The book of Genesis takes us back to the beginning of human history. In the first two chapters we see a perfect environment created by a perfect God—over and over again God looked at what He had made and said, "It is good."
In this perfect environment, God placed perfect man and perfect woman and gave them the gift of freedom. To make the freedom real, God gave the man and woman real choices. And so, in the Garden of Eden, there was a test of the human will.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." (GEN 2:16-17)
God knew that the minute He gave man and woman freedom, danger would enter this perfect environment. He knew that with freedom man could make a personal decision to reject Him, and with Him, everything good. He knew that with freedom man could turn paradise into hell on earth. The fact that He was willing to give to the human race this marvelous gift despite the dangers it created should tell us something about the value God places on human freedom.
The Bible does not tell us how long Adam and Eve had been in the Garden of Eden before the events of Genesis 3. It could have been a week; it could have been a thousand years.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (GEN 3:1)
The Hebrew word for serpent is nachash. Nachash means "the shining one." This creature—whatever it was—did not at this point look like a snake. Not until after the Fall did God curse the serpent and it become a symbol of sin. In Revelation 12:9, the serpent is identified as the devil, Satan, the one who deceives the world.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan is working through this creature. He approaches the woman by implying that God is keeping something from her and is, therefore, not a good God.
And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'" (GEN 3:2-3)
Notice that the woman is not surprised when this creature speaks. She makes a half-hearted attempt to defend God but in doing so she misquotes Him. He had not told them that they could not touch the fruit, only that they could not eat it. Already there is clearly a problem in the human race: ignorance of the Word of God. Though Adam and Eve had the spoken Word and we today have the written Word, the principle is the same: ignorance of God's Word always leads to defeat. When we today are not clear in our understanding of the Bible, when we add to or subtract from His instructions, we will be defeated.
And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (GEN 3:4-5)
Having planted in the woman's mind the seed of doubt about the goodness of God and His plan, Satan now makes further use of her lack of understanding of God's Word. He gives her a half-truth and tells her that the penalty for eating the fruit is not really what she thinks it is. He knows that Eve is thinking in terms of physical death. He also knows that she will not fall down and die physically the instant she eats from the tree, so his words are half true.
God's warning of GEN 2:17 uses the Hebrew word for death, muth, twice: "In the day you eat of this tree, dying you shall surely die." God was telling them that they would die spiritually, as a result of which they would eventually die physically. That is, of course, just what Adam and Eve were about to learn firsthand.
Eating from the tree, Satan says, will not bring death; it will bring enlightenment and will cause her to be like God. This, we know from ISA 14:13-14, is exactly what Satan wanted for himself. Consider Satan's logic: "You can be like God by rejecting God." The woman is about to swallow the lie.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (GEN 3:6)
Notice that the serpent did not mess with Adam—he did not have to. He got to Adam through the woman. Eve was faced with the temptation to be like God. But Adam was faced with an entirely different temptation. When he met her after she had eaten the fruit, he immediately saw that she was not the same woman—she was a fallen creature. He knew instantly that he now had to make a choice between the woman and God.
1TI 2:14 makes it clear that though Eve was deceived, Adam was not. She believed that if she ate from the tree, she would become like God. Adam did not believe that, not for a second. He did not believe that God had held something back from him that was good, and he did not believe that the fruit of the tree was going to enhance him one ounce. He simply made a decision: "Eve has fallen and I can choose her or I can choose God." He chose Eve. This is why the Fall is called "the sin of Adam."
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (GEN 3:7)
Did Satan tell Eve this would happen, that their eyes would be opened? He did. Was it the way he led her to believe it would be? No. Sin is never what Satan promises it will be.
Adam and Eve had been naked before the Fall, but now—because of sin—the possibility of perversion enters their minds. They respond by trying to make coverings for themselves. This is the first instance of human religion, the man and woman's first attempt to solve their problem themselves, to hide their sinfulness from each other and make themselves acceptable to God.
They inherently know that the coverings they have made are not enough, and so Adam and Eve are afraid and try to hide from God. In GEN 3:9 the Lord God calls for them. He knows where they are. What He wants from them is a simple confession, an admission that they know where they are. That is always what He wants from us when we sin: simple, honest confession. 1JO 1:9 promises that if we confess—which simply means to name or acknowledge—our sins, He will forgive and cleanse us. Adam and Eve, instead of admitting their guilt, do what we usually do: they each put the blame on someone else.
And the man said, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (GEN 3:12-13)
Adam blames God because God had given the woman to him; the woman blames the serpent. Both are unwilling to take responsibility for their disobedience.
Already four effects of the fall are obvious: perversion, conscious guilt, fear, and hostility. We face the same effects every day. Perversion is the evil we can do with the good things God gives. Conscious guilt is the inner awareness that we have sinned and are accountable to God. Fear—the great power of Satan's realm—is the inevitable result of refusing to admit our guilt and accept forgiveness. Hostility toward God and toward other people is the outworking of uncontrolled fear.
We start out saying, "If God were really a good God, He would not keep from me the things I want." So we go our own way to get those things and get hurt in the process. Then we blame God for the pain and, in our anger, we lash out at Him, "Why did God let this happen to me?" It all starts with a question: "Why won't God give me this?" And it ends with a question: "Why did God let this happen to me?" These are the effects of the fall of man.
God did not intend to leave man lost and hopeless. From the very beginning He had a plan. His first revelation of that plan is in GEN 3:15.
This is the first promise of the Savior, the Messiah. What the Lord God describes here is the work of the cross, where Satan would bruise the heel of Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ would smash the head of the serpent. Sin is the barrier between God and man. At the cross, Jesus Christ would remove the barrier and open the door to God so that anyone could have freedom to approach God by faith in Him. The rest of the Bible is an account of God keeping the promise He makes here. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to the fulfillment of this promise of the seed of the woman. In GEN 12:1-3, the promise is narrowed to the seed of Abraham, in GEN 49:8-12 to the seed of the tribe of Judah, in ISA 7:14 to the seed of a virgin and, finally, in MAT 1:23 to the seed of Mary, Jesus the Messiah.
And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. (GEN 3:21)
God's clothing of Adam and Eve is the first Biblical picture of redemption. A guiltless animal is sacrificed to provide a covering for sinful man. In accepting the covering, Adam and Eve acknowledge that they are helpless to bridge the spiritual separation from God that their sin has brought into the world.
Though they are helpless, they are still free, and they exercise their freedom this time by choosing to look forward in faith to the coming of the promised Redeemer.