Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Genesis Ch.3 / 50 Ch.s


* The serpent deceives Eve. (1-5) Adam and Eve transgress the
Divine command, and fall into sin and misery. (6-8) God calls
upon Adam and Eve to answer. (9-13) The serpent cursed, The
promised Seed. (14,15) The punishment of mankind. (16-19) The
first clothing of mankind. (20,21) Adam and Eve are driven out
from paradise. (22-24)

#1-5 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, &c.? 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.

#6-8 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, #Mt 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, #Mt 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, #Ro
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!

#9-13 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 #Ro 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.

#14,15 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 2:11,14|. 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.

#16-19 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
imbittered 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, #Ac 2:24|. Did
subjection came in with sin? Christ was made under the law, #Ga
4:4|. Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse
for us, he died a cursed death, #Ga 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.

#20,21 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.

#22-24 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.