Genesis 3:6 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
THE FALL OF MAN
Gen 3:6-7. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened.
THE happiness of our first parents in Paradise must have far exceeded any thing which we can conceive. Formed in the image of God, they had not a desire or thought contrary to His holy will. There was no cloud upon their understanding; no undue bias on their will, nothing inordinate in their affections. With respect to outward comforts, they possessed all that they could wish. God himself had planted a garden for them, and given them the whole produce, except one tree, for their support. Above all, they enjoyed the freest intercourse with their Maker, and conversed with Him as a man converseth with his friend. But this happiness, alas! was of short continuance: for Satan, who had left his first estate, and, from being a bright angel before the throne of God, was become an apostate spirit and a wicked fiend, he, I say, envied their felicity, and sought to reduce them to the same misery with himself. An opportunity for making his attempt soon occurred. He saw the woman near the forbidden tree, and at a distance from her husband. So favourable an occasion was not to be lost. He instantly took possession of a serpent; which being confessedly the most subtle of all animals, was least likely to create suspicion in her mind, and fittest to be employed in so arduous a service. Through the instrumentality of this creature, Satan entered into conversation with her; and, as we learn from the history before us, succeeded in withdrawing both her and her husband from their allegiance to God. In the text we have a summary of the fatal tragedy: in it, as connected with the context, the whole plot is developed, and the awful catastrophe declared.
That we may have a just view of the conduct of our first parents, we shall consider,
The scope of Satan’s conversation with Eve was to persuade her that she might partake of the forbidden tree,
[With this view, his first attempt was to raise doubts in her mind respecting the prohibition. And here his subtilty is very conspicuous; he does not shock her feelings by any strong assertion; but asks, as it were for information, whether such a prohibition as he had heard of had been really given. Nevertheless, his mode of putting the question insinuates, that he could scarcely credit the report; because the imposing of such a restraint would be contrary to the generosity which God had shewn in other respects, and to the distinguished love which he had professed to bear towards them.
Now, though he did not so far prevail as to induce her to deny that God had withheld from her the fruit of that tree, yet he gained much even in this first address: for, he led her to maintain a conversation with him: he disposed her also to soften the terms in which the prohibition had been given [Note: God had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:” and she, in reporting it, said,” Ye shall not eat of it or touch it, lest ye die; “thus converting a most positive threatening of instant and certain death, into a gentle caution against a possible, or probable, misfortune: “Touch not, for fear ye die.”]: and though she might intend nothing more than to prevent his entertaining any hard thoughts of God, she hereby emboldened him to prosecute his purpose in a more direct and open manner.
Improving the advantage he had already gained, he proceeded to question in direct terms the grounds of her fears, in relation to the penalty: “Ye shall not surely die.” He here intimates, that she must be mistaken with respect both to the extent and certainty of the penalty. God could never threaten “death” for such an offence as that: he could threaten nothing worse even for the most heinous transgression that could be committed: how then could he annex that to so small a matter as the eating of a piece of fruit? At least, if he did put forth his threat, he certainly would never execute it; “Ye shall not surely die:” it could not be, that a just and good God should ever proceed to such rigorous measures on so slight an occasion. By this daring assertion, he quite disarmed her; and persuaded her, that she must have misunderstood the divine declaration, or, at least, that it never could be carried into effect.]
[Finding that Eve did not revolt at his impious assertions, he went on to direct and open blasphemy. He knew, that to an intelligent and holy being nothing was so desirable as knowledge: he therefore affirmed, that there was in the fruit of that tree a virtue capable of wonderfully enlarging her views, so that she and her husband should “become as gods,” and possess a self-sufficiency and independence suited to that high character. In confirmation of this, he appeals to God himself; and blasphemously insinuates, that God, in withholding the fruit from them, had been actuated by nothing but envy, and a jealousy, lest they should become as wise and happy as himself.
Such was the temptation with which that “old serpent” assaulted Eve; hoping that, if he could prevail with her, he might, through her influence, overcome her husband also.]
Happy would it have been, if we could have reported of them, as we can of the second Adam, that they repelled the Tempter. But, in following the course of their history, we are constrained to notice,
Eve, overpowered by the alluring aspect of the fruit, and the hope of attaining a knowledge as superior to what she already possessed, as this serpent’s was to that of all the rest of the creation, ate of the fruit, and prevailed upon her husband to partake with her [Note: A variety of questions might be asked respecting different parts of this history; but where God has not been pleased to inform us, we should be contented to be ignorant: and where no certainty can be attained, we judge it better to pass over matters in silence, than to launch out into the boundless and unprofitable regions of conjecture.].
Without inquiring how she prevailed with him, or what would have been the effect if she alone had fallen, let it suffice to know, that Adam transgressed in eating the forbidden fruit, and that this was the sin whereby he and all his posterity were ruined. That the offence may not be thought trivial, let us consider of what malignant qualities it was composed:
[Our first parents were endowed with facilities unknown to any other creatures. While, in common, with all the rest, they possessed a beautifully constructed frame of body, they had a rational soul also, which assimilated them to God; so that they were a connecting link between God and the brute-creation, a kind of compound of both. Moreover, they were constituted lords of this lower world; and all other creatures were subjected to their dominion. None was above them but God himself. But they chose to have no superior: they affected to be as gods. What daring presumption! What criminal ambition! It was time indeed that “their loftiness should be bowed down, and their haughtiness be made low.”]
[God had spoken with a perspicuity which could not admit of misconstruction, and an energy that precluded doubt. Yet they listen to the suggestions of a wicked fiend, and believe the lies of Satan in preference to Jehovah’s word. Can any thing be conceived more insulting to the Majesty of heaven than this? Can an offence be deemed light which offers such an indignity to the God of truth?]
[What could God have done more for them than he had done? What could they have, to augment their felicity? And, if any restraint at all was to be laid upon them for the purpose of trying their fidelity and obedience, what smaller restraint could be conceived than the prohibition of one single tree amidst ten thousand? Was one tree too much for Him to reserve, who had created all the rest for their use? Were they to think much of so small an act of self-denial, where so much was provided for their indulgence? Were they to be so unmindful of all which He had done for them, and of all the good things which He had in store for them, as to refuse Him so small a testimony of their regard? Amazing! Incredible! that such favours should be so requited!]
[God had an undoubted right to command; and, whatever His injunctions were, they were bound to obey them. But how do they regard this single, this easy precept? They set it at nought: they transgress it: they violate it voluntarily, immediately, and without so much as a shadow of reason. They lose sight of all the considerations of duty, or interest: they are absorbed in the one thought of personal gratification; and upon that they rush, without one moment’s concern, how much they may displease their Friend and Benefactor, their Creator and Governor, their Lord and Judge. Shall not God visit for such rebellion as this?]
After their transgression, we are naturally led to inquire into,
Satan had told them, that “their eyes should be opened:” but little did they think in what sense his words should be verified! “Their eyes were now opened;” but only like the eyes of the Syrian army when they saw themselves in the heart of an enemy’s country [Note: 2Ki 6:20.], or those of the rich man when he lifted them up in hell torments. [Note: Luk 16:23.] They beheld now, what it was their happiness not to know, the consequences of sin. They beheld,
The guilt they had contracted—
[Sin, while yet they were only solicited to commit it, appeared of small malignity: its present pleasures seemed to overbalance its future pains. But when the bait was swallowed, how glad would they have been if they had never viewed it with desire, or ventured to trespass on what they knew to have been forbidden! Now all the aggravations of their sin would rush into their minds at once, and overwhelm them with shame. It is true, they could not yet view their conduct with penitence and contrition, because God had not yet vouchsafed to them the grace of repentance: they could at present feel little else than self-indignant rage, and self-tormenting despondency: but their anguish, though not participating the ingenuous feelings of self-lothing and self-abhorrence, must have been pungent beyond all expression: and they must have seemed to themselves to be monsters of iniquity.]
The misery they had incurred—
[Wherever they cast their eyes, they must now see how awfully they were despoiled. If they lifted them up to heaven, there they must behold the favour of their God for ever forfeited. If they cast them around, every thing must remind them of their base ingratitude; and they would envy the meanest of the brute creation. If they looked within, O what a sink of iniquity were they now become! The nakedness of their bodies, which in innocence administered no occasion for shame, now caused them to feel what need they had of covering, not for their bodies merely, but much more for their souls. If they thought of their progeny, what pangs must they feel on their account; to have innumerable generations rise in succession to inherit their depravity, and partake their doom! If they contemplated the hour of dissolution, how terrible must that appear! to be consigned, through diseases and death, to their native dust; and to protract a miserable existence in that world, whither the fallen angels were banished, and from whence there can be no return! Me-thinks, under the weight of all these considerations, they wept till they could weep no more [Note: 1Sa 30:4.] ; and till their exhausted nature sinking under the load, they fell asleep through excess of sorrow [Note: Luk 22:45.].]
How deplorable is the state of every unregenerate man!
[Any one who considers the state of our first parents after their fall, may easily conceive that it was most pitiable. But their case is a just representation of our own. We are despoiled of the divine image, and filled with all hateful and abominable dispositions: we are under the displeasure of the Almighty: we have nothing to which we can look forward in this world, but troubles, disorders, and death; and in the eternal world, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish for evermore. Why do we not endeavour to get our minds suitably affected with this our melancholy condition? Why do we not see ourselves, as in a glass; and apply to ourselves that commiseration which we are ready to bestow on our first parents? Alas! “the god of this world hath blinded our minds:” else we should smite upon our breasts with sorrow and anguish, and implore without delay the mercy which we so much need.]
How astonishing was the grace of God in providing a Saviour for us!
[It is needless to say that our first parents could do nothing to repair the evil which they had committed. And how far they were from attempting to make reparation for it, we see, when they fled from God, and cast the blame on others, yea even on God himself, rather than acknowledge their transgressions before him. But God, for His own great name sake, interposed, and promised them a Saviour, through whom they, and their believing posterity, should be restored to his favour. To this gracious promise we owe it, that we are not all involved in endless and irremediable misery. Let heaven and earth stand astonished at the goodness of our God! And let all the sinners of mankind testify their acceptance of his proffered mercy, by fleeing for refuge to the hope set before them.]
How vigilant should we all be against the devices of Satan!
[He who “beguiled Eve under the form of a serpent,” can assume any shape, for the purpose of deceiving us. He is sometimes “transformed into an angel of light,” so that we may be ready to follow his advice, as if he were a messenger from heaven. But we may easily distinguish his footsteps, if only we attend to the following inquiries:—Does he lessen in our eyes the sinfulness of sin? Does he weaken our apprehensions of its danger? Does he persuade us to that which is forbidden? Would he make us think lightly of that which is threatened? Does he stimulate our desires after evil by any considerations of the pleasure or the profit that shall attend it? Does he calumniate God to us, as though He were unfriendly, oppressive, or severe? If our temptations be accompanied with any of these things, we may know assuredly that “the enemy hath done this,” and that he is seeking our destruction. Let us then be on our guard against him. Let us watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. However remote we may imagine ourselves to be from the love of evil, let us not think ourselves secure: for if Satan vanquished our first parents under all the advantages they enjoyed, he will certainly overcome us, unless “we resist him,” “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.