Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Was Satan's Sin in the Garden?

I've heard a lot of sermons on Satan's lie in the garden. Some say it's the "Did God really say?" line, but that's not really an untruth; some say it's the "you will not surely die" line, but in context that isn't an untruth either, not even the spiritual death Adam and Eve experienced; and some say it's the "you will be like God" line, but again in context, that's not untrue either.

This question has plagued me for a while, and because it plagues me, I will plague you with it too.

Let's recap the highlights of the story first:


Gen 2:16And the Lord God commanded the man, "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."


Gen 3:1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"


Gen 3:2The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

Gen 3:4"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

God says to eat of any tree except the tree of knowledge of good and evil (TKG&E), and Satan does not question if God said to eat of the TKG&E; he questions whether they could "eat of any tree". Remember; God said, "you are free to eat from any tree," except one.

Eve acknowledges God's restriction in her reply but adds something: "and you must not touch it". God did not give this command. He only forbade eating it. Was she given this command secondhand from Adam? God does give the command before he removes Adam's rib and forms the woman. Was this something Adam added? "Don't touch that tree in the middle of the garden, lest you die."

Now this is where Satan's craftiness come to light in the context of scripture. Eve says, "if we touch the fruit, we will die."

Satan answers "you will not surely die."

God never said they couldn't touch the fruit, just that they couldn't eat it, so of course Eve wouldn't die by touching it. Even if this statement was referring to eating the fruit, the command was given to Adam not Eve, their eyes were not "opened" until Adam ate, and when God begins the questioning, he turns to Adam first. "Did you eat the fruit?" Adam does not respond with "yes, but so did Eve," instead he responds with "the woman you gave me tricked me," which is what God curses her for. And the Bible says,

Rom 5:12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-

However, Adam's sin does affect her, since they are one flesh.

Here's the part that really bugs me:

Next Satan says, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

That part seems like a lie except for these verses:

Gen 3:7Then the eyes of both of them were opened,

Gen 3:22And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
Nobody ever talks about the fact that God corroborates Satan's statement. "Man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil." Before this moment, Adam and Eve had no idea what evil was, but equally important, they had no idea what good was either. How could they understand good having never experienced evil? God did know the difference, so when they experienced evil (rebellion against God), they did in fact become like Him at least in terms of knowing what good and evil were. It would have been better for us all had they not, but they did.

All that aside, this was again not a lie on Satan's part.

So, did Satan lie or was his sin in the garden simply causing others to disobey God; he did lead a third of heaven to do the same?

Jesus calls Satan the father of lies, so lying is definitely in his character. Every lie that is told comes from him. I just don't see it displayed in this story, which leads to a couple of important lessons:

If someone tells you something that is "technically" true, but it leads to sin against God, beware. Also if God tells you to do or don't do something, do not automatically assume that it applies to everyone else as well. What would have happened if Adam hadn't told Eve not to touch the tree in the middle of the garden? What would have happened if he hadn't assumed that since she ate it and nothing happened, he could too? And finally, if you lead someone else to sin, do not expect God to be lenient on you just because you didn't "necessarily" do the crime:

Luk 17:2It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

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