And 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” (Genesis 2:16-17).
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it (Genesis 3:6).
The Bible provides very little detail about the lives of Adam and Eve, especially where it concerns the event we call “The Fall of Man”. For example there is no reference that let’s us see how soon after their creation it took place, or what sort of life they may have had together previously. And we don’t know why Eve felt comfortable in a conversation with a serpent, or even what the serpent might have looked like. The Hebrew word translated serpent in Genesis 3:1 comes from a root that means enchanter, one who practices divination. This is an ability, not a physical description, and while Genesis 3:1 implies the serpent was part of the animal kingdom, we don’t normally think of animals as having abilities like that.
Most people assume Satan had indwelt the serpent and was manipulating it, but the way God pronounced a curse upon it tells us the serpent was not just an innocent victim of circumstances, but was a culpable participant. It’s also interesting that the prophecy of Satan’s ultimate defeat by the “seed of the woman” (a Messianic reference) was contained within the curse God pronounced upon the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
There were all kinds of trees in the garden that were pleasing to the eye and good for eating, but Genesis 2:9 makes specific reference to two of them, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before Eve was created, God warned Adam against eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Since Eve explained this rule to the serpent (Genesis 3:2) she had been told as well.
Somehow the fruit of the tree of life sustained their immortality while eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil made them mortal, subject to death, and that’s why it was forbidden. Man was not created to be merely a mortal, but to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, after eating the forbidden fruit, to prevent their access to the tree of life. In their fallen state they were not allowed to regain their immortality. When God stationed cherubim at the entrance to guard the way to the tree of life, He was saying their banishment was not permanent (Genesis 3:22-24). The way back is being protected so that one day man can become immortal again.
There is a thought, both in Hebrew tradition and among early Christians, that the Garden was in a different dimension and that those who died believing in a coming redeemer went there to await Him. Some say this is the paradise Jesus spoke of from the cross (Luke 23:43). (Paradise is a word of Persian origin that means garden). That would mean the believing dead entered the garden by means of a dimensional gate protected by cherubim, to eat from the tree of life and regain their immortality.
Whether that’s true or not, I think you’ll agree that there was much more going on here than we’re able to understand from the Biblical account. Because of that most people are content to take the Genesis narrative at face value and don’t give it too much thought. But when someone recently asked me what would have happened if Adam had refused the apple, the comments I received about my answer caused me to think a more comprehensive treatment of the question is in order.
Could You Repeat The Question?
Just to put us all on the same page, here’s the question I received and the answer I posted.
Q. What would have happened if Eve had eaten of the apple in the Garden but Adam had refused?
A. In 1 Tim. 2:14 Paul said Adam was not deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. The Bible doesn’t come right out and say this, but here’s what I think. Had Adam refused the “apple”, which he could have chosen to do, Eve would have been eternally lost because there would have been no human race from which the redeemer could come to save her.
Adam loved her so much that he chose to join her in her fallen state so they could both be redeemed rather than to spend eternity without her. In that narrow sense Adam became a type of Jesus in that he gave his life for his bride so she could live forever with him. In Romans 5:14 Paul said Adam was a pattern of the one to come.
Now, I’ll respond to other questions and comments I received to give us a more complete view of what was going on than the Q and A format permits. One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is why did God create Adam and Eve in the first place, if He knew what would happen?
Of course, the Bible offers no answer to this, and when I’ve been asked in the past, I’ve usually ducked behind Paul’s “potter and pot” analogy. He wrote, “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” (Romans 9:20).
But in my studies, I’ve come across several opinions and the one I like best came from Hal Lindsey. He speculates that at his judgment Satan hurled 2 accusations at God: “You’re not just and You have no love.”
(I can’t help reminding us that just about every child has hurled these accusations at his or her earthly father, although with less maturity. In an emotional reaction to the pronouncement of some punishment or discipline they cry, “That’s not fair! You don’t love me!”)
In response to these accusations God did four things. The first two demonstrate perfect justice and the last two show His perfect love.
1. He created man, a being vastly inferior to the angels but sharing with them the properties of intellect, agency (power of choice) and eternal life, and gave him dominion over Planet Earth.
2. He gave man a set of rules to live by, and ordained that obedience to them was a requirement for life. Any violations (sins), even those committed only in the mind, would be punishable by death. There were no loop holes, and no one would escape judgment. Perfect justice.
3. He sent His Son to live a life in total compliance to these rules, the only man ever to do so, granting Him the right to govern the universe and receive all its worth as His inheritance in return.
4. He gave His Son’s life to purchase a pardon for all whose sins would require judgment, decreeing that by accepting His death as payment for their sins they would also receive eternal life and share in this inheritance as His adopted children. Perfect love.
Like other opinions, you can’t find chapter and verse to support this, but of all the ones I’ve seen this makes the most sense from a Biblical perspective. Man was created to demonstrate God’s ability to be both a just God and a loving God. I believe this is what Paul had in mind when he said,
“His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Ephes. 3:10-11).
Q. In your answer, you said “Had Adam refused the “apple”, which he could have chosen to do, Eve would have been eternally lost because there would have been no human race from which the redeemer could come to save her”.
Why was it necessary for Adam to sin? I mean, if Adam didn’t sin, how is it that “there would have been no human race”?
A. Adam and Eve were created in the likeness of God, but according to Genesis 5:3 their children were of Adam’s likeness and image. This tells us that after the fall Adam and Eve developed a new likeness, that of mortal man. Had Adam refused the “apple” he would have retained his immortality. He and Eve would have been of a different “likeness”. Had they been able to have children, the children would have been the product of cross breeding. There would have been no pure human race.
From Genesis 6 we learn that one of Satan’s early attempts to prevent a redeemer was to contaminate the human gene pool by having fallen angels assume human form and take human wives. This resulted in the Nephilim and by Noah’s time he and his family could have been the only ones who were both righteous in God’s sight and of pure human stock. (The Hebrew text of Genesis 6:9 indicates Noah was perfect in his generations, meaning his genealogy was without blemish, unimpaired.) That’s why only they were preserved through the flood.
From this we see that the coming redeemer had to be of pure human stock, someone an immortal Adam and a fallen Eve could not have produced.
Q. Since Adam who was “with her” (Genesis 3:6) while she ate, and then gave to him “and he did eat”, why did he not stop her from listening to the Serpent (let alone follow her in eating of the forbidden fruit) if he loved her so much?
A. First, let me thank you for pointing out that Adam was there with Eve during her temptation. Some have taught that the reason Eve sinned was that she was alone and not under her husband’s “covering” at the time. This teaching is refuted by Genesis 3:6.
Now to your question. We don’t know why Adam reacted the way he did. But in Romans 5:14 Paul said Adam was “a pattern of the one to come”. This is a reference to the Lord. He didn’t come into the world to prevent us from sinning by depriving us of our right to choose for ourselves, but to save us from the penalty of the sins we commit by making the wrong choices. He did this by becoming like us. Adam’s behavior was consistent with the Lord’s, in that he became like Eve so she could be saved from the penalty of her sin. This is what makes him a pattern.
Q. In your scenario, Adam would have to have had foreknowledge of God’s plan of redemption. As a logical consequence of such foreknowledge, Adam would have to know that a fall from innocence was forthcoming. It also seems reasonable to conclude that Adam would share this information with Eve, yet the Bible states that Eve was deceived. What are your thoughts on this? Couldn’t God (all knowing and all powerful) have devised an alternate plan of redemption for the “Eve only” scenario?
A. Although events recorded in the Old Testament actually happened, they often unfolded in such a way that the Israelites were unknowingly acting out prophecies of the coming Redeemer. The manna in the wilderness (compare Exodus 16 with John 6:30-35) and the bronze serpent (compare Numbers 21:4-9 with John 3:14-15) are but two of many examples. They tell us Adam could have been a pattern of the Redeemer as Paul said in Romans 5:14 without knowing it. He could have simply been doing what he thought he had to do to avoid losing the woman he had grown to love.
Could God have devised other ways to meet the pressing needs of His people that didn’t involve having them act out prophecy? Of course. But one of the reasons we have the Old Testament is so we can learn more about His plan of redemption by seeing how He interacts with Israel. Paul said everything that was written in the past was written to teach us (Romans 15:4). He also said the things that happened to Israel were examples and were written down as warnings to us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11). That’s why the Old Testament has been so accurately and carefully preserved.
And remember, God is teaching His creation that He’s absolutely just and absolutely loving. Starting over with Adam in some alternate plan of redemption would have left Eve twisting in the wind, the only human in history with no possibility of being saved. God could not overlook her sin, and she would have had no kinsman to redeem her. That would neither be just nor loving.
In addition, Peter said the Lord was chosen before the creation of the world to be our Redeemer (1Peter 1:20). That means God had already developed His plan for the Age of Man before He said “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:3. What God has determined is not subject to change. Aren’t you glad of that?
So then, seeing Adam as a pattern of the Redeemer has helped me better understand the events of Genesis 3. But I wish the Lord had chosen to tell us more about the life and times of our first parents. I guess I’ll have to learn about that directly from them.