Strategy of the Devil
In Genesis 3 we read the account of the first temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan.1 The strategy of the devil was successful and led to our first parents’ disregard of God’s Word to them and their rebellion against God Himself. Today Satan continues to use the same tactics, which produce the same result, namely, the disregard of mankind for the Word of God, and the rebellion of mankind against the authority of God. These tactics are:
1. To doubt the Word of God
The very first temptation recorded in the Bible was for Eve to doubt the truth of something that God had said. ‘And he [the serpent] said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every2 tree of the garden?’ (Genesis 3:1—KJV). Cf. NIV: ‘“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”’3
Eve’s answer to this should have been a simple repetition of what God had said to Adam, ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayst freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Genesis 2:16–17).
Instead, Eve replied, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die’ (Genesis 3:2–3).
Note first that, in his query about, ‘any’ tree of the garden, Satan mispresented and distorted what God had said. God had been very specific (‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’); Satan was suitably vague (‘any tree’).
Note second that Eve misquoted God no less than three times, and both diminished and added to what God had said [but see the discussion in the later article Did Eve lie before the Fall?—Editors]:
- She undervalued her privileges by misquoting the divine permission. God had said they could freely eat of every tree (except one); she reduced this to, ‘We may eat of the trees’.
- She exaggerated the restrictions by misquoting the divine prohibition. God had said nothing against touching; she included this in God’s command.
- She underrated her obligations by misquoting the divine penalty. God had said they would ‘surely die’; she changed this to ‘lest you die’.4
Dr Henry Morris, commenting on this, says ‘It is always dangerous to alter God’s Word, either by addition (as do modern cultists) or by deletion (as do modern liberals). God, being omniscient, can always be trusted to say exactly, and only, what He means (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5; Revelation 22:18–19); and finite man is inexcusable when he seeks to change God’s Word. Such will lead either to divine reproof (Proverbs 30:6) or death (Revelation 22:19).’5
2. To deny the Word of God
Having misrepresented what God had said, and sown the seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind, Satan proceeded to outright denial of the truth of what God had said. ‘And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die’ (Genesis 3:4).
Note the progression: Satan distorted the Word of God, which caused the woman to doubt the Word of God, and finally he denied the Word of God.
3. To disregard the judgment of God
That sin has consequences is something that we probably all learn only from experience, and Eve as yet had had none in this area. What she did have was a solemn forewarning of the judgment of God—the death penalty that would follow disobedience. Any thought of such judgment was quickly expunged from her mind by Satan’s suggestion that ‘in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [Hebrew: ‘God’], knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5b).
To be as God was the same desire that had led to Satan’s own downfall (Isaiah 14:13–14);6 he now sought to infect Eve with the same desire and she found the prospect irresistible.7 However, the benefit offered was spurious. From now on, she (and Adam) would know good by the loss of it, and evil by bitter experience. Furthermore, they would know good without having the power to consistently do it, and they would know evil without having the power to refrain from doing it. Far from ‘being as God’, from now on they would be slaves to Satan. Their eyes were opened not to superior wisdom, but to guilt expressed in shame and fear.
4. To defame the character of God
Satan’s suggestion that if Eve ate the fruit she would be ‘as God’ was put in the context that God knows that you will obtain this advantage (Genesis 3:5). The goodness of God was thus impugned, as if He was unfairly and arbitrarily withholding something to which Eve was entitled and from which she would greatly profit; as if through meanness He was keeping her in a state of ignorance and dependence on Himself.
Once Eve had allowed her mind to travel thus far down the road of resentment against God, it was but a small step to total rebellion:
- She saw that the tree was ‘good for food’ (i.e. appealing to her bodily appetite), ‘pleasant to the eyes’ (i.e. appealing to her senses and emotions, ‘desired to make one wise’ (i.e. appealing to her intellect).8
- ‘She took of the fruit and ate thereof’ It was her own act and deed.
- ‘She gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat’ (Genesis 3:6). Having fallen into sin herself, she desired that Adam should join her, and he willingly did so.
Thus the forbidden fruit was looked upon, desired, taken, eaten, and given to another. In the process the Word of God was rejected, the will of God was resisted, and the way of God was repudiated.
The essence of all sin is the desire in the heart to be independent of God. This results in the choosing of self-interests rather than God’s interests, and the gratifying of self as the chief end rather than obeying God. In the case of Adam and Eve, the final act was an expression of the sin that had already been committed in the heart and mind.
In the past one-and-a-half centuries the rise of Darwinism and the associated acceptance of theistic evolution and liberal theology by many church leaders have done more to cast doubt on and to deny the truth of the Word of God than any other cause. The effect has been that Western society not only does not believe in the judgment of God—it does not even believe in the existence of a God whose chief attribute is holiness. Satan’s strategy,9 ‘which worked with Eve, has proved to be no less effective with modern man.9
References and footnotes
- Satan appropriated and used the body of a specific serpent on this occasion to carry out his subtle purpose of tempting Eve to sin. See the author’s article Who was the serpent?, Creation 13(4):36–38, 1991. Return to text.
- Hebrew ‘any’. The question is a little ambiguous and could mean either, ‘Has God indeed enjoined that you should not dare to touch any tree, or, ‘Have you not then the liberty granted you of eating promiscuously from whatever tree you please?’—John Calvin, Genesis, Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, p. 148. Return to text.
- Compare the modern theistic-evolutionary jibe, ‘Did God really say, “Six days”?’. Return to text.
- Adapted from WH. Griffith Thomas, Genesis, Eerdmans, Michigan, 1946, p. 48. Return to text.
- Dr Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, Master Books, El Cajon, California, 1976, p. 111. Return to text.
- For a discussion of the meaning of these verses see Ref. 1, p. 38, note 5. Return to text.
- It is possible also that Eve thought that if they ate and became like God, they would be beyond the reach of His vengeance. See Ref 2, p. 150, editor’s note. Return to text.
- Many commentators have noted that this account of Eve’s coveting the forbidden fruit is perfectly described in 1 John 2:16: ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.’ The (unsuccessful) three temptations of Christ by Satan, described in Luke 4:1–12, followed a similar pattern. Return to text.
- The Apostle Paul wrote, concerning the strategy of Satan in the world, that ‘… we are not ignorant of his devices’ (2 Corinthians 2:11b). However, he also wrote to the same church at Corinth, ‘There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13). Return to text.
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Grahame G., Australia, 22 Sept., 2010
What an excellent article. This passage has always fascinated me and it was great to learn even more about the truths and principles to be gleaned from it! Fantastic job, Russell.
I note also (for the first time in relation to this passage) that doubt is clearly not sin. What tremendous latitude God allows people before He calls it “sin”. And how careful we need to be in avoiding legalistic prescriptions against human frailty. Oh the mercy of God.
Of course heading down the road that Eve travelled was one way for her, but probably because she’d already determined her course.
Thank you once again for this excellent article that opens this passage up to me even more than it was already!
James W., Australia, 22 Sept., 2010
Some comments on the temptation by reading between the lines, so a lot of ifs and maybes:
1. Gen 2:16 says that the “Lord God commanded the man” and after that He made Eve. It could be that Adam was to pass the command on to Eve and it was here that the message got changed. At any rate he should have corrected Eve when she misquoted the command to the serpent.
2. Gen 2:18-20 Adam named all the animals etc and he would have known that animals don’t talk – there only two cases known. His first reaction should have been to to call out to God about this anomaly.
3. Gen 3:6 seems to imply that they were already at the tree—curiosity maybe. Anyway Adam was with Eve and he had many opportunities as head of the family to stop Eve: a) drag her away from the tree b) stop her reaching for the fruit c) stop her putting the fruit to her mouth.
4. I can’t help wondering if Adam was a moral coward—“I’ll let Eve go first and if nothing happens then it is ok to eat”.
5. Finally Jesus said sin came through Adam not Eve.
Editor’s comment: The ‘reading between the lines’ here assumes that Adam was with Eve when she was tempted. A common view is that he was. However, Genesis 3:6 does not demand this. If Adam was not present when Eve was tempted, then it puts a different complexion on things. Nevertheless, Adam is the one held responsible because God gave the command to him.