The Deceptive Tree of Knowledge | Bible Class on Adam’s Sin

Eve in the Garden of Eden

The Deceptive Tree of Knowledge | A Bible Class on the Sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-24)

This is one of the most important chapters in Scripture. What happens to Adam and Eve does not happen to Adam and Eve alone. We’re not talking about original sin—there is no biblical support for such a doctrine. However, Adam and Eve’s sin curses all future generations. All women have increased pain in childbearing and must submit to their husbands. All men must work by the sweat of their brow. Sin and death affect everyone (Rom 5:12-15). How can one sin have such great effects on future generations?

What happens to Adam and Eve causes God to act. God promises victory (Gen 3:15). God spends the rest of human history seeking to reconcile man who went astray the first time in the Garden.

What happens to Adam and Eve opens a floodgate of misery upon the human race—every cancer, every famine, every disaster traces its origin back to the Garden.

In the first six verses, the author seems to want to show the true nature of sin. Sin is much more than a simple external disobedience of God’s commands. No, Adam and Eve were certainly not right in eating of the fruit. However, their eating of the fruit began in their hearts. Too often, I think, we view sin as simply something we do that is wrong. Sin is more than that—sins starts in the heart and our selfish desires carry over into our actions. If we simply view sin as action, there is little reason to guard our hearts. But, if we understand how much sin permeates our hearts, we have reason to explore carefully the causes of sin in our own hearts.

In these verses, sin is seen in six successive steps.

One: The woman is deeply disturbed by God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit.

Somewhere, deep in the woman’s heart, is the believe that God is depriving her of some good in keeping her from eating of this tree. “Has God indeed said, ‘You [plural] shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Gen 3:1). The way the serpent words this question greatly implies that God is keeping some good from Adam and 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’” (Gen 3:2-3). God’s command in 2:17 included nothing about touching the tree. It seems that the woman is overreaching—it seems to be reflecting some subconscious desire to eat of that fruit.

Two: The serpent enforces the woman’s desire to eat the fruit by telling her the advantages of eating from this particular tree.

The serpent implies that God has told the man and woman the bad results of eating from this fruit, but He has purposefully withheld the good results.
On the surface, the serpent was correct in what he promised. One: “You will not surely die” (Gen 3:4). The serpent likely means that they will not die physically. They do not die physically; in fact, God drives man from the garden so that he cannot eat of the tree of life and live forever. Two: “Your eyes will be opened” (Gen 3:5). “The eyes of both of them were opened” (Gen 3:7). Three: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil”(Gen 3:5). “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil”(Gen 3:22).

Satan gets things right in the garden. Yet, Jesus says that Satan is a liar (Jn 8:44). If Satan gets things so right, how can he be called a liar? What are some things Satan gets “right” about sin?

We need to understand two things:

  1. Satan tells a “temporary” truth. Hebrews 11:24-26. Sin always has greater consequences than reward.
  2. Because Satan gets some things right, we need to be on guard. Yes, sin might bring popularity, wealth, etc. But, sin always bring heartache in the end.

Third: the woman’s mind dwells on the desirable aspects of the forbidden fruit.

She “saw” that the fruit was good (it wasn’t poison), attractive and appealing, and it could make one wise. This lust characterized the temptations of Jesus (Matt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13) and continues to characterize the temptations of men (1 Jn 2:16).

Fourth, the woman “took” some of the fruit of the tree.

She may have wanted to “test the waters” by getting a closer look at the fruit. It looked good, but if she could touch it without getting into trouble, maybe it was safe to eat. Of course, he who plays with temptation soon discovers that it has more power than he. What are some ways that we “flirt” with temptation?

Fifth, the woman ate of the fruit.

Since there has not yet been an adverse reaction, she likely thinks she can eat of the tree without serious consequences.

Sixth, the woman gave to her husband and he ate.

Since the woman did not die when she ate of the fruit, her husband undoubtedly believes it is safe to eat. How are we often led into sin by others? What steps should we take to keep from being led into sin by others?

The serpent was more “cunning” than any beast which the Lord God had made (v 1). How was the serpent “cunning”?

There is much about this serpent and his interactions here that we do not know. However: It appears that the serpent (all animals?) could speak intelligibly to man before the Fall; and It also appears that the serpent could walk upright (v 14).

The serpent says, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (v 1). That’s nearly the exact opposite of what God had said. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘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’” (Gen 2:16-17). The question the serpent poses does seem intended to make the woman believe God is withholding something great from her. Do we sometimes think that God is withholding great things from us? How can we react when Satan tempts us this way?

“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”’” (Gen 3:2-3). Notice that the woman forgets God’s graciousness for a moment. She says, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden.” She doesn’t say, “We may eat the fruit of any of the trees of the garden, except one.” It seems that she has her eyes on what God has forbidden, not what God has offered.

Do we not often forget how gracious God has been to us? What are some ways that we forget God’s graciousness? Why is forgetting His graciousness so dangerous spiritually? What happened to the woman because she momentarily forgot that there were many trees from which she could eat? How can we remember God’s graciousness?

According to the woman, the tree of the knowledge was “in the midst of the garden.” Why would God place this tree right in the middle of the garden where Adam and Eve would see it every day? What might this say about God’s character?

The woman adds to God’s command—“nor shall you touch it.” I think she adds to God’s command out of false “piety.” Is there a danger in creating more commands out of a false sense of piety?

The serpent told the woman, “You will not surely die.” Why would the serpent tell the woman that she would not die? In what way would she not die? In what way(s) would she die? What are some of the popular partial “truths” that Satan tells us today?

The serpent says, “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.” What does the serpent mean by “your eyes will be opened”? How were the eyes of Adam and Eve opened?

Of course, the serpent gets this right, but he makes it sound as though knowing good and evil is a good thing. Why is knowing good and evil not a good thing? What responsibility do we have because we know good and evil?

“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.” This temptation parallels other recorded temptations.

  • Eve
    • Flesh: Saw the tree was good for good—This wasn’t poison and she was hungry
    • Eyes: Pleasant to the eyes—The tree looked good.
    • Wisdom: Desirable to make one wise—Eve had the desire to be like God.
  • Jesus (Lk 4:1-13)
    • Flesh: Tempted to turn stones to bread
    • Eyes: Shown all the kingdoms of the world
    • Wisdom: Can be regarded as wise if people see Him being borne up by angels
  • 1 John 2:16
    • Flesh: Lust of the flesh
    • Eyes: Lust of the eyes
    • Wisdom: Pride of life (Life here means “living”—this is talking about making a living).

The woman saw that the tree was good for food. How do you think the tree was good for food? What are some of the ways that sin looks far better than it is?

The tree was pleasant to the eyes. Somehow the tree looked very nice. Perhaps the tree looked better than other trees that were in the Garden. Why does sin often look better than the alternative?

The tree was desirable to make one wise. People often think that sin brings wisdom or shows wisdom. Where does true wisdom originate?

The woman gave to her husband, and he ate. Don’t people often want those closest to them to sin along with them? Why is that? How do we resist temptations from our friends? How can we stand firm in face of families who don’t do right?

“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.” The eyes being opened here seems to have reference specifically to their nakedness. The man and woman sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. This seems to demonstrate the industrialness of early man. These are not near apes who have no ability to use tools, but they are actually able to sew. They even have the ability, without being shown, to know how to sew fig leaves together.

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. This verse seems to indicate that the man and woman enjoyed a quite intimate relationship with God prior to the Fall. What a blessing it would have been to have enjoyed that fellowship. Can you imagine what it would be like to have God walk with you? It should be noted that God came and walked among man again (Jn 1:1-14).

Adam and his wife hid themselves from God’s presence. Why would they hide themselves from God? They hide among the trees of the garden. Do they really think that God cannot find them? Doesn’t this show the human tendency to try to hide from our sins?

God calls out to the man and asks, “Where are you?” Are we really to think that God had no idea where Adam was? Why, then, does God call out to the man to ask his whereabouts? Why is it important to admit our sin?

Adam says that he was afraid because he was naked. Adam heard God’s voice in the garden. The best translation of the Hebrew seems to be “sound” instead of “voice.” The Hebrew word can mean voice, but, like all words, the precise meaning must be determined by the context. This word is used to mean “the voice of feet [marching],” or as we would say, footsteps (2 Sam 5:24; 1 Ki 14:6; 2 Ki 6:32). The idea seems to be that Adam heard God’s footsteps in the garden. If God has no feet (He’s spirit), how could Adam and Eve hear His footsteps? Is there an important lesson here?

Why would Adam be afraid to appear before God naked?

God replies, “Who told you that you were naked?” God knew that the man and woman were naked before they knew it. What is significant about that? If God knew that Adam and Eve were naked before they knew it, what things might God know about us before we know them?

God asks, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Again, notice that God is giving the man and his wife an opportunity to “come clean.”

Adam plays the original blame game and says, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Notice that Adam blames two individuals: God and Eve. Why did Adam want to blame God for his sin? Do we ever want to blame God for our sin? How do we keep from blaming God for our sin? Why did Adam want to blame Eve?

Why do we sometimes want to blame others for our sins? Are others sometimes to blame for our sins? How can we keep from blaming others for our sins?

The woman says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” How had the serpent deceived Eve? If the serpent had deceived Eve, why was Eve responsible for what she had done?

The serpent is not questioned by God, only cursed. In my mind, that suggests that God knows the devil (who used the serpent here) to be evil from the very beginning. The devil is in a different class of fallen creatures from Adam and Eve. He has been willfully disobedient from the beginning; Adam and Eve fall into transgression through the serpent’s temptation. He is cursed more than every other animal, and he must move around on his belly.

Notice that God implies there is a curse on all animals. “You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field.” Romans 8:19-23.

If Satan is the one tempting Adam and Eve, why did God curse the serpent? In the Old Testament, animals were to be killed when they killed humans (Gen 9:5; Ex 21:28-32). Are there lessons we need to learn?

God would put enmity between the serpent and the woman. This suggests that before the Fall there was harmony between man and the animals. How has this enmity been experienced through the years? The enmity between man and snakes seems to be representative of the hostility between man and Satan.

The woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head, and the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed. What does God mean here? What hope is God holding out for man? The picture in the opening pages of Genesis is a very bleak one. Adam and Eve fall into sin, Cain kills his brother, there’s a great Flood to destroy all life, and man is judged for building a tower. However, here God holds out immense hope for the human predicament.

Two curses are placed on the woman; God says to her, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

One: Increased pain in childbearing.

It’s important to remember that having children is not a curse (Gen 1:28). However, before the Fall, the woman apparently would be able to deliver children painlessly. That was forever changed in the Fall.

Two: Her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her.

Adam had some level of headship even before the Fall. The woman was created as “a helper comparable” to the man (Gen 2:20). Adam named the woman (Gen 2:23). 1 Timothy 2:12-13. Why, therefore, does God place this restriction on the woman as a curse?

The woman’s desire would be for her husband. What the Hebrew means is “thy wishes shall be subject to those of thy husband.” Why would the woman’s wishes need to be subject to the wishes of her husband? Haven’t we come a long way since those days?

The woman’s husband would rule over her. What has just happened that has caused God to say this? How should a husband “rule over” his wife?

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it.”’” God pronounces a curse upon Adam because he listened to the voice of his wife. Why do you think it was hard for Adam to do the right thing here? We can’t neglect to notice that God says “of which I commanded you.” Adam had a responsibility to restrain Eve.

“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Two curses on the man:

He must work especially hard for his food.

The only crop that the ground would easily produce would be thorns and thistles. In a society such as ours, how does this curse come into play?

He must die and return to the ground.

I don’t think God intended for man to live physically on the earth forever, but to transform him (something like He did with Elijah). However, the Fall changed that. Romans 5:12-14. Some suggests that the curse here is a “fear of death.” No doubt, there is a great fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). The idea here, however, seems to be physical death.

Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. There is a pun in the Hebrew between “Eve” and “living.”

God made Adam and his wife tunics of skin. This is the first time an animal was killed for man. However, I personally think it’s a stretch to talk about the shedding of blood for redemption from this text. The shedding of animal blood has nothing to do with forgiveness here; God simply makes clothing for the man and woman.

The word translated “tunic” often means “robe.” The Hebrew word refers to a long, shirt-like garment. Should we learn a lesson from the fact that God didn’t think the fig leaves were appropriate covering?

Because man had become like God, God drove man from the garden, lest he take of the tree of life and live forever.

God even place cherubim at the east of the garden to keep man out.

This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.

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