The temptation and fall. — V.1. Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. In Paradise man had everything that he needed for the proper development of his nature and for the fulfillment of his object in life. But now temptation came to him from outside. Just as in other parts of the Bible animals are characterized by certain physical or mental features, so the serpent is here described as being cunning or crafty by nature, this fact distinguishing it from the other animals of the field. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? The devil, or Satan, chief among the fallen angels, made use of the natural cunning of the serpent and spoke out of her mouth in order to seduce man. The words of the Tempter are: Should God really have made such a statement? or: Even if God did make that statement, — intending to add that such a prohibition on God’s part was unbelievable. He is interrupted before he has finished his thought: V.2. And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. The devil had implied that God’s command referred to every tree, to all trees of the garden. This appeared especially in the tone and form of questioning surprise, which was intended to excite doubt. The woman corrected this statement by limiting it: Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we eat. That was good enough, as far as it went. But the next words are less positive: V.3. But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. By exaggerating the prohibition of God, the devil intended to shake the woman’s trust in God, to create doubts in her heart concerning the truth of His word. He succeeded inasmuch as the woman allowed herself to be drawn into an argument with the Tempter, not only stating that God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, but adding also: And do not even touch it, lest ye die. This exaggeration of God’s command showed that the woman felt it to be harsh and severe, that her love toward God, her trust in God had been undermined. That was the beginning of her sin, the setting aside of God’s Word and command; for doubt, unbelief, is the root of all sin. The devil was alert to take advantage of her weakening: V.4. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; v.5. for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Not satisfied with having awakened doubt in the woman’s heart, the Tempter now boldly denies the truth of the divine threat and casts suspicion upon the genuineness of the divine love: Ye most assuredly will not die. He insinuates that God is a jealous tyrant, withholding from man some of the advantages to which he was entitled, by means of an empty threat. Instead of becoming subject to death, so the devil asserts, the man and his wife would have their eyes opened for a greater and better understanding of both good and evil. Like untold numbers of tempters since that time, the devil suggested that they would then be able to choose the good and follow it always, while they would certainly shun that which was wicked. But this condition is not brought about by the transgression of God’s commands, for such a course, as in this instance, results in driving the fear, the love, the trust in God away, making the carnal mind enmity toward God. V.6. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. The evil was done; the woman’s heart was turned from the Lord. The lust appeared in her eyes: she saw what had never struck her before, that good was the tree for food as well as pleasant to the eyes. The striving after a false independence and liberty further incited the desire for the forbidden fruit; the longer she looked, the more desirable it seemed to her to gain understanding of the kind which she deemed hidden from her, to feel the pleasure of possessing forbidden secrets. Thus in the heart of natural man, who has turned from God, there grows every form of evil lust and desire, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes. And this lust brings forth sin. The woman took of the fruit and ate. Then, sin having taken her captive, she persuaded her husband to eat of the fruit also. The sinner seeks company and tries to seduce others.
The investigation of God. — V.7. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons. With their transgression, the eyes of the man and woman were indeed opened, but not in the way that they had supposed. The ignorance of primeval innocence was gone. Whereas they had not been aware of their nakedness before, they now felt shame before each other. Sin had corrupted and defiled their entire nature, like the poison of a serpent which penetrates into every part of the body with the circulation of the blood. In their painful embarrassment they sewed together the large leaves of the paradise fig tree for aprons to gird about their loins. Modesty or bashfulness naturally centers in this part of the body, requiring that the organs through which the impurities of the body are expelled, and which are now defiled for the service of indecency, be covered. V.8. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. This is related to fit the human understanding, Jehovah God being represented as walking in the garden, at the time when the refreshing wind of evening arose. As soon as they heard His voice calling them in eager search, Adam and his wife hid before the face of God in the midst of the thicket. The sinner has a bad conscience and dreads exposure. But God wanted to visit the sinners that had yielded to disobedience, and perform the work of a true father and educator for them, by making them realize their sin and revealing to them, the way of mercy.
The manner in which God dealt with the transgressors of His commandment is now shown. V.9. And the Lord God called unto Adam and said unto him, Where art thou? It was the call of anxious love as well as of stern justice. God summoned the sinners before His court. Sin is easily done, but not so easily undone, for it weighs down upon conscience as guilt before God, in spite of all attempts at excuse. V.10. And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. Fear, the consciousness of nakedness, shame: they all cried out aloud the guilt of Adam. Though Eve had been the first to sin, the Lord called Adam, because he, as the stronger vessel, was more guilty than his wife; upon him rested the greater responsibility. It was evident that Adam felt the consequences of sin more than its guilt. This state of affairs the Lord proceeds to remedy. V.11. And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? Adam would have remained in the state of blissful innocence if he had not eaten of the forbidden fruit; he would not have known his nakedness. The fact that he was aware of his nakedness was a definite proof of his having transgressed the command of the Lord; for this consciousness came from within and was a mark of his guilt. V.12. And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. This excuse reveals the depravity of Adam’s heart, even at this early stage. For he not only tries to place the blame upon the woman, but there is even a charge against God in the words: The woman whom Thou didst place at my side. He forgets that he had hailed her coming with delight, and herself as a gift of the Lord. He indicates that the entire matter might not have taken this turn if God had not made the woman as his helpmeet. Incidentally, the loss of love which followed the transgression is shown by the fact that Adam does not call her Eva, or wife, but only that woman by his side. V.13. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? It is a call full of reproach: Wherefore hast thou done this? What a terrible thing to do! How couldst thou be so forgetful of the command! And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. There is indeed a confession of the fact, but not of the sin, just as in the case of the man. She placed the blame on the serpent as having deceived and seduced her. What was lacking was the smiting upon the breast and the humble prayer: God, be merciful to me, a sinner! We see here the unspeakable baseness of sin, also in its invention of lies and excuses, in order to place the blame on some one else. A proper realization of its power will enable us to understand all the better the glory of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.
The curse of God. — V.14. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. The serpent, which had placed its cunning into the service of the devil, was the first to receive its sentence, and with it Satan, who had hid himself in this form for the purpose of seducing man. The punishment which struck the reptile was only a type of the devil’s punishment. The serpent’s form and means of locomotion were changed in this curse which singled it out from all animals, both those that were eventually domesticated and those that would remain game and predatory animals of the field. Instead of walking upright, the serpent was hereafter to wind itself along in the dust, which it could, incidentally, not avoid swallowing. V.15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel. What was a curse for the serpent and for the devil, who had used the serpent for his disguise, was a glorious, comforting promise for fallen mankind, the first great Gospel proclamation: And enmity shall I set between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her Seed. This is not a mere reference to the aversion which most men feel for snakes of every kind, as some liberal commentators have it, but sets forth the cardinal truth of the ages. There would be everlasting and uncompromising enmity between the descendants of the woman, on the one hand, and the devil and all satanic powers, on the other. And this enmity, which would show itself in continual warfare, would finally have its culmination in the event that the one great Seed of the Woman, He to whom the entire Old Testament looks forward, would utterly crush the head of the serpent, of Satan, while the latter, in turn, would not be able to do more than crush the heel of the Victor. To overcome the devil, to annihilate his power, that is a feat beyond the ability of any mere man; only God is able to do this. Christ, the promised Seed of the woman, born of the descendants of Eve, and yet the almighty God, is the strong Champion of mankind, who has delivered all men from the power of Satan and all his mighty allies. True, indeed, in doing so His heel was bruised, He was obliged to die, according to His human nature. But deliverance was effected, salvation was gained by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the representative of all mankind. V.16. Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. This was the woman’s burden and punishment for her transgression. Whereas without sin the propagation of the human race would have been a welcome, joyful function and all the other work of life a pleasant burden, the troubles and burdens of woman, especially those connected with pregnancy and birth, are most severe. So woman’s nature was weakened as a result of the disturbance of the normal relation between body and soul by sin. Moreover, woman was to be dependent upon man, especially upon her husband; she was to be in submission to him, and he was to exercise authority as ruler in the house. The matter is not one for emancipated women to argue, since the headship of the husband is hereby established until the end of time. V.17. And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; v.18. thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. V.19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Adam had been the stronger vessel, even before the Fall. He had had the strength to withstand the temptation; he should have held out even after Eve sinned. But he obeyed the voice of his wife and ate of the forbidden tree. Therefore the field, the soil, which had till now brought forth willingly and in rich abundance, was to be stricken with the curse of God, with the result that man would be able to eat the fruit of the soil only with sorrow, with the continual consciousness of the constant application which is now necessary in bringing it to a state of yielding, of the unceasing battle with thorns, thistles, and noxious weeds. Only in the sweat of his face, through the expenditure of the most assiduous toil, is man now able to eat his bread. For with the Fall the curse of God went into effect; the germ of death was placed into the body of man. His body was now mortal, and destined to return to the earth from which it was originally taken. That is the wages and the curse of sin. This curse, moreover, has extended over the entire material world, the result being a degenerating, a brutalizing of all creation, corruption, death, and destruction. If it were not for the fact that the promise of Christ, the Messiah, stands in the middle between sin and punishment, we should be without comfort in the misery, distress, and tribulation of the earth.
Man driven out of paradise. — V.20. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living. Both Adam and his wife received the first Gospel proclamation in silence; they believed the promise and arose from their fall with due repentance. This is shown even in the name which Adam applied to his wife, calling her “life,” or “source of life,” because she became the mother of the entire human race, whose propagation and life was dependent upon her. V.21. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them. So the first real dress of man was God’s work; He authorized them, He gave them instructions, to make themselves coats of skins, which they were to wear as a covering for their nakedness and as a protection against the rigors of a changed climate. Beginning with this time, then, men were permitted to kill and sacrifice animals for their own use. This act of God, incidentally, serves as a basis for all order and decency in the matter of dress under all circumstances. If the dress of man or woman does not cover their nakedness, but suggests or reveals such charms as have an essentially sensual appeal, then it does not serve the purpose for which the Lord intended it in the beginning, then it becomes a tool in the service of sin. V.22. And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever, v.23. therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken. Here the Triune God is again shown in counsel with Himself. Man had become, in a manner of speaking, like one of the persons of the Godhead. He knew good and evil, although, unfortunately, he was involved in the latter himself, having broken through the bounds set him by the Lord. The sentence of punishment had been spoken, and lest man frustrate its force by partaking of the tree of life as well, the Lord now formally expelled Adam and Eve from the lovely garden which had been their home. The man was destined henceforth to gain his livelihood by the most laborious application to the soil from which he himself had been formed. V.24. So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. After his expulsion, man’s return into the garden was rendered impossible by the fact that God on the east side, the only accessible entrance, stationed cherubim, armed with the flame of a sword that was two-edged and sharp, glittering in the light as the rays struck its brilliant play. To attempt to pass meant certain death. Man would henceforth know of the existence of Paradise, would even know the location of the tree of life, whose supernatural powers had not been removed by God, but man could not return. This fact was to remind him continually of the time of the final perfection, when sin will be destroyed forever, death will be abolished, and the true tree of life will bear fruit for those that partake of salvation throughout eternity, Rev. 20 and 21.