Genesis 3:1-5 . THE TEMPTATION.
1. the serpent--The fall of man was effected by the seductions of a serpent. That it was a real serpent is evident from the plain and artless style of the history and from the many allusions made to it in the New Testament. But the material serpent was the instrument or tool of a higher agent, Satan or the devil, to whom the sacred writers apply from this incident the reproachful name of "the dragon, that old serpent" [ Revelation 20:2 ]. Though Moses makes no mention of this wicked spirit--giving only the history of the visible world--yet in the fuller discoveries of the Gospel, it is distinctly intimated that Satan was the author of the plot ( John 8:44 , 2 Corinthians 11:3 , 1 John 3:8 , 1 Timothy 2:14 , Revelation 20:2 ).
more subtile--Serpents are proverbial for wisdom ( Matthew 10:16 ). But these reptiles were at first, probably, far superior in beauty as well as in sagacity to what they are in their present state.
He said--There being in the pure bosoms of the first pair no principle of evil to work upon, a solicitation to sin could come only from "without," as in the analogous case of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 4:3 ); and as the tempter could not assume the human form, there being only Adam and Eve in the world, the agency of an inferior creature had to be employed. The dragon-serpent [BOCHART] seemed the fittest for the vile purpose; and the devil was allowed by Him who permitted the trial, to bring articulate sounds from its mouth.
unto the woman--the object of attack, from his knowledge of her frailty, of her having been but a short time in the world, her limited experience of the animal tribes, and, above all, her being alone, unfortified by the presence and counsels of her husband. Though sinless and holy, she was a free agent, liable to be tempted and seduced.
yea, hath God said?--Is it true that He has restricted you in using the fruits of this delightful place? This is not like one so good and kind. Surely there is some mistake. He insinuated a doubt as to her sense of the divine will and appeared as an angel of light ( 2 Corinthians 11:14 ), offering to lead her to the true interpretation. It was evidently from her regarding him as specially sent on that errand, that, instead of being startled by the reptile's speaking, she received him as a heavenly messenger.
2. the woman said, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden--In her answer, Eve extolled the large extent of liberty they enjoyed in ranging at will amongst all the trees--one only excepted, with respect to which, she declared there was no doubt, either of the prohibition or the penalty. But there is reason to think that she had already received an injurious impression; for in using the words "lest ye die," instead of "ye shall surely die" [ Genesis 2:17 ], she spoke as if the tree had been forbidden because of some poisonous quality of its fruit. The tempter, perceiving this, became bolder in his assertions.
4. Ye shall not surely die--He proceeded, not only to assure her of perfect impunity, but to promise great benefits from partaking of it.
5. your eyes shall be opened--His words meant more than met the ear. In one sense her eyes were opened; for she acquired a direful experience of "good and evil"--of the happiness of a holy, and the misery of a sinful, condition. But he studiously concealed this result from Eve, who, fired with a generous desire for knowledge, thought only of rising to the rank and privileges of her angelic visitants.
Genesis 3:6-9 . THE FALL.
6. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food--Her imagination and feelings were completely won; and the fall of Eve was soon followed by that of Adam. The history of every temptation, and of every sin, is the same; the outward object of attraction, the inward commotion of mind, the increase and triumph of passionate desire; ending in the degradation, slavery, and ruin of the soul ( 1:15 , 1 John 2:16 ).
8. they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden--The divine Being appeared in the same manner as formerly--uttering the well-known tones of kindness, walking in some visible form (not running hastily, as one impelled by the influence of angry feelings). How beautifully expressive are these words of the familiar and condescending manner in which He had hitherto held intercourse with the first pair.
in the cool of the day--literally, "the breeze of the day," the evening.
hid themselves amongst the trees of the garden--Shame, remorse, fear--a sense of guilt--feelings to which they had hitherto been strangers disordered their minds and led them to shun Him whose approach they used to welcome. How foolish to think of eluding His notice ( Psalms 139:1-12 ).
Genesis 3:10-13 . THE EXAMINATION.
10. afraid, because . . . naked--apparently, a confession--the language of sorrow; but it was evasive--no signs of true humility and penitence--each tries to throw the blame on another.
12. The woman . . . gave me--He blames God [CALVIN]. As the woman had been given him for his companion and help, he had eaten of the tree from love to her; and perceiving she was ruined, was determined not to survive her [M'KNIGHT].
13. beguiled--cajoled by flattering lies. This sin of the first pair was heinous and aggravated--it was not simply eating an apple, but a love of self, dishonor to God, ingratitude to a benefactor, disobedience to the best of Masters--a preference of the creature to the Creator.
Genesis 3:14-24 . THE SENTENCE.
14. And the Lord God said unto the serpent--The Judge pronounces a doom: first, on the material serpent, which is cursed above all creatures. From being a model of grace and elegance in form, it has become the type of all that is odious, disgusting, and low [LE CLERC, ROSENMULLER]; or the curse has converted its natural condition into a punishment; it is now branded with infamy and avoided with horror; next, on the spiritual serpent, the seducer. Already fallen, he was to be still more degraded and his power wholly destroyed by the offspring of those he had deceived.
15. thy seed--not only evil spirits, but wicked men.
seed of the woman--the Messiah, or His Church [CALVIN, HENGSTENBERG].
I will put enmity between thee and the woman--God can only be said to do so by leaving "the serpent and his seed to the influence of their own corruption; and by those measures which, pursued for the salvation of men, fill Satan and his angels with envy and rage."
thou shalt bruise his heel--The serpent wounds the heel that crushes him; and so Satan would be permitted to afflict the humanity of Christ and bring suffering and persecution on His people.
it shall bruise thy head--The serpent's poison is lodged in its head; and a bruise on that part is fatal. Thus, fatal shall be the stroke which Satan shall receive from Christ, though it is probable he did not at first understand the nature and extent of his doom.
16. unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow--She was doomed as a wife and mother to suffer pain of body and distress of mind. From being the help meet of man and the partner of his affections [ Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:23 ], her condition would henceforth be that of humble subjection.
17-19. unto Adam he said--made to gain his livelihood by tilling the ground; but what before his fall he did with ease and pleasure, was not to be accomplished after it without painful and persevering exertion.
19. till thou return unto the ground--Man became mortal; although he did not die the moment he ate the forbidden fruit, his body underwent a change, and that would lead to dissolution; the union subsisting between his soul and God having already been dissolved, he had become liable to all the miseries of this life and to the pains of hell for ever. What a mournful chapter this is in the history of man! It gives the only true account of the origin of all the physical and moral evils that are in the world; upholds the moral character of God; shows that man, made upright, fell from not being able to resist a slight temptation; and becoming guilty and miserable, plunged all his posterity into the same abyss ( Romans 5:12 ). How astonishing the grace which at that moment gave promise of a Saviour and conferred on her who had the disgrace of introducing sin the future honor of introducing that Deliverer ( 1 Timothy 2:15 ).
20. Adam called his wife's name Eve--probably in reference to her being a mother of the promised Saviour, as well as of all mankind.
21. God made coats of skins--taught them to make these for themselves. This implies the institution of animal sacrifice, which was undoubtedly of divine appointment, and instruction in the only acceptable mode of worship for sinful creatures, through faith in a Redeemer ( Hebrews 9:22 ).
22. And God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us--not spoken in irony as is generally supposed, but in deep compassion. The words should be rendered, "Behold, what has become [by sin] of the man who was as one of us"! Formed, at first, in our image to know good and evil--how sad his condition now.
and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life--This tree being a pledge of that immortal life with which obedience should be rewarded, man lost, on his fall, all claim to this tree; and therefore, that he might not eat of it or delude himself with the idea that eating of it would restore what he had forfeited, the Lord sent him forth from the garden.
24. placed . . . cherbim--The passage should be rendered thus: "And he dwelt between the cherubim at the East of the Garden of Eden and a fierce fire, or Shekinah, unfolding itself to preserve the way of the tree of life." This was the mode of worship now established to show God's anger at sin and teach the mediation of a promised Saviour as the way of life, as well as of access to God. They were the same figures as were afterwards in the tabernacle and temple; and now, as then, God said, "I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims" ( Exodus 25:22 ).