The story known as the “The Fall” in Genesis 3 is looked at usually as the point in which sin entered the world and we, as humans, made the tragic mistake of taking from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Although this may be true, there are so many more layers to this story that needs to be told. In this article, we’re going to completely erase everything we thought we knew about Genesis 3. By looking at it with fresh eyes and a new mind, we may be able to see some things we wouldn’t have before. So let’s begin.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
Let’s start at the beginning, with the serpent. Who or what is this serpent? For starters, Genesis says that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals. This puts the “smartness” level if you will a little above the animals God had just made in Genesis 1. It also means that the serpent is a creation of God Himself. There is nothing that persuades us to think that this serpent was some being not created by God and so we can assume that it is one of God’s creations. This serpent is also the first creation that tries to create chaos and disrupt God’s good world. Up to this point, everything has been called “good” and even “very good”. This creature, however, is not depicted this way.
The Hebrew word for “serpent” here is nachash and it means “serpent” or “snake”. There is no indication at all that this is an allegory or a symbol for something else. The narrative describes the serpent as just that, an actual living, breathing creature that apparently can speak. This can make people a little skeptical, but I look at it the same way I do as reading that Adam and Eve could hear God walking in the garden a little later in the story. The garden was a much different world than we live in now, so a lot of this would not make any sense to us in the context of today’s living. But it is the Bible, and so we must believe that creating a talking creature wouldn’t be too hard for God. So who is this serpent? The evidence points to it being the satan who we call the devil, the leader of the spiritual rebels who wants us to rebel too. In Revelation 20:2, we get this information, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan”. The dragon, serpent, devil, and satan are all words describing the same rebel. The “ancient rebel” should be a hyperlink back to this story in Genesis 3. This is a character who wreaks havoc on God’s world, but ultimately loses the war.
What we should focus on in the story is what happens next. This serpent asks only the woman a very important question. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”. This question invokes doubt into the mind of the one being asked and it is one of the devil’s many strategies to get us away from God. Doubting God and his word is one of the many ways the devil gets into our head and this is his first attempt at making the humans rebel. Eve then comes back with a response that seems good at first glance but a closer look reveals that doubt has crept in and sin is crouching at the door.
Her response to this doubt-provoking question is this, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Here Eve quotes God from when He gave them instructions on the tree of which not to eat. This invites the reader to go back in the narrative to God’s instructions to recall what God had said. So let’s do that. The instructions came from one chapter before in Genesis 2. Genesis 2:15-17 is where the instruction takes place. It says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” God told man that he must not take from the tree of knowledge of good and evil because if they do, they will certainly die. It seems as though this is a pretty clear instruction, as it should be. But here is something interesting. In the following verses, God forms woman from man. This means that Eve was not around yet when this instruction took place. Eve had not been created. And who does the serpent go after with this doubting question? The one who wasn’t around to hear the instruction, Eve. Now Eve had to have knowledge of the command or she wouldn’t have been able to quote it. However, she did not quote it exactly. She says that God said, “and you must not touch it”. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God saying never to touch it. The divine command is only not to eat of the tree.
We can also add that Eve said that God said they must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. Well according to Genesis 2:9, there are two trees in the middle of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
With this, we will pause our study of this narrative and pick up next time. We will see what the serpent’s response is to the woman’s response and see how this conversation led to the downfall of humanity. In the meantime, this story teaches us many things and we should always be on the lookout for that crafty serpent. We should always pray for insight and wisdom to see the paths of darkness and avoid them and cling to the everlasting light that is Jesus Christ.