C.R. Nichol and R.L. Whiteside
Lesson Text: Genesis 3
The garden into which God put the newly-formed couple did not cover all the land of Eden. Eden was a district, and God planted a garden eastward in Eden. In this Eden-home man was innocent and carefree. The most perfect and sweetest companionship, untainted by sin, misunderstanding, or sorrows, was the happy portion of earth’s first couple—no weariness, no fatigue, no toil, no heartaches, no sorrow. They worked, yes; but work brought no fatigue, for they could eat of the tree of life which perpetuated the freshness of youth in undiminished vigor. O blessed family of God’s first paradise, how hast thou sinned against thyself, and, in sinning against thyself, how hast thou sinned against us thy helpless offspring!
Comment on the Lesson—the Tempter
Verse 1. The tempter is described by Peter (1 Pet. 5:8) as, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” He is referred to as “the evil one” (Matt. 6:13), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), “the tempter” (1 These. 3:5), “murderer” (John 8:44), “the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:2).
In our lesson he appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent. Here he is described as being more “subtle” than any beast of the field which God had made. “Subtle” is sly, cunning, crafty. Of course, any Bible student recognizes the fact that we have recorded in Genesis 3 only an outline of the incidents and sayings of this momentous occasion.
The Temptation and Sin
Verses 1-3. By his cunning craftiness the tempter was able to throw Eve entirely off her guard, and thus to approach her in the most seductive and captivating way. How much time he spent in indulging in flattery and pleasing speech, so as to gain the confidence of Eve before finally tempting her, we have no means of knowing. When Satan asked Eve if God had prohibited their eating any fruit of the garden, he perhaps meant to insinuate that such prohibition was a reflection on them: any way, Eve’s pride, if any had been stirred up, would be wounded by her being forced to acknowledge that God, despite his liberality, had restricted their freedom. The woman acknowledge that they were restricted only at one point; they might not eat of the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The penalty for this act was death. Here the devil took square issue with Jehovah and boldly affirmed that Jehovah knew the consequences would be the reverse, that eating the fruit in question would make them as God, “knowing good and evil.”
That the devil here told the truth, in part, is attested by the fact that God later said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (v. 22). But the devil deceived her in that she did not know, and he failed to inform her, that the legal consequences of an act may be the very opposite of the natural consequences. If the legal consequences had not been inflicted the result would have been that they came to know “good and evil,” and the devil deceived her by making her believe that this would be the only consequence.
When the serpent said to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil,” he uttered a most deadly lie; for his statement contained enough truth to make it overwhelmingly deceptive. In his assertion he charged God with untruthfulness; and, in saying that the fruit would make them as God, he virtually charged that God was holding them in ignorance through selfishness, envy, and jealousy. This would tend to stir up a spirit in Eve that would prepare her for the final act. In addition to this, she saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was to be desired to make one wise. Everything about this fruit commended it to Eve as a very desirable thing. The only restraining influence was her respect for God’s command, and fear of the consequences of disobedience; and Satan had almost, if not altogether, removed these. Hence, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat. Eve was deceived; Adam was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14). Shame and fear seized them, and they sewed fig leaves together for aprons, and hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah. Sin not only produces separation from God, but it creates a desire for that separation.
Jehovah Appears and Pronounces a Curse Upon Them
Verses 9-21. When God questioned Adam and Eve each sought to minimize his guilt by blaming others for getting him into the transgression. Neither denied the act, but sought to shift at least a part of the blame on others. How like their offspring today. Our confessions of wrongs are usually only half-way confessions. “I did wrong, but”… and some excuse is given. How few can humbly hang their heads in shame and con- trition and say as did David, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing: but now put away, I beseech thee, the iniquity of thy servant for I have done very foolishly” (1 Chron. 21:8).
Curse on the Serpent. The serpent was condemned to go upon his belly always, and to eat the dust of the ground; and God put an undying enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed.
The Curse on Eve. Unto the woman he said: “I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule thee.”
The Curse on Adam. For the man the earth was cursed so that, amidst the thorns and other noxious growths, the earth, yields her fruit only by the severest toil and labor. Work was not now required of man as a curse, for before his sin his duty was to “dress the garden and keep it.” Then he might eat the refreshing, invigorating fruit of the life perpetuating tree, insuring the vigor of his body. But now, under adverse circumstances and against the evils of noxious growths, he must toil for his daily food. Weariness is only the result of the death and destruction of the cells of the body. Now he has no life-giving fruit to prevent this death; hence weariness must accompany work.
Driven From the Garden
Verses 22-24. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden was one of the direct results of their sin. They must be driven out, away from the tree of life, lest by continuing to eat of its life-perpetuating fruit they might live forever in sin.
Death a Necessity
Death became necessary because of sin. With no restraining influence to hold them in check sinners grow worse and worse as long as they retain their vigor of manhood and womanhood. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” Not only so, but they grow wiser and more skillful in their crimes and diabolical deeds. Think what the world might have been today if all the evil men of all past ages had lived till now, becoming more and more depraved and all the while growing wiser and more cunning in their efforts to satisfy their growing thirst for sin. Think what death has done for the world in arresting the career of such men; hence, death which came as a result of sin is also a powerful check on sin. While it is true that sin brought death, it is also true that death brings an end to the active career of the sinner.
Penalty for Sin
Adam’s sin—his disrespect and disregard for God— brought on him the penalty of the infracted law—death. How long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before they sinned we do not know. In the garden they had access to the tree whose fruit perpetuated life. They were as mortal before as subsequent to their sin in the garden. It is a mistaken idea that eating the fruit planted the seeds of mortality in their bodies. There is no reason to believe that the nature of their bodies was changed in the least degree. Their sin resulted in their being cast out of the garden, away from the fruit which perpetuated natural life, and death followed as a natural consequence.
What kind of death. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17). Death was the penalty for sin. “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12). In the Bible we read of the death of the body (Jas. 1:26), and of death in sin (Eph. 2:1). What death did Adam experience the day he sinned?
It should be remembered that existence does not necessarily mean life. Rocks and minerals exist, but they do not live. Even the spirit of the sinner exists while he is dead in sin. The devil lives, but he does not have what is termed in the Bible spiritual life. Man is dead to that with which he is not in union, to that with which he is not in correspondence. Adam’s sin separated him from God (Isa. 59:2). He thereby became dead to God, dead in sin. Is this the only result?
Death passed on all. Paul declares (Rom. 5:12) that, as a result of Adam’s sin, death passed on all. Again, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). This cannot have reference to death in sin, or spiritual death for the infant which does not sin, and cannot sin, dies. Christ died, and he did not sin. The death which passed on all as a result of Adam’s sin can be naught but physical death. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). Physical death comes to us unconditionally on our part; resurrection will come to us without conditions on our part. Hence, what we lost unconditionally in Adam, we regain unconditionally in Christ. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul is discussing physical death, and the resurrection from that death.
In Adam all die, that is, as a consequence of the sin of Adam all die. We are not guilty of Adam’s sin, but we do suffer the consequences of his sin. The guilt of sin attaches only to him who commits sin, but the consequences may be transmitted to remote generations. Children often suffer the consequences of the fathers’ sin without in any way having shared in his guilt. But does not Paul say, “All sinned”? Certainly; but in what sense? Levi is said to have paid tithes before he was born. At the time the tithes were paid, Levi existed only in the sense that he was in the loins of Abraham, who paid the tithes (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:9-10). Hence Levi paid tithes representatively; so we sinned only by representation. The whole human family existed in Adam in the same sense that Levi existed in Abraham.
Some Immediate Results of Sin
Fear of Jehovah (Gen. 3:10).
Shame (Gen. 3:7).
Moral deterioration. This is seen in Adam’s case. (1) When God inquired, “Where art thou?” Adam lied as to why he had hidden. (2) Folly in trying to hide from Jehovah. (3) Cowardice; blamed his wife.
Blight of Sin
Sin has been a blight in the world. View the brokenhearted husband as he follows the corpse of his wife to the grave; the mother as she touches her lips to the cold brow of her babe in the embrace of death, or hear her wail as she sees her son marched off to prison; see the pain, sickness, heartaches, tears and sorrows of earth, and know that they are the result of sin. Behold the rose as she breathes her sweet perfume; reach forth your hand to pluck the flower and feel the prick of the thorn, and know that briars and thorns are the result of sin.
Some men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Most sins are committed in the night, and in covert and secret places. Germs and vermin of all kinds thrive in the darkness—they can not live in the sunlight. Neither can sin abide in your heart if you allow God’s word to illuminate it. Why will men cleave to a life of sin when such fatal results always follow?
Breaking the Law
“Sin is the transgression of the law,” or, “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Frequently it is said that sin is breaking the law. This is but an accommodated expression. Man cannot really break the law; he breaks himself against the law. This is the truth both as to God’s natural laws and those revealed in the Bible. The man with a wrecked body did not break the law of nature; he broke himself against the law. The law stands unbroken (Sound Doctrine, Vol. 1, pp. 27-34).