Adam was a priest in the Garden, a king exercising dominion over the earth and a prophet to Eve. Adam had received God’s word and was to speak that word to Eve. The prophetic word was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Satan entered the garden as a serpent. It is the shrewd character of the serpent that caused the serpent to be selected by Satan. Nevertheless, Satan’s possessing of the serpent is the result of God’s permitting him to do so. In fact, within the earthly creation, the Garden of Eden is the holy place – Satan’s presence within the Garden is only possible because God has granted him permission to be there. God was giving Adam the opportunity to fulfil his priestly dominion in the Garden and to act in righteousness.
Why isn’t Eve surprised by a talking serpent? Maybe because Eve perceives the serpent to be more than a serpent. Eve’s seeing and perception of spiritual beings was possibly a more direct and frequent occurrence than post-Fall experience. For example, Eve was able to perceive God’s presence walking in the garden. It is likely that Adam and Eve may have had communion with angels as well.
Thus, Eve quickly perceives that the serpent is more than a serpent, having more in common with spiritual beings she was accustomed to interacting with. Possibly what should have surprised her more was not so much that a serpent was speaking as the fact that a spiritual being had taken possession of a wild animal.
Adam and Eve should have guarded the holiness of the Garden of Eden by expelling the serpent. Instead, they have a conversation with their tempter. The temptation includes:
- The lust of the eyes. The fruit seems pleasing to the eye and good for the appetite – but then every tree in Eden was like this.
- Become like God – but they already were in God’s image and likeness.
- Become wise – but they were already wise in fearing and obeying the LORD.
Following their sin, Adam and Eve here the sound (literally ‘the voice’) of the LORD walking in the Garden. The language is that of a theophany (an appearing of God). Most likely the description refers to thunder and wind. No wonder Adam and Eve hide – but hiding behind trees in a storm seems somewhat ineffective as does their clothing of leaves. They sinned with a tree and now they use a tree to attempt to cover their guilt and shame.
The divine judgment is that Adam and Eve are condemned to death. Death is expressed in exile from Eden – removed from God’s presence, the river of life and the tree of life, Adam and Eve will die.
Amidst the curse, God offers grace in the promise of a seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head. Adam believed the promise about the woman’s seed and manifested his faith in the name which he gave to his wife – Eve meaning ‘Life’. In the face of the judgment of death, Adam believes in God’s promise that there will be life beyond death of exile.
Adam was a representative man – he represented all humanity who would ever be born. His act of disobedience resulted in all his descendants being sentenced to hell (original guilt). It also resulted in spiritual death meaning that all people have a fallen or corrupted heart and nature (original sin = a sinful nature i.e., the condition we are born in where our desires turn away from God and the source of all our actual sins). By contrast, Jesus is a representative man of all those given to him by the Father. His one act of obedience makes many people righteous.
The Fall explains why so many things are wrong in the world. The rest of the Bible will be about God restoring people to Eden. It will begin with Israel. Israel will become like a new Adam. They will be God’s people brought into the land of God’s presence (i.e., Canaan as Adam was brought into Eden) where they will experience God’s blessing.
This part of the Bible is important in that it teaches what God desires of us in obedience and holiness. It also teaches us about the source of our main problems in life – our original sin (fallen nature) and the curse. Both of these call on us to lift up our eyes to God to help us by his grace.