The Anatomy of Temptation: Genesis 3:1-8

Text:

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.”

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. 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.

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.

NKJV

This text shows us how the Devil (the Deceiver) uses our senses to tempt us with the deceitful pleasures of sin.  The senses are the means by which we experience God’s good creation and respond in worship, but they are also the means by which we are tempted to exploit and misuse God’s good creation for our own selfish ends.  If the Christian is to be on guard against temptation, he must heed the anatomy of temptation.  He must face temptation, with its transient sinful pleasures, with a resolve to always be satisfied in Christ.

I. The Source of Temptation (v. 1a)

The serpent is none other than the Devil (the Deceiver): “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2).  It is in Genesis 3 that we first learn of this deceiver’s deceptive and lying ways.  Likewise, in confronting the Pharisees of their own wickedness, Jesus says that they are of their father the Devil, who is a liar and has no truth in him (Jn. 8:44).

II. The Introduction of Doubt (vv. 1b-3)

The Devil twists God’s word by going beyond what God had actually said, thereby taking away its goodness and introducing doubt.  We see this doubt in Eve’s response, clearly doubting the simplicity of God’s command by adding to it. For God’s command to Adam was that they must not eat from the tree; He said nothing of touching it. Yet here, Eve, with her mind clouded by the twisted words of the Devil, goes further than God had instructed, adding that they must also not touch it.  We, too, are prone to this doubt and must therefore take heed to the Scripture’s warning:

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor. 11:3-4)

The sarcasm at the end of Paul’s words is pointed and meant to convict those who have begun to go beyond the simplicity of the gospel, much in the same way that Eve went beyond the simplicity of God’s word.

III. The Blatant Lie (v. 4)

Now that doubt has crept into Eve’s thinking, the lie is all the easier to believe.  This is an outright contradiction to God’s word in 2:17, where God explicitly tells Adam that he will die if he eats from the forbidden tree.  First the Devil twists God’s word, making Him seem unloving and stingy.  Now he calls God an outright liar!

IV. The Half-Truth (v. 5)

The Devil now goes in for the kill by attacking the true nature of man and the end for which man was created, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (e.g. Rev. 4:11).  There is a sense in which, by eating the fruit, man would become like God, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:22); but there is also a sense in which man was already like God, as God made man in His image, after His likeness (1:26-27).  In his deception, the Devil played on this reality, introducing confusion with his half-truths, twisting it for his own corrupt ends: the downfall of the crown of God’s creation: mankind.

V. The Tempting Pleasures of Sin (v. 6)

The Devil successfully gets Eve to use her God-given senses against the word/will of God.  She “saw” (sense of sight) that the fruit was “good for food” (sense of taste), that it was pleasurable to look at (her mind is now mulling on it), and that it could make one “wise” (pride of life), which was the lie of the Deceiver, for she became a fool and died that day.  Eve starts lusting.  The apostle John undoubtedly had this woeful event in mind when he wrote 1 Jn. 2:16: “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.”  The parallel is striking.  Clearly, Genesis 3 serves as a protology (a first example from which subsequent things arise) of temptation and sin.

We also see here that sinners don’t like to sin alone.  After Eve sins by eating the forbidden fruit, she encourages her husband to do likewise.  For this notion of sinners not liking to sin alone, see also Rom. 1:32.

VI. The Guilt of Sin (vv. 7-8)

Adam and Eve both ate, their eyes turning from God to idolatry.  Their eyes were indeed opened, opened to their sinful guilt and shame.  Once they were not ashamed (2:25), now they are ashamed.  They fell short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).  This means they fell short of glorifying God by falling short of that glory which God had purposed for them in their mission of expanding the garden temple throughout the world.[1]  Immediately, they try to remedy their sinful state with makeshift coverings.  Is this not the way of the world’s religions?  Indeed, one way or another, it is.  The sound and presence of the Lord, once a delight to the ears and eyes, conjures up fear and panic in the hearts of Adam and Eve.  Their sins have separated them from God (cf. Isa. 59:2).

VII. The Forgiveness of Sin (vv. 15, 21)

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (v. 15)

Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. (v. 21)

Here is the surprise and the good news.  After pronouncing curses upon the serpent, God says the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman will be at enmity with one another, and the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, and the serpent will bruise his heel.  This most immediately speaks to the righteous line – God’s people – versus the unrighteous or wicked, as is demonstrated throughout the book of Genesis (also note the contrast of the righteous and the wicked throughout the book of Proverbs).  Its final fulfillment, however, is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the true Snake Crusher.

Adam and Eve’s coverings would not do.  Here God provides them with animal coverings, likely a lamb, which prefigured and foreshadowed the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29).  The religions of the world say that their fig leaves will do; Christianity, indeed the Bible, says that God must do it.  This He has done in and through His Son.  Looking again at 1 John, we are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).  The promise of Genesis 3:15, 21, through which forgiveness comes, continues to be held out to sinners today.  The kingdom and glory lost by Adam, the fallen king, is being restored by King Jesus to a far greater glory; and by grace, He is continuing to bring redeemed sinners into that kingdom.

Conclusion

Adam and Eve’s trust should have been in God’s word and character (e.g. good and holy), and their satisfaction in God’s presence.  Instead, their desires were misplaced by the luring pleasures of sin.  If we are to stand, we must stand on the promises of God and be satisfied in Christ and all that He is for us.  The pleasure of God is greater than the pleasures of this world. Let Psalm 73:25-28, therefore, be our prayer.

Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.  But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.


[1] A discussion of the biblical-theological significance of the garden of Eden as a temple, and of Adam’s mission as king (under God’s kingship) to cultivate and keep it, expanding the garden throughout the world, cannot be addressed here.  One is encouraged to read What is Biblical Theology by James M. Hamilton; The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G. K. Beale; or Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen G. Dempster.