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This Bible study lesson on Genesis 3 is an expositional verse by verse study with extensive reflections, teaching points, cross-references, and applications. They are the personal study of notes of a very good doctor friend of mine. His native tongue is Mandarin, but his English is amazing as you will see below. It is refreshing to take a look at this important book of Genesis through the eyes of a believer from another culture. Feel free to print them, copy them, or share them. I only ask that you remember these are are personal study notes and are only meant as a supplement to your own study, not a replacement. For different chapters in this book by book study of Genesis, see the table at the bottom of this page. Without further adieu: The Scribblings According to David.
Bible Study Lesson on Genesis 3
vv.1-5 The Instigation and the Inception
vv.6-7 The Implementation and the Commission
vv.8-12 The “Vindication” and the Conviction
vv.13-19 The Verdict and the Condemnation
v.1 “The serpent”. Identified as Satan (Rev. 20:2, 2 Cor. 11:3 ); the fall of Satan, cf. Eze. 28:11-15, Isa. 14:13-14.
“Did God actually say…?”
Reflection: The first question ever raised in the history of the world, in fact, was anything but a good one. Satan, in his craftiness, by instigating the woman as though via an inception, injected into humanity the shadow of doubt, not so much to question the truthfulness of God’s commandment as it may seem to suggest, as to question the goodness of God’s character. It was, in effect, a direct challenge, if not an outright disdain, to God’s face as if saying, “Something must be wrong. He must be withholding good from you by giving you this restriction.” We probably need not be reminded of what consequences that question of doubt has brought about for the universe. We do need to be forewarned, however, that sometimes, in similar situations like this, in which God’s Word has said with such simple intelligibility, such crystal-clear discernibility, and such ready applicability, yet we in our own sinfulness would rather go the other way and question His benevolence, and then willfully let the devil plant that seed of doubt in our mind, luring us to go to great length to rationalize our disobedience. Far be it that we follow the tragic example of our ancestors. Rather, let us take temptation for what it is, and run from it; take sin for what it is, and turn from it. Let us be vigilant and stand firm, knowing that if we, by His strength, resist the devil, he shall thence flee from us.
vv.2-3 “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Reflection: The woman was clearly tampering with God’s Word. Originally, there was a freely in the "you may freely eat", yet she omitted that; there was no do not touch it in the command, yet she added that; there used to be a surely in the "you will surely die", yet she subtracted that. By omitting the freely, she was diminishing the great freedom that God has already provided for her enjoyment. By adding the do not touch it, she was maximizing the restriction that God has already prescribed for her protection. By subtracting the surely, she was minimizing the consequences that God has already preordained for her deterrence. As clear as the commandment was stated, the woman still proceeded in her sinful rationalization and finally reached the point where breaking the law becomes irresistible and inevitable. Oh, does it sound at all familiar to us?
vv.4-5 “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”
Reflection: Some commentators said that “the knowledge of good and evil” wasn’t so much a true standard of the knowledge of good and evil per se, as though previously unknown to man before the Fall, for when the whole Creation was nothing but good and perfect, Adam and Eve were at the epitome of their morality and spirituality, without any need of further improvement, nay, not even a small intellectual addition of this “knowledge”, as much as we don’t need to do drugs to know that drugs are devastatingly harmful; or we don't need to develop malignancies to know that malignancies are devastatingly harmful. However, by consuming that forbidden fruit, they were de facto claiming, as it were, that they reject God’s standard of good and evil, and want to set up their own. They now knew evil by having practiced evil. It is in this sense that the committed act initiated the cascade of human depravity that has exponentially escalated ever since, for as it is written, sin is lawlessness. Since they sinned, their eyes were thereafter opened to sin.
cf. "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil." The verse says "become like...", not "become…". This subtlety of wording cannot be overlooked.
v.6. “… the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…”
Reflection: The devil always uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life to lead man astray. He has succeeded in the very first case, and why should he change his tactics anyway?
“took… ate… gave…”
(1) Several questions worth asking, though we could merely speculate the answers and never really know them till we see the Lord: Where is the man anyway? Is he around? Why wouldn’t he intervene? What exactly happened when the woman handed him the fruit? … But the primary question we need to ask is: What should the woman have done? What should we have done in the face of temptations?
(2) “Sin enters the world through one man”, the Bible says. “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all”, the New England primer says. It is unmistakably clear that even though it was the woman who was deceived at first, the man Adam bears the major culpability of leading humanity into sin. Adam, as the head of the primal family, and the federal representative of the human race, is responsible for the original sin, because he was the leader.
v.7 “they knew that they were naked…”
Reflection: They were naked yet felt no need for clothing, because then, as sin entered the world, the innocence of man was replaced by guilt and shame. Man was never the same as he used to be.
v.8 “they hid…” (also v.10, where Adam explained his behavior)
Reflection: Natural response for the guilty and the shameful, in the fear of imminent judgment (Rev. 6:12-17). When we sinned, our conscience would also charge us and accuse us of our wrongdoing, for it’s built in in our fabric of being (cf. Rom. 2:15). And then we would want to hide somewhere, anywhere, from the One who will judge us righteously. But where shall we go? (Ps. 139:1-12)
v.9 “Where are you?”
Reflection: This was the first question God asked in the history of the world. Ever since man sinned, God has been in the business of seeking and saving the lost (Lk. 19:10, Jn. 15:16, 1 Jn. 4:10). Salvation is initiated, completed, and preserved by God, although man is also fully responsible for his choices (Jer. 29:11-13, Matt. 7:7-9, 11:12, Prov. 28:13). A rightful understanding to unify God's Sovereignty and men's accountability is found in Acts 5:31, which shows us that the repentance and faith is actually a gift from God. It wasn’t that God didn’t have the information of Adam’s whereabouts; it was a gentle reminder of their need to repent. God’s forgiveness is readily available, if you just ask. Unfortunately, our ancestors missed it. May we not forget that our God is faithful and just, and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, as He has so promised.
v.12. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Reflection: The first case of blame-shifting, and truly a textbook one. Pointing his finger at “the woman” and accused her of leading him to sin, where he should have been around protecting her and guarding from the devil’s scheme, was already a despicable act in and of itself. But there’s more. He said, “the woman whom You gave …”, indicating that he thought it was ultimately God’s fault that had led him to sin. What a weak excuse! What a lousy defense! This “vindication” adds only shame to the shame of the index crime.
v.13. “The serpent deceived me…”
Reflection: A lesser yet same kind of blame-shifting. Look, what have you done, Eve? Listening to the serpent? Doubting the Lord? Staring at the fruit? Took it and ate it and gave it to your husband? And then blaming the serpent for deceiving you? That sigma shall be a stain not easily washed off, unless, as Paul wrote, you “be saved through childbearing—if you continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:15).
v.14 "Because you have done this, cursed are you…"
Reflection: God did not ask the serpent a question like He did to Adam and Eve. He gave no opportunities for the serpent to "repent". There was no redemption for fallen angels, only for fallen men.
v.15. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
(1) The singular "your offspring" unmistakably refers to the Savior. The first messianic promise in the Bible is contained in a curse pronounced upon the serpent. Jesus was literally turned into a curse of man in order to become a blessing for man. The plan of redemption is utterly beyond comprehension. Oh, how unfathomable are the riches of God’s wisdom!
(2) The "bruise your head" phrase is echoed in the NT in Rom. 16:20, in which apostle Paul wrote, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." The final destruction of Satan is certain (Rev. 20:10), and the major campaign of the war against sin has been won (Heb. 2:14-15). As the saying goes, "if the devil remind you of your past, remind him of his future."
(3) The "enmity between [the serpent] and the woman" could refer to the woman with a special link to the virgin birth, or it could refer to humanity as a whole (cf. Zeph. 3:9-10).
v.16. "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children."
(1) Some Bible scholars pointed out that the word "multiply" does not necessarily imply a change from fewer to greater, from less to more; it could also mean an ex nihilo change from nothing to something. Nonetheless, the vast majority of commentators agree that the pain in childbearing serves as a constant reminder that woman gave birth to sin and passed it on to her children, and the only way to be delivered from this "stigma" is by living a sanctified life and raising godly children (1 Tim. 2:15).
(2) Labor pain is grade 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 indicating the least severe pain. And there is so far no naturalistic, biologic and physiologic explanation for the presence of this pain. In Dr. Sears' books, Gen. 3:16 is quoted in a sarcastic way as one of the reasons why women should experience such great pains when they deliver. However, as Christians, we'd better take the Word of God at face value. (Is there a similar severity of pain associated with the delivery of other mammals? Such research might make it to Nature or Science, although the answer may be spiritually irrelevant.)
"Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Reflection: The proununcement "he shall rule over you" is echoed in NT in the Eph. 5:22-25 passage, which suggests divine design of the headship of husbands, whereas the word "desire" implies malicious domination (cf. Gen. 4:7), which suggests the constant temptation of wives to usurp that authority. As marriage being the 1st human relationship instituted by God, domestic conflict was the 1st curse to humanity incurred by sin. As MacArthur put it, "Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into distasteful struggles of self-will", this curse reminds us that a truly blessed marriage relationship cannot be sustained without supernatural love and divine help.
v.17. "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife…"
Reflection: Oops. There's a thought… :) MacArthur commented, "The woman sinned because she acted independently of her husband, disdaining his leadership, counsel and protection. The man sinned because he abandoned his leadership and followed the wishes of his wife. In both cases, God's intended roles were reversed."
"cursed is the ground because of you…"
(1) It is said for every problem solved by man, we create another six new problems. Humanity creates more problems than they can for all eternity solve. Why? Because the whole world has already fallen victim, the moment our ancestors sinned, under the universal spell of sin's curse, and the second law of thermodynamics has been set in motion. The whole Creation has been groaning in pain for deliverance. Such a cosmic blight can never be reversed until sons of God become finally redeemed (Rom. 8:22-23).
(2) Gnosticism believes in a mechanistic matter-versus-spirit dualism, i.e. whatever is of matter/spirit is evil/good, the logical inference of which is sin in the body does not influence the spirit of man. But from the biblical record of the fall, it is unmistakable clear that sin, as a moral defection, does not merely exist in the spiritual realm; it may greatly affect the physical universe as well. When we sin, it only affects our judicial/parental relationships with God (as unbelievers/believers), but it also affects every other (physical) parts of our lives. It goes without saying, then, that the application is "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!"
v.19. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread..."
Reflection: Another kind of "labor pain" as the divine sentence for man. Probably not a 10 out of 10 pain, but that was a perpetual pricking for him, especially in a hostile world where thistles and thorns have sprouted out because of sin.
"for you are dust, and to dust you shall return"
Reflection: MacArthur well said it, "man, by sin, became mortal". They did not die immediately, but death became an inescapable destiny for them. The phenomenon that the consequence for breaking moral laws does not come immediately as breaking physical laws does is most interesting. Indeed, God is a merciful God in Adam's case to have sustained him for another 930 years. God's mercy is even greater for us, though our physical lifespan is just within 100 years, for He does not immediately cast us away from His presence for our sin, because He is patient, not wishing any to perish, but waiting for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:11).
v.21. "garments of skin"
Reflection: The first substitutionary sacrifice was made, for it was man who should receive capital punishment. This is the foreshadow of the Levitical system of sacrifice in the OT (Heb. 9:8-14), which points to Christ's ultimate sacrifice (Heb. 10:10, 14).
vv.22-24. "the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil..."
Reflection: Not by holy omniscience, but by personal experience. As mentioned before, a similar analogy would be: the medical expert on drugs does not need to try doing drug for once to know that the addiction and the perdition of drugs are real, but for the drug addict, he knows what it is personally.
"lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever..."
Reflection: Indeed, in the original commandment, God made it clear that "death shall enter the world" once the ancestors broke the law. It is unimaginable to permanently live in a state of sin. Eternal life in such a pitiful condition must be a greater misery that God, out of His compassion, drove them out of Eden (Ps. 145:8-9).
Choose a Study from This Genesis Series Below
|Genesis 3||Genesis 4
||Genesis 6-7||Genesis 8-9|
|Genesis 10||Genesis 11-12||Genesis 12-13
If you enjoyed this Bible study lesson on Genesis 3 visit our inductive Bible study page for more verse by verse study lessons.