A Verse by Verse Study of Genesis 3:1-24
We don’t know how much time passed when God created Adam and Eve to the beginning of Genesis 3, but they were living in paradise in the Garden of Eden with God.
Just as Revelations speaks of heaven coming to earth, God was living on earth with mankind and there was no sin, no sickness, and no death.
But then something happened, putting an end to life in paradise, and resulting in God punishing Adam and Eve.
This blog post is all about why God punished Adam and Eve, and what this meant for the rest of humanity.
Genesis 3:1 opens with an introduction to the serpent and although this chapter doesn’t reveal the true nature and identity of the serpent, many other passages in the Bible do tell us exactly who the serpent was: Satan himself.
Satan the Father of Lies
Before Satan’s fall, he was an angel of the highest rank and he was present in the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:12-19). He was banished by God because of his desire to be as great, or greater, then God (Isaiah 14), and in Genesis 3 we find him scheming against God by deceiving man.
Some people believe that the Fall is simply allegory – a story with a hidden meaning or moral for us to learn – but the serpent was real, the garden paradise was real, Adam and Eve were real, and their choice to sin was also real. We might not understand everything about how Satan appeared as a serpent, but we know that he did.
Verse 1 tells us that the serpent was the shrewdest of all animals. The New King James Version (NKJV) says that he was the most cunning. This is not the description of a literal serpent. That God made a wild animal to be as, if not more, intelligent than humans does not seem likely.
The take-away here is not meant to imply that God created highly intelligent serpents.
This verse was describing Satan’s character. Satan is highly intelligent and cunning. He is very powerful and effective at leading us to believe his lies. In fact, he is often referred to as the father of lies and god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). We could never outsmart Satan, and we would fall for every lie without the power of Jesus.
We are bound in slavery to sin and Satan without God’s saving grace.
Satan Attacks the Weakest Links
Genesis 3:1-5 describes the conversation between the serpent and Eve. Why did Satan choose Eve over Adam?
Well, it might be, that because Eve did not receive the command directly from God but rather heard about it through Adam, Satan may have seen Eve as more vulnerable to attack. Eve demonstrated that she didn’t fully understand God’s command when she said that, not only could they not eat the fruit, but they also couldn’t touch it – something God never said.
Eve didn’t even say the name of the tree. She simply referred to it as the tree in the middle of the garden.
Eve’s ignorance of what God said was Adam’s responsibility. A command as important as this should have been passed on with great care and detail.
Satan used Eve’s lack of understand of God’s words to manipulate and deceive her.
Satan began by attacking God’s words themselves. If he could cause confusion over what God said, half the battle would be won.
Satan twisted God’s words to cause uncertainty:
‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’Genesis 3:1 (NLT)
Satan tries to undermine God’s Word by twisting it and causing confusion. He also tries to undermine God’s Word by doing whatever it takes to stop us from reading it.
Many Christians prefer reading books, watching videos, and listening to podcasts about the Bible, without reading the Bible for themselves. There is nothing wrong with books and other resources to help us grow in our faith, but it is so important to read the Bible for ourselves so that we can weed out what is false.
When we don’t know the truths of the Bible for ourselves, we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks just like Eve.
Satan also attacks the truth of God’s Word. Satan outright contradicted what God said:
‘“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”’Genesis 3:4-5 (NLT)
Satan is essentially telling Eve that God is holding them back from their full potential. That he doesn’t want them to be all-knowing like God himself. That God was telling a lie. That the Bible is not true.
Satan and Eve are not alone in wanting to be like God. Mankind doesn’t want to submit to anyone’s authority other than their own. We live in a world where each person wants to decide their own truth about what is right and wrong. We don’t want to be accountable to a sovereign God.
Many world religions are centered on the doctrine of becoming a god, like Mormonism and the New Age Movement, who share a belief that we will all become gods, or the Christ, one day.
Satan also tries to make us forget about the consequences of sin. As fallen humans, when we no longer think about the consequences of sin, we no longer have the incentive to obey God and live a life of holiness. Wanting to be holy for the sake of holiness is not the desire of a sinful nature.
Once Satan has a foothold it becomes very hard to defeat him. Eve should never have started a discussion with him in the first place.
When we are weak in our faith, or don’t know the Bible well, we must be careful about allowing Satan to ensnare us. We must simply walk away from temptation or from situations that might cause us to stumble. Disengage from Satan’s tactics.
Genesis 3:6 now describes Adam and Eve’s choice to sin.
Eve is Deceived
Eve fell for Satan’s temptation in the exact way described in 1 John 2:16:
‘For all of this is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but if this world.’NKJV
She saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and she desired the wisdom that the fruit would give her. Satan tried to appeal to the physical appetite, to emotional desires, and to human pride.
Jesus was also tempted in these three ways in Matthew 4:1-11, but did not sin.
Eve was deceived when she sinned. She was tricked. She thought she was doing something good for herself. She failed to see the harm in doing it. But it was still sin. Satan tempts us, tries to deceive us, but we don’t have to do it. Eve was still responsible for her choice – she couldn’t just say, “The devil made me do it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 says this:
‘The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.’NLT
Eve had a way out. She did not have to listen to Satan. She could have run away, but she didn’t. She stayed and listened, and very quickly became deceived.
Eve then became the means of temptation for her husband Adam.
The Bible doesn’t say what Eve said to Adam to convince him to eat the forbidden fruit, but it didn’t seem to take much, as it simply says she offered him the fruit and he ate it. It could be the fact that she was still alive after eating and it gave Adam reason to doubt God. But Adam chose to disobey God with his eyes wide open – he was not deceived. Adam openly rebelled against God.
This is why passages in the New Testament (Romans 5:12 & 1 Corinthians 15:22) say that Adam bore the responsibility for the fall of the human race, not Eve. Eve was tricked, but Adam knew exactly what he was doing.
Sin and Its Consequences
What was Adam and Eve’s sin? All sin is the act of disobeying God’s commands, but what specifically did Adam and Eve do? What was the root cause of their sin and why did God punish Adam and Eve?
Their sin was twofold. The obvious sin was pride – the same reason Satan fell. They wanted to be their own masters. They wanted to be wise like God.
Second, they broke trust with God. God had a covenant relationship with Adam and Eve. He gave them the gift of free-will, but their relationship with God required choosing to have faith in God and living in obedience to his will.
Adam and Eve were instantly aware of their sin and felt immediate shame. Genesis 3:7-8 tells us that they realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together to make clothing, and hid from God.
God Wants Us to Confess Our Sin
Genesis 3:8-9 tells us three important things.
First, in the casual way that Genesis describes God walking in the garden, and in the way that Adam and Eve immediately recognized that it was him, this was not the first time this happened. This leads us to believe that God walked in the Garden often, and Adam and Eve knew that God would want to meet with them, as he always did. This was how God had fellowship with Adam and Eve.
Second, we can assume that God appeared to Adam and Eve in the Person of Jesus, who is eternal and through whom the earth was created (1 John 1:1-4).
Third, in God asking Adam, “Where are you?”, God was leading Adam to confess his sins, rather than searching for his location in the Garden. God seeks after lost souls.
God Questions Adam & Eve
In Genesis 3:10-13, God now begins to question Adam and Eve like in a cross examination in a trial. This is their opportunity to own up to there sin and admit what they have done.
But each one blames someone else. Neither claim responsibility for their choices. Adam blamed Eve for giving her the fruit, and Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her.
A friend once asked me if I thought that, if Adam and Eve would have confessed immediately and accepted responsibility for their choices, would God have forgiven them and allowed them to stay in the Garden?
I believe the answer is, no. Yes, God forgives, and God did not turn his back on creation and mankind.
However, the Bible is clear that God is both just and holy. Sin cannot go unpunished. Because of Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God, particularly Adam’s outright rebellion, Adam’s race would forever be tainted with sin. This began the fall of humanity and the birth of our sinful nature. Sin was not part of God’s design. But man’s choice to disobey God opened mans’ eyes to evil.
Humanity, now born with sinful natures, can’t pay the price for sin in order to re-establish a right relationship with God.
God questions both Adam and Eve because he wants them to learn a lesson. To understand what they have done. But notice he does not question the serpent. There was nothing to teach Satan. God knew he was a liar – the father of lies.
God’s Judgment of the Serpent
In Genesis 3:14-15, God now begins to pronounce his judgment and he starts with the serpent. The first part of the judgment is directed at the animal that Satan chose as part of his deception. God commanded that the serpent must slither on the ground instead of walking on legs like any other animal. The serpent, once a noble creature, would have to grovel in the dust.
The groveling in dust mentioned in verse 14 (the NKJV translates it as “you shall eat dust”) is a reference to Satan. In other passages in the Bible, eating dust is a metaphor for total defeat. This metaphor is still used today.
Verse 15 foreshadows the details of this great defeat.
‘And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel,’NLT
Satan already hated mankind, but now mankind would also, generally speaking, have animosity towards Satan. People are naturally cautious and afraid of Satan. Those who knowingly serve Satan are completely hardened towards God.
This verse also prophecies how Satan will ultimately be defeated. Born in human form, Jesus would defeat Satan, crushing his head – a death blow. However, Satan would wound Jesus. Jesus was wounded for our sins, but death could not defeat him.
God’s judgment of Satan was final. He was already spiritually dead – separated from God – but he would also die physically – erased from existence entirely.
God Punishes Eve
In Genesis 3:16 God punishes Eve. But notice Eve’s punishment is not one of finality, as the serpent’s judgment is, but its effects are far reaching, resulting in every woman experiencing Eve’s punishment.
First, God’s punishment for Eve is pain and difficulty in pregnancy and child birth.
Second, Eve and every woman afterward, struggle in marriage relationships as part of our sinful nature. If you ever thought that you were just not good at marriage, and other people must have it easy: we all by nature, deal with this power struggle with our spouse.
Women were designed to compliment and help their husbands accomplish, but our nature wants to fight our husband’s leadership in the home – to questions his authority, know-how, and wisdom.
What was once a loving and complimentary relationship in paradise, is replaced by a struggle of domination – husband trying to control wife, and wife trying to control husband.
God Punishes Adam
In Genesis 3:17-19, God punishes Adam.
First, work, which was designed for good and enjoyment, will be hard and tiring. The ground is also cursed. Where once only good things grew, now thorns, thistles, and other pests, will make working the soil and growing food difficult.
Second, a life in toil and labor will end in death. From dust man was created and dust he will return.
Adam’s sin extended to the entire human race. Because of Adam all of humanity will share this same end.
How Adam Responded to God
Genesis 3:20 tells us that this is when Adam named Eve. Prior to that she was only Woman. He named her Eve, meaning mother of all living, and this showed Adam’s continued faith in God’s promises. Eve was not yet a mother, but God foretold of Eve’s offspring who would deliver them from sin and Satan.
In verse 21, God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins. This tells us that God approved of them covering up their nakedness. Now that sin was part of the world, modesty was an important quality to prevent the temptation of further sin.
This also tells us that God provided for them. They were not left to struggle on their own. God provided and would continue to provide.
Adam and Eve Are Banished
Genesis 3:22-24 close the chapter by telling us how God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life.
Some have translated these verses to mean that God did not want Adam and Eve to become like gods by eating from the Tree of Life, but I believe that God was being merciful. He did not want Adam and Eve to live forever in their sinful state.
God placed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the Tree of Life. God wasn’t guarding against Adam and Eve’s return. Any angel of the lowest rank could have easily stopped Adam from entering. This guard was for Satan and his minions.
One final interesting note is that cherubim are associated with God’s glory, and they mark a meeting place with God, for example they were part of God’s design for the tabernacle. It is believed that Adam and Eve and their descendants could still come there to meet with God and worship him.
Why Did God Punish Adam & Eve?
God is holy and just, which means that sin cannot go unpunished. But God, who is also loving and good, promised Adam that a Savior would defeat sin and Satan once and for all. God had a plan all along to renew our relationship with him.
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges – Sometimes we become so preoccupied with “major” sins that we lose sight of our need to deal with more subtle sins. We tend to tolerate “acceptable” sins in ourselves, including pride and anger. This book goes to the heart of the matter and explores our feelings of shame and guilt, while opening doors to God’s forgiveness and grace.