Genesis chapter 3

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What does Genesis chapter 3 mean?

After the triumph of the creation of the universe and all life, as described in Genesis 1—2, chapter 3 turns to the tragedy of paradise lost. As chapter 2 ends, the first humans, Adam and Eve, are naked and unashamed, blissfully free from any experience of evil. By the end of this chapter, they will be burdened. Rebellion will bring awareness of their own capacity for sin, and their separation from the God who created them.

Their fall begins with a talking serpent. Satan seems to have either taken possession of a serpent's body or assumed the form of a snake. He is described as the craftiest of all wild animals. This creature approaches Eve with the single purpose of convincing her to disobey God by eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Conversations recorded in the Bible often have the appearance of a summary, rather than a transcript. We don't know exactly how long it took the serpent to convince Eve. However, his masterful temptation is so effective that she seems to make her fatal choice in the space of one short conversation. First he casts doubt on what God actually did or did not command. Then, he draws the woman into thinking about the fairness of God's command. Then he flatly calls God a liar, questioning God's character and motives.

Eve buys it all. The forbidden tree is beautiful, the food looks good to eat, and she believes the lie that it will make her wise. Adam quickly joins her, and the pair are immediately crushed by their shame. This includes a sudden self-consciousness about their nudity. The "knowledge of good and evil" is achieved by the rejection of good and the embracing of evil.

So, though it is pointless to do so, Adam and Eve attempt to hide from God. God found them anyway. They confess their sin, but even then attempt to shift the blame. God confronts the serpent and Satan, delivering to him the first of the curses resulting from the fall. Serpents would crawl on their bellies forevermore, serving as a reminder of this moment. In addition, Satan's existence would be characterized by his war with humanity. He would win a painful victory—bruising Christ's heel—but would be crushed—by Christ—in the end.

The sentences pronounced for Eve, and then Adam, are heartbreaking in the way they continue to reflect our everyday human experiences. Women would suffer pain, both in bearing and birthing children and in ongoing conflict with her husband. Men would face pain and frustration in his work, struggling to make the cursed ground yield food until he finally died and returned to the ground himself.

Despite their disobedience and sin, God still provides for mankind. This begins with clothes made from the skin of an animal, the first sacrifice of life for a covering. But Adam and Eve cannot stay in the Garden of Eden. It is no longer for them. For one thing, God would not allow them to eat of the Tree of Life and gain physical immortality in their state of spiritual death and sin. To be trapped in a perpetual state of death and separation would be truly cruel.

God banishes mankind from the garden and assigns an angel to guard the way to the Tree of Life. With that, the painful story of fallen human history begins.
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