After reading Genesis 1 and 2, it is clear that the world was good. Yet when we look at the world now we will be right to conclude that it is not good. Disease, destruction, and death to mention only a few are some of the horrible realities we are confronted with daily. We could ask, “What went wrong?” The answer is found in Genesis 3. This chapter provides the account of how things went from good to bad. This introduces us to the event of the fall. The fall occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s clear prohibition and regulation to not eat of the forbidden fruit. In this section we learn about the entrance of sin into the world and the effects of sin in the world.
The Entrance of Sin
What is sin? In clear and concise terms we are told, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Sin is anything that does not do what God requires. It is doing that which God says not to do, and it is not doing what God says we should do. The very first human sin was experienced in Genesis 3:1-7 when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s clear command.
This passage begins with reference to an intruder in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1a). This character is called “the serpent”. If you only read this chapter, it isn’t made clear as to the identity of this character. As the progress of revelation unfolds in the Biblical narrative, it becomes clear that this serpent is Satan (cf. Rev. 12:9; 20:2). Scripture also calls him the devil, which means “accuser.” Amongst many other names and descriptions he is called the “ruler of demons” (Luke 11:15) and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). The Lord Jesus Christ referred to him as a liar (Jn. 8:44).
So here we have an incarnation of Satan in the form of a talking snake. He is functioning as a tempter and promoter of sin. The very fact that the serpent was doing this implies that he is sinful. How did sin enter the universe? Satan was a part of God’s creation. He was an angel of great power (Ezek. 28:16) and beauty (Ezek. 28:17) and perhaps the chief musician before the throne of God (Is. 14:11). His name was “shining one” or “light bearer” (Is. 14:12). However, after being filled with pride (Ezek. 28:17) he declared that he would make his throne above God (Is. 14:13). As a result of this rebellion he is expelled from the glory of Heaven, losing his position, status and abode. The presence and the behaviour of this serpent reveals that evil was already in existence at this time. If everything was considered “very good” (Gen. 1:31) at the end of the sixth day of creation, it appears to be the conclusion that his evil condition occurred after the sixth day and prior to the encounter in Genesis 3.
God provided both Adam and Eve with clear prohibitions and regulations to not eat of the fruit of this tree. Yet the devil, in a cunning way, interviews Eve. He chooses to speak with Eve and not Adam, which shows that Satan is undermining God’s will by ignoring the fact that God made Adam to be the leader. Satan’s goal is to have Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, so he issues his seductive temptation. He does this by attacking on God’s goodness (3:1b-3), and then appealing to humanity’s gratification (3:4-5). The attack and appeal win Eve over and she “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 ” (Gen. 3:6). Eve was deceived (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14) and devastation immediately followed.
The Effects of Sin
Both Adam and Eve for the first time experience the darkness and guilt that accompanies sin. In attempting to cover their shame from each other, they cover themselves with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7), and in attempting to cover their guilt from God, they hide from God (Gen. 3:8). Neither of them takes responsibility for what they have done (Gen. 3:9-13), so God issues a curse that has far reaching consequences and catastrophic effects.
There are three parts to the curse issued by God. Judgment will fall on the serpent, the woman, and the man. The consequences of these curses are unfolded throughout the rest of the book of Genesis, and continue until the end of Revelation 20.
God addresses the serpent first (3:14-15) and He curses serpents in general first. It was now to slither on its belly and eat the dust (3:14). Then God curses the seducer behind the serpent (3:15). He said that there would be a conflict occurring between the people of God (“seed of the woman”) and the people of Satan (“seed of the serpent”). This will culminate in the defeat of the serpent in which his skull will be crushed. But before this happens the seed of the woman will suffer a strike to the heel. This text has been called the protoevangelium (“the first gospel”) as it is fulfilled in Christ.
Then the woman is addressed (3:16). The consequence of the curse she receives impacts the marriage dynamic and child bearing. Struggle will occur in the marriage relationship in which sinfulness interferes with the Divine design of marital roles. There will be a battle for sinful dominion among the sexes. In terms of child bearing there will be physical pain, but the effects will also be seen in other complications like infertility.
Finally God addresses the man (3:17-19). The consequences of the curse he issues to him have to do with the land. Work was a gift from God and occurred prior to the fall. But the land will no longer cooperate as it did before the fall. All that he achieves as a result of his hard working labour will end because he will eventually die and return to the ground.
After this, Adam names his wife Eve, which means “life” (3:20). By doing this he is displaying faith in God’s promise that from her will come the One who will bring life and defeat the serpent. After this, God shows great mercy and kindness to Adam and Eve. He made them garments of animal skin and clothed them (3:21). This act of substitutionary sacrifice introduces the notion of animal sacrifice for sin, and ultimately points to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that takes away our sin.
After Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden (Gen. 3:23-24), Eve conceives and gives birth to a son, Cain (Gen. 4:1). This is then followed with another son named Abel (4:2). These two are described as having different occupations. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. In the course of time both of these brought an offering to the Lord (4:3). The Lord was pleased with Abel’s gift and He wasn’t with Cain’s (4:4-5). This passage doesn’t give us clear insight into why this was the case, but later in Hebrews 11:4 we learn that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. This means that he is acting in obedience to what God had required.
Cain responded to this outcome with anger, and this so consumed him that he killed Abel. This is the first manifestation of the conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8-15). In Cain’s lineage there was great innovations and inventions (4:17-24), but because of the curse they were used for evil. Art, science, music, and cities arise, but they magnify man and his gratifications, and not God and His glory.
God then provides Adam and Eve with another son, and he is named Seth. It is from the line of this child that the promised Messiah will come, the One who will crush the serpent’s skull. A genealogy of Adam is then provided, which includes Seth in Genesis 5. This genealogy underscores the reality that death has come as a result of the curse. Eight times the phrase “and he died” appears. But there is a glimmer of hope seen in the fact that generations are appearing, and one name stands out breaking the trend of the obituaries, and that is Enoch (Gen. 5:21-24). He doesn’t die but is taken to be with the Lord.
The narrative of Genesis continues to recount the damage brought in by the curse, and the effects of the curse extend from Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation 20. In Genesis 3:1-8 the serpent is described as freely roaming the garden engaging in deception, whereas in Revelation 20:1-3, the serpent is described as bound and unable to deceive. In between, there is conflict. The solution to this is the plan of God to bring redemption and triumph in accordance to His promise. There will be many shadows of this until the fulfillment occurs in Jesus Christ.