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Genesis 3:1-24: The Fall
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: What is one struggle you have with sin? What are the consequences of continuing in that sin?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Genesis 3:1-24.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
What is the context for this passage?
We see in Genesis 1-2 that God has just created the world, including humans. He gave Adam one very specific command: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence for disobeying this command? When you eat of it, you will certainly die (Genesis 2:17). This sets the stage for the scene in Genesis 3.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is a link to Genesis 3 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
God set the consequences for sin as death from the very beginning. When God established the rules for Adam and Even in the garden, the only command he gave was that they should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they did eat from it, they would die. Adam and Eve knew this command well enough to repeat it to the serpent in verse 3.
God knows good and evil. In verse 5, the serpent counters Eve’s statement of God’s command by saying that the real consequence was that they would be like God, knowing good and evil. Verse 22 supports this statement, saying that now man is like God, knowing good and evil. That means that God knew the difference between good and evil first.
God wants a relationship with people. Verse 8 tells us that God came to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. He was pursuing a relationship with them. I remember taking long walks on country roads with friends and cousins growing up. It was a great time to just chat and grow our relationship. I imagine that God walking with Adam and Eve would have the same effect. And God was the one who pursued that relationship-building time by coming to meet with Adam and Eve in the garden.
God is all-knowing. Imagine playing hide-and-seek with a God who knows everything. It’s like a parent playing hide-and-seek with a 2-year-old who thinks that Mom and Dad can’t see them hiding behind the sheer curtain. God calls out to Adam and Eve in verse 9, already knowing where they are. And he already knows that they’ve eaten from the tree, even though he asks the question anyway. Sometimes we try to hide our sinful behavior from God, but we can be sure that he knows and he sees.
God wants people to be honest with him. Have you ever asked a question, already knowing the answer, to see if the other person would be honest with you? That’s what God is doing here. We’ve already established that God is all-knowing, so he already knew the answer to the questions he asked in verses 9 – 13. But he asked Adam and Eve anyway, allowing them the chance to be honest with him. And what do they do? Blame someone else.
God has the power to change the course of life. After God confronts Adam and Eve with their sin, he radically changes the course of life for humans and the earth forever. From now on, women will have pain in childbirth (verse 16), and men will have to painfully toil all the days of their lives just to provide food for their family (verses 17 – 19). Even the earth is affected, because now plants will have to deal with weeds and other difficulties just to grow and survive (verse 18).
God still provides for his people even in the midst of sin. Even in the midst of his disappointment with Adam and Eve at their choice to disobey, God still provided for them by making them garments to wear (verse 21).
God protects his people from the worst fate of all – living forever in a fallen state. What is worse than living in a fallen world? Living in that fallen world forever with no chance of escape. God saved all humans from that fate by not allowing Adam and Eve to have access to the tree of life (verses 22 – 24).
2. What does the passage say about people?
People are easily deceived. Eve so quickly falls into the serpent’s trap of deception (verses 1 – 6). Did God really say that? Are you sure? He twists the truth just a little bit to make disobedience sound attractive and logical. And people fall for that deception so easily. I know I have at times in my life. I’m sure you have too.
People want instant gratification. Eve saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and she would gain wisdom if she ate it (verse 6). So she wanted it, and she wanted it now. No time for consulting her husband. No time for consulting God. It looks good, so let’s have it now. We still fall into this trap today. We go after what will feel good now even if it will be bad for us in the long run.
People are susceptible to peer pressure. Even worse than Eve responding to Satan’s deception for herself was that she then turned and convinced her husband to join her (verse 6). When we make poor choices, we tend to take other people down with us. What we are doing is fun, or it makes us feel good now, so don’t you want to do it too? And then instead of one person sinning, suddenly there is a whole group of people sinning. At different times in life, you may be the one giving the pressure or the one responding to the pressure. Either way, peer pressure is a real factor that causes people to sin against God.
People have free will. It would have been so easy for God to create a world where humans had no choice but to follow him and obey him. But he gave humans that choice. He gave them the choice to obey along with the choice to eat the fruit they were told not to eat (verse 6). The relationship between God and humans is enhanced by people being free to choose that relationship. Yet many will not.
People are prone to guilt when they realize they have sinned. How many times have you made the choice to sin and then immediately feel guilty? Maybe you even try to hide what you’ve done from others, or hide from God. Instantly after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they recognized their guilt. The text says that their eyes were opened (verse 7). They realized they were naked, so they covered themselves, and then they hid from God (verse 8). That’s the natural response to guilt.
After sin, people developed a natural fear of God. Verse 10 says that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they developed a fear of God. Why would sin cause people to fear God? If we recognize God’s holiness, or his inability to be in the presence of sin, and his justice, or his need to see sin punished, then we know that God is someone to fear if we have sin in our lives. And we all do.
People are quick to shift blame to others. When God was asking Adam what happened, Adam was quick to blame Eve (verse 12). So then God turned to Eve, and she was quick to blame the serpent (verse 13). We never want to take responsibility for our actions and decisions. It’s always someone else’s fault. I hear it so many times with my nieces and nephews – but he hit me first! Blaming others is a natural response to try to avoid the consequences of sin.
Adam and Eve’s choice to sin changed the future for all humankind. We said earlier that God changed the course of life for all humankind when Adam and Eve sinned. That single choice to disobey God is still affecting us today. We see it specifically every time a woman gives birth, every time we pull weeds from the garden, every time we have to work for food (verses 16 – 19). It’s pretty easy to recognize the fallen state of the world. And all the hardship we face is due to that one single choice by Adam and Eve.
People must suffer consequences for their sin. Immediately after being confronted with their sin, Adam and Even learn that sin comes with consequences. God is holy, and along with that, he cannot be around sin, and he cannot leave sin unpunished. Adam and Eve were given direct consequences for their sin—pains in childbirth, painful toil, and being kicked out of the garden (verses 16 – 19). When we sin, we have to suffer the natural consequences of those sins too.
People have the knowledge of good and evil. One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience is that humans now clearly have the knowledge of good and evil (verse 22). We have an innate understanding of whether an action or thought is good or bad. Yet we still often do that action or allow that thought to take root in our minds even if we know it is evil. It’s called our sin nature.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God changed his plan due to sin. This doesn’t mean that God was surprised by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. In fact, he already had a plan for exactly this situation. God’s desire for humankind was living in perfect harmony with him. But due to Adam and Eve’s sin, he implemented the next best plan, which is foreshadowed in verse 15. Genesis 3:15 says, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This is understood to be a reference to Jesus and Satan. Satan will strike Jesus’s heel (i.e., referring to Jesus’ death on the cross), but Jesus will crush Satan’s head (i.e., referring to Jesus’ ultimate victory over death and sin when he rose from the dead).
Because of sin, God’s plan changed so that humans would experience hardship in life. Another way that God’s planned changed was that instead of allowing humans to have an easy, pleasant life, they would experience hardship in life (verses 16 – 19). Humans experience hardship every day, some more than others. Relationships are hard. Working to provide for your family is hard. Even maintaining a relationship with God is harder than in God’s original plan.
God’s plan is that the earth itself is a reflection of the state of humankind. Before humans sinned, earth itself was perfect for meeting the needs of humans. When humans sinned, the earth suffered those consequences as well. Verse 17 says that the ground was cursed because of sin. Anything that goes wrong with nature itself is simply a reflection of man’s fallen state.
God’s plan is that sinful people cannot live forever. God gave Adam and Eve access to the tree of life, which they could eat from and live forever. Once they disobeyed God’s command by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God could not let them eat from the tree of life. The opportunity to live forever was gone. Or so it seems… Thankfully, this isn’t the end of the story.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
This story sets up the reason for the rest of Scripture. We see that God cannot leave sin unpunished, yet he still wants a relationship with us. How can those two coincide? This is where redemption comes in. Because of sin, humans need to be redeemed. We need someone to pay the price for our sin, because we can’t pay the price for ourselves. We need a Savior. And the rest of the Bible is the story of how God saved his people from sin and restored their ability to have eternal life.
To save his people, God built up one nation through which a Savior would come. Specifically, he chose the Israelites to be that nation. And after many years, eventually Jesus was born through the virgin Mary, an Israelite. Jesus is fully God and fully man, and he was the only human to live a perfect life here on earth. His own people then demanded his death. They were unwilling to believe that he was God. So they crucified him, and he bore the full weight of all our sins on that cross. Satan thought he had won. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, thus fulfilling the prophecy all the way back in Genesis 3. Through this, the relationship between God and man that was broken when Adam and Eve sinned was perfectly restored. Not only can we have a relationship with God here on Earth, we can live forever with God if we accept Jesus as our Savior.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Romans 5:12-21.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Genesis 3 Resources