>In beginning to examine the radical effects of sin on humanity, the best place to start is the point at which sin entered into the world, known as the Fall. This is recounted in Genesis 3, but it is important to get the context before diving into the Fall. Genesis 3 comes right after the story of creation. In Genesis 2:15-17, God takes the man and puts him in the Garden of Eden “to till it and keep it.” God gave the man a threefold command. It was both positive, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden,” and negative, “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” and a consequential, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Shortly after this, God created the woman and the chapter ends with the statement, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). This is a significant statement to keep in mind for later in Genesis 3, to which we now turn.

The serpent opens the chapter by asking a question of the woman, and we can see something about how the enemy works. The serpent is “crafty.” He knows what he is doing. He takes God’s words and twists them around. His question is, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen 3:1). Clearly, the serpent is trying to mislead the woman in the conversation from the very beginning. God said nothing of the sort, and this should have been a non-issue from the start, but the woman’s response reveals something unsettling. She says, “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 middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die” (Gen 3:2-3). Notice the part in italics. God says nothing of the sort. There has been a hedge placed around the commands of God. She adds to the commands of God. Humanity has a tendency to build protective barriers. Protective barriers are not necessarily a bad thing, but these barriers can also lead to a negative form of legalism, which causes a misconstrued notion of the Word of God. It is the type of legalism that is seen in the Pharisees of the New Testament. The type that is more concerned with the outer appearances than with the inward goal of religion, which, according to John Wesley, is holiness.

There is a second issue that can be observed on this point. The way the serpent twists God’s words. He is intentionally trying to lead the woman astray here by making God out to be overly prohibitive. We see in the temptation of Jesus that Satan knows the Word, but we also see that Satan misuses the Word (cf. esp. Lk 4:9ff). This is no accident either. It’s not as if the serpent has his heart in the right place and is accidentally leading people astray. No, it is an intentional act on his part. This is how the enemy of our souls works. He tests us, hoping to trap us in our own words, which he does very well here with the woman. What he said makes sense, and there is a kernel of truth to it as well. He says, “You will not 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” (Gen 3:4-5). Well, in one sense, he was right. Death did not come for the woman – at least not immediately – at least not physical death.

Ultimately death did come to the human race, as well as to all of creation, it happened spiritually right here, and down the road, it happens physically. There is no indication to this point in the biblical text that death was inevitable. How could it be? If creation was “very good” as God declared it, how could death be a part of it? Death is only mentioned in Genesis 2:17 as a consequence of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Does the man have any concept of what death is? How could he? He had never seen death before? We all know and accept that people die – it’s been happening for millennia, but for the first man death was nothing more than a concept. Sometimes it seems as though it is that way for us now. We still do not understand death. We try to find all sorts of ways to keep people alive (not that there is anything wrong with saving life). We keep people from death as long as we can, but that does not mean we have any clue as to what death is in the first place. We can see here that death is a result of sin, but we are also looking at it from the far side of the resurrection.

The spiritual death that happens in the Fall is the separation of a defiled, unholy creation from a holy God – that is spiritual death. Physical death is merely a side consequence of spiritual death, of this separation from God. However, in Jesus, this separation is bridged. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Who are the lost, but those who are separated from God? Is there any way that one can be lost when one is with God? No, separation from God is the very definition of “lost-ness,” and it is this lost-ness that occurs in Genesis 3.

Ultimately the woman was taken in by what the serpent had to say. She “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” (Gen 3:6). She fell for it, but what was the original sin? Was it vanity? Well, in some sense, it was, but I don’t think that fully explains the whole situation. The serpent says that the woman would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). This may have contributed to her decision. She felt like there was something more out there for her, but maybe the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. John Wesley writes that the original sin was actually unbelief, faithlessness. In his Notes on the Old Testament, Wesley writes that the eating of the fruit implied unbelief of God’s word. At the heart of what is happening in the Fall is unbelief in the Word of God, and trust in the word of the enemy. Yes, I believe that there may have been some vanity (or pride) involved in the original sin, but this comes as a result in not trusting in God’s word.

If we stop to think about it again, the serpent was not totally lying. There was a kernel of truth in what he said – the woman’s eyes were opened. The woman came to know the difference between good and evil because she committed the first transgression. She knew the difference between good and evil, and here is where the serpent’s lie comes to the fore. There was no evil at the creation, remember – it was declared “very good” by God. The only evil that there was in all of the heavens and the earth was right in front of her, represented by the serpent, and she didn’t know it. When it comes to metaphysical concepts, one cannot see that which one does not know. The woman cannot know the difference between two things if she does not know what one is in the first place.

For centuries, women have been blamed for the inception of sin into the world. Now, doesn’t this all seem a little unfair? In some areas and cultures, women are seen as inferior to men, with some deferring to the woman’s “gullibility” as proof. However, what is said in Gen 3:6? “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” What does this mean – “her husband with her”? At this point you’ll see all sorts of interpretive gymnastics that try to point out how the woman deceived the man into eating the fruit. Wesley’s Notes point out the possibility that the man was certainly not with her when she was deceived, lest he would have prevented her from being so deceived. However, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Wesley on this point. The Septuagint, or the LXX (the Greek version of the Old Testament, so called because it is said that seventy different translators worked from Hebrew of the Old Testament to the exact same translation into Greek), uses the Greek word meta,, which is translated as the preposition “with.” This does not simply mean that they were related in some way. I believe this point to a physical “with-ness” between the man and the woman. In other words, I believe that the man was with the woman when she was speaking with the serpent here in Genesis 3. The text is pretty clear that the two were together at the time of the deception. There is also no indication in the text that they ate at different times either. Wouldn’t it have been clear if the woman ate of the fruit, had her eyes opened to sin, and then gave the fruit to the man? I believe it would have been explicitly stated in the text had this been the case. The Greek translation seems to point to the man and the woman eating the fruit simultaneously.

After eating the fruit, the man and the woman both had their eyes opened. They knew what sin was because they had committed it. At this point, we see a dramatic switch from what was said in 2:25 – “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Instead of them not being ashamed of their nakedness, they covered themselves with fig leaves. Now I’ve done a little digging on exactly what a fig leaf is like, and I must say, this was probably not the best of choices for them to make. The leaves are large (up to 1 ft in length) and hairy (rough on the upper surface, and soft on the underside). The sap of the fig tree is also irritating to human skin. I can’t imagine that the fig leaf was all that comfortable of a covering. It is a striking contrast to what was said earlier in reference to the innocence of the man and the woman. A second major contrast is that the man and the woman hid when they heard the voice of the Lord. Why would they hide? Had they ever hid from the Lord before? This does not appear to be the case. Their shame and guilt led them to this point.

We finally come to the end of this drama. God confronts the man about what has happened, and instead of owning up to his disobedience, the man passes the buck. He says to God, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12). Effectually, the man is blaming the Creator. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad, but isn’t this still going on today? Don’t we live in a world where people fail time and time again to take responsibility for their actions? How often can we see somebody on Dr. Phil blaming every problem that they’ve ever had on their lousy upbringing? It’s a part of our history; it a part of our story. It begins after the beginning; at the point of the Fall, when man blames God for all his troubles. The woman is not any nobler in her response, blaming the serpent for his part in the deception.

Creation begins out of a simple phrase – “let there be light.” It climaxes in another – “it was very good.” Humanity is created to be the steward of this creation. Life in the very presence of God was available. However, as we all know, there was more to the story. Sin also begins out of a simple phrase – “did God really say….” And it climaxes in another, “the woman whom You gave to be with me….” Life of sorts is still available, but the presence of God is not. What was once created in the image of the Creator had fallen from its state of perfection. But perhaps what is most important in all of this, and what must not be overlooked, is the promise that is given. There is the promise that the seed of the woman will be bruised by the serpent, but also that this very seed will crush its head. This is the promise and the hope that is available through the power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, the serpent bruised his heel, but the victory ultimately belongs to Christ, and it is in him that we also have victory.