“The Lord God commanded the man saying: ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.’” (Gen. 2:16)
God gave Adam and Eve a test. He told the couple to freely eat from any tree in the garden. There was going to be only one exception.
“But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:17)
The word “but,” an extremely important contrast, pointed to God’s first negative command. God made it very easy for Adam and Eve to pass the test by giving them trees to eat from that were beautiful to the eyes with fruit that was delicious to the taste (Gen. 2:9). This was all that their appetite could desire.
But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was off limits. What do you suppose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was like? Was it an old, ugly, gnarled witch’s tree with green slimy fruit hanging off it? Was there a sign of a skull and cross bones standing nearby saying, “Poison! Do not touch” It was evidently no different than any other tree in the garden. In fact, it was probably a very beautiful tree just like the others. The test had nothing to do with the looks of the tree or the taste of its fruit. The test was within the spiritual capacity of Adam’s soul.
“For in the day” is a Hebrew idiomatic expression. An idiom is an expression used by the people of that day. This idiom means “at the exact time or at the precise time.” God said to Adam, at the time that you eat you will surely die. “Dying you will die” is also a Hebrew emphatic phrase! If one wanted to emphasize something in Hebrew the words would be repeated. This is how this phrase looks in the original language; “Muth, tomuth.” And it could be translated, “Dying, you will surely, most positively die.” This is the first mention of death in the Bible. Death is not a human word but a Bible word.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.” (Rom. 11:33)
Satan had rebelled against God (Isa. 14:12-14) and God had cast him into the earth. (See “The First Sinner”). God had created man and placed him in the garden. Satan may have thought that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree that would determine his ultimate fate, but he was wrong. That was not the tree! That tree would come later. It would be located upon a small hill called “Golgotha.”
“Now 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’?” (Gen. 3:1)
This was no ordinary serpent. “Crafty” is from the Hebrew word for sensible, shrewd, and prudent. Remember that Satan was created “blameless in his ways” (Eze. 28:15). He was extremely intelligent. He knew God’s original command to the man and the woman to rule over all lower creation. He also may have understood the result of Adam being created first and taken from the soil. Adam was responsible to God. The woman had been taken from the man, and so she became responsible to God through the man. Satan reasoned that the man must fail the test in the garden and fail of his own free will. But how could this be accomplished? Watch closely!
The Woman First
Satan attacked the woman first. He understood God’s chain of command! If Satan had gone to the man first and deceived him, the man would have had an excuse before God. He could have complained that he had been deceived. And Adam would have given the fruit to Eve and she would have had to eat it in order to remain submissive to the man. Both the man and the woman would have an excuse before God.
But Satan went to the woman! He deceived her, and then the woman approached the man. The man then had to make a decision. He would have no excuses. But as we will see, God is the ultimate genius.
Speaking to the woman he said.
“Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden.’” (Gen. 3:16)
This question to the woman was designed to confuse. Satan is a master of illusion and confusion. “Isha, will God not let you eat from every tree in the garden?” Before we begin to consider Isha’s answer, think about this. At the heart of man’s human wisdom is the desire to be free. Man wants to be free from poverty, ignorance, disease and all absolutes. At the bottom of Satan’s question to Eve is her freedom. “Isha, are you not free to do anything that you wish? You’re not free to eat of any tree in the garden!”
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.’” (Gen. 3:2)
Eve should have said, “We may eat from every tree in the garden. Our Creator has provided them all for us. But the Creator, whose will we know to be the best, has commanded us not to eat of this one; and since He knows best for us, we willingly submit to Him.” Or better still she could have asked the serpent to speak with her husband. But she responded!
“From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But 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.” (Gen. 3:3)
She was evidently now focusing on the tree. It was as if something was wrong with that tree. An element of doubt was put in her thinking by the deceiver. There were no fences around the tree; there were no pits around it with crocodiles in them; there were no signs with skull and crossbones. The tree was not poisonous. The issue was not with the tree. Satan by deception had struck the chord of Eve’s emotion and caused her to temporarily set aside the facts.
“The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” (Gen. 3:4)
The Hebrew is more graphic than the English. Satan said, “No! You will by no means die.” This is arguably the greatest lie from the lips of the greatest liar in all of history. Satan is the father of lies.
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn. 8:44)
Satan invented lying! God had said that to eat the fruit of that tree would bring death. Satan blatantly contradicted God.
“For 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.” (Gen. 3:5)
He was saying, “Isha, God is keeping something from you. If you eat from it, then your eyes will be opened.” This is a Hebrew idiom that implied that she would really begin to understand like never before, and she would be like God knowing good and evil.
Satan was telling the woman that she could become the captain of her own destiny. She could have power and glory. She would be free and able to make her own decisions, free from the restraints of this unreasonable God that she served.
The sinner from the position of being “in sin,” cannot understand sin. Everything becomes distorted. Only the person free of sin understands its true meaning and consequences. Adam and Eve had been truly free and did not recognize it. The freedom of innocence is much better than the responsibility of conscience. Satan now plays his trump card.
“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, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)
The appeal of the temptation went through her eyes to her emotion. She did not say a word. She was at this point completely captivated. “Good to eat” meant that it appealed to the human appetite. “To be desirable” is to create a longing for something. The woman craved the fruit of this forbidden tree. She began to rationalize her decision. The fruit looked good. It was desirable, and after all it would make her wise! Here is rationalization at its best.
Once we have made up our minds to sin, we begin to rationalize and make wrong appear to be right. The fall was not an instantaneous act. It was a process. Woman saw the forbidden. She desired the forbidden. She took the forbidden. This is the pattern of temptation leading to sin (Joshua 7:21, 2 Samuel 11:2-4).
The First Sinner on Earth
The first sinner upon the earth was Isha, the woman. Adam then had a decision to make. On one hand, he had the word of God, “Don’t eat the fruit!” On the other hand, he had his mate. He knew very well what the issue was. Whatever his choice, Adam could not say that he did not know all the facts.
The woman became the initiator, not the responder. She gave the fruit to her husband and he ate. This is obviously one of the most important phrases in all of God’s word, but it is not written in red or in italics or in bold letters or underlined. No bells rang; no strobe lights starting flashing; no sirens went off.
Adam ate, and immediately he died. Death means separation. Immediately Adam was separated from God. With his mind, Adam no longer knew God. With his emotion, he no longer had a desire to fellowship with God; and with his will, he could no longer choose to fellowship with God. He died spiritually, and at that moment he also began to die physically.
Adam took the test of God in the garden and he failed. He knowingly sinned against God; and when he sinned, he immediately died. His heart did not stop beating, nor did he stop breathing and fall over lifeless, but he did die. He died on the inside! (See “The Consequences of the Fall”). The spiritual aspect of his soul was instantly separated from God. Adam became an earthy man, completely out of touch with his Creator. He became a “natural man.”
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually understood.” (1 Cor. 2:14)
With his spiritual image now detached, his soul could operate only in the earthy realm. Adam had lost his relationship with God. Eventually, at the age of 930 years, Adam would die physically (Gen. 5:5).
Why the Fall
Why did God give Adam the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Remember that it is the plan of the Creator to reveal the riches of His glory upon His vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:23).
The riches of God’s glory will evidently include the knowledge of good and evil. What is so wrong with knowing the difference between good and evil? It is a good quality for children to have.
“Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deut. 1:39)
It is a good quality for kings to have.
“Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)
In fact, God had the ability Himself.
“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen. 3:22)
The knowledge of good and evil is a quality of God. It is not the knowledge of good and evil that is the problem. What matters is from what source and position do we learn the difference. Adam learned the difference from the vantage point of a sinner. He should have learned the truth by doing that which was right. It may be God’s design to teach His vessels of mercy the ultimate reason for good and evil. God clearly wants his vessels of mercy to recognize that His will is best. Everyone will discover in time that God’s will is best, and in eternity He will shed light upon Himself and His faithfulness (Phil 2:5-11). God had ordained a Lamb before the foundation of the world. That means that the fall did not catch Him by surprise (1 Pet. 1:20). God has a plan!
God’s Redemption Plan
God deceived the deceiver. He miraculously allowed the woman to be deceived first in order to reserve for Himself a means to come into the slave-market later! (See “The Virgin Birth”).
New American Standard Bible
Robert B. Thieme, Jr.; Tape Series on Genesis
Bible Knowledge Commentary; Old Testament