Understanding Genesis 3: Knowing Good and Evil
Read the entire chapter 3 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1
Serpent in the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil
We aren’t told how long after their birth that Satan approached them. [Satan used the serpent form to communicate with Eve, and the Bible references this later in Revelation 20:2: And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,] Was it days, weeks, or months? But in all that time, they were discovering their world and spending time with God. Everyday, God would visit them and teach them about what it meant to love and take care of each other and the world around them. At no point did any of the animals talk to them. Listening to an animal was not Eve’s first mistake; it was the fact that Eve was near the tree and Satan took the opportunity to persuade her.
God and Adam told Eve about the forbidden Tree, but death was an unknown quantity (nothing had ever died before). But Eve must have wondered, thought about and seen the Tree in their walks. It was eventually this curiosity that led her away from Adam and toward the Tree. It was her desire for the Tree that allowed her to listen to Satan’s prompting. When we give into temptations, it is our desires that lead us to be tempted. We seek the wrong friends, the addictions, and the environment that eventually tempt us to turn away from God.
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 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. Genesis 3:2-3
Our Selfish Desires
Actually God had not said, “no touching,” but Eve had thought about the Tree and dwelt on it that she built up her own scenarios and thoughts about it. Often we dwell on thoughts and scenarios, that we create and build up—not on what’s the truth or reality. How often do we create negative walls and antagonize against someone that has not even meant us harm? Our road to sin often starts in our innermost thoughts.
And the serpent said unto the woman, 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 gods, knowing good and evil. 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. Genesis 3:4-6
Adam and Eve
Time spent with God and knowing Him was not enough to prevent Eve from doubting Him. She believed the words of a strange creature over the words of God, who she talked with everyday. Satan did not force this decision on her; her sin was her selfish desire to be like God, her jealousy that God was withholding something good from her and her conscious choice to disobey God.
Time spent with God was not enough for her to love Him. All goodness was given to her, but she did not understand what it meant to love God, love Adam. Would more time help her to appreciate what love from God meant? What would have helped her to understand and not distrust God or hurt them?
We also have this inclination. We will be selfish, make our reasoning, and decide what is best for us. Eve had no example to warn her, but we do—yet we still sin. The problem is that our selfish desires outweigh smart, wise, loving choices—and we hurt those around us.
We can study the bible from cover to cover and know everything about God, but if we do not love, then it’s worthless. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:3 We cannot respond to God’s love without faith in Him and the help of His Spirit. So open yourself to receive the love of God, have faith that He will help you and dwell in you. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22, 23
After she takes the fruit, she still lives, so she decides that God really is a liar and takes the fruit to Adam. On some level, there is guilt that she disobeyed God, perhaps defiance against God for withholding something good from her and not letting her be like god, perhaps curiosity because she still doesn’t know what death is and perhaps a plea of help because now she doesn’t know what to do with these new negative emotions.
Imagine how it was for Adam when he first opened his eyes. The first person he saw was God, and God told him the entire world was a gift to Adam. He saw the beauty of nature, the quirkiness of the animals, and enjoyed the taste of delicious fruits. Everything was wonderful and pleasing to his senses; the only thing was a sense of loneliness since he had no one, unlike the animals who had a partner. Then God brings him Eve and says, “This is your wife, your life partner.” The joy of having a beautiful companion, someone to share his world, must have been the culmination of the day for him. The love for Eve and the gratitude toward God for His gift of life and love must have taught him: this is what life is about.
Adam sees the fruit in Eve’s hands, sees guilt, defiance or plea for help in her eyes and also feel new emotions that he’s never felt before. Sadness that Eve had taken the fruit, that she had disobeyed. Fear for her because he didn’t know what death was but there would be consequence. But most of all, love toward his wife. Love so overwhelming that he thought of dying with her. He takes the fruit believing they won’t die but mostly because he thought, “I’d rather die with Eve then be alone again.”
These are all innocent, naïve thoughts, but Adam also chooses to disobey God. Adam makes a conscious choice to sin. But the wages of sin is death, and sadly, love quickly fades. Now Adam’s own fears overwhelm any love for Eve, fear brings anger and perhaps hatred—negative emotions and thoughts they’ve never had before.
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. Genesis 3:7
Covering Our Sins
Their knowledge of evil results in awareness of self, apart from God. They become a distinct individual separate from the bond that they had with God. Their eyes are opened to their own problems, which is firstly their nakedness. There was no shame in their naked bodies, but their inner shame/guilt resulted in outer covering.
It wasn’t their body that they wanted to cover up, but their sense of guilt and embarrassment at being caught in their sin. How many of us do this after wronging someone? We can’t look them in the eye, we don’t want to talk to them; and we especially don’t want to pray to God.
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. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? Genesis 3:8-9
Did God really not know where Adam was? Did He not know what they had done? God knows and sees everything. He knew from the beginning of Lucifer’s creation what would happen in Heaven and on earth. "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" Isaiah 46:10 But because He knew the end result of salvation, God still created the world and gave us life.
And he [Adam] said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 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? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Genesis 3:10-13
How quickly Adam turned on Eve. He blamed her for what had happened. And in a way, blamed God for creating Eve. Eve then blamed the serpent, and in an indirect response, blamed God for making Satan.
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: 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. Genesis 3:14-15
Promise of Salvation
Half of this was spoken to the actual serpent, and half of this was spoken to Satan. The serpent may have been a majestic creature, beautiful to behold, not like the present slithering reptile. Revelation refers to the creature, as a dragon, and because his wings were removed, the creature was relegated to the ground, crawling and disgusting to behold.
Even though God says, “He will put enmity,” it has been in existence since Lucifer's rebellion. Lucifer rebelled against God and his rebellion continued to the Cross. The seed of the woman is Jesus, and Satan did everything he could to prevent Jesus from dying on our behalf. But by dying on the cross [Satan bruising Jesus’ heel], Jesus was crushing Satan’s head, by saving all who would believe in Jesus.
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. Genesis 3:16
How sad, that the result of sin has brought about the degradation of a healthy relationship. Now, instead of a partnership, negative feelings of blame and condemnation brought about a breakdown in Adam and Eve’s relationships. Adam and Eve still understood the love that God had for them, but their love for each other now had negative baggage they had to overcome. Like a lot of relationships, some days were arguments and bitterness, unselfishness and selfishness.
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; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 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. Genesis 3:17-19
Now a Sinful World
Even though they now had to work for their food, it was for their benefit that they must sweat and prepare for the future. It was a reminder of their responsibility to take care of each other. They could not sit idle blaming and arguing; nature around them was changing and they needed to be prepared. Every dying flower and rotting fruit was a reminder of the ramification of their sin, but with each new season of harvest, they were given hope of God’s promise to take care of them.
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. Genesis 3:20-21
The First Death
The sad irony of Eve’s name was that she was the mother of all living: their descendants and all creation. But God in His mercy of the coming season, had to show them how to skin an animal to cover their nakedness. God took an innocent lamb, a creature that Adam and Eve may have played with or fed, and killed it. Eve as a mother finally saw the horror of what she had allowed. Blood had been spilled for the first time. Animals learned the scent of blood, heard the scream of an animal being killed, and knew fear of each other and of men.
Even after their sin, God still took care of them. He gave them a promise of the Messiah, and clothed and fed them. The sacrifice of the innocent animal was symbolic of Jesus dying for their sins. Every time they had to sacrifice an animal for skin or sin, they were reminded of God’s promise to save them.
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 for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24
Gift of Life
For over 900 years, Adam and Eve lived near the Garden. Every child they had, learned of their creator and why the cherubim were standing guard in front of the forbidden Garden. Their longevity was the result of eating of the fruit from the Tree of Life, but it was a curse and a blessing. They saw generations of their children, grandchildren, etc. But they also saw their son murder his brother; their descendants reject God and eventually kill each other and animals. Every child born was hopefully the Messiah. But they died before seeing Him.
How often do we cave when faced with hardship? We question God’s love and promise because of the problems we face. But our suffering is momentary compared to the suffering of Jesus. Our suffering is momentary compared to 900 years of guilt and hope struggling in Adam and Eve. They should have died when they ate the fruit, but for the grace of God, they were able to live and grow closer to God. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23
We cannot blame Adam and Eve for the ills of this world; we all have sinned. But thank God for our undeserved life. Every day we wake up, is another day we can spend with God. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7
- Understanding Genesis 4: Cain and Abel
A Bible Study of Genesis 4