9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 And the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 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.” 14 And the LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And dust you shall eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” [NASB ‘77]
The man and woman take two actions immediately after eating the forbidden fruit. One, they realize they are naked and try to cover themselves. Two, they hear God in the garden and try to hide themselves. Now God looks for them. For the guilty pair this means guilt and terror because of the promised penalty. However, while God does bring punishment to justify their fear, His presence also means He still wants relationship. He does not have to come. He easily could carry out their punishment without showing up at all. But He seeks them in their sin and brings with Him a promise that makes His presence the best thing that could happen to them.
It is interesting to consider God’s approach to the man and woman. He obviously knows what they have done and what they are doing as a result. He does not need help in finding them nor in finding out what has happened. Yet instead of coming into the garden and immediately convicting them and pronouncing judgment, He simply asks questions and allows them the opportunity to explain and perhaps confess. By so doing He also gives them the chance to make a bad situation even worse.
Notice that He calls out for the man. Adam is the one to whom God gave the command and the one He set up as the leader ultimately responsible for the garden and for Eve. God goes to him first as the leader in the relationship.
Adam immediately shows what sin has done to his perspective on both God and Eve. God calls out and asks where he is. Adam responds not with, “I’m over here,” but, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” He effectively answers what God’s next question would be – “Why are you hiding?” Think about the implication of what he says. God created him. God made his body and made him naked in the garden. And now he says he is afraid to be in front of God in his nakedness.
Notice the pronoun he uses in his reply. I heard the sound of You, I was afraid, I was naked, I hid myself. He does not say ‘we’. He shows where his focus is. God addressed the question to him, but you would expect Adam to include his one-flesh wife in his answer. Instead he only appears to be concerned about himself.
God cuts right to the heart of the matter. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” There is only one way for the man to know he is naked – and both he and God know what that is.
Adam does not bother trying to deny eating the fruit. It is obvious that he is completely changed and has a totally different view of himself. It would be silly to act like nothing has happened. So he instead shifts blame. And the boldness of what he says is striking. He replies to God, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” He effectively blames both God and the woman. “It’s not my fault! YOU gave me the woman, and SHE gave me the fruit! If You wouldn’t have created her we wouldn’t have this problem. And if she wouldn’t have given me the fruit we also wouldn’t have this problem!”
Compare this to 2:25. Before eating the fruit the man and woman were in complete and perfect intimacy. They were so transparent and accepting and joined that they were blissfully naked and completely unashamed and unthreatened. But EVERYTHING about their relationship has now changed. In a heartbeat Adam throws Eve under the bus. “Blame her! I didn’t do anything! I should have kept my rib! She’s the problem! She’s the one who should be punished!” The contrast is striking and horrific. To see what they have given up is tragic. They exchanged intimacy for selfishness, acceptance for blame. They will never communicate the same. They will never coexist the same. They will never trust the same (think Eve might remember what Adam says here?). And for what? So they could be like God – so they could worship themselves.
Contrast Adam’s words here also with his words in 2:23. The man who celebrated the woman’s creation by effectively saying, “Finally! One made for me! Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” now blames her for his sin and says her creation was a mistake. He is dramatically changed. The words do not even sound like they come from the same mouth (James 3:8-12). The poetic brilliance and loving tone of the first words look otherworldly compared to the blame-shifting, cowardly words here. Chapter 2 Adam who cleaved to his wife is almost unrecognizable compared to Chapter 3 Adam who is willing to sacrifice her.
Adam was also created to effectively be the high priest of the garden temple (2:15), yet he is willing to sacrifice that relationship too. God created Eve and brought her to him, he did not somehow go get her. So God bears responsibility for her actions. Adam cannot be held responsible for eating the fruit. He is ultimately a victim of both the woman’s sin and God’s mistake. Notice the blindness. Adam has no idea how horrible and foolish he looks right now and no sense of the implication of his words. He cannot see God, he cannot see Eve, and he cannot see himself as he really is. He only sees punishment staring him in the face and knows he must do anything to survive. Temptation hid sin’s consequences and sin blinds him to his guilt and accountability. Sin always, always, always, blinds. Sin causes us to think down is up and light is dark and good is bad. No one is more blind than the one lost in sin.
Adam’s response shows another ramification of sin. Not only does he want to cover himself in front of the woman and hide from God, he is also willing to sacrifice relationship with both of them. Notice the common thread. Everything he has done has been to preserve himself. Every instinct and perspective is focused on him. Eve does not matter, God does not matter, fellowship with either does not matter. What matters is Adam. Sin has isolated him and made him care about himself above all else. And thus the pattern is set. Sin does the same thing today. No one is more isolated and self-absorbed than the one lost in sin. Sin makes us care about ourselves first and destroys relationships that get in the way or threaten us.
Interestingly, God does not respond to Adam’s egregiously selfish answer. He instead turns to the woman who Adam just blamed. God seems content to simply pursue the sin to its source (and obviously it helps that He knows everything). He asks her, “What is this you have done?” He accepts the man’s contention that the woman gave the fruit to him.
Eve’s answer is more honest than Adam’s if not any more confessional. She does not take any blame either but at least does not blame God. She instead points the finger at the serpent. She says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” In this she is honest. Paul backs her up. He will later say in I Tim 2:14 – And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. She bought what the serpent told her.
It is worthwhile to think through what Eve’s response and Paul’s explanation mean for this story. What exactly was Eve deceived about? And how is it that Adam ate without being deceived? Think about what the serpent said. He said they would not die if they ate. He said God forbade them eating for selfish reasons – He did not want them to be like Him. Then also, remember Eve looked at the fruit and thought it was good to eat and a source of wisdom. Putting this all together makes it appear that Eve truly thought God was holding them back and that eating the fruit was a good thing in that it would make she and Adam like God. If they ate they would become wise and everything would be better. And God would not punish them because it was all a ruse to keep them from eating in the first place.
Adam, on the other hand, ate with his eyes open. It makes sense that he did in fact think the fruit would make him better in some way – perhaps even like God (why else would he eat?). But he knew it was wrong and a direct violation of what God said. We do not know if he heard the serpent’s temptation of Eve or if she recounted what he had said. But regardless, he apparently ate for different reasons than she did. Maybe he saw that she had eaten and decided he wanted the wisdom of God too. And the fact that it was completely contrary to what his Creator said was secondary to that desire (which in one sense could mean he sinned even before eating).
God now begins to pronounce judgment. Interestingly he works in reverse order. He first spoke to the man who blamed the woman who blamed the serpent. So God judges the serpent first, then the woman, then the man. Unlike with the man and woman, he does not ask the serpent any questions before pronouncing judgment. He already knows everything that happened, and since the serpent is either Satan himself or a creature possessed by Satan, there is little reason to discuss the situation with him.
Verse 14 is a little difficult to understand. Does God curse the creature or does He actually curse Satan? And what does it mean that the serpent will go on his belly all the days of his life? Does he move differently before the curse? Most commentators seem to think that God is not changing anything about the serpent but is making how it moves a sign of the curse. And the pronouncement of eating dust is not literally a curse on its diet but rather a sign of his humiliation and defeat. He will eat dust figuratively as he crawls on the ground. It is notable that even in the promised future kingdom of Christ, the serpent will continue to eat dust (Isa 65:25).
God continues the curse on the serpent in verse 15 but here it takes on a different tone. He says there will be enmity (hostility) between the serpent and the woman and between his seed and her seed. Ultimately, the seed of the woman will bruise the serpent on the head and the serpent will bruise the seed of the woman on the heel.
There is obviously much more here than a curse on a creature. God seems to lay the groundwork for redemption. He begins with the serpent and the woman – the two main actors in the fall – and then extends His comments to the offspring (seed) of both. There will be ongoing hostility between the two camps. The offspring of the serpent likely refers to those who will reject God throughout the rest of time. They are the ones Christ will later call out for serving their father the devil, the father of lies (Jn 8:41-44). They are exemplified in the line of Cain (I Jn 3:11-12) as contrasted with the line of Seth in Chapter 4.
The seed of the woman may have a twofold meaning. Her offspring will be those who follow God as exemplified in the line of Seth (4:25 – contrasted with Cain). They will live in continual hostility with the line of the serpent. But notice the second part of the verse. The seed of the woman will bruise the serpent himself – not his seed – on his head. And the serpent will bruise the seed of the woman on the heel. Here the seed of the woman seems to have a special significance. This is not merely those who follow God but the One who makes it possible to follow God. He will bruise the serpent on the head – apparently a fatal blow – while the serpent will bruise the seed of the woman on the heel – not a fatal blow. The injuries are the same – the Hebrew word is the same for both actions – but the body part affected is much different.
[Not everyone sees a messianic prophecy in this verse. Some think this is simply God saying there will be ongoing hostility between the two camps. In this view there is no reason to see significance in the seed of the woman beyond saying it refers to the people of God. Those who hold this view point out that no person or text in the rest of the Bible ever refers back to this verse when discussing the Messiah and the scripture He fulfills (and that it does not make much sense that the head of the serpent is crushed before he bruises the heal of the seed of the woman). However, it is instructive that the rest of Genesis puts such an emphasis on seed and becomes a story of the chosen people of God and the line that eventually brings forth the Messiah. The first covenant with Abraham is built around the promise of the Messiah (12:1-3, 22:15-18). Also, Rev 12 seems to figuratively tell the story that 3:15 predicts – even to the point of referring to Satan as the serpent of old (see also Rev 20:2). Finally, it seems like a stretch that God would use the very specific term her seed to refer to His followers without also having in mind that His Son will come to earth by a virgin.]
So what does this mean? It means that in the middle of pronouncing a curse on Satan God actually sets in motion His plan to redeem mankind. MAN HAS JUST SINNED AND DIRECTLY BETRAYED HIS CREATED PURPOSE AND THEN TRIED TO BLAME OTHERS FOR IT. And yet God still announces that He will someday make it all right again. He will destroy the power of Satan and sin such that man can be restored to where he was. He makes it clear that it will not be easy or painless (the bruise on the heel is apparently the cross). And it will be difficult for those who follow Him because of the hostility between the two camps. But there WILL be a way – and it is God who will do it.
God does this while the man and woman stand there looking ridiculous in their fig leaves having refused to take any blame for their actions (and actually indirectly blaming Him). He does this even before pronouncing judgment on either of them. He does this without anyone asking Him to. He does this before anyone realizes the full implications of sin entering the world. He announces redemption before anyone even fully understands the need for it. God shows by His timing and words that ultimately redemption is based on Himself, not man. He will bring even more glory to Himself than would be possible in creation alone. And as is always the case, man will benefit by God glorifying Himself.
There is a point that should be highlighted again in the midst of the redemption terminology. God promises enmity between the two camps. The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent will be in perpetual hostility to each other – and there is no expiration on this status as long as the world exists. Assuming we are followers of God and so counted among the seed of the woman, we should never be surprised by the effects of sin in the world or the state of war that exists between those who have a Christ-centered view and those who follow the father of lies. We have said this before, but to expect a trial-free life or to assume that all is easy sledding as followers of Christ is to ignore much of scripture and specifically ignore the admonition of Jesus to take up our cross and follow Him. Until Satan is destroyed he will seek to keep in blindness those who are his followers and wreak havoc with those who are not.
So what has the story shown to this point? Man rejects God and betrays his created purpose. Man realizes his nakedness and hides. God comes after him and does not allow him to go on hiding. Man shifts blame – even to God – and refuses to be accountable. God curses the tempter who led man astray and promises redemption for the man. There obviously is much more and world-changing judgment is coming, but how amazing is it that God has acted as He has? God seeks, God questions, God promises redemption. All while man does everything he can to show he is unworthy of any of it. God coming to the garden and playing hide and seek with the man and woman is the best thing that could have happened. And it is the best because He not only is completely holy and just, but He is also loving, merciful, and always seeking to glorify Himself.