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Verses 1-24

Human disobedience (3:1-24)

Since human beings were made in God’s image, and since God was unlimited, the first human couple soon showed that they too wanted to be unlimited. They had to remember, however, that they were not God; they were only creatures made in the image of God. Just as the image of the moon on the water could not exist independently of the moon, so they could not exist independently of God. Their relationship with God contained an element of dependence, or limitation, and consequently God limited their freedom. He told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan, the opponent of God and chief of the evil angels, set out to spoil the relationship between God and those created in his image. His evil work was to tempt them to go beyond the limit God had set, to be independent of God, to put themselves in the place of God, to make their own decisions, to rule their own lives, to be the independent judges of right and wrong. The root sin was pride - the desire people have to be their own god - and through this, Satan successfully tempted them to rebel against God (3:1-7). (For the identification of the snake with Satan see Revelation 12:9.)

In a sense the man and the woman gained a knowledge of good and evil, but from the standpoint of guilty sinners, not from the standpoint of a holy God. They knew evil through doing it, and the result was a feeling of shame (8-13).As for the deceiver Satan, his humiliation would be symbolized in the snake’s wriggling in the dirt. Henceforth, the human race (the descendants of Eve) would be in constant conflict with Satan. Yet God promised them victory over Satan. A snake might injure a man by biting his heel, but a man can kill a snake by crushing its head. Humankind had been successfully attacked by Satan, but through Jesus Christ humankind would eventually conquer Satan, though the conquest would involve suffering (14-15).The disorder created by human sin brought with it suffering for the whole human race. From this time on, people could live in God’s world and reproduce their own kind only through suffering. Conflict entered human relationships, and even the harmony between husband and wife became spoiled through domination (16-21).No longer were human beings at peace with God. They had rejected eternal life, and therefore God withheld it from them. They had wanted to be independent of God, and therefore God sent them away from his presence. They had wanted to determine good and evil for themselves, and therefore God drove them into a world where they would learn good and evil only through the sorrow and hardship created by their own mistakes (22-24).

Sin and human death

According to the Bible, human death is a result of sin (Romans 5:12). Yet it would seem from the nature of the human body that physical death is inevitable, whether sin is present or not. Is there a solution to this problem?

Adam was warned that on the day that he sinned he would die (see 2:17). When he sinned, he passed out of a condition where life dominated into one where death dominated. His whole being was affected, so that spiritually he was cut off from eternal life and physically he was certain to die (Romans 5:12-17). The saving work of Christ reverses the effects of sin, bringing victory over death in both its spiritual and physical aspects (Romans 6:23; Romans 8:10-11; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Christ restores people, in the totality of their being, to the life that is proper to them, eternal life.

Some may argue that since human beings are creatures of the natural world, their lives are controlled by the laws of nature and therefore they must die as other animals do (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). But the Bible shows that human beings are not simply creatures of the natural world. They are related to God in a way that makes them different from all other creatures.

It has been suggested that before Adam sinned, the spiritual life within him was so dominant that it prevented those natural processes towards bodily decay that we might normally expect. Sin so changed the situation that bodily decay could no longer be prevented and death became inevitable. If this was the case, physical death became at the same time a completely natural process and completely a result of sin. Where the spirit had complete control over the body death could not occur, but once it rebelled against God it lost control over the body and death resulted.We need not imagine the chaos of an over-populated world had sin and death not entered, with people being born but never dying. It is death that is the enemy, not the termination of earthly existence. Death has its ‘sting’ because of sin, but there may be some way of departing this world that has no such sting (1 Corinthians 15:26,1 Corinthians 15:55-56; cf. Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Hebrews 11:5).

Results of sin in the natural world

Concerning the death of other forms of life before the entrance of sin through Adam, we need not try to picture a world in which death never occurred. It is human death that is the consequence of sin. Even in the ideal conditions of the Garden of Eden, fruit and leaves died as they were separated from the trees they grew on (see 2:15-16). Wild creatures existed before Adam sinned (see 3:1). Tigers, sharks and ant-eaters no doubt fed on other animals and helped then, as they do now, to keep the balance of nature.

God did not create the world as one great paradise, nor did he intend human beings to spend their days in lazy idleness. It seems, in fact, that most of the world was untamed and awaited the arrival of the human race to enter its full glory (Romans 8:19-23). The duty of Adam and his descendants was to bring the earth under human control, something they would gradually achieve as their numbers increased and people moved out from Eden into the world beyond (see 1:28). But instead of being the means of God’s blessing to nature, they themselves fell into disorder.

The ideal conditions of paradise existed only in the Garden of Eden, where God placed the first human couple for their training and testing. When they sinned, they were driven from this garden into the untamed world outside. But because they had lost the spiritual life that God had given them, the physical creation that God intended for their development became the means of their torment. Physical effort and bodily functions that should have brought pleasure brought instead pain and hardship (see 3:16-19).

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