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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 3

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The woman is deceived by the serpent; eats the forbidden fruit, and gives her husband to eat with her. God rebukes both him and her: curses the serpent, announces proper punishment on Adam and Eve, drives them from paradise, and places the cherubim at the gate.

Our first parents, in bliss and joy united, little suspected the dreadful storm which now was preparing for them by the great enemy of their souls. The devil, once an angel of light, but self-tempted, and now through sin become a fiend of darkness, hating God and his work, with envious jealousy beheld this happy pair, and instantly meditates their ruin. Having experienced the efficacy of his wiles on spirits like himself, drawn in his train from the bright spheres of glory, he with like fraud attempts, and but too fatally succeeds with man.

Verse 1

Genesis 3:1. The serpent If, in the account of the fall, there should be many difficulties, it will not seem strange to any who observe, that Moses gives only general hints, sufficient to acquaint us indeed with the fact, that man transgressed the divine command; but by no means sufficient to inform us of every minute particular respecting that fact. We are, however, sufficiently assured from those texts, in which Satan is spoken of as the tempter of man, and the introducer of sin and death into the world, that the animal serpent was only an instrument of this fallen spirit's malice to deceive our first parents: Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2. Joh 8:44. 2 Corinthians 11:3. And a reason is given by Moses why he made choice of this creature, because it was more SUBTLE than any other beast of the field; and therefore the properest agent for his diabolical purposes. I conceive the word rendered subtle, ערום arum, to be used here rather in a good than a bad sense. It is used in both senses in scripture: but it seems to me as if the sacred historian meant to inform us, that the serpent was by nature the most sagacious of the animal race, and consequently known to be so by our first parents; on which account it was the properest to be chosen, as the least suspected instrument of this temptation. For its natural subtlety could be no recommendation to the spiritual agent, who, doubtless, could as well have used the organs of the most stupid, as of the most wise, animal to his purposes; a full proof of which is his use of dumb idols afterwards in the heathen world. But the woman would naturally wonder less at this superior wisdom in an animal already esteemed the most wise of the brute creation. The LXX render the word by φρονιμωτατος —, the same used by our Saviour, Mat 10:16 when he says, Be wise as serpents, where it certainly is used in a good sense.

In the history of the fall of man (says Bishop Warburton in his Divine Legation) it is to be observed, that Moses mentions only the instrument of the agent, the serpent, not the agent himself, the devil; and the reason is plain: there was a close connexion between that agency, the spiritual effects of the fall, the work of redemption, and the doctrine of a future state. If you say, the connexion was not so close, but that the agent might have been mentioned, without any more of his history than the temptation to the fall; I reply, it is true, it might, but not without danger of giving countenance to the impious doctrine of two principles which at that time prevailed throughout the pagan world.

And he said unto the woman The introduction to the conversation between the woman and the serpent appears abrupt: but if we suppose, which seems extremely probable, that the woman, by some means or other, had been invited by the serpent to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, especially by his eating of it himself before her, and shewing that no pernicious consequences followed; and if we suppose that upon this she objects to eating herself, on account of the divine interdiction; then the words of the serpent come in with propriety: "You will not eat of this fruit? Why? Is it because God hath forbidden it? Is it because he hath said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" To which the woman replies as in Matthew 10:2.

Verse 3

Genesis 3:3. Neither shall ye touch it Words which some expositors have supposed to contain a prevarication on the part of Eve; but they express no more than a strong confirmation of the former clause.

Verse 4

Genesis 3:4. The serpent said, ye shall not die The woman having urged God's malediction, the tempter was interested to remove its force, without which it was impossible for him to prevail. And therefore, with the most daring, yet subtle boldness, he contradicts the divine assertion, and throws the vilest aspersion upon God's goodness, by assuring the woman, that by eating the fruit she would be so far from dying, as she feared, that she would be made wise as God himself. And this he urges as the reason why God forbad the eating of the fruit: tempting the woman at once to disbelieve her Creator's veracity, and to consider him as a hard and severe master, withholding the means of good from his creatures. "God forbids you to eat of this tree," says the deceiver, "out of a desire to withhold from you happiness; and therefore idly terrifies you with the threats of death, from what he knows will be the means of wisdom and bliss to you!" And is not this a too successful method still used by the tempter, who persuades men to doubt the divine veracity, and to practise sins, from which they expect felicity, in contradiction to his declaration, who hath positively said, that they who do such things shall die the death, and shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

Verse 5

Genesis 3:5. Shall be as gods, knowing good and evil כאלהים keelohim, like God. See note on Genesis 3:22.

Verse 6

Genesis 3:6. Saw that the tree was good for food, &c.— It is not easy to determine how the woman could discover this, unless by supposing, as we have done in a note above, that she saw the serpent eat of it, and that without prejudice, nay, with great advantage to him, raised, as he seemed, by means of this good food, from the animal to the rational nature: well might she therefore conclude, that by the same means she should be raised from the rational to the divine nature. Thus pride, as the tempter wished, stole into her heart; and with pride, animal appetite co-operated: she saw it pleasant to the eyes, which joined to an affectation of wisdom, perfected her ruin: and she did, what we see done every day, give to her passions power over her reason; distrusted God, and trusted herself: eat and was undone, and soon drew her husband into the same fatal error. "Reason is quickly deceived," says Saurin, "when the senses have been seduced: it was already yielding to the temptation to hearken so long to the tempter." Vain are all conjectures respecting the manner in which she seduced her husband. The text only tells us that she did so: but considering their situation, there can be no wonder that the man was willing to experience the same lot with his offending, but beloved companion and wife.

The phrase with her, to her husband with her, seems only to express, that she gave to her husband as well as took herself. The whole transaction shews that Adam was absent, but she came to him and gave him of the fruit, and he eat of it with her, or as she had done. In whatever view we consider the crime of Eve, it appears enormous. Her disobedience to what God had so expressly enjoined is an inexcusable fault. Her wish to become equal to God is perhaps even still more terrible. Pride is the source of all these crimes: it produces blindness of mind, and haughtiness of heart, curiosity, luxury, and disobedience.

It may throw light on this transaction to consider what and how HE resisted, who, in the wilderness, foiled this original tempter, and regained what the first man lost.

REFLECTIONS.— 1. The woman is singled out for the snare. Satan knew that of the two she was the weaker, not only in body but in mind. Thus he still tempts: he knows our weak side, whatever it may be, and usually there begins his attacks. 2. The woman was alone. She is not the only woman who hath been thus undone. 'Tis safest for the wife to be near her husband's side. 3. She was near the tree, perhaps gazing on it: it is dangerous to be in the way of evil; they who would not eat of the forbidden fruit, must not approach the forbidden tree.

The 2nd and 3rd verses contain her answer to the question of the tempter. It was plain and full. She was not ignorant of the command; nay, rather adds to it: they must not only not eat, but not touch it. O, it is ever bad meddling with edged tools! Nor was the threatening concealed, though here she hesitates, and rather diminishes its awful import.
Observe, 1. How inexcusable she was: she fully knew the will of God: and sin against light and knowledge hath peculiar aggravation. 2. Her weakness to discourse about a point so dangerous: the very mention should have awakened suspicion, and bid her fly. Temptations have more than half prevailed, when they can get a hearing. To parley, is the prelude to submission.

In the 4th and 5th verses we have the serpent's reply. He no longer seeks to invalidate the command, but the threatening being faintly urged by her, he boldly denies. Hence we may observe, 1. Confident assertions readily pass with weak minds, and with those who are willing to be persuaded; and it is much easier boldly to deny, than clearly to Proverbs 2:0. The hopes of impunity are the great encouragement to sin, and the support of impenitence. By these, Satan's kingdom is still upheld. Did a sinner see before him the wages of sin, and were everlasting burnings once truly believed, the devil would tempt in vain! I shall have peace, when God hath said, there is no peace, is still the grand lie. 3. Satan not only promises her peace, but profit; and when most effectually ruining her, assures her of the greatest advantages. O how often, by pursuing a false and fancied good in view, do we still lose the portion we actually possessed! Behold his devices! He is still the same. Thus he continues to deceive with fair speeches and lying promises: thus he misrepresents the restraints of God's law as severe; and, grievous to think, thus he still prevails, and the world lieth εν τω πονηρω, under the power and dominion of this wicked one.

And she did eat, and gave unto her husband, and he did eat! Unhappy souls! thus to give ear to a lying and seducing spirit, rather than to the God of truth. 1. She looked, and because she saw the fruit beautiful to the eye, she concluded the serpent in the right, and that there could be no more harm in this, than in any other tree. O it is often bad judging by the eye: the most pleasing fruit contains sometimes the deadliest poison. 2. She not only promised herself pleasure for the taste, but wisdom for her mind. This tree herein excelled all the rest, and was more desirable; perhaps too, still more, because forbidden. When sin begins in the desire, restraint only whets the appetite. 3. She boldly plucked the fruit, perhaps for a nearer view, or by the touch first to assay whether any ill consequence really would accrue. 4. She did eat; eager to make the last experiment; and it may be, hoping to surprise her husband with the transforming change she had experienced, and the superior knowledge she had attained. 5. She gave him also; came to him with the tempter's power, and, either out of love, wished him to make the trial with her, and enjoy the pleasure and dignity; or out of malice, lost herself, resolves not to sink alone. 6. Vanquished by her importunity, and by his affection for her, he joined in the transgression.

Behold here the usual process of temptation. 1. An outward object presented by the devil, promising us much pleasure and advantage in the pursuit. 2. The eye caught with it, and led to gaze upon it. The eye is the great inlet of temptation: those who would guard their heart, must often veil their eyes. To look upon a woman's beauty is the road to lust after her; and to fix the greedy eye on gold, is the prelude to covet it. 3. Desire after it: when temptation has got so far, lust hath conceived, and sin will be the birth. 4. The gratification of the desire. There is no stopping, if once the unbridled appetite is let loose. When we first gazed, we thought it should rest there: we then drew nearer, but resolved to stop. The hand was stretched out to touch, but not to take; till, like the revolving stone on a declivity, each revolution accelerated its motion, and sin no longer could be resisted. 5. We cannot be content to sin alone: those who themselves hearken to the devil's wiles, quickly turn tempters for him. O how little does many a sinner think of the dreadful charges which will be brought against him by those souls, to whose sin and ruin he may have, by his solicitations, some way contributed!

Verse 7

Genesis 3:7. And the eyes of them both were opened, &c.— They found what the serpent had asserted to be true, Gen 3:5 but in a manner far different from expectation. Their eyes were opened, but not to a view of higher happiness: they were opened only to a sense of their sin, and consequently of their guilty shame. The phrase of their eyes being opened, in scripture, not only refers to the actual opening of the eyes, but also to men's observing or knowing any thing of which they before were ignorant. See Isa 42:7 comp. Acts 26:18. The eyes of them both were opened, i.e.. light and knowledge came into their minds, discovering to them what they were utter strangers to before. Le Clerc observes, that it is an elegance no less in the sacred than in profane writings, to make use of the figure, which rhetoricians call antonaclasis, whereby they continue the same word or phrase which went before, though in a quite different sense: and for this reason he supposes that Moses repeats that their eyes were opened, words which the serpent had used before, though he meant them in a sense quite different from the former.

They knew that they were naked See note on Acts 26:25. of chap. 2: Shame followed hard upon sin: without the latter, the former could never have had being in the human mind. But no sooner were their minds opened to a consciousness of their guilt, than they felt all that uneasy anxiety which naturally attends this knowledge. Though this nakedness more peculiarly concerns the guilt and shame of their minds, yet as the body is the seat of the mind, and the index of its affections, therefore the shame is transferred to the body also, which, while the mind was pure, was unaffected by any natural appearances; but which, as soon as the mind became sinful and subject to the dominion of criminal affections, gave, by its nakedness, a continual admonition of guilt; and therefore, no wonder our first parents were immediately incited to cover it.

They sewed fig-leaves, &c.— This might be rendered, with more propriety, "and they joined or folded together the leaves or branches of the fig-tree, and made themselves girdles; חגרת chegoroth." Some think the Indian fig-tree is here meant, whose leaves are exceedingly large.

Verse 8

Genesis 3:8. And they heard, &c.— This may be rendered, and they heard the sound of the Lord God proceeding or coming into the garden, at the decline, or in the cool of the day, whether morning or evening. The word, which our translators render voice, קול koll, denotes any sort of sound; and the root of that word, which we render walking, denotes local motion, going, in any way, or manner. The word קול koll, sound, is applied to two appearances of the Deity: one mentioned, 1 Kings 19:12. After the fire a still small sound; and in Ezekiel 1:24. The sound of great waters, as the sound of the Almighty; the sound of speech, as the sound of an host. Now it is observable, that, in these two passages, the presence of the Lord is described, 1st, in the still small sound; and, 2nd, in the loud and lofty sound as of waters, an host, &c. whence we may be led to conclude, that nothing certain can be determined respecting the sort of sound which was, to Adam in paradise, the index of Jehovah's presence. It was a sound, it is evident, well known to Adam; and a sound, without all doubt, sufficiently declarative of the divine greatness and glory: but most probable, in the time of their innocence, rather gentle than tremendous. To sinners the voice of the Lord is thunder; to his saints, it is the still small voice of peace and love.

Many writers have supposed, that it was the second Divine Person, the eternal ΛΟΓΟΣ, who here particularly appeared to Adam; and many have written much concerning the manner of the divine appearance. The sentiment is very pleasing, and has much probability in it. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan paraphrase this passage thus, They heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God, probably, the essential Word of God, who was since made flesh, and dwelt among men. If also, as many have supposed, he appeared to Adam in a human form, as a pledge of his incarnation in the fulness of time, then he might be literally said to come walking in the garden in the cool of the day, or at the wind of the day, during the evening-breeze; and that wind might bring the sound of the voice and of the steps of this glorious Person the sooner to the ears of Adam and his wife, which gave them notice of his near approach, and caused them to hasten their flight.

And Adam and his wife hid themselves, &c.— Shame was the first fruit of their sin: another, and one which always attends guilt more or less is here mentioned; namely, a desire to flee from his presence, which to man, in his state of purity, must have been the highest joy. Such are the natural effects of sin, which also makes men foolish as well as full of conscious guilt; for who can fly from his presence, who discerneth the very secrets of the heart? yet, like the first fallen pair, all sinners seek to the same vain and idle resource. They are ashamed, and would therefore hide themselves from Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire!

Verse 9

Genesis 3:9. And the Lord God, &c.— It is not to be supposed that the Omniscient either knew not where Adam and Eve were, or wanted to be informed of what they had done, when he asked the questions in this and the 11th verse: but these questions are used to introduce the account following, and to shew us, more humano, after the manner of men, what was the consequence of this great transgression. This observation should be remembered, as many instances of the like kind occur.

Verse 10

Genesis 3:10. Because I was naked That is, not only naked in body, but, what much more occasions my fear, naked in mind through sin; guilty, and stript of my original righteousness, and therefore ashamed to stand before thee.

Verse 12

Genesis 3:12. The woman thou gavest me, &. Here observe again another evil fruit of sin: what sad disturbance and overthrow it makes in the once calm, even, and innocent mind! With disingenuous ingratitude Adam attempts to throw all the guilt of his offence even upon his Divine Benefactor, by taxing his best gift, the woman, with being the cause of it—THIS woman, whom THOU gavest to be with me. Instead of acknowledging, with an ingenuous shame, his deep and almost inexcusable violation of his Creator's law; instead of imploring pardon for so aggravated a crime, he craftily transfers it all to Him, who had given him so mischievous a gift as the woman, to seduce and betray him. And let us ask, are not the effects of sin still and always found the same?

Let it be just remarked, that the same disposition is notorious in Eve also, who takes no shame to herself, but transfers it all to the serpent, Genesis 3:13. How few freely and ingenuously confers their guilt without seeking every idle palliation of vain self-love!

Verse 14

Genesis 3:14. The Lord said unto the serpent, &c.— In this and the following verses, we have an account of the sentence which the Lord God passed upon the three delinquents. There is no difficulty in understanding that which was passed on the man and the woman: but various opinions and conjectures have been formed respecting that which was passed upon the serpent. According to our exposition, (see note, Genesis 3:1.) the serpent here before the Lord was a real serpent, made the agent or instrument of the spiritual and infernal one. We therefore rationally conclude, that the sentence, like the agent, is two-fold, and regards at once the visible and invisible serpent. It is plain enough that the first part of the sentence refers to the natural and visible serpent, and must be applied metaphorically, if at all, to the invisible deceiver. And it seems equally evident, that the latter part of the sentence, Gen 3:15 though in terms applicable to the visible, yet refers principally to the invisible deceiver, and can be applied only in a low and less important sense to the natural serpent. Upon this principle we ground our interpretation; and it must be acknowledged, that, as the agent was twofold, it was reasonable to expect something of a double nature in the sentence. And it is not at all to be wondered if it be dark and obscure in a measure, considering all the circumstances of the case, how little is known by us of diabolical agency, or what was the consequence to the grand tempter, upon so bold and presumptuous an offence against God: certain however it is, that an intelligent being and free agent is addressed, and therefore more than a mere serpent must be understood.

Thou art cursed above all cattle, &c.— Or, thou art cursed above every animal, and above every beast of the field. This plainly refers to the natural serpent, whose poisonous nature renders it the most deadly of all creatures, and, properly speaking, the most accursed. Upon thy belly shalt thou go; whence commentators have generally, and, as it seems, justly inferred, that the serpent, before this curse, went erect, and was as beautiful and pleasing as he is now loathsome and detestable: and indeed, unless this were the case, it is not easy to see the propriety of this denunciation: And dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; that is, as I conceive, in consequence of thy groveling form, thy food shall always be defiled and mingled with filth and dust; for I apprehend this to be only a connecting clause with the prime curse, and, as it were, the immediate consequence of it: Thou shalt go upon thy belly, and so, shalt eat dust. Dr. Delaney has taken the pains to inform us, that there are some species of serpents which actually feed upon the dry dusty earth, in the sandy deserts to which God hath condemned them. And accordingly Diodorus observes, that the most sandy and barren deserts abounded most with serpents. Thus we see the curse denounced upon the natural serpent is fulfilled in that poisonous and deadly nature and groveling form which it bears: a curse which refers, in my opinion, to the whole serpentine race, which we find verified in them, hateful and horrid as they are to mankind beyond every creature: a standing proof, no doubt, of the original transaction in Paradise, where we may reasonably conclude, before the fall, the serpentine race was neither poisonous nor groveling. Now, this part of the sentence can be applied to the infernal agent no otherwise than metaphorically: and, if any thing, it must express his peculiar accursedness, the virulence of his nature, the vileness of his pursuits, his fall, and still deeper degradation by this act, and his wretched appetite for destruction and misery, instead of that angel's food of holiness and happiness upon which he fed in heaven. See Psalms 72:9. Micah 7:17. Isaiah 65:25. But it may be asked, how it comes to pass, that the serpent, which was a mere instrument only, is thus degraded and punished? It was, doubtless, to shew by a lively and lasting emblem God's indignation against sin, and his value for mankind. And certainly the Deity might, with propriety, degrade a creature so obnoxious, and diminish its original perfections, as well as degrade man himself, for the offence to which the serpent was so instrumental.

Verse 15

Genesis 3:15. And I will put enmity, &c.— If it be evident, that the former part of this sentence principally refers to the natural serpent; it seems no less so, that the latter part refers principally to the spiritual one. For though it is undeniable, that there is a natural enmity between the serpentine and the human race; though, as it is asserted, their juices* are alike destructive to each other: yet it does not appear worthy the majesty of God, or of the Scripture, and by no means adequate to the circumstances of our fallen parents, to suppose, that God should only pronounce a ceaseless enmity between mankind and serpents, and declare, that men should sometimes bruise their heads, destroy their lives, yet not without harm to themselves, as the serpents would avenge themselves by bruising their heels. On this account it will not admit of a doubt, but in these words there is an immediate reference to that prime source of comfort to fallen man, his redemption and conquest over Satan and sin, by Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman; peculiarly the seed of the woman, as being incarnate of a pure virgin. And though it cannot be asserted, how much of this original promise and prophecy our first parents understood, yet it is reasonable to believe, that they understood enough to raise their drooping spirits, and to fix their faith and hope upon their future and promised Deliverer. We who have lived to see this prophecy fulfilled, have opportunities to understand it in the clearest manner.

* That prince of Naturalists, the elder Pliny, who, as a heathen, must have been disinterested, asserts, that if the human spittle do but enter the serpent's mouth, it presently dies. See Nat. Hist. lib. Genesis 7:2. How true this is, I know not: how deadly the serpent's poison is to man we all know.

I will put enmity between thee and the woman By these words is expressed that enmity and contest which then began (and will only cease, when death is swallowed up in victory) between Satan and his seed, that is, all wicked angels and wicked men, and the woman and her seed, that is, Jesus Christ, and all pious and true believers. It may be observed, that the sacred writer says, I will put enmity between thee and the WOMAN: not the man, whence one would be led to suppose, that the true seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, was more immediately referred to. See Matthew 3:7; Matthew 23:33. 1 John 3:10.

It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel It, the seed, (Christ, who is also called the seed of Abraham, see Galatians 3:16.) shall bruise thy head, destroy thee, and work thy total overthrow. The phrase of bruising the head, expresses the total destruction of the serpent, whose life and power, it is known, lie in the head. And thou shalt bruise his heel, shalt wound and crush his lower and inferior part; that is, shalt put to death and destroy him in the body, whose divine nature shall raise him from death, triumphant over Satan and the grave, and leading captivity captive: for he was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

As the present poisonous, groveling state of the serpentine kind is a proof to us of the original curse; so the great veneration in which serpents were held among the heathens, in the idolatrous world, is a great collateral proof of this account: since no rational solution can be given of the introduction of so extraordinary a worship, except that which this history affords. It would be long to enumerate the instances of serpentile worship, which prevailed in all parts of the earth, in AEgypt, Greece, Italy, America, &c.

Verse 16

Genesis 3:16. Unto the woman he said, &c.— "Thy sorrow, by thy conception," says Mr. Locke. This has indeed been fulfilled upon the female sex, as no females, it is asserted, know so much sorrow, and so much anguish, during the time of conception, and in the hour of parturition, as those of the human species.

Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee Whence we may gather, that woman was thus degraded from that equality with man in which she was created, and would undoubtedly have continued in a state of innocence and perfection; for in such a state there seems no imaginable reason, why one sex should be in subjection to the other: the woman was given at first as a help-meet, as a proper and equal companion to the man.

Verse 17

Genesis 3:17. Unto Adam he said, &c.— Now follows the curse of the man, who is doomed to toil and labour for his food and support all the days of his life; labour upon a soil, cursed for his sake, and consequently producing no good of itself, but only thorns and thistles: labour, till his body returned again to the original dust whence it was taken, dying the death denounced upon him, as the sure consequence of his transgression.

From the curse passed upon the ground, and the labour now made necessary to reap its fruits, it has been reasonably inferred, that had man continued perfect, the earth would have produced spontaneously its fruits: and there would have been no more thorns and thistles in the ground, than there would have been evil propensities in the human mind.

Verse 19

Genesis 3:19. Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return The plain inference to be drawn from this part of the sentence is, that the human body would have been preserved from decay and death, immortal and incorruptible, had man persevered in innocence.

REFLECTIONS.—Our first parents wanted to be wiser, wanted to see more, and now they are gratified. But oh, what a sight! How preferable had blindness been to such a discovery!

1. They saw their own nakedness; not only of their bodies, but of their souls. The robe of innocence was rent; the image of God was defaced; their minds now a scene of disturbance; their happiness departed; their misery come upon them; all was lost, and dark despair; and dread of deserved punishment overwhelmed them. Observe, (1.) How dreadful a thing is sin: it smiles in the face, but it leaves behind the poison of a serpent: O that we felt its evil more, and, from the fear of its consequences, kept from the jaws of the destroyer! (2.) How shameful. It must cover us with confusion, either in time or eternity. Happy they, who, by real repentance, have taken shame to themselves here before God and man, and, through the Blood of Jesus, have their iniquity pardoned and their sin covered!
2. They sought to conceal it; and the methods they took shewed how improved they were in wisdom. Strange folly, to think that fig-leaves could hide their shame: it was a poor covering respecting themselves: it was useless respecting God. How like are we! (1.) We think all is well, if we can hide our shame from each other, and save our credit among men! But shall not the day come, when it shall be laid open before an assembled world? (2.) How apt are we to fly to excuses, instead of humbling ourselves under conscious guilt!
Guilt and fear are inseparable. They no sooner hear the voice of God, than that which was before their delight and joy, becomes their horror and confusion. It is probable that the second Divine Person sometimes appeared to them in Eden, as he afterwards designed to appear in the world to suffer, viz. in a human form: and this might tempt them to think it was probable enough, that as, he appeared like them in person, they might become like him in power. But now their presumptuous hopes are at an end, and they seek the thickest covert to be hid from his eye. Their own consciences become accusers, and they have already the sentence of death in themselves: now they began to discover the lie of the tempter; their godhead is debased into the lowest wretchedness, their promised power into abject weakness, and their proud wisdom into senseless folly. Reader, stop, and learn!

Verse 20

Genesis 3:20. And Adam called, &c.— Adam had probably expected the immediate infliction of the punishment denounced, thou shalt die; and finding it respited, and that he and his wife were to be the parents of the human race, he therefore gave her this name, in testimony of his joyfulness, Eve, the mother of all living human creatures. But still further: being raised from despair and the fear of death, and being assured of a restoration to life for himself and his posterity, and of a victory over the serpent by him who was to be the seed of the woman, he gave her this name in reference to that great and expected event: Eve, the mother of all, or universal life; for the Hebrew will bear this sense; and Jesus Christ is universal life, the life of the world. The LXX render the word Eve, by ζωη life. The gloss of Michaelis is Eve, quasi vivificatrix per Messiam, i.e.. Eve, the giver of new life by the Messiah. See John 1:4.

Verse 21

Genesis 3:21. Did the Lord God make coats, &c.— But of what beasts it has been asked? such as were killed on purpose for the occasion, or such as were killed in sacrifice? which many suppose was instituted from this period, as from this period its necessity commenced. This can be but conjecture from the present passage singly considered; we shall therefore omit the discussion of the question till we come to the next chapter, where we shall have more light into the subject.

Verse 22

Genesis 3:22. The Lord God said, Behold, the man, &c.— The phrase of knowing good and evil imports general knowledge. We find it so applied in other parts of scripture, The woman of Tekoah says to David, 2 Samuel 14:17. As an angel of God, so is my lord the king, to discern good and evil, which is fully explained by 2Sa 14:20 where she says, My lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth. Where all things in the earth evidently corresponds to good and evil in 2 Samuel 14:17. It is observable, that in these texts, the phrase as an angel of God may be rendered, as the Melak Elohim, Messenger of the Elohim; which, as we shall hereafter see, is expressive of him who was sent of God to redeem the world. This may give us some light for the explanation of this obscure text. God says, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil: which many expositors are of opinion is a mere irony from the Deity, reflecting on the very contrary event which Adam found from what the serpent promised. Others again imagine, that the angels are here addressed, and they would confirm this opinion by the passages from Samuel above. Whatever may be the case with the former opinion, I can never think that the Deity would put his angels on a par with himself, and call them Us, one of us: besides, what evil had the angels ever known? Might I be allowed to propose it as a modest conjecture only, I should be most inclined to think, that here is a reference to the great work of redemption: "Behold," says God, "man has transgressed, and therefore calls for the exertion of that salvation which has been prepared in our prescience from the foundation of the world: he is now become as one of us; namely, the blessed Son, who will, for his sake, become acquainted with good and evil. Man would have known good only, had he persevered in right: now he must know evil also, as introduced by himself. And that Divine Person, who, as God, could know only good, for man's redemption will become like him, and know evil also." And if this interpretation be just, the passages in Samuel will throw great light upon it, especially if the angel, or messenger of the Elohim, be understood of Christ.

And now lest he, &c.— Houbigant's translation of this difficult passage seems to afford abundantly the best sense. Erit scilicet, ut mittat manum suam, tollatque de ligno vitae, unde vivat in perpetuum. It will be, it will come to pass, that he may put forth his hand hereafter, and take of the tree of life, by which means he may live for ever. As much as to say, "Man indeed is fallen, and introduced to that knowledge, to which, in innocence, he would have been a stranger; but it will hereafter come to pass, that, restored to favour, he may take of the tree of life, and so eat, and obtain eternal life." The Hebrew פן ועתה veatah pen, it is certain, will well bear Houbigant's exposition. Accordingly the Chaldee paraphrase has it so: and now, perhaps, he may put forth his hand. It may possibly happen, that he will hereafter eat and live. This seems the genuine sense of the passage: which the reader must understand either as a denunciation or an encouragement, as he judges most consonant to the circumstances of the case. It is to be observed, that this construction makes the sense complete, which otherwise is broken and elliptical.

Verse 23

Genesis 3:23. Therefore the Lord God, &c.— The connexion of this and the following verse, according to the sense which we have given, is this: "And the Lord expelled, divorced, the man from the garden of Eden, to till the ground; and after he had expelled him, he placed cherubims, &c. at the east of the garden, to keep, or to preserve the way, and the right knowledge of it, to that tree of life, of which man, it was hoped, would hereafter eat, and live for ever." The word which we render keep, to keep the way of the tree of life שׁמר shamar, signifies keeping, or preserving of any kind; and therefore may be used here with as much propriety in the sense of preserving, or keeping a knowledge of the way, as of guarding the way to the tree. Those who conceive that the tree of life had a power in itself independently to preserve human life, and think that our first parents were driven from Paradise lest they should continue in natural existence, will understand these cherubims, &c. as guards to prevent Adam and Eve from coming to this tree: an opinion, by the way, which seems encumbered with many difficulties. Those who believe that this tree was sacramental and religious only, and that spiritual life was here intended, will believe that this apparatus of cherubims, &c. was placed by God in mercy to keep up in man a knowledge of the approach and way to the sacred tree.

Verse 24

Genesis 3:24. Cherubims By these the generality of commentators understand angels. A modern writer has endeavoured to prove that they were hieroglyphical, or emblematical representations of the Trinity and the Incarnation. We shall have occasion to consider this opinion more distinctly hereafter, when we come to the cherubims in the temple.

A flaming sword which turned every way The peculiarity of this description has led commentators to a thousand imaginations. Our translation certainly leads to strange ideas, or rather to no ideas; for what can we conceive of a sword, which turned every way, by itself, for it is not said to be in the hands of any: and we may reasonably conclude, that did the cherubims mean angels, and had they swords in their hands, it would have been said, cherubims with flaming swords: but it is singular, a flaming sword, and it is mentioned disjunctively, cherubims AND a flaming sword; the Hebrew may be rendered, and a flame of burning matter, fire, &c. See Psalms 104:4. המתהפכת hamithapechet, rendered turning every way, signifies, after the manner of flame, or fire, rolling about, as it were, and turning upon, and into itself. Whence it seems plainly to follow, that it was a flaming fire which was placed here. For my own part, I cannot help being of opinion, that not a flaming guard of angels was placed here; but that this was the Divine Shechinah, or Presence, corresponding to that which was afterwards placed in the Holy of Holies. And the attentive reader will remark, that every thing seems to correspond: for, in the first place, the Hebrew word, which we render placed, is ישׁכן ishchon, the word whence Shechinah is derived, and which is always used for the Divine Presence of inhabitation in the tabernacle, or temple: that Presence was manifested between the Cherubims, whatever these cherubims were; and a perpetual holy fire was kept up before the mercy-seat, the place of the inhabitation of the Deity. See Prideaux, vol. 1: p. 223. Now these particulars seem to prove that this apparatus, placed at the garden of Eden, was something corresponding to the ark and mercy-seat: and it is observable that the author of the book of Wisdom, ch. Genesis 9:8. speaks, under the character of Solomon, of a tabernacle, &c. prepared from the beginning, of which that made by him was a resemblance: and from Exo 7:9 it is evident, that the Israelites had a tabernacle before that which was erected by Moses. And if from the fall, a religious worship adapted to fallen man was necessary, as is indisputable, is it not reasonable to conclude, that God instituted such a mode of religion from the very time when it became necessary? If so, we may well conclude, that this was the Adamic, or Patriarchal church, tabernacle, Shechinah, Presence, or whatever you will call it. The Jerusalem Targum has it here, "He made the glory of his Shechinah, or glorious Majesty, to dwell of old at the east of the garden of Eden, over, or above, the two cherubims." See 1 Samuel 4:4. 2 Samuel 6:2. 2 Kings 19:15.Psalms 80:1; Psalms 80:1.Isaiah 37:16; Isaiah 37:16.

Thus we are informed how our first parents fell, and were driven out of Paradise: but after how long a continuance there, is a question no less debated, than it is difficult to be determined.


Though it may be difficult to understand every minute particular in this account of our first parents' transgression; yet the main fact is sufficiently plain, that they fell from a state of perfect tranquillity and life, into a state of sin and death: that by these means sin entered into the world, and death by sin! Such were the consequences of their abuse of that liberty wherewith they were invested, wherewith it was indispensably necessary they should be invested to make them moral and accountable agents: and such is the original of that evil, which we too sensibly feel, and universally deplore!
Deep and mysterious are the ways of God: and the utmost humility becomes us in every inquiry which we make concerning them, circumscribed as is our knowledge, and confined as is our view of the great plan of the Deity's designs. But certainly we are bound for ever to adore his unutterable goodness, who, in the midst of judgment, remembered mercy; who raised the drooping spirits of our desponding parents by the gracious promise of a future Deliverer; and who, by the completion of that promise, hath sufficiently remedied all the evils of the fall! His amazing condescension in the great work of redemption ought to silence every murmur, and to answer every objection, which the busy thoughts of men would raise from the circumstances of the event before us!
Our first parents give us a sufficient admonition, how dangerous it is not to believe what God has declared; to give ear to temptations, and to follow the desires of the flesh: as well as how cautious we should be to watch over ourselves, and to obey in all things the laws of our God. They clearly inform us, that the divine threatenings are never in vain, and that God cannot suffer man's disobedience to pass unpunished. And there is the less reason to expect it, as our kind and heavenly Father cannot, does not, ever propose any end in his laws to us, but our present and everlasting good. Assured, therefore, that what he dehorts us from practising, will issue in our misery; what he incites us to perform, will tend to our highest good; let us ever serve him with a filial spirit, and, as children, love and obey Him, whose tender mercy is over all his works.

In our first parents we see the dreadful consequences of sin—shame and condition of soul! And such will the consequences of all sin be found; for sin is a turning away from Him, who alone can give life and peace. If therefore, led on by the lust or presumption, the credulity or weakness of Eve, we listen to the voice of the tempter, we shall assuredly find the event equally distressful to our souls, which will tremble with conscious shame; and seek, though in vain, to fly from him, whom, in a state of acceptance and holiness, we shall always meet with joy!

Convinced, therefore, O man! that thou hast, though fallen, even now, through Divine Grace, a freedom to choose good or evil, life or death, which are set before thee; convinced that thou hast a God, ready to crown thy proper choice with inestimable rewards through the infinite merit of thy great Intercessor; use the grace offered to thee, resolutely maintain thy integrity, and give not way to the insinuations of thy spiritual enemy, to the temptations of the world or the flesh: fight the good fight; and perseveringly elect the better part. So when thy trial and conflict are over, the great Redeemer will welcome thee to the glories of that paradise, which, lost by the first, was recovered by him the second Adam; a better Adam, and a better paradise, as purchased by an inestimable price, even the death of his mortal nature who was God as well as man, who, through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, and thus hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers!

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-3.html. 1801-1803.
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