Gleanings In Genesis
4. The Fall
The third chapter in Genesis is one of the most important in all the Word of God. What has often been said of Genesis as a whole is peculiarly true of this chapter: it is the "seed-plot of the Bible." Here are the foundations upon which rest many of the cardinal doctrines of our faith. Here we trace back to their source many of the rivers of divine truth. Here commences the great drama which is being enacted on the stage of human history, and which well-nigh six thousand years has not yet completed. Here we find the Divine explanation of the present fallen and ruined condition of our race. Here we learn of the subtle devices of our enemy, the Devil. Here we behold the utter powerlessness of man to walk in the path of righteousness when divine grace is withheld from him. Here we discover the spiritual effects of sin—man seeking to flee from God. Here we discern the attitude of God toward the guilty sinner Here we mark the universal tendency of human nature to cover its own moral shame by a device of man’s own handiwork. Here we are taught of the gracious provision which God has made to meet our great need. Here begins that marvelous stream of prophecy which runs all through the Holy Scriptures. Here we learn that man cannot approach God except through a mediator. To some of these deeply important subjects we shall now give our attention.
I. The Fall Itself
The divine record of the Fall of man is an unequivocal refutation of the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution. Instead of teaching that man began at the bottom of the moral ladder and is now slowly but surely climbing heavenwards, it declares that man began at the top and fell to the bottom. Moreover, it emphatically repudiates the modern theory about Heredity and Environment. During the last fifty years socialistic philosophers have taught that all the ills to which man is heir are solely attributable to heredity and environment. This conception is an attempt to deny that man is a fallen creature and at heart desperately wicked. We are told that if legislators will only make possible a perfect environment, man will then be able to realize his ideals and heredity will be purified. But man has already been tested under the most favorable conditions and was found wanting. With no evil heredity behind them, our first parents were placed in the fairest imaginable environment, an environment which God Himself pronounced "very good." Only a single restriction was placed upon their liberty, but they failed and fell. The trouble with man is not external but internal. What he needs most is not a new berth, but a new birth.
A single restriction was placed upon man’s liberty, and this from the necessity and nature of the case. Man is a responsible being, responsible to serve, obey and glorify his Maker. Man is not an independent creature, for he did not make himself. Having been created by God he owes a debt to his Creator. We repeat, man is a responsible creature, and as such, subject to the Divine government. This is the great fact which God would impress upon us from the commencement of human history. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Gen. 2:17). There was no other reason why the fruit of this tree should not be eaten save the plain command of God. And, as we have sought to show, this command was not given arbitrarily in the real meaning of that word, but gave emphasis to the relationship in which man stood to God. As an intelligent, responsible creature, man is subject to the Divine government. But the creature became self-seeking, self-centered, self-willed, and as the result he disobeyed, sinned, fell.
The record of the Fall deserves the closest study. Abler pens than ours have called attention to the different steps which led up to the overt act. First, the voice of the tempter was heeded. Instead of saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan," Eve quietly listened to the Evil One challenging the word of Jehovah. Not only so, but she proceeds to parley with him. Next there is a tampering with God’s Word. Eve begins by adding to what God has said—always a fatal course to pursue. "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it." This last clause was her own addition, and Proverbs 30:6 received its first exemplification, "Add thou not unto his words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Next she proceeded to alter God’s Word, "lest ye die." The sharp point of the Spirit’s Sword was blunted. Finally, she altogether omits God’s solemn threat, "Thou shalt surely die." How true it is that "History repeats itself." God’s enemies today are treading the same path: His Word is either added to, altered, or flatly denied. Having forsaken the only source of light, the act of transgression became the natural consequence. The forbidden fruit is now looked upon, desired, taken, eaten, and given to her husband. This is ever the logical order. Such, in brief, is the Divine account of the entry of sin into our world. The will of God was resisted, the word of God was rejected, the way of God was deserted.
The Divine record of the Fall is the only possible explanation of the present condition of the human race. It alone accounts for the presence of evil in a world made by a beneficent and perfect Creator. It affords the only adequate explanation for the universality of sin. Why is it that the king’s son in the palace, and the saint’s daughter in the cottage, in spite of every safeguard which human love and watchfulness can devise, manifest from their earliest days an unmistakable bias toward evil and tendency to sin? Why is it that sin is universal, that there is no empire, no nation, no family free from this awful disease! Reject the Divine explanation and no satisfactory answer is possible to these questions. Accept it, and we see that sin is universal because all share a common ancestry, all spring from a common stock, "In Adam all die." The Divine record of the Fall alone explains the mystery of death. Man possesses an imperishable soul, why then should he die? He had breathed into him the breath of the Eternal One, why then should he not live on in this world for ever? Reject the Divine explanation and we face an insoluble enigma. Accept it, receive the fact that, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12), and we have an explanation which meets all the facts of the case.
II. Satan and the Fall
Here for the first time in Scripture we meet with that mysterious personage the Devil. He is introduced without any word of explanation concerning his previous history. For our knowledge of his creation, his pre-Adamic existence, the exalted position which he occupied, and his terrible fall from it, we are dependent upon other passages, notably Isaiah 14:12-15, and Ezekiel 28:12-19. In the chapter now before us we are taught several important lessons respecting our great Adversary. We learn what is the sphere of his activities, what the method of his approach and what the form of his temptations. And here also we learn of the certainty of his ultimate overthrow and destruction.
Contrary to the popular conception, which makes Satan the author of the grosses sins of the flesh, and which attributes to him that which our Lord plainly declared issues out of the human heart, we are here informed that the sphere of his operations is the religious or spiritual realm. His chief aim is to get between the soul and God, to estrange man’s heart from his Maker and inspire confidence instead, in himself. He seeks to usurp the place of the Most High to make His creatures his own willing subjects and children. His work consists of substituting his own lies in the place of divine truth. Genesis 3 gives us a sample of his operations and the method he employs. These things are written for our learning, for his activities, and the realm in which he works are the same today as they were in the Garden of Eden.
The method of Satan’s approach was the same then as it is now. "Yea hath God said?" He begins by throwing doubt on the Divine Word! He questions its veracity. He suggests that God did not mean what He had said. So it is today. Every effort that is being made to deny the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, every attempt put forward to set aside their absolute authority, every attack on the Bible which we now witness in the name of scholarship, is only a repetition of this ancient question, "Yea, hath God said?" Next, he substitutes his own word for God’s, "Ye shall not surely die." We see the same principle illustrated in the first two parables in Matthew 13. The Lord Jesus goes forth sowing the seed which is the Word of God, and then the Evil One immediately follows and sows his tares. And the sad thing is that while men refuse to believe the Word of the living God, yet they are sufficiently credulous to accept Satan’s lies. So it was at the beginning, and so it has been ever since. Finally, he dares to cast reflection upon God’s goodness, and to call in question His perfections. "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." In other words, the Devil here suggests, that God was despotically withholding from man something which would be advantageous to him, and he presents as his bait the promise that, if only Eve will believe his lie rather than God’s Word she shall be the gainer, and the obtainer of a knowledge and wisdom previously denied her. The same attraction is being dangled by him before the eyes of the devotees of Spiritism and Theosophy, but into this we cannot now enter.
It is to be noted that in the temptation a threefold appeal was made to Eve corresponding with the tripartite nature of the human constitution. "The woman saw that the tree was good for food"—appealing to the bodily senses; "and that it was pleasant to the eyes"—appealing to the desire nature, the emotions, which have their seat in the soul; "and a tree to be desired to make one wise"—appealing to the intelligence, which has its center in the spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11). Thus we learn here a deeply important fact, namely, that Satan works from without to within, which is the very reverse of the Divine operations. God begins His work in man’s heart, and the change wrought there reacts and transforms the outward life. But Satan begins with the external and through the bodily senses and emotions of the soul works back to the spirit—the reason for this being, that normally he has not direct access to man’s spirit as God has. This same line was followed in reference to our blessed Lord. "Command that these stones be made bread "—appealing to the bodily senses; "Cast Thyself down" a challenge to His courage or an appeal to the emotional nature of the soul. "Fall down and worship me"—an appeal to the spirit, for we worship the Father "in spirit and in truth."
III. The Fall and Man
The first effect of the Fall upon Adam and Eve was a realization of their shame. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked." Through sin man obtained that which he did not have before (at least, in operation), namely, a conscience—a knowledge of both good and evil. This was something which un-fallen man did not possess, for man was created in a state of innocency, and innocence is ignorance of evil. But as soon as man partook of the forbidden fruit he became conscious of his wrongdoing, and his eyes were opened to see his fallen condition. And conscience, the moral instinct, is something which is now common to human nature. Man has that within him which witnesses to his fallen and sinful condition! But not only does conscience bear witness to man’s depravity, it is also one of the marks of a personal Creator’s handiwork. The conscience cannot be of man’s making. He would not voluntarily have set up an accuser, a judge, a tormentor, in his own breast. From whence then does it proceed? It is no more the result of education than is reason or memory, though like both it may be cultivated. Conscience is the still small voice of God within the soul, testifying to the fact that man is not his own master but responsible to a moral law which either approves or reproves.
Having become conscious of their shame Adam and Eve at once endeavored to hide it by making unto themselves aprons of fig leaves. This action of theirs was highly significant. Instead of seeking God and openly confessing their guilt, they attempted to conceal it both from Him and from themselves. Such has ever been the way of the natural man. The very last thing he will do is to own before God his lost and undone condition. Conscious that something is wrong with him, he seeks shelter behind his own self-righteousness and trusts that his good works will more than counter-balance his evil ones. Church-going, religious exercises, attention to ordinances, philanthropy and altruism are the fig leaves which many today are weaving into aprons to cover their spiritual shame. But like those which our first parents sewed together they will not endure the test of eternity. At best they are but things of time which will speedily crumble away to dust.
A passage in the Gospels throws light on the one we are now considering—we refer to another fig tree, the one on which our Lord found no fruit. How striking is the lesson taught us by comparing these two Scriptures! Why are we told that Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together? And why are we informed that it was a fig tree which our Lord cursed? Was it not in order that we should connect them together? The fig tree was the only thing which our Lord cursed while He was here upon earth, and are we not intended to learn from that action of His that that which man employs to hide his spiritual shame is directly under the curse of Christ, bears no fruit, and is doomed to quickly wither away!
But these self-manufactured aprons did not remove from Adam and Eve the sense of their shame, for when they heard the voice of the Lord God they "hid themselves" from Him. Man’s conscience then did not bring him to God—for that there must be the work of the Holy Spirit—rather did it terrify him and drive him away from God. Our first parents sought to hide themselves. Again we note how characteristic and representative was their action. They had some faint conception at least of the moral distance that there was between themselves and their Creator. He was holy, they were sinful, consequently they were afraid of Him and sought to flee from His presence. So it is with the unregenerate today. In spite of all their proud boastings, religious exercises, and self-manufactured coverings, men are uneasy and fearful. Why is it that the Bible is so much neglected? It is because it brings man nearer to God than any other book, and men are uneasy in the presence of God and wish to hide from Him. Why is it that the public ministry of the Word is so sparsely attended? People will proffer many excuses, but the real reason is because that these services bring God near to them and this makes them uncomfortable in their sin, so they seek to flee from Him. How evident it is then that we all shared in the first sin and died in Adam. The position in which the first man stood was a federal one; and that he acted in a representative capacity is seen by the fact that all his children share his nature and perpetuate his transgression.
When God sought out Adam and brought him face to face with his guilt, he was given fair and full opportunity to confess his sin. "Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" And what was the reply? How did Adam avail himself of this opportunity? Instead of a broken-hearted confession of his sin he excused himself—"And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." It was the same with Eve: "And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Attempt was thus made to palliate the sin by shifting the responsibility upon others. How marvelously true to life in this twentieth century! What undesigned proofs are these of Divine inspiration! But the very excuse man makes is the ground of his condemnation. We have another illustration of this principle in the parable of the marriage supper. "I have bought a piece of ground and must needs go to see it. I pray thee have me excused." Where was the "needs" be? Just this, that he preferred his own gratification rather than to accept God’s invitation. So it was with Adam—"the woman whom thou gavest to be with me"—the excuse he furnishes is the very ground of his condemnation. "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." All these subterfuges were unavailing and man stood face to face with a holy God and was convicted of his guilt and unspeakable shame. Thus will it be at the great white throne.
We find then that the effects of the Fall (so far as we have yet considered it) upon man himself were fourfold: the discovery that something was wrong with himself; the effort to hide his shame by a self-provided covering; fear of God and an attempt to hide from His presence; and instead of confessing his sin, seeking to excuse it. The same effects are observable today the world over.