Practical Application of the Word of God
Genesis 3 is the first “turning” in Scripture, with serious and lasting implications for all humanity, for God, for Christ, and for Satan. John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost centers around the events of Genesis 3, and that poem provides a quite vivid (and clearly based on the rest of God’s word with regard to the character, mindset, and attitude of Satan) three-dimensional portrait of Satan. Although Milton intersperses a lot of mythology as well into this work, he also takes the personification in Scripture of Satan, sin, and death (Gen. 4:6 and James 1:13 are two examples of this personification that come immediately to my mind) and makes them actual characters in the poem, which helps drive the point home as to how powerful and destructive they are. It is well worth the read to get a “blow-by-blow” feel for what Genesis 3 summarizes.
Genesis 3, like the two preceding chapters, summarizes a chapter of humanity’s past that clearly encompasses a longer period of time. As clearly as I know that God did not spend just the first Sabbath with Adam and Eve (we see in chapter 2 that the one who became Christ spent quite a bit of time with Adam to help him get a handle on the physical creation he was to oversee) in a cram session of “this-is-what-you-need-to-know,” then waltz off on Sunday (the 8th day) with a “see ya!,” I know both God and Satan were interacting for a longer period of time with Adam and Eve before this turning.
How do I know that? For one reason, the first verse in Genesis 3 says “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” (NASB) Other translations use the words “subtle” (KJV) and “cunning” (NKJV) and “shrewdest” (NLT) to describe the character of the serpent. All of these words have “deceit” and “deception” as their definitions, and that kind of character can only be discerned over time and as a result of a cumulative series of events.
The second reason is that there is a familiarity between the serpent, Adam and Eve, and there has clearly been communication between them before. Let’s face it. If I was out walking along in my garden and a snake popped up and started talking to me, either I would fall dead from heart failure or I would be running like the wind as far and as fast away as possible. Eve wasn’t surprised, nor was she afraid. She answered him as though this was just another in a series of questions asked and answered.
My take is that Satan started “making friends” as soon as Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden by God. Their lack of surprise that a serpent talked to them is evidence that this was “normal” to them. I can easily envision Satan following them around as they lived their daily lives, chatting them up, establishing a repoire and trust relationship with them. This was, of course, interrelated and perhaps – and this leads the Satan’s description as “subtle” – simultaneously with God’s active involvement with them at the same time. In both cases these were well-established and trusted relationships.
So, when we get to Satan’s question – “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'” – to Eve in verse 2, we are in the middle of an on-going dialog between the two of them. It certainly didn’t alarm Eve, nor did she seem any ominous intent in the question.
But that’s how craftiness works. It is a slow, gradual process of deception that is characterized by an establishment of seemingly common ground, then the slow and deliberately ambiguous (one of the hallmark signs of intent to deceive is the use of words and phrases that have an established meaning and then denying that the use is that of the established meaning – the more explanation of, clarification of, and justification of these kinds of words and phrases that follows their initial appearance, the more it becomes clear that deception is at the root of their use) of injection of omission of facts, twisting of facts (either by distorting or by playing on the perceptions – which are often established initially by the deceivers -, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities of others), or complete change of facts that can be both subconscious and unnoticeable over time if we’re not alert, aware, knowledge, discerning, testing everything (including our own thoughts, motives, attitudes and words) for veracity and consistency with God’s word, which is the sole source of truth and knowledge).
This takes time, investment, and diligent work to accomplish. One thing you have to give Satan: he takes his work much more seriously than we do sometimes and just as Christ was about His Father’s business 24/7, Satan is about his business 24/7 too.
Eve’s answer in verse 3 has always made me think that their previous conversations had slowly created doubt in Eve’s mind (and in Adam’s mind, because he bought into the deception hook, line, and sinker) about the omnipotence and benevolence of God, because it seem to bring to the surface a negative reaction toward God, because she actually adds to what God said – “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.'” (Genesis 2:16-17) – with her answer (Genesis 3:2-3) in which she says there is only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they cannot eat from or even touch or they would die. God didn’t say they couldn’t touch it in Genesis 2. I am not entirely convinced, because they had never seen death that we know of, that Adam and Eve fully understood what “dying” meant. Maybe they did in a theoretical way, but not an experiential way.
Satan immediately sees his moment to to twist and omit truth. He knew, having been at the throne of God, that there was no time there, and he also knew that time, as in days and nights, was a part of this physical creation. He knew God well enough to know that “time” to God would not be the same as time to humans, in which a “day” was the 12 hours of daylight.
Armed with that knowledge, he then states that God’s not being honest and then gives the reason why God is not being honest. This is summarized in the serpent’s response in verses 4 and 5.
I can imagine, though, that this is how Satan’s response actually went. He first set himself up as an insider with God and implied that he was privy to the top secrets of God, and because of that relationship to God, he knew God far better than Eve (and Adam). He then “confided” in Eve the “things” he knew about God that Eve (and Adam) did not. He definitively states that God lied. But then he explains “why” by doing a personality profile of God, bringing Him down to a human level with strengths and weaknesses, character flaws, personality traits that Eve (and Adam) could identify with.
(This, by the way, has been Satan’s pattern throughout humanity’s history; one look at the idolatrous gods from ancient history, through Greek and Roman times, even through today with the “canonized” saints who lived and walked as humans, they are replicas of human nature and human foibles. Once God becomes one of us – note how Satan twists this to say humans will become one of them – then He is no better or no worse than we are and therefore has as much credibility as any other human would or as our own thinking and reasoning does, and that naturally leads to being wise in our own eyes and leaning to our own understanding.)
I only need to look at the human tendency to lie, omit, and twist the facts (and I battle this just like everyone else) to get the tenor of Satan’s response: “Well, I’m your friend and it would be wrong if I didn’t tell you the whole story about this. I have this knowledge and information and I can’t die, so God’s not being upfront with you. In fact, He is not always fair with His creation. Let me tell you what happened to me and you decide if God’s the Mr. Wonderful He has told you He is.” And then Eve heard Satan’s version of what happened in pre-history.
After that Satan touted his longevity and his insider status all under the guise of being a true friend and wanting the “best” for Eve (and Adam). “You see, I was here way before you, so I know God better than you do. I know things you don’t know. Not only have I been with God at His throne, but I have current information from the best and most credible sources of what God is really planning to do. He’s a little insecure because He’s just like you – after all, didn’t He tell you that you were created in His image? – and He’s also a bit of a control freak. He’s laid down all these rules and regulations and by not telling you the whole story, He’s making sure that you never are on equal par with Him, because this information and knowledge He’s trying to scare you away from obtaining will mean you will be just like Him. And you need this knowledge and information to be complete, to fulfill your destiny, and to reach your potential. He doesn’t want you to have it because He can’t control you once you’re the same as He is – and since He can’t die, then neither will you -, but if you don’t have it, you can’t even imagine how much you’re going to miss out on!”
We transition directly in verse 6 to Eve accepting the spin, the omissions, the lies in verse 6. But seldom does someone make an argument that disagrees with what we believe that persuades us in an instant. The reality is that instead of, as Christ did in Matthew 4, countering Satan’s statements with God’s statements right then and right there, she listened to his response and then thought about for some time, discussing it with Adam, maybe even discussing it with God, and then going back to Satan for more discussion. The more she dwelled on it and it overtook her thinking, the stronger the idea that God was the bad guy became acceptable and the stronger her desire to have what God was withholding from her. Clearly, because of Adam’s participation and agreement with her, they went through this thought-discussion process together. At some point, the lie became the truth and the truth became the lie and they partook of the knowledge and information that God had commanded them not to.
To assume that God didn’t know is a false assumption. I used to wonder why they hid themselves from God’s presence, but I have realized that they were waiting to see whether “the day” they made the choice to reject God’s word as true would be their last day. Note in verse 8 that it is the cool of the day, which would be evening time, as the sun was beginning to set on the western horizon. The “day” was almost over.
What happens next in the relationship between humans and God shows how God deals with us when we sin against Him. He is looking at attitude, heart, intent and whether we are willing to acknowledge our sins, repent, and ask for His mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51 is an excellent example of what God wants and expects from us).
God first points to the breach in the relationship by asking Adam and Eve where they were. This indicates that there was a close, open, welcoming relationship before. Once they answer (there is no indication that they went to God, but it seems more likely that God went to them), the first thing Adam reveals is something that is not part of God and His spirit: fear. And Adam lies about what he is afraid of (the assertion of being afraid because he was naked makes no sense, while being afraid of this unknown of death makes perfect sense).
God gives Adam and Eve both a chance to own up to what they did and then seek reconciliation. Instead they started the blame game.
The change in Adam’s attitude toward God is most revealing. He ultimately blames God for his sin by saying in verse 12, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” The insinuation is that if God had not given Adam Eve, he would not have sinned. Of course, Adam also points the finger squarely at Eve as well.
Eve then points the finger at the serpent and says “he tricked me and I didn’t know it, so it’s his fault I sinned.”
God then pronounced a curse on Satan (and on snakes in general) and shows the adversarial relationship that has been established between the spiritual and physical creation (between God and man) as well as within the physical creation (people and snakes are still the worst of enemies) by sin, but also reveals that He planned for this and the relationships will be repaired, healed and restored by God.
He then cuts off unrestricted access to the tree of life for man’s own good (God already had Satan and the one/third of the angels who had eternal life imprisoned in their rebellion against God), and He shows that death is the penalty for sin. Adam and Eve are ejected from the perfect “created-just-for-them” land of Eden out into what I would guess was land that Adam had to build up from scratch.
We also see God as a loving, nurturing parent who provides for His creation, as well as instructing it (clearly there is an animal sacrifice here, so it follows that God would have explained the reason for the sacrifice, how to do, when to do it, and what it pointed to in terms of Christ’s sacrifice – we know that because we see Abel offering animal sacrifices to God in Genesis 4) in repentance and forgiveness.
The fact remains – and I suspect it was always a question mark in Adam and Eve’s mind – that God did not take their lives during that physical day. However, when we see Peter’s statement (II Peter 3:8) that a thousand years is like a day to God, it is interesting to note that no human has lived in what is a day to God (Methuselah lived the longest at 969 years), so it is clear that God was honest and He meant what he said.
Now that sin is part of the human experience, everything starts to go downhill from there.