The Tragic Fall

The early chapters of the Book of Genesis record some of the details of the tragic Fall of the human race into sin and evil. In Genesis 2:16-17, we see God commanded Adam not to partake of what was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” This tree is also spoken of in Genesis 2:9 and 3:3-6.

In Genesis 2:16-17 quoted above, God did not give any reason why He did not want Adam to eat from this tree. All He did was warn Adam of the catastrophic results of disobeying Him about this matter. By not telling Adam why he should obey, God set up a situation which would test whether Adam would continue to walk in faith, humility, obedience and surrender to Him. Sadly, both Adam and Eve failed the test, disobeyed God and plunged the human race into sin and many associated miseries.

There are many different views about what the tree of knowledge of good and evil was. Some Jewish and Christian writers have wrongly argued it was related to sex and that Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit was sexual intercourse with Adam. But God had previously commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (see Genesis 1:28). So sex was a part of God’s will for them even prior to the Fall.

Some believe the tree of knowledge of good and evil had some magical quality which would turn those who ate its fruit into evil beings. But note Genesis 2:9 shows God created this tree, and Habakkuk 1:13 reveals He cannot stand even to look at wickedness. Therefore God would not have created this tree with any inherent evil qualities.

A third view argues the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a literal tree which had a God-given supernatural ability to impart knowledge of what good and evil were and the differences between them. This is possible but cannot be stated with certainty. Part of the problem in trying to define exactly what this tree was is the Scriptures themselves do not give complete details about it. This is one reason, there is so much dispute about it among Bible teachers.

Another view suggests the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not an actual tree but merely symbolically represented some key truths. This view says Revelation 12:9 reveals the snake who tempted Eve was symbolic of Satan, so the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was symbolic also. This view suggests the same about the tree of life. While this is possible, we need to be very careful of interpretations which are highly symbolic. This is because we may fall into the common heretical liberal Protestant error of saying Adam and Eve were not real persons, that the serpent represented merely the principle of evil and not a real spiritual being and that the fall of humans into sin was not real but was merely highly symbolic of something else.





The nature of Adam’s sin


Adam’s sin was an act of deliberate willfull disobedience to God’s revealed will as Romans 5:19 states: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” Romans 5:14 confirms this when it refers to “the transgression” or breaking of God’s command by Adam.

But Adam’s sin was more than just disobedience. Matthew 5:21-22 and 5:27-28 reveal outward acts of disobedience to God are expressions of the sin already occurring in the heart. Adam’s outward disobedience was a fruit of an inner lack of trust in God. If he had totally trusted God knew best, he never would have disobeyed. His disobedience revealed his lack of trusting faith in God and in God’s love and wisdom. During his Fall, Adam went from faith in God to unbelief and unfaithfulness.

Adam’s sin also involved a wicked desire to be his own god. This was part of Satan’s temptation for which Eve and then Adam fell. Genesis 3:5 reveals this particular part of the temptation in Satan’s words to Eve: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” One aspect of Adam’s desire to be his own god was his desire to have knowledge of good and evil independent of God. In other words, he desired to be able to make his own decisions and be self-sufficient. This is part of the same evil into which Satan himself originally fell.

By wanting to be own his own god, Adam tragically shut himself off from the awesome spiritual resources of the one and only true God.

The sin of Adam was basically centred around making self instead of God the main focus of his life. Adam focussed on what wrongly seemed best for self. By focussing on self, he put self into terrible bondage. Adam fell into a form of idolatry of self.


Wrong answers to four crucial questions


The tragic Fall of Adam and Eve involved them giving wrong answers in their own hearts to the following key questions:


         Who is God? – Is He a liar, selfish and not working for my highest good or is He perfectly loving towards me, always seeking what is best for me? Does God know everything about everything or in some matters do created beings know better than Him?

         Who am I? – Is it best I be totally dependent on and submitted to God or reliant upon and confident in myself? Is it possible for me to decide what is best for me?

         What is right? – Is right and wrong determined by what God says or by what I or others say?

         What is true? – Is God’s Word true or is what I or others say true when contrary to what He says?


Note every person who decides whether to become or remain surrendered to Jesus Christ will make decisions in relation to these same above questions.



God made it easy for Adam and Eve


Some people may say, “God set up Adam and Eve so they could not help but eventually fall into sin.” But this is a wicked accusation to make against God. This is because He made the possibility of commitment and obedience to Him easy. He created them with holy natures which had no sin. God created them as being very good (see Genesis 1:27-31). He placed them in an ideal environment, provided for all their needs and gave them good clear minds. God provided Adam with a partner so he would not be alone. God established a close personal relationship with them and gave them His Holy Spirit. They had access to all the wisdom and power of God. Also, God clearly warned them of the consequences of sin (see Genesis 2:15-17).

James 1:13 shows God never tempts anyone to do evil. So He did not in any way create a situation in which the first humans could not help but sin. Deuteronomy 32:4 reveals God is perfect and never does wrong: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Therefore, God would never have desired Adam and Eve to sin. But in His perfect foreknowledge, He knew they would. This is why even before His creation of the human race, He had already planned a wonderful solution to their Fall (see Revelation 13:8 and 1 Peter 1:19-20). This solution was Jesus Christ and His death.

God never does evil so good may supposedly result. But He is able to bring good from the evil of others, as Romans 8:28 shows: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.”

Genesis 3:9-13 records God asked Adam and Eve what they had done after they had turned to evil. But God was not here seeking information. He knew already exactly what they had done. He asked these questions so they both could know their responsibility, guilt, the deserving nature of their punishment and His wonderful future means of liberating them from such guilt and punishment. Genesis 3:15 records God telling them of the future death of Eve’s descendant (Jesus Christ) Who would victoriously remove Satan’s power over the human race.


The same question applies today


The question faced by Adam and Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the same faced by all humans today: Do we humbly allow God to decide what is right, wrong, good and evil or do we in self-reliant pride and arrogance wish to decide these matters ourselves? Those people who choose the latter alternative are showing God they agree with Adam and Eve’s decision to turn away from dependence on Him to a total dependence on self. This is why every person, who will not in faith surrender their lives to God the Father and Jesus Christ, cannot blame Adam and Eve for their own sin. They show by their attitudes, they would have done the same thing Adam and Eve did if they had been born the first humans.

Every human, who agrees with things such as stealing, lying, murder, rape, sexual immorality, abortion and other things which God commands us not to do, show they basically approve in principle of what Adam and Eve did.





Bible Study Questions


1.       What does Genesis 2:16-17 teach?

2.       What are the different views about what was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

3.       What was the nature of Adam’s sin?

4.       What four crucial questions did Adam and Eve answer wrongly in their hearts?

5.       Did God tempt Adam and Eve to sin?

6.       Did God put Adam and Eve into a situation in the Garden of Eden in which it was easy for them to sin?



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