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Bible Basics (5th. ed.)


Study 1: God || Study 2: The Spirit Of God || Study 3: The Promises Of God || Study 4: God And Death || Study 5: The Kingdom Of God || Study 6: God And Evil || Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus || Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus || Study 9: The Work Of Jesus || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus || Study 11: Life In Christ   6.1 God And Evil || 6.2 The Devil And Satan || 6.3 Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Doctrine In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind

Digression 11: What Happened in Eden?

Gen. 3:4-5: “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”.


It is wrongly assumed that the serpent here is an angel that had sinned, called “satan”. Having been thrown out of heaven for his sin, he came to earth and tempted Eve to sin.


1. The passage talks about “the serpent”. The words ‘satan’ and ‘devil’ do not occur in the whole of the book of Genesis.

2. The serpent is never described as an angel.

3. Therefore it is not surprising that there is no reference in Genesis to anyone being thrown out of heaven.

4. Sin brings death (Rom. 6:23); angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36), therefore angels cannot sin. The reward of the righteous is to be made like the angels to die no more (Lk. 20:35-36). If angels could sin, then the righteous would also be able to sin and therefore would have the possibility of dying, which means they would not really have everlasting life.

5. The characters involved in the Genesis record of the fall of man are: God, Adam, Eve and the serpent. Nobody else is mentioned. There is no evidence that anything got inside the serpent to make it do what it did. Paul says the serpent “deceived Eve by his (own) craftiness” (2 Cor. 11,3). God told the serpent: “Because you have done this...” (Gen. 3:14). If ‘satan’ was using the serpent, why is he not mentioned and why was he not also punished?

6. Adam blamed Eve for his sin: “She gave me of the tree” (Gen. 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13).

The serpent did not blame the devil - he made no excuse.

7. If it is argued that snakes today do not have the power of speech or reasoning as the serpent in Eden had, remember that:

(a)     A donkey was once made to speak and reason with a man (Balaam): “The (normally) dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet” (2 Pet. 2:16)

(b)     The serpent was one of the most intelligent of all the animals (Gen. 3:1). The curse upon it would have taken away the ability it had to speak with Adam and Eve.

8. God created the serpent (Gen. 3:1); another being called ‘satan’ did not turn into the serpent; if we believe this, we are effectively saying that one person can enter the life of someone else and control it. This is a pagan idea, not a Biblical one. If it is argued that God would not have created the serpent because of the great sin it enticed Adam and Eve to commit, remember that sin entered the world from man (Rom. 5:12); the serpent was therefore amoral, speaking from its own natural observations, and was not, as such, responsible to God and therefore did not commit sin.

Some suggest that the serpent of Gen. 3 is related to the seraphim. However, the normal Hebrew word for “serpent”, which is used in Gen. 3, is totally unrelated to the word for “seraphim”. The Hebrew word translated “seraphim” basically means “a fiery one” and is translated “fiery serpent” in Num. 21:8, but this is not the word translated “serpent” in Gen. 3.


1. There seems no reason to doubt that what we are told about the creation and the fall in the early chapters of Genesis should be taken literally. “The serpent” was a literal serpent. The fact that we can see serpents today crawling on their bellies in fulfilment of the curse placed on the original serpent (Gen. 3:14), supports this. In the same way we see men and women suffering from the curses that were placed on them at the same time. We can appreciate that Adam and Eve were a literal man and woman as we know man and woman today, but enjoying a better form of existence, therefore the original serpent was a literal animal, although in a far more intelligent form than snakes we see today.

2. The following are further indications that the early chapters of Genesis should be read literally.

§         Jesus referred to the record of Adam and Eve’s creation as the basis of his teaching on marriage and divorce (Mt. 19:5-6); there is no hint that he read it figuratively.

§         “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived (by the serpent), but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14) - so Paul, too, read Genesis literally. And most importantly he wrote earlier about the way “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” (2 Cor. 11:3) - notice that Paul doesn’t mention the “devil” deceiving Eve.

3. Because the serpent was cursed with having to crawl on its belly (Gen. 3:14), this may imply that previously it had legs; coupled with its evident powers of reasoning, it was probably the form of animal life closest to man, although it was still an animal - another of the “beasts of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1,14).

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