] "Pain" and "childbirth" is probably another hendiadys in the Hebrew text meaning pregnancy pain.

2. Women’s desire would be for their husbands. There have been several different interpretations of what the woman’s "desire" would be.

a. The phrase "your desire will be for your husband" means that a woman’s desire would be subject to her husband’s desire.

"Her desire, whatever it may be, will not be her own. She cannot do what she wishes, for her husband rules over her like a despot and whatever she wishes is subject to his will." [Note: E. J. Young, Genesis 3, p. 127. Cf. John Calvin, Genesis, p. 172.]

b. The woman will have a great longing, yearning, and psychological dependence on her husband.

"This yearning is morbid. It is not merely sexual yearning. It includes the attraction that woman experiences for man which she cannot root from her nature. Independent feminists may seek to banish it, but it persists in cropping out." [Note: Leupold, 1:172. Cf. Gini Andrews, Your Half of the Apple, p. 51.]

c. The woman will desire to dominate the relationship with her husband. This view rests on the parallel Hebrew construction in Genesis 4:7. This view seems best to me.

"The ’curse’ here describes the beginning of the battle of the sexes. After the Fall, the husband no longer rules easily; he must fight for his headship. The woman’s desire is to control her husband (to usurp his divinely appointed headship), and he must master her, if he can. Sin had corrupted both the willing submission of the wife and the loving headship of the husband. And so the rule of love founded in paradise is replaced by struggle, tyranny, domination, and manipulation." [Note: Foh, p. 69. See also her article, "What is the Woman’s Desire?" Westminster Theological Journal 37:3 (Spring 1975):376-383; Mathews, p. 251; and Waltke, Genesis, p. 94.]

d. The woman would continue to desire to have sexual relations with her husband even though after the Fall she experienced increased pain in childbearing.

". . . the woman’s desire for the man and his rule over her are not the punishment but the conditions in which the woman will suffer punishment. . . . It may be concluded that, in spite of the Fall, the woman will have a longing for intimacy with man involving more than sexual intimacy. . . . [Note: Irving Busenitz, "Woman’s Desire for Man: Genesis 3:16 Reconsidered," Grace Theological Journal 7:2 (Fall 1986):203, 206-8. Cf. Song of Solomon 7:10.]

This view takes this statement of God as a blessing rather than a curse.

Verses 17-19

Effects on humanity generally 3:17-19

1. Adam would have to toil hard to obtain a living from the ground (Genesis 3:17-18). Adam already had received the privilege of enjoying the garden (Genesis 2:15), but this did not require strenuous toil.

"As for the man, his punishment consists in the hardship and skimpiness of his livelihood, which he now must seek for himself. The woman’s punishment struck at the deepest root of her being as wife and mother, the man’s strikes at the innermost nerve of his life: his work, his activity, and provision for sustenance." [Note: von Rad, pp. 93-94.]

"These punishments represent retaliatory justice. Adam and Eve sinned by eating; they would suffer in order to eat. She manipulated her husband; she would be mastered by her husband. The serpent destroyed the human race; he will be destroyed." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 33.]

"In drawing a contrast between the condition of the land before and after the Fall, the author shows that the present condition of the land was not the way it was intended to be. Rather, the state of the land was the result of human rebellion. In so doing, the author has paved the way for a central motif in the structure of biblical eschatology, the hope of a ’new heaven and a new earth’ (cf. Isaiah 65:17: [sic] Romans 8:22-24; Revelation 21:1)." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 109.]

2. He would return to dust when he died (Genesis 3:19). Rather than living forever experiencing physical immortality, people would now die physically and experience physical mortality.

"Genesis 3:19 does not attribute the cause of death to the original composition of the human body, so that man would ultimately have died anyway, but states merely one of the consequences of death: Since the human body was formed from the dust of the earth, it shall, upon death, be resolved to earth again." [Note: Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, p. 143.]

Genesis 3:18 shows the reversal of the land’s condition before and after the Fall. Genesis 3:19 shows the same for man’s condition.

"Adam and Eve failed . . . to observe the restrictions of the Edenic covenant [Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:16-17]. Innocence was lost and conscience was born. . . .

"Having failed under the Edenic covenant, human beings were then faced with the provisions of the Adamic covenant [Genesis 3:14-19]. That covenant was unconditional in the sense that Adam and Eve’s descendants would be unable by human effort to escape the consequences of sin. . . .

"A ray of light is provided, however, in the Adamic covenant because God promised that a redeemer would come [Genesis 3:15]. . . . This is the introduction of the great theme of grace and redemption found in the Scriptures. . . .

"Unless tempered by the grace of God and changed by subsequent promises, people continue to the present time to labor under the provisions of the Adamic covenant." [Note: Walvoord, p. 188.]

Verses 20-21

Additional effects on Adam and Eve 3:20-21

Adam and Eve accepted their judgment from God and did not rebel against it. We see this in Adam naming Eve the mother of all living, a personal name that defines her destiny (Genesis 3:20). He believed life would continue in spite of God’s curse. This was an act of faith and an expression of hope. He believed God’s promise that she would bear children (Genesis 3:16). His wife’s first name "woman" (Genesis 2:23) looked back on her origin, whereas her second name "Eve" anticipated her destiny.

1. Note that before God sent Adam and Eve out into a new environment He provided them with clothing that was adequate for their needs (cf. Romans 3:21-26). Their own provision (Genesis 3:7) was not adequate. He did for them what they could not do for themselves.

". . . he [Adam] had to learn that sin could be covered not by a bunch of leaves snatched from a bush as he passed by and that would grow again next year, but only by pain and blood." [Note: Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis, p. 25.]

2. Furthermore, God prevented Adam and Eve from living perpetually in their fallen state (Genesis 3:22-24).

Verses 22-24

Expulsion from the garden 3:22-24

Genesis 3:22 shows that man’s happiness (good) does not consist in his being like God as much as it depends on his being with God (cf. Psalms 16:11). [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 59.] "Like one of us" probably means like heavenly beings (God and the angels; cf. Genesis 1:26). [Note: Wenham, p. 85; Waltke, Genesis, p. 95.]

Cherubim in the Old Testament surround and symbolize God’s presence. They are similar to God’s bodyguards. Ancient oriental iconography pictured them as human-headed winged lions guarding holy places. [Note: James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 159-60, plates 456, 458.] Moses pictured them here defending the tree of life with a flaming sword. They guarded the ark of the covenant later as they earlier guarded the tree of life in the garden (Genesis 3:24). The laws contained in the ark were a source of life for the Israelites. The golden lampstand in the tabernacle represented a tree of life and the presence of God. [Note: Wenham, p. 86.]

As people moved east from the garden they settled in Shinar and built Babel (Gr. Babylon, Genesis 11:2). When Lot departed from Abraham he moved east to Sodom (Genesis 13:11). When Abraham came back from the East he returned to the Promised Land and the city of Salem ("peace," Genesis 14:17-20). Thus God’s presence continued to reside in the garden (Promised Land?) in a localized sense, and movement to the east from there typically involved departing from Him.

"No matter how hard people try to do away with male dominion, agonizing labor, painful childbearing, and death, these evils will continue because sin is present. They are the fruits of sin." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 33.]

Rebellion against God results in suffering and death, but confession secures His gracious provisions. This section explains why human beings toil and agonize all their lives and finally die. Sin is responsible, and only the removal of sin will end this condition. God is a savior as well as a judge in this pericope. Moses introduced the way of covering sin, namely, through the death of an innocent substitute. Consequently there is hope in the midst of tragedy. [Note: See Steve Davis, "Stories of the Fall in the Ancient Near East," Biblical Illustrator 13:1 (Fall 1986):37-40. On the larger issue of sin’s origin, see William K. Harrison, "The Origin of Sin," Bibliotheca Sacra 130:517 (January-March 1973):58-61.]

"The chapter simply does not support the concept that one finds fulfillment and bliss in liberating oneself from subordination to God’s word, his permissions and his denials. Man is not suddenly metamorphosed from a puppet to a free and independent thinker. In fact, he never was an automaton. If man had lacked the ability to choose, the prohibition from God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would have been superfluous. One is not told to abstain from something unless he has the capacity not to abstain." [Note: Hamilton, p. 211.]

Thus Genesis 3 introduces us to the fact of human freedom as well as reminding us of divine sovereignty. [Note: See Sidney Greidanus, "Preaching Christ from the Narrative of the Fall," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:643 (July-September 2004):259-73.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-3.html. 2012.
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