What Went Wrong? (Genesis 3)

I’m sure you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” But do you know who Murphy is? Most likely, the adage originates with Edward Murphy, a scientist who conducted experiments at what is now Edwards Airforce Base in the late 1940s.

My wife Marny and I experienced Murphy’s Law many times. At our wedding, because of unexpected snow, Marny had to rent a fur coat and ran late. We had to play the Adagio prelude tape multiple times, and the pastor started teasing me, asking if I thought my bride would show up. Then, at the end of the wedding, just after the pastor had pronounced us husband and wife and we were starting to walk down the aisle, one of the groomsmen fainted. Fortunately, Marny’s maid of honor was a nurse and rushed to his aid.

More recently, we were filming a series of videos at our home for an online course. Minor incidents that at any other time would have seemed insignificant kept occurring that interrupted the filming: the noise of a lawnmower a few houses down the street, my tie rubbing against my shirt collar setting off the microphone, and so on. At one point during the filming, our dog managed to escape from the backyard, which led us on a neighborhood chase to catch her. Indeed, it seems that Murphy is right: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

On a more serious note, let’s turn to our study “On Mission with God.” As mentioned previously, the story of the Bible can be divided into four movements: creation, the fall, redemption, and new creation. Today, let’s take a closer look at the fall of humanity as depicted in Genesis 3. What went wrong, and why? And what can we learn from what happened?

What Went Wrong with God’s Highest Angel?

At the fall, the point of reference was not Murphy’s law, but God’s law. God had told the man not to eat from a certain tree in the Garden, and presumably the man had passed God’s command on to his wife. Later, Satan approaches the woman. Just like God earlier in the creation narrative, Satan is not formally introduced as a character; he simply appears in the narrative. So where did Satan come from? What had gone wrong?

Apparently, Satan was Lucifer, the Light-bearer, the highest of God’s angels (Isaiah 14:12). But then, a seed of discontentment took root in Lucifer’s heart. No longer satisfied with being the most beautiful and exalted of all of God’s creatures, he wanted to be like God himself and rebelled (Ezekiel 28:11-19). Now, Satan takes his agenda of jealousy, envy, and discontentment and tries to infect humanity and to drag the woman and the man down with him.

Similarly, today, as Eve did in the Garden, we find that, whether we like it or not, we’re placed in the crosshair of spiritual warfare. We’re drawn into Satan’s rebellion against God and face the reality of spiritual warfare. The Bible says that Satan is very crafty and that he casts doubt on the truthfulness of God’s word. In Eve’s case, and in ours, the devil minimizes the negative consequences of sin. He lies to us and assures us that the consequences God stipulated won’t come to pass. Nothing will happen if we sin; to the contrary, life will be so much better. Obviously, that’s a lie. We don’t violate God’s law with impunity. There will be negative consequences.

What Went Wrong with the First Woman?

In observing Eve’s interaction with the devil, we see that the woman was naïve. She lingered and listened when Satan approached her and dealt with him in good faith. Reasoning with him, she ended up being deceived (Genesis 3:2-5; cf. 1 Timothy 2:14). She was also unprotected, failing to take cover under the protective umbrella of her husband. Finally, the woman followed her senses (vv. 6-7), reasoning that the forbidden fruit was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.”

What Went Wrong with the First Man?

The man was silent: no words of Adam are recorded at all. He also was entirely passive. He was “with” the woman but didn’t act; he acquiesced to her rather than taking charge. The man was altogether weak and cowardly: he didn’t confront and resist Satan; in fact, he did nothing!

What Can We Learn from What Went Wrong?

What lessons can we learn from our study of the fall narrative in Genesis 3? Here are some practical observations and reflections.

1. Life is not a birthday party, or a beach vacation; life is war. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13)

2. We were all born with a sinful and fallen nature; we all need redemption and forgiveness (see next week’s lesson on Redemption). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

3. Women must be discerning (not naïve), accountable (not independent), and consciously operate under the authority of God’s Word (not believing Satan’s lie that God-given boundaries don’t apply). Don’t be like Eve! (2 Corinthians 11:3).

4. Men must speak up, take action, and be strong and courageous. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Note: For further study, see Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and Margaret E. Kӧstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman (Crossway, 2014). See also the online course available through www.biblemesh.com.

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