Genesis 3:1
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
III.

(1) Now the serpent.—Literally, And. The Hebrew language, however, is very poor in particles, and the intended contrast would be made plainer by rendering “Now they were both naked (arumim) . . . but the serpent was subtil (arum), more than every beast of the field.” This quality of the serpent was in itself innocent, and even admirable, and accordingly the LXX. translate prudent; but it was made use of by the tempter to deceive Eve; for, it has been remarked, she would not be surprised on finding herself spoken to by so sagacious a creature. If this be so, it follows that Eve must have dwelt in Paradise long enough to have learnt something of the habits of the animals around her, though she had never studied them so earnestly as Adam, not having felt that want of a companion which had made even his state of happiness so dull.

And he said unto the woman.—The leading point of the narrative is that the temptation came upon man from without, and through the woman. Such questions, therefore, as whether it were a real serpent or Satan under a serpent-like form, whether it spake with a real voice, and whether the narrative describes a literal occurrence or is allegorical, are better left unanswered. God has given us the account of man’s temptation and fall, and the entry of sin into the world, in this actual form; and the more reverent course is to draw from the narrative the lessons it was evidently intended to teach us, and not enter upon too curious speculations. We are dealing with records of a vast and hoar antiquity, given to man when he was in a state of great simplicity, and with his intellect only partly developed, and we cannot expect to find them as easy to understand as the pages of modern history.

Yea, hath God said . . .?—There is a tone of surprise in these words, as if the tempter could not bring himself to believe that such a command had been given. Can it really be true, he asks, that Elohim has subjected you to such a prohibition? How unworthy and wrong of Him! Neither the serpent nor the woman use the title—common throughout this section—of Jehovah-Elohim, a sure sign that there was a thoughtful purpose in giving this appellation to the Deity. It is the impersonal God of creation to whom the tempter refers, and the woman follows his guidance, forgetting that it was Jehovah, the loving personal Being in covenant with them, who had really given them the command.

Genesis

HOW SIN CAME IN

Genesis 3:1 - Genesis 3:15
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It is no part of my purpose to enter on the critical questions connected with the story of ‘the fall.’ Whether it is a legend, purified and elevated, or not, is of less consequence than what is its moral and religious significance, and that significance is unaffected by the answer to the former question. The story presupposes that primitive man was in a state of ignorant innocence, not of intellectual or moral perfection, and it tells how that ignorant innocence came to pass into conscious sin. What are the stages of the transition?

1. There is the presentation of inducement to evil. The law to which Adam is to be obedient is in the simplest form. There is restriction. ‘Thou shalt not’ is the first form of law, and it is a form congruous with the undeveloped, though as yet innocent, nature ascribed to him. The conception of duty is present, though in a very rudimentary shape. An innocent being may be aware of limitations, though as yet not ‘knowing good and evil.’ With deep truth the story represents the first suggestion of disobedience as presented from without. No doubt, it might have by degrees arisen from within, but the thought that it was imported from another sphere of being suggests that it is alien to true manhood, and that, if brought in from without, it may be cast out again. And the temptation had a personal source. There are beings who desire to draw men away from God. The serpent, by its poison and its loathly form, is the natural symbol of such an enemy of man. The insinuating slyness of the suggestions of evil is like the sinuous gliding of the snake, and truly represents the process by which temptation found its way into the hearts of the first pair, and of all their descendants. For it begins with casting a doubt on the reality of the prohibition. ‘Hath God said?’ is the first parallel opened by the besieger. The fascinations of the forbidden fruit are not dangled at first before Eve, but an apparently innocent doubt is filtered into her ear. And is not that the way in which we are still snared? The reality of moral distinctions, the essential wrongness of the sin, is obscured by a mist of sophistication. ‘There is no harm in it’ steals into some young man’s or woman’s mind about things that were forbidden at home, and they are half conquered before they know that they have been attacked. Then comes the next besieger’s trench, much nearer the wall-namely, denial of the fatal consequences of the sin: ‘Ye shall not surely die,’ and a base hint that the prohibition was meant, not as a parapet to keep from falling headlong into the abyss, but as a barrier to keep from rising to a great good; ‘for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods.’ These are still the two lies which wile us to sin: ‘It will do you no harm,’ and ‘You are cheating yourselves out of good by not doing it.’

2. Then comes the yielding to the tempter. As long as the prohibition was undoubted, and the fatal results certain, the fascinations of the forbidden thing were not felt. But as soon as these were tampered with, Eve saw ‘that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes.’ So it is still. Weaken the awe-inspiring sense of God’s command, and of the ruin that follows the breach of it, and the heart of man is like a city without walls, into which any enemy can march unhindered. So long as God’s ‘Thou shalt not, lest thou die’ rings in the ears, the eyes see little beauty in the sirens that sing and beckon. But once that awful voice is deadened, they charm, and allure to dally with them.

In the undeveloped condition of primitive man temptation could only assail him through the senses and appetites, and its assault would be the more irresistible because reflection and experience were not yet his. But the act of yielding was, as sin ever is, a deliberate choice to please self and disobey God. The woman’s more emotional, sensitive, compliant nature made her the first victim, and her greatest glory, her craving to share her good with him whom she loves, and her power to sway his will and acts, made her his temptress. ‘As the husband is, the wife is,’ says Tennyson; but the converse is even truer: As the wife is, the man is.

3. The fatal consequences came with a rush. There is a gulf between being tempted and sinning, but the results of the sin are closely knit to it. They come automatically, as surely as a stream from a fountain. The promise of knowing good and evil was indeed kept, but instead of its making the sinners ‘like gods,’ it showed them that they were like beasts, and brought the first sense of shame. To know evil was, no doubt, a forward step intellectually; but to know it by experience, and as part of themselves, necessarily changed their ignorant innocence into bitter knowledge, and conscience awoke to rebuke them. The first thing that their opened eyes saw was themselves, and the immediate result of the sight was the first blush of shame. Before, they had walked in innocent unconsciousness, like angels or infants; now they had knowledge of good and evil, because their sin had made evil a part of themselves, and the knowledge was bitter.

The second consequence of the fall is the disturbed relation with God, which is presented in the highly symbolical form fitting for early ages, and as true and impressive for the twentieth century as for them. Sin broke familiar communion with God, turned Him into a ‘fear and a dread,’ and sent the guilty pair into ambush. Is not that deeply and perpetually true? The sun seen through mists becomes a lurid ball of scowling fire. The impulse is to hide from God, or to get rid of thoughts of Him. And when He is felt to be near, it is as a questioner, bringing sin to mind. The shuffling excuses, which venture even to throw the blame of sin on God {‘the woman whom Thou gavest me’}, or which try to palliate it as a mistake {‘the serpent beguiled me’}, have to come at last, however reluctantly, to confess that ‘I’ did the sin. Each has to say, ‘I did eat.’ So shall we all have to do. We may throw the blame on circumstances, weakness of judgment, and the like, while here, but at God’s bar we shall have to say, ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa.’

The curse pronounced on the serpent takes its habit and form as an emblem of the degradation of the personal tempter, and of the perennial antagonism between him and mankind, while even at that first hour of sin and retribution a gleam of hope, like the stray beam that steals through a gap in a thundercloud, promises that the conquered shall one day be the conqueror, and that the woman’s seed, though wounded in the struggle, shall one day crush the poison-bearing, flat head in the dust, and end forever his power to harm. ‘Known unto God are all his works from the beginning,’ and the Christ was promised ere the gates of Eden were shut on the exiles.Genesis 3:1. The serpent was more subtle, &c. — Some would render the word נחשׁ, nachash, here, monkey or baboon, and the word ערום, arum, intelligent: but it may be demonstrated from divers other passages of the Old Testament, where the same words are used, and from several parts of the New, where they are referred to, that our translators are perfectly right. The former word is used concerning the fiery serpents which bit the people in the wilderness, which certainly were neither monkeys nor baboons, and concerning the serpent of brass, by looking at which the Israelites were healed. See Hebrew, Numbers 21:6-9. It is also used Isaiah 65:25, where, in allusion to Genesis 3:14 of this chapter, it is said, Dust shall be the serpent’s meat; but surely dust is not the meat of monkeys. The word is also everywhere rendered Οφις, ophis, in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, which means serpent, and nothing else. The latter word, ערום, also, is rightly translated, meaning primarily, subtle, or crafty, from ערם, caliditate usus est, and is so rendered Job 5:12, and so interpreted 2 Corinthians 11:3, where the word πανουργια is used, which certainly never means intelligence, but always craft or subtlety. Than any beast of the field — Serpents, in general, have a great deal of subtlety. But this one had an extraordinary measure of it, being either only a serpent in appearance, and in reality a fallen angel, or the prince of fallen angels, Satan; or a real serpent possessed and actuated by him. Hence the devil is termed the old serpent, Revelation 20:2-3. He said unto the woman — Whom it is probable he found alone. In what way he spake to her we are not informed: but it seems most likely that it was by signs of some kind. Some, indeed, have supposed that reason and speech were then the known properties of serpents, and that, therefore, Eve was not surprised at his reasoning and speaking, which they think she otherwise must have been: but of this there is no proof. Yea, hath God said, &c. — As if he had said, Can it be that God, who has planted this garden with all these beautiful and fruitful trees, and hath placed you in it for your comfort, should deny you the fruit of it? Surely you must either be mistaken, or God must be envious and unkind. His first object was by his insinuations either to beget in them unbelief, as to the reality of the prohibition, and to persuade them that it would be no sin to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, or to produce in them hard thoughts of God, in order to alienate their affections from him. And such are generally his first temptations still. What! has God, who has given you various appetites and passions, forbidden you to gratify them? Surely he has not: but if he has, he must be an unkind being. And how then can you trust in or love him?3:1-5 Satan assaulted our first parents, to draw them to sin, and the temptation proved fatal to them. The tempter was the devil, in the shape and likeness of a serpent. Satan's plan was to draw our first parents to sin, and so to separate between them and their God. Thus the devil was from the beginning a murderer, and the great mischief maker. The person tempted was the woman: it was Satan's policy to enter into talk with her when she was alone. There are many temptations to which being alone gives great advantage; but the communion of saints tends very much to their strength and safety. Satan took advantage by finding her near the forbidden tree. They that would not eat the forbidden fruit, must not come near the forbidden tree. Satan tempted Eve, that by her he might tempt Adam. It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us. Satan questioned whether it were a sin or not, to eat of this tree. He did not disclose his design at first, but he put a question which seemed innocent. Those who would be safe, need to be shy of talking with the tempter. He quoted the command wrong. He spoke in a taunting way. The devil, as he is a liar, so he is a scoffer from the beginning; and scoffers are his children. It is the craft of Satan to speak of the Divine law as uncertain or unreasonable, and so to draw people to sin; it is our wisdom to keep up a firm belief of God's command, and a high respect for it. Has God said, Ye shall not lie, nor take his name in vain, nor be drunk, &c.? Yes, I am sure he has, and it is well said; and by his grace I will abide by it. It was Eve's weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny. He promises advantage from their eating this fruit. He aims to make them discontented with their present state, as if it were not so good as it might be, and should be. No condition will of itself bring content, unless the mind be brought to it. He tempts them to seek preferment, as if they were fit to be gods. Satan ruined himself by desiring to be like the Most High, therefore he sought to infect our first parents with the same desire, that he might ruin them too. And still the devil draws people into his interest, by suggesting to them hard thoughts of God, and false hopes of advantage by sin. Let us, therefore, always think well of God as the best good, and think ill of sin as the worst evil: thus let us resist the devil, and he will flee from us. - Section III-- The Fall

- The Fall

1. נחשׁ nachash "serpent; related: hiss," Gesenius; "sting," Mey. ערוּם 'ārûm "subtle, crafty, using craft for defence."

7. תפר tāpar "sew, stitch, tack together." חגורה chăgôrâh "girdle, not necessarily apron."

This chapter continues the piece commenced at Genesis 2:4. The same combination of divine names is found here, except in the dialogue between the serpent and the woman, where God (אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym) alone is used. It is natural for the tempter to use only the more distant and abstract name of God. It narrates in simple terms the fall of man.

Genesis 3:1

The serpent is here called a "beast of the field"; that is, neither a domesticated animal nor one of the smaller sorts. The Lord God had made it, and therefore it was a creature called into being on the same day with Adam. It is not the wisdom, but the wiliness of the serpent which is here noted. This animal is destitute of arms or legs by which to escape danger. It is therefore thrown back upon instinct, aided by a quick and glaring eye, and a rapid dart and recoil, to evade the stroke of violence, and watch and seize the unguarded moment for inflicting the deadly bite. Hence, the wily and insidious character of its instinct, which is noticed to account for the mode of attack here chosen, and the style of the conversation. The whole is so deeply designed, that the origin and progress of evil in the breast is as nearly as possible such as it might have been had there been no prompter. No startling proposal of disobedience is made, no advice, no persuasion to partake of the fruit is employed. The suggestion or assertion of the false only is plainly offered; and the bewildered mind is left to draw its own false inferences, and pursue its own misguided course. The tempter addresses the woman as the more susceptible and unguarded of the two creatures he would betray. He ventures upon a half-questioning, half-insinuating remark: "It is so, then, that God hath said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden." This seems to be a feeler for some weak point, where the fidelity of the woman to her Maker might be shaken. It hints at something strange, if not unjust or unkind, on the part of God. "Why was any tree withheld?" he would insinuate.

CHAPTER 3

Ge 3:1-5. The Temptation.

1. the serpent—The fall of man was effected by the seductions of a serpent. That it was a real serpent is evident from the plain and artless style of the history and from the many allusions made to it in the New Testament. But the material serpent was the instrument or tool of a higher agent, Satan or the devil, to whom the sacred writers apply from this incident the reproachful name of "the dragon, that old serpent" [Re 20:2]. Though Moses makes no mention of this wicked spirit—giving only the history of the visible world—yet in the fuller discoveries of the Gospel, it is distinctly intimated that Satan was the author of the plot (Joh 8:44; 2Co 11:3; 1Jo 3:8; 1Ti 2:14; Re 20:2).

more subtile—Serpents are proverbial for wisdom (Mt 10:16). But these reptiles were at first, probably, far superior in beauty as well as in sagacity to what they are in their present state.

He said—There being in the pure bosoms of the first pair no principle of evil to work upon, a solicitation to sin could come only from "without," as in the analogous case of Jesus Christ (Mt 4:3); and as the tempter could not assume the human form, there being only Adam and Eve in the world, the agency of an inferior creature had to be employed. The dragon-serpent [Bochart] seemed the fittest for the vile purpose; and the devil was allowed by Him who permitted the trial, to bring articulate sounds from its mouth.

unto the woman—the object of attack, from his knowledge of her frailty, of her having been but a short time in the world, her limited experience of the animal tribes, and, above all, her being alone, unfortified by the presence and counsels of her husband. Though sinless and holy, she was a free agent, liable to be tempted and seduced.

yea, hath God said?—Is it true that He has restricted you in using the fruits of this delightful place? This is not like one so good and kind. Surely there is some mistake. He insinuated a doubt as to her sense of the divine will and appeared as an angel of light (2Co 11:14), offering to lead her to the true interpretation. It was evidently from her regarding him as specially sent on that errand, that, instead of being startled by the reptile's speaking, she received him as a heavenly messenger.The serpent’s subtlety, and insnaring question, Genesis 3:1. The woman’s answer, Genesis 3:2. The serpent denies the certianty of the threatening, Genesis 3:4; suggests a benefit by eating, Genesis 3:5. The woman looks on the fruit, takes, eats, gives to the man, who also eats of it, Genesis 3:6. The consequence of their sin, Genesis 3:7-8. Adam’s summons, Genesis 3:9, appearance, Genesis 3:10, examination, Genesis 3:11, excuse, Genesis 3:12. The woman examined, excuses, yet confesses the fact, Genesis 3:13. Sentence upon the serpent the instrument, Genesis 3:14; upon the devil the chief agent, with the first gospel promise, Genesis 3:15; upon the woman, Genesis 3:16; upon the man, Genesis 3:17-19. Adam names his wife, Genesis 3:20. God clothes them, Genesis 3:21. They are thrown out of Paradise, Genesis 3:22, to till the ground, Genesis 3:23. Their return impossible, Genesis 3:24.

The serpent; or rather, this or that serpent; for here is an emphatical article, of which more by and by.

The serpent’s eminent subtlety is noted both in sacred Scripture, Genesis 49:17 Psalm 58:5 Matthew 10:16 2 Corinthians 11:3, and by heathen authors, whereof these instances are given; that when it is assaulted, it secures its head; that it stops its ear at the charmer’s voice; and the like. If it be yet said that some beasts are more subtle, and therefore this is not true; it may be replied,

1. It is no wonder if the serpent for its instrumentality in man’s sin hath lost the greatest part of its original subtlety, even as man’s sin was punished with a great decay both of the natural endowments of his mind, wisdom, and knowledge, and of the beauty and glory of his body, the instrument of his sin. But this text may, and seems to be understood, not of the whole kind of serpents, but of this individual or particular serpent; for it is in the Hebrew Hannachash that serpent, or

this serpent, to signify that this was not only an ordinary serpent, but was acted and assisted by the devil, who is therefore called

that old serpent, Revelation 12:9. And this seems most probable, partly from the following discourse, which is added as a proof of that which is here said concerning the serpent’s subtlety; and that surely was not the discourse of a beast but of a devil; and partly from 2 Corinthians 11:3, which hath a manifest reference to this place, where the apostle affirmeth that the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety; not surely through that subtlety which is common to all serpents, but through that subtlety which was peculiar to this, as it was possessed and acted by the devil. There seems indeed to be an allusion here to the natural subtlety of all serpents; and the sense of the sacred penman may seem to be this, as if he said: The serpent indeed in itself is a subtle creature, and thought to be more subtle than any beast of the field; but howsoever this be in other serpents, it is certain that this serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, as will appear by the following words. If it be said, the particle this, or that, is relative to something going before, whereas there is not a word about it in the foregoing words; it may be replied, that relative particles are often put without any antecedents, and the antecedents are left to be gathered not only out of the foregoing, but sometimes also out of the following passages, as is apparent from Exodus 14:29 Numbers 7:19 Numbers 24:17 Psalm 87:1, Psalm 105:19, Psalm 114:2, Proverbs 7:8, Proverbs 14:26. So here, that serpent, that of which I am now to speak, whose discourse with the woman here followeth.

Quest. How the serpent could speak, and what the woman conceived of his speech, and why she was not affrighted, but continued the discourse with it? There be two satisfactory answers may be given to these questions.

1. The woman knew that there were spirits, and did freely and frequently converse with spirits or angels, who also did appear in some visible shape to her, which seems very credible; because in the following ages not only the angels, but even the blessed God himself, did in that manner converse with men. And as they afterwards used to appear in the shape of men, why might not one of them now appear to her, and converse with her, in the shape of a beautiful serpent? And why might she not freely and securely discourse with this which she thought to be one of those good angels, to whose care and tuition both she and her husband were committed? For I suppose the fall of the angels was yet unknown to her; and she thought this to be a good spirit, otherwise she would have declined all conversation with an apostate spirit.

2. A late ingenious and learned writer represents the matter thus, in which there is nothing absurd or incredible: The serpent makes his address to the woman with a short speech, and salutes her as the empress of the world, &c. She is not affrighted, because there was as yet no cause of fear, no sin, and therefore no danger, but wonders and inquires what this meant, and whether he was not a brute creature, and how he came to have speech and understanding? The serpent replies, that he was no better than a brute, and did indeed want both these gifts, but by eating of a certain fruit in this garden he got both. She asked what fruit and tree that was? Which when he showed her, she replied: This, no doubt, is an excellent fruit, and likely to make the eater of it wise; but God hath forbidden us this fruit. To which the serpent replies, as it here follows in the text. It is true, this discourse is not in the text; but it is confessed by Jewish and other expositors, that these words:

Yea, hath God said, & c., are a short and abrupt sentence, and that they were but the close of a foregoing discourse; which might well enough be either this now mentioned, or some other of a like nature. And that expression which follows, Genesis 3:6, when the woman saw, i.e. understood that it was a tree to be desired to make one wise, may seem to imply, both that the serpent told her, and that she believed, that the speech and understanding of the serpent was the effect of the eating of that fruit; and therefore that if it raised him from a brute beast to the degree of a reasonable creature, it would elevate her from the human to a kind of Divine nature or condition.

He said unto the woman, who had upon some occasion retired from her husband for a season (an advantage which the crafty serpent quickly espieth, and greedily embraceth, and assaulteth her when she wanteth the help of her husband).

Yea, or, why, or, is it so, or, indeed, or, of a truth. It is scarce credible that God, who is so bountiful, and the sovereign good, and so abhorring from all parsimony and envy, should forbid you the enjoyment of any part of those provisions which he hath made for your use and comfort.

Of every tree, or, of any; for the word is ambiguous, which therefore the cunning adversary useth to hide the snare which he was laying for her.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made,.... Many instances are given of the subtlety of serpents, in hiding their heads when struck at, rolling themselves up, stopping their ear at the voice of the charmer, putting off their skin, lying in sand of the same colour with them, and biting the feet of horses, and other things of the like kind; but by these it does not appear to be now more subtle than any other creature, whatever it might be at its first creation; particularly the fox greatly exceeds it: the words therefore may be rendered, "that serpent"; that particular serpent, of which so much is spoken of afterwards; "or the serpent was become" (t), or "made more subtle", that is, not naturally, but through Satan being in it, and using it in a very subtle manner, to answer his purposes, and gain his point: for though a real serpent, and not the mere form or appearance of one, is here meant, as is clear from this account, and the curse afterwards pronounced on it; yet not that only, but as possessed and used by Satan as an instrument of his to accomplish his designs, as is evident from its having the faculty of speech, and the use of reason, employed in a very artful and sophistic manner: nor is it rational to suppose that human nature, in the height of its glory and excellency, should be outwitted and seduced by a creature so inferior to it; besides, the Scriptures always ascribe the seduction of man to the devil; who, because he acted his deceitful part in and by the serpent, is called the serpent, and the old serpent, and the devil and Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:3. The Targum of Jonathan restrains this subtlety to wickedness, paraphrasing the words"but the serpent was wise to evil.''Some Jewish writers (u) interpret the passage of the nakedness of the serpent, taking the word in the sense it is used in Genesis 2:25 and render it, "more naked than any beast of the field", the rest having a clothing, as hair, &c. but this none; and so might be more agreeable to Eve, being in this respect like herself; but it is generally interpreted of subtlety. The serpent early became the object of religions worship. Taautus, or the Egyptian Thoth, was the first that attributed deity to the nature of the dragon, and of serpents; and after him the Egyptians and Phoenicians: the Egyptian god Cneph was a serpent with an hawk's head; and a serpent with the Phoenicians was a good demon: what led them to have such veneration for this animal, were its plenty of spirits, its fiery nature, its swiftness, its various forms it throws itself into, and its long life (w); and so Pherecydes (x) speaks of a deity of the Phoenicians called Ophioneus; and who also affirms (y), that this was the prince of demons cast down from heaven by Jupiter; and Herodotus (z) makes mention of sacred serpents about Thebes; and Aelianus (a) of sacred dragons; and Justin Martyr says (b), the serpent with the Heathens was a symbol of all that were reckoned gods by them, and they were painted as such; and wherever serpents were painted, according to Persius (c), it was a plain indication that it was a sacred place. Serpents were sacred to many of the Heathen deities, and who were worshipped either in the form of one, or in a real one (d); all which seem to take their rise from the use the devil made of the serpent in seducing our first parents.

And he said to the woman; being alone, which he took the advantage of; not the serpent, but Satan in it; just as the angel spoke in Balaam's ass; for we are not to imagine with Philo, Josephus, Aben Ezra, and others, that beasts in their original state had the faculty of speech, and whose language Eve understood: it is very probable that good angels appeared in paradise to our first parents, in one form or another, and conversed with them; it may be in an human form, and it may be in the form of a beautiful flying serpent, which looked very bright and shining, and that sort called Seraph, Numbers 21:6 hence angels may bear the name of Seraphim, as some have thought; so that it might not be at all surprising to Eve to hear the serpent speak, it being what she might have been used to hear, and might take this to be a good angel in such a shape, that was come to bring a message to her from God, and to converse with her for her good, and who thus accosted her:

yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? or "of any tree" (e); so ambiguously does he speak, in order to reproach the divine goodness, and draw into a disbelief of it. The speech is abrupt; and, as Kimchi observes (f), supposes some discourse, as to this purpose; surely God hates you, for though you are greater than the rest of the creatures, he has not provided any superior excellency for you, and especially since he has said, "ye shall not eat", &c. Or as others, taking occasion from their being naked, Genesis 2:25 he observes, that that was unbecoming them, of which they might be ashamed; yea, also, that it was unjust to forbid them to eat of the tree of good and evil: he might, it is suggested, first endeavour to persuade the woman, that it was indecent for her, and her husband, to be naked; which they not being convinced of, he insinuated that this was owing to a defect of knowledge, and that there was a tree in the garden, which if they ate of, would give them that knowledge, and therefore God had forbid it, to keep them in ignorance: but he seems to put this question, to cause them to doubt of it, whether there was such a prohibition or not, and as amazing that it should be, and as not believing it to be true; it being, as he would have it, contrary to the perfections of God, to his goodness and liberality, and to his profession of a peculiar respect to man: wherefore the Targum of Onkelos renders it, "of a truth", and that of Jonathan, "is it true?" surely it cannot be true, that a God of such goodness could ever deny you such a benefit, or restrain you from such happiness; he can never be your friend that can lay such an injunction on you.

(t) "factus est", Schmidt. (u) Tikkune Zohar, correct. 59. fol. 96. 1.((w) Philo Byblius, apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. c. 10. p. 41. (x) Apud, Euseb. ib. (y) Apud L. Vivem in Aug. de Civ. Dei, l. 4. c. 11. (z) Euterpe sive, l. 2. c. 74. (a) De Animal l. 11. c. 2, 17. (b) Apolog. 2. p. 71. (c) "Pinge duos angues pueri, sacer est locus." Satyr. 1.((d) See more of this in a Sermon of mine, called The Head of the Serpent bruised, &c. (e) "ex ulla arbore", Piscator. (f) Sepher Shoresh in voce

Now the serpent was more {a} subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he {b} said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

(a) As Satan can change himself into an angel of light, so did he abuse the wisdom of the serpent to deceive man.

(b) God allowed Satan to make the serpent his instrument and to speak through him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Now the serpent] The abrupt mention of the serpent is characteristic of this narrative. Vivid and picturesque as it is, the story leaves many things omitted and unexplained. The present verse is an illustration. It makes no mention of time; whether the interval between the Creation and the Fall was one of days, months, or years, is not stated. The serpent is brought upon the scene without explanation, though he is gifted with speech and is able, by means of knowledge superior to that of the woman, to tell her what will be the results of eating of the forbidden fruit; cf. Genesis 3:5 with Genesis 3:22.

Ch. 3, though one of the same group of narratives as ch. Genesis 2:4 b–25, has no appearance of being the immediate continuance of ch. 2, but rather of being a distinct and independent story. The connecting link is the mention of the tree “in the midst of the garden.”

The serpent is (1) one of “the beasts of the field” (cf. Genesis 2:19), “formed out of the ground”; (2) more “subtle” than any of them; (3) not identified with a spirit, or any personal power, of evil. For this development of the narrative, belonging to a late period of Jewish literature, cf. Wis 2:23, “by envy of the devil death entered into the world,” Revelation 20:2, “the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan.”

more subtil] i.e. more sly, clever, and mischievous. For the wisdom of the serpent, cf. the proverbial expression quoted by our Lord, “Be ye wise (φρόνιμοι) as serpents,” Matthew 10:16. Here the LXX has ὁ δὲ ὄφις ἦν φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων.

Yea, hath God said] The serpent, in order to secure success, addresses the woman, who (a) was the weaker, (b) was apparently alone, and (c) had not herself received the Divine command respecting the fruit of the tree (Genesis 2:16).

Observe that in the serpent’s mouth the general name, “God” (Elohim), is used, and not the sacred name “Jehovah” (Lord), and that the woman replying takes up the serpent’s words.

The method which the serpent adopts is insidious. He knows the prohibition; he feigns ignorance, and asks to be instructed. The question suggests a doubt of Divine goodness. It takes the tone of indignant surprise at the injustice and harshness of a prohibition which had forbidden the man and the woman to eat of any tree of the garden. Such a suggestion, however easily refuted, might instill into the mind of the unsuspicious woman a grain of doubt, whether even any limitation was consonant with perfect justice and kindness. Compare the first temptation: “If thou art the Son of God,” Matthew 4, Luke 4:3.

The versions, misunderstanding the Hebrew particles, give a slightly different turn to the serpent’s question: LXX τί ὅτι, Lat. cur, making the serpent ask, not as to the fact, but as to the reason of the prohibition.Verses 1-7. - How long the paradisiacal state of innocence and felicity continued the historian does not declare, probably as not falling within the scope of his immediate design. Psalm 49:12 has been thought, though without sufficient reason, to hint that man's Eden life was of comparatively short duration. The present chapter relates the tragic incident which brought it to a termination. Into the question of the origin of moral evil in the universe it does not enter. The metaphysical problem of how the first thought of sin could arise in innocent beings it does not attempt to resolve. It seeks to explain the genesis of evil with reference to man. Nor even with regard to this does it aim at an exhaustive dissertation, but only at such a statement of its beginnings as shall demonstrate that God is not the author of sin, but that man, by his own free volition, brought his pristine state of purity and happiness to an end. A due regard to this, the specific object of the Mosaic narrative, will go far to answer not a few of the objections which have been taken to its historic credibility. Like the Mosaic record of creation, the Biblical story of the fall has been impugned on a variety of grounds.

1. The doctrine of a fall, which this chapter clearly teaches, has been assailed as inconsistent with the dictates of a speculative philosophy, if not also with the tenets of a Scriptural theology. While in the present narrative the origin of sin is distinctly traced back to the free volition of man acting without constraint, though not without temptation, in opposition to the Divine will, a more exact psychological analysis, it is alleged, declares it to have been from the first a necessity, either

(1) metaphysically, as being involved in the very conception of a finite will (Spinoza, Leibnitz, Baur); or

(2) historically, "as the expression of the necessary transition of the human race from the state of nature to that of culture" (Fichte, Kant, Schiller), or as developing itself in obedience to the law of antagonism and conflict (John Seotus Erigena, Hegel, Sehleiermacher, Schelling); or

(3) theologically, as predetermined by a Divine decree (supralapsarianism). Without offering any separate refutation of these anti-Scriptural theories, it may suffice to say that in all questions affecting man's responsibility, the testimony of the individual consciousness, the ultimate ground of appeal, apart from revelation, affirms moral evil to be no all-controlling necessity, but the free product of the will of the creature.

2. The narrative of the fall has been impugned -

(1) On the ground of its miraculous character. But unless we are prepared to equate the supernatural with the impossible and incredible, we must decline to admit the force of such objections.

(2) On the ground of its mythical form, resembling as it does, in some slight degree, Oriental traditions, and in particular the Persian legend of Ormuzd and Ahriman (vide infra, 'Traditions of the Fall'). But here the same remark will apply as was made in connection with the similarity alleged to exist between the Mosaic and heathen cosmogonies: it is immeasurably easier and more natural to account for the resemblance of Oriental legend to Biblical history, by supposing the former to be a traditional reflection of the latter, than it is to explain the unchallengable superiority of the latter to the former, even in a literary point of view, not to mention ethical aspects at all, by tracing both to a common source - the philosophic or theologic consciousness of man.

(3) There are also those who, while neither repudiating it on the ground of miracle, nor discrediting it as a heathen myth, yet decline to accept it as other than a parabolic or allegorical narration of what transpired in the spiritual experience of the first pair. History is often a parable of truth. Verse 1. - Now (literally, and) the serpent. Nachash, from nachash -

(1) in Kal, to hiss (unused), with allusion to the hissing sound emitted by the reptile (Gesenius, Furst), though it has been objected that prior to the fall the serpent could hardly have been called by a name derived from its present constitution (Delitzsch);

(2) in Piel, to whisper, use sorcery, find out by divination (Genesis 30:27), suggestive of the creature's wisdom (Bush), Which, however, is regarded as doubtful (Furst);

(3) to shine (unused, though supplying the noun nechsheth, brass, Genesis 4:22), referring to its glossy shining appearance, and in par-titular its bright glistening eye: cf. δράκων from δέρκομαι, and ὅφις from ὄπτομαι (T. Lewis);

(4) from an Arabic root signifying to pierce, to move, to creep, so that nachash would be Latin serpens (Furst). The presence of the article before nachash has been thought to mean a certain serpent, but "by eminent authorities this is pronounced to be unwarranted" (Macdonald). Was more subtle. 'Arum -

(1) Crafty (cf. Job 5:12; Job 15:5);

(2) prudent, in a good sense (cf. Proverbs 12:16), from 'aram -

(a) To make naked; whence atom, plural arumim, naked (Genesis 2:25).

(b) To crafty (1 Samuel 23:22). If applied to the serpent in the sense of πανοῦργος (Aquila, Keil, Lange, Macdonald),

it can only be either

(1) metaphorically for the devil, whose instrument it was; or

(2) proleptically, with reference to the results of the temptation; for in itself, as one of God's creatures, it must have been originally good. It seems more correct to regard the epithet as equivalent to φρόνιμος (LXX.), and to hold that Moses, in referring to the subtlety of this creature, "does not so much point out a fault as attribute praise to nature" (Calvin), and describes qualities which in themselves were good, such as quickness of sight, swiftness of motion, activity of the self-preserving instinct, seemingly intelligent adaptation -of means to end, with perhaps a glance, in the use of 'arum, at the sleekness of its glossy skin; but which were capable of being perverted to an unnatural use by the power and craft of a superior intelligence (cf. Matthew 10:16: γίνεσθε οϋν φρόνιμοι ω). Than any (literally, was subtil more than any) beast of the field which the Lord God had made. The comparison here instituted is commonly regarded as a proof that the tempter was a literal serpent, though Macdonald finds in the contrast between it and all other creatures, as well as in the ascription to it of pre-eminent subtlety, which is not now a characteristic of serpents, an intimation that the reptile was no creature of earth, or one that received its form from God," an opinion scarcely different from that of Cyril (100. Julian., lib. 3), that it was only the simulacrum of a serpent. But

(1) the curse pronounced upon the serpent (Genesis 3:14) would seem to be deprived of all force if the subject of it had been only an apparition or an unreal creature; and

(2) the language of the New Testament in referring to man's temptation implies its literality (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3). "We are perfectly justified in concluding, from this mention of the fall, that Paul spoke of it as an actual occurrence" (Olshausen). Adam Clarke contends with much enthusiasm that the tempter was not a serpent, but an ape or orangutan. And he said. Not as originally endowed with speech (Josephus, Clarke), or gifted at this particular time with the power of articulation ('Ephrem., lib. de paradiso,' c. 27, quoted by Willet), but simply as used by the devil (Augustine, Calvin, Rosenmüller, et alii), who from this circumstance is commonly styled in Scripture 'The serpent," "the old serpent," "that old serpent" (cf. Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). Nor is it more difficult to understand the speaking of the serpent when possessed by Satan, than the talking of Balaam s ass when the Lord opened its mouth (Numbers 22:28-30). Equally with the idea that the devil was the only agent in man s temptation, and that the serpent is purely the allegorical dress in which the historian clothes him (Eusebius, Cajetan, Quarry, Alford), must the notion be rejected that there was nothing but a serpent (Aben Ezra, Kalisch, Knobel). Why, if there was an evil spirit manipulating the reptile, the historian did not say so has been explained

(1) on the ground that the belief in the devil was then foreign to the Hebrews (Knobel);

(2) that up to this point in the narrative there is no mention of the devil (White of Dorchester);

(3) that Moses simply wished to be rei gestae scriptor non interpres (Pererins);

(4) that it was unnecessary, those for whom he wrote being sufficiently capable of discerning that the serpent was not the prime mover in the transaction (Candlish);

(5) that "by a homely and uncultivated style he accommodates what he delivers to the capacity of the people" (Calvin);

(6) that his object being merely to show that God had no hand in man's temptation, but that Adam sinned of himself, it was not needful to do more than recite the incident as it appeared to the senses (White);

(7) that he wished "to avoid encouraging the disposition to transfer the blame to the evil spirit which tempted man, and thus reduce sin to a mere act of weakness" (Keil). Unto the woman. As the weaker of the two, and more likely to be easily persuaded (1 Timothy 2:14; 1 Peter 3:7). Cf. Satan's assault on Job through his wife (Job 2:9). Milton's idea that Eve desired to be independent, and had withdrawn herself out of Adam's sight, it has been well remarked, "sets up a beginning of the fall before the fall itself" (Lunge). Yea. אַפ כּי. Is it even so that? (Gesenius). Is it really so that! (Ewald, Furst, Keil). Etiamne, vel Itane (Calvin). A question either

(1) spoken in irony, as if the meaning were, "Very like it is that. God careth what you eat!" or

(2) inquiring the reason of the prohibition (LXX., - τί ὅτι εϊπενὁ θεὸς; Vulgate, cur praecepit vobis Deus); or

(3) simply soliciting information (Chaldee Paraphrase); but

(4) most likely expressing surprise and astonishment, with the view of suggesting distrust of the Divine goodness and disbelief in the Divine veracity (Ewald, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Keil, Macdonald, Lunge). The conversation may have been commenced by the tempter, and the question "thrown out as a feeler for some weak point where the fidelity of the woman might be shaken" (Murphy); but it is more likely that the devil spoke in continuation of a colloquy which is not reported (Kalisch, Macdonald), which has led some, on the supposition that already many arguments had been adduced to substantiate the Divine severity, to render "yea" by "quanto magis," as if the meaning were, "How much more is this a proof of God's unkindness!" (Aben Ezra, Kimchi). Hath God said. "The tempter felt it necessary to change the living personal God into a merely general numen divinum" (Keil); but the Elohim of Genesis 1. He was not a mere numen divinum As much astray is the observation that Satan wished to avoid profaning the name of Jehovah (Knobel). Better is the remark that the serpent could not utter the name Jehovah as his assault was directed against the paradisiacal covenant of God with man (Lange). By using the name Elohim instead of Jehovah the covenant relationship of God towards man was obscured, and man's position in the garden represented as that of a subject rather than a son. As it were, Eve was first placed at the furthest distance possible from the supreme, and then assailed. Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden. I.e. either accepting the present rendering as correct, which the Hebrew will bear, - "Are there any trees in the garden of which you may not eat?" "Is it really so that God hath prohibited you from some?" (Calvin), - or, translating lo-kol as not any - Latin, nullus (Gesenius, § 152, 1) - "Hath God said ye shall not eat of any?" (Macdonald, Keil). According to the first the devil simply seeks to impeach the Divine goodness; according to the second he also aims at intensifying the Divine prohibition. The second rendering appears to be supported by the fitness of Eve's reply. "The serpent was more subtle than all the beasts of the field, which Jehovah God had made." - The serpent is here described not only as a beast, but also as a creature of God; it must therefore have been good, like everything else that He had made. Subtilty was a natural characteristic of the serpent (Matthew 10:16), which led the evil one to select it as his instrument. Nevertheless the predicate ערוּם is not used here in the good sense of φρόνιμος (lxx), prudens, but in the bad sense of πανοῦργος, callidus. For its subtilty was manifested as the craft of a tempter to evil, in the simple fact that it was to the weaker woman that it turned; and cunning was also displayed in what it said: "Hath God indeed said, Ye shall not eat of all the trees of the garden?" כּי אף is an interrogative expressing surprise (as in 1 Samuel 23:3; 2 Samuel 4:11): "Is it really the fact that God has prohibited you from eating of all the trees of the garden?" The Hebrew may, indeed, bear the meaning, "hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree?" but from the context, and especially the conjunction, it is obvious that the meaning is, "ye shall not eat of any tree." The serpent calls God by the name of Elohim alone, and the woman does the same. In this more general and indefinite name the personality of the living God is obscured. To attain his end, the tempter felt it necessary to change the living personal God into a merely general numen divinium, and to exaggerate the prohibition, in the hope of exciting in the woman's mind partly distrust of God Himself, and partly a doubt as to the truth of His word. And his words were listened to. Instead of turning away, the woman replied, "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." She was aware of the prohibition, therefore, and fully understood its meaning; but she added, "neither shall ye touch it," and proved by this very exaggeration that it appeared too stringent even to her, and therefore that her love and confidence towards God were already beginning to waver. Here was the beginning of her fall: "for doubt is the father of sin, and skepsis the mother of all transgression; and in this father and this mother, all our present knowledge has a common origin with sin" (Ziegler). From doubt, the tempter advances to a direct denial of the truth of the divine threat, and to a malicious suspicion of the divine love (Genesis 3:4, Genesis 3:5). "Ye will by no means die" (לא is placed before the infinitive absolute, as in Psalm 49:8 and Amos 9:8; for the meaning is not, "he will not die;" but, ye will positively not die). "But

(Note: כּי used to establish a denial.)

God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes will be opened,

(Note: ונפקחוּ perfect c. ו consec. See Gesenius, ֗126, Note 1.)

and ye will be like God, knowing good and evil." That is to say, it is not because the fruit of the tree will injure you that God has forbidden you to eat it, but from ill-will and envy, because He does not wish you to be like Himself. "A truly satanic double entendre, in which a certain agreement between truth and untruth is secured!" By eating the fruit, man did obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like God (Genesis 3:7 and Genesis 3:22). This was the truth which covered the falsehood "ye shall not die," and turned the whole statement into a lie, exhibiting its author as the father of lies, who abides not in the truth (John 8:44). For the knowledge of good and evil, which man obtains by going into evil, is as far removed from the true likeness of God, which he would have attained by avoiding it, as the imaginary liberty of a sinner, which leads into bondage to sin and ends in death, is from the true liberty of a life of fellowship with God.)

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