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Genesis Chapter 3; the Fall of Man but Promise of Salvation, Part 1 (of 4 Parts)

by Karl Kemp  
6/02/2014 / Bible Studies

INTRODUCTION. I am taking this four-part paper from the 71 page paper on my internet site ( that is titled, "Verse-by-Verse Study of Genesis Chapters 1-3." (I was able to use footnotes, bold, italics, small caps, some Hebrew letters, dashes, etc. in the internet version of the paper, but not for this present version that I am putting on several Christian article sites.) That 71 page paper was taken from my 273 page paper that is titled "Verse-by-Verse Study of Genesis Chapters 1-3: These Three Chapters, the First Three Chapters of the Bible, Provide the Foundation to Understand God, Creation, Man, the Devil and his Kingdom of Darkness, Sin and the Fall of Man, the God-Man and His Kingdom of Light, Righteousness, Salvation, and Judgment."

The lengthy (almost 200 pages) Appendix that was included in the original paper was not included in the internet version. (I'll include the listing of the Contents of the Appendix as we continue.) I had quoted extensively from others in the Appendix of the original paper. I wanted to do a rather thorough study of this important topic; I spent a year doing the research and writing the original paper. I had received permission to include the lengthy quotations in the original paper, but I did not receive permission to publish those lengthy quotations on the internet. For the 71 page verse-by-verse study of Genesis Chapters 1-3 that is published on my internet site, I abbreviated the few lengthy quotations that were included in the original paper, since I had not received permission to include the lengthy quotations on the internet.

I still have quite a few copies of the original 273 page paper, which I will make available to you for $5 plus the cost of the postage. You could send me an e-mail ([email protected]).

Here in Part 1 we don't get beyond the first verse of Genesis chapter 3. Most of the discussion deals with demonstrating that the serpent, who first comes on the scene in this verse, is not a literal serpent that Satan possesses or speaks through, but is a symbol for Satan himself. As you will see, the evidence for this viewpoint is very strong. Genesis chapters 1-3 contain quite a bit of symbolic language, symbolic language that deals with things that are very real. Many Christians have the mistaken idea that if it is at all possible to understand something in the Bible in a literal sense, it must be understood in a literal sense. What we need to be looking for is the sense that God intended.

EXTENDED NOTES (in the Appendix):

A. Excerpts Dealing with the Gap View of Creation (8 pages)

B. Excerpts Dealing with a Modification, or Two, of the Gap View of Creation (8 pages)

C. Ezekiel 28:1-19 (7 pages)

D. The Symbolic Use of the Words "Light," "Darkness," "Night," and "Day" in the Bible (12 pages)

E. A Study of the Hebrew Verb "Badal," To Separate, To Divide, To Distinguish Between, To Set Apart (7 pages)

F. The Use of "Day" and the "Seven Days" in the Creation Account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Using an Artificial Literary Structure (14 pages)

G. Galileo's Condemnation and the Interpretation of Scripture (10 pages)

H. The Bible and Science (19 pages)

I. When Was Adam Created? In this Extended Note we also consider the question, When was Noah's Flood? It includes "A Discussion Regarding Carbon 14 Radiometric Dating and the Accuracy of this Method" (20 pages)

J. When Was the Universe Created? This Extended Note contains extensive excerpts from Hugh Ross. It also includes excerpts from "The Dynamics of Dating: The Reliability of Radiometric Dating Methods" by Roger C. Wiens (46 pages)

K. Intelligent Design, Not Evolution. This lengthy Extended Note consists almost entirely of excerpts from scholars involved in the Intelligent Design movement (43 pages)

All quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless I mention otherwise. I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. cf., e.g., means compare, for example

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD [The four capitalized letters indicate that the Hebrew has the very special name Yahweh, which is used repeatedly throughout this chapter.] God [Hebrew "elohim"] had made. [[(This double bracket continues for twelve paragraphs.) The most common view among evangelicals is that Satan was possessing, or at least speaking through, the serpent (a literal serpent). I believe it was intended (by the ultimate Author) that the serpent be equated with Satan; the serpent was a symbol for Satan. The first three chapters of Genesis are packed with super-important revelation, as is the super-important book of Revelation, but both writings use a lot of symbolic/spiritual language (symbols that deal with things that are very real) in very effective ways.

As we discussed under Gen. 1:2-5 (not included in this four-part paper), Satan's initial rebellion took place before Gen. 1:1. God's judgment of that rebellion led to the chaotic, dark, dead state of the earth pictured in Gen. 1:2.

[[I had a two-paragraph footnote: I'll quote what Bruce K. Waltke says here ("Genesis" [Zondervan, 2001], page 90). "... Although [the serpent is] not named here, he is the adversary of God and humanity, called the Satan (Hebrew 'satan' ['adversary, persecutor, or accuser']) in the Old Testament and the devil ('diabolos,' the Greek equivalent) in the New Testament. He originates in heaven, standing outside earth's natural order. [Waltke has a footnote here, "Seemingly (a mystery) he does not belong to this creation, which is good." He was created and fell before Gen. 1:1; he was not, therefore, part of God's good creation spoken of in Gen. 1:1-2:3.] He is malevolent and wiser than humans, bringing them under his rule. [Satan's wisdom didn't give man an excuse for the fall; Adam and Eve had been given all they needed to remain faithful to God.] He knows divine matters (3:5) [Waltke has a footnote here, "This inference becomes explicit in later revelations (Job 1:6-12; Zech. 3:1-2)."] and uses speech to introduce confusion. [Waltke has another footnote, "Cf. John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:14; Rev. 12:9. Despite his power, he will be destroyed by Christ and his seed (Gen. 3:15; Luke 10:18-19; Rom. 16:20.")]."

I'll quote several sentences from what James Oliver Buswell says on this topic. (("Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion," Vol. 1 [Zondervan, 1962], pages 264, 265. Dr. Buswell was a founding theologian of Covenant Theological Seminary, where I attended. I never had any classes with Dr. Buswell. He had pretty much retired before I started taking classes there, but based on what I know of him, I have a lot of respect for him. For one thing, he was the primary one who introduced the teaching of the mid-week rapture at Covenant Seminary. Also, he put a lot more emphasis on Christian holiness than most Calvinists do.)) "The tempter in the Genesis record is an evil personal intelligence. The words, 'the Serpent,' I suggest should be read as a proper name [Buswell has a footnote, "Compare Isaiah 65:25 and Revelation 20:3 [2] where the 'Serpent' is a person. In this suggestion I am not for a moment questioning the inerrancy of the record."], or as a title functioning as a proper name. THE GENESIS ACCOUNT HAS NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT A BIOLOGICAL REPTILE [my emphasis]. 'The Serpent' is not said to be one of the 'beasts of the field'.... Snakes do not literally eat dirt (Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25), but to be prostrated, and to eat dust, is an ancient metaphor for the humiliation of an enemy. ... 'The Serpent' is Satan, and figures throughout the Bible as the arch-enemy of God and man, the instigator of all kinds of evil." (This is the end of the two-paragraph footnote.)]] The one we call Satan and the devil was created by God - he was created good, but he rebelled and fell through pride (1 Tim. 3:6); he was created, fell, and was judged before Gen. 1:1; he was not part of the creation pictured in Genesis chapters 1, 2, which was pronounced good.

Although God undoubtedly created literal serpents in the creation that is spoken of in Genesis chapters 1, 2, the Hebrew noun ("nachash") translated "serpent" here in Gen. 3:1 was not used in those chapters. (Those literal serpents would have been part of what God pronounced good.) God speaks to the serpent in Gen. 3:14, 15; the fact that what He says to him in 3:15 clearly refers to Satan (not to a literal serpent) provides one of several strong reasons to equate the serpent with Satan. (What God says to the serpent in Gen. 3:14 fits Satan well too.) Revelation 12:8 (with 12:3, 4, 7-9) and Rev. 20:2 provide an equally strong, if not stronger, reason for equating the serpent and Satan: "And the great dragon was thrown down, THE SERPENT OF OLD [referring to Genesis chapter 3] WHO IS CALLED THE DEVIL AND SATAN [my emphasis], who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him" (Rev. 12:8); "And he laid hold of the dragon, THE SERPENT OF OLD, WHO IS THE DEVIL AND SATAN [my emphasis], and bound him for a thousand years" (Rev. 20:2). [[I had a footnote: Revelation 12:4, 7-9 picture the devil and his angels being cast down to the earth (from their privileged position in heavenly places) at the time Christ returns to judge the world in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. (Revelation chapter 12 is discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and in my e-book, "Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture." They are both available at Revelation 20:2 shows that the devil will be bound throughout the millennial kingdom.]] Revelation 12:4 indicates that a "third" of the angels followed the devil in his rebellion against God, which took place before Gen. 1:1. That was a major rebellion. This important information, a "third," is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

The use of the word "serpent" in Isa. 27:1 also serves as a rather strong confirmation that the serpent is to be equated with Satan. So does 2 Cor. 11:3; cf. Isa. 65:25. [[I had a footnote: The fact that "dust will be the serpents food" (Isa. 65:25) when the other animals are transformed ("the wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox") fits well with the idea that the serpent is Satan; eating dust speaks symbolically of his overthrow (cf. Isa. 27:1). It is significant that Isa. 11:8 (with 11:6-8) shows that the literal snakes/serpents will be transformed along with the other animals for the millennial kingdom.]] Under Genesis chapter 2 (not included in this four-part paper), I quoted extensively from Henri Blocher on the meaning of the two special trees in the middle of the garden of Eden. I also quoted extensively from him regarding the concept that the serpent was Satan in the original 273 page version of this paper.

It is very clear that the serpent already was an extremely evil being (and also quite competent) when he first comes on the scene in the Bible here in Genesis chapter 3; he already was extremely evil and at war with God (and man). [[I had a footnote: It must be emphasized that there never was any doubt about who is going to win this war. The Bible confirms from beginning to end that God is God; He is in sovereign control; and He definitely limits what He permits Satan to do. God knew that man was going to fall, and He had made plans before the creation of the world (cf. 1 Pet. 1:20) to send His Son to save man (those who would submit in faith to His plan of salvation) and to overthrow, judge, and totally remove Satan and all who follow him.]] The serpent's being a symbol for Satan fits perfectly with what I said earlier in this paper (and in the Appendix) regarding the strong symbolic component of Genesis chapters 1-3. I'll list the most relevant points here: The strong symbolic/spiritual components of the words "darkness" and "light" in Genesis chapter 1 is significant (where "darkness" symbolizes sin, Satan and his kingdom, and the consequences and penalties for sin, and "light" symbolizes God and His life, truth, righteousness, peace, order, and blessings; God called the light "good" in Gen. 1:4). The emphasis on the need to separate the darkness from the light and to keep them separated in Genesis chapter 1 is a dominant biblical theme, and it helps confirm the symbolic/spiritual component of the words light and darkness. The state of the earth pictured in Gen. 1:2, with the "darkness," chaos, absence of life, with water covering everything had undoubtedly resulted from God's earlier judgment (before Gen. 1:1) of the rebellion led by Satan that at least included the earth. (See the Introduction and the study of Genesis chapter 1 in the paper on Genesis chapters 1-3 on my internet site.)

The fact that Adam and Eve were informed that they must "subdue" the earth (Gen. 1:28) is significant, especially since the animals were at peace with man and with one another before the fall of man (according to Gen. 1:26-31). Also, at that time, Adam and Eve were at peace with the environment; they had no problems with things like tornadoes, droughts, bad ground, weeds, pests, sicknesses, etc. The enemies that Adam and Eve needed to resist and subdue were in the spiritual dimension. They had to keep separate from the darkness and evil; they had to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL. The EVIL fruit of that tree (like the darkness) symbolized sin and the consequences and penalties for sin; to eat of that forbidden fruit was to follow Satan in his rebellion against God and to suffer the consequences.

If these points are accepted, it is not at all unexpected or surprising for Satan to come on the scene here in Genesis chapter 3. Most Christians, however, understand Genesis chapters 1, 2 in a way that doesn't leave hardly any room for the fall of Satan, or his relationship with the earth, or God's (initial, partial) judgment of his rebellion. They understand Genesis chapter 1 in a way that doesn't even mention the "creation" of the cherubim, angels, etc. They typically say that their creation is included in Gen. 1:1, but you certainly have to strain to see their creation there. And if you believe that there were only five twenty-four hour days and some hours between the time God began His creation of everything in Gen. 1:1 and the time He created Adam on the sixth day (which is a widely held viewpoint), you certainly don't leave much time for the righteous existence of the high-level being who became Satan and the angels who followed him before they fell.

Satan (along with sin, death [spiritual death and physical death], and darkness) did not have authority over Adam and Eve until after they had sinned. Satan (along with sin, death, and darkness) gained authority (but not total dominion) over man (which includes Adam, Eve, and all their offspring) through the sin of Adam and Eve (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:12-21).

The Hebrew noun ("arum") that is translated "crafty" here in 3:1 is used in a negative (evil) sense, as it was in Job 5:12; 15:5. (This Hebrew noun was sometimes used in a positive sense in the Old Testament, where it was translated "prudent" four times and "prudent man" four times by the NASB.) The translation of the NASB at the beginning of 3:1 (which is essentially the same as the NIV, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals") tends to leave what I consider to be a wrong impression. This translation tends to communicate the idea that the beasts of the field were crafty too, but less crafty than the serpent. I don't believe the ultimate Author (God) intended to include the idea that the beasts of the field were "crafty." I prefer a translation like, "Now the serpent was subtle APART FROM [in the sense of "unlike"] the wild beasts of the field which the LORD God had made."

We'll discuss this rather important point to some extent here and then further under Gen. 3:14. Many have noted that the words of 3:14 ("Cursed are you MORE THAN [The Hebrew behind "more than" here and later in the verse is the preposition "min"] all cattle, And MORE THAN ["min"] every beast of the field"), which God spoke to the serpent, build on these words at the beginning of 3:1 that compare (or you could say contrast) the serpent with the beasts of the field. (The NASB of 3:1 starts out, "Now the serpent was MORE crafty THAN." The Hebrew behind "more...than" here in 3:1, as in 3:14, is the preposition "min." As I mentioned, I prefer a translation for Gen. 3:1 like, "Now the serpent was subtle APART FROM [in the sense of "unlike"] the wild beasts of the field, where "min" is translated "apart from" instead of "more than.") There is widespread agreement that the idea intended in 3:14 is not that the serpent was cursed more than the cattle and beasts of the field, but that the serpent was singled out for the curse and there was no mention of the cattle and/or beasts of the field being cursed in 3:14. The one who was crafty/subtle in a very evil sense and who manifested great hatred for God in his temptation of Eve was singled out for the curse.

Commenting on the use of the Hebrew preposition "min" in Gen. 3:14, the BDB Hebrew Lexicon (page 582, 6b) says, "cursed above all cattle ["cursed above" is comparable in meaning with "cursed...more than all cattle" of the NASB] (but WITHOUT IMPLYING ANY JUDGMENT WHETHER OTHER CATTLE ARE CURSED LIKEWISE [my emphasis])." Applying that same reasoning in Gen. 3:1, I wouldn't object to the translation "the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field" if we could agree that we are not implying that the other beasts were crafty/subtle too.

I'll quote a few sentences from what Edward J. Young says here ("Genesis 3" [Banner of Truth Trust, 1966], pages 9, 10). "... The snake was crafty. Its wisdom was not something good but something evil. ... The word 'subtil' [This is the word used in the KJV.] is evidently used with respect to what follows, where the words spoken by the serpent tempt the woman and lead her into moral evil. It is this fact that throws the true light upon the meaning. And in the light of this fact it would seem that the subtlety is something which could belong only to a responsible being. No mere snake could of itself display the craftiness and cunning which manifest themselves in the subsequent discourse with Eve. [Young believes Satan spoke through a literal serpent.] When therefore the Bible asserts that the serpent is subtle it is taking the first step, it would seem, in going behind the scene and letting us know that there is more here than meets the eye. A subtlety is at work such as does not belong to [literal] snakes. That much, it appears, we must grant, if we are to do justice to what the Bible says. The word 'subtil' is the first hint that we have to deal with more than a snake [At least this is the first hint in Genesis chapter 3; as I mentioned, I believe there are several such very strong "hints" in Genesis chapters 1, 2.]." (This completes the twelve paragraph double bracket; we are now ready to continue the quotation of Gen. 1:3.)]] And he said to the woman, 'Indeed, has God said, "You shall not eat from any tree of the garden"?' [[(This double bracket continues for seven paragraphs.) In the margin the NASB has or "every" instead of "any." I believe the translation "every" is better; or we could translate, "not eat from ALL the trees in the garden." I'll quote part of what H. C. Leupold says here ("Exposition of Genesis," Vol. 1 [Wartburg Press, 1942], page 144). "We must definitely reject [the translation] 'not from any'.... ... The exaggeration [that Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating from any of the trees in the garden] would be too gross and crude. The devil would have completely overshot his mark and roused a feeling of resentment at the course insinuation. Therefore A. V. [KJV (also the NKJV)] is correct: 'not from every.' Cf. K. S. [Koenig's Syntax] 352s."

Satan knew, of course, that Adam and Eve had been prohibited from eating of the one tree in the center of the garden. He wanted to direct Eve's attention to that one tree; he wanted Eve to begin to think of God as a withholder, a withholder of something that was very good, so good in fact that everything else in the garden was garbage in comparison with the fruit of this one very special, forbidden tree. What kind of God would deny Eve the one really good thing in the garden?

We must remind ourselves at the outset that Satan was (and still is) a liar (cf. John 8:44) and a deceiver (cf. Gen. 3:13; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14). Although Satan mixes in elements of truth when it's convenient (like they say, if you want an animal to eat poison you mix it with some good food), we certainly cannot assume that something is true because he says it, including what he says to Eve. Even though this first question to Eve was stated in a way that tended to question the goodness of God, Satan certainly knew that Eve wouldn't be challenged much by this preliminary question.

Based on what is revealed here (there could be a lot we don't know; we are dependent on how much God chose to reveal to us; I'm confident that He always reveals as much as we need to know, even if we would frequently like to know more), Eve may not have done anything wrong to answer the serpent's first question. (It could be, however, that she was responsible for adding the words about NOT TOUCHING the forbidden fruit recorded in Gen. 3:3; if so, that seems like a minor problem.) On the other hand, Eve's communicating with the serpent, or even allowing Satan to remain in her presence, may have involved incredible stupidity and rebellion against God. It depends on how much she knew about the being she was communicating with. If she knew that he was a malicious enemy of God and the prince of darkness, then she had no right to talk with him (and especially not to seriously consider what he says to her). She could have called on God for help (or on Adam for a start).

It is very clear that when Eve continued to listen to the serpent (Satan) after he started his unrestrained attack against the truthfulness and goodness of God, starting in Gen. 3:4, she was far out of order and heading for a fall of gigantic proportion. She had no right whatsoever to listen to such attacks against the only God and the Creator, who had demonstrated nothing but perfection and goodness in His creation and in His dealings with her (and with Adam). If all we knew about Eve's sin was the following, we would know enough to understand the extreme seriousness of her rebellion, for which there was no excuse: By accepting the devil's challenge to eat of the forbidden fruit, she had to first accept as true the evil, malicious, blasphemous things the devil said against God (she had to agree that God was a liar; she had to agree that He had been withholding from Adam and her that which was good for them because of His own self-centered interests - if they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would gain knowledge and be like God); she had to side in with the devil in his rebellion against God; and she had to do what she knew they had been forbidden to do by the very Word of God on penalty of death.

The Bible says that Eve was deceived (2 Cor. 11:3; Tim. 2:14; cf. Gen. 3:13); in some ways she was. The bait (forbidden fruit) that Satan used looked so good to her that she (like a fish) took the bait and ran with it; she took the fruit and ate it, but it should be obvious, based on what I have said, that her sin involved full-scale, willful, informed rebellion against God and His word and a siding-in-with His enemy, which involved a lot more than just being deceived.

I'll say more about the specific nature of the forbidden fruit (the details regarding the bait the devil used to tempt Adam and Eve) as we continue (see the excerpts that deal with this issue from Henri Blocher and from others, along with my comments in brackets at the end of this four-part paper), but there are quite a few different ideas regarding what the bait for that original sin was, and I don't believe we know enough to be dogmatic on that specific point. As I indicated in the last paragraph, however, we really don't have to know more than what I have mentioned already to understand the essence of the rebellion and fall of Eve.]]

We will start with Gen. 3:2 in Part 2 of this four-part paper.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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