Are humans naturally good or hopelessly evil? Philosophers, theologians, and even scientists have been debating this question for centuries. This brings up other questions as well. Do we really have free will or is everything predestined? Are we born evil or is it our parents’ fault? Are all people really good at heart? How do you get a philosopher off your porch? Pay him for the pizza. What is the first question a philosophy major asks after he has earned his PhD? “Do you want fries with that?”
The Bible is clear regarding these topics. After God created the earth and declared it to be good, something changed everything: sin. It confused people, thinking they could replace God. It brought death and loss into the world. It introduced selfishness, deceit, and exploitation into previously healthy and loving relationships. It all began with a naked man and woman in the middle of a beautiful orchard…
Gen.3.1-2 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Talking snakes? Crafty reptiles? The sheer ridiculousness of this description causes many to doubt the historical validity of this story. Some scholars explain it away, saying it is not intended to be historical literature. They call it a myth and they are partially right. While most people equivocate myths with made up stories and fallacies, a myth’s purpose is usually to explain what something really is and how it came to be. If I tell you thunder is the sound of angels bowling in heaven, then I’ve told you a myth. If I said Hawaii was created from volcanic activity at the bottom of the ocean, then that would be a myth too. If you explain that we all came from apes because anything could happen given enough time, then I’d say you’re trying to make a monkey out of me. Rather than judging everything historically true or scientifically valid, we should take things at face value and examine this passage according to its main purpose, which is to explain why there is so much evil in the world. The other details are incidental. You do not have to believe every detail in order to believe the main point.
A crafty animal isn’t so farfetched. Have you never experienced an elusive mouse or a squirrel doing death defying stunts just to get to a bird feeder? Is it so unlikely that animals can talk? Koko the monkey has learned how to communicate with humans. Dolphins have their own language. Maybe we’re the dumb ones who haven’t figured out how to communicate with rest of the animal world yet.
Notice the woman is not at all surprised the snake talked. It was probably not the first time she had talked with the snake. In fact it had gotten a reputation for being crafty, which is then proven by what it speaks in the very next verse rather than anything it does.
Revelation 20:2 identifies this serpent, saying, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”
Satan crafts a brilliant argument, chipping away at the woman’s trust in God and in her husband. Did God say not to eat from any tree in the garden? Not even close. In Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” God in fact said the opposite; they were free to eat from any tree in the garden. Except one. And just like every single one of us, the man and woman focused on the one thing they couldn’t have rather than all that God had given them.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
Notice the woman was not there when God spoke the command. She had not yet been created. Given that she adds “and you must not touch it” to the original, it is likely she got it secondhand from Adam. The snake is being crafty, getting the command completely wrong so as to pick apart her response. If he asked her what he thought she knew, he would not be able to question the details.
In an effort to protect his wife from harm, the man probably added the very words which brought both of them down. He tried building a fence around the law in an effort to not break the law. We do that often, don’t we? Instead of telling a child, “Don’t touch the stove when it is hot.” We say, “Don’t go in the kitchen.” Every child will push the boundaries. Once he enters the kitchen and nothing bad happens, he will walk towards the stove, then put his hand near the stove, then put his hand over the burner and slowly move it closer and closer until he touches it and gets burned. This is what happened to Eve. What was she doing near that tree in the first place?! Adam had her believe that if she even touched the fruit that something bad would happen to her. When nothing immediate happened to her after just touching it, it was easy to take the next step and eat the fruit. Adam, though he did so to protect her, actually made her more vulnerable to temptation because he lied to her by adding to the command of God.
When we cloak our warnings and restrictions as divine commands, we are hurting the very people we are trying to protect. Satan will challenge these “commands,” asking, “Did God actually say…?” and when they discover He didn’t actually say what you said He said, they will question everything you said. Then it will become forbidden fruit, which is even more desirable and irresistible than anything. If you don’t believe me, tell a child about how delicious a piece of chocolate is, then tell them they can’t have any. They will either try to sneak it when you aren’t looking or beg you mercilessly for a bite. Don’t dangle forbidden fruit in front of people. They will look at it, examine it, touch it, and taste it even moreso because it is forbidden. Give them the truth and trust in God to protect them.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Every tree was permissible to eat from, but she wanted to get close to it and check it out. When the serpent questioned the command of God, she got more curious. She walked up to the tree to get a closer look.
The woman took the fruit because she wanted to be like God. In fact, even before she ate it she had already taken the place of God in her own mind. Throughout chapter one at the end of each day it says, “And God saw that it was good.” Now “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good.”
The fool who defiantly wags his finger proclaiming “There is no God” need only look into a mirror to find an inferior one pointing at him.
In other words, you cannot be certain that God does not exist; such certainty could only come about if you had god-like knowledge and presence. You may claim there is no God where you are sitting or because you couldn’t find one in your philosophical studies, but perhaps you didn’t read the right book or find the right website. Even if you traveled the whole universe, the god you supposedly are looking for might have moved to Uranus while your anus was in Florida.
If you are intellectually honest with yourself, God conceptually must exist – either as the God of the Bible or as a god of yourself.
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Adam was with her the whole time. Why didn’t he speak up? Why didn’t he correct his wife or even the serpent? Why was he silent?
What did death mean anyway? Maybe he started to believe his own lie that if she touched the fruit she would die. Perhaps he expected immediate death the moment she touched the fruit and, when nothing happened, he watched to see what happened if she ate the fruit. He may have been using her as a guinea pig. Sure he was curious about the knowledge she would get from eating the fruit, but let her take all of the risk. When nothing apparently happened, he didn’t need any convincing. He just took the fruit from his wife and ate it without a word.
That was not his only option. He did not have to act so hastily. He could have offered himself as a sacrifice for her sin because he himself had not yet sinned. He could have been the spotless sacrifice needed to redeem her. Granted, he probably didn’t know what the plan of salvation was should either of them eat from that particular tree, but what a waste of an opportunity! He could have saved her from sin and death instead of joining her. He could have died for her so they both could live.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Death is separation. It is a separation of our soul from our body, a separation of us from our loved ones, a separation of our lives on earth to the afterlife.
Did they die that day? Yes, they were separated from God and removed from the garden. They even hid behind the very tree which literally separated them from God in the first place.
They were also separated from each other. No longer did they trust each other. When God came calling, they didn’t protect and love each other as before; they blamed each other and even tried to blame God. It isn’t until after all of this that Adam names the woman just as he had named all the animals, an act of dominance as well as affection. Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. (3:20)
Fortunately for Adam and Eve and all of us, God didn’t leave it at that. While still reaping the consequences of their actions, Adam and Eve were also given grace and mercy. Had they eaten from the Tree of Life after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would have been forever trapped in a state of decay in their now dying bodies. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
God also made a promise as He was cursing Satan. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. This is the first prophecy referring to Jesus in the Bible. Even as Satan had a hand in bringing down Adam and Eve and all of us as their offspring, he had indeed struck our heels, causing us to limp in our walk with God. But Jesus, through the power of His death and resurrection, struck a lethal blow upon the head of sin and death and provided us a way to no longer have to be separated from God.
So what is separating you from God? What tree are you hiding behind? Why are you blaming others when you chose to replace God with yourself? It might be subtle things like not trusting Him to provide money, security, or healing. It might be sins which you have rationalized and justified for years such as lust, stealing, or bursts of anger. Anything that keeps you separated from God and what He wants you to do brings death and fear rather than the abundant life He wants you to live.