1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But 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, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
If life was so good in the Garden of Eden, why is it so different today? The answer to that question lies in the first valley of the Bible story.
When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17).
Adam and Eve already knew about good. They had never experienced anything else, and God wanted to keep them from the knowledge of evil. In His loving command, God was saying, “There is a power at work in the wider universe called evil. You don’t know anything about it, and I don’t want you ever to experience it. I want you to live in freedom from its terrible destructive power. Don’t touch evil. It will destroy you.”
Where Did Evil Come From?
The Bible never gives us a full explanation of the origin of evil, but it does tell us where it began. Alongside the visible world that we know, God made an invisible creation in heaven and filled it with angels.
Satan (the name means “adversary”) was one of these angels. He became inflated with pride and tried to usurp the position of God (see Isaiah 14:12–14). Pride lies at the root of all evil.
The rebellion was unsuccessful and led to Satan’s being excluded from the presence of God and cast down to the earth. So right from the beginning of human history, there was already an enemy bent on destroying the work of God, and his first aim was to introduce the man and the woman to the knowledge of evil.
Recruiting for the Rebellion
Satan came into the Garden of Eden with the aim of recruiting the human race into his rebellion against God. He came in the form of an alluring serpent, presenting himself as a friend, and began to question God’s single command.
“God knows that when you eat of it [the tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,” he said (Genesis 3:5). “Eat from this tree,” Satan was saying, “and you will have everything. You’ve got the knowledge of good, but if you want to be complete, you need the knowledge of evil.”
Adam and Eve decided that this was what they wanted. They broke God’s command, and in that act of disobedience they gained the knowledge of evil. We have all lived with it ever since. The knowledge of evil became a power that was passed on to every person in each generation and in every culture.
The knowledge of evil is the primary problem of the human race. You can’t read a newspaper without being reminded that after all the advances of human history we still struggle with evil in all its ugly forms.
The struggle is not just around us, it is also inside us. Why is it that you would do something that made you miserable the last time you did it? There is a power at work in all of us that none of us can fully understand. We are all born to this struggle.
Hope in a Curse
God will never allow evil to have the last word. He came to the garden and confronted Satan, announcing that his rebel kingdom would not stand. “Cursed are you,” God said (Genesis 3:14). When a person or thing is cursed, it is consigned to destruction. So when God cursed the serpent, He was announcing that evil would not stand. Then God spoke about a deliverer who would crush the serpent’s head (3:15). When Adam and Eve heard this, they must have been overjoyed.
Then God turned to Adam and again spoke that condemning word. “Cursed… ” Adam must have felt that he would be caught up in Satan’s destruction. But instead of saying to Adam “cursed are you,” as the Lord did to the serpent, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (3:17).
God deflected the curse away from Adam so that it fell on the ground and not on him. In this way God diverted His judgment away from Adam, creating room for a future reconciliation. On the day he sinned, Adam discovered the grace and mercy of God. The curse that should have been on him went to another place. That tells you one of the most important things you need to know about the God of the Bible—He is a God of mercy as well as justice.
Excluded from the Garden
There is no place for evil in the presence of God. Just as Satan’s rebellion led to his being cast out of heaven, so our first parents’ sin led to their being excluded from the garden where they had known the blessing and presence of God (Genesis 3:23).
Life became a daily struggle in a hostile place. Adam and Eve’s perfect marriage was strained, and their work was frustrated as thorns and thistles sprouted from the ground. And when evening came, they must have wondered if God would come and walk with them, but He never did.
Over time, they would notice lines and wrinkles in their skin. They would experience pain and discover that the death God had spoken about was a terrible reality they could not avoid.
God placed cherubim—angels representing His judgment and holiness—at the entrance to the garden, along with “a flaming sword flashing back and forth,” barring the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Adam and Eve were alienated from God and alone in a hostile world. Paradise was lost, and there seemed to be no way back.
Darkness in the First Valley
This is the Bible’s analysis of the human problem: we have the knowledge of evil, and we have been excluded from the place where God’s presence and blessing were known.
The curse is the first valley of the Bible story. The world became a dark place. The rest of the story is about what God has done to shine His light into our darkness, to deliver us from evil, and to open the way back to paradise. So let’s head for the second mountain.
- How does what happened in the Garden of Eden help us to understand our world today?