Last time we did a brief overview of verses 1-7.
- We discussed the identity of the Serpent.
- We saw that the NT associated the Serpent with Satan.
- We saw that the mystery was how they were associated.
Seth Postell and Michael Heiser, for example, suggest that the Serpent was a “divine” being with access to the garden.
- In other words, one of the heavenly host.
- This was based on the root meaning of the Hebrew word “nachash”, Ezekiel 28:13, and other factors.
- If true, this would mean that Genesis 3 also describes the fall of Satan.
- The change from “more prudent/crafty” to “more cursed”
BTW – Interestingly, Paul says Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14).
We ended with some significant, and perhaps unanswerable, questions.
- Such as, why would a creature with the Serpent’s status and prudence rebel?
We don’t know, but John Piper challenges us with this deduction:
“I conclude, therefore, that God permitted Satan’s fall, not because he was helpless to stop it, but because he had a purpose for it. Since God is never taken off guard, his permissions are always purposeful. If he chooses to permit something, he does so for a reason—an infinitely wise reason. How the sin arises in Satan’s heart, we do not know. God has not told us. What we do know is that God is sovereign over Satan, and therefore Satan’s will does not move without God’s permission. And therefore every move of Satan is part of God’s overall purpose and plan. And this is true in such a way that God never sins. God is infinitely holy, and God is infinitely mighty. Satan is evil, and Satan is under the all-governing wisdom of God” – John Piper.
Today I want to contend with the anatomy of The Fall.
- How exactly did The Fall play out?
- What can we learn from it?
We will dissect it as follows:
- Serpent’s Sneer
- Atmosphere Imbibed
- Capitalizing on Compromise
- The Fall
Genesis 3:1b (ESV) — 1b He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
- The NLT captures well the deliberately flippant tone – “Really?” he asked. “None of the fruit in the garden? God says you mustn’t eat any of it?”.
Tim Keller has a great take on the Serpent’s words:
- The Serpent is mocking God’s word with a sarcastic sneer.
- Keller says the Serpent’s approach is not to argue but simply to “sneer” at God’s word.
- To mock and show contempt.
“This is the way [sin] usually starts. This is very wise, very smart of the Serpent. He does not give you an argument. [He gives] a dogmatic assertion, but because it’s a sneer, it seems so sophisticated” – Tim Keller.
A great example of this is found in 2 Kings:
- 2 Kings 2:23 (ESV) — 23 He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
- Verse 24 shows that God doesn’t take kindly to sneers.
How are we still tempted with sneers today?
Keller says the Serpent is sneering for a specific reason.
- “The purpose of the Serpent’s question is not to provide information but to create an atmosphere. It’s not even to provide an argument but to create an atmosphere” – Tim Keller.
What is the atmosphere the Serpent is creating with his sneer?
- He wants to suggest that, “There is no truth. All moral claims [of God] are really just power plays. [God] is trying to sell you something. [But] it is a rip-off” – Keller.
God is concerned only with His interests at the expense of yours.
- God’s prohibition is merely a power play to keep you “down”.
- It’s not about truth but about power.
- In other words, Adam and Eve are idiots if they continue in obedience to God.
BTW – Keller makes a great observation about the problem with sneers.
“It temporarily gives you a feeling like you have meaning in life, which is to debunk everything. But if you actually do debunk everything, it’s all negative. It’s parasitic, and 20 years later you have no meaning in life because of the sneer. This is how most people tend to lose God. Not through an argument, but through a dogmatic assertion masquerading as sophistication because of the sarcasm, because of the mockery, because of the sneer. Please, friends, don’t lose God because of the big sneer” – Tim Keller.
- Many men not in Church today, men who watch their wives take the kids to Church, have bought into the sneers of the Serpent, and now are “sneerers” themselves.
Genesis 3:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And 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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
- “The serpent had succeeded in drawing the woman’s attention to another possible interpretation of God’s command” – Kenneth Mathews.
Eve’s words are evidence that the Serpent’s sneer immediately had the desired effect.
- Eve imbibed the Serpent’s sneer – absorbed, drank, and assimilated it.
- How do we know?
1) She overstates God’s prohibition – God said they could “eat of every tree of the garden, but” (2:17).
- She only says, “eat of the fruit of the trees”.
2) She adds, “neither shall you touch it” to God’s prohibition.
- Similar to the first, this makes the prohibition more stringent than it really was.
Concerning 1 and 2:
- “The creator’s generosity is not being given its full due, and he is being painted as a little harsh and repressive” – Gordon Wenham.
3) “Eve identifies the tree according to its location rather than its significance” – Mathews.
- God called it “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17), she called it “the tree that is in the midst of the garden”.
4) She refers to “God” as the Serpent did.
- Instead of “Yahweh Elohim” she, like the Serpent, says simply, “Elohim”.
Like Mathews, Wenham and Waltke agree that Eve’s answer reveals her compromise.
- “Eve gradually yields to the serpent’s denials and half-truths by disparaging her privileges, adding to the prohibition, and minimizing the threat” – Brue Waltke.
- “These slight alterations to God’s remarks suggest that the woman has already moved slightly away from God toward the serpent’s attitude” – Gordon Wenham.
- The sneer worked and the atmosphere it created was imbibed.
BTW – We can’t forget, Adam was there with Eve the whole time.
- As the one tasked first with the sacred duties of the sacred space – to guard it, for example – he is as culpable as Eve – “sin came into the world through one man” (Rom 5:12).
- 1 Tim. 2:14 would require its own lesson.
- Adam imbibed the atmosphere created by the Serpent’s sneer too.
Capitalizing on Compromise:
Genesis 3:4–5 (ESV) — 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely 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.”
- Again, the NLT captures the tone of the Serpent’s words:
- Genesis 3:4–5 (The Living Bible) — 4 “That’s a lie!” the serpent hissed. “You’ll not die! 5 God knows very well that the instant you eat it you will become like him, for your eyes will be opened—you will be able to distinguish good from evil!”
So how does the Serpent capitalize on the success of his sneer and Eve’s compromise?
Keller points out, he doesn’t try and discount…
- God’s existence.
- God’s law.
- God’s power.
- He attacks God’s goodness.
What is God’s goodness?
- “The goodness of God is that quality of God that lacks any kind of malice and promotes the well-being of others with whom God enters into a covenant relationship” – Michael Bird.
- Covenant Faithfulness
- It “may be discovered in all of his relationships with his creatures” – Millard Erickson.
- God always has our best interests in mind – no matter what they circumstances appear.
Some examples from the Bible:
- Psalm 145:8–9 (ESV) — 8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
- Jeremiah 32:40 (ESV) — 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
- Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
- Romans 8:28 (ESV) — 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
How did the Serpent’s words attack God’s goodness?
- The implication he makes is that God is not good because He doesn’t have Adam and Eve’s best interests in view.
- God’s “prohibition power play” was actually at the expense of their good.
The logic works out like this:
- Knowledge and god-likeness are good.
- God is depriving you of these good things.
- Therefore, God is not good.
The natural outworking of this logic in one who has compromised under the Serpent’s sneer is this:
- “The perceived goods of knowledge and god-likeness [are] held in higher esteem than God himself” – Jeremy Evans.
In other words, we begin to see good in context of creation (things and status) and not in God Himself.
- Our notions of God’s goodness become creation bound and not God bound.
- Wayne Grudem rightly says all of us need to realize that, “God himself is the ultimate good that we [need to] seek”.
Remember, God called creation “good” and “very good”.
- Did that not also include current circumstances and status?
- Did that not also include His prohibitions?
- Did that not also mean that good things are to be had in God’s timing?
- And shouldn’t the simple fact that He says so be enough?
Adam and Eve answer no to these questions and so deny the goodness of God.
Tim Keller says this:
“What does [the Serpent] go after? He goes after the goodness of God. He says, ‘You can’t trust that God really loves you, that God really is gracious. You cannot trust the grace and the love and the good will of God.’ When they believed him, it poisoned everything. This is the taproot of all problems. This is the taproot of all misery. This is the thing under everything” – Tim Keller.
Sin, Keller is saying, comes from buying into the slurs of the world and questioning God’s goodness.
- We simply don’t trust God’s goodness.
- We question that He actually has our best interest in view.
- Oddly, Sin becomes the pathetic outworking of this foolish thinking.
And this distrust of God’s goodness led to the Fall of humanity (and our own sin).
“By Adam and Eve’s failure to trust the goodness of God’s character and the truthfulness of his word, they disobey and instantaneously ‘fall’ from their state of bliss in the garden into a tragic state of irreversible sin and death and banishment from the garden” – Bruce Waltke.
Genesis 3:6 (ESV) — 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.
- Heard the Serpent’s slurs.
- Imbibed the atmosphere they created.
- Compromised under their power by questioning God’s goodness.
- Adam and Eve go on to disobey the word of God and we all will die as a result.
Admittedly, there is nothing wrong with wisdom and aspiring to be like God.
- Jesus tells us, after all, to be perfect as God is perfect.
- However, to take them in rebellion is, as we have seen, to deny the goodness of God.
Tim Keller puts it as follows:
“[Adam and Eve] did sense there was a place they needed to go, that they could grow still. They recognized there was a possibility for growth, for getting greater than they were. That’s true. But here’s what they did. They took a good thing and used the good thing so they could be their own gods. ‘You will be as God’ [the Serpent said]. They didn’t wait for [God] to take them. They said, ‘We’re going to do it ourselves’” – Keller.
Tim Keller exhorts us to look closely at the Fall.
- “Look at Adam and Eve losing all this. Look at Adam and Eve falling. The Bible is saying the way they did it is the way we do it now. What Adam and Eve did is recapitulated in our lives constantly” – Tim Keller.
Isn’t this the same way it happens with our sin?
- The sneers come and we begin to accommodate them.
- They make us self-conscious.
- They make us feel naked.
- We fail to trust in the goodness of God.
- We cover up with compromise and sin.
We will deal with verse 7 and Adam and Eve’s cover up next week.