God created the heavens and the earth and proclaimed them as “good.” However, He had planted a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden known as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” How did evil show up on an earth He created and called good?
In our last study we saw that an angel named Satan brought evil into existence through his pride – “lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6) We also saw Satan enter the Garden of Eden and approach the first humans with a statement that contradicted what God had told them.
Why did God allow this to happen?
The next step in God’s great reveal is the first test.
Keep in mind that this is truly a “life or death” test.
God planted two special trees in the Garden of Eden: “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
God told Adam –
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.”
If we take God’s statement at face value, it would seem that God invited Adam to eat from the tree of life (“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but …). The only tree mentioned as “forbidden” was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God told Adam that if he ate of that tree, he would surely die.
God invited Adam to make a decision – obey God and choose life or disobey God and choose death.
We mentioned in an earlier study about God making man in His own image and likeness. An important part of God’s likeness is freedom to choose. He has the freedom to choose and so do we.
God chose in eternity so we could choose in time.
Freedom to choose goes to the issue of free will. God has a free will and so do we. That’s the way God created humans – in His likeness and image. We are free to choose based on having a free will.
What we see in Genesis 3 are the first humans using that freedom.
This choice is based on a test. Testing is a vital part of God’s eternal plan and we will see it many, many times in the Bible. Here are several examples –
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham.” Genesis 22:1
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” Exodus 16:4
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2
“But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” Judges 7:4
“I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.” 1 Chronicles 29:17
“The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Psalm 11:5
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-14
“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11:17-19
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:6-8
God testing His people is a central part of His eternal plan. If we understand that, we can appreciate His tests in our lives.
So, let’s begin our epic journey!
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
Why is what Satan told the woman a lie? Because of what God told the man.
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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
God told the man that he would surely die if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan told the woman she would not surely die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Both of those statements can’t be true in the same way at the same time, so someone is lying. Who do you think was lying? God or Satan?
Jesus answered that question convincingly –
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44
That’s quite an accusation from the Son of God who came to earth to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) According to Jesus, Satan –
- was a murderer from the beginning
- does not stand in the truth
- there is no truth in him
- he speaks a lie from his own resources because he’s a liar and the father of it
It would seem that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was about God (good) and Satan (evil). As we read through the Bible, we will see that opposition from beginning to end.
Part of God’s great reveal concerns Satan and how he tempted Eve with his outrageous lie about God.
We first learn that Satan is cunning and that God created him.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Genesis 3:1a
The Hebrew word translated “cunning” is עָר֔וּם (ārūm) and means “shrewd, crafty, cunning.” Satan was and still is cunning. We see his cunning in his approach to Eve.
“And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Genesis 3:1b
Satan was cleverly leading Eve into a trap she didn’t see coming. Remember 1 Timothy 3:6 about being careful not to be puffed up with pride and fall into the same condemnation as the devil? Here’s the next sentence –
“Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:7
Paul wrote Timothy about Satan’s snare in his second letter to the young pastor –
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2: 22-26
Satan has many ways of trapping unsuspecting souls. Watch how cleverly Satan approached Eve and tempted her with his lie. Keep in mind that before Satan spoke to Eve, she was enjoying a perfect relationship with God and her husband in a perfect garden that God had created for them. Adam told Eve about God’s warning concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but we have no indication that she was planning to eat from the tree. In fact, we have these words from Paul –
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14
Notice that Eve was deceived by Satan. The word ἠπατήθη (ēpatēthē) means “led into error, cheated.” Satan led Eve into error (fell into transgression) through cunning and deceit.
Watch how Satan did it and keep in mind that he uses the same techniques today.
Satan – “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
[Satan misquoted God, so his question was a deception. Satan often misquotes God or takes what God says out of the correct context. The way Jesus dealt with Satan’s temptations in the wilderness is an excellent example of how to face Satan’s temptations in our life. Read Matthew 4 and Luke 4 to see how Jesus answered Satan.]
Eve – “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”
[Eve got most of it right, but added to what God said. God didn’t mention “touching” the tree .. just not eating from it – “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” She also didn’t mention which tree in the middle of the garden was off limits. God didn’t say humans couldn’t eat from the tree of life which was also in the middle of the garden, just the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We need to know God’s Word well enough that we use it correctly when dealing with Satan’s temptations and lies.]
Satan – “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
[Satan called God a liar and impugned His true intent for warning humans. Satan intimated that humans could be “like God” in having equal knowledge and that God didn’t want that to happen.]
Eve – “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Eve made her free choice based on three criteria –
- the tree was good for food
- the tree was pleasant to the eyes
- the tree was desirable to make one wise
Reminds me of what the Apostle John wrote in his first epistle –
‘For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16
Did you see how quickly Satan led Eve into error? It you time the conversation, it took less than 30 seconds for Satan to deceive Eve. It took only a few more seconds for Eve to turn to her husband who was with her and he also ate the fruit.
[Keep in mind that God placed Adam in the garden to “keep” it, which means “guard, protect, preserve” (שָׁמַר – šāmərāh). Adam failed in many ways that day.]
We also need to remember Paul’s words to Timothy about Adam – “Adam was not deceived.” Adam apparently knew what he was doing. Adam made a choice to disobey God. We don’t know why he made that choice knowing what God said would happen, but the results were catastrophic as we shall soon see.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:7
The reaction to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was shame.
The last verse of Genesis 2 is –
“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25
The Hebrew word for naked is עֲרוּמִּ֔ים (‘ărūmmîm) and comes from a word that means “exposed, bare.”
The Hebrew words for were not ashamed are וְלֹ֖א יִתְבֹּשָֽׁשׁוּ׃ (yiṯbōšāšū wəlō) and mean they had no shame (unashamed).
The first man and woman stood before God naked and were not ashamed – until they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That action exposed them and they felt shame for the first time.
Their response to shame is interesting to note – “and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Shame exposed them and they attempted to cover their nakedness. As far as we can see in the Genesis 3 text, no one told Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. They somehow instinctively knew they were naked and ashamed and needed to cover up.
[Questions for consideration – Why do you think Adam and Eve chose to cover themselves with fig leaves? One thought is that a fig tree was nearby and the size of the leaves looked good for a covering. Another thought is that the fig tree may have been the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and Adam and Eve used those leaves to cover themselves. Here’s another question – did the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil have some properties that caused Adam and Eve to realize they were naked and begin the death process or did they receive that knowledge when they disobeyed God? Was it something inside the fruit or inside their consciousness? One more question – how did the first humans know how to sew? They had never covered themselves before, so interesting that they would have known how to sew leaves together to cover themselves. The Hebrew word taphar (תָּפַר) means “to sew together.” It doesn’t necessarily mean they used a needle and thread – just that they brought the fig leaves together in a way to cover themselves.]
The next thing Adam and Eve did was hide from God –
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8
This was quite a scene and probably took only a few minutes –
- Satan deceived Eve
- She ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and gave some of the fruit to her husband
- He ate the fruit and their eyes were open to see that they were both naked (note: their eyes were not opened to see nakedness until after they both ate)
- They reached for fig leaves and sewed them together to cover their nakedness
- They heard the sound of God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day and hid themselves from God among the trees of the garden
God called out for them –
“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?” Genesis 3:9
God knew where they were and what they had done. He wanted to hear their explanation because of what He had planned for them. God knew from eternity what was going to happen and what He would say to them.
Adam replied –
“So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10
This is the first time we see “fear” in humanity’s relationship with God, and for good reason. Adam knew he had disobeyed God’s warning and knew God had said he would “surely die.”
[Note: we don’t know for sure whether Adam understood what God meant when He said “you will surely die” since no one had died before. What we do know is that Adam knew that to “die” was not a good thing and something God would reveal as punishment for disobedience.]
God responded to Adam through a process of probing for truth –
“And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Genesis 3:11
God demonstrated through His response to Adam that He knew what they had done and that what Adam and Eve were experiencing (e.g. shame, fear) was part of the result of their disobedience. We might say that the process of surely dying had begun.
What followed was the first version of the world famous blame game –
“Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12-13
It’s interesting to see how quickly the man threw his wife under the bus while throwing some blame at God as well – “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” The fact was that Adam messed up and began a coverup.
Eve replied quickly by blaming the serpent and what she said was correct – Satan did deceive her.
The first humans have been tested. How do you think they did? Pass or fail?
In our next study we’ll hear from God the Test Giver to see what He thought about how they did with His test.
[Read the first seven chapters of The Great Reveal in this free Ebook]
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.