The Fall in Genesis 3: A Prepositional Approach

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The stories of Scripture contribute to the Story of Scripture, and this Story is chiefly about the redeeming grace of God that is promised and fulfilled in Christ toward sinful creatures. But we weren’t created sinful. God made us in his image that we might commune with him, delight in his word, grow in wisdom, and experience spiritual and physical immortality. God made us to behold and reflect glory. Not far into the Story, however, we fell.

The “fall” is the term summarizing what happened in Genesis 3. From paradise to peril, from spiritual vitality to depravity, from glory to exile, we fell. If we don’t understand this story, then we won’t properly understand the Story of Scripture. Furthermore, if we don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, we won’t see how these events affect our own lives.

Before Genesis 3

The setup to our fall is only two chapters long. God had created the heavens and the earth, and he had displayed his glory in them. He commissioned his image bearers to be fruitful and multiply and to exercise dominion as his vice-regents. And he blessed all that he had made. From his bountiful goodness, he supplied his image bearers with what they needed for life and flourishing.

Among the good gifts of God in the garden, there were also good trees in the center: a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God didn’t prohibit eating from the first, but he did prohibit eating from the second: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16–17).

God gave a command, and he gave a warning if his command was violated. Before Genesis 3, Adam and Eve dwelled with one another and with God in untainted communion. The man and woman were naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25). But before the next chapter ends, they will be covered and ashamed.

In Genesis 3

The Bible’s third chapter is a threshold because it takes us from the blessed fellowship of Genesis 2 to the devastating events in Genesis 4. The opening verses of Genesis 3 narrate a conversation between the serpent and the woman. The tempter twists God’s words and denies the foretold consequence for eating the forbidden fruit (3:1–5). According to the serpent, God doesn’t have the woman’s best interests at heart.

Maybe the divine warning was a bluff. Maybe the Creator wasn’t benevolent but, instead, miserly and overly restrictive. Maybe eating the forbidden fruit would actually be beneficial! The poisonous words do their work in the woman’s mind, and she eventually sees the tree as desirable enough to reach out and take its fruit (Gen. 3:6). Her husband—a silent and unmentioned figure in the chapter so far—takes fruit from her and eats it too.

The Lord confronts the defiant couple. Though hidden among the trees of the garden, they cannot hide from the maker of heaven and earth. A tense conversation ensues. The man blames the woman, and the woman blames the serpent. This blame-shifting is the avoidance of responsibility. The man even implicates God by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12).

The woman and the man learn about serious consequences. The woman will experience difficulty and disruption in her relationships as a mother and wife (Gen. 3:16). The man will face the futility of work as he toils by the sweat of his brow upon the cursed dust—dust which will receive him back in due course (3:17–19). The consequences in Genesis 3:16–19 connect to the earlier blessings in Genesis 1–2. God had told his image bearers to be fruitful and to exercise dominion, and that commission will be hindered by the presence of sin and death.

But hope shines in the darkness of Genesis 3. A future deliverer would come to defeat the serpent (Gen. 3:15). This descendant of Eve would bruise the serpent’s head, though not without a cost. The victor would suffer. Genesis 3:15 was a promise of victory through suffering, and in the arc of Scripture this son of Eve was the son of Mary.

After Genesis 3

When Adam and Eve emerged from the garden to live in exile, they emerged with this promise about a future son. They came out with hope. The rest of the biblical Story unfolds outside Eden. The seed of the serpent wars against the seed of the woman. Subsequent chapters tell about the formation of covenants, mighty deeds of deliverance, tragic pursuits of folly, and divine faithfulness that establishes hope for redemption.

Genesis 3 is our history. We face shame for our sins, we are inwardly fractured and spiritually bent, and we are alienated from the goodness and blessing of God. Deserving judgment, we shall surely die—unless we receive the mercy of God found in his beloved Son, the one promised in the garden.

In order to see the power of the cross and receive the gospel as truly good news, we must understand our helpless condition, that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The road after Genesis 3 has many twists and turns, but along the way we read about the rescuing grace of God that, in the fullness of time, would take on flesh and dwell among us.

Genesis 3 has explanatory power. In the familiar paradigm of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation, the fall explains what happened to creation, it clarifies why we need redemption, and it leaves us groaning for the consummation of all things.

Do you want to understand the biblical storyline better? Do want to rejoice more in the gospel and exult in divine mercy? Then you need to understand what happened before, in, and after Genesis 3.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

  • Mitch Chase

    Mitchell L. Chase (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church and an associate professor of biblical studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the author of Short of Glory, Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death, and 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory. You can follow him on Twitter and find him on Substack at “Biblical Theology.”

Mitch Chase

Mitch Chase

Mitchell L. Chase (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church and an associate professor of biblical studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the author of Short of Glory, Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death, and 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory. You can follow him on Twitter and find him on Substack at “Biblical Theology.”