Genesis 3:1–7, 14–17
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves…
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 1 and 2 reveal that God has given us extraordinary authority to be his managers over the world. In doing so he has given us the awesome capacity for choice and the amazing capacity for relationship. As someone has observed, Rule, responsibility and relationship are three qualities that mark us out in the whole of creation.
In Genesis 3 the hopes for humanity are dashed. Tragedy enters the scene of perfection and peace (see 3:1). Temptation comes from outside the woman (not from within her) and, ironically, it symbolically comes from the animal world – a world men and women were intended to rule.
The tempter’s first tactic was to sow doubt and discord, portraying God as the heavenly spoilsport: ‘Did God really say, “Any tree?” he asked. No, God hadn’t said that. The question was an overstatement. The tempter uses the same ploy today: ‘All those rules and regulations – how dull and boring.’
His second tactic was to appeal to pride (3:5). The tempter’s voice implied, ‘God knows that you have the potential to be greater than you are. Don’t be fooled – be courageously independent. You can do without him.’
His third tactic was to appeal to desires (3:6) – physical, aesthetic, intellectual. Self-fulfillment was the implication then as it has become the catch-cry today – ‘Indulge yourself. Why stop?’ is the voice of temptation.
His fourth tactic was to appeal to weakness (3:6). The woman had the authority and power to say ‘No’. The man also could have said, ‘No’. He didn’t even quote back to the tempter God’s true words – as Jesus would do. Both capitulated to the temptation to see themselves as ‘gods’ and challenge God’s rightful place in the universe and in their lives.
Shame and fear were the result. There were now ideas that made them blush. There was a lack of trust and a need for privacy. And, there was overwhelming guilt before God. Delight and innocent joy in their relationship with God, and with one another, were shattered.
Both began to make excuses. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. But the reality was they had made a choice, and they were responsible for that choice. They deserved to be judged and judged they were. Deep down all of us know how right such judgement is, not least in the choices we make that betray our loyalty to him and to one another.
Judgment (3:17ff). We notice immediately the disturbance in God’s good creation – in human relationships, in the world, in child-birth. The dread shadow of death now hovers over humanity as an angel was sent to guard the tree of life.
A Ray of Hope (3:15). The tempter will do his worst to deceive and deface the image-bearers of God; all men and women are now tainted for life with a predisposition to serve self – and not God. The consequences of this will emerge in varying ways and varying degrees. Men and women will display a strange and distorted capacity for both good and evil. But Genesis 3:15 introduces good news into this world of gloom and death. A descendant of the original couple will come to our rescue. In the midst of darkness and despair, a sign of God’s love emerges.
1. the fact that temptation involved the tactic of misquotation and deception; men and women were tempted to feel ‘restricted’ by God’s command rather than rejoice in God’s good purposes for them;
2. the way in which the temptations appealed to doubt, pride, desire and weakness;
3. the fact that God’s justice is tempered by mercy (Adam and Eve did not die) and hope (3:15).