The perfect community of image bearers was realized at the end of Genesis 2. It imaged the community of God intended in its growth. Abilities and vulnerabilities were present and always would be present, but those who were able would give for the benefit of those who were vulnerable. And since all had abilities and vulnerabilities, each image bearer of this newly formed creation would continually be on both giving and receiving ends. It was imagined as a community submitting selfish demand for the good of the whole.
We just finished looking through the New Testament to see whether God was establishing hierarchy for the New Covenant community, and we found none. We found the central theme there to be the same as what we see in the Genesis 2 Garden—“submitting to one another” as Ephesians 5:21 tells us. However, even though we just spent time locating and emphasizing submission in New Testament instruction, I think just another thought or two are in order for ensuring we think correctly about it. The prominence of the idea of submission for the New Covenant mindset is not simply a matter of whom we serve. We may think the dynamic between the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of Christ is simply whether we choose to serve self or God. The selfish mind seeks to eradicate the notion of God and serve self, believing that service is the way to truth, goodness, and beauty. The Christian counters by saying no, the way to truth, goodness, and beauty is denying self and serving God. But in that abbreviated depiction I just presented, we may lose (or not see) the more intricate details that provide fullness for life.
First, truth, goodness, and beauty are not our goals—not for the citizen of the world nor for the follower of Christ. Rather, we all seek satisfaction—satisfaction of the spirit. For the Christian, in operating according to God’s TGB we will realize satisfaction. The non-Christian believes in operating according to a relative (think postmodern here) idea of TGB—any imagined truth, goodness, or beauty that promotes self. And just as living by God’s essence (TGB) finds satisfaction for the Christian, the non-Christian operates in the delight of human essence (physical pleasure) in his or her pursuit of satisfaction. But the world never finds the satisfaction it seeks because this world was created by God for relationship with God. Therefore, using one’s abilities to serve self falls short. Using one’s abilities to care for the vulnerabilities of others finds satisfaction.
I am saying all this so that we understand the submission of self is not a denial of self. God’s intent is not to trounce on self in order to make it a non-entity so that only God is glorified. Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. That means it necessarily requires your very present involvement. Submission is not ridding the kingdom of self, it is being very much a part of it, employing your efforts—your abilities—for the betterment of the communal whole. That is the fullness of relationship. That is satisfaction. That is why we were created, and what we have all eternity to share. Don’t walk through this life throwing dust on your head, crying out what a worm you are, with cheap praises to God built on the destruction of self. If God created for relationship, any praise of God and his relationship that rids thought of those with whom he wants relationship is drastically wrong.
Now let’s return to our Garden story in Genesis. God created male and female, and the delight shown in Adam’s words as he realizes this female, created for his relational enjoyment, created from him as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, highlights the two-in-one perfection a husband and wife have in their union. Of particular emphasis here is their sexual union—the return of the two bodies to one.
Both the leaving of father and mother and the fact that Adam and Eve felt no shame speak to the oneness image in sex. The word translated “shame” in verse 25 is the Hebrew word buwsh. Its next use is in Exodus 32:1, “When the people saw that Moses delayed (buwsh) in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god.’” The idea that this same word could be translated shame and delayed gives us pause. What in the world is the connection? Both situations are contrasting being content, at ease, confident in right as opposed to being uneasy, distraught, and worried. In Exodus, the children of Israel were worried because of Moses’s delay. He should be there. He should have brought some word from God. Maybe he was dead. Maybe God was angry. They were uneasy because things were not as they imagined they should be. That’s why they wanted to make an idol—to appease God who apparently had already taken out his wrath on Moses.
The same idea applies to Genesis 2:25. When God said that they had no shame, he is saying they had no worry, unease, or feeling that something just wasn’t right. They were naked but there was no unease. It was right. They belonged to each other. Their naked union imaged their oneness. It was perfect.
As we move to chapter 3, we find something very odd—a talking snake. Everyone knows the serpent is Satan, right? Wait. How do we know that? Does the chapter mention that? Not once does the text ever identify this serpent as Satan. Yet, I think we can be fairly confident in understanding this serpent to indeed be Satan. The serpent speaks with reason and conceptual intelligence. That conceptual intelligence is one of the things that distinguishes humankind from the rest of physical creation.
Not only does the serpent speak, but the serpent speaks against God, and that activity, throughout the Bible (apart from humans) is the focus of Satan. This cunning, deceitful speech against God in this first book of the Bible is also how the last book of the Bible describes Satan. He is “the great dragon thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). We also read of “the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan” in Revelation 20:2. The description of “ancient serpent” is intended exactly to take the reader back to this Garden scene—the most ancient of evil events—to link the serpent to Satan. He began the deception in Genesis, and his resulting destruction (annihilation, residual ash) is realized in the Lake of Fire.
So the serpent is Satan. But why did Satan do that? Why didn’t he just walk up to Eve in his red suit with his horns and his tail, carrying his pitchfork, and start the same conversation? Why did he approach in this guise of a serpent? Here’s why: we notice that throughout the discussion, Satan never draws attention to himself. (And that fact colors the feel of the text. We, who know this is Satan, are almost taken in by the text’s lack of outright reference. The whole scene seems simply to show Eve surrounded by the physical creation of God.) And that’s what Satan wanted—for Eve to feel comfortable that she is interacting with God’s physical creation. He never cries out for her to worship him. He never gets her to look at him and marvel at the truth, goodness, and beauty he possesses. He doesn’t even want to grab the attention that a lion or a bear or a horse may get because of its size. He enters the scene in unassuming fashion. He waits for her, wound around a tree branch, almost unnoticed, and immediately upon beginning to speak, turns the attention away from himself. He comes in disguise so as to blend into the background while he points to the TGB around Eve. His form was perfect for that.
Now, we know Eve will be deceived. We know that because Paul told us over in 1 Timothy 2:14. So what we should look for is how and why she is deceived. Satan begins by asking a question: “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” Immediately, Eve jumps to God’s defense: “No! That’s not right. God said we can eat from all the Garden! . . . well, except just not this tree in the middle here.”
Why did Satan start this way? Why did he deliberately misquote God—and misquote him in such a way that we get the response from Eve almost as “What? Of course not, duh. God gave us this entire Garden to enjoy!” Was Satan really trying to trick Eve into thinking God didn’t want her to have anything? I don’t think so. He’s not that dumb.
But if not trying to trick her with the statement, he obviously knew she would come back saying they could eat everything (except the one tree). By asking the question, then, he must have wanted her to reaffirm that they could eat from any other tree. Again, why? The reason—Satan track in the line of deceit—was that he wanted Eve to think that since God provided all the abundance of the Garden, there was no real way God could seriously have not wanted them to enjoy the fruit of this one tree as well. That’s where he is going. He wants to create confusion about what God really wanted, intended, and instructed. So he started off misquoting God—throwing into confusion exactly what God said. And Eve herself answers a little confused. She says they can’t even touch the tree. Now, some people have made a big deal out of the fact that Eve says they not only shouldn’t eat it but shouldn’t even touch it. I’ve heard preachers shout out “Liar!” after reading that part of the text as if Eve were intentionally exaggerating for some unknown but wrong motive. But Eve was probably not trying to lie or even overstate the situation.
Too often we tend to read (especially in the Bible) with the idea that everyone is thinking exactly clearly and either clearly choosing to rebel or obediently following the right. But characters in the Bible were oftentimes as confused as we are—thinking halfway toward the right, not being sure, or majoring on one principle while ignoring another.
Think of Eve’s situation. Perhaps God had not told Eve directly not to eat of the tree. He did tell Adam over in chapter 2, but Eve wasn’t around then. Now, it could be that God later repeated the command for Eve, but perhaps not. Perhaps it was Adam who relayed the command. And in relaying the command, they may have discussed that the best way to make sure they didn’t eat of the tree was not to even touch it. So Eve—perhaps—had the command and their discussion somewhat confused so that it came out they weren’t to touch the tree—a mistake, then, not a sin. A mistake that was right in the center of the path Satan was using to try to confuse her. And I think God specifically kept in the text Eve’s confused reply to show us Eve wasn’t really sure of all the facts, already a bit confused as Satan attempted to capitalize on her confusion.
At this point—Eve a little confused, Satan reinforcing in Eve’s mind that God has intentionally given all this benefit—Satan makes his second remark: “Nah, that’s not going to happen. You won’t really die. You see this tree that God singled out has the greatest benefit of all! You eat from this, and you’ll gain the same kind of knowledge that God has. You’ll be like God!” Understand Satan’s direction here. He has not (in two remarks) tried to call God a liar, someone out to suppress Adam and Eve, someone with malicious intent wants them to be less. He’s not attacking God. He is using half truths to direct Eve’s thinking down one path to get her to ignore the full scope.
Satan is implying benefit from the tree. Is that true? Well, yes. God wanted Adam and Eve to have knowledge of good and also to avoid what was bad. But skips the part where God wanted Adam and Eve to depend on him to learn truth in the right way, at the right pace. Satan pushes Eve toward the end goal—get the knowledge now. It won’t hurt your relationship with God (you won’t die). And you’ll end up being like God! Isn’t that the goal of image bearers—to bear the image, to be like the one whose image they bear? Here’s the chance—eat of the tree, fulfill what God wants for you, be like God!
God then takes us into Eve’s thought process. She follows Satan’s leading. She sees “the tree was good for food” (goodness—that’s what God intended for them). She sees the fruit was “delightful to look at” (beauty—again, what God intended for them). And she learns that the tree “was desirable for obtaining wisdom (truth—what God intended for them). It was perfect. It was all there. Why wouldn’t she eat of this fruit that would enhance her growth and would ultimately draw her closer to God? Without considering anything else, she ate.
What happened in this activity was that Eve actually exchanged something. She saw TGB itself as coming from creation, not from God. And in accepting creation as provider, she lost her dominion over it. Creation (for her) held wisdom and provision.
And this female, created with a nature where her strength was in nurturing, wanted to extend her false view of provision to her husband, so she handed him the fruit.
Was Adam right there to receive it? Had he been standing there listening to the whole conversation? It is possible because we read that Eve gave “some to her husband, who was with her” (3:6). But this is Hebrew, even ancient Hebrew (a Hebrew even more primitive than the evolved Hebrew in later OT times). So, is that inference of being right with her through the event at the same time really what is implied? Again, maybe but not necessarily. The “with her” could be highlighting the fact that Eve wanted to give to the one who was her companion—the one who was with her (sort of “with her in life”). I tend to favor this second idea. The reason is that it goes along with why Satan approached the woman and not the man in the first place. If Satan chose to approach Eve for deceit, his knitting of the deceitful path could have been all unraveled by the presence of Adam who was there when God issued the command in the first place, who could have cleared Eve’s confusion, who could have insisted on following God. I’m not saying he necessarily would have, but it seems to be too great a risk for Satan’s cunning plan for Satan not to have waited until Eve was alone to spin his web.
But then, why did Adam eat? No deception there. (Again, we learn that from 1 Timothy 2:14.) No doubt, Adam would not have been so trusting as Eve. After all, it was Adam who interviewed every animal of the world and found them all wanting as a companion. To suddenly find a serpent who is conversing intelligently would be more shocking to him based on his previous experience than it was to Eve. And again, Adam did hear the command directly from God, whereas Eve may not have. So, there would be less confusion there.
Why then was there no objection to eating? Let’s think about the dilemma Adam faced. Adam—not deceived—knew death would come from eating. And yet, what exactly is death, or more to the point, how did Adam understand death? Obviously, nothing yet had died. Death was not part of this perfect world, so Adam had no experience with it. But Adam must have known that death meant an end to relationship with God. Did Adam understand God fully? Did he know he could not even exist without God’s constant interaction with him? Did he think, perhaps, death (ending of relationship with God) simply meant being kicked out of the Garden of God’s Pleasure into the world to fend for himself? Possibly. In fact, unless God had gone through the lessons of teaching him otherwise, that would perhaps likely be what he thought. Let’s not put too much omniscient knowledge about God and life and creation into the mind of this man who, at this point, has been living for only maybe a couple of days.
Now, Adam knew Eve ate the fruit. Adam knew God said, if you eat the fruit, relationship with him would end. So, Adam knew Eve’s relationship with God was coming to an end. That means, based on what our presumption of the previous paragraph was, Eve would be exiled from the Garden while Adam remained in it. Here then was Adam’s choice: remain in the Garden with God—but alone without Eve—or choose exile with Eve, losing relationship with God.
Adam—without a recorded word—ate. He chose Eve. Confronted with a clear choice of where he would look for TGB, he chose Eve—he chose to “worship and serve something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever” (Romans 1:25b).
Now, could we call this—Adam’s muddled thinking—a deception? Well, yes, it was a kind of deception—one of his own making. He deceived himself, not fully understanding the consequences. But true to Paul’s text, he was not deceived by an outside influence. And even more importantly, he (unlike Eve) was not deceived about the consequence of relationship with God. Adam was fully aware that in eating, he was choosing for relationship with Eve and against relationship with God.