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THEOLOGY > Sin > Reality of Satan > Activity in Eden 


Satan’s activity in Eden is recorded in Genesis 3:1-7. He appears as a serpent, or perhaps it was a serpent that he possessed and used for his evil purpose—the serpent was either Satan incarnate as a snake or a snake that was inhabited by Satan. But the text does not speak to our curiosity to know more. Nor does the text seek to defend or justify such an incomprehensible scene, a snake communicating with humans. The account is reported with simplicity and directness.

According to the Scriptures the serpent was “cunning” (NKJV; “crafty” in the ESV), and immediately the impression is received by the reader that this is not an ordinary snake. The purpose of its presence is devious and not natural. This single descriptive word is a harbinger of what is ahead for the newly created couple, as well as for their descendants.

A conversation ensues between Eve and the serpent, and when the conversation is completed the damnable depravity of sin has been introduced to the earth. Accompanying the depravity the race is also subjected to the curses.

“He said to the woman”—what an amazing scene: the snake is talking to the woman. But there are other examples in Scripture of odd behavior on the part of the animal world (Num. 22:22-33; Jonah 1:17; Matt. 17:27). More amazing than the serpent talking to Eve is the fact that Eve talked backed to the serpent, but it must be remembered that the hostility and anxiety that exist today between humans and animals were not part of the environment in Eden prior to sin. Perhaps this communication is a slight insight into the original relationship that existed between man and the beasts before the blight of sin that brought alienation between man and the rest of creation.

The serpent raises an inquiry: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ ” (Gen. 3:1). In the serpent’s question a question is cast upon God’s command. The NKJV translates it as follows: “Has God indeed said . . .”; this question is designed to engage Eve in conversation, as well as calculated to provoke within her an improper reflection on the directive of God. Satan is prompting Eve to think about God in a negative manner regarding the imposition of His restriction; he is attempting to cause Eve to have doubts about God, to have an attitude that is not of faith.

The woman responds: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’ ” (Gen. 3:2). Though it cannot be affirmed absolutely, Eve evidently added to what God had said (Gen. 2:15-17) by stating, “neither shall you touch it”; she is adding to God’s restrictions, making them more austere. Eve is surely entertaining the possibility that God is harsh in His guidelines, and by so doing is becoming more susceptible to Satan’s cunning approach.

The serpent responds: “You shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Satan contradicts God and  bluntly asserts that God has lied to her. His assault is strong and direct. He must have sensed the weakness of Eve and the inclination of her thinking away from God. In addition to his contradiction of God, Satan is denying that there is a consequence for disobedience—God’s command can be violated with impunity.

Eve is faced with two choices: believe God or Satan, listen to the Creator or the creature. These choices are the choices of man even today (see: Foundations, Two Options, The Starting Point, and Significance of Truth); man really has only two options: Theism or Humanism. God can be trusted and obeyed, or man will succumb to following his own devising, which may be under the influence of evil spirits.

Satan continues: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The craftiness and deceptiveness of Satan is on full display; his attack on God does not abate. He asserts that God is selfish; He is keeping something for Himself, and that is why God has lied to the new couple. God is not honest.

Additionally Satan declared to them that if they ate the fruit desirable results would accrue; their eyes would be opened. To eat the fruit would make them “like God”; note the irony here—they are already like God, made in His image (see: Image of God).

The attack of Satan is cumulative in nature: Satan is contradicting God’s word; he is impugning God’s motives; and he is making desirable to Adam and Eve that which God has denied them and declared off limits to them. And this deceit is accomplished without causing Eve to question or doubt Satan’s motives or his words. Through the manipulation of Satan, Eve questions God rather than Satan. He is astute and deceptive. And Eve is gullible.

To the statements of Satan, Eve makes no reply that is recorded; she did not rebuke Satan nor did she defend God. By her silence she was rejecting God’s authority, and thus tacitly accepting the observations of Satan, who by degrees was leading her thinking away from the goodness and sovereignty of God and to the moment of open rebellion against her Creator.

At some point prior to verse six Eve had sinned internally by questioning God’s authority over her life; the creature was turning from the Creator. The open rebellion was a mere formality. When she ate she had already fallen. Eve’s actions revealed that she believed Satan rather than God; in her mind she had discounted the words of her Maker. In verse six the deception of Satan finds fruit in the open disobedience of Eve who ate the fruit and then gave to Adam and he ate:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:6).

As a man Adam had abdicated his leadership in Eve’s life; “with her” (v. 6) indicates that Adam was present throughout the conversation. He had listened and said nothing—he did not rebuke her; he did not rebuke Satan; he did not defend God; and he did not refuse to do what he knew he should not do (I Tim. 2:14). By his silence and resignation there is an indication of the time of his inward fall (see: Adam’s Rebellion).

By rejecting God Adam and Eve established themselves as the authority; they exercised selfish and self-centered autonomy. They declared themselves free of God and through their actions asserted their freedom from God. And in doing so they gave allegiance to “the ruler of this world” (Jo. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), who is “the evil one” (I Jo. 5:19).

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