Temptation, Fall, and Sentence

“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” —Genesis 2:16,17

THE CREATOR HAD endowed man with the ability to know right from wrong. Having created our first parents perfect, they possessed the necessary moral strength to resist temptation to do wrong. But they did not, intuitively, know what was right and what was wrong. This knowledge had to be communicated to them by their Creator, who, in so doing, became their lawgiver. The laws which God communicated to them were simple and understandable, quite within range of full comprehension, even by the inexperienced Adam and Eve.

Certain things were expected of them. They were to multiply and fill the earth. They were to subdue the earth. God’s law provided that they could freely eat of all the trees in Eden, with one exception, which was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The Scriptures do not indicate what sort of tree this was. Perhaps it was not greatly unlike many of the other trees in the garden. Nor are we to suppose that the fruit of this tree contained a mysterious element, which, if eaten, would give one understanding that he did not previously possess. It was the act of disobedience in partaking of this tree, and the sequence of circumstances to follow, that would lead to a full knowledge of good and evil.

God’s love had made wonderfully full and rich provision for our first parents. They were themselves perfect. They had been given dominion over earth’s animal kingdom. A marvelous home had been furnished for them, and they were bountifully provided with life-sustaining food. Their loving Creator had a just right to ask that they obey him. From every standpoint it might be reasoned, they were under obligation to render the obedience he demanded.

The restrictive commandment, or law, which God gave to our first parents was simple and understandable. Manmade laws are usually complicated, and therefore obscure in meaning. In most cases one feels a measure of insecurity as to the intent of certain laws unless a lawyer is consulted, and these professional interpreters sometimes disagree. Even in the Supreme Court of the United States there are frequently split decisions over the meaning of laws, and this despite the fact that the Supreme Court judges are the most highly trained men in the country in the interpretation of the law.

But Adam and Eve did not need a lawyer to interpret the plainly stated law concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were not to eat of this tree—that was all. There were no obscurely stated circumstances under which they were to have the privilege of deciding whether or not they could properly eat of the forbidden fruit. There were no exceptions of any kind—“Thou shalt not eat of it,” was the law, “for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

This law was given to Adam before Eve was created, but he fully informed her concerning it. This is revealed in the first three verses of the next chapter. We quote: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”—Gen. 3:1-3


The general average of human reactions today indicates that when something is forbidden there is an increased desire to indulge. This may well have been so even from the beginning, when our first parents were perfect. Of mother Eve it is written, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”—Gen. 3:6

Even the forbidden tree was “pleasant to the eye,” as well as good for food. This was true of the garden as a whole. Normally, all nature is pleasant to the eye, and it is evident that God planned it so for the legitimate joy of his human creation. It is a false notion that one must close his eyes to the beauty with which he is surrounded, and make himself melancholy and miserable in order to live close to the Lord.

Delectable and nourishing food has also been provided by the Lord for man’s enjoyment and sustenance. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God wants his people to eat poorly prepared and unpalatable food, and thus deprive their natural senses of enjoyment, in order to live closer to him. These are among the distorted notions pertaining to the worship of God which have been handed down to us from the Dark Ages. The forbidden fruit in Eden was not forbidden because it was pleasant to the eye and good for food.

It was wrong to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil simply because God had forbidden it. This was the supreme test of obedience which God placed upon our first parents. It was, in reality, a test of their faith and confidence in him. It was a legitimate test, because Cod’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than man’s that of necessity they must frequently—indeed, almost always—be beyond human understanding. So, if man were to obey God’s laws only when he decided they were proper, we can see what chaos would have prevailed on earth.

There is a modern saying that we should trust God even where we cannot trace him. This is true. God does ask us to reason with him, and to the extent that it is possible to understand the whys and wherefores of his laws, this information is revealed to us. God does not arbitrarily withhold from his people an understanding of his will, but he does expect them to obey even though in his wisdom he does not always give the reason. The one in whom we live and move and have our being, and whose thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth, has the right to expect our obedience, even though many times it must of necessity be a blind obedience. Yea, we should love to obey him under these conditions. The poet has well said: “I would rather walk in the dark with God, Than go alone in the light. I would rather walk by faith with him, Than go alone by sight.”

This was the opportunity which confronted Eve, and later Adam. There was nothing wrong with the forbidden tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the reason God had forbidden it was withheld. Consequently, the question of whether they would obey or disobey was a test of faith, a test of confidence in their Creator. How appropriate that such a test should be placed upon them! All the inanimate creations of God obey him, not by chance, but by force. The sun rises and sets in obedience to a split-second timetable arranged by the Creator. Should not his intelligent creations also obey him?

But, coupled with an intelligence which reflected many of the principles by which the Creator himself is governed, man was given a free will. A part of the image of God in man was his freedom of choice. God desired his obedience, but only if man, because of his trust in his Creator, desired to obey. If such an objective could not be attained, man would have to lose his life—“In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

Eve yielded to the temptation. She offered the fruit of the forbidden tree to Adam, and he also partook. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Tim. 2:14) Eve’s deception was apparently in believing the “serpent’s” assurance that death would not result from her disobedience—“Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) Adam was not deceived by this falsehood, nevertheless he joined his wife in the transgression.

One of the motives which induced Eve to disobey her Creator is stated in Genesis 3:6. It was a tree to be desired because it would make one wise. There is nothing wrong with this motive, not if the wisdom one craves is along right lines, and there is nothing in the record to indicate that Eve desired a knowledge of sinful things. Had she exercised proper trust in her Maker, she would have reasoned that in his own due time, and under circumstances which would be best for her, she would be given wisdom. But she lacked such faith.

Being deceived into believing that the threatened penalty of death would not be exacted, Eve no doubt felt that she had nothing to lose, and probably much to gain by disobedience. In this another important viewpoint is revealed, that true obedience to God must spring from the heart, motivated by a sincere desire to please him. But Eve was willing to disobey, since, as she was deceived into believing, she would not be punished.

Nothing is said to reveal Adam’s motive for joining his wife in disobedience. The record states merely that Eve “gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.” (vs. 6) It has been conjectured—and we believe reasonably so—that Adam, realizing he would lose his wife in death because of her disobedience, decided that he did not want to live without her, so deliberately and willfully partook of the forbidden fruit, knowing full well what the consequences would be.

But in this Adam also revealed a lack of faith and confidence in God. He should have known that if he obeyed, especially under such trying circumstances, the Lord would surely compensate him, and that he would not be left permanently alone. But he did not take this viewpoint. The tragic fact that his wife must die took possession of his reasoning, and in reckless abandon, he joined her in transgressing the divine law.

Seized with Fear

Verses 7-13 read, “The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice 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 amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gayest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

Adding to their shame, our first parents, because of their disobedience, came under a spell of fear. This unhappy reaction to sin has been the experience of wrongdoers throughout the ages since. Adam and Eve had good reason to fear. Having been created perfect, they could have resisted the temptation placed before them. Eve, of course, was deceived. But even so, she too readily disbelieved her Maker. The ‘serpent’ was merely the mouthpiece of Satan the Devil. Just how the reported conversation with Eve was conducted the account does not say, nor is it important for us to know. But the arguments presented by Satan were effective, and now that both Eve and Adam had disobeyed, we find them cringing in fear before their Maker and true benefactor.

The Penalty Falls

Adam and Eve were soon to learn that God meant it when he said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Their sentence reads, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it vast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:16-19

A further affirmation of this sentence of death is given in verses 22-24 of the chapter. These verses read, “The Lord God said, Behold, … now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

In the Marginal Translation of Genesis 2:17 God’s warning of the death penalty reads, “In the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.” This suggests, not an instantaneous snuffing out of life, but a gradual process of dying, and that is the way it worked out. Adam and Eve were driven out of their garden home, and prevented from having access to the trees of life, with the result that they began to die. Adam, starting on the downward course from the top of perfection’s scale, lived 930 years before he returned to the dust from whence he had been taken. When he died the full penalty for his sin had been exacted. Adam had not been deceived by God as to the nature of the penalty.

Nor has there since been any change in the divine penalty for sin. More than four thousand years after the decree was issued, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, affirmed, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) As we have seen, Adam was made a living soul, and in Ezekiel 18:4 we read, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

What is death? Webster’s Dictionary defines death as “the state of being dead.” Webster also used the word “extinction.” These definitions are fully in harmony with the teachings of the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 9:10 we read, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

Such severe calamity came upon the Prophet Job that he thought it would have been better for him had he died as an infant. In giving expression to this sentiment, he reveals clearly that death is a condition in which the “wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest.” We quote:

“Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest. With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master. Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?”—Job 3:11-22

Here Job is explaining that those who suffer much, and can get no relief, are glad when they realize that death is near, that they ‘found the grave’. As he explains, those who are dead are “still” and “quiet.” They “sleep” and are “at rest.” (vs. 13) This is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 9:5,6, which read, “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, is now perished.” Clearly, then, death is a state of oblivion. The “dead know not anything.” Their former loves, their hatreds, and their envy, all perish in death.

All Die

Adam’s transgression of divine law brought death, not only to himself, but also to his offspring. The Apostle Paul expresses it thus: “As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” (Rom. 5:18) And again in I Corinthians 15 22: “As in Adam all die.” Since Adam’s transgression, all of the human race have been imperfect, afflicted more or less by diseases of various sorts. Yet withal, under normal circumstances no one wants to die. The expression, ‘natural death’, is often used in contrast to accidental death, or death by violence. Actually, however, there is no such thing as natural death. To humans, death is always unnatural. That is why we never become accustomed to it. Whether it strikes in infancy, in childhood, in middle or old age, it is always an unwelcome visitor.

But we can thank God for the promise that this dreaded enemy is one day to be destroyed! When the loving purpose of God in Creation is fully accomplished, everything out of harmony with him and with his laws of righteousness will be routed from the earth, and, as Paul says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:26) Paul’s declaration confirms the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote, the Lord “will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”—Isa. 25:8

This glorious consummation of the divine plan will be brought about through Christ. When Paul wrote that judgment came upon all men through Adam, he added, “Even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Rom. 5:18) And in I Corinthians 15:22 he wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” So, while a tinge of sadness enters our hearts as we think of the joys and blessings which were forfeited as a result of original sin, we can rejoice in the hope that, as a result of the redemptive work of Christ, that which might have been is yet to be. Paradise will be restored!

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