What exactly changed at the Fall is something that theologians have thought about for millennia. The Bible is not explicit in all areas. However, an examination of Genesis three is very revealing as to what happened at the fall and what Adam and Eve knew. Let’s dive into this and see what Scripture reveals.
Before digging into chapter three, we need to establish a few pieces of groundwork. In Genesis 1:31, we find that God called everything very good. Now we know from Mark 10:18 that only God is good. Therefore God defines what goodness is. Since we know that God is perfect, when He calls something good, He means good like He is, which is perfect. Thus in Genesis 1:31 we can discern God is saying His creation was perfect. Therefore there could not have been evil in the world when He made that proclamation.
Exactly when the events of Genesis 3 takes place is unclear. Since no children are recorded prior to the fall, it seems likely that it was fairly quickly after creation. We know from Genesis 2 that God had given the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to Adam before Eve was created. This is important because it means we do not know exactly how well Adam relayed the message. Regardless, the command was clear. If they ate from the tree, they would die, both physically eventually and spiritually immediately.
What is unclear from Genesis 2 is if Adam and, by extension, Eve, knew what evil was. It seems unlikely. They were both created before evil existed. Further, if they knew what evil was prior to eating from the tree, their reaction to being naked after eating the fruit makes no sense. In a sense, their actions in Genesis 3 removed their innocence. No longer could they walk around unclothed and feel no shame at not hiding their “uncomely parts” as the Bible calls them. They had not known evil before. Now, they knew what it was and it caused them great shame and fear. So, as Genesis 3:7 tells us, they made aprons of fig leaves. There is a lot of symbolism here, and in the clothes God makes them. However, the aprons they made were woefully inadequate. The Hebrew word used carries the idea of a belt that covered very little. This tends to be what happens when man determines what should be covered and what should not. Further, the fig leaves could only cover their bodies, they could not cover their sin. God, after confronting them with their deeds and pronouncing the judgment on them, provides the first blood sacrifice by killing animals and making coats of skins for them. The Hebrew word used for the coats carries the idea of a robe or tunic. They covered much more and came at a much greater price. That price, blood, pictured the price that always must be paid for sin: death, either of the sinner, or of an innocent substitute. This would be carried forward into the Mosaic law before culminating in Christ, the Lamb.
Also in Genesis 3, God places the curse on the world. A curse is placed on the serpent. Genesis 3:14 seems to indicate that snakes had legs prior to the fall and that they rapidly degenerated thereafter so they had to slide on their stomachs. AiG’s Troy Lacey argues this point in an excellent article on the AiG website and I’m inclined to agree with him. There is also a curse placed on Adam and Eve. For Adam, the curse is hard work, and that the ground will bring forth thorns and thistles. To Eve, God gives both the curse and a promise. Her curse is that childbearing will now be very painful. Any woman that has ever had kids I’m certain can attest to this aspect of the curse still being with us. Further, she will want to usurp the leadership of the marriage relationship, but her husband will dictate things to her. Both Adam and Eve are also promised eventual physical death to go with their spiritual death they already had experienced.
There is also a promise given, in the midst of the curse of the serpent. God promises that there will be enmity between women and snakes and, to this day, most women hate snakes. More importantly, though, God promises the “seed of the woman” who would crush the head of the serpent. This seed will not go around stepping on snakes. Here God is addressing the root issue: Satan. The promised seed will crush the head of Satan, while Satan bites His heel. This was fulfilled in Christ and His death on the cross, and Resurrection. Satan bruised the Savior, but the Savior crushed Satan’s head by coming out of the grave!
The last note we have in chapter three is God expelling the man and woman from the Garden. This is both a physical and symbolic punishment. They could not stay in the Garden, lest they become immortal by eating of the tree of life and stay alive in their sin forever. However, God Himself had formed Eden for them to inhabit and had walked in it Himself. It was special, perhaps even consecrated ground. Sin could not be permitted to remain there. Therefore Adam and Eve had to go. They also were no longer able to enjoy the presence of God in the same way they had before. No longer would God walk with them. His presence was limited in ways it had not been before.
Genesis three contains the narrative of the Fall, but there is so much more which can be gleaned from the chapter. This article is but a taste of the information that can be gleaned or inferred from Genesis 3. When God gave us His Word, He filled it with so much information and layer upon layer of depth that no theologian, no matter how learned, can ever delve to all its depth. Genesis 3 teaches us where sin came from, why we have death and gives us the first promise of a redeemer to come. It is a chapter we all should become more familiar with as we seek to follow Christ.
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