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Beginnings in Genesis – Anatomy of a Sin

February 25, 2008

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made

Genesis 3:1

A serpent enters the picture, and he was crafty. This section deserves a closer look because of the way it is written with a number of features worth noticing:

nakedness: The previous chapter ends with the nakedness of the couple. And there is a very clever play on words here in the Hebrew. The Hebrew for naked is sharum. The Hebrew for shrewd is sharom. This is significant here because in seeking shrewdness or wisdom (3:6) they end up only discovering their nakedness (3:7,10).

not Lord God anymore: Notice too that God’s name has changed. Up to this point, in the story of Adam and Eve, God is always referred to as LORD God. (In the OT wherever you see the word Lord written in small capitals this represents the name God used to describe himself to Moses ‘I am who I am’.) In Hebrew this is Yahweh. It refers to the covenant name of God, the name LORD God refers both to his covenant faithfulness and his creative power. The narrative switches back to this name in :8 once the seduction and fall are over.

But the serpent is being very clever here. He refers to God as a distant remote creator not the close covenant partner, the one who acts to limit freedoms. By this he wants to seduce the woman into rebellion.

the serpent’s misrepresentation: Not only does he want to distance God he also misrepresents what God said. ‘Did God really say you must not eat of any of the trees..’ This is quite simply an unfair twisting of God’s original generosity in 2:16

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..’

the woman and the snake: The woman has spent too long with this clever serpent, and this becomes clear in the way she replies to him. The woman corrects the snake but not completely. Notice three things about her reply:

-she omits the word ‘every’ which God had said originally.
-she adopts the snakes description of God even though she had only known him as LORD God.
-she adds a prohibition to what God had said – ‘you must not even touch it’.

The subtle way she misrepresents God’s original generosity shows she is already moving some way towards the snakes position. She paints God as a harsh and repressive, forbidding them even to touch the tree, as if even touching it would cause death.

the seduction of temptation: What finally persuaded the woman to succumb was the desirability of the fruit. It satisfied her physical appetites, it was attractive to possess and it promised wisdom or insight. Then in a series of rapid fire sentences she takes and eats [words strangely reminiscent of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, there taking and eating brought the promise of salvation. Here it is death and lostness.] Soon the man has followed her. Genesis 3:6 is possibly the most disastrous verse in the whole of the bible.

enlightenment nakedness: And what was the great insight they both gained? Their eyes were opened, and they realised……they were naked. The innocence of 2:25 is shattered, and guiltily they slink into the tree with their hastily arranged coverings. The trees that were created to be good to look at (2:9) are now the hiding place to prevent God seeing them. trust and innocence are gone, replaced by guilt and fear.

From → Genesis

  1. At least they realised they were naked… things have got worse since then… We, in common with the Laodiceans at the other end of the Book, don’t realise that we’re naked… We think we’ve got it all and know it all… Yet the Lord of Creation, as he addresses himself to the Laodiceans, on the one hand threatens to spit us out of his mouth, yet on the other invites us to open the door to him so he can come in and eat with us… I wonder will apples be on the menu?

  2. asharedadventure permalink

    That’s very subtle yet powerful Glenn the way the serpent removes the relational “Lord” and guides Eve to focus on the authoritative “God”. This passage also illustrates the power behind our thoughts. The longer we think about things we can easily convince ourselves to do anything, what we hear and see will influence our thoughts and inturn these will influence our feelings and behaviour. Shows the vital need to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’. It’s interesting that Eve adds that they’re not even to touch. Perhaps this also highlights that it was second hand information Eve received. Adam had received the command through revelation directly from God and so had a ‘knowing’ of the truth but as we try to relate information from others it tends to get changed. This shows how important and how much strength needs to come from knowing God’s word, continually going back to the source.Concerning the nakedness good point David. The nakedness reflects how their deeds and disobedience have been exposed. When given the opportunity to be honest and come clean both Adam and Eve try to ‘cover up’ by blaming each other and then the serpent. I wonder what would have happened if they had taken personal responsibility for their actions and repented!

  3. thanks both of you for migrating over here. I look forward to more of your insights.

    D: I hadn’t seen the connection with Laodicea. Good.

    J: I hadn’t connected Adam’s possible engagement in what he communicated. But that observation also has some implications for the work of preaching does it not?

  4. asharedadventure permalink

    Absolutely, it highlights the increased responsibility that comes with preaching and communicating God’s word. It also has implications for those hearing the word. There is a need to ensure what we hear agrees with God’s word (no matter who it comes from), and we can only do that by going back to the Bible and through prayer.

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