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Old Testament Study - The Fall, Genesis 3:8-24

Here, we conclude the study of Genesis 3.

Hiding from the Lord


8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

10He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

11And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

12The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"

The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."


In this section, we see how the sin of man affects his relationship with God. Sin separates corrupt man from holy God. Isaiah states the plight of sinful man: "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God" (Isa. 59:1,2). In fact, even the believer, in some respects, is separated from God by his sin. When we are in sin, we find it very difficult to serve the Lord because we feel hypocritical. This is why it is so important to acknowledge our sin and to confess it before God, so that we may be cleansed of our sin and be freed to serve Him with our whole heart.

Adam and Eve understood that they could no longer relate to God as they had before they sinned, so, "They hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden." Their hiding demonstrated that they realized that their self-made covering for their sin, the fig leaves, was not sufficient to cover their sin before God. Their hiding was also a demonstration of the shame and guilt that they felt as a result of their sin; for, what is shame but the awareness of our bankrupt nature in comparison to God's holiness, and what is guilt but the awareness that we deserve God's punishment.

But God, in His great mercy, seeks us out in our sin, not to punish, but that He may provide a way for us to deal with our sin and shed His grace upon us. In this way, He sought out Adam and Eve. Interestingly, God came to them "walking in the garden", just as a man would come to other men. He did the same thing later when He came into the world as Jesus Christ, in the form of a man.

God called to them, saying, "Where are you?" He asked this not because He did not know physically where they were, but to prompt them to consider where they were spiritually. They had to realize that their covering of fig leaves did not cover their sins; they had to realize that their sin was disturbing the magnificent relationship to God that they had previously. I am convinced that God, by questioning Adam, was trying to draw him to repentance, for He says in Proverbs: "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Prov. 28:13). The question "Where are you?" is an appropriate question for each person to ask himself today. Today, there are two possible answers: either we are in Adam and our sin is separating us from God; or we are in Christ and, despite our sin, we can come into the very presence of God.

Adam's answer to this question was to say, "I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." Indeed, man in his sin, his spiritual nakedness, cannot bear the presence of the Holy Lord. Isaiah, when he found himself in the presence of the Lord in a vision, cried out: "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (Isa. 6:5). The first time Peter realized that Christ was the Son of God, he cried: "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:8). Our tendency is to shy away from the Lord in our sin. Many people feel that they are not holy enough to come to God. However, God does not require a perfect, holy life before we come to Him. God requires only a repentant heart, desiring to be holy. We will never, on our own, achieve holiness. After turning to God and having been born anew through Jesus Christ, His Spirit will begin to work in our lives, slowly transforming us to be more holy.

In any case, hiding from the Lord, as did Adam, does not accomplish anything. We try to convince ourselves that God does not see us when we hide, but, in reality, it is we who do not see God. We hide because we lose the awareness of the presence of God. To attempt to hide sin from God is foolish. As Isaiah says: "Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, `Who sees us? Who will know?' " (Isa. 29:15). No matter where we are, God sees us, so we should not hide from Him, especially in light of the fact that He is reaching out to us, desiring to shed His grace upon us and surround us with His love.

Adam not only tried to hide from God but, when found, he attempted to place the blame for his sin elsewhere, by saying: "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree". He is directly blaming Eve, and indirectly blaming God for his own sin. More significantly, Adam is placing the blame on God's best gift to him, the woman Eve. It is shameful for us to blame God and the things He gives us for our sins. When we do so, it's no wonder that God does not give us more gifts.

Adam's attempt to place the blame on others was evidence that he had no repentance for his sin. Although God questioned Adam desiring his repentance, the result was that Adam's sin was aggravated by his blaming of others. Whenever God reaches out to us and we do not respond favorably to Him, we end up in a worse condition than when we started, with a heart more hardened, a will more set against Him, a greater resolve to go our own way. Beware of this!

God then turns to Eve, who, following the example of her husband, attempts to place the blame elsewhere: "The serpent deceived me." This is no excuse. Certainly, Satan deceives many, tempts many and leads many into sin; yet, ultimately, we ourselves are responsible for our sin. We can choose to follow Satan into sin or to resist him. In fact, God has promised believers the strength to resist temptation, if we will but use it: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (I Cor. 10:13). Make use of this promise in times of weakness!

The Curse from the Fall


14So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

16To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

17To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."


Here God deals out punishment to those involved in the fall. First, He curses the serpent. The cursing of the serpent was not inappropriate, even though the serpent was an animal used by Satan. It was the instrument that led to the destruction of man. In other places in scripture, animals that cause the death of men are commanded to be put to death (see Gen. 9:5; Ex. 21:28,29). The cursing of the serpent by the Lord served the purpose of showing man that God hates sin, that sin will be punished and that those yielding themselves to be Satan's instruments will be cursed.

The cursing of the serpent was also typical of the cursing of Satan himself. God said: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers". Indeed, Satan is an object of contempt and abhorrence, thus there is enmity between the woman's offspring and him. More significantly is the statement: "He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel". The wording seems to indicate that there is a specific offspring of Eve's that will carry out this curse, and, indeed, this passage is seen by most commentators as the first direct prophecy concerning Christ. Satan in effect struck Christ's heel on the cross, Christ will crush Satan's head when He comes to reign in the end times. Notice that the striking of the heel is a temporary wound, the crushing of the head causes permanent destruction.

The Lord went on to curse the woman. Eve, though deceived, was still accountable for her sin and punished for her sin because, first, she knew the commandment of God and disobeyed it, and second, she tried to excuse herself when confronted with her sin. There are basically two elements in the curse on the woman: she will have pain in childbirth; she will be in submission to her husband.

The punishment of the woman was merciful in two ways. First, God did not immediately carry out her death sentence, which was the punishment prescibed for her sin. His motive in delaying her death was, most likely, to give her a chance to deal with her sin, so that she would not have to experience the second death. The fall of man brought death into the world, but God, in His mercy, has given us the opportunity to receive life after death on this earth. If we reject the means that God has provided to receive life after the first death, we will experience a second death, which is eternity in hell. The second death is eternal and irrevocable. However, the life available to us is also eternal. Though the punishment for sin is death, God, in His mercy, has provided a means for man to atone for his sins through substitutionary death. In the Old Testament times, the substitutionary death was carried out by the blood sacrifice of animals, as prescribed in the Law. In the present times, the substitutionary death to atone for our sins was carried out by Jesus Christ. If we accept Christ's sacrifice as atonement for our sins, we can escape the second death and have eternal life.

The second reason that the punishment of the woman was merciful is that there are blessings that resulted from the curse. For instance, the pain in childbirth tends to increase the love of the mother for the child, due to the price paid for delivering the child. Also, submission to her husband, when carried out in a way prescribed in the New Testament, leads to a beautiful marriage and models the relationship between Christ and the church (see Eph. 5:21-33 and I Pet. 1-7).

God went on to punish the man for his sin. God stated that Adam was being punished "because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree". Adam was taken to task for listening to his wife instead of God. We must be careful that those we love do not lead us into sin. Many times, our loved ones cause us to stumble into disobedience of God. We must remember who our first love is, though, and obey God above all others.

The man's punishment was painful toil all the days of his life. Also, man's work of the field would yield thorns and thistles amidst the plants of the field. The amount of toil that it takes to produce a good crop is an eternal witness to the long-ranging effects of disobeying the Lord. The serious famines and hunger throughout the world are a direct result of the curse from the fall, the ground no longer yielding fruit as it did before the fall.

The painful toil itself, manifested in our careers, has become the focus of most of our lives. Man cannot escape the curse; those who try, do so to their own peril. Nevertheless, many, even Christians, desire to win the lottery or strike it rich and live in leisure the rest of their lives. They desire this even in light of the well-documented woes of the rich. However, I have found that the happiest in life are not necessarily the rich, but those who accept their portion in life, who accept their toil, which is the well-deserved punishment for man's rebellion. We should all say as the Psalmist: "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure" (Psalm 16:5). Man must work; however, to lighten the burden of your toil, take on the yoke of Christ. As Paul writes: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Col. 3:23,24).

Interestingly, the reason that we hate to work is often not because of the toil itself, but because of the sin that accompanies toil in the workplace. We hate the greed, ambition, coveting, lying, etc. that surrounds us as we put in our hours on the job. These, of course, are also a result of the sin that the fall brought into the world.

Part of the curse was that our work will produce "thorns and thistles", not just the fruit that we want it to bear. Our toil is not fulfilling. It does not yield the unqualified success that we desire it produce. There are always "thorns and thistles". Even when we serve the Lord, our good fruit is mixed with "thorns and thistles". We desire to serve Him with a pure heart, yet our flesh desires recognition, our flesh desires praise from the crowds, our flesh desires credit for the good that we have done.

Thorns, in the Bible, are a symbol of the curse and of the obstacles that prevent one from carrying out the work of the Lord. Many times, Israel's enemies are described as thorns in their sides or eyes.[Footnote #1] More significantly, Jesus, instead of wearing a crown of gold, wore a crown of thorns, because He did not come to reign in His first coming, but to take on the weight of the curse, to wear the sin of humanity.

The curse on the man, like the curse on the woman, is merciful and contains blessings. Man's toil keeps him occupied in wholesome, fruitful activity and, thus, plays a role in keeping him from the sin that comes from idolness. Notice how often those who do not work fall into sin. Also, the toil of man develops the body and develops the mind. Moreover, even the "thorns and thistles" can result in a blessing. Paul had such a one: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh" (II Cor. 12:7).

To remind man that death would be the ultimate result of the sin of eating the forbidden fruit, God tells him that he will "return to the ground". God does not make idle threats. Man will die as a result of his rebellion. However, the punishments given to Adam and Eve show that there is hope for man: death will not come right away, for man shall toil and woman shall give birth. God demonstrated from the beginning that He is long-suffering.

In summary, the curses were designed not only for punishment, but also for instruction, to strengthen us and to keep us from further sin. Ironically, the fruit of the curse indirectly brought eternal remedy from sin; for, as the result of one woman's pain in childbirth, Jesus Christ was brought into the world. He atoned for our sin, bringing us back to God, and will ultimately fulfill the prophecy contained in these curses when He crushes the head of Satan, destroying him forever.

Expulsion from Eden


20Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.


Interestingly, Adam here names his wife Eve, which most likely means "living". Moses states that Adam named her Eve because "she would become the mother of all living". It actually would have been more appropriate for her to be named "living" before the fall, since she, at that time, was not under the curse of death from her sin. It could very well be that Adam, after the fall, appreciated and understood more the life that they had been given, taking it for granted until he was under the sentence of death. We too, who are Christians, many times take for granted the life that we have. Let us never forget the great mercy shown to us and the magnificent gift of eternal life of which we are assured.

Note that Adam named her Eve (or "living") because she was to become the mother of all the "living". The naming of Eve demonstrates that Adam had hope that their offspring would have a chance to live. Adam, it seems, believed that God would provide a way to gain access again to the tree of life. Adam understood God's mercy. In fact, Adam, knowing the Lord in the personal way he did before the fall, must have understood God better than anyone else in human history.

It is interesting that having children did not seem to be a concern of Adam and Eve until death entered the world. Their impending death made it necessary for them to have offspring, and so, Adam's first concern after the fall was carrying on the human race. Realizing that he would die and "to dust" he was to return, must have given Adam a sense of urgency to have children.

Verse 21 is significant. Here God does properly what Adam and Eve tried to do with fig leaves. "God", Himself, "made garments of skin" to clothe their shame and, symbolically, to cover their sin. In this act, God establishes two principles: first, the atonement of sin comes by God's work of mercy, not by any works of man; second, the atonement of sin comes by the blood sacrifice of an animal, which was necessary in order to make animal skins for clothing.

I have little doubt that Adam and Eve were present at the sacrifice of the animals that provided the covering for their sins. Never having seen death, this event must have been shocking to them, to watch the blood flow upon the altar and the death of the animal. At that time, they must have realized for the first time what death meant. This episode underscores the ugliness of sin: Adam and Eve were once clothed with light, now they are clothed with death, in the form of a dead animal. Also, the fact that God provided the animal and the skins is prophetic of Him again providing the ultimate sacrifice of His Son to cover sin.

Next, the counsel of the Trinity (depicted by the "us" in the narrative) decides to bar man's access to the tree of life. This was an act of mercy on God's part. God would not allow man to live forever in sin and decay. God would not allow man to live forever in the toil and sorrow that fills the lives of fallen man on earth. Eternal life on earth would be tormenting. So, in His mercy, God forbade man access to the tree of life. However, in His great mercy, God has provided a way through Jesus Christ to regain access to it. Men who are justified by the blood of Jesus, and whose body of decay has been done away with, will once again be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever.

I find it interesting that there is no record of Adam and Eve partaking of the tree of life when they had access to it. In the same way, multitudes today ignore the tree of life provided through Christ.

Closing Prayer


Now Father, we praise You that You have provided the way for us to have eternal life. We praise You that even Your punishment of us is filled with Your mercy and designed to strengthen us and cause us to grow. We also thank You that You do not abandon us in our sin, but You reach out to us, desiring to shed Your grace on us. By Your Spirit, draw us close to You. In the name of Jesus we ask these things, Amen.


1. See Num. 33:55; Jos. 23:13; Jud. 2:3; II Sam. 23:6; Isa. 10:17; Isa. 27:4; Eze. 2:6; Eze. 28:24; Hos. 9:6.


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