What should Adam have done?

by John Holbrook Jr.
A Biblical View, posted October 3, 2016

The Bible indicates that mankind’s troubles began in the Garden of Eden when Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God had told him not to eat. When Adam learned that Eve had eaten the fruit, he could not undo what she had done. The question is, what should have been his response to the situation. The Bible gives the answer

When God created the Garden, he placed two special trees at its center: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life symbolizes life which is lived dependent upon the Word of God. In the description of New Jerusalem in Revelation 22, the Tree of Life stands adjacent to the river which flows out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb at the center of the City. The tree’s roots are nourished continually by the living waters of the Word of God.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes life which is lived independent of the Word of God – at least in part. That part is the determination of what is good and what is evil. That this determination belongs to God, the serpent later makes explicit when he suggests to Eve that, when she eats of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, “…your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 5). As gods? No. As God!

When God placed Adam in the garden, he said:

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest eat freely: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2: 16-17)

This sentence contains three elements: a permission, a prohibition, and a sanction. The permission is extraordinarily unrestrictive; Adam may eat anything in the garden which he wants with only one exception. Considering the variety of flora which must have been there – all past and present species, the permission amounts to almost total freedom. Conversely, the prohibition is very specific; Adam must eschew only the fruit of one tree. But the sanction for disregarding this prohibition is terrible; if Adam eats of the forbidden fruit, he shall die.

God freely gave Adam access to the Tree of Life, just as God freely gave Adam life. God withheld only one thing from Adam; the right to determine what is good and what is evil. God reserved that to himself. God would determine what is good and what is evil – not Adam.

Note that God uttered the permission, the prohibition, and the sanction to Adam before he created Eve. Adam, the man, was responsible.

Furthermore, Adam, the first man, was the representative of all men. It is a biblical principle that one person represents the group of people over whom he exercises leadership or authority: the husband represents the family; the priest represents the congregation; the king represents the nation. In each case the representative’s righteousness or unrighteousness affects the group. The representative’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, obedience or disobedience, determines the blessings or the curses which God will visit upon the group – sometimes “unto the third and fourth generation,” sometimes to a thousand generations.

A related principle is the covering. God gives a man authority over the women in his household, and God holds a man responsible for protecting and providing for them. The operation of this principle can be seen in God’s view of vows. God views a man’s vow in the following terms:

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:2)

God views a woman’s vows very differently, however. In the case of a daughter:

If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;  And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. (Numbers 30: 3-5)

Or, in the case of a wife,

And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;  And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.  But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her. (Numbers 30: 6-8)

Thus, a man has a duty, not only to fulfill his own vows, but also to protect his wife and daughters from foolish vows or commitments which they make on their own. So that there be no misunderstanding regarding the source of these determinations, Deuteronomy 30 ends with this verse:

These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house. (Numbers 30: 16)

The operation of this principle can also be seen in another statute regarding the relationship between a man and his wife or daughter.

When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:  Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. (Deuteronomy 25: 11-12)

A man’s manhood is so important to God that he requires that a woman be maimed for touching another man’s genitals – even if that man is threatening the life of her husband.

Thus, Adam was set as protector and provider over Eve, and Eve was required to honor Adam’s authority over her.

Now Adam and Eve were living in the garden in harmony with God when the serpent set out to foster rebellion against God. His target, of course, was Adam, the first man and the head of the family (1 Corinthians 11: 3-7, Ephesians 5: 23). Because the serpent is very subtle, however, he approached Eve.

Eve engaged in conversation with the Serpent without Adam being present. In doing so, she rejected both his authority and his protection. In her pride, she believed that she did not need her husband, that she could handle the Serpent on her own. That was the first step in mankind’s rebellion against God.

Now, rebellion always involves tinkering with the Word of God. First, the serpent misquoted God:

Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1)

That is not what God said. He said that Adam could eat of every tree in the Garden but one. The serpent changed the Word of God. Eve responded by saying:

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)

Then, Eve also misquoted God. She subtracted the words “freely” and “every.” She did not differentiate between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; she even confused them. Lastly she added to the Word of God by saying “neither shall ye touch it.”

Finally the Serpent contradicted the Word of God: “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3: 4), and then uttered the Great Lie: “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3: 5).

Thus tempted, Eve looked at the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and saw that it was “good for food,…pleasant to the eyes, and…to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3: 6), the three attributes of this world of which John wrote:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is 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. (I John 2: 15-16)

Eve ate of the forbidden fruit.

What is clear from the Scriptures, however, is that Eve’s transgression did not constitute the Fall. Adam had not yet sinned, and he had the opportunity to repudiate what Eve had done. Indeed, it was his duty to do so. Instead, he allowed Eve to persuade him to eat also (Genesis 3: 6). That constituted the Fall.

 …death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come….For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5: 14, 19)

Immediately both Adam and Eve felt naked, and they tried to cloth themselves with aprons of fig-leaves and hide from God. Of course Adam and Eve felt the shame of physical nakedness, but this shame was only a part of their sense of nakedness. Moreover, they had succeeded in clothing themselves in aprons, and thus their physical nakedness was not the real issue. The key to what transpired here is contained in Adam’s explanation to God of why they hid:

I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid. (Genesis 3: 10)

Previously they had no reason to fear God and in fact had enjoyed God’s companionship; now they knew that they were exposed to God’s wrath. They were uncovered (the concept of the covering again), and the aprons did not remedy this situation.

When God questioned Adam concerning whether or not they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam admitted that they had, but then blamed Eve:

She gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (Genesis 3: 12)

Eve then blamed the serpent:

The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Genesis 3: 13)

God passed judgment upon all concerned. Because it instigated man’s rebellion, God condemned the serpent to crawl upon its belly in the dust forever and to be bruised in the head by the seed of the woman (the Lord Jesus Christ). Because she rejected her husband’s covering and persuaded him to rebel, God condemned Eve to bear children in pain and to desire and be ruled over by her husband. Finally, because he ate of the forbidden fruit – for he is the one to whom God gave dominion over the Garden and thus whom God held ultimately responsible, God condemned Adam to toil for food and to die physically – he had already died spiritually. In order to force Adam to toil, God cursed the earth: henceforth it would bring forth thorns and thistles and resist Adam’s efforts to cultivate it.

So what should Adam have done? He should have repudiated what Eve did and plead with God to be merciful to her. If he had, the history of mankind would have been very different.


Copyright by John Holbrook Jr.


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