This the 31st chapter of 52 in RA Torrey’s 1898 publication What The Bible Teaches. We are reviewing them hoping you’ll join the conversation. See all of Lex’s posts here. A PDF copy of the book can be downloaded here. You are welcome and encouraged to join the discussion in your comments to these posts.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'”
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!
“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
For such a catastrophic event the scene is brief and sketchy. But there are some tell-tale details. Like Eve’s embellishment of God’s command, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it.'” Seems like she was a bit miffed as she whined about this little rule. The pair had everything they could ask for, but withholding this one insignificant fruit seemed an irritant that now surfaced. It was enough for the Tempter to build on and amplify this exaggeration into doubt then into the lie, “You surely will not die!”
It is all to easy for us to judge these two innocents because we see the results of their error in judgement from the perspective of the all the pain and suffering and death after the fact. “How could they have made such a bone-headed decision over a piece of fruit?” But they had no frame of reference but a perfect garden of Eden. Did they even know what evil was when the Tempter told them they’d know the difference between it and good? They probably didn’t even know what death was. When God told them “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) did they really even know what that meant? Die in what way? Die how? Was it explained or did God leave that up in the air and let them live by faith?
Frankly I think Torrey is a bit unsatisfactory in this chapter. I like the Keil & Delitzsch commentary on Genesis a lot but it is a deeply scholarly work. I admit I have not done much reading about the Fall so I have not read any satisfying explanation of how the Fall could have happened and what it meant for humanity. Except for the Apostle Paul, of course! I’ll have to read what Calvin writes in his Institutes about it. That the temptation of Eve could have been resulted any other way is not up for debate. God created the universe knowing the end from the beginning. If I was that first Adam and had engaged the Tempter would I have succumbed or succeed? Would a silly piece of fruit been so appealing to me that I’d think, “nuts to God’s command, let me take a bite? Serpent, you’re right, what does God know, it’s just a piece of fruit, there’s lots of fruit around!”
No, I’m sure, in the same circumstance I’d fail in the just same way. I mentioned this last week but the best depiction of a tempter explaining how it can make perfect sense to disobey a simple commandment is in C.S. Lewis’ 1943 science fiction work Perelandra. (Perelandra, C. S. Lewis, 1943, The Bodley Head, UK.) Chapter nine and the following of this second volume of his Space Trilogy are quite astounding. This is by far the best dialog convincingly portraying how Eve and Adam (in Perelandra it is a tempter and a Lady) could have been duped in the garden. Download a PDF copy of the book. It is worthwhile just to read it for this temptation scene.
This one inconsequential object, the forbidden fruit, was the focal point of completely corrupting creation. But it also started salvation history which would result in the remarkable singularity of the Lord God sending His only begotten Son to earth, God incarnate, to redeem mankind and all creation. We can hardly comprehend the entire plan at present. The Bible tells us only the portion from Genesis to Revelation. God exists outside of time and His creation so He has not revealed to us everything He is thinking, man is not capable to comprehend it all. But once redemption history is complete, and the revelation is complete and the new heaven and earth has been presented as He has shared in the book of Revelation, we have eternity to enjoy in the presence of our Lord. and enjoy all that He has prepared for us. That’s enough for me.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]