Updated: Sep 26, 2019
A reflection upon:
"Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God made.
He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?'
The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden.
But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said,
'You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.'
'No! You will not die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'
The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."
There is no greater defining moment of mankind than that of our downfall which occurred in the garden of Eden. Prior to it, man [and woman] were in perfect communion and fellowship with God as they walked in the midst of the garden and experienced the blessings which such a relationship with God had. However, over the course of what appears to be some simple dialogue everything changes: Adam and Eve sin by entering into disobedience to God which in turn immediately produces death- by both severing the relationship and communion with God, as well as corrupting the very bodies which were prepared for both Adam and Eve to experience and enjoy this relationship and communion with God, thus consequently demanding it to be destroyed.
Most Christians are familiar with this passage. In fact, all Christians make it a point to read through the entirety of the Bible, and all make it to [at least] the first few chapters of Genesis. And some may persist only this far and to this point- only a few chapters of Genesis, and lose a craving for the Word of God or simply lack the spiritual discipline to continue. I do not point this out to your shame should you fall under this category, my intention for pointing this out is to draw your attention [if possible] to the exposure every confessing and practicing Christian has to the text set before us. In fact, I would make the assertion that the first few chapters of Genesis consists of all that is needed to comprehend the Gospel message:
1. Genesis chapter 1 contains the revelation of God's omnipotence through creation [something which the apostle Paul references as the irrefutable acknowledgement of a Creator in Romans 1:20].
2. The author of Genesis [many attribute to be Moses] expounds upon the creation account by including the account of the creation of man [namely, Adam] in Chapter 2 and showed that man differed from all other creation in that man was made as an image bearer of God Himself and thus had dominion over all of the other creation upon the earth. This affinity towards man by God is solidified when examining the preeminence of Christ in Proverbs 8:22-31, in which He says that He "delighted in the children of Adam."(31)
3. Genesis chapter 3 shows us the eventual downfall of man as they entered into disobedience towards God and the consequences.
4. The following chapters [through chapter 6] show the "snowball effect" of man's sin and the dominion which sin had over man. In fact, so strong was the effect and dominion of sin over the sons of men that it is written as God looked over man and the degraded state they had reached that He "regretted that He had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved."(Genesis 6:6b)
And yet, despite this we see the affinity of God towards man revealed in that He still gave an opportunity for a means of salvation by way of the ark to deliver man from the judgement purposed upon man with the flood. This was a plan which was rejected by the majority- though all were given equal opportunity. Yes, one cannot read through the first few chapters of Genesis without seeing the parallels between the first and last Adam, the depravity of man and God's pity towards them nonetheless, and His active plans of offering a means of salvation to deliver them from the effects of their own decisions. The only difference is where man failed, the Man Jesus Christ [who was God manifested in the flesh] prevailed. Where the responsibility rested upon man- whether it be Adam or Noah to carry out God's desire(s) and plans, which proved to be temporal and flawed [not due to God's insufficiency but rather man's inability], God succeeded by taking the responsibility for bringing about salvation Himself [Isaiah 59:16] thus creating a lasting and enduring means of salvation and dealing with sin.
I shall end my "rabbit hole discourse" here. Though I would desire to continue writing upon the beauty of Christ interwoven through the Genesis account to the gospel as the continuity of Scripture reveals Him, this is not my desired intention for this specific discourse/ reflection. My desire is to draw acute attention to the interaction which led to man's eventual downfall between the serpent and Eve for the benefit of those who may read it to be better equipped to walk effectively as a follower of Christ. This account in Genesis chapter 3 single handily acted as a defining moment which both marred he history of man and shaped man's outcome.
Before beginning our examination it seems good for me to explain my desire to focus on this text. There are some who would claim there is little to no benefit of directing our attention on the Devil and sin, and that our chief end is to have an unbridled gaze set upon Jesus Christ alone. "Don't look backwards, only to Jesus!" Though such a statement may hold validity, it is written: "As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool returns to his folly."(Proverbs 26:11) In the very same sense, Christians can obtain wisdom by simply reflecting and acknowledging their errors which caused them to be exposed to their folly in order to correct and align themselves to the moral standards of Christ accordingly. Yet more importantly- we as Christians are engaged in a spiritual warfare the moment we are born [both physically, and our new birth- i.e conversion], and there is no greater "edge" over the enemy that we can have than to comprehend and understand how they operate in order to discern and predict their next move(s). As in a game of chess- you have already won if you can predict your opponent's next moves and can anticipate and prepare beforehand.
The apostle Paul comprehended this as one who waged a spiritual warfare in defense of the gospel and against disapproved ministers according to the gospel who desired to be accounted among the apostles [II Corinthians 10:1-6]. He was an expert tactician who excercised his thought and carefully acted with premeditated steps so as to ensure that "we do not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes."(II Corinthians 2:11b) So to my desire and intention is for us to examine the manner in which Satan influences and deceives so that in accordance to Ephesians 6:10 we might learn to stand against the schemes of the devil [having understood how he operates].
"Now the serpent...."(1a)
- Though it may appear tedious to reiterate myself once more, there is safety in pointing out once more the importance of setting our focus on the serpent considering the context in which he is introduced to us. In the previous chapter we see a few things:
1. Adam is placed by God in the garden to both work and watch after (2:15)
2. Up to this point Adam had already given a name to all of the living creatures that resided in the garden (2:19)
Genesis was intended to reveal the origin of man [as Genesis in Hebrew translates to "the origin of"], yet the narrative of man's origin is seemingly "hijacked" with the introduction of a new creature as the narrative focus shifts from God and man and revolves entirely around the serpent. This apparent "break" from the flow of narrative is completely intentional by Moses- the inclusion of the serpent within the explanation of man's origin is just as imperative as the inclusion of God Himself. With this inclusion of the serpent Moses [by inspiration of the Holy Spirit] desired to show what caused man to be alienated from the life of God by:
1. Identifying the act which caused this downfall
2. Identifying the circumstances which led to this downfall
3. The effect and result of the downfall
Enter: the serpent. Now, before I continue it seems best for me to say that the identity of the serpent in the garden of Eden has been a topic of despite among leading theologians. There as some who hold the view that the serpent itself was in fact Satan in accordance to Revelation 12:9, in which it is written when describing Satan:"[T]he ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan." And that the devil himself transformed himself and took on the appearance of a serpent in order to appear more harmless. Others hold the view that the devil did not transform himself into the serpent but rather used the serpent as an instrument for his wiles, as theologians cite Jesus' temptation in the wilderness where the devil did not come to Jesus in the appearance of another form and how Paul writes to Timothy concerning the importance of correcting false teachers who are used as his instruments by saying,"Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."(II Timothy 2:26).
However beneficial it may be to have the exact nuance and identity of this figure/creature which has taken the spotlight, let us now proceed forward in discerning the serpent based solely upon the context and cross examination with the original language used.
"was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.."(1b)
Adam, in accordance to the responsibility entrusted to him by God to name every animal had to give each animal a name based off of the characteristics which Adam discerned in each animal. Based off of his assessment, he describes the serpent as being the most cunning of all of the animals- there is a supremacy to the serpent's attribute [as being "the most"] and that attribute is cunning.
Cunning: "Having or showing skill in achieving one's ends by deceit or evasion [indirect answers/excuses]"
However, the original Hebrew word which is used to describe the serpent in our text [עָרוּם] being little more descriptive, has the inclusion of crafty, which is defined as "Clever at achieving one's aim by indirect or deceitful methods." And we the extent of this as we continue to break down the passage:
"He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?"(1c)
It is in the handling of this portion of verse 1 which I have many qualms with. I have heard ministers give their own insight and commentary on the manner in which Satan operates, and it is expressed as simply being doubt- that the devil comes to question the validity of God's word. That he simply places a question mark at the end of God's word. Although that very well may be one of the manners in which Satan [by means of the serpent] operates, the verse shows absolutely no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, in love I would urge that should you reach that very conclusion from the revealed text you would benefit to examine the manner in which you reason and excercise your thought- lest you too be susceptible to the cunning of the serpent.
Let us take a moment to consider a few things which we know- both through being familiar to the story and text, as well as what we have already gone over thus far:
1. The serpent wants Eve to act in disobedience to God by eating the fruit.
2. He is cunning and thus will rely on his craftiness and cleverness in order to manipulate Eve into carrying out his will [that is, desire] to eat the fruit.
Now, examine the question which the serpent poses to Eve once more:
"Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?"(1c)
Only this time compared to what God had revealed to Adam:
"You are free to eat from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on that day you eat from it, you will certainly die."
Reason within yourself, did the serpent simply place a question mark at the end of God's word? No. The serpent initiates his plan by misquoting the word of God altogether- thus producing a very skewed perspective of God. Examine once more the instruction given to Adam and discern what thought of God is produced: Adam is called to liberty. "You are free to eat from every tree…" There is both a freedom and exhortation to enjoy this freedom given by God, however there is a limitation to this freedom: there is a single tree in the midst of the vast garden of Eden which Adam mustn't eat of. Compared to what the serpent was portraying: A God of restriction and restraint. "You can't eat from any tree in the garden.." Suddenly, God no longer wished that Adam and his wife Eve should enjoy any of the fruits found on any tree- they were to abstain from everything.
"The woman said to the serpent.."(2a)
Have we ever for moment considered the absurdity of what we are witnessing unfold before us in our text? Whether the serpent was the devil incarnate himself or simply an instrument used by the Devil to act as a means for him to speak with Eve is not as astonishing in and of itself as Eve's response to hearing a serpent speak. Though there is little record of Adam and Eve's relation to the animals prior to the fall- which has led some to speculate that they in fact conversed with animals, there is no evidence to suggest this. Yes, it is true that the Lord loosed the mouth of the donkey to converse with Balaam, however we mustn't forget that it was done to show the extent of the prophet's depravity- that it required something as abnormal as a speaking donkey in order to reason with Balaam. However the name of the animal perhaps gives us insight to the calm reaction of Eve.
The Hebrew name for serpent as it is used here [וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙] means "shiny one" and denotes foretelling, or prophecy. In other words, to Eve this serpent was a mouthpiece and messenger of God who had approached her in order to give her divine instruction from God Himself. Adam had received the divine instruction of God from God Himself, however Eve had not yet been created. Adam had received a divine interaction with God, and now it was Eve's turn to receive something personal.
"We may eat of the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, 'You must not eat it nor touch it, or you will die."(2b)
It is in Eve's response to the serpent where we find the sole reason which eventually led to the downfall of man. Read the second half of verse 2 once more and carefully read what Eve attributes to the instruction which God had given compared to what God said to Adam [once more]:
"You are free to eat from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on that day you eat from it, you will certainly die."
Despite properly discerning that the serpent had misquoted what God had said, Eve proved that she herself did not hold a proper grasping of what God had said when quoting [albeit, misquoting] God by including an additional restriction which God had never said- that they were not to touch the fruit. It is precisely this- that Eve had an improper handling of God's word which causes the serpent to become more bold in his assertion, manipulation, and deceit:
"No! You will not die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."(4-5)
This poses a question: was there validity to the statement which the serpent made? Remember- the original Hebrew name for "serpent" denotes foretelling, or prophecy which is why I would ask once more to excercise our thought with the context of the entirety of Scripture, was there validity to what the serpent had said to Eve? We who have read the account of the temptation know the outcome- how both Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, and what does the Scripture say was a result?
"So [Eve] took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."(6b-7)
Reason within yourself- was there in fact validity and credibility to the claim which the serpent had made? Did he properly prophesy that their eyes would be opened? Yes! Yet he included absolutely nothing aside from the benefit which they would gain by harkening to his voice- withholding the eventual repercussions of their deliberate disobedience, and not to mention that their act did not pan out how they intended it would.
What led to this deliberate act/decision?
"The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. so she took some of its fruit..."(6a)
You will notice that the act of eating the fruit was entirely premeditated and as such without excuse. You will also notice that Eve's intention was something commendable even in God's sight- she sought to attain wisdom! And you may also note that Eve [through her actions] appeared to have tested the validity of the serpent's claim- only she did so with the wrong approach. She did not seek the counsel of her husband in order to:
1. Examine the credibility of the serpent's claim by comparing it to what God had already established to Adam, nor
2. Allow Adam to deal with the serpent, as all responsibility for tending the Garden and animals had been entrusted to him.
Instead she allows the word of the serpent to take root in her mind, and she begins to excercise her thought within the parameters which the serpent had laid, which resulted in a skewed outcome: she had tested the validity of the words of the serpent based off of her imperfect understanding and had proven it to be true because she allowed her thought process to be taken captive. It is also imperative that you note how Eve tested the validity of her perception of what God had said. In her mind, she was under the impression that if she so much as touched the fruit she would die. And so, torn by her flawed grasping of God's word and the claim of the serpent she finally reaches out and grasps the fruit, only to find that she didn't die- further proving the validity of what the serpent had said.
The primary take away that we can grasp when discerning when a serpent enters our life- whether it be the devil himself by means of thought, or through an instrument of his by means of a person who has been ensnared to carry out his will is the characteristic of the nature in which they operate. They are cunning and crafty. They want you to focus on the end result rather than the manner in which the end result is achieved. Much like Eve who sought something as commendable as wisdom. To those who should read this, I would exhort that you remain sober minded and take heed to the voices which you allow to saturate and influence your thought process. As Solomon testifies in his commentary concerning the natural human heart:
"Because the sentence against an evil act is not carried out quickly,
the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit evil."(Ecclesiastes 8:11)
In the very same sense; once we entertain the words of serpents, allow it to permeate in our minds, alter our thought process, and test the validity of their words in an improper manner, we ought not be surprised to find our hearts inclined to every sort of evil because the repercussions are not immediate, giving a false sense of justification and security. What some confessing Christians presumptuously claim as being "faith" is in actuality and practice evil, and in regards to the gospel message disobedience.
Now, it is imperative to note that my desire is not to equip you with a means of looking for the speck in every confessing Christian's eye(s) whilst simultaneously easing your conscience towards the ignorance of a plank which may be in your own. In truth I can testify that I acknowledge that every confessing believer is entitled to his or her own beliefs. As such, it is not my desire and aim to accuse [as it were] you of being a serpent in that you work with great skill and cleverness to achieve your projected goals and desires- though it would prove to be a good motivation. My zeal is stirred up when I consider the words of the apostle Paul as he writes to the Corinthian church:
"I wish that you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me!
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy, because I have betrothed you to one husband,
to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
For is a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach,
or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel,
which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!"(II Corinthians 11:1-4)
Following the same manner of thought as the apostle Paul [though the writing conditions differ], despite being able to acknowledge and tolerate [to an extent] that every believer is entitled to their own beliefs, I cannot and will not entertain the idea of people perverting and twisting the sanctity of God's word in order for them to achieve their goal(s). For in doing so, they prove to carry out the will of the Devil who delights in distorting God's word- primarily; the gospel, much like Timothy's opponents in Ephesus [II Timothy 2:26].
What we can do well to grasp is that we too are like Eve. We were not eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, nor was the gospel message originally entrusted to us- but rather to the apostles. As such, we too may be susceptible to having our minds seduced and thought process ensnared should we prove ourselves as:
1. Being discontent with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, causing a desire for a more "personal revelation."
2. Not holding a sound and proper grasping of the gospel message.
Should we grow and mature in regards to the gospel, it is imperative that we as believers take on the responsibility of Adam- yet not following in his footsteps/ likeness. Though we are not eyewitness to the glory of Christ as He was manifested in the flesh, we indirectly have the gospel entrusted to us as well by means of the recorded Scripture. Adam is the one who is attributed as having sinned- not Eve, and have we not considered why? The instruction was entrusted to him and Eve's response proved that Adam had not been a good steward regarding God's instruction, as she held a skewed grasping. Likewise, Adam failed to intervene despite having both the dominion over the serpent as well as responsibility of tending after the Garden, but rather opted to harken after the voice of Eve.
We see the proper exercising of this responsibility with Paul and the Corinthian church in the passage cited. After voicing concern over the condition and state of church, Paul later in the chapter exposes the source and root of this influence- false apostles who "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" as Satan himself transforms himself as an angel of light [II Corinthians 11:12-15]. And yet we needn't consider ourselves as being equal to Paul, we ought to strive to be as the Berean church- who "examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."(Acts 17:10-11)
It is my hope that this discourse of thought may lead to both your edification, as well as a means of exposing you to the manner in which the serpent operates so that you may not be ignorant of his schemes, but contrarily grow firm and steadfast in the gospel message and in Jesus Christ.