The First Temptation

The first thing we see in Genesis 3 is a talking serpent. Eve was not bothered by that, apparently, but there is no other dialogue in the garden that is recorded between man and beast. In fact, animals do not speak in the Bible except twice: here, where the serpent is controlled by Satan, and later, when Balaam’s donkey is given a message by God to speak to his owner who was acting like a donkey. So, what’s up with this talking snake? We know from Revelation 12 and 20 that Satan is called “that ancient serpent…the deceiver of the whole world.” Up until this point, Adam and Eve had only listened to God and talked to God and to each other. Now they listen to another voice and sin enters the human race as a result. Allen Ross writes, “On the archetypal level the story describes the process of temptation that occurs repeatedly in human experience. Here the story… (teaches) us not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). Accordingly, the people of God may learn to resist the Tempter.” (James 4:7) How was the first woman tempted? And remember, she was not under duress; she was speaking to a subordinate, a creature over whom God had given her and Adam dominion. Temptation comes this way…

Satan questioned, misquoted, and denied the word of God. It was the Word of God that created the heavens and the earth in chapter one. It was the Word of God that was given to the first man in chapter two, a direct command for man and woman to follow. Now it is the Word of God that is questioned, misquoted, and denied.

Satan is the first to misquote God’s Word. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” He uses exaggeration as a device of temptation. Wow! You can’t eat from any of the trees? Derek Kidner says Satan “smuggles in the assumption that God’s Word is subject to our judgment.” Perhaps Satan is also probing to see if the woman really knows God’s Word. She doesn’t. She minimizes it first and then exaggerates by adding to it.

The woman minimized God’s Word twice. First, she says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees.” God said that they may freely eat. She understated God’s permissiveness. She also minimized the consequences when she said, “lest we die.” God said if they ate from the tree of the understated God’s consequence for disobedience. Finally, she added to God’s Word when she said, “Neither shall you touch it.” She took away from and added to God’s Word, and as Kidner says, “She will have many successors.” Let’s not be included in their number.

Now the serpent flatly denies it in verse 4: “You will not surely die.” The construction of the Hebrew here is this. “NOT you shall surely die.” This is my word, Satan says in effect, and this is what I say. You will not die. In fact, I have really good news for you, which is bad news about God.

Next, Satan questions God’s motives. He says in effect, God knows that when you eat of that fruit, you will be like God. Your eyes will see things you cannot even imagine right now. You will understand good and evil. Hey, woman, this God of yours is holding out on you! It is still the same scheme, and it works just as well every day. Really, there was only one person upon whom Satan’s tactics did not work.

Remember, Satan tried the same thing with the last Adam in the wilderness as he showed all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time to Jesus and said, “I will give all of this to you, for it is mine, if you worship me.” Jesus answered what the woman and the first Adam should have answered the serpent: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” But let’s not beat up on Adam and Eve too much, because we would have done the same as they, and have done so many times. The enemy whispers in our hearts, “Hey, God wants you to be happy, and what makes you happy like taking every weekend and going to the beach or the mountains? You can do church when you are old.” Or to children he might whisper, “Hey, you know your parents don’t really understand you. They have never felt like you do, and they don’t need to know anyway if you just go ahead and…” I won’t tell you all the ways I filled in the blank when I was a teenager and young adult, but it got easier and easier to ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to my conscience and just give in to the other voice. That’s why Paul reminded us that we are NOT ignorant of Satan’s devices, and Peter urged us to “Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

He certainly found someone in the first family. Both the woman and her husband.

2 thoughts on “The First Temptation

  1. Yes! We do need to be aware of Satan’s deceptions today. Blessings!Ted

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