Wisdom at What Price?

by Dr. R. Dean Davis

The story of the fall of man in Genesis 3 offers an amazing display of God’s grace. Eve’s first sin, motivated by her desire for self-exaltation, was the same sin that cost Lucifer his home in Heaven. Now known as Satan (see Revelation 12:9 and 20:2), he tempts Eve, disguised as a serpent.

Eve isn’t frightened. After all, this is an innocent, non-threatening animal. But there’s something different—this one speaks!

“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

She quickly recites God’s instructions against even touching the fruit (His way of telling her to avoid coming near temptation).

“You will not surely die,” Satan responds. “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.”

Wiser?

God subjected every animal to Adam and Eve, but now the serpent implies he’s wiser than Eve. Even worse, he implies he’s as wise as God by accusing Him of selfish motives in denying her this fruit!

Perhaps Eve feels she can attain even more wisdom—after all, the serpent curled in the forbidden tree can speak! She decides she wants to be like God—a position she can never attain—and eats the fruit. Feeling no ill effects, she becomes Satan’s unwitting instrument by tempting her husband.

Eve was tricked into eating the fruit, but Adam eats it deliberately. Suddenly their eyes are opened and they see that they are naked because they’ve lost God’s presence. His presence had been their clothing, but now they make leafy loincloths. They’ve acquired wisdom all right—the strange wisdom of the knowledge of good and evil, nakedness, and shame.

Their sin now costs an innocent animal its life as God makes them clothes out of skins.

Changing Roles

Notice the inversion of roles: Animals are subject to Adam and Eve, but the serpent takes a superior position to her. God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs (taken from his side, not from his foot, nor from his head). She is his equal, but by tempting him, she takes a superior position, implying she knows better than he does. Adam is over all of nature, including the trees—but not the two trees in the midst of the garden. Now he exercises authority over the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by eating its forbidden fruit.

Each has stepped out of their place in God’s creation, and as He calls them, they crouch in the bushes, trembling and ashamed. How quickly sin has taken hold. They each blame someone else for their disobedience—the woman blames the serpent, and man blames his wife (and God for giving her to him)!

But notice God’s grace as He pronounces fair punishment (curses) for each transgression: The serpent, who exalted himself above the woman, now becomes a despised creature who must crawl on his belly (implying that, perhaps, he hadn’t before). The woman, who exalted herself above her husband, becomes subject to him. Man who had been over all of nature, will now toil and labor for his food—just as the woman will labor in childbirth. Both are now subject to nature by returning to dust after they die.

But don’t miss this: After the curse on the serpent—and before the curses on Adam and Eve—God gives them the promise of a Redeemer! The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, but God promises that her seed (Jesus) will bruise the serpent’s head. In Hebrew thinking, bruising someone’s heel meant sneaking up and hurting them from behind. Remember Jacob and Esau? Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel during birth, earning him a name that literally means “deceiver”! Satan is a deceiver, and never was this more obvious than to Adam and Eve.

Next month we’ll look through the eyes of the ancients at the shepherds and farmers in the story of Cain and Abel.