Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Matthew Henry, at sacred-texts.com
(Gen 3:1-5) The serpent deceives Eve.
(Gen 3:6-8) Adam and Eve transgress the Divine command, and fall into sin and misery.
(Gen 3:9-13) God calls upon Adam and Eve to answer.
(Gen 3:14, Gen 3:15) The serpent cursed, The promised Seed.
(Gen 3:16-19) The punishment of mankind.
(Gen 3:20, Gen 3:21) The first clothing of mankind.
(Gen 3:22-24) Adam and Eve are driven out from paradise.
Satan assaulted our first parents, to draw them to sin, and the temptation proved fatal to them. The tempter was the devil, in the shape and likeness of a serpent. Satan's plan was to draw our first parents to sin, and so to separate between them and their God. Thus the devil was from the beginning a murderer, and the great mischief maker. The person tempted was the woman: it was Satan's policy to enter into talk with her when she was alone. There are many temptations to which being alone gives great advantage; but the communion of saints tends very much to their strength and safety. Satan took advantage by finding her near the forbidden tree. They that would not eat the forbidden fruit, must not come near the forbidden tree. Satan tempted Eve, that by her he might tempt Adam. It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us. Satan questioned whether it were a sin or not, to eat of this tree. He did not disclose his design at first, but he put a question which seemed innocent. Those who would be safe, need to be shy of talking with the tempter. He quoted the command wrong. He spoke in a taunting way. The devil, as he is a liar, so he is a scoffer from the beginning; and scoffers are his children. It is the craft of Satan to speak of the Divine law as uncertain or unreasonable, and so to draw people to sin; it is our wisdom to keep up a firm belief of God's command, and a high respect for it. Has God said, Ye shall not lie, nor take his name in vain, nor be drunk, etc.? Yes, I am sure he has, and it is well said; and by his grace I will abide by it. It was Eve's weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny. He promises advantage from their eating this fruit. He aims to make them discontented with their present state, as if it were not so good as it might be, and should be. No condition will of itself bring content, unless the mind be brought to it. He tempts them to seek preferment, as if they were fit to be gods. Satan ruined himself by desiring to be like the Most High, therefore he sought to infect our first parents with the same desire, that he might ruin them too. And still the devil draws people into his interest, by suggesting to them hard thoughts of God, and false hopes of advantage by sin. Let us, therefore, always think well of God as the best good, and think ill of sin as the worst evil: thus let us resist the devil, and he will flee from us.
Observe the steps of the transgression: not steps upward, but downward toward the pit. 1. She saw. A great deal of sin comes in at the eye. Let us not look on that which we are in danger of lusting after, Mat 5:28. 2. She took. It was her own act and deed. Satan may tempt, but he cannot force; may persuade us to cast ourselves down, but he cannot cast us down, Mat 4:6. 3. She did eat. When she looked perhaps she did not intend to take; or when she took, not to eat: but it ended in that. It is wisdom to stop the first motions of sin, and to leave it off before it be meddled with. 4. She gave it also to her husband with her. Those that have done ill, are willing to draw in others to do the same. 5. He did eat. In neglecting the tree of life, of which he was allowed to eat, and eating of the tree of knowledge, which was forbidden, Adam plainly showed a contempt of what God had bestowed on him, and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased, and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience, Rom 5:19; disobedience to a plain, easy, and express command. He had no corrupt nature within, to betray him; but had a freedom of will, in full strength, not weakened or impaired. He turned aside quickly. He drew all his posterity into sin and ruin. Who then can say that Adam's sin had but little harm in it? When too late, Adam and Eve saw the folly of eating forbidden fruit. They saw the happiness they fell from, and the misery they were fallen into. They saw a loving God provoked, his grace and favour forfeited. See her what dishonour and trouble sin is; it makes mischief wherever it gets in, and destroys all comfort. Sooner or later it will bring shame; either the shame of true repentance, which ends in glory, or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day. See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned. They have more care to save their credit before men, than to obtain their pardon from God. The excuses men make to cover and lessen their sins, are vain and frivolous; like the aprons of fig-leaves, they make the matter never the better: yet we are all apt to cover our transgressions as Adam. Before they sinned, they would have welcomed God's gracious visits with humble joy; but now he was become a terror to them. No marvel that they became a terror to themselves, and full of confusion. This shows the falsehood of the tempter, and the frauds of his temptations. Satan promised they should be safe, but they cannot so much as think themselves so! Adam and Eve were now miserable comforters to each other!
Observe the startling question, Adam, where art thou? Those who by sin go astray from God, should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin. This lost sheep had wandered without end, if the good Shepherd had not sought after him, and told him, that where he was straying he could not be either happy or easy. If sinners will but consider where they are, they will not rest till they return to God. It is the common fault and folly of those that have done ill, when questioned about it, to acknowledge only that which is so manifest that they cannot deny it. Like Adam, we have reason to be afraid of approaching to God, if we are not covered and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Sin appears most plainly in the glass of the commandment, therefore God set it before Adam; and in it we should see our faces. But instead of acknowledging the sin in its full extent, and taking shame to themselves, Adam and Eve excuse the sin, and lay the shame and blame on others. There is a strange proneness in those that are tempted, to say, they are tempted of God; as if our abuse of God's gifts would excuse our breaking God's laws. Those who are willing to take the pleasure and profit of sin, are backward to take the blame and shame of it. Learn hence, that Satan's temptations are all beguilings; his arguments are all deceits; his allurements are all cheats; when he speaks fair, believe him not. It is by the deceitfulness of sin the heart is hardened. See Rom 7:11; Heb 3:13. But though Satan's subtlety may draw us into sin, yet it will not justify us in sin. Though he is the tempter, we are the sinners. Let it not lessen our sorrow for sin, that we were beguiled into it; but let it increase our self-indignation, that we should suffer ourselves to be deceived by a known cheat, and a sworn enemy, who would destroy our souls.
God passes sentence; and he begins where the sin began, with the serpent. The devil's instruments must share in the devil's punishments. Under the cover of the serpent, the devil is sentenced to be degraded and accursed of God; detested and abhorred of all mankind: also to be destroyed and ruined at last by the great Redeemer, signified by the breaking of his head. War is proclaimed between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. It is the fruit of this enmity, that there is a continual warfare between grace and corruption, in the hearts of God's people. Satan, by their corruptions, buffets them, sifts them, and seeks to devour them. Heaven and hell can never be reconciled, nor light and darkness; no more can Satan and a sanctified soul. Also, there is a continual struggle between the wicked and the godly in this world. A gracious promise is here made of Christ, as the Deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. Here was the drawn of the gospel day: no sooner was the wound given, than the remedy was provided and revealed. This gracious revelation of a Saviour came unasked, and unlooked for. Without a revelation of mercy, giving some hope of forgiveness, the convinced sinner would sink into despair, and be hardened. By faith in this promise, our first parents, and the patriarchs before the flood, were justified and saved. Notice is given concerning Christ. 1. His incarnation, or coming in the flesh. It speaks great encouragement to sinners, that their Saviour is the Seed of the woman, bone of our bone, Heb 2:11, Heb 2:14. 2. His sufferings and death; pointed at in Satan's bruising his heel, that is, his human nature. And Christ's sufferings are continued in the sufferings of the saints for his name. The devil tempts them, persecutes and slays them; and so bruises the heel of Christ, who is afflicted in their afflictions. But while the heel is bruised on earth, the Head is in heaven. 3. His victory over Satan thereby. Christ baffled Satan's temptations, rescued souls out of his hands. By his death he gave a fatal blow to the devil's kingdom, a wound to the head of this serpent that cannot be healed. As the gospel gains ground, Satan falls.
The woman, for her sin, is condemned to a state of sorrow, and of subjection; proper punishments of that sin, in which she had sought to gratify the desire of her eye, and of the flesh, and her pride. Sin brought sorrow into the world; that made the world a vale of tears. No wonder our sorrows are multiplied, when our sins are so. He shall rule over thee, is but God's command, Wives, be subject to your own husbands. If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness. Adam laid the blame on his wife; but though it was her fault to persuade him to eat the forbidden fruit, it was his fault to hearken to her. Thus men's frivolous pleas will, in the day of God's judgment, be turned against them. God put marks of displeasure on Adam. 1. His habitation is cursed. God gave the earth to the children of men, to be a comfortable dwelling; but it is now cursed for man's sin. Yet Adam is not himself cursed, as the serpent was, but only the ground for his sake. 2. His employments and enjoyments are embittered to him. Labour is our duty, which we must faithfully perform; it is part of man's sentence, which idleness daringly defies. Uneasiness and weariness with labour are our just punishment, which we must patiently submit to, since they are less than our iniquity deserves. Man's food shall become unpleasant to him. Yet man is not sentenced to eat dust as the serpent, only to eat the herb of the field. 3. His life also is but short; considering how full of trouble his days are, it is in favour to him that they are few. Yet death being dreadful to nature, even when life is unpleasant, that concludes the punishment. Sin brought death into the world: if Adam had not sinned, he had not died. He gave way to temptation, but the Saviour withstood it. And how admirably the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus, by his death and sufferings, answered the sentence passed on our first parents! Did travailing pains come with sin? We read of the travail of Christ's soul, Isa 53:11; and the pains of death he was held by, are so called, Act 2:24. Did subjection came in with sin? Christ was made under the law, Gal 4:4. Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse for us, he died a cursed death, Gal 3:13. Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us. Did sweat come in with sin? He sweat for us, as it had been great drops of blood. Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows; his soul was, in his agony, exceeding sorrowful. Did death come in with sin? He became obedient unto death. Thus is the plaster as wide as the wound. Blessed be God for his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
God named the man, and called him Adam, which signifies red earth; Adam named the woman, and called her Eve, that is, life. Adam bears the name of the dying body, Eve of the living soul. Adam probably had regard to the blessing of a Redeemer, the promised Seed, in calling his wife Eve, or life; for He should be the life of all believers, and in Him all the families of the earth should be blessed. See also God's care for our first parents, notwithstanding their sin. Clothes came in with sin. Little reason have we to be proud of our clothes, which are but the badges of our shame. When God made clothes for our first parents, he made them warm and strong, but coarse and very plain; not robes of scarlet, but coats of skin. Let those that are meanly clad, learn from hence not to complain. Having food and a covering, let them be content; they are as well off as Adam and Eve. And let those that are finely clad, learn not to make the putting on of apparel their adorning. The beasts, from whose skins they were clothed, it is supposed were slain, not for man's food, but for sacrifice, to typify Christ, the great Sacrifice. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, Isa 28:20. Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skin, large, strong, durable, and fit for them: such is the righteousness of Christ; therefore put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
God bid man go out; told him he should no longer occupy and enjoy that garden: but man liked the place, and was unwilling to leave it, therefore God made him go out. This signified the shutting out of him, and all his guilty race, from that communion with God, which was the bliss and glory of paradise. But man was only sent to till the ground out of which he was taken. He was sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment. Our first parents were shut out from the privileges of their state of innocency, yet they were not left to despair. The way to the tree of life was shut. It was henceforward in vain for him and his to expect righteousness, life, and happiness, by the covenant of works; for the command of that covenant being broken, the curse of it is in full force: we are all undone, if we are judged by that covenant. God revealed this to Adam, not to drive him to despair, but to quicken him to look for life and happiness in the promised Seed, by whom a new and living way into the holiest is laid open for us.