Many years ago Holly and I had the privilege of visiting northern India and trekking around to various villages in the foothills of the Himalayas. One village stands out to me. It was about a 45 minute hike away from town and once we got there we visited a small Christian school a few folks had set up to encourage them in the work. We went in, the visit went fine, and on the way out we met a sight loaded with contrast. Off in the distance were alpine peaks soaring into the heavens about 25,000 ft. tall. To date, these are the biggest mountains I’ve ever seen in person and it was stunning. Then I looked down a bit to a run down hut on the edge of the village, and just out back of it we saw a very ornate hut. I mistook it, thinking it was a really nice dog house. But our friend said, ‘No, that’s no dog house. It’s a small temple to one of the snake gods.’ Two contrasts stood out to me in this scene. One was the poverty of the hut compared to the luxury of the idolatrous snake temple in the backyard. Another contrast was the beauty of God’s creation all around us in the Himalayas compared to the vile temple of a false god. It was a blemish on what would’ve been a serene scene. And of all the creatures being worshipped, it was a snake.
I remember just standing there disturbed for a moment in my own soul, thinking, ‘This is not the way it’s supposed to be.’
Church, today we come to a far more disturbing moment than what I just described. We come to a moment that has and will forever live in infamy. We come to a moment that changed the very fabric of our existence. We come to Genesis 3, and the fall of man into sin and death. Against the backdrop of beauty and peace present in Genesis 1-2, chapter 3 stands out with ruinous clarity.
So look to our first heading…
The Tempter (v1a)
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made…”
Many questions rise to the surface as Gen. 3 begins with the mention of this serpent. Who is this serpent? Where did he come from? How did he get into the garden? Why is he so crafty and evil? Where did evil come from? Among all that we’re not told about the serpent, see the two things we are told in v1a: the serpent’s character and the serpent’s origin.The serpent’s character comes first, it says he was crafty, more crafty than any other beast. The word crafty brings up images of one who is cunning and clever, which can describe good things, certainly. But these words tend to bring up images of one who is sneaky, sly, and shrewdly deceptive. Which will be confirmed as we soon see this serpent is wicked. So from v1 we’re positioned as readers to pay close attention to this serpent and what he intends to do with his craftiness.
The serpent’s origin comes next as v1 says “the serpent was more crafty than other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” This tells us where the serpent came from. The LORD God made him, just as He made every other beast of the field. This makes the creaturely status of the serpent abundantly clear. Which shows us how the serpent was not in existence before creation as if he were a kind of supernatural divine evil being that has always been. No, before the beginning there was only God, no one else, no rivals, and no competition. The serpent, along with all the other animals, were created by God on day 6. So how is it that we’ll soon see it talking? Well, there are a lot of opinions here, but I interpret all of this mean an angel, which some have referred to as Lucifer (Isa. 14, Ezek. 28), fell and became the Devil before this moment in Gen. 3:1. In his fallen state he was clearly allowed to enter into beasts, using them as instruments to accomplish his own purposes. Which is what happens here. A real snake speaks with our first parents. Which might be why the snake is declared unclean by Moses in Lev. 11, and this is certainly is why the snake is used many times later on in Scripture to refer to the Devil, most famously in Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12. All in all, most agree it doesn’t matter to much about the nature of this serpent, what matters is what he says. Look then, at the next heading…
The Temptation (v1b-5)
“He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Do not miss that the first words in the Bible we have about God, coming from someone other than God, is the serpent casting doubt on God. In a sense then, the words of the serpent form the first sermon in the Bible. It’s as if Satan presents himself as an astute theologian, eager to explain the proper view of things.
What did he say? See it in v1, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” That it’s posed as a question, is sneaky. The serpent could have been crystal clear about what he was attempting to do, saying something like, ‘Come here Eve, I know God has been gracious to create you and provide you with everything you could ever need, and even given you the tree of life. I am here to trick you into believing that God is not good, that I am right, in order that sin and death will enter into you, all your descendants, and the world God has made.’ No, he didn’t do that. He’s too crafty for that. Rather he poses it as a question, the first question recorded in the Bible to be exact, which threw just enough shade on God and His commands to encourage Eve to doubt God.
Eve seems to catch on that the question is wrong so she says in v2, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden…” and she’s right. God said they could eat of any tree as often as they so desired to, that is, all trees but one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was right to catch this slight adjustment. But though she began well, she didn’t finish well. See the rest of what she said in v3, “…but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Notice, on one hand, Eve makes her own addition to God’s command. God never said they couldn’t touch the tree, Eve added that in herself. And notice, on the other hand, how Eve minimizes God’s generosity in His kind provision. From what Eve says here in v2-3 the emphasis is on what they cannot do, what God has prohibited, rather than what God has provided. Which presents God as far more harsh and repressive than He actually is. That Eve speaks like this is evidence, not that she is fallen prey yet to the serpent, but that she is starting to be swayed by the serpent. Notice how she also didn’t repeat the judgment as it was given by God? He said when ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, or die die. Here in v3 she just mentions that they’ll die. Is this a further minimizing Eve does? I think so, because of what we’ll see the serpent say next.
See then how the serpent responds in v4-5, “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die (die die). For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Once again the astute theologian comes to explain all things divine to Eve. What was once subtle and sneaky is now blatantly contradictory. Notice the very first doctrine denied by the serpent is God’s judgment. How modern of the serpent? ‘Death? No, that won’t happen. Not at all.’ Then in language filled with promises about what she would become, the serpent mentions nothing about what she would lose. Isn’t this so like Devil? He never comes out and tells it like it is. He always lies to us, for he has been a liar from the beginning. Holding out a promise of something pleasant and appealing, always hiding the consequences of our indulgence. ‘You won’t die…just look at all you could have! You could be like God yourself?!’ Seems she has forgotten that she already was like God, being made in His very image and likeness. The craftiness of the serpent is on full display here. He blatantly contradicts God, he holds out empty promises, he makes no mention of any consequences, and in mentioning that she will be like God it’s as if he wants to convince Eve that God is holding her back from what she could truly become, that God is holding her back from her full potential as a woman, claiming that she can rise above the limits of her own humanity. This again, is so modern isn’t it? Is this not exactly what feminism says? That women are repressed by men and must rise above them in order to fully flourish as female. It is similar to this for sure, but see how this is aimed, not at men, but at God as the ultimate oppressor Eve must free herself from. This began subtle and sneaky, it is now unashamedly defiant.
The Sin (v6)
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
The pace of v6 is rapid and quick, the serpent departs from view, and all we read are Eve’s internal thoughts. See the pattern. Eve saw, Eve desired, Eve took, Eve ate, Eve shared. So simple the act, so hard the undoing of it. Let’s examine these quick events. First, Eve saw the tree was good for food. Interesting how the word good is used here isn’t it? So far in Genesis God has been the sole determiner of all that is good. And He has clearly stated this tree is not good for food. But now, Eve decides what is good by herself without reference to God. How did she decide this? Next, Eve saw the tree was a delight to the eyes. This, I think, means the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a beautiful tree. And rightly so, isn’t everything God makes beautiful, especially in a world without sin? It’s as if she forgot who made this tree of beauty and rather than enjoying these gifts in light of God the Giver she enjoys the beauty of the tree as a thing on its own by delighting in it. Next Eve saw the tree could make her wise. So not only is Eve beginning to feel repressed as if God were holding out on her the things she most needed and longed for, but now with the fruit near her grasp she convinces herself that wisdom, not God, is what she most needs, that wisdom will make her happy. So after seeing the tree was good, seeing the tree was delightful, and seeing the tree could make her wise, she took, ate, and shared it with Adam.
How tragic this scene is. Be warned of this same pattern. The lust of the flesh (good for food), the desire of the eyes (pleasing to the sight), and the pride of life (it could make wise, like God). Church if we don’t fight to keep our eyes from lingering on what is evil we’ll soon be 1) convincing ourselves that sin is good, 2) delighting in what is sinful, 3) exploring the possibilities of indulging in our mind, 4) committing these sins in actual practice, and then 5) inviting others to do the same.
But lest we put the weight of this on Eve, notice Adam’s failure. Where was he? v6 mentions he was with her, so he was there the whole time. And he did nothing. He should’ve killed the serpent and protected Eve from his lies but he did nothing. He took the fruit without protest and he ate.
The Shame (v7)
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
The results of their eating in v7 are just as rapid as the sin itself in v6. Their eyes were opened, but now they knew their nakedness, they made fig leaf coverings. The contrast is glaring. Nakedness was once a sign of how healthy their relationship was, but now it has become a thing of shame. And rather than turning to God, their guilt leads to a desperate attempt at self-atonement as they try to cover themselves.
Some point out here how they didn’t die from eating the fruit like God said they would, and that maybe the serpent was right. No, they did die. How? Remember, the garden was the holy place within the larger temple of Eden, where God’s very presence was with our first parents. By being banished from this temple they lost His presence, which is the essence of death they’ve just entered into.
The deed has been done, there is now no way back. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.
Church, there are two ways to hear this passage. First, we need to hear this as the story of original sin. Which is true and good and needed for us to hear, especially as we read the New Testament, like Romans 5:12-21 where we hear of sin in Adam and its passing through Adam to all of us. That’s the first way we can hear this passage.
Second, we need to hear this passage as the story of every sin. These verses explain how I sin, how you sin, how the process of sin works, why sin is so enticing, and why we fall for it so easily. Every sin follows this pattern. Our first parents saw, desired, took, ate, and shared. That’s the pattern. It’s the same for me and it’s the same for you. 2 Cor. 2:11 encourages to know this pattern so that we’re not ignorant of Satan’s designs, lest we be outwitted by him.
So Church, I wonder, can I ask some hard questions? Are any of you right now in the midst of this pattern, thinking about, chewing on, privately wondering what it would be like to indulge in sin yourself? Perhaps I could put it like this. Have any of you already made plans to sin? Made plans to get blackout drunk on this night, or made plans to run off with another woman or man on this date, or made plans to share a bit too much and gossip at the next prayer meeting about someone else’s struggle, or made plans to go full rage monster on someone else because they’ve mistreated you far too long? Or something else? Or perhaps I could put it like this. Did any of you sin last night? In some way, whether you think it’s small or big, and as you sit here this morning you find yourself seeing firsthand in this passage how you fell prey to sin and now you’re plagued with guilt and don’t know what to do.
If any of these categories describe you…I pray this passage would land on you in power today. That you’d not only know the deceitfulness of sin, but that you’d see the anatomy of temptation, and see the vileness of sin. But I also pray you’d know there is hope for sinners.
It is true as I said before the deed has been done, there is no way back…but, praise God, there is a way forward. Satan said take and eat, and Adam and Eve took and ate. One day, God Himself will taste sin and death for His people and transform the words take and eat into words of salvation. In His life Jesus was tempted with the same three things Adam and Eve were in the wilderness. The lust of the flesh (turn stones into bread), the desire of the eyes (all the kingdoms of the world could be yours), the pride of life (jump off the temple, show everyone who you are). But while our first parents failed, while we fail in this, Jesus triumphed. In Him and in His victory over sin, there is hope for sinners like us.
 Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 187–188.
 Martin Luther, quoted in Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 1996), 233.
 Perhaps a similarity is in view between the serpent being called Satan here and Peter being called Satan later on by Jesus. They were not Satan, but in these moments are certainly aligned with his purposes.
 Boice, Genesis 1-11, 165.
 John D. Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, EP Study Commentary (Holywell, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015), 117.
 Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 73.
 Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 72–73.
 Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 190.
 Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 75.
 Kidner, Genesis, 73.
 Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 190.
 Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, 239.
 Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 191.
 Kevin DeYoung, An Ugly Fall (sermon, 9.27.2020) accessed 9.24.2022.
 Kidner, Genesis, 73.