The Fall

We might well ask ourselves the question: What has caused the disruption to this wonderful design of God for both the man and the woman, for we certainly do not see it functioning in the world we live in today. The answer is: An event called the Fall. We find the account of the Fall in Genesis 3. It is a very sad story indeed. You see, when God created the man, He placed him in a Garden, as we can read in Genesis 2:15-17

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 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”.

Now this Tree has already been mentioned before, in Genesis 2:8-9

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the East, in Eden, and there He put the man He had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds 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.

From this passage we know that this Tree was in the middle of the Garden together with the Tree of Life. And that all the trees, including the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, were “pleasing to the eye and good for food”. However, God had designed this one Tree for Himself. They were not to eat its fruit. This was the only Tree they were forbidden to eat from. They could eat from any other Tree, including the Tree of Life. Therefore, God, who had given both the man and the woman a free will, was testing their obedience to Him.

Please remember that, when God told the man that he was not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the woman had not yet been formed. Therefore, we can only assume that the woman had not received this command from God directly, but via the man at a later stage. We simply do not know this for a fact for the text does not give us this information. However, she does seem to be aware of this command as we will see in a moment.

Let’s now turn to Genesis 3 verse 1

Now 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?”

Isn’t that interesting? Something evil had appeared on the scene, no doubt allowed by God, to test the man and the woman. We are not told how this evil being, using the serpent, came to be there. We just know he was there. Scripture at other places gives us more insights into this evil being (for instance. Isaiah 14:12-15) but we will not cover that subject at this moment. Suffice to say that he was present. And this serpent spoke to the woman. Many people have wondered why he spoke to the woman and not to the man. And they have come up with some interesting suggestions, including the suggestion that the woman was approached because she was the weaker vessel and therefore could more easily be tempted. The answer is: “We don’t know, for Scripture does not mention as to why he approached the woman first.”

By his words: “Did God really say?” the serpent was trying to put doubt into the mind of the woman. Very devious indeed. The woman, in her innocence, would not have recognised the evil hidden in these words. So far she had only encountered good both through God and through the man. She was obviously not prepared for such an evil being to cross her path. Because of her previous experiences, which had only been good, she would have expected anyone else to be of a similar nature. She did not for a moment consider this serpent to be a danger to her. There was no inclination in her to doubt his sincerity towards her in any way. So far she had always trusted those around her because they would have had only good intentions and she expected the serpent to have good intentions as well. Nothing in her expected this serpent to have evil designs towards her and the man. Moreover, the serpent would have looked beautiful for God had created every thing good, including this creature. It was only later on that the serpent was told by God that he would crawl on his belly and would eat dust all the days of his life. However, this had not yet happened when the woman first encountered him.The woman’s answer can be found in Genesis 3:2-3

“We may eat from the Trees in the Garden, but God did say, “You must not eat from the Tree that is in the middle of the Garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.”

Was the woman’s answer correct? Yes and no. She got it right that they were not to eat from the Tree in the middle of the Garden, but then she added some things to it, which God had not said. Do we know why she did this? No, and though it may be tempting for us to speculate, we must not do so for we will very likely be wrong. The truth is that God has not given us that information in His Word and we shall leave it at that.

The serpent‘s response to the woman‘s words can be found in Genesis 3:4-5, where he says:

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

This statement contradicts what God had said but these words did make the woman look at the Tree, which indeed must have looked good for food, and pleasing to the eye, as all the trees did. We can read this in Genesis 3:6

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.

Please remember that the woman, while only looking, was still in a state of innocence, without sin, for God had not forbidden them to look at the tree, or even to touch it; they only were not allowed to eat from it. It was after she had eaten from it that things changed. Not only for her, but also for the man who, incidentally, was with her. In fact, very likely he had been with her throughout the conversation she had had with the serpent, and he ate of the fruit as well.

Many theologians throughout Church History have taught that the woman was the main cause of the Fall by persuading her husband to eat of the fruit.

However, Scripture does not say this. We can be certain that the man ate of the fruit because he too desired to eat it, in disobedience to God’s command, with devastating results for both of them, as we can read in Genesis 3:7

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked….

Though physical death did not take place as yet, it did eventually happen, but what happened immediately was spiritual death, spiritual separation from God. The man and the woman, who had never been afraid of God before, were now afraid and hid from Him when He came to see them. We can read this in Genesis 3:8

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the Garden.

The Consequences For The Man And The Woman

Did God know what had happened? Of course He did, and yet He came to see the man and the woman. One of the reasons was the fact that He needed to confront them with the consequences of their actions. When God confronted the man with his sinful actions, the man’s initial response was to blame the woman whom God had given him, as we can read in Genesis 3:12

The man said, “The woman You (God) put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the Tree and I ate it.”

This line of thinking seems to have been taken on by many of the Theologians of the past as we can see from the following examples:

The Roman Catholic Church Father St Irenaeus of Lyon, who lived in the 2nd Century has said:

“It was the woman who cost the man his salvation….”

The Roman Catholic Church Father, Tertullian, who lived from 155 A.D. to 245 A.D. has said:

“You (woman) are she who persuaded him (Adam) whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You woman are the devil’s gateway…”

St. John Chrysostom who lived from 344 A.D. to 407 A.D. has said:

“He transgressed not captivated by appetite but by the persuasion of his wife.”

The Protestant Reformer John Calvin who lived from 1509 A.D. to 1564 A.D. has said:

“Being drawn by her into fatal ambition, he became partaker of the same defection with her….”

However, God never blamed the woman for the man’s sinful action, but made the man responsible for his own sinful action, as we can read in Genesis 3:17-19

To Adam He (God) said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the Tree about which I commanded you,You must not eat of it, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The consequences for the woman’s sinful action are recorded in Genesis 3:16

I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing. With pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.

The sentencesI will greatly increase your pains in childbearing, with pain you will give birth to children” have caused much unnecessary suffering for women throughout the centuries, for many theologians have understood these sentences to mean that it was God’s will for women to suffer in childbirth. As a consequence, women were not allowed to have any form of medication to relieve their suffering during childbirth. The words of the Protestant Reformer John Calvin are an example:

“When a woman considering to what she has been called, submits to the condition, which God has assigned to her and does not refuse the pains, or anxiety about her offspring, or anything else that belongs to her duty, God values this obedience more highly than if in some other manner, she made a great display of heroic virtues, while refusing to obey the calling of God.”

Some theologians have interpreted the sentence “Your desire will be for your husband” to be a sexual desire. The words of the Roman Catholic Church Father, Augustine, are an example of this interpretation:

“What is the difference whether it is a wife or a mother; it is still Eve, the temptress that we must be aware of in any woman.”  

However, Jesus does not make a woman responsible for a man’s temptation but makes each man personally responsible for any temptation he might feel towards a woman, as we can read in Matthew 5:28

”But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

It is very sad that Augustine did not remember this verse when he wrote the comment we have just looked at. If he had remembered Jesus’ words I believe his comment would have been very different.

Others have interpreted the sentence Your desire will be for your husband as the woman’s desire to usurp the man’s authority over her. An example is Wayne Grudem who has said:

“The word “desire” would indicate a desire on Eve’s part to rebel against Adam’s authority.”          We have already learned that the man had not been given authority over the woman but that he, together with the woman, had been given authority over creation. Therefore, the woman could not have“rebelled against Adam’s authority.” His interpretation is, therefore, not correct.

The sentence “and he will rule over you” has often been interpreted as God’s command for the woman to be ruled by the man as a further form of punishment. One example is the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, who had this to say:

“God assigned two reasons why women are to be subject to men. For not only did God enact it at the beginning, but God also inflicted it as a punishment on the woman, since the destruction of the whole human race was attributed to them, this subjection as a testimony to the wrath of God is constantly placed before their eyes.” 

Their views were very much in line with the views of Jewish Rabbis as found in the Babylonian Talmud, which was a commentary on the Old Testament and was written between the sixth century B.C. and the third century B.C.

The Talmud lists “Ten Curses God uttered against Eve”.

“Greatly increase” deals with the woman’s menstrual curse.

“Your pains” is having children and bringing them up.

“Your conception” shall be by the husband’s choice and at his discretion.

“In pains you will give birth to children” is more punishment for women.

“Your desire shall be for your husband”, deals with the rabbis’ private interpretation of sexuality.

“He shall rule over you”, the wife being in total subjection and subjugation, since the wife is the personal property of the husband.

She is wrapped up like a mourner.

She shall not appear in public with her head uncovered.

She is restricted to one husband while the husband may have many wives.

She is confined to the house.”  

These views may well have developed because of a mistranslation of the original text. A correct translation of Genesis 3:16 is:

I will surely multiply your toil (This is related to the curse on the ground, which will affect the woman too since she works alongside the man), and I will multiply your conception.

With effort, (meaning with hard work, requiring endurance), you will bring forth children.

You will turn to your husband, And he will rule over you.

God declared to the woman that from then on it would be difficult to work the soil because of the curse placed on it. At the same time, He confirmed to her that she would conceive and give birth to children, though this giving birth to her children would be challenging work.

He next spoke of her tendency to turn towards her husband, because God recognised that the woman, in her now sinful state, would look to the man to have her needs met, rather than look to God to have her needs met. 

This, I believe, is still a tendency women have in that we expect men, be they husbands, pastors or elders to meet our needs rather than allow God to meet our needs. Consequently, women will be disappointed for God has designed us in such a way that He alone is to meet our needs for He alone is the source of life, as we can read in Deuteronomy 30:20

And that you may love the Lord, your God, listen to His Voice and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your Life.

And lastly, her husband, because of his now sinful nature, would want to rule over her, as the words “And he will rule over you” indicate. An immediate example of this would be the re-naming of the woman by the man, in Genesis 3:20

Adam named his wife Eve because she would be the mother of all the living.

The Hebrew text uses a naming formula which includes both the Hebrew verb “qarah” which means “to call” and the Hebrew noun “shem” which means “name”. This indicates that the re-naming by the man of the woman was an authoritative naming to establish his authority over her and was an act of independence for it was not a task the Lord had given to the man. 

Examples of rightful authoritative naming can be found in Genesis 2:19-20 and in Genesis 5:2.

In Genesis 2:19-20 God had given the man the task of naming the animals as in: 

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave name to all the livestock, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

This had been an act to establish his rightful authority over creation as initiated by God. The Hebrew text makes this clear by using the naming formula “qarah”, “to call” and the Hebrew noun “shem”, “name”. When God had brought the woman to the man He did not require of the man that he name the woman, as in Genesis 2:22

Then the Lord God made the woman from the rib, He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.

Though the man at that time recognised that she was the woman and he was the man, as in Genesis 2:23 where the man said:

“She is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,

she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.”

This was not an act of authoritative naming but a recognition that she was a human being like himself. The Hebrew text makes this clear for this time the naming formula has not been used since the word “shem”, “name” has not been included in the text. Having first of all recognised her similarity, the man then went on to speak of the difference between him and the woman, for she was the female human and he was the male human. The reason that God did not ask the man to name the woman was because God had not given the man the task of ruling over the woman. Moreover God Himself had already named her authoritatively as we know from Genesis 5:2. Though we have already looked at this verse it may be helpful to read it again.

He created them male and female. And He blessed them. And when they were created He called them “man”.

The Hebrew text once again used the naming formula “qarah”, “to call” and “shem”,“name” to indicate this naming was an authoritative naming. So God named both the man and the woman “man, human” or “Adam”. We could say they were Mr and Mrs Adam, or Mr and Mrs Man, Mr and Mrs Human.

Going back to the words God had spoken to the woman in relation to the promise of her offspring, she would have remembered that God had spoken about her offspring, her seed in His words to the serpent, which we can read in Genesis 3:15

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”

These words contained the promise of the woman’s seed, the woman’s offspring and would have given her something to live for. Though the woman did not know it, this was in fact the very first Messianic prophecy. Did God fulfil the promise of the Seed? Yes indeed He did. And when the Seed came, the Messiah, The Lord Jesus Christ, He restored what was lost and more.


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