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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 3

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-24


THE TEMPTATION (Genesis 3:1-5 )

That more than the serpent was present is suggested by the speech and reasoning powers displayed, but is rendered certain by a comparison of Revelation 12:9 ; Revelation 20:2 , where the serpent is identified with Satan. Some think the serpent originally stood upright and was very beautiful to look upon, which, if true, would contribute to its power over the woman and further explain why Satan employed it as his instrument. Nevertheless, that Satan was the real tempter is additionally assured by John 8:44 ; 2 Corinthians 11:13 ; 1 John 3:8 and 1 Timothy 2:14 .

Read Satan’s inquiry of the woman in the Revised Version, and perceive how it differs from the words of the prohibition (Genesis 2:16 ). How does it prove Satan “a liar from the beginning,” and how does it impugn God’s wisdom and love? Do you think the woman made a mistake in parleying with Satan? And how does her language (Genesis 3:3 ) deflect from the truth? Does she also make God a harder master than He is, and thus has sin already entered her soul?

Notice that “gods” (Genesis 3:5 ) is translated “God” in the Revised Version. It was in seeking to be as God that Satan fell (1 Timothy 3:6 ), and he tries to drag man down by the same means. Compare this passage with the history of the Antichrist (1 Thessalonians 2:4 ).

THE FALL (Genesis 3:6-7 )

What three steps led to the open act of sin? How does 1 John 2:16 characterize these steps? Compare the temptation of Jesus for the use of the same method (Luke 4:1-13 ). How does the further conduct of the woman illustrate the progress and propagation of sin? Did any part of Satan’s promise come true? What part failed? Our first parents came into the knowledge of good and evil by coming to know evil to which they had been strangers before, the moral effect on them being shame (compare Genesis 2:25 ). What the man and woman immediately acquired was the now predominant trait of self-consciousness. God-consciousness has been lost, and henceforth self-contemplation is to be the characteristic and bane of mankind, laying the foundation for those inner feelings or mental states comprehended under the term unhappiness, and for all the external strivings whereby effort is made to attain a better condition. What was the first of these efforts they made (Genesis 3:7 , last clause)? And is not this act the germ of all subsequent human activities? Conscious of self and feeling the pressure of need, and no longer having a God to supply that need, man begins to invent and contrive (Ecclesiastes 7:29 ). Nor are these inventions of a material kind merely, but chiefly a spiritual kind, since their effort to cover themselves illustrates the futile attempts of the race to save itself from the eternal effects of sin by works of morality, penance and the like. What is the only covering that avails for the sinner (Romans 3:22 , 2 Corinthians 5:21 )?

THE TRIAL (Genesis 3:8-13 )

“Voice” might be rendered by sound, and “cool” by wind. How does (Genesis 3:8 indicate the character and degree of their shame? Do God’s words (Genesis 3:9 ) express judgment only, or may they have expressed grace? If the latter, in what sense? Does Adam tell the exact truth (Genesis 3:10 )? Was it merely shame or the sense of sin that drove him away? How does God’s question (Genesis 3:11 ) suggest the kind of knowledge that had now come to Adam? Does Genesis 3:12 show a spirit of repentance or self-justification on his part? In the last analysis does he cast the blame on the woman or God?


On which of the guilty does God first pass sentence? Has the curse of Genesis 3:14 been fulfilled? Compare Isaiah 65:25 , and notice that even in the millennium when the curse is removed from all other cattle it will still remain on the serpent. But how does this curse suggest that previously the serpent did not crawl? (Naturalists describe the organism of the serpent as one of extreme degradation, and say that although it belongs to the latest creations of the animal kingdom, yet it represents a decided retrogression in the scale of being, thus corroborating the biblical explanation of its condition.) Has the curse of Genesis 3:15 been fulfilled?

But we must not suppose the curse of Genesis 3:15 to be limited to the serpent, or else Satan were exempt. See by the marginal references that the seed of the serpent is placed by metonomy for that of Satan and is identified as the wicked and unbelieving people of all the ages (Matthew 3:7 ; Matthew 13:38 ; Matthew 23:33 ; John 8:44 ; Acts 13:10 ; 1 John 3:8 ). In the same way the seed of the woman might be supposed to stand for the righteous and believing people in all the ages, and so it does in a certain sense, but especially it stands for our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head and Representative of that people, the One through whom they believe and by whom they become righteous. He Himself is the seed of the woman, and they in Him (Isaiah 7:14 ; Matthew 1:18-25 ; Luke 1:31-35 ; Galatians 4:4-5 ).

Observe how much this means to us. It is really a promise of a Redeemer and redemption, and being the first promise, it is that out of which all subsequent promises flow. The Bible refers to it again and again in one way and another, and we need to become well acquainted with it. Indeed the rest of the Bible is just a history of the fulfillment of this promise. The Bible is not a history of the world or even of man, but a history of the redemption of man from the sin into which he fell in the garden of Eden.

This explains why the whole story of creation is summed up in one chapter of the Bible, and why so little is said about the history of the nations of the earth except Israel.

But in what sense is this a promise of redemption? On the supposition that Christ is the Seed of the woman, what will He do to Satan (Genesis 3:15 )? When the serpent’s head is bruised is not its power destroyed? (For the parallel see Hebrews 2:14-15 and Revelation 20:1-3 ; Revelation 20:7-10 .) But what will Satan do to Christ? How may Satan be said to have bruised Christ’s heel? (For the answer see Isaiah 50:1-11 ; Isaiah 53:1-12 , Psalms 22:1-31 ; Psalms 69:1-36 , and the chapters of the Gospels that speak of Christ’s sufferings and crucifixion.)


What is the first feature of the sentence on the woman (Genesis 3:16 , first clause)? With what chiefly will her sorrow be connected (second clause)? What second feature of her sentence is contained in the last clause?

For what is the man condemned? Does this show him less or more guilty than his wife? What curse precedes that on the man himself? And yet how is it shown that this too is a curse on the man? “Sorrow” is rendered toil in the Revised Version, and hence the curse on the ground entails the toil on the man. How does this curse on the ground express itself from the ground (Genesis 3:18 )? (The necessaries of life must now be forced out of the earth which before might have spontaneously yielded them.) What will this condition of things force out of man (Genesis 3:19 )? For how long must this normally continue? What part of man returns to the dust (Ecclesiastes 12:7 )? Naturalists corroborate the Bible testimony to the curse by explaining that thorns and thistles are an abortion in the vegetable world, the result of arrested development and imperfect growth. They disappear by cultivation and are transformed into branches, thus showing what their character may have been before the curse, and what it may be when through Christ the curse will have been removed (Revelation 22:1-5 ). How deeply significant the crown of thorns, the sign of the curse which Jesus bore for us!

THE PENALTY (Genesis 3:22-24 )

To whom do you suppose the Lord God said this? Who is meant by “us”? Did you notice the same plural pronoun in Genesis 1:26 ? The use of this is one of the earliest intimations of the Trinity more fully revealed in the New Testament. Indeed the earliest intimation is in the first verse of Scripture in the name God or (Hebrew) Elohim. This is a plural noun but associated with a singular verb, thus suggesting the idea of plurality in unity.

What reason is given for thrusting Adam and Eve out of Eden (Genesis 3:22 )? Has it occurred to you that there was mercy in this act? Having obtained the knowledge of evil without the power of resisting it, would it not have added to their calamity if, by eating of the tree of life, they had rendered that condition everlasting?

What is the name of the mysterious beings placed on guard at the east of the garden (Genesis 3:24 )? They seem to be the special guardians of God’s majesty, the vindicators of God’s broken law, a thought emphasized by their symbolical position over the mercy seat in the tabernacle at a later period. “The flaming sword” has been translated by shekinah, the name of the visible glory of God which rested on the mercy seat. May it be that we have here a representation of the mode of worship now established at Eden to show God’s anger at sin, and to teach the mediation of a promised Savior as the way of access to God? As later, so now God seems to say, “I will commune with thee from between the cherubim” (Exodus 25:10-22 ).


1. How would you prove that Satan and not the serpent was the real tempter in Eden?

1. In what way does the temptation of the second Adam (Christ)harmonize with this of the first Adam?

2. What does the making of the aprons of fig leaves illustrate?

3. How does natural history throw light on the curse pronounced on the serpent?

4. Who especially is meant by “the Seed of the woman”?

5. What is the Bible?

6. What do naturalists say as to the nature of thorns and thistles?

7. With what two or three suggestions of the Trinity have we met thus far in our lessons?

8. Of what do the cherubim seem to be the vindicators, and what suggestions does this fact bring to mind?

9. How many questions in the text of our lesson have you been able satisfactorily to answer?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 3". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-3.html. 1897-1910.
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