Author: Ron Graham
Why Did Adam and Eve Disobey God?
—The Origin and Cause of Sin
When we consider the sin committed by the first two humans, we are bound to ask, “Why did Adam and Eve disobey God? Why did they eat the fruit God had forbidden?” The answer is a combination of three things: decision, deceit, and desire.
¶“1Now the serpent was more cunning than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?' 2The woman told the serpent, 'We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die."'” (Genesis 3:1-3).
¶“4The serpent replied, 'You certainly won't die! 5God well knows that when you eat from the tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” (Genesis 3:4-5).
¶“6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked. So they stitched fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7).
¶“8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:8-9).
¶“10The man replied, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.' 11And God said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I told you not to eat from?'” (Genesis 3:10-11).
¶“12The man said, 'The woman you put here with me —she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.' 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman answered, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.'” (Genesis 3:12-13).
1 They Could DECIDE
When God gave commandments to Adam and Eve, he also granted them the ability to intelligently decide whether to keep that covenant from God, or choose to disobey God. One of those commandments was as follows:
"And the LORD God gave this command to Adam: 'You may freely eat from every tree in the garden, except you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of that tree, you shall surely die'" (Genesis 2:16-17).
Eve was apparently well enough aware of that commandment. She quoted it to the Serpent with sufficient accuracy to show she knew the two alternatives. She could do the right thing and live, or the wrong thing and die. It was her responsibility to stay clear about the truth of those alternatives, and to make the right decision.
If God had not given Adam and Eve the ability and responsibility to decide, then he would not have mentioned disobedience unto death. There would have been no disobedience if there was no choice. If they had no decision to make, they would have automatically obeyed.
Moses understood this principle very well. He said to the children of Israel, "I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, so that both you and your descendants may live; and that you may love the LORD your God; and that you may obey his voice; and that you may cling to him (for he is your life and the length of your days); and that you may dwell in the [promised land]..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Adam and Eve had the same responsibility as the people Moses spoke to. They had to "choose life" —it was not given them automatically. They had to make a decision for God. Alas, instead, they made a decision against God.
This does not mean that God caused Adam and Eve to sin. By putting the onus on them to decide, God was in no way leading them to disobey him. But he was making disobedience possible. Free will comes at a risk. Their responsibility to decide made them potential sinners.
2 They Could be DECEIVED
Eve told the serpent that God said, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:3). The serpent replied, "You certainly won't die!" (Genesis 3:4).
That was a lie, yet Eve believed it. She was deceived as she herself later acknowledged to God. "The serpent deceived me and I ate" (Genesis 3:13). Eve said this to blame the serpent for her disobedience. But it was her fault that she was deceived. God had clearly said that she would die if she ate the fruit. The serpent said no, she would not die.
We are told that "the serpent was more cunning than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made" (Genesis 3:1). But the serpent was not more cunning than the humans God has made. Eve was highly intelligent. She could have seen right through the serpent’s deceit —if she had applied some clear thinking to the matter. For instance, she should have asked herself whom she should trust. Should she believe her Creator? Or should she believe a mere creature who contradicts the Creator? Not difficult logic, is it?
Adam should have applied similar logic. Should I follow my woman’s bidding, or the commandment of her Creator? Should I listen to my woman or listen to my God? Seems pretty simple.
Paul tells us that "Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, was in transgression." (1Timothy 2:14). Eve transgressed because her mind was clouded by the serpent. Adam’s mind was clear in that he didn't believe the lie. But he failed to resist his woman, and knowingly transgressed along with her.
Well, we have identified the reason why Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They followed a lie. Or rather, Eve followed a lie and Adam followed Eve. Eve’s faith in a lie caused all the trouble.
❖ I don't know about you, but I don't feel satisfied with that. Whilst the lie caused transgression, it seems strange that it did so all by itself. Unless some other element were involved, surely Adam and Eve would see the logic we have spoken of, and just laugh in scorn at the serpent. The lie was, at face value, not very cunning. There must be something else that was in play...
3 They Could DESIRE
We notice that Eve did not succumb to the serpents lie by itself. There was something more. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:6).
Before she ate, Eve looked at the fruit and fell in love with it. Her eyes told her the fruit was delicious, and she wanted the powers of wisdom she thought it could impart. Eve let her desires take hold; and desire dispelled logic. "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" entered the world and opposed love for God and truth. (1John 2:16)
It is good to desire what is good. It is not good to desire what is wrong. That is lust. James says, "When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death" (James 1:15).
God created mankind with desires. He did so for many good reasons. No desire he gave us should drive us to disobey God, as it did with Adam and Eve. Our desires should not become lusts. As the proverb says, "The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath." (Proverbs 11:23).