1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 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.’” 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.” 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. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. – Genesis 3:1-7 ESV
With the opening of chapter three, the story takes a sudden and decidedly dark turn. The preceding chapter ended with the first marriage ceremony, officiated over by God Himself, as He joined together as “one flesh,” the man and woman He had created. It had been an idyllic scene, as Adam welcomed his new wife.
“At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’” – Genesis 2:25 NLT
And Moses ended that chapter by noting that “the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25 NLT). They enjoyed a relationship built on innocence, transparency, and complete trust. They were just as God had intended them to be and, together, they enjoyed the bountiful and beautiful environment He had prepared for them. Yet, their state of unadulterated innocence and intimacy was about to change – forever.
One day, as Eve walked in the garden, she was confronted by one of the other “living creatures.“ In a scene straight out of a Harry Potter novel, Eve is confronted by a beautiful and particularly beguiling serpent. Surprisingly, Eve does not seem to be shocked at the creature’s capacity to speak. Due to her recent arrival on the scene, Eve may have not yet interacted with any of the other animals, so she would have been unaware that the capacity of speech was solely restricted to humans. The fact that the serpent spoke to her does not seem to surprise her. But the words that come from the mouth of the serpent will have life-altering implications.
It is interesting to note the wordplay that takes place between verse 25 of chapter two and verse 1 of chapter three. In Hebrew, the word for “naked” is עָרוֹם (ʿārôm), and the word used to describe the craftiness of the serpent is עָרוּם (ʿārûm). Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses these two words to differentiate between Eve, the innocent protagonist, and the serpent, the clever and cunning antagonist. The serpent is going to make a full-frontal assault on the child-like innocence and inexperience of Eve.
But before preceding, we have to address the issue of the serpent’s identity. Was this just another snake in the garden? It would seem that the answer is no. This serpent displayed the capacity to reason and speak. Moses describes it as being “more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). This statement could indicate that the serpent was not one of God’s creations. Then where did it come from? Most biblical scholars agree that the serpent was a manifestation of Satan himself. The prophet Ezekiel describes Satan as being in Eden.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you. – Ezekiel 28:13-15 ESV
And Ezekiel describes the ignominious fall of this “anointed guardian cherub” who had been “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12 ESV).
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you. – Ezekiel 28:17 ESV
And the prophet Isaiah provides further insights into Satan’s epic fall from grace.
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’” – Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV
Satan, desiring to be as God, had led an angelic insurrection against the Almighty. But his attempt to overthrow and replace God had failed and he was cast down to earth. In the book of Revelation, John provides an apt description of this former ministering angel. He refers to him as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9 ESV). Jesus described Satan as “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44 ESV). With this statement, Jesus seems to indicate Satan’s role in the fall. He played the part of the deceiver, using lies and half-truths to persuade Adam and Eve to rebel against God. And Jesus went on to explain that Satan “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV).
It seems clear that the serpent was merely a tool, a deceptive prop in the hands of Satan. It could be that Satan even disguised himself in the guise of a serpent in order to infiltrate the garden and catch the unsuspecting Eve off guard. The apostle Paul, when calling the false teachers who were deceiving local congregations, he described them as “deceitful workman, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 ESV). Then, he went on to explain the source of their deception.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 ESV
It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to consider Satan as disguising himself as a serpent. In that form, he was able to approach Eve and raise questions about the integrity and trustworthiness of God. He may have been cast down, but he had not yet given up his desire to replace God. This time, he chose to attack God’s chosen image-bearers in an effort to dissuade them from the kingdom mandate they had been given. And his weapon of choice was deceit, designed to produce doubt, which would eventually lead to disobedience. He began his conversation with Eve by asking a cleverly worded question:
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 2:1 ESV
He was testing her knowledge and understanding of God’s command concerning the trees of the garden. But he was also subtly encouraging Eve to doubt the integrity of God’s word.
But Eve calmly responded, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 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’” (Genesis 3:2-3 ESV). But Eve exposed her ignorance of God’s command by adding the inaccurate prohibition against touching the tree. Her answer was only partially correct, and this opened the door to Satan’s next salvo.
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5 ESV
With this one statement, Satan planted the seeds of doubt that would soon spring forth into full-grown disobedience. He blatantly refuted the word of God by declaring that eating the fruit of the forbidden tree would result in life, not death. He insinuated to Even that God was holding out on them. The Almighty was trying to prevent them from experiencing all that they were meant to be. He asserted that if they actually disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would be like God. In other words, the fruit would give them the capacity to determine right from wrong. They would become autonomous and self-governing. In a sense, they would be like God in that they would be able to determine what was best for themselves. They would no longer have to live by God’s restrictive and repressive rules.
Satan portrayed God as the deceiver. He turned the tables and cast God as the villain in the story. It was Yahweh who was keeping them from enjoying their well-deserved freedom and right to self-determination.
And Eve quickly succumbed to Satan’s tempting ploy. Moses states that “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” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). She immediately experienced what the apostle John would later describe as “a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions” (1 John 2:16 NLT). She fell in love with the fruit and all that it could offer. And she ate. She gave in to the temptation. Not only that, she shared the forbidden fruit with her husband. Yes, Adam was there. He had been the entire time. He had heard the entire conversation between Eve and the serpent and had never spoken up. It had been to Adam that God had given the original warning concerning the tree.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 ESV
He knew exactly what God had said and should have refuted the lies of the serpent. But, instead, Adam followed his wife’s lead and accepted her offer of the fruit. He too, doubted God’s word and made the fateful decision to disobey God’s command. And the rest, they say, is history. Moses sadly states, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7 ESV). They got exactly what the serpent had promised: Their eyes were opened. But what they saw disturbed them. Rather looking on one another’s innocence, they viewed themselves in the guise of guilt. They had sinned and they knew it. And they immediately tried to cover their nakedness and hide themselves from the all-seeing eyes of God.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.