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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Genesis 3

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 3:1. The serpent was more subtle, &c. — Some would render the word נחשׁ, nachash, here, monkey or baboon, and the word ערום, arum, intelligent: but it may be demonstrated from divers other passages of the Old Testament, where the same words are used, and from several parts of the New, where they are referred to, that our translators are perfectly right. The former word is used concerning the fiery serpents which bit the people in the wilderness, which certainly were neither monkeys nor baboons, and concerning the serpent of brass, by looking at which the Israelites were healed. See Hebrew, Numbers 21:6-9. It is also used Isaiah 65:25, where, in allusion to Genesis 3:14 of this chapter, it is said, Dust shall be the serpent’s meat; but surely dust is not the meat of monkeys. The word is also everywhere rendered οφις, ophis, in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, which means serpent, and nothing else. The latter word, ערום, also, is rightly translated, meaning primarily, subtle, or crafty, from ערם, caliditate usus est, and is so rendered Job 5:12, and so interpreted 2 Corinthians 11:3, where the word πανουργια is used, which certainly never means intelligence, but always craft or subtlety. Than any beast of the field — Serpents, in general, have a great deal of subtlety. But this one had an extraordinary measure of it, being either only a serpent in appearance, and in reality a fallen angel, or the prince of fallen angels, Satan; or a real serpent possessed and actuated by him. Hence the devil is termed the old serpent, Revelation 20:2-3. He said unto the woman — Whom it is probable he found alone. In what way he spake to her we are not informed: but it seems most likely that it was by signs of some kind. Some, indeed, have supposed that reason and speech were then the known properties of serpents, and that, therefore, Eve was not surprised at his reasoning and speaking, which they think she otherwise must have been: but of this there is no proof. Yea, hath God said, &c. — As if he had said, Can it be that God, who has planted this garden with all these beautiful and fruitful trees, and hath placed you in it for your comfort, should deny you the fruit of it? Surely you must either be mistaken, or God must be envious and unkind. His first object was by his insinuations either to beget in them unbelief, as to the reality of the prohibition, and to persuade them that it would be no sin to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, or to produce in them hard thoughts of God, in order to alienate their affections from him. And such are generally his first temptations still. What! has God, who has given you various appetites and passions, forbidden you to gratify them? Surely he has not: but if he has, he must be an unkind being. And how then can you trust in or love him?


Verse 2-3

Genesis 3:2-3. The woman said — With a view to defend the conduct of her Maker toward them, against the insinuations of the tempter. We may eat of the trees of the garden — Of all the trees except one. It is only concerning one that God hath said, “Ye shall not eat of it.” But when she adds, Lest ye die, it is evident her faith begins to waver, and she inclines to doubt whether God would fulfil his threatening, which was not, “Lest ye die,”

but, “In dying ye shall die;” that is, “Ye shall surely die.” She seems also to have intended to intimate, that if they died, it would not be so much through any particular interference and severity of God in executing his threatening, as through the natural, pernicious effects of the fruit, against which God had only kindly warned them.


Verse 4-5

Genesis 3:4-5. The tempter, finding that the woman began to doubt whether eating this fruit was a crime, and if it were, whether punishment would follow, now became more bold in his attack, and, giving God the lie direct, asserted roundly, “Ye shall not surely die.” So far from it, you shall have much advantage from eating of this tree. He suits the temptation to the pure state they were now in, proposing to them, not any carnal pleasure, but intellectual delights. 1st, Your eyes shall be opened — You shall have much more of the power and pleasure of contemplation than now you have: your intellectual views shall be extended, and you shall see further into things than now you do. 2d, Ye shall be as gods — As Elohim, mighty gods, beings of a higher order. 3d, Ye shall know good and evil — That is, every thing that is desirable to be known. To support this part of the temptation, he abuseth the name given to this tree. It was intended to teach the practical knowledge of good and evil; that is, of duty and disobedience, and it would prove the experimental knowledge of good and evil; that is, of happiness and misery. But he perverts the sense of it, and wrests it to their destruction, as if the tree would give them a speculative knowledge of the natures, kinds, and originals of good and evil. And, 4th, All this presently; In the day ye eat thereof — You will find a sudden and immediate change for the better.


Verse 6

Genesis 3:6. When the woman saw, (or perceived) — But how? Certainly by believing Satan and disbelieving God. Here we see what her parley with the tempter ended in; Satan, at length, gains his point; God permitting it for wise and holy ends. And he gains it: 1st, By injecting unbelief respecting the divine declaration. 2d, By the lust of the flesh: she saw that the tree was good for food, agreeable to the taste, and nutritive. 3d, By the lust of the eye, that it was pleasant to the eye. 4th, By the pride of life, a tree not only not to be dreaded, but to be desired to make one wise. In a similar way Satan still tempts, and too often prevails: by unbelief and their own lusts, men, being tempted and drawn away ( εξελκομενος, drawn out of God, James 1:14) from his fear and love, and obedience to his will, are enticed, insnared, and overcome.

She gave also to her husband with her — It is likely he was not with her when she was tempted; surely if he had been, he would have interposed to prevent the sin; but he came to her when she had eaten, and was prevailed with, by her, to eat likewise. She gave it to him; persuading him with the same arguments that the serpent had used with her; adding this, probably, to the rest, that she herself had eaten of it, and found it so far from being deadly, that it was extremely pleasant and grateful. And he did eat — This implied unbelief of God’s word, and confidence in the devil’s; discontent with his present state and an ambition of the honour which comes not from God. His sin was disobedience, as St. Paul terms it, Romans 5:19, and that to a plain, easy, and express command, which he knew to be a command of trial. He sins against light and love, the clearest light and the dearest love that ever sinner sinned against. But the greatest aggravation of his sin was, that by it he involved all his posterity in sin and ruin. He could not but know that he stood as a public person, and that his disobedience would be fatal to all his seed; and if so, it was certainly both the greatest treachery and the greatest cruelty that ever was.


Verse 7

Genesis 3:7. The eyes of them both — Of their minds and consciences, which hitherto had been closed and blinded by the arts of the devil; were opened — As Satan had promised them, although in a very different sense. Now, when it was too late, they saw the happiness they had fallen from, and the misery they were fallen into. They saw God was provoked, his favour forfeited, and his image lost. They felt a disorder in their own spirits, of which they had never before been conscious. They saw a law in their members warring against the law of their minds, and captivating them both to sin and wrath; they saw that they were naked — That is, that they were stripped, deprived of all the honours and joys of their paradise state, and exposed to all the miseries that might justly be expected from an angry God; laid open to the contempt and reproach of heaven, and earth, and their own consciences. And they sewed, or platted fig leaves together — And, to cover at least part of their shame one from another, made themselves aprons — See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned: they are more solicitous to save their credit before men, than to obtain their pardon from God!


Verse 8

Genesis 3:8. They heard the voice of the Lord God walking, &c. — It is supposed he came in a human shape; in that wherein they had seen him, when he put them into paradise. For he came to convince and humble, not to amaze and terrify them. And they hid themselves, &c. — A sad change! Before they had sinned, if they heard the voice of the Lord God coming toward them, they would have run to meet him; but now God was become a terror to them, and then no marvel they were become a terror to themselves.


Verse 9

Genesis 3:9. The Lord God called, (probably with a loud voice,) Where art thou? — This inquiry after Adam, may be looked upon as a gracious pursuit in order to his recovery. If God had not called to him to reduce him, his condition had been as desperate as that of fallen angels.


Verse 10

Genesis 3:10. I was afraid, because I was naked — He confesses his nakedness, which was evident; but makes no mention of his sin. This he wished rather to hide, feeling, indeed, the shameful effects of it, but not yet being truly penitent for it.


Verse 11

Genesis 3:11. Who told thee thou wast naked? — That is, how camest thou to be sensible of thy nakedness as thy shame? Hast thou eaten of the tree — Though God knows all our sins, yet he will know them from us, and requires from us an ingenuous confession of them, not that he may be informed, but that we may be humbled; whereof I commanded thee — Not to eat of it; I thy Maker, I thy Master, I thy Benefactor, I commanded thee to the contrary. Sin appears most plain and most sinful in the glass of the commandment.


Verse 13

Genesis 3:13. What is this thou hast done? — Wilt thou own thy fault? Neither of them does this fully. Adam lays all the blame on his wife; nay, tacitly, on God. The woman whom thou gavest to be with me as my companion, she gave me of the tree. Eve lays all the blame on the serpent. The serpent beguiled me.


Verse 14

Genesis 3:14. God said unto the serpent — In passing sentence, God begins where the sin began, with the serpent, which, although only an irrational creature, and therefore not subject to a law, nor capable of sin and guilt, yet, being the instrument of the devil’s wiles and malice, is punished as other beasts have been when abused by the sin of man, and this partly for the punishment, and partly for the instruction of man, their lord and governor.

Upon thy belly shalt thou go — And “no longer on thy feet, or half erect,” say Mr. Henry and Mr. Wesley, (as it is probable this serpent, and others of the same species, had before done,) “but thou shalt crawl along, thy belly cleaving to the earth,” the dust of which thou shalt take in with thy food. And thou, and all thy kind, shall be reckoned most despicable and detestable, (Isaiah 65:25, Micah 7:17,) and be the constant objects of the hatred of mankind. But this sentence, directed against the serpent, chiefly respected the infernal spirit that actuated it, and his curse is intended under that of the serpent, and is expressed in terms which, indeed, properly and literally agreed to the serpent; but were mystically to be understood as fulfilled in the devil; who is “cursed above all irrational animals; is left under the power of invincible folly and malice, and, in disgrace, is depressed below the vilest beasts, and appointed to unspeakable misery when they are insensible in death.” — Brown.


Verse 15

Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity, &c. — The whole race of serpents are, of all creatures, the most disagreeable and terrible to mankind, and especially to women: but the devil, who seduced the woman, and his angels, are here meant, who are hated and dreaded by all men, even by those that serve them, but more especially by good men. And between thy seed — All carnal and wicked men, who, in reference to this text, are called the children and seed of Satan; and her seed — That is, her offspring, first and principally CHRIST, who, with respect to this promise, is termed, by way of eminence, her seed, (see Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:19,) whose alone work it is to bruise the serpent’s head, to destroy the policy and power of the devil. But also, secondly, all the members of Christ, all believers and holy men, are here intended, who are the seed of Christ and the implacable enemies of the devil and his works, and who overcome him by Christ’s merit and power.

It shall bruise thy head — The principal instrument of the serpent’s fury and mischief, and of his defence; and also the chief seat of his life, which, therefore, men chiefly strike at, and which, being upon the ground, a man may conveniently tread upon and crush to pieces. Applied to Satan, this denotes his subtlety and power, producing death, which Christ, the Seed of the woman, destroys by taking away its sting, which is sin.

Thou shalt bruise his heel — The part which is most within the serpent’s reach, and on which, being bruised by it, the serpent is provoked to fix its venomous teeth, but a part remote from the head and heart, and therefore wounds there, though painful, are yet not deadly nor dangerous, if they be observed in time. Understood of Christ, the seed of the woman, his heel means, first, his humanity, whereby he trod upon the earth, and which the devil, through the instrumentality of wicked men, bruised and killed; and, secondly, his people, his members, whom Satan, in divers ways, bruises, vexes, and afflicts while they are on earth, but cannot reach either Christ their head in heaven, or themselves when they shall be advanced thither. In this verse, therefore, notice is given of a perpetual quarrel commenced between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil among men: war is proclaimed between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, Revelation 12:7. It is the fruit of this enmity, 1st, That there is a continual conflict between God’s people and him. Heaven and hell can never be reconciled, no more can Satan and a sanctified soul. 2d, That there is likewise a continual struggle between the wicked and the good. And all the malice of persecutors against the people of God is the fruit of this enmity, which will continue while there is a godly man on this side heaven, and a wicked man on this side hell. But, 3d, A gracious promise also is here made of Christ, as the deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. By faith in this promise, our first parents, and the patriarchs before the flood, were justified and saved; and to this promise, and the benefit of it, instantly serving God day and night, they hoped to come.


Verse 16

Genesis 3:16. We have here the sentence passed on the woman: she is condemned to a state of sorrow and subjection: proper punishments of a sin in which she had gratified her pleasure and her pride. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow — In divers pains and infirmities peculiar to thy sex; and thy conception — Thou shalt have many, and those oft-times fruitless conceptions and abortive births. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children — With more pain than any other creatures undergo in bringing forth their young: a lasting and terrible proof this that human nature is in a fallen state! Thy desire shall be to thy husband — That is, as appears from Genesis 4:7, where the same phrase is used, Thy desires shall be referred or submitted to thy husband’s will and pleasure, to grant or deny them as he sees fit. She had eaten of the forbidden fruit, and thereby had committed a great sin, in compliance with her own desire, without asking her husband’s advice or consent, as in all reason she ought to have done in so weighty and doubtful a matter, and therefore she is thus punished. He shall rule over thee — Seeing for want of thy husband’s rule and guidance thou wast seduced, and didst abuse the power and influence I gave thee, by drawing thy husband into sin, thou shalt now be brought to a lower degree; and whereas thou wast made thy husband’s equal, thou shalt henceforward be his inferior, and he shall rule over thee — As thy lord and governor.


Verse 17

Genesis 3:17. Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife — Obeyed her word and counsel, contrary to my express command. He excused the fault by laying it on his wife, but God doth not admit the excuse: though it was her fault to persuade him to eat, it was his fault to hearken to her. Cursed is the ground for thy sake — It shall now yield both fewer and worse fruits, and not even those without more care and trouble to thy mind, and the minds of thy posterity, and more labour to your bodies than otherwise would have been requisite. The earth, for the sin of man, was made subject to vanity; fruitfulness was its blessing for man’s service, and now barrenness is its curse for man’s punishment.


Verse 19

Genesis 3:19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread — His business, before he sinned, was a constant pleasure to him; but now his labour shall be a weariness. Unto dust shalt thou return — Thy body shall be forsaken by thy soul, and become itself a lump of dust, and then it shall be lodged in the grave, and mingle with the dust of the earth.


Verse 20

Genesis 3:20. God having named the man, and called him Adam, which signifies red earth; Adam, in further token of dominion, named the woman, and called her Eve, that is, life. Thus Adam bears the name of the dying body, Eve, of the living soul. Though for her sin she was justly sentenced to a present death, yet, by God’s infinite mercy, and by virtue of the promised seed, she was both continued in life herself, and made the mother of all living. Adam had before called her Isha, woman, as a wife; here he calls her Evah, life, as a mother. Now, 1st, If this name were given her by divine direction, it was an instance of God’s favour, and, like the new naming of Abraham and Sarah, it was a seal of the covenant, and an assurance to them, that, notwithstanding their sin, he had not reversed that blessing wherewith he had blessed them. Be fruitful and multiply. It was likewise a confirmation of the promise now made, that the seed of the woman, of this woman, should break the serpent’s head. 2d, If Adam did it of himself, it was an instance of his faith in the word of God.


Verse 21

Genesis 3:21. Unto Adam and his wife did God make — By his own word, or by the ministry of angels; coats of skins — Of beasts slain, either to show them what death is, or rather, as is more probable, in sacrifice to God, to prefigure the great sacrifice which, in the latter days, should be offered once for all. Thus the first animal that died was a sacrifice, or Christ in a figure. God clothed them: 1st, to defend them from the heat and cold, and other injuries of the air to which they were now to be exposed: 2d, to remind them of their fall, which had made that nakedness, which was before innocent and honourable, an occasion of sin and shame, and therefore it needed a covering. God also, by this act of kindness, probably intended to show his care even of fallen man, to encourage his hopes of mercy through a Mediator, and thereby to invite him to repentance.


Verse 22

Genesis 3:22. The Lord God said — In his own eternal mind: Behold, the man is become as one of us — See what he has got, what advantages, by eating forbidden fruit! This is said to humble them, and to bring them to a sense of their sin and folly, that, seeing themselves thus wretchedly deceived by following the devil’s counsel, they might henceforth pursue the happiness God offered, in the way he prescribed.

Here is another evident proof of a plurality of persons or subsistences in the Godhead. Compare Genesis 1:26; Genesis 11:7. If it be said that God speaks this of himself and the angels, it must be replied that no mention has yet been made of the angels, and that it is unreasonable to think that the great God should level himself with angels, and give them, as the expression intimates, a kind of equality with himself.

Lest he take also of the tree of life — The sentence is defective, and, it seems, must be supplied thus: Care must be taken, and man must be banished hence, lest he take of the tree of life, as he took of the tree of knowledge, and thereby profane that sacrament of eternal life, and persuade himself that he shall live for ever. To prevent this, (Genesis 3:23,) the Lord God sent him forth — Expelled him with shame and violence; from the garden of Eden — So as never to restore him to that earthly paradise.


Verse 24

Genesis 3:24. So he drove out the man — This signified the exclusion of him and his guilty race from that communion with God which was the bliss and glory of paradise. But whither did he send him when he turned him out of Eden? He might justly have chased him out of the world, Job 18:18; but he only chased him out of the garden: he might justly have cast him down to hell, as the angels that sinned were, when they were shut out from the heavenly paradise, 2 Peter 2:4; but man was only sent to till the ground out of which he was taken. He was only sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment. He was sent to the ground, not to the grave; to the workhouse, not to the dungeon, not to the prison-house; to hold the plough, not to drag the chain: his tilling the ground would be recompensed by his eating its fruits; and his converse with the earth, whence he was taken, was improvable to good purposes, to keep him humble, and to remind him of his latter end. Observe, then, that though our first parents were excluded from the privileges of their state of innocence, yet they were not abandoned to despair; God’s thoughts of love designed them for a second state of probation upon new terms. And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, a detachment of cherubim, armed with a dreadful and irresistible power, represented by flaming swords which turned every way — On that side the garden which lay next to the place whither Adam was sent, to keep the way that led to the tree of life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/genesis-3.html. 1857.

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Saturday, July 4th, 2020
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