Previous post: Genesis 1:26 – 2:25 – Male and Female: The Image of God
Now Read: Genesis 2:25 – 3:24 (NASB)
In Genesis chapter 1 we are told how God created the heavens and the earth, the culmination of which was reached in the creation of man and woman in God’s image. Chapter 2 took us into a deeper look at the creation of man and woman to reveal our true nature as image bearers of God.
I find it interesting that the creation account of chapter 1 wrapped up with God surveying all that he had made (including man and woman) and declaring it all “very good” (1:31) after which he rested to signify the completion of the work of creation (2:2). At the end of Chapter 2 (which is essentially a closer look at the events described in Chapter 1) the final verse emphasizes that “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (2:25) I see a certain relationship between God’s creation being “very good” and the man and his wife being “naked and not ashamed”. I think in this we are given a better understanding of what God means when he says, “very good.”
“Very good” in God’s eyes means to be free of shame, or guilt.
So as we go into chapter 3 we are reminded that when God created man and woman, they were blameless, without sin, and without shame. God placed them in the Garden of Eden, a veritable paradise. And God provided for them in the Garden everything they would need, with all manners of fruit bearing trees to feed them, from which they could eat any that they like.
Any tree, but one.
God left one tree from which he forbade them to eat. But, why did God even give them the opportunity to sin by providing even that one tree? If He wanted His creation to stay “very good” would it not have been better to not even give them that chance? It is true that if he had not given them that choice they would not have sinned, but they also would not have been truly “very good”. Because what meaning does “very good” have, if there is no option to be bad? If God wanted to be loved by His most precious creations, man and woman, what meaning would that love and devotion have if there was no option for them to choose otherwise? Love is not love if there is no option to hate. Right is not right, if there is choice to do wrong. Good is not good, if there no opportunity for bad. God gave man and woman the choice to do wrong, not because he wanted to test their obedience, but because He wanted their obedience to actually mean something.
It is also interesting to note that there was literally just one option. God was not trying to make things difficult for them. If anything He actually tried to make it as easy as possible for them to keep their innocence. Giving them the opportunity to sin may have been necessary to have genuine love, but that doesn’t mean that God wanted to make it difficult for them. If anything He was stacking the deck in their favor. He quite reasonably gave them only one prohibition. Only ONE thing for them to NOT do.
And they still couldn’t help themselves.
Oh, they held on for a little while. But the great deceiver wasn’t going to let that one prohibition go without temptation. He would not let God’s perfect creation continue if there was anything he could do about it. He couldn’t MAKE the man and woman eat of the fruit, but he could trick them into doing it.
First, he approached the woman, in the form of a serpent, and questioned the prohibition. “Indeed, has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” (3:1). Notice his first trick is to completely overstate God’s prohibition, as if to try and plant the seed in the woman’s head that God is being unreasonable. He tries to make it sound that God has forbidden the fruit from every tree. How many times do we rationalize our sin by trying to convince ourselves that the expectations are too high? “There’s no way I could ever be held to that standard! It’s unfair! What’s the point of even trying?”
But the woman was not completely fooled by this outlandish statement from the serpent and corrects him, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, you shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die” (3:2-3) But the serpent’s poison has already started to take root, for she adds to God’s prohibition saying, “you shall not eat from it or touch it” even though God only forbade eating it. She has already started down the path of seeing God’s rule as unreasonable. You can almost hear her asking, “why should I not even be allowed to touch it?”
But serpent doesn’t stop there, “You will not surely die!”(3:4) After casting doubt on what exactly it was that God forbade, now the serpent is deceiving the woman about God’s warning should they not obey. He downplays the seriousness of the consequences, “God didn’t mean it when He said that!” How many times do we try and turn God’s word upside, and try and turn sin into good, by lying to ourselves about what God REALLY meant. In our “enlightened” culture we “know better” and can now speak with authority that God didn’t REALLY mean it when He said we shouldn’t do certain things. “It’s been misinterpreted,” we say, “It has been misunderstood by all of Christendom that has come before us!”
And the serpent continues “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.” (3:5). Now the serpent is going in for the Kill. “God doesn’t want you to eat it, because He knows it will make you like Him. God is holding out on you, don’t you want to be like God?”
And here we see what the real sin was. It’s not about the fruit. It’s about the desire to be like God.
The woman gave into the deception, seeing 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.”(3:6). While it says that the woman was drawn to how attractive and delicious it looked, we should not think that the original sin is simply the result of serious case of “sweet tooth”. The real reason she, and her husband, ate the fruit was the desire to be “wise” or more clearly stated by the serpent, “to be like God”. The REAL sin was not that they ate the fruit that God told them not to eat. The REAL sin was WHY they ate the fruit that God told them not to eat. They ate the fruit because they thought it would give them the wisdom to make them “like God”. These tiny human beings (created by an infinitely massive and all powerful God) actually thought that they could, and should, become “like God”. Thus we see what the true underlying sin was: arrogance and pride. Arrogance in that they thought they could be like God, and pride in that they thought they should be like God. And they were wrong on both counts.
And if that wasn’t enough, by submitting themselves to the serpent, the man and woman were abandoning the role that God had created them for. In Chapter 1 we learned that when God created man and woman in His image, He did so, so that they would “fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (1:28). That role was re-emphasized in Chapter 2 when the man was given the task to name all the creatures of the earth (a sign of his dominion over them). Mankind’s very reason for existence was to be God’s representative on earth (made in His image) and have dominion over all He created, so that we could both witness and proclaim His glory over all the earth. But here the man and woman are submitting themselves to the deception, and to the will, of a serpent. They are letting the serpent, whom they are supposed to have dominion over, have dominion over them. By doing so they are failing to do the very thing God created them to do.
It was not about the fruit. The fruit was merely the object that God presented to give them the choice to love Him or not. And yet they willingly abandoned their God given role by following the will of the serpent, and they desired to elevate themselves to be like God. In doing so they were diminishing God before His creation, rather than proclaim His glory. In doing so they demonstrated their ultimate choice to NOT love God; and instead chose to love themselves above God. At that point, the actual act of eating the fruit was merely an outward manifestation of the wickedness that was already born in their heart.
And the result was instantaneous.
There were several consequences that resulted from their tragic decision. The man and the woman each had a curse specific to them. The woman was cursed with pain in childbirth (3:16). The miracle of new life which God specially bestowed on her as a woman was now a source of pain and even fear. The man was cursed to toil for his sustenance from the earth (3:18-19). His primary God given task to work the garden would now become a source of pain and frustration, and his life would be marked by toil.
And not only were the man and woman individually marked by the curse in these manners, the relationship between them was also cursed. God said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” In chapter 2 we saw how it was the man who was alone and felt the desire for relationship, and God provided him the woman to meet that need. But now it is the woman who will have that desire for closeness and intimacy, but her husband will rule over her, not giving her the closeness and intimacy he was designed for, and she so desperately craves. The unhindered closeness of their relationship as being “naked and unashamed” was now broken.
Broken, by shame.
And so we get the real consequence of their sin. They ate the fruit because they desired for their eyes to be opened (3:5), and opened their eyes were (3:7). They immediately both became aware, and ashamed, of their nakedness. Their innocence was gone. “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (3:8) but they no longer felt safe to embrace their loving Creator. They didn’t go running to Him with open arms to embrace Him. But instead they felt shame and “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.”
Before they ate of the fruit God warned them, that, “in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.”(2:17). While it is true that their physical bodies were not killed immediately, the curse of sin upon their bodies made them mortal, which would eventually kill them. But in a way, they did die that very day. True spiritual death has nothing to do with the death of a physical body, but the separation of our souls from God. The shame that the man and woman felt upon eating the fruit, driving them to hide from the presence of God shows that spiritual separation. Their eternal closeness with the divine Creator was severed, and in that sense, they died. The intense desire to cover up their nakedness was a physical manifestation of the barrier that now existed between them and their Creator. When God said, “you will surely die” what He really meant was, “You will separated from Me.”
And that is the true tragedy.
The tragic separation of the heart of man from God made evident by our sense of shame. When man fell, shame arose in our hearts, and we have not been able to escape it. Our shame in our nakedness, that drives us to cover ourselves with clothing, holds fast in our hearts as an ever present reminder that we are separated from God. God created us to be in close relationship with Him, but our sin has made that impossible, and we feel that as shame. Shame that we can’t escape. Shame that we are powerless of overcome.
But God has a plan.
Remember what we learned from the account of God’s creation? God doesn’t rest until His creation is “very good.” We have broken God’s heart, but we have not lost God’s love. And while God cannot compromise His holiness by accepting us with our sin and shame, He will also not compromise His love for us or abandon us.
Even as God was in the midst of imposing the curse, God gave us a promise of His plan to save us from our sin. Speaking to the serpent God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (3:15) Even as God was cursing us, He gave the promise of a Savior who would stand up to the serpent (Satan). The serpent would bruise His heel (a reference to Christ’s passion and crucifixion) but that He would bruise (or some translations say crush) the serpent’s head (a reference to Christ’s resurrection and victory over sin and death). So even as God was cursing humanity for our sin, He was also promising us that He would provide a way to save us from it.
Likewise, as God was banishing Adam and Eve from the garden (3:22-24) He first clothed them with the skin of animals (3:21). God shed the blood of animals for their skin (a sacrifice) to create clothing (to cover their shame) and in so doing painted us a portrait of God’s ultimate plan to shed His own Son’s blood to wash away our shame for good and bring us back to Him.
God created man and woman. He created us to be in unhindered (naked and unashamed) relationship with Him. But with the fall of man into sin, came the rise of shame in our hearts, separating us from Him eternally. But God has not abandoned us. Even from the very beginning God had a plan for how He would restore us to what He created us to be. God has a plan, through His Son Christ Jesus, that will free us of our shame, and restore us to our innocence. Some day we will once again hear, “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” but on that day we will not hide ourselves in shame, but instead we will run to God and embrace Him, and we will have nothing separating us from Him.
Oh what a marvelous day that will be.
Next Post: Genesis 4-5 – The Curse of Cain to the Blessing of Enoch
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