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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 3

The untouched nature and the state of innocence in which man has lived have been short-lived. As soon as God has finished His work to bless man, satan appears on stage in the form of a serpent. It is his nature to destroy what God has made. The Lord Jesus calls him “a murderer from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44; cf. Rev 12:9).

Through man’s unfaithfulness, satan has succeeded in breaking into the relationship between God and man. So it has been with all that God has entrusted to man in grace and blessing. The opportunity to do so always lies in the weak link in that relationship: man. If a man does not trust God completely, he will fall prey to the temptation of satan.

However, there has been a Man on whom satan has not been given a hold: the Man Christ Jesus. This Man is the guarantee that everything God has made will be restored and become as He purposed.

Verse 1

The Serpent

The deceiver comes in the shape of a serpent to Eve. Adam gave the animals names, thus showing his sovereignty over and his insight in the animals. Adam is along with Eve master of the animals and head of the whole creation.

The fact that animals cannot speak and an animal speaks here should have been a clear signal to Eve that this is not the voice of God. Satan uses the serpent as a medium to hide himself. This is the first medium in the history of mankind. Here the world of occultism takes its hold.

An important point is the nature of the serpent. Do we have to see the serpent literally or figuratively? A ‘figurative’ serpent leads to an artificial interpretation of the text:
1. The qualification that the serpent was “more crafty than any beast of the field” remains unclear.
2. The judgment about this animal then does not really make any sense. Just look at the parts of it:
(a) he has been cursed among all the cattle and all the beasts of the field,
(b) he shall go on his belly,
(c) he shall eat dust,
(d) there will be constant enmity between the serpent and man.
3. The use of speech in other passages that connect to this chapter must be violated (Isa 65:25; Mic 7:17). When the Lord Jesus says to His disciples, “Be shrewd [or: wise] as serpents” (Mt 10:16), He certainly does not call us to imitate the “old serpent”, that is, satan!
4. In the case of a ‘figurative serpent’ you can no longer say that the (literal) serpent has deceived Eve by his craftiness, as Paul states (2Cor 11:3).

In short, we do not read the Scriptures as the open-minded reader does, who rightly takes the statements about the literal speaking of the literal animal as they are given here.

Another question we can ask in this context is whether Paul is wrong when he compares the craftiness of the instrument used by satan in the garden of Eden – the literal serpent (2Cor 11:3) – with that of human instruments of satan (2Cor 11:14-15). However, there is no question about such a mistake.

That becomes clear when we read carefully. He speaks of the craftiness of this instrument of the evil one as the opposite of false apostles, who are servants of satan. We also see a clear distinction between the literal serpent and the satan himself. It does not say that the serpent himself presents himself as an angel of light, but “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2Cor 11:14)!

If we say that in Genesis 3 the manifestation of satan would be a kind of mirage, something that took place in the brain of Eve, it undermines the historic fall into sin. In that case, this chapter only has an exemplary character, like: we are all tempted by satan and then we are faced with important choices. But then man is no longer a fallen creature!

Satan chooses Eve as the interlocutor and not Adam. He knows that she is the weak link in the whole. In his teaching on the behavior of men and women in the house of God, Paul refers to what is happening here (1Tim 2:11-14). Satan opens the conversation with a cunning question. With his question he tries to sow doubt and mistrust in what God has said. His stratagem succeeds. Many times since then satan has asked the question: “Indeed, has God said …?” He has thus defeated countless people.

Satan suggests that God has deliberately limited the blessing that man may enjoy in the garden by saying “do not eat of all trees of the garden”. Arithmetically this remark is consistent with what God has said to man (Gen 2:16-17). Indeed, God has forbidden to eat from one particular tree, that of the knowledge of good and evil. The cunning way in which the serpent represents the commandment of God comes down to the fact that man may eat from all trees minus one. In this way he suggests a restriction of human freedom.

But what exactly did God say? God has said: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” (Gen 2:16). We can understand this as allowed to eat from the abundance of tree fruits. The serpent, however, uses a totally different, misleading formulation. He does not speak of the freedom and blessing of man but shifts the emphasis to limitation. But God did not say so.

Verses 2-6

The Fall

The serpent manages to mislead the woman by his cunning (2Cor 11:3). Eve no longer sees things as God has said, but as the serpent reflects them on her. Do we not often hear in connection with clear statements from the Word of God: ‘You have to see things differently’? He who surrenders to it loses God’s sight of things and becomes the prey of another. Instead of referring the serpent to Adam, she talks to the serpent herself. She is open to his suggestion. Her answer betrays that the suggestive speaking of the serpent has an effect.

Her answer shows that in her thinking the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands in the middle of the garden (Gen 3:3), while God has placed the tree of life in the middle of the garden (Gen 2:9). If man has another center than God, it always goes wrong. Her answer betrays another thing: she adds to the commandment of God. God has said that she shall not eat of it; she changes it into not to eat of it and not to touch it. She makes the commandment of God heavier than He has given it.

In summary, we see that the woman says six things that differ substantially from what God has said and intended (Gen 2:16-17):
1. She conceals ‘eat freely’, and only speaks of ‘eat’.
2. She does not speak of ‘any tree’, but of ‘the trees’.
3. She speaks of ‘the fruit of the trees’ instead of the ‘trees’.
4. In her view she places the tree of knowledge of good and evil “in the midst of the garden”, while it is explicitly mentioned that the tree of life stands there (Gen 2:9).
5. She also says: ‘not touch it’, but God has not spoken about this with a word.
6. She says, “you will die,” while God has said, “you will surely die”, which is a much more powerful expression.

We can learn from this that we must follow the example of the Lord Jesus and respond to the enemy in the way He did. We must react spiritually alert and see where the twists and one-sidedness are, where the enemy “adds” or “takes away” (Rev 22:18-19). We may be aware of the power and presence of Him Who said: “The ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (Jn 14:30).

The woman’s reaction has given the serpent a wide opening to inject its deadly poison into her. He openly denies the goodness of God and presents Him as One Who withholds the good from man. In fact, he says: ‘God does not really love you.’ This is the greatest conceivable disgrace of God, Who is love: “God is love” (1Jn 4:8; 16). Satan has also achieved countless successes with this representation of God.

The woman is now so brainwashed that she takes over the ‘insight’ from satan. She entrusts herself more to satan, as if he has the best of intentions for her, than to God. She judges God according to satan’s lie. She looks at the tree and sees what satan has shown. It is indeed a beautiful fruit. And shouldn’t you be allowed to eat that? God can never have intended that. The desire to take from the fruit is born.

Through desire carried away and lured, satan’s desire for what satan has presented to her takes possession of her: to become wise and therefore to be like God. Desire gives birth to sin and sin brings forth death (Jam 1:14-15). She takes and eats and also gives her husband and he eats too. This is a tragedy with irrevocable, deeply tragic consequences. By their action, they express that they reject God for the enjoyment of a fruit.

Verses 7-8

Afraid for the LORD God

The result of their deed is that they now indeed know good and evil, as satan had said. Only from this moment on they are no longer able to do good, but only evil. Their eyes are opened, but they see only their nakedness, their own sinfulness. They realize that they can no longer face God in the same way they could before their deed. They find the covering they are looking for in homemade loin coverings of fig leaves.

These loin coverings of fig leaves are still made today by all who have a sense of God but think that they can exist before Him by observing religious obligations. But that is not a covering for God. In Gen 3:10, Adam says, despite his loin covering: “I am naked.” Neither dare Adam and Eve, despite their loin coverings, to face God. For fear of Him they hide when they hear the sound of Him walking in the garden that He is coming. God comes to seek fellowship with man, but sin has made this impossible.

Verses 9-13

Called to Account

While Adam and Eve have been hiding, the voice of God to Adam sounds: “Where are you?” Thus God still seeks the sinner today and calls everyone by name to come out. Change begins with coming into the light of God. Adam knows God sees him and answers. However, it is not a direct answer, but more evasive. He speaks of his fear and nakedness as the reason to hide from God. He does not talk about the cause.

He and Eve do not bow directly under God’s judgment. Therefore God continues to ask questions. He knows perfectly what happened, but He wants to hear it from the mouth of Adam and Eve. In the questions He asks, He puts in their mouth what they should say, as it were, because He wants them to confess their sin. By asking questions, God forces them to think about what they have done.

His questions reveal their selfishness and their search for justification of their actions instead of an honest confession. Adam blames Eve. By speaking of “the woman you gave to be with me”, he indirectly blames God. Eve also shifts the blame and puts it with the serpent.

Verses 14-19

The LORD God Gives Judgment

In His response to the defenses of Adam and Eve, God first addresses Himself to him who has been the instrument of temptation to sin. Without hearing the serpent God curses him. The serpent hears a direct verdict, without the possibility of a reply. Going on the belly indicates extreme humiliation and misery (cf. Mic 7:17a; Psa 44:25).

In the curse God also speaks of “the seed of the woman”. That is a clear reference to the Lord Jesus (Gal 4:4). He will bruise satan on the head, while satan will bruise him on the heel. If the heel is bruised, it is impossible to walk. With the Lord Jesus this happens when people, led by satan, pierce His feet on the cross and kill Him. But just by the cross He obtains victory and bruises satan on the head (Col 2:15).

After the curse of the serpent and the prospect of victory over the tempter, God also pronounces His verdict on man’s sin. He mentions the consequences of sin first for the woman and then for the man. They are not cursed. The consequences for them are an aggravation of the task God has given each of them.

It is God’s purpose that the woman should bear children (Gen 1:28). Apparently until then pregnancy and giving birth are painless in origin. That will no longer be the case. Pregnancy will cause many inconveniences and giving birth to children is a painful experience. Sin has weakened the woman physically, causing pregnancy and giving birth to be accompanied by difficulty.

To this verdict is added the fact that her desire will go to her husband and that he will rule over her. This is the result of her self-willed action by independently entering into conversation with the serpent without involving Adam. She has also involved Adam into her sin by giving him the fruit. Instead of being a help to him, she has led him to commit sin. In this judgment God says that she will really depend on her husband and that he will tell her what to do. Therein lies her blessing at the same time.

The verdict on Adam is twofold. The earth is cursed because of him, and he will return to dust, that is to say die the physical death. Adam, by listening to his wife, denied his position of being head over creation. As punishment for this, from now on nature will be in revolt against him. Creation also shares in the consequences of the Fall, for it is “subjected to futility” (Rom 8:20). From that moment on, she also produces thorns and thistles. Adam will no longer be able to manage nature.

For his livelihood, he will have to cultivate the ground with great effort. “The earth, from it comes food” (Job 28:5a), which is so necessary for his sustenance (Psa 104:14b). That will be his part, as long as he lives. But the moment of physical death comes. By transgressing the Divine commandment, he has set God aside. By the verdict of returning to dust he must become aware of the vanity of his being (Psa 104:29; Psa 103:14; Ecc 3:19-20; Ecc 12:7).

The command to work is still valid. He who does not work while he can, disobeys God and does not deserve to eat: “When we were with you, we commanded you to do so: If anyone does not want to work, they will not eat either (2Thes 3:10). The Lord Jesus has worked (Jn 5:17). He prophetically even said that he worked in vain: “But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity”” (Isa 49:4).

Verse 20

The Faith of Adam

Adam calls his wife “Eve” which means “life”. Here appears the faith of Adam. He accepts God’s verdict, but at the same time, in faith, lays hands on what God has said about the seed of the woman. He focuses his eye on the future when he says that Eve is the mother of all living. “All living” are all those who, by faith, are connected with the seed of the woman: the Lord Jesus. Adam did not realize this, but we may know it by what we read in the New Testament (Gal 3:16; Gal 4:4).

Verse 21

God Clothes Man

The fact that Adam and Eve have seen their sin before God is shown by the fact that God cloths them with garments of skin. Homemade loin coverings disappear. Garments from a skin can only come from an animal that has been killed for it. Blood has flowed.

They are clothes made from the skin of one animal. Here we see the truth that there is only through the blood of an Innocent salvation for the guilty man. It refers to the one sacrifice of Christ, to His blood and death, and that this sacrifice is given by God Himself (Jn 3:16). Only through the blood of the Lord Jesus forgiveness of sins is possible (Heb 9:22), only through the death of the Lord Jesus is a person reconciled to God (Rom 5:10).

As a result of faith in Him and His work, the believer is clothed with Christ, by which he is pleasing to God (Eph 1:6-7). He is clothed with “the best robe” (Lk 15:22), “with garments of salvation” (Isa 61:10). This must also become visible in our practice, as shown by the exhortation to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27). Garments speaks of our behavior, what people see of us. Do they recognize the Lord Jesus in our conduct and in our speaking? Do we behave as He wants, and do we speak as He wants?

Verses 22-24

Driven out of the Garden of Eden

The LORD God confirms what satan has said to Eve about being like God (Gen 3:22; Gen 3:5). As said, the likeness only concerns the knowledge of good and evil, while at the same time the possibility of using that knowledge in a Divine manner is lacking. Man has been deceived by accepting the suggestion of satan.

After God’s gracious provision of the garments of skin they must leave paradise. As far as man is concerned, that has been lost forever. A return to the tree of life is not possible. The access is closed. This is also a proof of God’s grace, because by doing this God prevents man from having to remain in this state of misery forever.

The history of man shows that he is tireless in his attempts to open the way to paradise again. He does not want to bow under God’s verdict. But all efforts are in vain and will always be. The sword of the cherubs guards the way to the tree of life by God’s command.

Man is sent out to cultivate the ground, because the ground is no longer clean and no longer produces only good fruit. Although God has made provision of living with Him, the consequences of sin are not all taken away. A complete recovery to the old situation cannot take place. Later we will see that God has plans that go far beyond a restoration of paradise: the church will be connected with the Lord Jesus forever and will be with Him in the Father’s house forever.

Yet God’s plans for the earth will also be fulfilled once. But first man must be tested in every possible way to see if anything good can be expected from him. The outcome of this we will see in the rest of the book of Genesis and the books that follow.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.