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By the ‘Fall’ we refer to Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. But the incident was not just about a simple matter of disobedience. It is good for us to understand what all transpired there, because we are all suffering now from the consequences of that Fall.
When God created Adam and Eve, physically they were already at the stage of a full grown man and woman. However, they were innocent like babies because they had not done anything wrong (in fact, not yet tested). At the same time they could not be considered righteous too, because the term ‘righteous’ refers properly to those who have been tempted to do wrong but have chosen to do right. Adam and Eve had not yet been tempted, and they were actually innocent.
At this time they had perfect communion or fellowship with God. They felt totally accepted and loved by Him, and they could walk in His presence freely, enjoy His company and sense that He too enjoyed being with them. They also had a carefree life because they felt no lack and their work in the garden posed no challenges to them, as everything worked smoothly.
They had perfect fellowship with each other too. Though they were naked, they felt no embarrassment. They rejoiced in each other’s presence with total trust and confidence.
God wanted man to love Him by choice. Such a love could only be seen when man chose Him even in the presence of other alternatives. This was the reason why God provided a test for Adam and Eve. He placed two special trees in the middle of the garden called the ‘tree of life’ and the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ (Gen.2:16,17). Then He told them that they could freely take and eat from any tree in the garden except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they chose to disobey Him and ate from that tree, the result would be immediate death.
Satan was furious against God for throwing him out of heaven when he had tried to exalt himself, along with a third of the other angels, and now he turned all that anger against the man and woman God had newly created. He adopted the form of a serpent in the garden and came to Eve, asking her if God had forbidden them entirely from eating from the trees of the garden (Gen3:1).
This was meant to get her into a conversation and also to bring in a sense of incredulity towards God. Eve clarified that the restriction only applied to one particular tree in the middle of the garden (v.2,3). When we notice that she did not call the tree by its name — the tree of knowledge of good and evil — we can guess that she had not paid much attention to the significance of that fruit nor understood why it was prohibited. Probably she had not thought about such things. We can identify with her in that we also do many things without thinking much about the implications of God’s instructions and prohibitions.
Let us also notice how she also mentioned that they were not even to touch the fruit, which God had not told them (Gen.2:17)! Her imagination was running only around the things which were not to be done, rather than on their spiritual meanings. This is another common mistake we make, when we focus too much on the external things such as rituals, practices, arrangements, etc., all the while missing what God is trying to teach us through them all.
Eve also mentioned that if they ate from that tree they would die. At this time Satan stepped in with forceful statements. First, he said that they would not die (Gen.3:4). Sad to say, Eve didn’t recognise at this point that Satan was directly contradicting God, and that he was suggesting that she should ignore what God had said and accept what he was telling her now. But, of course, Eve didn’t realise this was what was going on. Now, in order to substantiate what he had told her, Satan explained to her that God had ulterior motives in giving them such instructions. According to Satan, God didn’t want them to become wise and know for themselves what was right and wrong. If they gained that knowledge, they would be like God Himself (v.5)! Therefore, God was trying to keep them ignorant and ‘under His thumb’! Do we remember this kind of thoughts that have come to us when we imagined God was a spoilsport for giving us so many don’ts, or that God was very arbitrary or unreasonable in His will for us?
Now the Bible explains what Eve thought in her mind when these ideas came to her. The whole proposal from Satan looked attractive to her. The fruit itself looked appealing from its appearance and the promise of a delicious taste. But more than that, it seems, she was pulled in by the thought that she and her husband could become wise like God (v.6). She ate that fruit, and gave it to Adam too.
What Happened When They Fell?
It is obvious that Adam and Eve had directly disobeyed God and done what He told them not to do. The consequence was that they ‘died’ just as God had warned them. ‘Death’ entered their bodies and they began to degenerate from this time onwards, and they died fully only more than 900 years later. This is how sickness came. But God had told them that the day they ate, they would die (Gen.2:17). This was the spiritual death that took place immediately. Their spirits became ‘dead in sin’ (Eph.2:1), and separated from fellowship with God (Col.1:21). This death is what God is concerned most about, while we people are more concerned about our physical death!
Adam and Eve discovered immediately that this knowledge of good and evil which had looked very attractive earlier had not done them any real good. It didn’t make them like God! On the contrary, Satan had deceived them entirely. Now they were afraid of God. They felt their guilt at disobeying God, and felt ashamed of themselves for failing Him and themselves. They immediately became aware that their innocence was gone, and felt shame because of their nakedness in front of the other. They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves.
This knowledge of good and evil, which they thought would make them like God, turned out to separate them from God. They now had knowledge independent of God, which made them feel they could manage without God. Earlier, before the Fall, they were dependent on God to know what to do. But now they had a sense of their own ability to manage their lives. Actually, their knowledge was not perfect, but very much distorted! And also, even when they knew what the right thing to do was, without God they didn’t have the moral strength to do it. This was one of the most crucial consequences of the Fall. Satan camouflaged it by promising them independence as if it was a great thing to be desired.
This is the nature which we have all inherited from Adam and Eve. Our sin, in essence, is that we have lived our independent lives apart from God, doing ‘our own thing’. If we think we haven’t done any of the grosser forms of sins which some others have done, that doesn’t really make us any better than them, because we all have sinned in its essential form of living self-centred lives, irrespective of what God wanted us to do and what He thought about it. It is really true that we have all sinned and come short of the life which God wanted us to have (Rom.3:23). It is this gap that Jesus has come to bridge (Matt.1:21), to take us back to the life where we live with God, dependent on Him and doing His will.
God Confronts Them
God knew what had happened, but He wanted to question them to see if they would at least humble themselves and acknowledge the truth. When He called out to Adam, he was hiding, which prompted God to ask him if he had eaten the forbidden fruit (Gen.3:8-10). At this point Adam manifested the drastic change that had happened to his great love for his wife Eve. He said that it was her fault that she gave him the fruit to eat. Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent (vv.11-13). What would have happened if they had humbled themselves? God would have forgiven them and dealt with them differently. But because they would not own up to their sin, they faced judgment from God, and they were driven away from God. We are now living under the consequences of that judgment.
God gave the judgment separately for Adam, Eve and Satan. For men it was going to be hard work to make a living on the earth. They would have to, so to speak, work by the sweat of their brows, against the odds, in order to bring results (Gen.3:17-19). Finally, man would have to return to the dust from which he was created, meaning that he was going to die physically too. For women, the judgment was to be in two directions. Their childbirth was going to be painful for them. Secondly, “Your desire would be for your husband, but he was going to rule over you” (v.16). The implication that Hebrew scholars bring out from this passage is that wives would try to ‘control’ their husbands while the husbands would try to ‘dominate’ them. God told Satan that there would be war between him and human beings, and while he would be able to hurt the people, ‘the seed of the woman’ (referring to Jesus) would defeat him totally (v.15).
In addition, God cursed the ‘ground’ so that man would now have to struggle against it in order to be able to bring out the harvest (vv.17,18). Even though it mentions only the ‘ground’ specifically, it probably includes all the rest of creation as we see in Romans 8:20. Adam and Eve experienced instant spiritual death when they sinned, but now they began to experience the degeneration in their bodies that would finally lead to physical death too. Sickness of the body and natural calamities began to occur. Animals began to attack and devour one another.
In summary, what we find here is the result of sin in its spiritual, physical and psychological dimensions. Adam and Eve were created innocent, but they became sinful as a result of their choice. All of us who are their descendants inherit the fallen nature by birth, which is corrupted in all these dimensions as well. We are born dead towards God in our spirit, and in our body we begin life with degeneration setting in quickly. We are born in sin (Psa.51:5), and we sin because we are sinners. In the psychological area, we are given to foolish thinking, negative feelings and wrong choices.
Many people try to say that people are inherently good, and it is the circumstances that make them do bad things. It is clear that circumstances of our life contribute a lot to what we become and how we behave (e.g., the training we receive as children shapes our lives). But it is also true that we are born with a sinful nature. We have to only observe young children to see this is true; they start telling lies and fighting early in life even without any example or training!
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