Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Genesis Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |

GENESIS 3:1-24

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Fall of Man The Temptation and Fall of Man The Temptation Story Human Disobedience The Fall
3:1-7 3:1-8 3:1-7 3:1 3:1-7
      3:2-3  
      3:4-5  
      3:6-7  
3:8-19 3:9-19 3:8-19 3:8-9 3:8-13
         
      3:10  
      3:11  
      3:12  
      3:13a  
      3:13b  
(14-16) (14-16) (14-16) God Pronounces Judgment  
(17b-19) (17b-19) (17b-19) 3:14-15
3:16
3:17-19
3:14-16
(14-16)
3:20-21 3:20-24 3:20-21 3:20-21 3:17-19
(17-19)
3:20-24
      Adam and Eve Are Sent Out of the Garden  
3:22-24   3:22-24 3:22-24  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

INTRODUCTION

  1. Genesis 3 is pivotal in understanding the problem of evil and suffering in our world. It is surprising that the majority of rabbis do not utilize this text in their discussions of evil, sin, and human rebellion (most rabbis use Genesis 6 or the two yetzers, see NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 506). But Paul surely does focus on Genesis 3 in his NT writings.

    Special Topic: The Fall

  2. The effect of mankind's willful rebellion against a loving, caring, providing, fellowshiping God has affected not only their religious life but also their own personhood, their family life, and their world (i.e., Rom. 1:18; 5:12-21). Notice the high price that God Himself personally paid in order for humanity to exercise freedom. God's joy and original purpose for/with creation was radically affected (but not permanently damaged) by human rebellion (cf. Rom. 8:18-21). If we assume the goodness and loving provision of God, the rebellion of humanity (and possibly the angels) is seen in its radical disrespect and self-centeredness. God's continuing love and promise of salvation (cf. Gen. 3:15) also becomes more radical in its gracious character!

  3. Although this chapter has common motifs with other Ancient Near Eastern texts, its presentation is monotheistic and not dualistic. See footnote in IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT), pp. 30-31.

  4. What kind of literary genre is Genesis 1-3? This is one of the key hermeneutical principles involved in interpretation. I have asserted elsewhere that I like to call it "dramatic history." It is presented as historical narrative, but the imagery is common ANE vocabulary and symbols. I recommend to you the following helps.
    1. my Special Topic: Eastern Literature, Bible Dictionary" (second red box on home page)
    2. the article "History, Myth and Eschatology" in G. B. Caird's The Language and Imagery of the Bible, pp. 201-271
    3. the discussion "Excursus: Myth/Mythology" in John H. Walton's The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 136-139

ORIGIN AND PURPOSE OF SIN

  1. Biblical material
    1. It is my theological assumption that Satan's created purpose was to offer to God-conscious creatures an option which would lead to independence and then accusation, Job 1-2; Zechariah 3. My basic assumption is that Satan was created as a servant of God, not an emeny. He had a divinely given task (see A. B. Davidson, Theology of the OT, pp. 200-306.
       John H. Walton calls him an amoral "chaos creature," not the Devil of the NT (see The Lost World of Adam and Eve, "The Serpent Would Have Been Viewed As a Chaos Creature from the Non-ordered Realm, Promoting Disorder," pp. 128-139).
       Part of my struggle with the Tempter is the imagery of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Please see my exegetical notes online for these texts  (i.e., www.freebiblecommentary.org )
      Special Topic: Personal Evil
      Special Topic: Satan
      Special Topic: The Devil
    2. Mankind is affected by temptation (cf. Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12-21).
    3. The Bible does not specifically discuss the origin or purpose of "evil."
      1. Some later Jewish writings asserted that sin began from Genesis 3 (in Satan, then in humanity)
      2. Other Jewish inter-biblical writings assert that sin began in Genesis 6 (in "the sons of God"); see Special Topic: "the sons of God" in Genesis 6)
      3. After Jesus' day false teachers combined Judaism with Greek thought and asserted that evil was inherent in physical matter (i.e., Greek Gnostic thought, cf. Colossians; Ephesians; 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; and Titus)
    4. It is assumed that evil has a purpose or it would not exist. Yet there is an obvious intensification of evil and Satan from the OT to the NT (cf. The Theology of the OT by A. B. Davidson, pp. 300-306). In the OT Satan is not an enemy of God but always an enemy of humanity. The rabbis say the evil one was jealous of God's love and care for mankind and that is why he rebelled.
    5. Adam's sin affects all of creation (i.e., which is the Hebrew concept of corporality, cf. Gen. 3:14-24; Rom. 5:12-21; 8:18-23).

  2. Historical-Theological development (taken from Systematic Theology by L. Berkhof).
    1. Most rabbis deny original sin and opt for the two intents or yetzers (good versus evil). The OT does not discuss Genesis 3 at length (nor do the rabbis).
    2. Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202) is the first church father to discuss Adam's sin and its consequences. This view of the fall of mankind through Adam's sin became dominant in the Western Church (i.e., Augustine). It apparently was used to combat gnosticism which posited the problem of evil in matter itself.
    3. Origen (A.D. 182-251) maintained that each human sinned voluntarily in a previous existence (Platonic).
    4. The Greek fathers (Eastern Church) of the third and fourth centuries de-emphasized Adam's part in the problem of evil in our world. This developed into Pelagianism (from an English monk) which denied any link at all.
    5. The Latin fathers (i.e., the western church), following Augustine, stressed the place of Adam in the problem of evil, sin, and suffering in our world.
    6. During the Protestant Reformation the major reformers followed Augustine, while Armenius developed a semi-Pelagian reaction to dogmatic Calvinism.
    7. The philosophers and theologians asserted several theories of sin:
      1. Kant ‒ some unknown, unexplainable something in the supersensible sphere
      2. Leibnitz ‒ due to the inherent limitations of the material cosmos
      3. Schleiermacher ‒ due to the sensuous nature of man
      4. Ritschl ‒ due to human ignorance
      5. Barth ‒ involved with the mystery of predestination
      6. Whitehead ‒ sin is inherent in this world system. It functions to develop both God and man.
    8. The major thrust of the Bible is the redemption of mankind from sin and evil, wrought by a personal, loving God through Christ. Sin's origin or purpose is never discussed.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 3:1-7
  1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" 4The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

3:1 "Now" This is not a temporal reference but simply a literary technique for introducing a new stage in the drama of creation. We do not know how long Adam and God were together or how long Adam, Eve, and God were together in the Garden before this account.

▣ "the serpent" A serpent is also an enemy in the Gilgamesh Epic (cf. Gil. Epic 11:287-289, as well as other ANE literature; see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 138-139) who steals the plant that gives eternal life. Surely in line with well known ANE literary symbols, the serpent represented chaos vs. order (i.e., the tree of life). The serpent might be a "sea" creature (i.e., Leviathan).

Special Topic: The Serpent

Special Topic: Leviathan

NASB, NJB   "crafty"
NKJV, TEV, REB   "cunning"
NRSV, Peshitta   "subtle"
JPSOA   "shrewdest"
LXX (phronimōtatos)   "sagacious" or "most intelligent" (AB, pp. 35-36)

 There are two possible puns (this term sounds close to "naked" of Gen. 2:25) related to this term (BDB 791, KB 886):

  1. "crafty" or "wise" (possibly negative in Exod. 21:14; Josh. 9:4)
  2. "prudent" (e.g., Pro. 1:4; 8:5,12; 12:16,23; 13:16; 14:8,15,18; 22:3; 27:12)

This does not seem to be a negative term applied to the serpent but simply a recognition of its characteristics (see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 539-540).

▣ "any beast of the field" This shows that the serpent itself was simply one of the many created animal forms.

▣ "the Lord God" The first term "Lord" is the covenant name of God, YHWH, from the Hebrew VERB "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). The second term "God" is the Hebrew term Elohim which is the PLURAL form of the general term for God in the ancient Near East, El. The rabbis say that YHWH stands for God's covenant mercy, while Elohim stands fo stands for God as creator.

Special Topic: Names for Deity, C. and D.

▣ "And he said" There has been much speculation about an articulate serpent (note the personal PRONOUN). We do not know the relationship between humans and animals before the fall although it must have been a friendly one. However, I assume that speech is part of the image of God in mankind and is, therefore, not normal for animals. This same fellowship between mankind and the animals is going to be restored in an eschatological setting (cf. Isa. 11:6-11). I assume that the snake

  1. was indwelt by Satan and, therefore, it is his voice that is heard. What is theologically surprising is that Eve was not surprised!
  2. a symbol of ANE chaos (sea monster)

The author is addressing recently delivered Israelites who would be familiar with both Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology and its vocabulary/imagery. He is communicating to his day using imagery they would recognize but not asserting its reality. The uniqueness of the OT is its monotheism. The author of Genesis places this theological distinctive in the midst of ANE imagery. YHWH is the Holy One, the only One, but something terrible happened to His creation! These Israelites are affected by the theology of Genesis, especially Genesis 1-3; 12-15. YHWH is in the process of fixing the problems caused by free agency in His creatures.

Special Topic: Monotheism

▣ "the woman" There has been much speculation among commentators as to why Eve was apart from Adam, even though the VERBS used by Satan are PLURAL. In Gen. 3:6 it implies Adam may have been present through part of the dialog. Some have asserted that it is symbolic of her seeking self-identity. Others believe that Satan tempted her because she did not hear God's commands directly (cf. Gen. 2:16-17). All of this is speculation.

▣ "Indeed, has God said" The rabbis say that Satan could not use the term YHWH because he was unfamiliar with the mercy of God. However, there seems to be an intensification of wickedness in the person of Satan in the Bible (cf. The Theology of the Old Testament by A. B. Davidson, pp. 300-306).

Special Topic: Personal Evil

▣ "You shall not eat from any tree of the garden" This Hebrew phrase is very specific but it seems to be grammatically an affirmation, not a question. The serpent is simply beginning a dialogue with the woman in connection with God's prohibition to the tree in the midst of the garden.

3:2 Eve states God's provision of all of the other trees as food (cf. Gen. 2:16). But the serpent brushes this aside to focus in on God's prohibition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

3:3 "but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden" From Gen. 2:9 we learn that there are two trees in the midst of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Apparently at the proper time the fruit of both of these trees would have been given to mankind, but mankind's grabbing self-assertion takes this out of the plan of God (how opposite is Jesus' reaction in Phil. 2:6-11). The tree of life is common to all Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts, however, the tree of knowledge of good and evil is unique to the Bible. There is nothing magical about the fruit. It was the way that God was using it, not anything inherent in the physical qualities of the fruit itself, that made it significant.

▣ "or you will die" This term (BDB 559, KB 502) is used three times in Gen. 3:3 and 4. It is uncertain what Eve understood about death for none of the animals (in Eden at least) had died. However, this may have been somehow communicated to the man and woman. The Bible knows of three kinds of death:

  1. the spiritual death which occurs in Genesis 3; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 7:10-11; Eph. 2:1; James 1:15
  2. the physical death which results, Genesis 5
  3. the eternal death as a consequence of man's stubborn, rebellious heart (cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8)

See full note at Gen. 2:17.

3:4 "The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!'" This is the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a Qal IMPERFECT from the same root (BDB 559, KB 562) used for emphasis. Satan has first of all attacked God's veracity; now he attacks the truth of God's word. And, in Gen. 3:5, he will attack God's benevolence and goodness toward humankind.

3:5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened" There was limited truth in what Satan said, but it was a tragic half-truth (cf. Titus 1:15). This seems to be a translator's literary (metaphorical) use of "day," as meaning "whenever." Literally the Hebrew phrase is "that when."

The VERB "opened" (BDB 824, KB 959, Niphal PERFECT with waw, cf. Gen. 3:7) implies an agent, possibly the power of the tree or the evil one.

▣ "you will be like God" This word for God is the term Elohim. It is used in this context for the Creator, God Himself, and this is how many translations interpret this phrase. However, this term can also be used of the angels (cf. Ps. 8:5,6; 82:1,6 [quoted in Heb. 2:7]; 97:7); it can be used of a "spirit being" (cf. 1 Sam. 28:13) and it can be used of Israeli judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9). It seems more logical that this is a promise of being like the angels, the spiritual beings who are present with God, or possibly the heavenly council (see notes at Gen. 1:26; 3:22). It is ironical that mankind tried to grasp from God what was already his. Humanity is a higher spiritual order than the angels (cf. Heb. 1:14; 2:14-16; 1 Cor. 6:3).

Special Topic: Names for Deity, C.

3:6 "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 desirable to make one wise" Here we see the threefold development from the temptation to the actual act of sin. The rabbis say that the eyes and ears are windows of the soul and what we let in grows in our heart until the fateful act is committed.

▣ "and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate" There has been much speculation about this verse. The rabbis assert that Adam ate so that he would not be separated from his wife. This is also asserted by Milton in Paradise Lost. However, it seems from the context, that Eve acted toward Adam as the serpent had toward her, along with the experiential evidence that she had already eaten and was not dead. The rabbis even assert that the serpent used this same technique with Eve; that he forced her to touch the fruit and said, "See, you did not die." Possibly she told Adam, "See, I'm not dead."

3:7 "and they knew that they were naked" This has been used by many commentators to assert a sexual nature to the temptation (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3, "the serpent seduced Eve"). The rabbis even say that the serpent sexually seduced Eve, but this seems to be reading into the text. Their new knowledge was not the blessing it was cracked up to be (cf. Titus 1:15).

▣ "sewed fig leaves together" The traditional view that Eve ate "an apple" is highly speculative because apples do not grow in this geographical area. The rabbis say that she ate a fig from the same tree from which they took the leaves to clothe themselves. However, "the fruit" could be a date or some other kind of fruit—we simply do not know. The kind of fruit is not an issue.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 3:8-13
  8They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." 11And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

3:8 "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden" King James has "the voice of the Lord God" but the Hebrew word implies the sound of Him walking (BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael PARTICIPLE). This VERB has the connotation of exercising authority (see NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1034, #6). The structure of the Hebrew and the context seem to imply that this was a regular activity where the Creator God and the first couple met for fellowship. This is an anthropomorphic phrase for God, who is a spiritual being and does not have a body. Some have postulated that God clothed Himself in human form for fellowship with the original couple. This may be true, but the only part of the Triune God that has a corporeal existence is the Son. Some have speculated that since the NT asserts creation to the agency of the Son (cf. John 1:3,10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), and that often there are physical manifestations of God (i.e., Angel of the Lord, e.g. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2,4; 13:21; 14:19) this may refer to the pre-incarnate Christ.

Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism)

Special Topic: The Problems and Limitations of Human Language

▣ "in the cool of the day" The Hebrew phrase is related to the term for the wind (BDB 398). It speaks of the cool breeze either of the morning or the evening.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT), p. 32, suggests that "day" in Akkadian can mean "storm." If so, the imagery of "sound" may relate to a thunderstorm. Thunder characterizes YHWH's presence on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 19:9,16,18-19, and many more).

▣ "the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God" This VERB (BDB 285, KB 284) is Hithpael IMPERFECT with waw. This is the exact opposite of the purpose of creation. The tragedy of sin can already be seen in the emotional as well as physical separation between God and His creation (cf. Ps. 139; Rev. 6:16).

3:9 "Where are you?" Obviously this is not God looking for information, but asking a question so that they could realize what they had done (cf. Gen. 3:11). These types of rhetorical questions in the OT have been used to assert a developing aspect in God's character, called "Open Theism" (i.e., Clark Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover), but I reject these assumptions.

3:10 "I was afraid because I was naked" What a tragedy! Adam is afraid of the loving God who created him and wanted to know him. The intensity of evil can be clearly seen here as mankind still continues to hide from God, from himself, from his family and from the natural order. The fact that he was naked was simply a coverup of the real problem which was open-eyed rebellion to the will of God.

Special Topic: Fear (OT)

Special Topic: Shame

3:12 "The man said" Here we have the emphasis on the fact that "the man" is responsible even though he tries to blame Eve, even God Himself. Even in the midst of numerous excuses, blaming either Eve or God, the man is responsible for his own actions. Flip Wilson's theology, "The Devil made me do it!" is no more of an excuse than "Cultural environment made me do it" or "Genetic predisposition made me do it," etc.

3:13 "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" Eve quickly learned from Adam and she began to make excuses. The term "deceived" seems to mean "cause to forget" (BDB 674, KB 728, Hiphil PERFECT). It may be an onomatopoeia to the serpent's hissing (i.e., hissi'ani). The NT mentions Eve's deception in 2 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:14.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS INTO GENESIS 3:14-24

INTRODUCTION

A. This passage, like Gen. 3:1-12, is crucial in our understanding of our world's present condition of sin, sickness, pain, injustice, and evil. This is not the world that God intended it to be.

 

B. This passage, especially Gen. 3:15, gives us our first word about what our world is going to be because of God's redemptive intervention! It is God's great promise of redemption to fallen, rebellious humanity and it will come through "the woman."

 

C. The consequences of rebellion against God's person and word is clearly depicted! Satan is clearly seen as a liar and sin fully runs its course in the lives of Adam and Eve, their children, and their descendants.

 

D. The relationship between man and woman is clearly delineated in Gen. 3:16 (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-15; Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1). The stressed relationships of our world are a direct result of original, willful disobedience. If there is etiology in the OT, this could be an example. However, they have also been affected by God's grace in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:11; Gal. 3:28).

 

E. The rabbis reject original sin and posit the two "yetzers" (intents). However, there seems to be OT corroboration for Adam's originally sinning in Job 14:4; 15:14; 25:4; Ps. 51:5 and the classical NT passage of Rom. 3:9-18,23; 5:12-21.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 3:14-19
14The Lord God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
16To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you."
17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."

3:14 "The Lord God" This is the combination of the two major words for God in the OT, YHWH and Elohim. See note at Gen. 2:4.

▣ "said to the serpent" God does not ask questions of the serpent as He did of Adam and Eve. The serpent is judged as being

  1. a chaos creature
  2. a tool of the evil one

Special Topic: The Serpent

Special Topic: Personal Evil

▣ "cursed are you more than all cattle" The VERB (BDB 76, KB 91) is a Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE. This does not imply that all of the cattle (wider meaning than cows, possibly land animals) were already cursed. The phrase "more" can mean "out of all the cattle." The rabbinical Midrash says that this refers to the gestation period of the cattle versus that of the snake, which the Talmud says is seven years.

▣ "on your belly will you go" This term "belly" (BDB 161) occurs only twice in the OT. Anything that crawled on its belly was considered unclean by the Hebrews (cf. Lev. 11:42). The rabbinical Midrash says that God cut the legs off the serpent in order to make him crawl, but maybe this is similar to the sign of the rainbow of Gen. 9:13, something which always existed but now takes on added meaning when used by God in a special way.

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 129-130, suggests that this is ANE imagery for the aggressive nature of a venomous snake being changed by its crawling in the dust vs. not rising to strike.

B. Jacob and J. Wenham suggest it is a symbol of acknowledging God's authority (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 851).

▣ "and dust will you eat" This is alluded to in Isa. 65:25. There seems to be an aspect of God cursing the literal snake. This phrase may be a metaphor in the Bible to refer to defeat and shame (cf. Ps. 79:9; Isa. 49:23; Micah 7:17). Both of the IMPERFECTS of this verse are used in a JUSSIVE sense.

3:15 "and I will put enmity" Enmity (BDB 33) is a word used between persons. This seems to be the transition where God's judgment is addressed to Satan, not a literal serpent (cf. Rev. 12:9; 20:2). See "The Presence of God Qualifying our Notions of Grammatical-historical Interpretation: Genesis 3:15 as a Test Case" by Vern S. Poythress, JETS, vol. 50.1, pp. 87-103).

▣ "between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed" There has been much discussion among commentators about this verse. In a larger canonical context it seems to refer to the children (i.e., "seed," BDB 282) of the evil one (cf. Matt. 13:38; John 8:44) and the children of the Messiah (cf. LXX and Irenaeus). But because the next verse uses the SINGULAR form "he" and "you" it seems to refer to the tension between God and the evil one symbolized in the redemptive work of the coming Messiah (cf. LXX and Irenaeus). It is obvious that Adam and Eve did not understand the ramification of this (i.e., Eve thought the birth of Cain may have fulfilled this, cf. Gen. 4:1), nor probably did Moses, although Moses recognized in Deut. 18:18 that a prophet greater than himself was coming. I think that it probably does have a veiled allusion to the virgin birth, though this was surely unknown to the original human author, but known to the divine author (Holy Spirit). As mankind fell through the impulsiveness of the woman, mankind will be redeemed through the obedience of a woman in the supernatural conception of the Messiah by the Holy Spirit (cf. Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38, see A Guide To Biblical Prophecy, pp. 78 and 80). The Vulgate changes the "he" in the next phrase to "she," which is totally inappropriate, but it may catch the gist of the fuller significance.

As this prophecy is not fully understood until its historical fulfillment in the virgin birth of Jesus, the same is to be said about the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. History reveals the truthfulness of revelation as the continuing scientific study of our earth shows the intricacy and inter-relatedness of God's creative acts! There is no conflict, just a more complete knowledge on mankind's part as to God's activities!

Special Topic: Virgin

NASB   "He shall bruise you on the head"
NKJV   "He shall bruise your head"
NRSV   "he will strike your head"
TEV   "Her offspring will crush your head"
NJB   "It will bruise your head"
REB, JPSOA   "They will strike at your head"
LXX   "he will watch your head"
Peshitta   "her posterity shall tread your head under foot"

The term "bruise" can mean "crush," "pound," "rub off," "grind," or "strike" (BDB 1003, KB 1446, Qal IMPERFECT MASCULINE, SINGULAR, used twice, cf. Job 9:17). Notice the SINGULAR PERSONAL PRONOUN (BDB 214, cf. Rom. 16:20). The battle will eventually come down to individuals.

NASB   "And you shall bruise him on the heel"
NKJV   "and you shall bruise His heel"
NRSV, Peshitta   "and you will strike his heel"
TEV   "and you will bite her offsprings' heel"
NJB   "and you will strike its heel"
REB, JPSOA   "you will strike at their heel"
LXX   "you will watch his heel"

The same VERB (BDB 1003, KB 1446, Qal IMPERFECT MASCULINE SINGULAR) is used for both, but it is obvious that Satan gets the worst end of the deal. This seems to refer to the crucifixion as the means of the substitutionary atonement for all humans when understood from the NT perspective.

Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

3:16 "To the woman He said" There seem to be four major elements here:

  1. multiply pain in childbirth (Hiphil INFINITIVE ABDOLUTE and a Hiphil IMPERFECT of the same VERB, BDB 915, KB 176)
  2. too many children to rear
  3. problems associated with rearing children
  4. the dominance of the husband (see Dahood, "multiply your pain and your lust")

We can see how these are connected with Eve's rebellion:

  1. she wanted to be independent, but now she is totally dependent on her husband (and not God)
  2. she sought for joy and happiness in the forbidden fruit, but now she has pain in the normal aspect of her life

It is obvious that the NT understands this as a theological significance of the fallen relationship between men and women (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-15). We must strike a balance between who we are in Christ, 1 Cor. 11:11; Gal. 3:28, and what we continue to be, in some respects, in Adam, Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1.

There is some confusion in the Hebrew text at this point. The term translated here "in childbirth" is spelled differently. The Hebrew consonants could mean "lying-in-wait-for," referring to evil tempting the children (cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 90-99), similar to Gen. 4:7.

There is a good brief article on the biblical imagery of "birth" and "birthing" in The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 95-96.

▣ "yet your desire will be for your husband" The Hebrew word is translated here "desire" or "longing" (BDB 1003, KB 1801). Walter Kaiser asserts that it can mean "to turn," possibly in the sense of "to dominate" (cf. Gen. 4:7). Eve turned away from YHWH. Her punishment is her continuing turning to her husband, who often takes advantage of the situation (cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, IVP p. 97-98).

▣ "he will rule over you" The VERB (BDB 605, KB 647) is a Qal IMPERFECT. This seems to be a result of the fall and, God help us, males' sinful nature has taken it to the extreme. Jealousy, rape, divorce, and godless dominance have characterized mankind's sexual drive! We have become like the animals but with the problem of ego added to sexual desire!

Special Topic: Human Sexuality

3:17 "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife" Adam should have been following God's word, but he followed his wife's word and broke God's specific command (cf. Gen. 2:15-17).

▣ "cursed is the ground because of you" The VERB (BDB 76, KB 91, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) means the opposite of blessed. The ground will no longer produce freely and abundantly. The current earth is not what God intended!

Special Topic: Natural Resources

There is a play on the word "Adam" (Adam, BDB 9) and the word "ground" (adamah, BDB 9). Both have the same root. We can see the consequences of the fall of mankind and nature in Rom. 8:18-23. See full note at Gen. 1:26.

It has also been proposed that this reflects the state of nature outside the Garden of Eden. After their rebellion Adam and Eve are sent out of God's special place into the reality of a hunter/gatherer, tooth-and-claw world (i.e., Cain's fear, Gen. 4:14).

▣ "in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life" Adam was possibly given the task of keeping the garden before the Fall (see full note at Gen. 2:15), which was a sign of his dominion, but now the task of securing food and shelter would become wearisome, repetitive, mandatory, and never ending (i.e., "toil," BDB 781). And even with mankind's labor, the ground yields meager produce (cf. Gen. 3:18).

Notice the number of times the VERB "eat" (BDB 37, KB 46) is used in these opening chapters (cf. Gen. 2:16,17; 3:1,2,3,6,11,12,13,14,17[twice],18,19,22)! It relates to both the promise of abundance and the terrible results of the curse.

3:19 "till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken" This is a direct connection between Adam's fall, spiritual death (Genesis 3) and physical death (Genesis 5). God is trustworthy. He said that they would experience death in all of its ramifications and they certainly did!

Special Topic: Burial Practices

▣ "you are dust" This refers to Gen. 2:7. The Genesis account uses both "dust" and "clay" as God's building materials.

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, pp. 72-77, asserts that "dust" is imagery to describe the mortality of "the man" and his wife (and by implication, all humans) before the Fall. This is opposite of the Augustinian view of humans in Genesis 1-3. Walton suggests that the presence of a "tree of life" clearly demonstrates that they were mortal or why would they need a tree like that.

Walton's books on Genesis 1 and 2-3 have really caused me to rethink my understanding of these early chapters of God's revelation. He has encouraged me to be truthful to my own hermeneutical principles, especially the priority of the original literary and historical context. It is so painful to be made aware of one's own biases, presuppositions, and cultural blinders! But, it is also so exciting and freeing. Thank you, John Walton. He has done for me in Genesis what D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks, has done for me in prophecy and apocalyptic literature, and what Gordon Fee has done for me in NT studies. God, thank You for these men!

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 3:20-21
  20
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

3:20 "Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living" The husband's dominion over his wife is now symbolized by his naming her. Etymologically, the words "Eve" (hawwa) and "the living" (haya) are very similar and this was probably a popular Hebrew word play. These word plays on Adam, Eve, Cain-Nod show the literary nature of these early accounts. It is ironical that she is called "Eve" which means "living" when instead of life, she brought death.

3:21 It is unusual that humans needed this clothing unless climate and/or other radical changes awaited mankind outside the garden of Eden.

This first death, instituted by God for mankind's need, clearly shows God's care and provision as well as the reality of judgment and consequence!

Special Topic: Why God Clothed Adam and Eve in Animal Skins

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 3:22-24
  22Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" -- 23therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

3:22 "Behold, the man has become like one of Us" There has been much discussion about these PLURALS in Genesis (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7). Genesis 3:22 begins with a SINGULAR and develops into a PLURAL. If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, this obviously does refer to the triune God (see Special Topic: The Trinity.), not to the Hebrew grammatical form called the PLURAL OF MAJESTY. However, it could refer to

  1. the angelic council (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:19)
  2. the two divine persons in Ps. 110:1
  3. the personification of deity known as the angel of the Lord

For one example of many, see the burning bush of Exod. 3:2,4.

▣ "knowing" See Special Topic: Know.

▣ "the tree of life" We have noted earlier (see notes at Gen. 2:9) that a tree of life is common in most Ancient Near Eastern creation texts. Here, mankind is excluded, not because of the jealousy of the gods, but because it would be a curse for mankind to live forever in his current fallen state.

▣ "live forever" See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

3:23 "therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden" This is a strong VERBAL form (BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel IMPERFECT with waw) that has negative connotations. In Deut. 21:14 it refers to divorce, and in 1 Kgs. 9:7 it refers to judgment on the nation of Israel.

Genesis 3:23-24 imply a walled garden, separate from the surrounding environment. It was a unique, protected place, especially created for Adam and Eve to fellowship with their Creator.

3:24 "the cherubim" These are winged angelic creatures (BDB 500) which guarded the garden of God to keep mankind out. They later appear in tabernacle/temple art. The fact that the Garden is guarded shows it was a special place, a protected environment, which is now off limits to human kind.

Special Topic: Cherubim

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this allegory, myth, or historical-narrative?

2. Is the serpent literal and did it talk?

3. Was the serpent energized and possessed by the evil one? If so, how and why?

4. Did God know what Adam and Eve would do? If so, why did He allow it?

5. Describe in your own terms the degrees of development of the serpent's temptation and the specific charges against God.

6. How can God, as a spiritual being, have a body?

7. Does chapter 3 explain the presence of evil in our world and the presence of guilt in the heart of mankind? If so, why is it not discussed more completely in the OT?

8. Is the serpent serving as God's servant to test mankind or is he already a rebel against God (cf. Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3)?

9. Why did God judge an animal which was simply being used by Satan?

10. Is Gen. 3:15 an allusion to the coming Messiah or simply the fear between women and snakes?

11. It is obvious that our modern society which emphasizes equality between men and women rejects Gen. 3:16 as a universal principle. Why do you believe that this verse is or is not still valid?

12. Is Gen. 3:20 an act of repentance and faith on Adam's part or a willful assertion that he and Eve can do it by themselves?

13. Explain the use of the PLURALS that are used of God in Gen. 3:22. Is this a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity or something else? Why or why not?

 

Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Genesis Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |

Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International