Summary: The power and penalty of sin is clear in Scripture adn we need to understand the devastation of the fall to truly glory in the cross.
He’s a talking serpent, which might seem strange and has for many people reinforced their belief that Genesis 1-3 is mythological. But why not – a donkey talked in Numbers to suit God’s purposes. Satan is hardly an ordinary garden-variety snake, anyway.
He’s more crafty that all the other animals, and this description deserves some pause. Strangely enough, 3:1 comes straight after the end of chapter 2, which says “the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame”. There’s no chapter breaks in the original, remember – this just follows on from there. In Hebrew the words translated “naked” and “crafty” rhyme and that establishes a link. So, it’s like the people are nude and the serpent is shrewd and what we then see is that the shrewd – representing sin and rebellion - overcomes the nude – representing purity and innocence.
So Satan tempts Eve. As you know, they’ve been given one rule. Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the consequences are clear – death.
The serpent then goes about using all sorts of lies and half-truths to convince Eve to sin. You won’t surely die, he says – and they don’t, at least not straight away. If you eat it, you’ll become like God, knowing good and evil. That was true, and humanity’s lust for power blinded Adam and Eve to the fact that becoming like God was a terrible thing for they had neither the wisdom nor the holiness nor the power to exercise this knowledge – it would only lead them to selfishness and pain.
So Eve takes the fruit and eats it. She gives some to Adam – and the context suggests he knew where the fruit had come from – and he eats it too. Then the world comes crashing down and millennia of war and grief and sickness and death are set in motion.
When one of my students does something bad and gets caught, there’s a number of different reactions that you can see. It depends on the student, on the teacher, and on what they’ve done. Perhaps the most popular of all is the blaming of others. He started it. She called me that first. Somebody else was talking as well, why are you picking on me? She gave me the cigarette. If God didn’t want us to swear, why did he invent the words? The woman you put here with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it!
The man blames the woman and God, the woman blames the snake. It’s typical of human behaviour. There’s no acceptance of responsibility.
In this cycle of blame we can see that a big part of the sin in the first place was the reversal of the created order. The man was created to lead his wife in marriage, and both were created to rule over the serpent. And yet the serpent instructs the woman and the woman instructs the man – it’s the other way around.
So, they are put under a curse. The snake will have to slither along the ground. The woman will have increased pain in childbirth, and her relationship with her husband will be strained and oppressive. The man will struggle to get the ground to yield crops.
Notice how the curses are a corruption of the work the man and the woman are supposed to be doing. Eden wasn’t some holiday resort – Adam and Eve had tasks. They were to fill the earth, Adam was to tend the garden. But now their relationship has been soured and it will be painful for the woman to complete her task to fill the earth. Adam is still to work the soil, but now it will produce thorns and thistles.
And, ultimately, they will die. For from dust you came, and to dust you will return.
But there’s also grace and hope. God makes clothes for Adam and Eve as they leave the garden. The system of judgment and grace continues for the rest of Genesis 1-11: Cain is driven away but God protects him from being murdered in chapter 4. God destroys the whole world for its sin, but saves Noah and his family.
And then you’ve got vs. 15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heal.” Although the words “crush” and “strike” in the NIV are actually the same word in Hebrew, it’s still clear the serpent will come off worse – his head, not his heal is crushed. So what we have here is the first hint of the gospel. A curse on the serpent, but also a seed of hope for humanity. The job of the woman in Genesis 1 and 2 was to bear children to fill the earth. Now, for the rest of the OT we will be looking for the woman who will bear this seed, this offspring, who will crush the serpent’s head. And we know that seed to be Jesus.