The Time of CreationThe Time of Corruption and the Nature of Sin: Chapter 2 - The Temptation - Genesis 3:1-7
A Biblical Study of Genesis 3:1 - 9:29 From All-Creatures.org

One of the books in the "Let's Study God's Word Together" series with: Frank L. Hoffman
This Biblical study book seeks to answer the question, "What can we do to overcome sin and restore this world to the peaceable kingdom God created it to be?"

The Time of Corruption and the Nature of Sin - A Study of Genesis 3:1 - 9:29
Chapter 2 - The Temptation - Genesis 3:1-7

It seems that one temptation or another is presented to us every single day of our lives.  Sometimes these temptations involve food, other times they involve sex, and still other times they involve "things" we want.  These are temptations, because they present the fulfillment of something that we believe is unfulfilled or unsatisfied in our lives.  As an example, someone might feel lonely, dejected or unloved, and the idea of feeding oneself (the temptation of over-eating) is a way of saying, "I love me."  However, the real underlying problem is that we are not satisfied with what we have; thus, we are not thankful, either, and seek to fulfill that which we perceive is lacking in our lives.  John refers to this as the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).  If this were not true, nothing could tempt us.  As we will see, this is the root of the study before us (Genesis 3:1-7).

1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.  And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any [every] tree of the garden'?"

2. And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;

3. but from the fruit of the tree which in in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.' "

4. And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die!

5. "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

6. 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

7. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings [girdles].

Let's go back and look at verse 1 in detail.

1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

Who is the serpent?  Some people say he's the devil, most likely because of the reference in Revelation 12:9.

9. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (KJV)

And we cannot forget what God says in Genesis 3:14-15.

14. So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

15. 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."
(NIV)

Genesis 3:1 and 14 implies that the serpent is simply another beast of the field, but we must look further.  Who is God speaking to in verse 15?  Is it the serpent or is it Satan?  It appears that God is speaking to Satan.  If this is the case, it most likely is because God rightly discerned that Satan was the tempter in his efforts to usurp God's authority, and that he used the serpent as his agent.  In other words, Satan disguised the source of his temptation in the body of the serpent, a friend of Eve and Adam.  Even to this very day, our temptations are often disguised in similar ways - they come from someone we know.

On the more technical side, the word for serpent in Hebrew is naw-khawsh, which can have a few meanings depending upon which similar words we select.  There could be a connection to the Hebrew word for copper (sometimes translated as bronze), n'khoh-sheht, which could refer to its copper color.  Some people believe that this bright color could have attracted Eve, but if such was the case, then God would have made the serpent to entice, and this is against the holiness and righteousness of God as described in the whole of the Bible.   The name of the serpent also could refer to divination or a spell which in Hebrew is nay-khaysh.  In this case it would imply a name given to this creature following his "casting a spell" upon Eve.  Or, the name could simply refer to a snake.

The word for crafty in Hebrew is aw-room, which could also be a play on the word, naked (Hebrew: aw-roo-meem) as used in Genesis 2:25.  It also could be the reason that commentators such as Rashi say, "the serpent thrust himself upon them; he saw them naked, and engaged in sexual intercourse before the eyes of all and he [the serpent] desired her [the woman]".[1]

This conjecture seems doubtful since there is no such reference to such an act between the serpent and Eve in the Bible, but it does emphasize the fact that the serpent was no longer innocent, as were Adam and Eve.

Craftiness, subtleness, or cunningness, depending on the translation, is a form of sin in the context of this passage.  It is a prideful form of wisdom.  And for this condition to exist, it implies a prior fall from grace to that of Eve's and Adam's fall.  In other words, the serpent ate of the fruit before he offered it to Eve.   This creature was corrupted before Eve and Adam.  He obviously ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Did he corrupt himself, or was he corrupted by another? 

Is this also the time of the "fall" of Lucifer (Satan) from grace?  Did the angel of light (Lucifer) decide to try to usurp God's position and relationship with His creation by deceiving Eve and Adam into believing him rather than God, and thus break their covenant with God?   Did he use the serpent as his agent to deceive the woman and man?  I personally believe that the answers to all these questions are, "yes".

We also should consider the fact that snakes are not devils, which they would be if the serpent was actually Satan.  They are simply another species created and then altered by God.

The covenant with God was in the form of a blood covenant between Adam and Himself when He made him.  Adam (Hebrew: aw-dawm) was of the earth or ground (Hebrew: ah-daw-mawh), and he was made to have blood (Hebrew: dawm).  The soul is also in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), and it is the soul that is to be corrupted, which would break the covenant with God and place it in the domain of the one whom the soul believed and obeyed. 

As long as Adam, by his free will, believed and had faith in God, the covenant was unbroken, and was unbreakable.  When Eve and then Adam began to doubt God's word about not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then they were open to deception.  Once they believed another (the serpent as agent of Satan), they in essence sold their souls to the devil.  But as we will see, the ultimate responsibility rested with Adam, for it was with him that God made His covenant.

We also should remember that God and Satan, and our immortal souls and spirits are all of the spiritual realm, and as such they are not bound by the laws of our physical realm.  While we are alive in this physical world, our souls act as a kind of umbilical cord between our physical and spiritual beings.  The selling of one's soul is a spiritual matter.  It is not a physical one.  The physical Adam was in control of his own soul, as was the serpent, but they allowed themselves to be deceived because they doubted God. 

The fruit of the tree was just the object of the enticement, as was every other fruit in the garden, but only of this tree were they told not to eat.

However, nowhere in the Bible are we told what this fruit was, or if it was used idiomatically in the sense of being "the product of", such as the "fruit of our labors". Therefore, "the fruit of the tree" could actually be our "disobedience to God". In Exodus 3:7, we are introduced to another idiomatic expression, "a land flowing with milk and honey", which most scholars agree means "a land of plenty", and should not be taken literally.  Traditionally, the fruit was said to be an apple, but that really isn't logical, since God gave Adam and Eve the actual fruit of the trees, one of which was the apple. Thus, we must keep an open mind about what this "fruit" really was.

Let's also consider God's commandment in Genesis 1:29-30, as it applies to our consideration of disobedience.

29. Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30. and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food "; and it was so. NAS

What if the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, didn't have a fruit that had seeds? What if it was something else? Wouldn't eating that fruit be in disobedience of God's commandment as given in Genesis 1:29?

This particular "fruit" also possessed the physical and/or spiritual means of removing innocence; that quality that believes in God without any thought of doing otherwise.

God did not create "evil".  He created only "good".   He also gave all of his created beings a free will, and a free will contains the characteristics of choice.  We choose to believe or we choose to doubt.  We choose to do what is good, or we choose to corrupt that which is good (an evil act).  Satan made a choice to be as God, or at least god of this world.  The serpent made a choice to believe Satan rather than God.  And as we shall see, so did Eve and Adam believe the serpent instead of God.  This is the nature of his craftiness, for he preyed upon their innocence. And, isn't it also the fruit of their disobedience to God?

Now let's take a look at how he uses it.

And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any [every] tree of the garden'?"

"And he said" implies that the serpent actually spoke to the woman (Eve), which could also mean that there existed a form of verbal communication between humans and non-humans at that time, or it could mean that the power of speech was given to the serpent, or that it was possessed by the devil who spoke through him.  Whatever the case may be, the serpent and Eve had a conversation.

The craftiness begins with the first words of the serpent, "Indeed, has God said..."  This statement was said in a manner that was to create doubt.  We should note very carefully what God said, "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 shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16b-17)  Now notice how the serpent changed the meaning, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any or every tree of the garden'?"

But then Eve responds just as badly, for she, too, misrepresents what God said.

2. And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;

3. but from the fruit of the tree which in in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.' "

She added to God's word by implying that touching it would bring death, which is not what God said. She also said the tree in the middle of the garden, which was not completely true, for the tree of life was also there.  This is a perfect example of why it is so important that we truly know God's word.  By misquoting God, she opened the door to further temptation.

From the curse placed upon the serpent in 3:14, we can surmise that the serpent previously was able to stand, and even could have had hands with which to pick the fruit.   I can just picture this serpent leaning up against the tree of the knowledge of good and evil holding a piece of its fruit, and even tossing it slightly into the air and catching it as he spoke.  He could have been touching it with no apparent harm.

4. And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die!

5. "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

At this point, I can picture the serpent taking a big bite out of the fruit and remarking about how good it tasted.  By so doing, the serpent would have been demonstrating that he had a better wisdom than God, for he seemed to be accomplishing what God said he could not.  He continued to live.  But God never said that they would die immediately, and it all boils down to the interpretation of the word "day" and whether or not He meant that they would begin to die, which was the true meaning.  We need to have faith in God's word and trust Him without doubting.   And Eve fell victim to the serpent because she doubted God's word and believed the words of another.

6. 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Note that Eve fell victim to all three of the enticements of sin as described by John (1 John 2:16:

  • The lust of the flesh - the fruit was good for food and she was apparently hungry.
  • The lust of the eye - the appearance of the fruit was a delight to the eye.
  • The boastful pride of life - the eating of the fruit would make her as wise as God.

And in turn she used the same enticements upon her husband that the serpent had used upon her.

If Adam had said, "No!", the blood covenant between God and him would not have been broken, but he chose, by his own free will, to listen to Eve rather than to what God had told him previously.

7. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings [girdles].

Their innocence was gone!

They began to look upon each other in a different way than they had previously.   It is here that I believe that Rashi's interpretation has a more appropriate connection.   They now lusted after each other's body.  They knew that the other person's body would give them pleasure and that it was a delight to look at with lustful thoughts, which in turn made the other person embarrassed.  Their embarrassment was twofold, for they not only saw the other looking at him or her in a different way, but they also understood that look and the feelings behind it, for both of them were having similar thoughts about the other.

Thus, they sought to cover themselves, or to cover their own sense of sinful existence.  They sought to do this on their own (self-atonement) rather than turning to God for help (from whom all grace and ultimate forgiveness comes).  Their actions were those of unrepentant people who seek to cover the outward signs of their sinful acts, but fail to have true remorse in their hearts and souls.  In fact, as we shall see, they even hid themselves from God.

Like Allen P. Ross,[2] I never believed that people's environment or heredity were truly a substantive cause for our sinful condition - we just use it as an excuse.  In this passage, Adam and Eve were living in a paradise, the perfect environment, and what better heritage could they have had than to be created by God.  And yet, they both fell into temptation and sinned against God.   Our choice to sin is our own.  We have no real excuse, as this passage emphasizes.  It's important for us to remember that God did give us the power to overcome sin, as He told Cain (Genesis 4:7): "sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it."  Obedience only requires self discipline.

Eve and Adam fell into sin because they failed to abide by God's word.  All through the Bible, we are given example after example of how to abide in God's word and protect ourselves from temptation, but we must want to do so.  If we are not knowledgeable in the word of God, then others can distort it and mislead us much more easily, as the serpent did when Eve added to God's commandment by saying that even touching the fruit would bring death.  If she had not altered what God said, the serpent would have had a much harder time convincing her to eat of the fruit.

With this in mind, let's move on to the next Chapter.


1. Isaiah, Abraham Ben and Benjamin Sharfman, The Pentateuch and Rashi's Commentary, Brooklyn: S. S. & R. Publishing Company, Inc. 1949, 27

2. Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton, IL, Victor Books, 1985, 32

Go on to: Chapter 3 - Confronting God (Genesis 3:8-13)
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