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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Genesis 3



Verses 1-7


Genesis 3:1-7

How long the paradisiacal state of innocence and felicity continued the historian does not declare, probably as not falling within the scope of his immediate design. Psalms 49:12 has been thought, though without sufficient reason, to hint that man's Eden life was of comparatively short duration. The present chapter relates the tragic incident which brought it to a termination. Into the question of the origin of moral evil in the universe it does not enter. The recta-physical problem of how the first thought of sin could arise in innocent beings it does not attempt to resolve. It seeks to explain the genesis of evil with reference to man. Nor even with regard to this does it aim at an exhaustive dissertation, but only at such a statement of its beginnings as shall demonstrate that God is not the author of sin, but that man, by his own free volition, brought his pristine state of purity and happiness to an end. A due regard to this, the specific object of the Mosaic narrative, will go far to answer not a few of the objections which have been taken to its historic credibility. Like the Mosaic record of creation, the Biblical story of the fall has been impugned on a variety of grounds.

1. The doctrine of a fall, which this chapter clearly teaches, has been assailed as inconsistent with the dictates of a speculative philosophy, if not also with the tenets of a Scriptural theology. While in the present narrative the origin of sin is distinctly traced back to the free volition of man acting without constraint, though not without temptation, in opposition to the Divine will, a more exact psychological analysis, it is alleged, declares it to have been from the first a necessity, either

2. The narrative of the fall has been impugned—

Genesis 3:1

Now (literally, and) the serpent. Nachash, from nachash—

(a) To make naked; whence atom, plural arumim, naked (Genesis 2:25).

(b) To crafty (1 Samuel 23:22). If applied to the serpent in the sense of πανοῦ ργος (Aquila, Keil, Lange, Macdonald),

it can only be either

Unto the woman. As the weaker of the two, and more likely to be easily persuaded (1 Timothy 2:14; 1 Peter 3:7). Cf. Satan's assault on Job through his wife (Job 2:9). Milton's idea that Eve desired to be independent, and had withdrawn herself out of Adam's sight, it has been well remarked, "sets up a beginning of the fall before the fall itself" (Lunge). Yea. אַף כּי. Is it even so that? (Gesenius). Is it really so that! (Ewald, Furst, Keil). Etiamne, vel Itane (Calvin). A question either

Genesis 3:2, Genesis 3:3

And the woman said unto the serpent. Neither afraid of the reptile, there being not yet any enmity among the creatures; nor astonished at his speaking, perhaps as being not yet fully acquainted with the capabilities of the lower animals; nor suspicions of his designs, her innocence and inexperience not predisposing her to apprehend danger. Yet the tenor of the reptile's interrogation was fitted to excite alarm; and if, as some conjecture, she understood that Satan was the speaker, she should at once have taken flight; while, if she knew nothing of him or his disposition, she should not have opened herself so freely to a person unknown. "The woman certainly discovers some uuadvisedness in entertaining conference with the serpent, in matters of so great importance, in so familiar a manner" (White). We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:4

And the serpent said unto the woman. "As God had preached to Adam, so Satan now also preaches to Eve … The object of Satan was to draw away Eve by his word or saying from that which God had said" (Luther). Ye shall not surely die. Lo-moth temuthun. Thus the second step in his assault is to challenge the Divine veracity, in allusion to which it has been thought our Savior calls Satan a liar (cf. John 8:44 : ὁ ì ταν λαλῇ το Ì ψεῦ δος ἐ κ τῶ ν ἰ δι ì ων λαλεῖ ὁ τι ψευ ì στης ἐ στιν και Ì ὁ πατη Ì ρ αὐ τοῦ). "Here, as far as we know, is his first begottten lie" (Bush).

Genesis 3:5

For ( כִּי —nam, γαρ, for because; assigning the reason

God doth know. Thus the serpent practically charges the Deity with

(a) in affirming that to be true which he knew to be false;

(b) in doing this while delivering his law;

(c) in pretending to be careful of man's safety while in reality he was only jealous of his own honor.

That in the day ye eat thereof. Cf. the Divine prohibition (Genesis 2:17), the exact terms of which are again used—a mark of growing aggressiveness towards the woman, and of special audacity towards God. The prohibition employs the singular number, being addressed to Adam only; the devil employs the plural, as his words were meant not for Eve alone, but for her husband with her. Your eyes shall be opened. "To open the eyes," the usual Biblical phrase for restoring sight to the blind (2 Kings 6:17, 2 Kings 6:20; Psalms 146:8; Isaiah 42:7), is also used to denote the impartation of power to perceive (physically, mentally, spiritually) objects not otherwise discernible (cf. Genesis 21:19; Isaiah 35:5). Here it was designed to be ambiguous; like all Satan's oracles, suggesting to the hearer the attainment of higher wisdom, but meaning in the intention of the speaker only a discovery of their nakedness. The same ambiguity attaches to the devil's exposition of his own text. And ye shall be as gods. Literally, as Elohim; not &c θεοιÌ (LXX.), sicut dii (Vulgate), as gods (A.V.), as the angels (R. Jonathan), as the devils (Ainsworth), daemonibusque, diisve similes (Rosenmüller), as princes (White); but as the supreme Deity (Calvin, Keil, Kalisch, et alia)—ostensibly a promise of divinity. Knowing good and evil. As they knew this already from the prohibition, the language must imply a fullness and accuracy of understanding such as was competent only to Elohim (vide on Genesis 3:22)

Genesis 3:6

And (when) the woman saw. "An impure look, infected with the poison of concupiscence" (Calvin); cf. Joshua 7:21. That the tree was good for food. "The fruit of this tree may have been neither poisonous nor beautiful, or it may have been both; but sin has the strange power of investing the object of desire for the time being, whatever its true character, with a wonderful attraction" (Inglis). And that it (was) pleasant Literally, a desire (Psalms 10:17), a lust (Numbers 11:4). To the eyes. ἀ ριστο Ì ν τοῖ ς ὀ φθαλμοῖ ς (LXX.); pulchrum oculis (Vulgate); lust ye unto the eyes (Coverdale); i.e. stimulating desire through the eyes (cf. 1 John 2:16). And a tree to be desired to make (one) wise. לְהַשְׂכִּיל (from שָׂכַל


being susceptible of two renderings, the clause has been taken to mean "a tree desirable to look at" (Syriac, Onkelos, Vulgate, Gesenius, Kalisch, Wordsworth), or, more correctly, as it stands in the English Version, the external loveliness of the tree having been already stated in the preceding clause (LXX , Aben Ezra, Calvin, Hengstenberg, Macdonald). This is the third time the charms of the tree are discerned and expressed by the woman—a significant intimation of how far the Divine interdict had receded from her consciousness. She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. Thus consummating the sin (James 1:15). And gave also to her husband. Being desirous, doubtless, of making him a sharer in her supposed felicity. The first time Adam is styled Eve's husband, or man; perhaps designed to indicate the complete perversion by Eve of the Divine purpose of her marriage with Adam, which was to be a helpmeet for him, and not his destroyer. With her. An indication that Adam was present throughout the whole preceding scene (Delitzsch, Wordsworth), which is not likely, else why did he not restrain Eve? or that he arrived just as the temptation closed (Calvin), which is only a conjecture; better regarded as a reference to their conjugal oneness (Macdonald). And he did eat. And so involved himself in the criminality of his already guilty partner; not simply as being "captivated with her allurements" ("fondly overcome with female charms"—Milton, Par. Lost,' Book 10.), which 1 Timothy 2:14 is supposed to justify'; but likewise as being "persuaded by Satan's impostures," which doubtless Eve had related to him. This much is distinctly implied in those Scriptures which speak of Adam as the chief transgressor (vide Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 1 Corinthians 15:22).

Genesis 3:7

And the eyes of them both were opened. The fatal deed committed, the promised results ensued, but not the anticipated blessings.

Traditions of the Fall.


1. Babylonian. "There is nothing in the Chaldean fragments indicating a belief in the garden of Eden or the tree of knowledge; there is only an obscure allusion to a thirst for knowledge having been a cause of man's fall" … The details of the temptation are lost in the cuneiform text, which "opens where the gods are cursing the dragon and the Adam or man for his transgression." … "The dragon, which, in the Chaldean account, leads man to sin, is the creature of Tiamat, the living principle of the sea and of chaos, and he is an embodiment of the spirit of chaos or disorder which was opposed to the deities at the creation of the world." The dragon is in-eluded in the curse for the fall; and the gods invoke on the human race all the evils which afflict humanity—family quarrels, tyranny, the anger of the gods, disappointment, famine, useless prayers, trouble of mind and body, a tendency to sin.

2. Persian. For a time the first pair, Meschia and Mesehiane, were holy and happy, pure in word and deed, dwelling in a garden wherein was a tree whose fruit conferred life and immortality; but eventually Ahriman deceived them, and drew them away from Ormuzd. Emboldened by his success, the enemy again appeared, anti gave them a fruit, of which they ate, with the result that, of the hundred blessings which they enjoyed, all disappeared save one. Falling beneath the power of the evil one, they practiced the mechanical arts, and subsequently built themselves houses and clothed themselves with skins. Another form of the legend represents Ahriman as a serpent. So close is the resemblance of this legend to the Scriptural account, that Rawlinson regards it not as a primitive tradition, but rather as "an infiltration into the Persian system of religious ideas belonging properly to the Hebrews".

3. Indian. In the Hindoo mythology the king of the evil demons, "the king of the serpents," is named Naga, the prince of the Nagis or Nacigs, "in which Sanserit appellation we plainly trace the Hebrew Nachash." In the Vishnu Purana the first beings created by Brama are represented as endowed with righteousness and perfect faith, as free from guilt and filled with perfect wisdom, wherewith they contemplated the glory of Visham, till after a time they are seduced. In the legends of India the triumph of Krishna over the great serpent Kali Naga, who had poisoned the waters of the river, but who himself was ultimately destroyed by Krishna trampling on his head, bears a striking analogy to the Mosaic story (Kitto's 'Daily Bible Illustrations').


1. The story of Pandora. According to Hesiod the first men lived wifeless and ignorant, but innocent and happy. Prometheus ("Forethought") having stolen fire from heaven, taught its use to mankind. To punish the aspiring mortals, Zeus sent among them Pandora, a beautiful woman, whom he had instructed Hephaestus to make, and Aphrodite, Athena, and Hermes had endowed with all seductive charms. Epimetheus ("Afterthought"), the brother of Prometheus, to whom she was presented, accepted her, and made her his wife. Brought into his house, curiosity prevailed on her to lift the lid of a closed jar in which the elder brother had with prudent foresight shut up all kinds of ills and diseases. Forthwith they escaped to torment mankind, which they have done ever since.

2. The apples of the Hesperides. These golden apples, which were under the guardianship of the nymphs of the West, were closely watched by a terrible dragon named Laden, on account of an ancient oracle that a son of the deity would at a certain time arrive, open a way of access thither, and carry them off. Hercules, having inquired his way to the garden in which they grew, destroyed the monster and fulfilled the oracle.

3. Apollo and the Pythen. "This Python, ancient legends affirm, was a serpent bred out of the slime that remained after Deucalion's deluge, and was worshipped as a god at Delphi. Eminent authorities derive the name of the monster kern a Hebrew root signifying to deceive." As the bright god of heaven, to whom everything impure and unholy is hateful, Apollo, four days after his birth, slew this monster with his arrows.

"What shall we say then to these things? This—that the nations embodied in these traditions their remembrances of paradise, of the fall, and of the promised salvation".


Genesis 3:6

The first sin.


1. The fact. That sin is possible even in pure beings without the intervention of solicitation, at least ab extra, must be held to be the doctrine of Scripture (vide James 1:14 and Jud James 1:6). Hence man might have fallen, even had he not been tempted. The fact, however, that he was tempted is explicitly revealed; a circumstance which notes an important distinction between his sin and that of the angels. Does this explain Hebrews 2:16 and 2 Peter 2:4?

2. The author. Though ostensibly a serpent, in reality the devil. Besides being expressly stated in the inspired word, it is involved in the very terms of the Mosaic narrative. If the reptile possessed the malice to conceive and the skill to manage such an assault upon the first pair as this book describes, then clearly it was not a serpent, but a devil. It is doubtful if all man's temptations come from the devil, but many, perhaps most, do. He is pre-eminently styled "the tempter" (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). From the days of Adam downward he has been engaged in attempting to seduce the saints; e.g. David (1 Chronicles 21:1); Job (Genesis 2:7); Christ (Luke 4:13); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). At the present moment he is laboring to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9).

3. The instrument. The serpent, which was a proof of Satan's skill, that particular reptile being specially adapted for his purpose (N.B.—The devil can always find a tool adapted to the work he has in hand); and is an indication of our danger, it being only a reptile, and therefore little likely to be suspected as a source of peril; whence we may gather that there is no quarter so unexpected, and no instrument so feeble, that out of the one and through the other temptation may not leap upon us.

4. The nature. This was threefold. A temptation

(Cf. the three assaults upon the Second Adam (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1), which were essentially the same.) The first aimed a death-blow at their filial confidence in God; the second removed the fear of punishment from their path; the third fired their souls with the lust of ambition. Separation from God, disobedience of God, opposition to or rivalry with God—the devil's scala coeli.

5. The subtlety. That great art should have been displayed in the conduct of this campaign against the citadel of human holiness is what might have been expected from such a general. In these respects it was evinced.


1. Its guilty perpetrators. Not the serpent or the devil, but the first pair. The devil may tempt man to sin, but he cannot sin for man. A creature may be the unconscious instrument of leading man aside from the path of virtue, but it cannot possibly compel man to go astray. Men are prone to blame other things and persons for their sins, when the true criminals are themselves.

2. Its impelling motive. No temptation, however skillfully planned or powerfully applied, can succeed until it finds a footing in the nature that is tempted. Unless the devil's logic and chicanery had produced the effect described in verse 6, it is more than probable that Eve would have stood. But first it wrought a change upon herself, and then it transformed the tree. First it created the need for sinful motives, and then it supplied them. So works temptation still. As with Eve, so with us. Sinful motives are

3. Its essential wickedness, as consisting of

the fundamental elements in all sin, corresponding to the three fundamental elements of man's being and consciousness—spirit, soul, body (cf. Auberlen's ' Divine Revelation,' Part I; § 3, Genesis 9:1-29.).

4. Its sad results.


1. The responsibility of man.

2. The duty of guarding against temptation.

3. The contagious character of moral evil.

4. The havoc wrought by a single sin.


Genesis 3:1

The tempter.


1. Not the mere serpent.

2. A higher power of evil.

3. This higher power a person.

4. The leader of the fallen angels.

II. WHY PERMITTED? Easy to see why moved; why permitted, a mystery. But we may note—

1. That the intercourse of mind with mind is a general law of nature. To exclude the devil, therefore, from gaining access to man might have involved as great a miracle as preventing one mind from influencing another.

2. That the good as well as the evil angels have access to us. Can we estimate their influence, or be sure that Adam's position or the world's would have been better if both had been excluded?

3. That possibly by this sin under temptation we were saved from a worse sin apart from temptation.

4. That God magnifies his grace and vindicates his power against the devil's in raising fallen man above his first place of creature-ship into that of sonship.


1. Because not permitted to assume a higher form—his masterpiece of craft, "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14), or his masterpiece of power, a mighty prince (Matthew 4:1).

2. Because of all animals the serpent seemed the fittest for his purpose.—W.


Genesis 3:1-7

The moral chaos before the moral restoration.

Hitherto the moral nature of man may be said to be absorbed in his religious nature. He has held intercourse with his Creator. He has ruled earth as "the paragon of animals." The introduction of a helpmeet was the commencement of society, therefore of distinctly moral relations. It is in the moral sphere that sin takes its origin, through the helpmeet, and as a violation at the same time of a direct Divine commandment, and of that social compact of obedience to God and dependence upon one another which is the root of all true moral life. The woman was away from the man when she sinned. Her sin was more than a sin against God; it was an offence against the law of her being as one with her husband. There are many suggestive points in the verses (1-7) which we may call the return of man's moral state into chaos, that out of it may come forth, by Divine grace, the new creation of a redeemed humanity.

I. As it is only IN THE MORAL SPHERE THAT SIN IS POSSIBLE, SO IT IS BY THE CONTACT OF A FORMER CORRUPTION WITH MAN that the evil principle is introduced into the world. The serpent's subtlety represents that evil principle already in operation.

II. While the whole transaction is on the line of moral and religious responsibility IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISCONNECT THE ANIMAL NATURE FROM THE FIRST TEMPTATION. The serpent, the woman, the tree, the eating of fruit, the pleasantness to taste and sight, the effect upon the fleshly feelings, all point to the close relation of the animal and the moral. There is nothing implied as to the nature of matter, but it is plainly taught that the effect of a loss of moral and spiritual dignity is a sinking back into the lower grade of life; as man is less a child of God he is more akin to the beasts that perish.

III. THE TEMPTATION IS BASED ON A LIE; first soliciting the mind through a question, a perplexity, then passing to a direct contradiction of God's word, and blasphemous suggestion of his ill-will towards man, together with an excitement of pride and overweening desire in man's heart. The serpent did not directly open the door of disobedience. He led the woman up to it, and stirred in her the evil thought of passing through it. The first temptation is the type of all temptation. Notice the three points:—

IV. THE IMPOSSIBILITY THAT SIN SHOULD NOT FRUCTIFY IMMEDIATELY THAT IT BECOME A FACT OF THE LIFE. Temptation is not sin. Temptation resisted is moral strength. Temptation yielded to is an evil principle admitted into the sphere of its operation, and beginning its work at once. The woman violated her true position by her sin; it was the consequence of that position that she became a tempter herself to Adam, so that the helpmeet became to Adam what the serpent was to her. His eating with her was, as Milton so powerfully describes it, at once—

V. THE WORK OF SIN UPON THE WHOLE NATURE IS IMMEDIATE. The knowledge of good and evil is the commencement of a conflict between the laws of nature and the laws of the human spirit in its connection with nature, which nothing but the grace of God can bring to an end in the "peace which passeth understanding." That springing up of shame in the knowledge of natural facts is a testimony to a violation of God's order which he alone can set right. "Who told thee," God said, "that thou wast naked?" God might have raised his creature to a position in which shame would have been impossible. He will do so by his grace. Meanwhile the fall was what the word represents a forfeiture of that superiority to the mere animal nature which was man's birthright. And the results of the fall are seen in the perpetual warfare between the natural world and the spiritual world in that being who was made at once a being of earth and a child of God. "They sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons." In the sense of humiliation and defeat man turns to the mere material protection of surrounding objects, forgetting that a spiritual evil can only be remedied by a spiritual good; but the shameful helplessness of the creature is the opportunity for the gracious interposition of God.—R.


Genesis 3:4

The tempter's chief weapon.

Narrative of the fall is of interest not only as the record of how mankind became sinful, but as showing the working of that "lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:11) by which the tempter continually seeks to draw men away (2 Corinthians 11:3). Eve's temptation is in substance our temptation; Eve's fall illustrates our danger, and gives us matter whereby to try ourselves and mark how far we "walk by faith."

The SUBSTANCE OF THE TEMPTATION was suggesting doubts—

The former led to self-willed desire; the latter gave force to the temptation by removing the restraining power. We are tempted by the same suggestions. The will and unbelief act and react upon each other. Where the will turns away from God's will doubt more easily finds an entrance, and having entered, it strengthens self-will (Romans 1:28). Unbelief is often a refuge to escape from the voice of conscience. But mark—the suggestion was not, "God has not said," but, It will not be so; You have misunderstood him; There will be some way of avoiding the danger. Excuses are easy to find: human infirmity, peculiar circumstances, strength of temptation, promises not to do so again. And a man may live, knowing God's word, habitually breaking it, yet persuading himself that all is well. Note two chief lines in which this temptation assails:—

1. As to the necessity for Christian earnestness. We are warned (1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:12; Romans 8:6-13). What is the life thus spoken of? Nothing strange. A life of seeking the world's prizes, gains, pleasures. A life whose guide is what others do; in which the example of Christ and guidance of the Holy Spirit are not regarded; in which religion is kept apart, and confined to certain times and services. Of this God says it is living death (cf. 1 Timothy 5:6); life's work neglected; Christ's banner deserted. Yet the tempter persuades—times have changed, the Bible must not be taken literally, ye shall not die.

2. As to acceptance of the gift of salvation. God's word is (Mark 16:15; Luke 14:21; John 4:10) the record to be believed (Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 5:11). Yet speak to men of the free gift, tell them of present salvation; the tempter persuades—true; but you must do something, or feel something, before it can be safe to believe;—God has said; but it will not be so. In conclusion, mark how the way of salvation just reverses the process of the fall. Man fell away from God, from peace, from holiness through doubting God's love and truth. We are restored to peace through believing these (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9), and it is this belief which binds us to God in loving service (2 Corinthians 5:14).—M.

Verses 8-19


Genesis 3:8

And they heard the voice of the Lord God. Either

Genesis 3:9, Genesis 3:10

And the Lord God called unto Adam. Adam's absence was a clear proof that something was wrong. Hitherto he had always welcomed the Divine approach. And said unto him, Where art thou? Not as if ignorant of Adam's hiding-place, but to bring him to confession (cf. Genesis 4:9). And I was afraid, because I was naked. Attributing his fear to the wrong cause—the voice of God or his insufficient clothing; a sign of special obduracy (Calvin), which, however, admits of a psychological explanation, viz; that" his consciousness of the effects of sin was keener than his sense of the sin itself" (Keil), "although all that he says is purely involuntary self-accusation" (Delitzsch), and "the first instance of that mingling and confusion of Bin and punishment which is the peculiar characteristic of our redemption-needing humanity" (Lange). And I hid myself.

Genesis 3:11, Genesis 3:12

And he said. "To reprove the sottishness of Adam" (Calvin); "to awaken in him a sense of sin" (Keil). Who told thee that thou wast naked? Delitzsch finds in מִי an indication that a personal power was the prime cause of man's disobedience; but, as Lange rightly observes, it is the occasion not of sin, but of the consciousness of nakedness that is here inquired after. Hast thou eaten of the tree (at once pointing Adam to the true cause of his nakedness, and intimating the Divine cognizance of his transgression) whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? "Added to remove the pretext of ignorance" (Calvin), and also to aggravate the guilt of his offence, as having been done in direct violation of the Divine prohibition. The question was fitted to carry conviction to Adam's conscience, and halt the instantaneous effect of eliciting a confession, though neither a frank one nor a generous. And the man said (beginning with apology and ending with confession, thus reversing the natural order, and practically rolling back the blame on God), The woman whom thou gavest to be with me (accusing the gift and the Giver in one), she gave me of the tree. Cf. with the cold and unfeeling terms in which Adam speaks of Eve the similar language in Genesis 37:32; Luke 15:30; John 9:12. "Without natural affection" is one of the bitter fruits of sin (cf. Romans 1:31). Equally with the blasphemy, ingratitude, unkindness, and meanness of this excuse, its frivolity is apparent; as if, though Eve gave, that was any reason why Adam should have eaten. And I did eat. Reluctantly elicited, the confession of his sin is very mildly stated. "A cold expression, manifesting neither any grief nor shame at so foul an act, but rather a desire to cover his sin" (White).

Genesis 3:13

And the Lord said unto the woman—without noticing the excuses, but simply accepting the admission, and passing on, "following up the transgression, even to the root—not the psychological merely, but the historical (Lange): What is this that thou hast done? Or, "Why hast thou done this?" (LXX; Vulgate, Luther, De Wette). "But the Hebrew phrase has more vehemence; it is the language of one who wonders as at something prodigious, and ought rather to be rendered, ' How hast thou done this?'" (Calvin). And the woman said (following the example of her guilty, husband, omitting any notice of her sin in tempting Adam, and transferring the blame of her own disobedience to the reptile), The serpent beguiled me. Literally, caused me to forget, hence beguiled, from נָשָׁה, to forget a thing (Lamentations 3:17 ), or person; or, caused me to go astray, from נָשָׁא (unused in Kal), kindred to כָשָׁה, perhaps to err, to go astray (Gesenius, Furst); η ̓ πατηì σε (LXX.), ἐ ξαπαì τησεν (2 Corinthians 11:3). And I did eat. "A forced confession, but no appearance of contrition. 'It's true I did eat, but it was not my fault'" (Hughes).

Genesis 3:14

Confession having thus been made by both delinquents, and the arch-contriver of the whole mischief discovered, the Divine Judge proceeds to deliver sentence. And the Lord God said unto the serpent. Which he does not interrogate as he did the man and woman, "because

1. The serpent only (Kalisch).

2. The devil only (Macdonald).

3. Partly on the serpent and partly on Satan (Calvin).

4. Wholly upon both (Murphy, Bush, Candlish).

The difficulties attending these different interpretations have thus been concisely expressed:—

1. Quidam statuunt maledictioncm latam in serpentem solum, quia hic confertur cum aliis bestiis, non in diabolum, quid is antea maledictus erat.

2. Alii in diabolum solum, quid brutus serpens non poterat juste puniri.

3. Alii applicant Genesis 3:14 ad serpentem, Genesis 3:15 in diabolum. At vero tu et te idem sunt in utroque versu.

4. Alii existimant earn in utrumque latam" (Medus in 'Poll Commentsr.,' quoted by Lange). The fourth opinion seems most accordant with the language of the malediction. Thou art cursed. The cursing of the irrational creature should occasion no more difficulty than the cursing of the earth (Genesis 3:17), or of the fig tree (Matthew 11:21). Creatures can be cursed or blessed only in accordance with their natures. The reptile, therefore, being neither a moral nor responsible creature, could not be cursed in the sense of being made susceptible of misery. But it might be cursed in the sense of being deteriorated in its nature, and, as it were, consigned to a lower position in the scale of being. And as the Creator has a perfect right to assign to his creature the specific place it shall occupy, and function it shall subserve, in creation, the remanding of the reptile to an inferior position could not justly be construed into a violation of the principles of right, while it might serve to God's intelligent creatures as a visible symbol of his displeasure against sin (cf. Genesis 9:5; Exodus 21:28-36). Above. Literally, from, i.e. separate and apart from all cattle (Le Clerc, Von Bohlen, Tuch, Knobel, Keil); and neither by (Gesenius, De Wette, Baumgarten) nor above (Luther, A.V; Rosenmüller, Delitzsch), as if the other creatures were either participators in or the instruments of the serpent's malediction. All cattle, and above (apart from) every beast of the field. The words imply the materiality of the reptile and the reality of the curse, so far as it was concerned. Upon thy belly. ἐ πι Ì τῷ στη ì θει σου και Ì τῇ κοιλι ì ᾳ (LXX.); "meaning with, great pain and, difficulty." As Adam's labor and Eve's conception had pain and sorrow added to them (Genesis 3:16, Genesis 3:17), so the serpent's gait" (Ainsworth). Shalt thou go. "As the worm steals over the earth with its length of body," "as a mean and despised crawler in the dust," having previously gone erect (Luther), and been possessed of bone (Josephus), and capable of standing upright and twining itself round the trees (Lange), or at least having undergone some transformation as to external form (Delitzsch, Keil); though the language may import nothing more than that whereas the reptile had exalted itself against man, it was henceforth to be thrust back-into its proper rank," "recalled from its insolent motions to its accustomed mode of going," and "at the same time condemned to perpetual infamy" (Calvin). As applied to Satan this part of the curse proclaimed his further degradation in the scale of being in consequence of having tempted man. "Than the serpent trailing along the ground, no emblem can more aptly illustrate the character and condition of the apostate spirit who once occupied a place among the angels of God, but has been cast down to the earth, preparatory to his deeper plunge into the fiery lake (Revelation 20:10; Macdonald). And dust shalt thou eat, I.e. mingling dust with all it should eat. "The great scantiness of food on which serpents can subsist gave rise to the belief entertained by many Eastern nations, and referred to in several Biblical allusions (Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17)—that they cat dust" (Kalisch). More probably it originated in a too literal interpretation of the Mosaic narrative. Applied to the devil, this part of the curse was an additional intimation of his degradation. To "lick the dust" or "eat the dust" "is equivalent to being reduced to a condition of meanness, shame, and contempt" (Bush); "is indicative of disappointment in all the aims of being" (Murphy); "denotes the highest intensity of a moral condition, of which the feelings of the prodigal (Luke 15:16) may be considered a type' (Macdonald; cf. Psalms 72:9). All the days of thy life. The degradation should be perpetual as well as complete.

Genesis 3:15

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman. Referring—

1. To the fixed and inveterate antipathy between the serpent and the human race (Bush, Lange); to that alone (Knobel).

2. To the antagonism henceforth to be established between the tempter and mankind (Murphy); to that alone (Calvin, Bonar, Wordsworth, Macdonald). And between thy seed and her seed. Here the curse manifestly outgrows the literal serpent, and refers almost exclusively to the invisible tempter. The hostility commenced between the woman and her destroyer was to be continued by their descendants—the seed of the serpent being those of Eve's posterity who should imbibe the devil's spirit and obey the devil's rule (cf. Matthew 23:33; 1 John 3:10); and the seed of the woman signifying those whose character and life should be of an opposite description, and in particular the Lord Jesus Christ, who is styled by preeminence "the Seed" (Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:19), and who came "to destroy the works of the devil" (Hebrews 2:4; 1 John 3:8). This we learn from the words which follow, and which, not obscurely, point to a seed which should be individual and personal. It—or he; αὐ τος (LXX.); not ipsashall bruise.

1. Shall crush, trample down—rendering שׁוּף by torero or conterere (Vulgate, Syriac, Samaritan, Tuch, Baumgarten, Keil, Kalisch).

2. Shall pierce, wound, bite—taking the verb as— שָׁפַף, to bite (Furst, Calvin).

3. Shall watch, lie in wait = שָׁאַף (LXX; τηρηì σει—Wordsworth suggests as the correct reading τερηì σει, from τερεì ω, perforo, vulnero—Gesenius, Knobel). The word occurs only in two other places in Scripture—Job 9:17; Psalms 139:11—and in the latter of these the reading is doubtful (cf. Perowne on Psalm in loco). Hence the difficulty of deciding with absolute certainty between these rival interpretations. Psalms 91:13 and Romans 16:20 appear to sanction the first; the second is favored by the application of the same word to the hostile action of the serpent, which is not treading, but biting; the feebleness of the third is its chief objection. Thy head. I.e. the superior part of thee (Calvin), meaning that the serpent would be completely destroyed, the head of the reptile being that part of its body in which a wound was most dangerous, and which the creature itself instinctively protects; or the import of the expression may be, He shall attack thee in a bold and manly way (T. Lewis). And thou shalt bruise his heel. I.e. the inferior part (Calvin), implying that in the conflict he would be wounded, but not destroyed; or "the biting of the heel may denote the mean, insidious character of the devil's warfare" (T. Lewis).

Genesis 3:16

Unto the woman he said. Passing judgment on her first who had sinned first, but cursing neither her nor her husband, as "being candidates for restoration" (Tertullian). The sentence pronounced on Eve was twofold. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. A hendiadys for "the sorrow of thy conception" (Gesenius, Bush), though this is not necessary. The womanly and wifely sorrow of Eve was to be intensified, and in particular the pains of parturition were to be multiplied (cf. Jeremiah 31:8). The second idea is more fully explained in the next clause. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Literally, sons, daughters being included. The pains of childbirth are in Scripture emblematic of the severest anguish both of body and mind (cf. Psalms 48:7; Micah 4:9, Micah 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; John 16:21; Revelation 12:2). The gospel gives a special promise to mothers (1 Timothy 2:15). "By bringing forth is also meant bringing up after the birth, as in Genesis 50:23" (Ainsworth). And thy desire shall be to thy husband. תְּשׁוּקָה, from שׁוּק to run, to have a vehement longing for a thing, may have the same meaning here as in Song of Solomon 7:10 (Dathe, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Bohlen, Kalisch, Alford); but is better taken as expressive of deferential submissiveness, as in Genesis 4:7 (Luther, Calvin, Le Clerc, Lunge, Macdonald, Speaker's 'Commentary'.) Following the LXX. ( ἀ ποστροφηì), Murphy explains it as meaning, "The determination of thy will shall be yielded to thy husband." According to the analogy of the two previous clauses, the precise import of this is expressed in the next, though by many it is regarded as a distinct item in the curse (Kalisch, Alford, Clarke, Wordsworth). And he shall rule over thee. Not merely a prophecy of woman's subjection, but an investiture of man with supremacy over the woman; or rather a confirmation and perpetuation of that authority which had been assigned to the man at the creation. Woman had been given him as an helpmeet (Genesis 2:18), and her relation to the man from the first was constituted one of dependence. It was the reversal of this Divinely-established order that had led to the fall (Genesis 3:17). Henceforth, therefore, woman was to be relegated to, and fixed in, her proper sphere of subordination. On account of her subjection to man's authority a wife is described as the possessed or subjected one of a lord (Genesis 20:3; Deuteronomy 20:1-20 :22), and a husband as the lord of a woman (Exodus 21:3). Among the Hebrews the condition of the female sex was one of distinct subordination, though not of oppression, and certainly not of slavery, as it too often has been in heathen and Mohammedan countries. Christianity, while placing woman on the same platform with man as regards the blessings of the gospel (Galatians 3:28), explicitly inculcates her subordination to the man in the relationship of marriage (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1)

Genesis 3:17

And unto Adam he said. The noun here used for the first time without the article is explained as a proper name (Keil, Lunge, Speaker's 'Commentary'), though perhaps it is rather designed to express the man's representative character (Macdonald). Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife. Preceding his sentence with a declaration of his guilt, which culminated in this, that instead of acting as his wife's protector prior to her disobedience, or as her mentor subsequent to that act, in the hope of brining her to repentance, he became her guilty coadjutor through yielding himself to her persuasions. And hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it. For which a twofold judgment is likewise pronounced upon Adam. Cursed is the ground. Ha adamah, out of which man was taken (Genesis 2:7); i.e. the soil outside of the garden. The language does not necessarily imply that now, for the first time, in consequence of the fall, the physical glebe underwent a change, "becoming from that point onward a realm of deformity and discord, as before it was not, and displaying in all its sceneries and combinations the tokens of a broken constitution'' (vide Bushnell, 'Nature and the Supernatural,' Genesis 7:1-24.); simply it announces the fact that, because of the transgression of which he had been guilty, he would find the land beyond the confines of Eden lying under a doom of sterility (cf. Romans 8:20). For thy sake. בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ .

1. Because of thy sin it required to be such a world.

2. For thy good it was better that such a curse should lie upon the ground. Reading ד instead of ר, the LXX. translate ἐ ν τοῖ ς ἐ ì ργοις; and the Vulgate, In operetuo. In sorrow. Literally, painful labor (cf. Genesis 3:16; Proverbs 5:10). Shalt thou eat of it. I.e. of its fruits (cf. Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 36:16; Isaiah 37:30). "Bread of sorrow" (Psalms 127:2) is bread procured and eaten amidst hard labor. All the days of thy life.

Genesis 3:18

Thorns also and thistles. Terms occurring only here and in Hosed Genesis 10:8 = the similar expressions in Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:23 (Kalisch, Keil, Macdonald). Shall it bring forth to thee. I.e. these shall be its spontaneous productions; if thou desirest anything else thou must labor for it. And thou shalt eat the herb of the field. "Not the fruit of paradise" (Wordsworth), but "the lesser growths sown by his own toil" (Alford)—an intimation that henceforth man was "to be deprived of his former delicacies to such an extent as to be compelled to use, in addition, the herbs which had been designed only for brute animals;" and perhaps also "a consolation," as if promising that, notwithstanding the thorns and thistles, "it should still yield him sustenance" (Calvin).

Genesis 3:19

In the sweat of thy face (so called, as having there its source and being there visible) shalt thou eat bread. I.e. all food. "To eat bread" is to possess the means of sustaining life (Ecclesiastes 5:16; Amos 7:12). Till thou return unto the ground (the mortality-of man is thus assumed as certain); for out of it thou wast taken. Not declaring the reason of man's dissolution, as if it were involved in his original material constitution, but reminding him that in consequence of his transgression he had forfeited the privilege of immunity from death, and must now return to the soil whence he sprung. ἐ ξ η}j e)lh&fqhj (LXX.); de qua sumptus es (Vulgate); "out of which thou wast taken" (Macdonald, Gesenius). On the use of כִּי as a relative pronoun— אַשֶׁר cf. Gesenius, ' Lex. sub nom.,' who quotes this and Genesis 4:25 as examples. Vide also Stanley Leathes, 'Hebrews Gram.,' p. 202; and 'Glassii Philologiae,' lib. 3. tr. 2, c. 15. p. 335. This use of כִּי, however, appears to be doubtful, and is not necessary in any of the examples quoted.


Genesis 3:8-19

The first judgment scene.


1. It is the instinct of sinful men to flee from God. "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God" (Genesis 3:8). So "Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord" (Jonah 1:3).

2. It is God's habit to pursue transgressors. As he pursued Adam and Eve in the garden by his voice (verse 9), and Jonah on the deep by a wind (Jonah 1:4), and David by his prophet (2 Samuel 12:1), so does he still in his providence, and through the ministry of his word, and by his Spirit, follow after fleeing sinners—

3. It is the certain fate of all fugitives to be eventually arrested. Witness Adam and Eve (verse 9), Cain (Genesis 4:9), David (2 Samuel 12:1), Ahab (1 Kings 21:20), Jonah (Genesis 1:6). Distance will not prevent (Psalms 139:7). Darkness will not hinder (Psalms 139:11). Secrecy will not avail (Hebrews 4:13). Material defenses will not ward off the coming doom (Amos 9:2, Amos 9:3). The lapse of time will not make it less certain (Numbers 32:23).


1. God's questions are always painfully direct and searching. "Adam, where art thou?" (verse 9). "Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree?"(verse 11); "What hast thou done?" (verse 13).

2. Man's apologies are always extremely weak and trifling.

3. The Divine verdict is always clear and convincing.


1. On the serpent—judgment without mercy.

2. On the sinning pair—mercy, and then judgment.


1. The folly of attempting to hide from God. It is better to flee to God than to run from God, even when we sin (Psalms 143:9).

2. The expediency of confessing to God. It is always the shortest path to mercy and forgiveness (Psalms 32:5).

3. The gentle treatment which men receive from God. Like David, we have all reason to sing of mercy as well as, and even rather than, judgment (Psalms 101:1).


Genesis 3:8

The working of the sin-stricken conscience.

I. GOD THE JUDGE REVEALING HIMSELF. The voice of the Lord God represents to men the knowledge of themselves, which, like light, would be intolerable to the shamefaced.

II. MAN HIDING FROM THE JUDGE BECAUSE UNABLE TO MEET HIM. While the darkness of the thick foliage was regarded as a covering, hiding nakedness, it is yet from the presence of the Lord God that the guilty seek refuge.

III. MAN'S SELF AGAINST HIMSELF. The instinctive action of shame is a testimony to the moral nature and position of man. So it may be said—

IV. GUILT is itself God's witness, comprehending the sense of righteousness and the sense of transgression in the same being. (Perhaps there is a reference to the working of the conscience in the description of the voice of God as mingling in the facts of the natural world; "the cool of the day" being literally the "evening breeze," whose whispering sound became articulate to the ears of those who feared the personal presence of their Judge.)—R.


Genesis 3:9

The searching question.

We can picture the dread of this question. Have you considered its love—that it is really the first word of the gospel? Already the Shepherd goes forth to seek the lost sheep. The Bible shows us—

1. The original state of man; what God intended his lot to be.

2. The entry of sin, and fall from happiness.

3. The announcement and carrying out God's plan of restoration.

THE GOSPEL BEGINS not with the promise of a Savior, but WITH SHOWING MAN HIS NEED. Thus (John 4:15-18) our Savior's answer to "Give me this water" was to convince of sin: "Go, call thy husband." That first loving call has never ceased. Men are still straying, still must come to themselves (Luke 15:17). We hear it in the Baptist's teaching; in the preaching of St. Peter at Pentecost; and daily in his life-giving work the Holy Spirit's first step is to convince of sin. And not merely in conversion, but at every stage he repeats, "Where art thou?" To welcome God's gift we must feel our own need; and the inexhaustible treasures in Christ are discerned as we mark daily the defects of our service, and how far we are from the goal of our striving (Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14). Hence, even in a Christian congregation, it is needful to press "Where art thou?" to lead men nearer to Christ. We want to stir up easy-going disciples, to make Christians consider their calling, to rouse to higher life and work. Our Savior's call is, "Follow me." How are you doing this? You are pledged to be his soldiers; what reality is there in your fighting? How many are content merely to do as others do! What do ye for Christ? You have your Bible; is it studied, prayed over? What do ye to spread its truth? Ye think not how much harm is done by apathy, how much silent teaching of unbelief there is in the want of open confession of Christ. Many are zealous for their own views. Where is the self-denying mind of Christ, the spirit of love? Many count themselves spiritual, consider that they have turned to the Lord, and are certainly in his fold. Where is St. Paul's spirit of watchfulness? (1 Corinthians 9:26, 1 Corinthians 9:27). "Where art thou?" May the answer of each be, Not shut up in myself, not following the multitude, but "looking unto Jesus."—M.


Genesis 3:14, Genesis 3:15

The doom of Satan and the hope of man.


II. THE DOOM OF HOSTILITY (Genesis 3:15). Three stages:—

1. The enmity.

2. The conflict.

3. The victory.


1. See the wondrous mercy of God in proclaiming from the first day of sin, and putting into the forefront, a purpose of salvation.

2. Have we recognized it to the overcoming of the devil?—W.


Genesis 3:9-24

The word of God in the moral chaos.

These verses bring before us very distinctly the elements of man's sinful state, and of the redemptive dispensation of God which came out of it by the action of his brooding Spirit of life upon the chaos.

I. THE WORD OF GOD ADDRESSED TO THE PERSONAL CONSCIOUSNESS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW WORLD. "The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?" Before that direct intercourse between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man there is no distinct recognition of the evil of sin, and no separation of its moral and physical consequences. The "Where art thou?" begins the spiritual work.

II. THE PROCESS OF THE WORK OF GOD IS THE CONSCIENCE IS ONE THAT LEADS US FROM THE OUTSIDE CIRCLE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO THE INNERMOST CENTER OF CONVICTION AND CONFESSION. "I was naked," "I was afraid," "I hid myself," "The woman gave me of the tree," "I did eat;" so at last we get to the central fact—I broke the commandment, I am guilty towards God. Each lays the blame on another—the man on the woman, the woman on the serpent. But the main fact is this, that when once the voice of God deals with us, when once the Spirit of light and life broods over the chaos, there will be truth brought out, and the beginning of all new creation is confession of sin. After all, both the transgressors admitted the fact: "I did eat." Nor do they dare to state what is untrue, although they attempt to excuse themselves for there may be a true confession of sin before there is a sense of its greatness and inexcusableness.

III. The transgression being clearly revealed, next comes THE DIVINE CONDEMNATION. It is upon the background of judgment that redemption must be placed, that it may be clearly seen to be of God's free grace. The judgment upon the serpent must be viewed as a fact in the sphere of man's world, not in the larger sphere of the superhuman suggested by the later use of the term "serpent." God's condemnation of Satan is only shadowed forth here, not actually described. The cursed animal simply represents the cursed agent or instrument, and therefore was intended to embody the curse of sin to the eyes of man. At the same time, the fifteenth verse must not be shorn of its spiritual application by a merely naturalistic interpretation. Man's inborn detestation of the serpent brood, and the serpent's lurking enmity against man, as it waits at his heel, is rightly taken as symbolically representing

Verses 20-24


Genesis 3:20

Arraigned, convicted, judged, the guilty but pardoned pair prepare to leave their garden home—the woman to begin her experience of sorrow, dependence, and subjection; the man to enter upon his life career of hardship and toil, and both to meet their doom of certain, though it might be of long-delayed, death. The impression made upon their hearts by the Divine Clemency, though not directly stated by the historian, may be inferred from what is next recorded as having happened within the precincts of Eden ere they entered on their exile. And Adam called (not prior to the fall, reading the verb as a pluperfect (Calvin), nor after the birth of Cain, transferring the present verse to Genesis 4:2 (Knobel), but subsequent to the promise of the woman's seed, and preceding their ejection from the garden) his wife's name Eve. Chavvah, from chavvah = chayyah, to live (cf. with the organic root chvi the Sanscrit, giv; Gothic, quiv; Latin, rive, gigno, vigeo; Greek, ζαì ω, &c; the fundamental idea being to breathe, to respire—Furst), is correctly rendered life—Work) by the LXX; Josephus, Philo, Gesenins, Delitzsch, Macdonald, &c. Lange, regarding it as an abbreviated form of the participle mechavvah, understands it to signify "the sustenance, i.e. the propagation of life; while Knobel, viewing it as an adjective, hints at woman's peculiar function— חִיָּה וֶדַע—to quicken seed (Genesis 19:1-38 :82) as supplying the explanation. Whether appended by the narrator (Delitzsch, Lange) or uttered by Adam (Kalisch, Macdonald), the words which follow give its true import and exegesis. Because she was the mother (am—Greek, μαμμα; Welsh, mani; Copt; man; German and English, mama;—Gesenius) of all living.

Genesis 3:21

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats (cathnoth, from cathan, to cover; cf. χιτωì ν; Sanscrit, katam; English, cotton) of skin (or, the skin of a man, from ur, to be naked, hence a hide). Neither their bodies (Origen), nor garments of the bark of trees (Gregory Nazianzen), nor miraculously-fashioned apparel (Grotius), nor clothing made from the serpent's skin (R. Jonathan), but tunics prepared from the skins of animals, slaughtered possibly for food, as it is not certain that the Edenie man was a vegetarian (Genesis 1:29), though more probably slain in sacrifice. Though said to have been made by God, "it is not proper so to understand the words, as if God had been a furrier, or a servant to sew clothes" (Calvin). God being said to make or do what he gives orders or instructions to be made or done. Willet and Macdonald, however, prefer to think that the garments were actually fashioned by God. Bush finds in the mention of Adam and his wife an intimation that they were furnished with different kinds of apparel, and suggests that on this fact is based the prohibition in Deuteronomy 22:5 against the interchange of raiment between the sexes. And clothed them.

1. To show them how their mortal bodies might be defended from cold and other injuries.

2. To cover their nakedness for comeliness' sake; vestimenta honoris (Chaldee Paraphrase).

3. To teach them the lawfulness of using the beasts of the field, as for food, so for clothing.

4. To give a rule that modest and decent, not costly or sumptuous, apparel should be used.

5. That they might know the difference between God's works and man's invention—between coats of leather and aprons of leaves; and,

6. To put them in mind of their mortality by their raiment of dead beasts' skins—talibus indici oportebat peccatorem ut essent mortalitatis indi-cium: Origen" (Wilier).

7. "That they might feel their degradation—quia vestes ex ca materia confectae, belluinum quiddam magis saperent, quam lineae vel laneae—and be reminded of their sin" (Calvin). "As the prisoner, looking on his irons, thinketh on his theft, so we, looking on our garments, should think on our sins" (Trapp).

8. A foreshadowing of the robe of Christ's righteousness (Delitzsch, Macdonald, Murphy, Wordsworth, Candlish; cf. Psalms 132:9, Psalms 132:16; Isaiah 61:10; Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Bonar recognizes in Jehovah Elohim at the gate of Eden, clothing the first transgressors, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, as the High Priest of our salvation, had a right to the skins of the burnt offerings (Le Deuteronomy 7:8), and who, to prefigure his own work, appropriated them for covering the pardoned pair.

Genesis 3:22

And the Lord God said. Verba insultantis; ironica reprobatio (Calvin). But "irony at the expense of a wretched, tempted soul might well befit Satan, but not the Lord" (Delitzsch), and is altogether inconsistent with the footing of grace on which man was placed immediately upon his fall. Behold, the man is become as one of us. Not the angels (Kalisch), but the Divine Persons (cf. Genesis 1:26). It is scarcely likely that Jehovah alludes to the words of the tempter (Genesis 3:5). To know good and evil. Implying an acquaintance with good and evil which did not belong to him in the state of innocence. The language seems to hint that a one-sided acquaintance with good and evil, such as that possessed by the first pair in the garden and the unfallen angels in heaven, is not so complete a knowledge of the inherent beauty of the one and essential turpitude of the other as is acquired by beings who pass through the experience of a fall, and that the only way in which a finite being can approximate to such a comprehensive knowledge of evil as the Deity possesses without personal contact—can see it as it lies everlastingly spread out before his infinite mind—is by going down into it and learning what it is through personal experience (cf. Candlish, in loco). And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. On the meaning of the tree of life v/de Genesis 2:9. Neither

Genesis 3:23, Genesis 3:24

Therefore (literally, and) the Lord God sent (or cast, shalach in the Piel conveying the ideas of force and displeasure; cf. Deuteronomy 21:14; 1 Kings 9:7) him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground (i.e. the soil outside of paradise, which had been cursed for his sake) whence he was taken. Vide Genesis 3:19. So (and) he drove out the man (along with his guilty partner); and he placed (literally, caused to dwell) at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim.

1. Griffins, like those of Persian and Egyptian mythology, which protected gold-producing countries like Eden; from carav, to tear in pieces; Sanscrit, grivh; Persian, giriften; Greek, γρυπ, γρυφ; German, grip, krip, greif (Eichhorn,

2. Divine steeds; by metathesis for rechubim, from rachab, to ride (Psalms 18:11; Gesenius, Lange).

3. "Beings who approach to God and minister to him," taking cerub—karov, to come near, to serve (Hyde).

4. The engravings or carved figures; from carav (Syriac), to engrave (Taylor Lewis); from an Egyptian root (Cook, vide Speaker's Commentary). Biblical notices describe them as living creatures (Ezekiel 1:5; Revelation 4:6) in the form of a man (Ezekiel 1:5), with four (Ezekiel 1:8; Ezekiel 2:1-10 :23; Ezekiel 10:7, Ezekiel 10:8-21) or with six wings (Revelation 4:8), and full of eyes (Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 10:12; Revelation 4:8); having each four faces, viz; of a man, of a lion, of an ox, of an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:16); or with one face each—of a man, of a lion, of a calf, and of an eagle respectively trey. Genesis 4:7). Representations of these chayath—LXX; ζωαìwere by Divine directions placed upon the Capporeth (Exodus 25:17) and curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:31; Exodus 36:8, Exodus 36:35), and afterwards engraved upon the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29, 1 Kings 6:32, 1 Kings 6:35). In the Apocalypse they are depicted as standing in the immediate neighborhood of the throne trey. Genesis 4:6; Genesis 5:6; Genesis 7:11), and as taking part in the acts of adoration and praise m which the heavenly hosts engage (1 Kings 5:11), and that on the express ground of their redemption (1 Kings 5:8, 1 Kings 5:9). Whence the opinion that most exactly answers all the facts of the case is, that these mysterious creatures were symbolic not of the fullness of the Deity (Bahr), nor of the sum of earthly life (Hengstenberg), nor of the angelic nature (Calvin), nor of the Divine manhood of Jesus Christ (Wordsworth), but of redeemed and glorified humanity (Jamieson, Fairbairn, Macdonald, Candlish). Combining with the intelligence of human nature the highest qualities of the animal world, as exhibited in the lion, the ox, and the eagle, they were emblematic of creature life in its most absolutely perfect form. As such they were caused to dwell at the gate of Eden to intimate that only when perfected and purified could fallen human nature return to paradise. Meantime man was utterly unfit to dwell within its fair abode. And a flaming sword, which turned every way. Literally, the flame of a sword turning itself; not brandished by the cherubim, but existing separately, and flashing out from among them (cf. Ezekiel 1:4). An emblem of the Divine glory in its attitude towards sin (Macdonald). To keep (to watch over or guard; cf. Genesis 2:15) the way of the tree of life. "To keep the tree of life might imply that all access to it was to be precluded; but to keep the way signifies to keep the way open as well as to keep it shut" (Macdonald).


Genesis 3:20-24

First fruits of the promise.

I. FAITH (Genesis 3:20). The special significance of Adam's renaming his wife at this particular juncture in his history is best discerned when the action is regarded as the response of his faith to the antecedent promise of the woman's seed.

1. It is the place of faith to succeed, and not to precede, the promise. Faith being, in its simplest conception, belief in a testimony, the testimony must ever take precedence of the faith. "In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Ephesians 1:13).

2. As to the genesis of faith, it is always evoked by the promise, not the promise by the faith. Adam's faith was the creation of God's promise; so is that of every true believer. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

3. With regard to the function of faith, it is not that of certifying or making sure the promise, but simply of attesting its certainty, which it does by reposing trust in its veracity. "He that receiveth his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true" (John 3:33). And this was practically what was done by Adam when he called his wife's name Eve.

4. The power of faith is seen in this, that while it cannot implement, it is able to anticipate the promise, and, as it were, to enjoy it beforehand, in earnest at least, as Adam did when he realized that his spouse should be the mother of all living. Even so "faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1).

II. ACCEPTANCE (Genesis 3:21).

1. In the Divine scheme of salvation acceptance ever follows on the exercise of faith. See the language of the New Testament generally on the subject of a sinner's justification. The covering of our first parents with coats of skin, apart altogether from any symbolical significance in the act, could scarcely be regarded as other than a token of Jehovah's favor.

2. According to the same scheme the clothing, era sinner ever accompanies the act of his acceptance. In New Testament theology the Divine act of justification is always represented as proceeding on the ground that in the eye of God the sinner stands invested with a complete covering (the righteousness of Christ) which renders him both legally and morally acceptable. That all this was comprehended with perfect fullness and clearness by the pardoned pair it would be foolish to assert; but, in a fashion accommodated to their simple intelligences, the germ of this doctrine was exhibited by the coats of skin with which they were arrayed, and it is at least possible that they had a deeper insight into the significance of the Divine action than we are always prepared to allow.

3. In the teaching of the gospel scheme the providing of a sinner with such a covering as he requires must ever be the work of God, Though not improbable that the coats of skin were furnished by the hides of animals, now for the first time offered in sacrifice by Divine appointment, the simple circumstance that they were God-provided, apart from any other consideration, was sufficient to suggest the thought that only God could supply the covering which was needed for their sin.

III. DISCIPLINE (Genesis 3:22-24). Rightly interpreted, neither the language of Jehovah nor that of Moses warrants the idea that the expulsion was designed as a penal infliction; but rather as a measure mercifully intended and wisely adapted for the spiritual edification of the pardoned pair. Three elements were present in it that are seldom absent from the discipline of saints.

1. Removal of comforts. The initial act in the discipline of Adam and his wife was to eject them from the precincts of Eden. And so oftentimes does God begin the work of sanctification in his people's hearts by the infliction of loss. In the case of Adam and his spouse there were special reasons demanding their removal from the garden, as, e. g.,

2. Increase of sorrow. Besides being ejected from the garden, the first pair were henceforth to be subjected to toil and trouble. Adam in tilling the ground, and Eve in bearing children. And this, too, was a part of God's educational process with our first parents; as, indeed, the sufferings of this present life inflicted on his people generally are all commissioned on a like errand, viz; to bring forth within them the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and to make them partakers of his holiness.

3. Sentence of death. The words "whence he was taken" have an echo in them of "dust thou art," &c; and must have extinguished within the breasts of Adam and his wife all hope of returning to Eden on this side the grave; perhaps, too, would assist them in seeking for a better country, even an heavenly. To prevent saints from seeking Edens on the earth seems to be one of the main designs of death.

IV. Here (Genesis 3:24). Though excluded from the garden, man was not without cheering ingredients of hope in his condition.

1. The Divine presence was still with him. The cherubim and flaming sword were symbols of the ineffable majesty of Jehovah, and tokens of his presence. And never since has the world been abandoned by the God of mercy and salvation.

2. Paradise was still reserved for him. The cherubim and flaming sword were appointed "to keep the way of the tree of life;" not simply to guard the entrance, but to protect the place. So is heaven a reserved inheritance (1 Peter 1:4).

3. The prospect of readmission to the tree of life was yet before him. As much as this was implied in the jealous guarding of the gate so long as Adam was defiled by sin. It could not fail to suggest the idea that when purified by life's discipline he would no longer be excluded (cf. Revelation 22:14).

4. The gate of heaven was still near him. He was still permitted to reside in the vicinity of Eden, and to commune with him who dwelt between the cherubim, though denied the privilege as yet of dwelling with him in the interior of his abode. If debarred from the full inheritance, he had at least its earnest. And exactly this is the situation of saints on earth, who, unlike those within the veil, who see the Lord of the heavenly paradise face to face, can only commune with him, as it were, at the gate of his celestial palace.


1. To believe God's promise of salvation.

2. To be grateful for God's gift of righteousness.

3. To submit with cheerfulness to God's paternal discipline.

4. To live in hope of entering God's heaven.


Genesis 3:21


God's chief promises generally accompanied by visible signs or symbolical acts; e.g; bow in the cloud, furnace and lamp (Genesis 15:17), passover, &c. The time here spoken of specially called for such a sign. Man had fallen; a Deliverer was promised; it was the beginning of a state of grace for sinners. Notice four facts:—

1. Man unfallen required no covering.

2. Man fallen became conscious of need, especially towards God.

3. He attempted himself to provide clothing.

4. God provided it.

Spiritual meaning of clothing (Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:3). And note that the root of "atonement" in Hebrew is "to cover." Thus the covering is a type of justification; God's gift to convicted sinners (cf. Zechariah 3:4, Zechariah 3:5; Luke 15:22; and the want of this covering, Matthew 22:11). With Adam's attempt and God's gift compare the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Abel's sacrifice of life accepted through faith (Hebrews 11:4), i.e. because he believed and acted upon God's direction. Thus atonement, covering, through the sacrifice of life (cf. Le Genesis 17:11), typical of Christ's sacrifice, must have been ordained of God. And thus, though not expressly stated, we may conclude that Adam was instructed to sacrifice, and that the skins from the animals thus slain were a type of the covering of sin through the one great sacrifice (Romans 4:7). We mark then—

I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN TO SAVE HIMSELF FROM SIN. The natural thought of a heart convicted is, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all." Vain endeavor. The "law of sin" (Romans 7:21, Romans 7:24) is too strong; earnest striving only makes this more clear (cf. Job 9:30; Isaiah 64:6). History is full of man's efforts to cover sins. Hence have come sacrifices, austerities, pilgrimages, &c. But on all merely human effort is stamped failure (Romans 3:20).

II. THE LOVE OF GOD FOR SINNERS (Romans 5:8). A common mistake that if we love God he will love us. Whereas the truth is, 1 John 4:10-19. We must believe his free gift before we can serve him truly. The want of this belief leads to service in the spirit of bondage.

III. THE PROVISION MADE BY GOD (John 3:14-17). That we might be not merely forgiven, but renewed (2 Corinthians 5:21). The consciousness that "Christ hath redeemed us" is the power that constrains to willing service (1 John 3:3).—M.


Genesis 3:24

The dispensation of redemption.


I. THE MERCY WITH JUDGMENT. He did not destroy the garden; he did not root up its trees and flowers.

II. He "DROVE OUT THE MAN" into his curse that he might pray for and seek for and, at last, by Divine grace, obtain once more his forfeited blessing.

III. AT THE EAST OF THE GARDEN HE PLACED THE CHERUBIMS AND THE FLAMING SWORD TURNING EVERY WAY, emblems of his natural and moral governments, which, as they execute his righteous will amongst men, do both debar them from perfect happiness and yet at the same time testify to the fact that there is such happiness for those who are prepared for it. Man outside Eden is man under law, but man under law is man preserved by Divine mercy.

IV. The PRESERVING MERCY IS THE REDEEMING MERCY. The redemption is more than deliverance from condemnation and death; it is restoration to eternal life. "Paradise lost" is not paradise destroyed, but shall be hereafter "paradise regained."

V. There is a special significance in the description of "THE WAY OF THE TREE OF LIFE" as closed and guarded, and therefore a way which can be afterwards opened and made free.

VI. Without pressing too closely figurative language, it is impossible, surely, to ignore in such a representation the reference to a POSITIVE REVELATION as the MEDIUM OF HUMAN DELIVERANCE AND RESTORATION. The whole of the Scripture teaching rests upon that foundation, that there is "a way, a truth, and a life" which is Divinely distinguished from all others. Gradually that eastward gate of Eden has been opened, that road leading into the center of bliss has been made clear in "the man Christ Jesus."R.


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 3:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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