What Happened in Eden?
Gen. 3:4-5: “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.
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”.
It is wrongly assumed that the serpent here is an angel that had sinned,
called “satan”. Having been thrown out of heaven for his sin, he came to
earth and tempted Eve to sin.
- The passage talks about “the
serpent”. The words ‘satan’ and ‘devil’ do not occur in the whole of the
book of Genesis.
- The serpent is never described as an angel.
- Therefore it is not surprising that there is no reference in Genesis to
anyone being thrown out of heaven.
- Sin brings death (Rom. 6:23);
angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36), therefore angels cannot sin. The reward of
the righteous is to be made like the angels to die no more (Lk. 20:35-36).
If angels could sin, then the righteous would also be able to sin and
therefore would have the possibility of dying, which means they would not
really have everlasting life.
- The characters involved in the Genesis
record of the fall of man are: God, Adam, Eve and the serpent. Nobody else
is mentioned. There is no evidence that anything got inside the serpent to
make it do what it did. Paul says the serpent “deceived Eve by his (own)
craftiness” (2 Cor. 11,3). God told the serpent: “Because you have done
this...” (Gen. 3:14). If ‘satan’ was using the serpent, why is he not
mentioned and why was he not also punished?
- Adam blamed Eve for his
sin: “She gave me of the tree” (Gen. 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent: “The
serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13). The serpent did not blame the
devil - he made no excuse.
- If it is argued that snakes today do not
have the power of speech or reasoning as the serpent in Eden had, remember
(a) A donkey was once made to speak and reason with a man (Balaam):
“The (normally) dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the
madness of the prophet” (2 Pet. 2:16)
(b) The serpent was one of the most
intelligent of all the animals (Gen. 3:1). The curse upon it would have
taken away the ability it had to speak with Adam and Eve.
- God created
the serpent (Gen. 3:1); another being called ‘satan’ did not turn into the
serpent; if we believe this, we are effectively saying that one person can
enter the life of someone else and control it. This is a pagan idea, not a
Biblical one. If it is argued that God would not have created the serpent
because of the great sin it enticed Adam and Eve to commit, remember that
sin entered the world from man (Rom. 5:12); the serpent was therefore
amoral, speaking from its own natural observations, and was not, as such,
responsible to God and therefore did not commit sin.
Some suggest that
the serpent of Gen. 3 is related to the seraphim. However, the normal Hebrew
word for “serpent”, which is used in Gen. 3, is totally unrelated to the
word for “seraphim”. The Hebrew word translated “seraphim” basically means
“a fiery one” and is translated “fiery serpent” in Num. 21:8, but this is
not the word translated “serpent” in Gen. 3.
- There seems no reason to doubt that what we are told about the creation
and the fall in the early chapters of Genesis should be taken literally.
“The serpent” was a literal serpent. The fact that we can see serpents today
crawling on their bellies in fulfilment of the curse placed on the original
serpent (Gen. 3:14), supports this. In the same way we see men and women
suffering from the curses that were placed on them at the same time. We can
appreciate that Adam and Eve were a literal man and woman as we know man and
woman today, but enjoying a better form of existence, therefore the original
serpent was a literal animal, although in a far more intelligent form than
snakes we see today.
- The following are further indications that the
early chapters of Genesis should be read literally.
a) Jesus referred to
the record of Adam and Eve’s creation as the basis of his teaching on
marriage and divorce (Mt. 19:5-6); there is no hint that he read it
b) “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not
deceived (by the serpent), but the woman being deceived, fell into
transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14) - so Paul, too, read Genesis literally. And
most importantly he wrote earlier about the way “the serpent deceived Eve by
his craftiness” (2 Cor. 11:3) - notice that Paul doesn’t mention the “devil”
- Because the serpent was cursed with having to crawl on
its belly (Gen. 3:14), this may imply that previously it had legs; coupled
with its evident powers of reasoning, it was probably the form of animal
life closest to man, although it was still an animal - another of the
“beasts of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1,14).