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Scripture Study

Genesis 3 The Temptation and Fall

By Pat Joyce

(Scripture quotes are from the New King James translation of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Understanding Genesis 3 is critical for all Christians.  This scripture study concentrates on the areas where errors in translation and/or interpretation have fostered faulty doctrine and unscriptural traditions.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.  And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"

Who is the serpent? Satan is a spirit who uses the serpent's body.  What is he doing here? Adam was told to “guard and keep” the garden.

The text uses the plural form of “you” in Hebrew indicating the presence of more than one person.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "

Although scripture tells us that the woman was created at the same time as the man, she was not formed until Genesis 2:22.   the command was given in Genesis 2:17

She adds to God's words.  Why? Taught wrong? To add stress? Exaggeration? We don’t know—the Bible does not say.

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die."

Calls God a liar; or, to be nice, questions the truthfulness of God. 

5 "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Satan insinuates that God is trying to keep something from them.  He states his own desire to be like God and tempts them to have those same desires.  He does the same thing today, using subtle strategy to lead us into disobedience.

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

The woman was tempted in body (good for food), soul (pleasant to the eyes) and spirit (make one wise)

Satan tempts us in the same way today when we are deceived into allowing our natural senses rather than God and his Word to be the standard by which we make decisions.

She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Adam knew what was happening and he chose neither to warn the woman nor to stop her from eating and he chose to eat himself.

Gilbert Bilezikian says the words “with her” are the saddest words in the Bible.

Adam was told to keep = guard the garden yet he let the tempter come in and made no move to make him leave.  Many theologians believe that Adam had begun something of a “slip” from fellowship with God before the fall.  Supporting evidence would include the fact that he never chose to eat from the Tree of Life and that he allowed Satan to enter the garden.

Adam heard the whole conversation.  He never said a word to stop Satan.  He was not deceived.  He knew exactly what Satan was doing, yet he allowed his wife to eat.  Then he ate.   Did he watch to see what happened before he ate?  We don't know.   We only know that he ate fully knowing what he was doing.

Who is responsible for the fall of humankind?

The Bible lays the responsibility entirely on Adam. 

A confirming reference from the Old Testament comes from Job 31:33:

 If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom.

Transgression = rebellion Iniquity = vanity and perversion of spirit

In the New Testament Paul says Adam was not deceived in Romans 5:12-19, 1 Timothy 2:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:22)


12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—
13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the offense.  For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned.  For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:12-19 (NKJV)

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
1 Cor 15:22 (NKJV)

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
1 Tim 2:14 (NKJV)

So why is the woman blamed for the fall? Up until around 200 or 300 B. C. she was not.  It was during the time between the Old and New Testaments that the change came. 

During that time, known as the “days of mingling,” the Jews came up against three problems.  After Malachi the voice of God was not heard through the prophets and there was a strong Greek influence on their culture.  Even today we speak of Greeks like Aristotle and Plato with great admiration.  Additionally, during the years in captivity in Babylon, many lost their Hebrew language and were influenced by the pagan culture in which they lived.  Remember that during the time of Jesus they were speaking Aramaic, which is the language of Babylon.  The pagan influences of Babylon and Greece contributed to the lowered status of women taught by religious leaders and opposed by Jesus. 

In order to bring their beliefs into line with the prevailing Greek thought additions and changes were made.  One blatant example of the change in rabbinical teaching is placing the blame for the fall on the woman making the story line up with that of Pandora who opened the forbidden box and let evil escape into the world.  Note that she is not named “Eve” until after the fall. 

The most ancient extant reference to Eve as the source of evil is to be found in a book which is known as Ecclesiasticus, or The Wisdom of Ben Sira.  This, a Palestinian production of uncertain date, was originally written in Hebrew, probably about 250 B. C., but early translated into Greek, in Egypt, and it contains these words: "From woman a beginning of sin; and because of her all die" (25:24).  This is a total contradiction of what we read in Romans.
Other Jewish writers, of later date, enlarge upon this culpability of Eve.  At Alexandria, particularly, was the effort carried forward of reconciling the Scriptures with Greek pagan teachings.  Unfortunately for Christian theology, after the Greek version of the O. T. was made at Alexandria, beginning about 258 BC, these Jewish, uninspired writings, called The Apocrypha, written in Greek, not Hebrew, were incorporated with that version, which was used, to the exclusion of the Hebrew Scriptures by the Church; and many of the church fathers quoted the Apocrypha as authoritative; and all were influenced by its teachings.  Thus it easily happens that the character of the mythological Pandora is ascribed to Eve.  No saying that reflects upon Eve's character can be traced further back than "the days of mingling." Bushnell Paragraph 87. 

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in 177 AD, picked up on the teaching of Ben Sira and other Jews.   He says, “Having become disobedient, she was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race.”

Tertullian said, “Do you not know that you are an Eve? God's verdict on the sex still holds good and the sex’s guilt must still hold also.  You are the Devil's gateway, you are the avenue to the forbidden tree.  You are the first deserter from the law divine.  It was you who persuaded him [Adam] whom the devil himself had not strength to assail.  So lightly did you esteem God’s image.  For your deceit, for death, the very son of god had to perish.”

7 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 coverings.

No longer “naked and unashamed.” The glory of God that had covered them was gone.  Gen 1:28 says we were created in the image of God.  We know that God’s image is gone for it says in Genesis 5:3 that Seth was born in the image of Adam.  When we are fallen we are spiritually dead.  For our spirit to live again we must be “born from above.” John 3

Did they covered their sexual nakedness—the differences? Were their eyes were opened to look on each other in a new way.  Despite the familiar pictures, we don’t know for sure what they covered, but we know what we cover.  There is now shame and modesty instead of trust and nakedness.

The coverings they made for themselves were unacceptable to God.  The only covering He accepts is a blood covering, the scripture tells us “the life is in the blood.” The blood of Jesus alone cleanses and provides the way to again become free of shame. 

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Now they hide from each other and from God and we still do.

9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"

God calls us in the midst of our sin.   He knows where we are, but do we?

10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."

When will we learn that we can't hide from God?

11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"

God knows the answer, but He wants to see our response.  This was an opportunity for repentance.

12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."

Blames the woman.  Blames God for giving him the woman but does not say a word about Satan's part in this fiasco. 

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Most teaching says that she blamed the serpent thus making both man and woman try to put the blame elsewhere.  However she states the truth with Satan right there to hear her.  Notice that God takes into account what both Adam and the woman have said when He speaks prophetically to them and curses the serpent.

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.

Curses the serpent.  Actually, as we see in Romans 8:20-23, all creation falls under a curse because of man’s fall. 

Romans 8:20-23 NKJV  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman

The enmity of Satan has been hard on women–consider it.  Also consider that if there is enmity between Satan and the woman, she is on God's side.  Pagan religions teach that woman is aligned with evil.  Christianity does not!

And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."

The last half of this verse is the first Messianic prophecy.  God promises that the Messiah will come through woman.  What a promise! Is it logical that God would then “curse” the woman with His next words?

We know that the "Seed of the woman" refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Looking at the human race, those who are spiritually of the 'Seed of the woman,' would be those who choose the side of good, the side of God and righteousness.  Those who are of an opposite spirit are the seed of the serpent, 'the children of the devil. 

In Genesis 3:16, the Lord gives a prophetic word on what is going to happen, not what He commands to happen.  There is a tremendous difference, and it is a critical distinction. 

16 To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."  KJV

The translation of  five words or phrases in this verse should be questioned.  They are shown in bold.  Let's start with the phrase, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow .  .  .”

In the explaination below, Upper case represents the original Hebrew letter.  Lower case represents vowel signs, which are a relatively recent invention added to make the language easier to read.  Remember, if you read the original Hebrew, there are no vowel signs.

Bushnell holds that the first section should be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow . . ."

She gets “snare” from the Hebrew word ARB (ARB) translated “ambush” and” liers in wait” or “in ambush” fourteen times in Joshua and Judges.

The difference is between the two translations given below is only in the vowel signs.

HaRBeh, AaRBeh, "multiplying I will multiply," which is usually translated as I will greatly multiply your sorrow


HiRBah AoReB, "has-caused-to multiply a lying-in-wait.” Remember that lyer-in wait can also be translated an ambush or snare" So it can be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow," or it is also possible to read here, "A lyer-in-wait (the subtle serpent) has increased your sorrow." Regardless it does not say that God is planning to greatly multiply her sorrow.  It is falling for Satan’s snare that has put her in this place.

Then, we are told that God also plans to multiply her “conception.”

To translate HRN (HRN) as “conception” two letters had to be added.  The word for conception is spelled HRJWN (HRJWN .) We don’t know for sure what the word “HRN” is, but it is not conception.  "Conception" is spelled correctly in Ruth 4:13 and in Hosea 9:1.  The Septuagint translates HRN as sighing. 

"A snare hath increased your sorrow and your sighing." is a probable translation of the first section. 

While Katharine Bushnell first gave this translation, other scholars now accept it.

“In pain you shall bring forth children.”

While it is true that having a child is painful, the word translated "pain" means far more than physical pain.  It connotes a deep grieving or sorrow of spirit and can also be translated sorrow, and probably should be in this case.  “The root from which it is taken, along with its derivatives, signify physical, mental, and spiritual anguish ranging from sorrow to bitterness or despair, to feelings disgust, trouble, turmoil, indignation, even terror.  It is used less of physical pain than of mental pain.” Women have brought children into the world when they knew they could not provide for them, when they had no say in their lives or what would happen to them.  Even in the best of times there is pain and sorrow in raising children.  Note that the word is translated "sorrow" or "toil" when it relates to Adam in verse 17. 

“Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

Shall is an imperative--a command word in English.  The word in Hebrew is will, which simply tells of the future in this case the consequences of an action.  Many recent translations have changed to will, but the damage done by considering this verse a command cannot be measured. 

The word desire should be translated turning—you will turn to or reach out after your husband instead of the Lord and when you do he will rule over you.  To see how the change came about, click here to look at the chart developed by Bushnell to show how the translation of teshuqa changed over the centuries.  We suggest that you print it off and study it.  The chart includes the Ten Curses of Eve listed below. 

Why so many translation errors on one verse? Again we see the “days of mingling and out of them the rabbinic perversion and addition to the Scripture.  A rabbinic teaching that God pronounced ten curses on Eve (something that Scripture nowhere teaches is the probable source of this erroneous translation. 

These are the Ten Curses of Eve

1. ‘Greatly multiply’ followed by words having to do with ministration.
2. ‘thy sorrow’ in rearing children;
3. ‘thy conception’;
4. ‘in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children’;
5. ‘thy desire shall be unto thy husband’; [followed by language too coarse for reproduction, leaving no doubt of the rabbinical interpretation of “desire”];
6. 'He shall rule over thee' [more, and fouler language] ;
7. she is wrapped up like a mourner, i. e.
8. dares not appear in public with her head uncovered;
9. is restricted to one husband, while he may have many wives;
10. and is confined to the house as to a prison."

The incorrect translation and interpretation of this verse have wrought havoc that is still being felt today.  Genesis 3:16 is referenced in the martins of many translation to support the doctrine that men are to rule over women.  Amazing, since Genesis 1 & 2 do not say that.  Jesus opposed the traditional treatment of women throughout his ministry yet even today His teaching on equality and mutual submission is ignored.  Poor Paul has been misunderstood and/or mistranslated either deliberately or from blind ignorance.  God grant that the days of believing a lie are coming to an end.

17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.

Adam is not cursed.  The ground is cursed.  Work is not a curse.   It is God’s mercy but now it will not be the same as tending—now it will be hard.

18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Did Adam know something? If we look into Genesis 4, we see Eve saying "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD."  "Lord" in the Hebrew is Jehovah.  Bushnell translates, “I have gotten a man,—even The Coming One!" At least that is what it would say if you looked up each word for yourself.  "Jehovah" means literally "He will come," that is, "The Coming One.”

Eve believed the promise of God—that makes her “a believer.” Like Abraham, who believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Wesley says. . . Adam has the name of the dying body, Eve the name of the living soul.  Adam means "red" like the dirt, dust from which he was formed.

21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

Animals died to provide the covering for them.  Blood is shed – prefiguring the blood of Christ, which will bring redemption.  Was it a Lamb that was slain? Seems likely.

22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"—

Odd, God seems only concerned that the man will eat from the tree of life.  Both have sinned both are covered by the skins that came from the shedding of blood and death.  What is the difference? Could “man” mean both? Unlikely since in verse 21 God specifies Adam and his wife and does not link them as one.

23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

Note that the scripture says God sent the man out of the garden.  Is it possible that the first time the woman turned from God to her husband (like God prophesied in Genesis 3:16) was in choosing to follow him from the garden? Interesting question, isn't it?

24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

The Tree of Life is now available to us as we partake of God's Word and a relationship with him.  We are born of the Spirit when we ask Christ to be Lord of our lives.  This birth is into eternal life.   Yet our work is still tried by fire and only that which is of God will endure.

12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.   14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.  1 Cor 3:12-17 (NKJV)



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