As in chapters 1 and 2, the word of the Lord is very important in chapter 3. Here Adam and Eve doubted God's integrity. This pericope also has something to teach about the acquisition of wisdom. Chapter 2 anticipated God's gift of the Promised Land to the original readers, and chapter 3 anticipates their exile from it.169
3:1 Who was the tempter? Among evangelicals there are two major views regarding the identity of the serpent.
1. It was a literal snake.
a. Moses called it a beast of the field (v. 1).
b. Though snakes do not speak, Satan could have spoken through a snake. He did this through demoniacs in Jesus' day. Also, a spirit being spoke through Balaam's donkey.
2. It was Satan himself described here as a snake.
a. God called Satan a serpent elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Rev. 20:2).
b. Satan can and does speak as recorded elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Job 1).
c. What he said here is in character for Satan who is the "father of lies"(John 8:44).
Probably the tempter was Satan who possessed and controlled a literal snake. Temptation came to Eve disguised, unexpectedly, and from a subordinate, as is still often true.
The pattern of temptation observable here is one Satan has used often and still uses (cf. the temptations of Achan, David, and Jesus Christ).
Satan's first step was to plant a seed of doubt in Eve's mind concerning God's ways (vv. 1-3). The key phrase is "from any"(v. 1). Satan focused Eve's attention on God's one prohibition. He suggested that God did not really want what was best for Adam and Eve but rather was withholding something from them that was essentially good. He hinted that God's line of protection was actually a line that He drew because He was selfish. Satan often tempts women in particular to believe that God's role for them is primarily for His benefit rather than for their welfare.171
The Hebrew word translated "crafty"(arum) does not mean wicked as much as wise. Eve's sin was not so much an act of great wickedness as it was an act of great folly. She already had all the good she needed, but she wanted more.172She wanted to glorify self, not God.
"In her reply to [Satan's] question, she perverted and misquoted three timesthe divine law to which she and Adam were subject: (1) She disparaged her privileges by misquoting the terms of the Divine permissionas to the other trees. (2) She overstated the restrictions by misquoting the Divine prohibition. (3) She underrated her obligations by misquoting the Divine penalty."173
God reveals His character through His word. When we do not retain His word precisely, a distorted concept of God is the result. This led Eve to doubtGod's goodness.
"It is because Yahweh Elohim' expresses so strongly the basic OT convictions about God's being both creator and Israel's covenant partner that the serpent and the woman avoid the term in their discussion. The god they are talking about is malevolent, secretive, and concerned to restrict man: his character is so different from that of Yahweh Elohim that the narrative pointedly avoids the name in the dialogue of 3:1-5."175
One natural tendency that we have when we do not understand or recall God's word precisely is to make it more restrictive than He does. This is what Eve did. This is a form of legalism.
3:4-5 The second step in Satan's temptation was to denyGod's word. In denying it he imputed motives to God that were not consistent with God's character. God's true motive was the welfare of man, but Satan implied it was God's welfare at man's expense.
This added suggestion seemed consistent with what Satan had already implied about God's motives in verse 1. Having entertained a doubt concerning God's word, Eve was ready to accept a denial of His word.
What Satan said about Eve's being as God was a half-truth. Ironically she was already as God having been made in His image (1:26). She did become like God in that she obtained a greater knowledge of good and evil by eating of the tree. However, she became less like God because she was no longer innocent of sin. Her relationship with God suffered. Though she remained like God she could no longer be with Him. The consequent separation from God is the essence of death (2:17).
The first doctrine Satan denied in Scripture was that sin results in death (separation from God), or we could say the doctrine that God will not punish sin. This is still the truth he tries hardest to get people to disbelieve.