Genesis Chapter 3, the Fall of Man but Promise of Salvation, Part 4
by Karl Kemp
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We complete this verse-by-verse study of Genesis chapter 3 here in Part 4, starting with Gen. 3:22.
(22) Then the LORD [Yahweh] God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us [us] [[(I'll comment further on this verse under 3:24.) I agree with the widespread viewpoint that God was addressing His heavenly court/council (cf. Psalm 89:7), which would have included the cherubim ("the cherubim" are mentioned in Gen. 3:24). See under Gen. 1:26, on pages 33, 34 of my paper on Genesis Chapters 1-3 on my internet site. To be "like the sons of God" (the cherubim, seraphim, archangel(s), angels, etc.) includes (with some gigantic qualifications) being "like God." The angelic beings are called "sons of God" in Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7; they are called "sons of the mighty" in Psalm 29:1. Job 38:4-7 show that they were there when God "laid the foundation of the earth" and "laid its cornerstone" etc.
I believe in the Trinity, but I don't believe the Trinity is in view here. I have four papers/articles dealing with the Trinity on my internet site: "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son."]], knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever' - (23) therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. (24) So He drove the man out; and at the east [[In the margin the NIV has, "or, placed in front." The cherubim were apparently stationed at the entrance of the garden, which would have been on the east side of the garden. The tabernacle of Moses' day was entered from the east, as was the subsequent temple in Jerusalem.]] of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim [plural in Hebrew] and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." [[I don't believe that God intended the words of 3:22 ("Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil"), which He spoke to the cherubim and other heavenly beings in His presence, to reflect reality/truth. I believe, in agreement with many, that these words were sarcastic (irony). The words of 3:22 build on what Satan had told Eve in Gen. 3:5 ("For God knows that in the day you [plural] eat from it your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL [my emphasis].").
((I had a seven paragraph footnote here: I'll list several other examples from the Old Testament where God used mocking sarcasm: 1 Kings 18:27; 22:15-23; Isa. 1:10; 28:1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 18; Jer. 2:27, 28; Ezek. 13:1-16; and Joel 3:10, but I'm not suggesting that any of these examples is fully comparable with the sarcasm (irony) of Gen. 3:22.
I'll quote a few sentences from what G. Charles Aalders says under Gen. 3:22 ("Genesis," Vol. 1 [Zondervan, 1981], page 112). "The statement, 'the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil,' needs some careful consideration. Was the serpent right after all? Among some ancient scholars the statement was considered to be irony. A few more recent interpreters have also taken this position. ... ...it is difficult to conceive of God expressing agreement with the words of the serpent which were used to lead the woman into sin." Aalders doesn't fully accept the viewpoint that the statement was irony.
I'll include two excerpts from the section on Gen. 3:22-24 from the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture," Vol. 1, "Genesis 1-11" (Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), pages 100, 101. The first excerpt is from Ephrem the Syrian, who was born AD306. The editors put this excerpt under the heading "God Lampoons Adam." "God said, 'Behold, Adam has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.' ...the point is...that God was mocking Adam in that Adam had previously been told [Satan spoke to Eve, but what he said included Adam], 'You [plural] will become like God, knowing good and evil.' ...before they ate the fruit they had perceived in reality only good, and they heard about evil only by hearsay. After they ate, however, a change occurred so that now they would only hear about good by hearsay, whereas in reality they would taste only evil. For the glory with which they had been clothed passed away from them, while pain and disease that had been kept away from them now came to hold sway over them" ("Commentary on Genesis 2:34.1.2"; "Fathers of the Church" series, 91:122).
The second excerpt is from Chrysostom, who died AD407. The editors put this excerpt under the heading, "The Devil Lies in Promising that the Tree Gives Knowledge [It did give knowledge of evil.]." "... In fact the devil said, 'On the day when you eat of the fruit of the tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods [better, "God"], knowing good and evil.' How can you maintain, you ask me, that it did not provide him with the knowledge of good and evil? Who said, in fact, that it provided him with this knowledge? The devil, you will answer. So do you put forward the testimony of the enemy and the conspirator? ... For the devil is a liar.... ..." ("Homilies on Genesis 7"; PG 54:610).
I'll quote part of what Chrysostom says regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from a different book ("Homilies on Genesis 1-17"; Homily 17, paragraphs 18, 19 [Catholic University of America Press, 1986], page 220). "...called it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...because after eating it they were divested of the glory from above and also had experience of their obvious nakedness. ... Consider...how much shame they were eventually seized with after eating it and thus breaking the Lord's command: 'They stitched fig leaves together, and made themselves skirts.' See the depths of indignity into which they fell from a condition of such great glory. Those who previously passed their life like angels on earth contrive covering for themselves out of fig leaves. Such is the evil that sin is: not only does it deprive us of grace from above, but it also casts us into deep shame and abjection, strips us of goods already belonging to us, and deprives us of all confidence."
I'll quote a paragraph from what John Calvin says under Gen. 3:22 ("Genesis" [Crossway Books, 2001], page 51). Under the words, "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us,' " Calvin said, "This was an ironical reproof by which God not only pricked the heart of man but pierced it through and through. He [God] did not, however, cruelly triumph over the miserable and afflicted but, according to the necessity of the disease, applied a more drastic remedy. For though Adam was confounded and astonished at his calamity, yet he did not so deeply reflect on its cause as to become weary of his pride, that he might learn to embrace true humility. We may add that God inveighed by this irony not more against Adam himself than against his posterity, for the purpose of commending poverty of spirit to all ages."
And, lastly, I'll quote part of what B. Vawter says under Gen. 3:22 ("New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture" [Thomas Nelson, 1981 reprint], page 180). "This is usually translated 'Man has become like one of us,' i.e., like one of the heavenly court or, simply (cf. 1:26), like God. In this case, the statement is taken as one of irony, echoing the lying promise of the tempter. The chief difficulty for this interpretation (which is at least as old as Ambrose) is that the text gives no indication that any part of it is to be read ironically. ...." This interpretation (seeing sarcasm, irony) doesn't come from any special indication in 3:22, but from all that Genesis chapters 2 and 3 have to say about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the temptation and fall of man. (This is the end of the seven-paragraph footnote.) ))
The devil had told Eve that she (and Adam [The verb, "YOU WILL BE like God, knowing good and evil" in Gen. 3:5 is plural in the Hebrew.]) would become "like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). What a perverse lie! What he said was a million miles from the truth, and (as we discussed in some detail) Eve had no excuse to believe the devil, especially when it required her to agree that God was a liar, a withholder, etc. For Eve (and Adam) to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would not make them like God. Instead of becoming more like God, they became more like the devil. Adam and Eve had been created in the image of God, and they were already like Him in many ways before the fall. Eating of the forbidden fruit brought only the knowledge of evil. (I'll quote a sentence from what Merrill F. Unger says under Gen. 3:22 ("Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament", Vol. 1 [Moody Press, 1981], page 20), "But man, created with only the knowledge of good, acquired the experiential knowledge of evil through pride and disobedience, and in this manner fell into a state of sin and misery.") They now knew sin/evil by having sinned, and by having come to know experientially at least some of the penalty for sin. (Neither God nor His heavenly court [I'm speaking of the cherubim, angels, etc. who remained faithful to God] had sinned or come to experience the penalty/consequences of sinning.) After the fall the Bible still speaks of man as being made in the image of God (e.g., Gen. 9:6; James 3:9), but it's clear that that image has been defaced.
There was no magic fruit from a literal tree of life that would enable Adam and Eve to cancel the fact that they had lost their life-flowing relationship with God and that the physical death process had now begun to work in them. It was impossible for Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of LIFE after they had died spiritually through partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL, which can also be called the tree of DEATH. The tree of life was a symbol for participation in the life and blessings of God that were available to Adam and Eve before they (in rebellion against God) ate of the tree of death (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), which only brought death, spiritual death and physical death, it brought only the knowledge of evil. As born-again Christians, we participate in the life of God, but only in a preliminary, partial sense; after we are glorified, however, we will participate in the life of God in a much fuller sense than what Adam and Eve had before the fall (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:45-57). What a salvation plan! What a Savior! What a salvation!
I'll say more about the tree of life, and what it meant/means to eat the fruit of that tree, and a little bit more about the tree of death, in a follow-up article that deals with Gen. 2:9, which I'll quote from the NIV: "And the LORD God made all kind of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
WHEN ADAM AND EVE WERE DRIVEN OUT OF THE GARDEN, THEY WERE, FOR ONE THING, BEING DRIVEN FROM THE PRESENCE OF GOD, WHO IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF LIFE, AND THE WAY INTO HIS PRESENCE WAS CLOSED AND GUARDED. To say the same thing using symbolic language, the "way to the tree of life" was closed and guarded. One of the primary functions of the "cherubim" ("cherubim" is the Hebrew plural of the singular noun "cherub") was/is to guard the way into the presence of God (not that God needs to be protected). I suppose that's the primary reason the cherubim/living creatures have a large number of eyes - you don't sneak up on them (cf. Ezek. 1:18; 10:12; and Rev. 4:6).
The time came, and it could have been right after Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden of Eden, that the garden ceased to exist in the physical dimension on the earth. It certainly has not existed for a long time in the physical dimension. However, God still exists, as do the cherubim, and wherever He is (heaven), the cherubim guard the way into His presence. Christians are enabled to dwell in the presence of God in a very real way, and His life is in us by His Spirit who was poured out starting on the day of Pentecost, because of the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God, but most of the glory is reserved for the (near) future.]]
Excerpts from Henri Blocher; the First Excerpt Deals Mostly with the Fact that the Serpent of Genesis Chapter 3 Was Satan ("In the Beginning," translated by David G. Preston [Inter-Varsity Press, 1984]):
I quoted some five paragraphs from Blocher in the original paper, dealing with the fact that the serpent was Satan (from his pages 150-152; 179, 180). Here I'll just mention that he makes the point that Gen. 3:15 pictures Satan's defeat "after many generations of the human race" and that the book of Revelation shows clearly that the serpent of Genesis chapter 3 was Satan.
The following excerpt from Blocher and my comments and quotations from others that are included in brackets deal, for the most part, with THE MOST PROBABLE SPECIFIC FORBIDDEN FRUIT (BAIT) THE DEVIL USED TO ENTICE EVE AND ADAM:
"...the snake of the Garden of Eden stands for the attraction of pagan religion and its magic spells. It was the emblem of fertility rites and of cults involving prostitution. It was the animal of divination. ... There is nothing arbitrary about seeing in the snake, in Genesis, the representation of the lying spirit which empowers paganism. This we believe to have been the thought of the writer. [[I'm more interested in the thought of the One behind the writer of Genesis and the One behind the writer of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation came mostly by direct revelation (there was little room for input by the apostle John); I assume that the first three chapters of Genesis came mostly (if not entirely) by direct revelation also. ((I had a footnote: Blocher doesn't deny God's immediate revelation in Genesis chapters 1-3, but I'm not satisfied with what he says on page 159, "If we recognize that the first event of history is reached by means of mental reconstruction [He has a footnote here, "Dubarle, p. 190n., quotes Renckens, K. Rahner and L. Alonso-Schokel as sharing this opinion. We admit that it is probable, without excluding a more immediate form of revelation."], intuitive and imaginative at first and then taken up by the theologian, we by no means admit thereby that its historicity is unimportant for the writer. It is precisely because the historical cause is so important to him that he reconstructs what occurred.")) As his next paragraph shows (which I am not quoting), Blocher isn't denying the existence of the literal devil here in Genesis chapter 3.
The primary reason I wanted to quote the paragraph I just quoted from Blocher was to make the point that I believe the most likely forbidden fruit (bait) that Satan used to tempt Eve and Adam was the desire for mysterious, exciting, occult knowledge and powers and the attendant baggage that comes along with satanic inspired "religion." It may look good for a while, but no true/real/ultimate good ever comes from Satanic, demonic knowledge and powers.
I'll quote what Merrill Unger says under Gen. 3:5 ("Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 1 [Moody Bible Institute, 1981], page 16). "What could be wrong in acquiring knowledge? Nothing, if it were acquired in the will of God and according to His word. But the knowledge the tempter offered Eve was contrary to both. Eve was tricked into a false or occult knowledge of the evil world of supernaturalism that would bring with it sorrow and misery (1 Tim. 2:14)."
I'll quote a few sentences from what Allen P. Ross says under Gen. 3:7 ("Creation and Blessing" [Baker, 1996, 1998], page 137). "They knew more [after they ate the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil], but that additional knowledge was evil. ... The message to Israel, and to all God's people, should now be clear: A thorough knowledge of the Word of God and an unwavering trust in the goodness of God are absolutely essential for spiritual victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. The appeal by the Tempter to humankind's desire to know, under the guise of spiritual development, is thereby set aside. In practical terms, this lesson would mean for Israel that the subtle claims of the pagans to achieve divinity and superior knowledge through their corrupt [from the devil; demonic] practices were false. The people of God were to avoid the satanic appeal to an elevated life and superior knowledge [the devil promises these things] if that appeal also required transgressing God's barriers [and God's people are clearly forbidden to fellowship with the devil or to look to him (or anyone but God) for "help"]."
And I'll quote two paragraphs from what Victor P. Hamilton says under Gen. 3:5 ("The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17" [Eerdmans, 1990], page 190). "Should she decide to proceed and implement the serpent's suggestion she will begin her heavenward climb. Von Rad is quite correct when he says that 'the serpent's insinuation is the possibility of an extension of human existence beyond the limits set for it by God at creation, an increase of life not only in the sense of pure intellectual enrichment but also familiarity with and power over, mysteries that lie beyond man.' " ("Genesis" [Westminster Press, 1972], page 89.)
Deification is a fantasy difficult to repress and a temptation hard to reject. In the woman's case she need give in to both only [This is a very big "only."] by shifting her commitment from doing God's will to doing her own will. Whenever one makes his own will crucial and God's revealed will irrelevant, whenever autonomy displaces submission and obedience in a person, that finite individual attempts to rise above the limitations imposed on him by his creator." Now I'll finish the excerpt from Blocher.]]
... In the light of later revelation, what name are we to give to that spirit which constantly opposed the LORD and sought to turn Israel [and not just Israel] away from him, unless it is the devil and Satan? ..." (pages 153, 154).
Now I'll quote a relatively small part of what Blocher says under the heading "The historicity of the material" (pages 154-170). I'll skip this section in the internet version of this paper. One major point that Blocher made here is that our goal must be to interpret Genesis chapters 1-3 the way God intended. For one thing, we aren't supposed to alter God's intended interpretation to build a better defense against heretics. Blocher insists (and rightly so) that Adam and Eve were real persons and that their fall was a historical event and that without this truth the message of the gospel would be jeopardized.
May the will of God be fully accomplished and His people be edified through this four-part article. In Jesus' name!
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