THE FALL OF MAN
It is part of the proof of the common ancestry of man that wherever we go in the world there are stories of a flood from which but a small number of people were saved, and prior to that a struggle between God and man involving a serpent or (in island communities) a sea-serpent.
That these stories should exist in some form in Babylon and in the near neighbourhood of Israel is not surprising. They could easily have a common source. However, early explorers and missionaries found variations of these accounts amongst tribes of people who dwelt at the very extremes of the earth.
Unlike in mythology, there are only two occasions in the Bible when an animal talks. The cunning serpent spoke for the devil. The stubborn donkey spoke for the LORD! Something was already out of sorts in the garden of God when the serpent spoke. In her innocence, maybe, the woman felt no surprise that such a creature should speak.
Perhaps our first parents did not know the history of the fall of Lucifer, the day star in Isaiah 14:12-21 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. But it did not take long for the cunning serpent to draw them into his pernicious scheme to undermine the LORD who made us. How susceptible are we to the devil's suggestions?
The serpent began his enticement of the primeval couple by casting a shadow over the gracious and wonderful provision of God. The question he posed was structured in such a way as to extract a negative answer. What the LORD had told the man was that he may eat of all except one tree (Genesis 2:16-17).
The tempter turned this into the negative, "Has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1). A subtle twist, but please be aware that it is part of Satan's armoury to question the Word of God.
When we are enticed by the devil, we suddenly find ourselves leaping to defend the word of God. But the minute we begin to add to what God has said, we are on dangerous ground. Like Eve, we begin to lose sight of our covenant relationship with the LORD, speaking of Him as a "God" who is remote from our experience.
The woman refuted the devil's accusation against God, but added words of her own: "and neither shall you touch it" (Genesis 3:3). Then the serpent began to question the certainty of death, and accused God of holding back something necessary for our human existence.
It is not wrong to want to better ourselves, but it is never the case that the end justifies the means! Adam and Eve desired knowledge, but rather than growing into it in the God-appointed way they chose rather to listen to Satan's lies about there being a short cut.
Not only this, but the tree with which they were being tempted was good for food. Despite having all the fruit of all the other trees to choose from, why should we not eat the forbidden fruit? And the tree was, after all, part of the beautiful "all very good" creation of God.
The devil's lie concerning the certainty or uncertainty of death was taking root in their mind.
Let us beware of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16) - "when the woman saw 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 3:6).
Adam was the representative head of the human race, and when he partook of the forbidden fruit he brought disaster and death upon all of his descendants. Spiritual death, separation from God, was immediate. Suddenly man and his wife realised that they were naked!
Physical death became an unavoidable prospect for mankind. Without the intervention of the LORD, there was nothing between man and hell.
When Adam and his wife heard the LORD God walking in the garden, they hid. It is quite sad to observe man’s feeble efforts to cover up sin. Breeches made of fig leaves may cover his outward nakedness, but he cannot silence his conscience.
We cannot hide from God. Neither can we hide our sins from Him. Ultimately the voice of the LORD cuts through the silence of that awful moment. “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).
"It was the woman," protested Adam. "The woman you gave me!"
The woman defended herself: "The serpent beguiled me."
For his part, the serpent was not given the chance to answer on his own behalf. He had no right to be speaking anyway.
God's pronouncement of judgment against Satan was tempered with mercy towards the man and the woman. The enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman would culminate in the victory wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary, when He would at one and the same time have His heels "bitten" and "crush the head" of the Devil!
The relationship between the man and the woman became tainted by sin. The war of the sexes was begun! No longer was the woman going to enjoy being "like opposite" the man, but she would find herself desiring to rule over the man, and in fact be (wrongly) ruled over by man!
Man's days as a gentleman gardener were also at an end. The ordinance of work would give way to the tedium of toil. Since man had chosen to eat of the forbidden fruit, it would only be with a huge struggle that he would hereafter be able to sift out a living from the land.
The prospect of death at the end of his days of toil reminds man forever that out of the dust were we taken, and unto dust we must return!
Man gave names to all of the animals. Now after the Fall man chooses a name for his wife other than that which he had previously given: "Eve: the mother of all living." Since they had the sentence of death already within themselves, perhaps this was a statement of faith?
For His part, the LORD God, the covenant God, made coats of skins for the couple. Physical death's first victim was an animal sacrificed by the LORD Himself to cover the guilt of sin.
One day another sacrifice would be made by God for us. He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Let us take one last lingering look at the garden east of Eden. The paradise we once had is lost on account of sin. Man is driven out lest in his sinful state he partakes of the tree of life. The gate is guarded by Cherubim and flaming swords.
Man is alienated from God, with nothing to look forward to but death and hell. But thanks be to God that death is put to death in the death of Christ, and death has lost its sting on account of His sacrifice. Jesus is the new representative head of the human race who has overcome sin on our behalf, the last Adam who leads His people back into Paradise.