The Wages of Sin (Gen 3:8-24)

Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.

In our previous study we got into Genesis 3, where in verses 1-7 we read about the beginning of sin. In the first two chapters God created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them, and He declared everything very good, including the man and man, whom He created in His image. But the beginning of sin was where the serpent deceived Eve, the man and woman chose to believe Satan instead of God. They weren’t satisfied with what God gave them. They coveted His divinity (being like God). So they took the fruit and ate, and as a result, spiritually died. Sin was introduced into the world. Death came in due course. Shame was introduced. The man and woman realized they were naked and they became ashamed. And if you recall from verse seven, they made for themselves coverings from sewn together fig leaves. That was the beginning of sin.

In the following passage, then, we see the wages of sin… God is holy and does not and will not leave sin unpunished, so now we see what happened when God confronted the man and the woman. So let’s now consider Genesis 3:8-24:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, 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”—  therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

In the previous study I said that Genesis 3:1-7 is rivaled only by the accounts of the crucifixion as the saddest text every written in any book — ever. What we’ve just read explains why that is, and I think we can break this into three parts.

And the first thing we see God do, in verses 8-13, is show. God shows. 

When Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate and realized they were naked, it’s not as if God didn’t see that. It’s not as if God wasn’t aware of everything going on. It’s not even that God did not ordain that it all happen, because He did — which is a complex discussion we’ll have sometime. But in verses 1-7 there are three individuals involved — one, the man; two, the woman; and three, the serpent. And that section ends with fig leaves being man and woman’s attempt to cover there own shame. But in verse eight, God shows.

The man and woman hear the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And the question that immediately jumps out there is How is God walking if God is spirit? The language here is clear… that God was walking in the garden and that His walking produced sounds audible to human ears which sounded like one walking through the garden. So what’s up here? How does God walk in the garden if, John 4 says, “God is spirit,” and as we read in John 1, “No one has seen God at any time?” How does this happen?

Well, as I understand it, what we’ve got here is the first recorded instance of a pre-incarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, the One we call Jesus. Beloved, there are several times throughout the Old Testament in which God appears to clothe Himself as a human and interact with His people — with Moses, with Joshua, with the parents of Samson… several other times. We don’t have time to go through them all tonight because it’s not the main point of the passage, but as I understand it this was Jesus, before He took on flesh and dwelt among us, temporarily appearing like a man, making sounds in a garden like a man would. And it’s clear Adam and his wife understood Him to be YHWH God, and this was already familiar to them, indicating this was the way God interacted with the man and woman in the garden.

And how did they respond? They “hid themselves from the presence of YHWH God among the trees of the garden.” Their guilt led to shame, and their shame led to fear. They had cut themselves off from fellowship with God by un-believing His word… and acting upon that unbelief. Now their cutting themselves off by their sin led to a tangible trying to avoid the presence of God. They didn’t want to see Him. They were afraid of Him, so they tried to hide.

They ate the fruit to become wise, and it only made them foolish. How foolish is it, beloved, when we think we can hide from God… when we think and speak and act as if Hebrews 4:13 isn’t true, that “No creature is hidden from His sight, but all things are laid bare before Him with which we have to do?” Far too often you and I, without even thinking it through, live that way. Every time we sin. Every time we don’t trust God. Every time we choose to, in attitude, word, or action, not believe His word with obedient faith. God sees, and sooner or later He will show for us, just as He did in the beginning. The man and the woman’s actions were laid bare before God, and they they would have to deal with Him.

YHWH God calls out to the man, “Where are you?” which is obviously a rhetorical question. God is not the one in ignorance here. And so the man makes a sort of confession here, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Well, at least he didn’t lie. He confesses his reason for hiding — fear. He confesses the cause of his fear — that he was naked. And it’s inferred here that he knows something is seriously wrong. His conscience has convicted him that the Paradise he knew mere moments ago has been lost. Something alien to the very good world he was given dominion over has been introduced… something verified by the Lord’s response.

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The Hebrew of this verse stresses the prohibition God gave against eating from the tree. “Have you, from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, eaten?” And here is where we really begin to see the change in Adam’s heart that sin has wrought. Verse 12:

The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”

Here we see that Adam’s confession is not nearly complete, because he attempts to do something we know in our own experience that sinners often do… and Adam was now a sinner: He attempted to deflect the blame for his shame and guilt to someone else; namely, his wife. And even more so, he indirectly blames God. “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” He only confesses eating the fruit after opening fire on God and his wife.

And isn’t that the way we often deal with our own sin? We admit it, but not without excuses, and not without saying things to the effect of, “But everyone does it… I’m not the only one who struggles with this… You do it, too.” Stuff like that. We are far too often far from clear cut in our own confession of sin — which in itself reflects less knowledge of holiness, less knowledge of God, than existed before the fall. Just like the first sinner, Adam. Nevertheless, eventually he does say, “I ate.”

And God doesn’t forget Adam said this, but He does move over to the woman, and what happens there? Verse 13:

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

God’s question is very emphatic. We have all heard someone say… we’ve probably all said at one time or another… “What in the world have you done?!?” “Do you realize what you’ve done?!?” The woman has just witnessed her husband throw her under the bus. He deflected the blame and it seemed to work because now God is questioning her, so she shows here that she has learned more about how to sin from her husband because now she deflects the blame. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” It was the serpent in the garden with the lies.

Both the man and the woman use the facts of the case in a sinful way to try to excuse themselves, to try and get themselves off the hook. But it doesn’t excuse the fact they have both disobeyed God. And they both get around to admitting they did it.

What we see here is YHWH God, who will later be described as holy, holy, holy, and the One who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, immediately addressing sin. Immediately addressing the introduction of this alien evil into the perfect world He created, amongst the perfect man and woman He made in His own image. God showed up. God has shown. God shows.

And not that we haven’t already heard Him speak in our text, but now we really hear Him… in verses 14-19. God shows… now God speaks.

And first to the serpent… verse 14…

The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;

The first words out of God’s mouth here, “Because you have done this,” imply that there is prior relationship between God and this serpent, a familiarity. And, of course there is, because as we’ve already established, the serpent is Satan. He is in the form of a real serpent here, but it is Satan, formerly the angel who wanted to be God, rebelling against God and taking a third of the angels with him.

In verse 14 God curses the serpent. All of creation was cursed because sin had entered the world, but the serpent was cursed “more than all cattle and more than every beast of the field,” as a perpetual reminder of that the serpent was the instrument Satan used to introduce sin into the world. And as we’ll see in a moment, a reminder of the final destruction of Satan.

The serpent would eat dust not directly, not literally, but its prey would most definitely consumed from the ground. The expression God uses here is a figure of speech to indicate the serpent’s humiliation, its judgment, its fall.

Now the question comes… Animals didn’t sin. Even the serpents, the species, even the kind, did not themselves sin. So why were they judged, too? Why was all of creation judged because of what one part of creation — the man and woman did?

It goes back to Genesis 1, and the fact that every fish of the sea, every bird of the sky, every living thing that moves on the earth was under the dominion of man. He was to rule and subdue it. So as man fell, each part of man’s dominion fell. As sin came into the world and resulted in death, it infected everything on earth.

Even so, the serpent would be cursed more than any other animal. And God wasn’t even done.

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall [b]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.

This verse, beloved, is sometimes called the protevangelium, the first gospel. Prot coming from the prefix proto in Latin meaning first, and evangelium from the Greek word that means gospel, good news. God put enmity… hatred… seething resentment, really, between the serpent and the woman. And it would be a perpetual conflict, between the serpent’s seed and the seed of the woman.

Satan had persuaded the first man and the first woman to believe him instead of YHWH, so he probably believed he had won their allegiance, and would, therefore, have the allegiance of all their descendants. He was now what Paul calls in 2 Corinthians 4:4 the “god of this world,” and probably thought all of humanity would be his allies in really taking God off His throne. The woman, especially, would follow him in his thinking, and she had already demonstrated a level of control over the woman, who ate when she gave him the fruit. Satan probably thought this was just the beginning, and there would be no end of people he could use to get him to a place where he really was the Most High.

This just goes to show how powerful a deceiver Satan is, because he has deceived himself. The woman wouldn’t become his ally willingly. God would put enmity between she and the serpent. And she wouldn’t rule over her husband, either. Her desire would be for her husband, to exert that control, but he would rule over her, a principle reflected not only in God’s created order but in how He has established marriages and families to live under His lordship. He has always called men to lead their wives, and fathers to lead their children, and that’s unequivocal in places like Ephesians 5 and 6, and Colossians 3.

Of course, this verse is bigger even than that, and worse for Satan than that. The enmity would be between the woman’s seed and his seed, and that’s been a matter of some debate over the years to be sure. Just who is God talking about here? Who is the seed of the woman? Who is the seed of the serpent?

Well, the seed of the serpent are not demons. Satan does not reproduce that way. All of the demons who have ever been created were created by God as angels before they fell with Satan. So that’s not what is being said here.

What is being said here, as I understand it, is that the enmity that will go on will be between the godly descendants of the man and woman, influenced by God Himself, and the ungodly descendants of the man and woman, in Satan’s power There would be two humanities, a reality we’ll see unfold in Genesis 4 and 5, by the way. From Genesis 3 onward, there would be conflict between those who by faith in God obedient serve Him and those who continue to rebel against Him, dead in their trespasses and sins. And this would be most displayed, of course, at the cross, where one specific Seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent, and the serpent, too, by the way.

“He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

This is the first gospel because this ultimately points to Jesus Christ. There has, is, and will until the end be a God-created animosity between the people who are not His and those who are, between those whose Father is YHWH and those whose father is the devil.

This, by the way, explains all of the anti-Semitism in the history of the world. From Genesis 12 when God called Abraham, then Abram, Satan looked for ways to exterminate the seed of promise, the people of promise… whether it be through the Egyptians or the Philistines or the Assyrians or the Babylonians. And yet, there always remained a people of God, the Jews, Israel, and even today, though they have rejected their Messiah.

And have you wondered why, if they still reject their Messiah, why they are still hated in the world? Why there is so much anti-Israel sentiment in the world? It’s because the devil has read about the future. He knows Israel still has a place in the economy of God because it’s been pronounced by God and written in the Old Testament and the New. The church has not replaced Israel, as some teach. The God who made covenants with the house of Israel and the house of Judah will keep His covenants. There will come a day when Israel be will saved, which is why there is still enmity between the seed of the serpent, those who belong to Satan, those who don’t trust in the Lord, and Israel.

But, again, this verse is ultimately pointing us to Jesus, like I said. It’s at the cross where the victory is won. The seed of the serpent seem to win, but they only bruise His heel. This isn’t fully fleshed out in Genesis 3, of course, but they crucify Jesus. Yet, He doesn’t stay dead. He is raised from the dead on the third day, by which He bruises, literally crushes, the head of the serpent.

Now you might ask, if Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent, why is Satan still active in the world… why is there still evil in the world? And I answer it this way… If you’ve ever killed a snake by hitting it hard on the head, sometimes the tail keeps moving. Maybe the tongue even lashes out. But eventually it stops moving, because it’s death has been assured by the crushing of its head. Likewise, Satan’s defeat happened when Jesus rose from the dead. He’s still at work, but the ceasing of his work is an assured fact of history… an inevitability. It will happen… when Jesus returns, setting in motion the events of the end.

So God curses the serpent. Yet, the woman and the man transgressed His command, so there remains a curse for them. God speaks to them. In verse sixteen the woman’s pain in childbirth would greatly be multiplied. In God’s created design there was no pain. Everything was very good. And while every new life is a cause to glorify God, there would be great pain in childbirth, and you mothers know that, and we fathers who love you and hopefully do our best to help see it. It’s great pain.

And God also says, “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And we’ve already touched on this, but again, in her sin the woman would have a tendency to thwart God’s design for the man to lead, and yet the man would lead. Which brings us to the curse upon Adam. Verses 17-19:

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

God reiterates to the man that God gave him the command, and yet he listened to his wife, and thus listened to the serpent, instead. He ate from the tree, the singular tree, that God prohibited. Thus, cursed is the ground because of you, again going back to creation being cursed because God gave the man dominion over it. Whereas man’s work would have been joyous and fulfilling and productive and not overly difficult it would seem, now in toil Adam would eat from it all the days of his life. In other words, life would be hard. Surviving would take hard work.

Whereas the ground would’ve been productive, now to get that produce out the ground Adam would have to deal with thorns and thistles, and he would sweat for it.

Don’t miss, by the way, the introduction of thorns as part of the curse and Jesus wearing a crown of thorns on the cross, where the Scriptures say, “Cursed is He who hangs on a tree.” Jesus became a curse for us, wearing that symbol of the curse.

Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living. That her name is introduced here indicates that Adam named her after the curse was pronounced, which suggests probably a very short time between the time Adam and Eve were created and the time they sinned.

Inevitably, though… though the woman might be named Eve because she was the mother of all the living, and though the man might work hard to survived, he — and she — would eventually die. From dust he came, to dust he would return. This is the final verdict of sin, beloved. The wages of sin is death. No matter how hard man and woman may try to avoid it, no matter how much they might try to cover for their sin, that day in the garden they surely died… spiritually. Their physical death would, by necessity, also happen.

And again, the man and woman did try to cover their sin. They sewed fig leaves to cover their shame, but it was not sufficient, just as no attempt… no collection of attempts… that we might make to cover our sin are sufficient. And this is where we see the third thing God does in this passage.

God saves… God saves. In grace God acts to cover their sin. He makes garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Those skins coming from an animal, which would have died for that cause. This was the first sacrifice, setting the tone for the way in which the people of God would worship God in the Old Testament, through the sacrificial system God would establish for Israel in Exodus, which would in turn point to the once for all sacrifice, Jesus… God acting at the cross to cover the sins of all who will ever trust in Him.

Verses 22-24, then, serve as the end of the beginning, per se, but also an introduction to a darker new world.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, 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”—  therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

As I’ve alluded to before, God is gracious here. He prevents the extension of life. Better to die a sinner physically and live eternally with Christ, being raised by Christ, than to live forever as a sinner, in that condition, in a world filled with sin. So God sends him out of the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. It’s reiterates even stronger in verse 24. He drives the man out, which indicates that even though the man and the woman were contrite, repentant and believing, perhaps they feared leaving the place familiar to them, the place they knew, to go into what would be a harsh world outside. They did not look forward to the effects the curse would have on them and the world. God drove them out, though.

And the chapter closes with God stationing the cherubim, a type of angel apparently very high in the hierarchy of angels, and a flaming sword turning every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. Neither Adam nor Eve nor any of their descendants, sinners all, would be able to access it.

The cherubim show up several more times in Jewish worship. They are closely associated with the throne of God in the Psalms, and they are over the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, where once a year the high priest atoned for the sins of the nation by sprinkling the blood of a lamb over the mercy seat. The cherubim would seem to be associated, then, with access to God.

Ultimately, our access to God is provided by the once for all sacrifice, Jesus Christ, the One whose death tore the veil of the temple, giving man and woman, by faith, access to God, the giver of life. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Genesis 3 we see the beginning of the first, and the promise of the second. To God be the glory.

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