BIBLE Basics
Study 6: God and Evil
God and Evil | The Devil and Satan | Demons | Digressions (Witchcraft, What Happened In Eden?, Lucifer, The Temptation of Jesus, "War in Heaven") | Questions

Digression 18: What Happened In Eden?

Genesis 3 vs. 4-5: "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 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".


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. The fact that snakes are physically with us, crawling on their bellies, is proof that the snake in Eden was a literal animal. Those who believe otherwise presumably think that whenever they have seen a literal snake they have seen 'satan' itself.

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 (Romans 6,23). Angels cannot die (Luke 20, 35-36), therefore angels cannot sin. The reward of the righteous is to be made equal to the angels to die no more (Luke 20 vs. 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 "beguiled Eve through his (own) subtilty" (2 Cor. 11,3). God told the serpent: "Because thou hast 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 beguiled me, and I did eat" (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 ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet" (2 Peter 2,16) and

(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 Genesis 3 is related to the seraphim. However, the normal Hebrew word for "serpent", which is used in Genesis 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 Genesis 3. The Hebrew word for brass comes from the same root as the word for "serpent" in Genesis 3. Brass represents sin (Jud. 16:21; 2 Sam. 3:34; 2 Kings 25:7; 2 Chron. 33:11; 36:6), thus the serpent may be connected with the idea of sin, but not a sinful angel.

SUGGESTED EXPLANATIONS as to what this passage does mean:

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), proves 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 are 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 (Matt. 19:5-6);there is no hint that He read it figuratively.

- "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived (by the serpent), but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Tim. 2, 13-14) - so Paul, too, read Genesis literally. And most importantly he wrote earlier about the way "the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty" (2 Cor. 11,3) - notice that Paul doesn't mention the "devil" beguiling Eve.

- Is there any evidence at all that there is anything else in the record of the creation and fall that should be read figuratively? The world was created in six days according to Genesis 1. That these were literal days of 24 hours is proved by the fact that the various things created on different days could not usefully exist without each other in their present form for more than a few days. That they were not periods of 1,000 years or more is demonstrated by the fact that Adam was created on the sixth day, but died after the seventh day at the age of 930 (Gen. 5,5). If the seventh day was a period of 1,000 years then Adam would have been more than 1,000 when he died.

- Further evidence for literal days of creation can be found in the Sabbath law of Ex. 20:10,11. The Sabbath was to be 24 hours of rest, because God rested on the seventh day, having worked for six days (as Israel did before keeping their Sabbath). The plants made on the second day would have depended on the bees etc. created on the sixth day. A long gap between their creation is therefore inappropriate.

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).

4. Maybe the serpent had eaten of the tree of knowledge, which would explain his subtilty. Eve "saw that the tree was...a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Gen. 3,6). How could she have seen this unless she saw the result of eating the fruit in the life of something that had already done so? It may well be that Eve had had several conversations with the serpent before the one recorded in Genesis 3. The first recorded words of the serpent to Eve are, "Yea, hath God said..." (Gen. 3,1) - the word "Yea" ossibly implying that this was a continuation of a previous conversation that is not recorded.