In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the author covers the primeval history of the world. Following the story of the creation, 1:1-2:3, the author deals with both the probation and fall of humanity, 2:4-3:24. Our passage for study covers the formation and the fall of the human race. Although the passage looks like a second creation story, it is more rightly a localizing of the story. In a garden, long ago, our beginnings were played out.
v15. In v8 we are told of the Lord's garden "in the East." It is presented in literal terms, as are the rivers that flow through it, v10-14. The Tigris and Euphrates are most likely the rivers of the garden and this would place the garden above the Persian Gulf. The writer views the garden literally, even though its truth is more theological than literal. In the garden the Lord places "the man he had formed" from "the dust of the ground", v7. This man is a "living being", breathed with the "breath of life" - God breathed. Here we see defined the two elements of our human nature. We are of the earth, flesh and blood, but also divine, God-breathed. Within this nature there is constant conflict, a conflict between the sensual and the spiritual. The garden is certainly not a holiday camp, for the man is "to work it and take care of it." So much for the idea that work is a product of the fall. Ordering the garden is the business of the man, frustration in this task is the curse of sin. Our innate desire to order, create, control, is imaged in the command to "take care of" the earth.
v16-17. There is a "tree of life" in the garden, but in its way stands the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The man is commanded that he may eat of the fruit of any tree, but not that tree. To eat of that tree is to "surely die." This is not meant to imply that man is naturally created immortal; only God is immortal. The "tree of life" gives life eternal. Death is inevitable, but in the living God humanity is able to find life and so, as in the translation of Enoch and Elijah, "he should not see death", Heb.11:5. The prohibition, as with the Law that was to follow, placed before man a path other than blessing, a path of rebellion unto death. So, the pattern is set and the plan of redemption in Christ begins to unfold. In the inevitable path toward rebellion, God's plan to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ begins to take shape.
v18-25. The making of woman details man as both male and female, created in God's "own image", 1:27. The removal of the rib to form woman illustrates the incomplete nature of either male or female, but how that completeness is restored in marriage. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh", 2:24. In woman, the male finds a "suitable helper" so that together they can tend the garden.
3:1. We are now introduced to a piece of theology which is not developed in the Old Testament, but is central to the New. "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin", Rom.5:12. The converse is the substance of our faith, namely, that life came through the obedience of the one man Jesus Christ. As for the tempter, he is part of the created order, although he may not be Satan, rather just one of his minions. The temptation is subtle, and by no means overbearing. The serpent suggests that God's word is subject to our own judgement. He then exaggerates God's word to make it seem reasonable to question it.
v2-3. Eve is drawn into the debate over God's command, and in correcting the serpents words she magnifies God's strictness - "you must not touch it." Of course, God never said that they could not touch the tree.
v4. The serpent now directly contradicts God's word. He denies judgement. Today, the motivation may be different, but the notion of God's judgement is constantly denied.
v5. The temptation climaxes with the idea that we can "be like God." The tempter lies concerning the judgement of "death", while painting God as one whose command is driven by envy and whose service is driven by servility. Adam and Eve are tempted to believe that life is gained, not by freely accepting God's gift of life, but rather by undertaking a blind leap for life on the word of a mere creature. The intoxicating dream of being "like God", independent of, or even greater than God, feeds their human arrogance.
v6. Eve has listened to the creature, rather than the Creator, and she now follows her feelings, rather than The Creator's word. The fruit was "pleasing to the eye", and the possibility of gaining enrichment was "desirable" to her, so she ate and gave some to Adam to eat. Her desire itself added up to life, but desire is not life. How human it is to see sophistication as wisdom, independence as good and greed as greatness.
v7. The serpent promised that on eating they would be "like God, knowing good and evil." They were now godlike, even enlightened, seeing the world no longer through the eyes of innocence. Innocent beauty was now evil, something to be ashamed of and hidden behind fig leaves. They were no longer at ease with each other, sin had seen to that. So, they knew good and evil, but they also knew death, "not only the first part of the first death, wheresoever the soul loses God, nor the latter only, wherein the soul leaves the body, but also the second which is the last of deaths, eternal, and following after all", Augustine. So much for the serpents suggestion, "You will not surely die."
The creation story defines the human condition. List the aspects of our nature revealed in this story.