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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Genesis 3

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 3:1

I. Satan's temptations begin by laying a doubt at the root. He questions; he unsettles. He does not assert error; he does not contradict truth; but he confounds both. He makes his first entries, not by violent attack, but by secret sapping; he endeavours to confuse and cloud the mind which he is afterwards going to kill.

II. The particular character of these troublesome and wicked questionings of the mind varies according to the state and temperament and character of each individual. (1) In order to combat them, every one should have his mind stored and fortified with some of the evidences of the Christian religion. To these he should recur whenever he feels disquieted; he should be able to give "a reason for the hope that is in him," and an answer to that miserable shadow that flits across his mind, "Yea, hath God said?". (2) A man must be careful that his course of life is not one giving advantage to the tempter. He must not be dallying under the shadow of the forbidden tree, lest the tempter meet him and he die.

III. The far end of Satan is to diminish from the glory of God. To mar God's design he insinuated his wily coil into the garden of Eden; to mar God's design he met Jesus Christ in the wilderness, on the mountain top, and on the pinnacle of the temple; to mar God's design he is always leading us to take unworthy views of God's nature and God's work.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 172 (Good Words, 1867, p. 310).


The tempter effected his purpose in Eden: (1) by a question; (2) by a negation; (3) by a promise.

I. By a question. (1) Have we ever reflected on the tremendous power of a question? Some of the most important social and intellectual revolutions have sprung from a question. And it was through a question that the greatest of all revolutions was effected, by which man, made in the image of God, was seduced from his allegiance—a question that has carried with it consequences of which no man can foresee the end. (2) Mark the subtlety of the question. It aimed at destroying the blessed fellowship between God and man. "Men ask in vain," says Luther, "what was the particular sin to which Eve was tempted." The solicitation was to all sins when she was tempted to doubt the word and the goodwill of God.

II. The tempter makes the way to sin easy by removing all fear of the consequences. There is the negation, "Ye shall not surely die." We listen to the lie, and we stake our all, for time and for eternity, upon this blank and cruel negation.

III. The Satanic promise, Genesis 3:5. (1) It is malevolent: "God doth know"; He has a reason for the restriction; He dreads a rival. (2) It is fascinating: "Ye shall be as gods." The perverted pride of man's heart is the tempter's best ally.

J. J. S. Perowne, Anglican Pulpit of To-day, p. 209. (See also Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 119; and Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 13.)


References: Genesis 3:1.—B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 348; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 113. Genesis 3:1-5.—C. J. Vaughan, Voices of the Prophets, p. 237; D. Wilson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 113; Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons vol. v., p. 17; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 78, xviii., p. 83; Parker, vol. i., p. 132; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 60; N. Blackwood, Sunday Magazine (1885), p. 235. Genesis 3:1-13.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 551. Genesis 3:1-16.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 146. Genesis 3:2, Genesis 3:3.—H. Melvill, Sermons on Less Prominent Facts, vol. ii., p. 107. Genesis 3:3.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 118.


Verse 4

Genesis 3:4

I. There are many things against which God has uttered His voice in every man's heart; in which, even independently of written revelation, He has not left Himself without witness. He who lives in concealed or open sin knows full well that God hath said he shall surely die. But in the moment of temptation the certainty of ruin is met by a counter assertion of the tempter, "Thou shalt not surely die": "Do the act and cast the consequences to the winds." We have a notable instance of this in the case of the prophet Balaam. Men with the full consciousness that God is against them persist in opposition to Him, till they perish; persuading themselves, from one step to another, that matters shall not turn out so badly as God's words and God's monitor within tell them that they shall.

II. There are other classes of persons, besides notorious profligates who are caught by this device, "Thou shalt not surely die. (1) God has declared, "To be carnally minded is death." To be carnally minded is to be of the mind of the children of this world, to view things through a worldly medium, to pass day by day without a thought beyond this world, and as if there were no life after this life. Of this kind of life God has said that it is death, that those who live it shall surely die—nay, are dying now; and by this is meant that such a life is the immortal spirit's ruin, that it breaks up and scatters and wastes all man's best and highest faculties. What can await those who frustrate the best ends of their being but misery and ruin? "Ye shall not surely die" is the tempter's fallacy with which he deludes the carnally minded. He persuades them that they can give this life to God's enemy, and yet inherit life eternal. (2) God has said, "He that hath the Son hath life; but he that hath not the Son of God hath not life"—i.e., "If ye have not the Son of God ye shall surely die." How many of us have any persuasion of the reality of this sentence of death? How many have cared enough about it to ascertain what it is to have the Son of God? Whosoever has not by his own personal act taken Christ as his, has not life, and must certainly die eternally: first by the very nature of things, for the desire for God has never been awakened in his heart, the guilt of sin has not been removed from him, nor its power over him broken; and then by solemn declarations of the God of truth—"He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, for the wrath of God abideth on him."

III. Mysterious as the history of our fall is, its greatest wonder is this: that God out of ruin hath brought forth fresh beauty; out of man's defeat, His victory; out of death, life glorious and eternal. Thou shall surely live is now the Divine proclamation to man's world. "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 100.


References: Genesis 3:4.—B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p.211. Genesis 3:4, Genesis 3:5.—E. B. Pusey, Lenten Sermons, p. 107. Genesis 3:4-6.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, 2nd series, p. 101. Genesis 3:5.—J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 326; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 399; Parker, vol. i., p. 362. Genesis 3:6.—H. Thompson, Concionalia, vol. i., p. 76; Sermons for the Christian Seasons (1853), 1st series, vol. i., p. 217; G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 1. Genesis 3:6-21.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 71. Genesis 3:6-8.—J. A. Macdonald, The Pulpit Analyst, vol. i., p. 301. Genesis 3:7.—J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 326; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 239.


Verse 8

Genesis 3:8

I. That which strikes us first of all is, that Adam represents the average sinner. A man may do worse than Adam. Many men have done and do worse than hide themselves from God after outraging Him by sin. Adam's conduct proves that the sense of God's presence, awfulness, greatness, was still intact in his soul.

II. "They hid themselves." It was not the result of a consultation; it was an instinct. Two motives would concurrently have determined the action of Adam. (1) Fear. God's greatness was now the measure of the terror of the creature who had dared to disobey Him. (2) Shame. Adam had felt a fear of God in his unfallen life which differed from the cowering fear of his guilty conscience much as a healthy circulation of the blood might differ from the pulse of fever. But shame was an absolutely new thing, unlike any other capacity or experience in himself with which our first father had been previously acquainted. As the greatness of God was the measure of Adam's fear, so his own lost greatness was the measure of Adam's shame.

III. "Amongst the trees of the garden." The trees beneath the shade of which the human soul seeks refuge from its God are: (1) pleasure; (2) occupation; (3) moral rationalism.

IV. We have no difficulty in characterising this act of Adam as foolish and irrational. It was so: (1) because it was to attempt the impossible; and (2) because it was to fly from the one hope and opening for restoration and safety.

H. P. Liddon, Cambridge Lent Sermons, 1864, p. 23.


References: Genesis 3:8.—H. Hayman, Rugby School Chapel, p. 159; W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 212; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 1; H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 241; C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 41; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 184; J. H. Blunt, Miscellaneous Sermons by Clergymen of the Church of England, p. 93; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), pp. 138, 209; G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 16.


Verse 8-9

Genesis 3:8-9

As the account of Eve's temptation and fall truly represents the course of corruption and sin, so the behaviour of our first parents afterwards answers exactly to the feelings and conduct of those who have forfeited their innocence and permitted the devil to seduce them into actual sin. Shame makes the sinner shrink and draw back, and not endure to have his thoughts and doings watched by any eye whatever. As often as he sins wilfully, he must secretly wish there were no God to see him, and he will be tempted to do all he can to forget God, and so hide himself for a time from His presence.

I. Any one sin, wilfully indulged, leads to profaneness and unbelief, and tends to blot the very thought of God out of our hearts.

II. Much in the same way are backsliding Christians led to invent or accept notions of God and His judgment, as though He in His mercy permitted them to be hidden and covered, when in truth they cannot be so.

III. The same temper naturally leads us to be more or less false towards men also, trying to seem better than we are; delighting to be praised, though we know how little we deserve it. Among particular sins it would seem that two especially dispose the heart towards this kind of falsehood: (1) sensuality; (2) dishonesty.

IV. When any Christian person has fallen into sin and seeks to hide himself from the presence of the Lord, God is generally so merciful that He will not suffer that man to be at ease and forget Him. He calls him out of his hiding-place, as He called Adam from among the trees. No man is more busy in ruining himself, and hiding from the face of his Maker, than He, our gracious Saviour, is watchful to awaken and save him.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 34.


References: Genesis 3:8, Genesis 3:9.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 139; T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 1.


Verse 9

Genesis 3:9

I. Note here the anticipative sentence of the human conscience pronouncing doom on itself. The guilty rebel hides from the Divine Presence.

II. The inexorable call which brings him immediately into the Divine Presence.

III. The bringing to light of the hidden things of darkness.

The soul has many hiding-places. There are: (1) The hiding-place of self-complacent propriety; (2) the hiding-place of the reasoner; (3) the hiding-place of theological dogmas. But the true hiding-place for the soul is Jesus.

W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 2nd series, p. 1.


I. The speaker is God; the person spoken to is the representative of us all.

II. The call is: (1) individual; (2) universal.

III. God calls in three ways: (1) in conscience; (2) in providence; (3) in revelation.

IV. His call is: (1) to attention; (2) to recognition of God's being; (3) to reflection on our own place and position.

V. It is a call which each must answer for himself, and which each ought to answer without delay.

C. J. Vaughan, Penny Pulpit, No. 3263.

Here God asks an important question: "Where art thou?" (1) Where are you?—are you in God's family or out of it? When you are baptised, you are put into God's family upon certain conditions—that you will do certain things; and it depends upon you how you live, because if you do not love God you cannot be God's child. (2) Supposing you are one of God's children, "Where art thou?"—near to thy Father or far from Him?—because some children are nearer to their fathers than others. Mary and Martha were sisters, and they were both Christians, but one was much nearer to Christ than the other. Mary sat at Jesus' feet, Martha was "troubled about many things." If we delight to tell Jesus everything, then we shall be near God. (3) Are you in the sunshine or the shade? If you follow Christ you will always be in the sunshine, because He is the Sun. (4) Are you in the path of duty? Are you where you ought to be? The path of duty is a narrow path, sometimes a steep path. God could say to many of us, as He said to Elijah, "What doest thou here?"—thou art out of the path of duty. (5) How have you progressed? The surest way to know that we get on is to be very humble. When the wheat is ripe it hangs down; the full ears hang the lowest.

J. Vaughan, Sermons to Children, 1875, p. 177.


References: Genesis 3:9.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 129; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. i., p. 5; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 412; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons (1887), p. 276.


Verse 10

Genesis 3:10

How deep are the lessons involved in the story of the fall, and how little are they affected by any of the numerous criticisms to which it has given rise! The lessons to be here learnt are moral, not ethnological; spiritual, not scientific. For even if the facts be not literal, they remain divinely and unalterably true. The history is no dead letter, but a living symbol; it contains the very essence and principle of the whole matter, and he who would have a thorough insight into the origin of sin may learn more from these few and simple verses than from all else that the united energy of mankind has ever discovered on the subject with which they deal.

I. The first lesson from the story of the fall is the necessity for constant watchfulness. None, not even the oldest warrior, can ever in this world lay aside one piece of his panoply; for our warfare is a warfare in which there is no discharge. At the door of your hearts, no less than at that of the first murderer, sin is crouching like some wild beast of prey; but "subject unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."

II. Beware of underrating the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Echo not the scornful and faithless question, "Yea, hath God said?" Woe be to the man who dares to exalt his petty impotence against the divine majesty of the moral law! To violate it is a peril, to deny it a blasphemy which brings its own crushing Nemesis behind.

III. Beware of the theory that sin indeed may be sinful, but that no strict notice will be taken, no stern account exacted for the sins of your youth; beware of the wicked and perilous theory that you can sow your wild oats now. Reverence yourselves in reverencing the high and merciful commands of God. You are called by this high calling to be holy and pure.

F. W. Farrar, The Fall of Man and other Sermons, p. I



(with Psalms 143:9).

I. Consider, first, the sinner hiding himself. Some common retreats of the sinner are: (1) complete thoughtlessness; (2) the occupations of life; (3) the moralities of life; (4) the forms and observances of religion.

II. Adam is the type of the fleeing sinner. David is the type of the fleeing saint: "I flee unto Thee to hide me," (1) from the terrors of the law; (2) from the hostility and the hatred of men; (3) from the trials and calamities of life; (4) from the fear and the tyranny of death.

A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting-places, p. 235.


Reference: Genesis 3:11.—J. Purchas, Miscellaneous Sermons by Clergymen of the Church of England, p. 25.



Verse 12

Genesis 3:12

I. Adam, we find, was not content to be in the image of God. He and his wife wanted to be as gods, knowing good and evil. He wanted to be independent, and show that he knew what was good for him: he ate the fruit which he was forbidden to eat, partly because it was fair and well-tasted, but still more to show his own independence. When he heard the voice of the Lord, when he was called out, and forced to answer for himself, he began to make pitiful excuses. He had not a word to say for himself. He threw the blame on his wife. It was all the woman's fault,—indeed, it was God's fault. "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

II. What Adam did once we have done a hundred times, and the mean excuse which Adam made but once we make again and again. But the Lord has patience with us, as He had with Adam, and does not take us at our word. He knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust. He sends us out into the world, as He sent Adam, to learn experience by hard lessons, to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow till we have found out our own weakness and ignorance, and have learned that we cannot stand alone, that pride and self-dependence will only lead us to guilt and misery and shame and meanness; that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved from them, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 347.


Reference: Genesis 3:12.—Bishop Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 85



Verse 13

Genesis 3:13

I. The record before us is the history of the first sin. It needed no revelation to tell us that sin is, that mankind is sinful. Without, within, around, and inside us, is the fact, the experience, the evidence, the presence of sin. It is sin which makes life troublous and gives death its sting. The revelation of the fall tells of an entrance, of an inburst of evil into a world all good, into a being created upright,—tells, therefore, of a nature capable of purity, of an enemy that may be expelled, and of a holiness possible because natural. From man's fall we infer a fall earlier yet and more mysterious. Once sin was not; and when it entered man's world it entered under an influence independent, not inherent.

II. The first sin is also the specimen sin. It is in this sense, too, the original sin, that all other sins are copies of it. Unbelief first, then disobedience; then corruption, then self-excusing; then the curse and the expulsion,—turn the page and you shall find a murder!

III. The original sin is also the infectious sin. The New Testament derives this doctrine from the history, that there is a taint or corruption in the race by reason of the fall; that it is not only a following of Adam by the deliberate independent choice of each one of us which is the true account of our sinning; but this rather,—an influence and infection of evil, derived and inherited by us from all that ancestry of the transgressor. Not one man of all the progeny of Adam has drawn his first breath or his latest in an atmosphere pure and salubrious. Before, behind him, around and above, there has been the heritage of weakness, the presence and pressure of an influence in large part evil. Fallen sons of a fallen forefather, God must send down His hand from above if we are to be rescued ever out of these deep, these turbid waters.

C. J. Vaughan, Half-hours in the Temple Churchy p. 55 (also Good Words, 1870, p. 331).


References: Genesis 3:13.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 1st series, p. 32; J. H. Newman, Oxford University Sermons, p. 136; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xviii., p. 83.


Verse 14-15

Genesis 3:14-15

Several important difficulties suggest themselves in the text.

I. The scientific difficulty. The serpent really bears no trace of degradation; its structure is as beautifully adapted to its place in nature as that of the lion or the eagle. Neither can it be said to eat dust: its food consists of the small animals which are its prey.

II. The moral objection. Why was the serpent punished for what he did not do? Shall God visit the craft of the devil on his helpless and unconscious victim?

The answer is, These two objections neutralise each other. If the moralist tells us that God could not have meant to punish the serpent for what the serpent did not do, the man of science assures us that in fact He did not punish him. The real severity of the sentence lighted on the real offender, the devil, while the mere form of it was accommodated to the apparent structure and habits of the serpent.

III. If it was the tempter that sinned, why did not the Almighty sentence him openly as the tempter? Because there is a very marked reserve in the Old Testament on the subject of the personal author of evil. The reason of this is obvious: men were not able to bear the knowledge of their great spiritual enemy until their Deliverer was at hand. If we perceive that it was not the will of God at that time to reveal to man the existence of the evil one, we can readily understand why He permitted him to retain his serpent guise.

R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 8


References: Genesis 3:14, Genesis 3:15.—Expositor, 2nd series, vol. vii., p. 56; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 199. Genesis 3:14-24.—J. Cumming, Church before the Flood, pp. 133, 156.


Verse 15

Genesis 3:15

I. The first intention of the work of Christ upon this earth is a declaration of war: His warfare and our warfare; the warfare of persons and the warfare of "seeds"; of the two great principles of good and evil.

II. Christ did bruise and crush the serpent's head—his strength, his being, his whole vitality. He fought alone in each great single combat. When the cross was reared against the power of the arch-enemy the crushing was complete; and when He, Conqueror over the conquered grave, rose again, then the crushed head had received its death-blow.

III. The worst possible position in which men can be placed is a state in which there is no inward spiritual conflict. Quiet in the soul is the quiet of the grave. Where there is conflict there is life.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 53.


I. Notice the fall as a history. The consequences of the fall were: (1) shame; (2) fear; (3) self-excusing; (4) punishment; (5) an exclusion from the original Paradise and from the tree of immortal life within it.

II. Notice the fall in its typical and representative character. (1) Something is presented for consideration. Ponderings of sin, parleyings with temptation—these are the things which we must resist, if we would keep ourselves unspotted and pure in the great matter of the soul's life. (2) For see how bold the tempter becomes who has once got a hearing. He ventures upon challenging God's prohibition; says out, "Ye shall not surely die." (3) Sin cannot rest till it has drawn others in. The woman must make her husband eat; the friend corrupts his friend; the brother entices his brother; and so a deluge of misery enters the world in one drop of sin. (4) Man, even fallen man, differs from the evil spirit in this,—that he still, at least in the early days, is conscious to himself of his own sin; is but half its friend; has many misgivings and many self-reproaches, even though his life is defiled and spoilt with transgression; and herein lies for man a possibility of redemption, which for fallen angels is not.

III. Notice the fall in its reversal. (1) Read as a reversal of Adam's fall the record of our Lord's temptation. Then did the "strong man armed" meet a stronger than himself, and retire from the encounter foiled and vanquished. (2) Thus has it been in a lower degree with all who in Christ's name have gone forth to the conflict with temptation. (3) Read finally in this light the last chapters of the Book of God.

C. J. Vaughan, Christ the Light of the World, p. 112.


This text contains: (1) a promise of Christ; (2) a prophecy of His sufferings; (3) a prophecy of His final triumph.

R. W. Dibdin, Penny Pulpit, No. 1872.

I. The first time Prophecy opened her lips, it was to pronounce these words. To our first parents they were full of hope and consolation. In some mysterious way their loss was to be repaired; a Deliverer was to be provided. This promise was all their Bible. What, in truth, is all the rest of Scripture but the development of this great primeval promise of a Redeemer?

II. Never for an instant was this tremendous announcement absent from the recollection of the enemy of our race. Thoroughly versed in Scripture (as the history of the Temptation proves), he watched with intense anxiety the progress of prophetic announcement to mankind concerning One that was to come.

III. It is not to be supposed for an instant that Satan understood the mystery of our Lord's Incarnation. Caught in the depths of that unimaginable mystery, he did not know until it was too late that it was Very and Eternal God with whom he had entered into personal encounter. Repulsed in the wilderness, he was made fully aware of the personal advent of his great Enemy. At the death of Christ the kingdom which he had been consolidating for four thousand years was in a single moment shattered to its base.

IV. The history of the fall plainly intimates that on the side of the flesh man is most successfully assaulted by temptation, Four thousand years of warfare have convinced the enemy of our peace that on this side the citadel is weakest, is most easily surprised, is most probably captured.

J. W. Burgon, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, Feb. 19th, 1880.

References: Genesis 3:15.—Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 93; S. Leathes, Truth and Life, p. 14; J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 98; H. Melvill, Sermons, p. 1; J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 3; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1326; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 9; C. H. Bromby, Good Words (1879), p. 169; W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 68; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), pp. 351, 352; R. Glover, By the Waters of Babylon, p. 218, A. B. Grosart, Congregationalist, vol. ii., p. 170.


Verse 17

Genesis 3:17

The ground is our first lesson-book. Notice (1) A man does not cultivate the land by waving his hand majestically over it. The land says, "If you want anything out of me you must work for it. I answer labour, I respond to industry, I reply to the importunity of toil." That is the great law of social progress. (2) The ground does not obey the dashing and angry passions of any man. The green field does not turn white, though you curse over it till you foam again at the mouth. We cannot compel nature to keep pace with our impatience; man cannot hasten the wheel of the seasons; he cannot drive nature out of its calm and solemn movement; his own fields keep him at bay. (3) Then I see God stooping and writing with His finger on the ground, and when He erects Himself and withdraws, behold the Bible He has written. "Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain"; "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." See the earth inscribed with terms like these, and learn from the land how to live. (4) Spiritual cultivation, like the culture of the land, cannot be hastened. You cannot extemporise moral greatness; it is a slow growth. (5) Spiritual cultivation is sometimes very hard.

Circumstances are heavily against us; we are not placed in favourable localities, or under very gracious conditions. Let us be thankful to God if, though faint, we are still pursuing.

Parker, vol. i., p. 138.

I. The text suggests some of the mysteries by which we are surrounded. There is (1) the universal fact of sin everywhere existing; (2) the sorrow which is stamped upon the whole race; (3) the toil that is a condition of humanity.

II. The text supplies a solution by which these mysteries are brought into reconciliation with right views of the nature and character of the Eternal. Out of man's evil and man's transgression God contrives blessing. Sorrow in itself is an apparent evil; as God manages it, it is the harbinger of joy. It was the curse, but it also brings the blessing. There is hardness and difficulty in toil, but in occupation God has given us enjoyment. It keeps the mind and heart in active and energetic power. Even the curse of sin becomes in God's hands a blessing. There is no brighter happiness for man than the sense of being forgiven.

A. Boyd, Penny Pulpit, No. 209.

References: Genesis 3:17, Genesis 3:18.—H. Macmillan, Two Worlds are Ours, p. 62; E. Irving, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 1025. Genesis 3:17-19.—G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 29.


Verses 17-19

Genesis 3:17-19

This was almost the first curse revealed to us as pronounced by God, and yet it is almost the first blessing.

I. At first sight we are not prepared to admit that labour is a blessing. We shrink from the misery of task-work, which must be got through when we are least fitted to carry it on; the very word repose suggests all that is most coveted by men. It was a true instinct which led the old mythologist to invent the fable of Sisyphus and his stone, and to see in that punishment an image of horrible torture. Labour which is only laborious is and always must be grievous to endure.

II. On all the sons of Adam there is an absolute necessity of labour imposed. We may recognise the necessity and submit to it with gratitude, and then we find in it every hour a blessing; or we may rebel against it, and then we turn it as far as we can into a curse. The sweetness of leisure consists in the change from our ordinary employments, not in a cessation of all employment.

III. Lying side by side with the blessing of labour there is also a curse. "Thorns also and thistles shall the earth bring forth," says God. Work is grievous and irksome when it is unfruitful—when, after much toil, there is nothing to show. But let us be sure that if the work is done for God's glory, and in His name, the fruit will spring up in His time.

A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 253. Reference: Genesis 3:17-19.—J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 189.





Verse 19

Genesis 3:19

(with Psalms 16:6)

Notice:—

I. The necessity of toil, of hard, stern, constant strain, is at first connected with transgression. Like death, it is the child of sin. This broad fact of human experience is symbolised in the narrative of the expulsion from Eden, and the sentence on earth as well as on man (Genesis 3:17). There is blessing in toil to him who can get up into the higher regions and see how out of the very extremity of human pain and endurance God can bring forth fruits which shall be rich and fair throughout eternity. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, of toil or suffering which is other than blessed to the man who believes.

II. Consider what is the fundamental principle of this ordinance of toil. (1) It is ordained to restore man to a true and living relation with the whole system of things around him. Transgression placed him in a false relation to everything within and around him—to the constitution of his own nature, to the world, to man, and to God. He thought to be master in this world: God made him serve with a hard service, to break his strong, imperious will to obedience again. Toil is the beginning of obedience; it is a submission to the Divine law. On this sentence of labour God bases all His culture of our spirits; by this He keeps alive the desire and the hope of deliverance. (2) Toil is ordained to draw forth the full unfolding of the whole power and possibility of man's being, with a view to the system of things before him, the world of his eternal citizenship, his perfect and developed life. Be sure that it is the last strain that drags out the most precious fibre of faculty, or trains the organs to the keenest perception, the most complete expansion, the most perfect preparation for the higher work and joy of life.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 321.




I. Men know not that they shall die, even though they confess it with their lips almost daily. If we consider what death is, we see that men who know its approach will act in all things as in the fear of it. There is no more startling paradox in the wonders of our nature than this, that men in general are thoughtless about death. When our own turn comes and there is no escape, then, for the first time, we really believe in death.

II. Death is a fearful thing, because of the great change that it implies in all our being. Life is that power by which we act and think and love and intend and hope. And suppose that all our energies have been wasted on things that cannot follow us into the grave, then how can we conceive of any life at all beyond this? When we know that we must die, we feel about for something in us that shall not perish, some thread of continuity to knit our present and future life into one; and if we have never lived for God, never realised the difference between treasures of earth and treasures of heaven, we find nothing that shall assure us of that other life. We start back in horror from a grave so dark and so profound.

III. If these two terrors were all, some at least would not fear to die, would even court death as a repose. But there is yet another terror. Death means judgment. To die is to meet God. You tremble because you stand before a Judge of infinite power, whose wrath no man can resist; before a Judge of infinite wisdom, who shall call back your acts out of the distant past and lay bare the secret thoughts of your spirit.

IV. Accept the salvation purchased for you with Christ's passion, then death cannot come suddenly upon you, for the thought of it will have sobered all your days. The day of account will still be terrible, but the belief that you are reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus will sustain you.

Archbishop Thomson, Life in the Light of God's Word, p. 25.


References: Genesis 3:19.—H. Alford, Sermons, p. 228; Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, vol. v., p. 32; S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, 2nd series, vol i., p. 137; B. Waugh, Sunday Magazine (1887), p. 487. Genesis 3:20.—L. D. Bevan, Christ and the Age, p. 227.


Verse 21

Genesis 3:21

An ancient interpreter of Scripture has not scrupled to declare that there are in the Book of Revelation as many mysteries as there are words. True as the words are as applied to that wonderful book, they are truer still in regard of the first three chapters of Genesis, above all in regard of this third chapter; for this assuredly is the most important chapter in the Bible. Among all its mysteries I must limit myself to the one contained in the words of the text. These words have a sense upon the surface, but also a sense below the surface. As a record of the kindness of God they would indeed be precious; but how infinitely more precious when we read in them and draw out of them what better they contain even than this; when they reveal to us the deeper mystery which lies behind!

The whole mystery of justification is wrapped up in the details of this story.

I. We have the fact as in a parable that man is utterly impotent to bring to pass any satisfying righteousness of his own. He can see his shame, but he cannot effectually cover or conceal it. The garments of our own righteousness are fig-leaves all, and we shall prove them such. Let God once call to us, and we shall find how little all these devices of our own can do for us. We shall stand shivering, naked and ashamed, before Him.

II. While we thus learn that man cannot clothe himself, we learn also that God undertakes to clothe him. As elsewhere He has said in word, "I am the Lord that healeth thee," so here He says in act, "I am the Lord that clotheth thee." He can yet devise a way by which His banished shall return to Him.

III. We note in this Scripture that the clothing which God found for Adam could only have been obtained at the cost of a life, and that the life of one unguilty, of one who had no share or part in the sin which made the providing of it needful. We have here the first institution of sacrifice; God Himself is the institutor. It is a type and shadow, a prelude and prophecy of the crowning sacrifice on Calvary.

Are not the lessons which we may draw from all this plain and palpable enough? (1) There is no robe of our own righteousness which can cover us and conceal our shame. (2) That righteousness which we have not in ourselves we must be content and thankful to receive at the hands of God. (3) Not Christ by His life, but by His life and death, and mainly by His death, supplies these garments for our spirits' need.

R. C. Trench, Sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, p. 118.


References: Genesis 3:21.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. iii., p. 181; B. Waugn, Sunday Magazine (1887) p. 210; L. D. Bevan, Christ and the Age, p. 209.


Verse 22

Genesis 3:22

The temptation under which man fell in paradise was an ambitious curiosity after knowledge which was not allowed him; next came the desire of the eyes and the flesh; but the forbidden tree was called the tree of knowledge; the tempter promised knowledge, and after the fall Almighty God pronounced, as in the text, that man had gained it. What is so miserably seen in the history of our first parents has been the temptation and sin of their posterity ever since,—indulgence in forbidden, unlawful, hurtful, unprofitable knowledge. (1) Notice that evil curiosity which stimulates young persons to intrude into things of which it is their blessedness to be ignorant. (2) The pursuit of science, which characterises these times, is very likely to draw us aside into sin of this particular kind, if we are not on our guard. (3) There are persons who boast themselves of what they call their knowledge of the world and of life. There are men who look upon acquaintance with evil as part of their education. (4) Another very different class of persons who study evil and pride themselves upon it, and are degraded by it, are those who indulge themselves in contemplating and dwelling on the struggle between right and wrong in their own minds. Even when used rightly, the knowledge of sin is not without its danger. The love of God alone can give such knowledge its right direction.

Reflections such as these show how different is our state from that for which God made us. He meant us to be simple, and we are unreal; He meant us to think no evil, and a thousand associations, bad, trifling, or unworthy, attend our every thought. But Christ has purchased for us what we lost in Adam, our garment of innocence. He has bid us and enabled us to become as little children. He has purchased for us the grace of simplicity. Let us pray God to give us this great and precious gift.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 335. (See also J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. 256.)


References: Genesis 3:22.—J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 313; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 1; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 86; L. D. Bevan, Christ and the Age, pp. 193, 243. Genesis 3:23.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 115.


Verse 24

Genesis 3:24

(and Romans 7:24-25)

I. Man's fallen life, viewed externally and internally. (1) Externally. Man was condemned to toil and sorrow, no longer fed by the sacramental fruit of the tree of life, exiled from the garden and debarred from entering the gate, which was closed against him by mysterious shapes and by points of flickering fire. The echoes of sin and sorrow, of care and business and pleasure, that are wakened up for us in the fourth chapter, are the beginning of the moral and physical history of man as he now is. (2) Internally. Strange and terrible possibilities of sin lurk in this human nature of ours. Who can measure the possible distance between himself now and himself twenty years hence? There seem evermore to be two wills in the mystery of the one will. There seem to be two men in the one man,—the two wills and two men of whom the apostle speaks in our text.

II. The redeemed life. As we have placed Adam at the head of the fallen life, we place Christ at the head of the redeemed life. Christ is here in these opening chapters of Genesis. Dim and indistinct the promise must be admitted to be; just as on some pale winter morning we see a shape dimly in the mirror, and yet recognise it because we have known it before, so in that dim winter morning of prophecy we can see Christ in that first promise, because we have met Him before in the Gospel and the Church.

The redeemed life includes: (1) forgiveness; (2) an emancipated will. In Christ Jesus the fallen life may pass into the redeemed life; in Him, exiles as we are, we may win a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates and pass into the city which is our home.

Bishop Alexander, Norwich Cathedral Discourses, 4th series, No. 4. (See also Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 65.)


The world was created (1) that it might be a place to exhibit the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) that it might be a system of probation. Adam was placed in probation; Christ was placed in probation; the life of every man is probation.

I. The temptation of Adam and the temptation of Christ were in the main the same. Both had their trial in three great seductions: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.

II. In both the sin, if they had committed it, would have been one and the same.

III. While the probation and the guilt were the same in both, Christ's temptation was severer than Adam's. Adam had nothing resting upon him but his own responsibility; Christ was carrying the burden of a world. Adam was invited to the mere gratification of his own appetite; Christ had set before Him a specious miracle—the glory of God and the advancement of an empire which might be held for mighty ends. Yet Adam fell and Christ rose. Adam's falling dragged us down; Christ's rising drew us up.

IV. Note the exceeding mercy which placed at the east of the garden of Eden "Cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Eating of that tree after the fall would have perpetuated a being marred and disgraced. Love barred the way, that man might not go on with his self-destruction.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 122.




Genesis 3

Consider: (1) some of the consequences, and (2) some of the corroborative proofs of the fall.

I. Beside and behind the outward consequences, there were inward results far more terrible. A disease had appeared on earth of the most frightful and inveterate kind. This disease was (1) a moral disease. The grand disease of sin combines all the evil qualities of bodily distempers in a figurative yet real form, and turns not the body, but the soul, into a mass of malady. (2) The disease is universal in its ravages. The entire being is encrusted with this leprosy. The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. (3) This disease is deep-seated in its roots. Its roots are in the very centre of the system, and it infects all the springs of life. It makes us cold and dead and languid in the pursuit of things that are good. The enemy, through the subtle power of this disease, has penetrated into the very citadel of man, and waves his flag of victory upon its highest battlements. (4) This disease is hereditary. It is within us as early as existence; it descends from parent to child more faithfully than the family features or disposition or intellect. (5) This is a disease which assumes various forms and aspects. Its varieties are as numerous as the varieties of men and of sinners. In that great hospital, that magnificent madhouse called the earth, we find all kinds and degrees of moral disease, from the fever of ambition to the consumption of envy, from the frantic fury of the conqueror to the dull idiocy of the miser. (6) This is a disease which defies all human means of cure, and a disease which, if not cured, will terminate in everlasting destruction.

II. Apart from the declarations of God's word, there are strong and startling proofs of a fall. (1) There are all those dreadful phenomena mentioned above, which are connected with man's present diseased moral condition. (2) The doctrine of a fall alone explains the anomalous and ambiguous condition of man. The fracture he has suffered has, in its very fierceness and depth, opened up a light into his structure. From the great inequality of human character we cannot but conclude that a catastrophe must have overwhelmed the whole mass of mankind and reduced them to a medley of confusion. We find the echo of man's fall in every strain of primeval song and in every breath of old tradition.

G. Gilfillan, Alpha and Omega, vol. i., pp. 98, 130.


References: Gen 3—F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 24.; J. Wells, Bible Echoes, p. 19; J. Brown, Good Words (1885), p. 676; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 79.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Genesis 3:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/genesis-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 6th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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