Genesis 3:20-24

Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

After Adam woke up from the deep sleep in which God used a rib to create Adam’s helper, he named her “Woman” (the Hebrew word was Ishah) because she was “taken out of Man”.  This would appear to have been her actual name (not title or designation), from that moment up until the Fall, and it definitely represented to both her and Adam who she was positionally with respect to Adam: they were one flesh.  After the Fall and after hearing God pronounce judgment upon himself and his wife, Adam renamed his wife.  He did not actually name her “Eve.”  This name is an artifact of translations and translator bias.  The Hebrew word in the original manuscripts was Chavvah and meant “Life.” Her new name recognized that she was to be the mother of not just all living souls (as in people), but that she would be the mother of the Life that would defeat Death.  This act of renaming could be seen as Adam’s first act of faith in response to the promise God gave his wife: she would bear children and ultimately humanity would have its Redeemer.  Adam’s action is even a hopeful sign on his part.  Before the Fall, God had blessed them with the instruction to “be fruitful and multiply,” so there was an expectation that new life would result from their marriage.  The Fall did not take away God’s promise to them!  Perhaps Adam had at first feared that the sentence of death would end the possibility of seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.  But upon hearing God speak about the new promise of a Redeemer, he was filled with new hope.  God’s heart towards Adam and Eve, even right after their Fall, is the same heart He shows to us in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  In a previous study we looked at how Adam was fearful of a Holy and Righteous God after he had sinned.  Now we see that as he heard God speak His mercy, his fear begin to be replaced by hope, and Adam recognized (and now has new hope) that God’s mercy would provided a way to life. To help us understand what it truly means to have Godly hope, Scripture refers us to Faith:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:3-4


Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

When Adam provided Woman with the new name Life, he was putting his faith in action, and what we are seeing in Genesis 3:20 is the very first step of faith in Adam and Eve as they responded to God’s merciful plan for their salvation.  Where there sin had separated them from God (spiritual death) and had begun the process of physical dying, their faith in the Redeemer gave them new spiritual life, and provided a way to be restored again to God.  This was a powerful thing for the Old Testament saints, even prior to the Law of Moses and the Jewish sacrificial system.  Look at what Jesus said in Luke 20:317-38: But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

Genesis 3:21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

Adam and Eve, ashamed of their nakedness in Genesis 3:7, attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves. This was Man’s attempt to cover his sin through his own ideas and means.  In fact it is in our sinful nature to choose to work out spiritual things according to our own desires.  We behave as if we have the right to approach and worship God on our own terms.  In the next chapter, we will study Cain and his own idea for worship that resulted in God not accepting his sacrifice.  Throughout history, man’s ideas for religion and philosophy attempt to elevate man to God’s level, while lowering God’s appointed way for worship down to man’s level.  Look at the dialogue between the woman at the well and Jesus in John 4:19-24:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Adam and Eve’s response to their sin, guilt and shame was no doubt through ignorance, but it was still not enough to deal with the sin.  Their sin required the shedding of the blood of an animal, thought to have been a lamb.  God had established a principle here: Man’s attempt to cover his sins was inadequate.  God would provide the covering, through the death of the lamb, pointing to the death of the Lamb in the person of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In Romans 6:20-23 (NLT), Paul writes, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, having received the promise of the Redeemer to come, Adam and Eve could now be justified by faith.  I do not believe that it was coincidence that Genesis 3 is organized in the way that is, having Adam rename his wife “Life” followed by Genesis 3:21.  During the span of time that would occur until the Redeemer would come and pay the penalty once and for all, mankind (i.e., Old Testament saints) would need to exercise faith in God’s promise of the Redeemer in order to be in a right-standing before Him.  In the meantime, God demonstrated for them that death is the immediate consequence of sin: an animal had to die to provide skins to cover their nakedness.  In the process, blood was shed, and we will see in the next chapter’s story of Cain and Abel that the deep symbolism of this sacrifice was not lost on Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3:22-24 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

This passage includes a reference to the Trinity

In Genesis 3:22, God is referring to Himself in plural form, not speaking to angels, and not speaking to Satan or any other created things.  The full phrase “LORD God” is Jehovah Elohiym, which literally means “the Existing One God” where God is plural intensive and singular meaning. What can we make of the phrase “become like one of Us”?  Actually, our modern translations might not be accurately stating what the original texts said.  Some scholars have attempted to re-translate the original to something like this: “Behold, what has become [by sin] of the man who was as one of us! Formed, at first, in our image, to now know good and evil – how sad his condition now.”  We should see in putting this all together that the only way to read this verse is that God is speaking for Himself and to Himself (as the Trinity).

What does it mean to “know evil?”

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve knew what evil was, even though they did not have knowledge of it.  For them, it would be evil to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Everything else they experienced fell under God’s umbrella of “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  It is often thought that in order to know evil, we have to experience it.  This actually can’t be true, though, because God obviously has the knowledge of evil (he said so in the verse we just read) and yet we know that God cannot experience evil (James 1:13b …for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.)  So if the knowledge of evil is not based on the experience of evil, what is it based on then?

Knowing evil is determining for oneself what is good.  It means that I decide what is wrong and what is right: I define my own morality.  I have God’s Word to give me a Godly understanding of what is right, but when I choose to base my moral compass on anything else, I am, in essence, putting myself (with my own sense of right on wrong) on His throne and behaving as if I am a god.  This is the core of sin, and it is the same exact sin that Lucifer expressed when he said in Isaiah 14:13-14 ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Every time we commit sin, no matter how small or large, we are joining Lucifer in his attempt to ascend to God’s throne and take a seat there.

How did Adam and Eve do this?  Eve accepted a replacement moral system rather then the genuine moral authority given to her by God (either directly or through Adam).  She was deceived into believing a false teaching, and she chose to replace Godly morality with another system.  Adam’s reasoning for deciding to follow Eve into disobedience of God’s command is not given to us in any detail.  Perhaps this is on purpose, because it does not matter. Adam, for his own personal reasons, chose to replace God’s morality with his own:  he decided what the right thing to do was in his case (he decided to follow Eve into sin), in effect, replacing God with himself.

Satan’s plan was for Adam and Eve to get them to replace God’s moral code with one of their own, fall under the curse of sin and then live forever in their fallen state, cursed for eternity with a sinful nature and separation from God. We don’t know if Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life prior to the Fall, because Scripture doesn’t say.  We can see here that God separates them from the Tree so that they can’t eat its fruit while living in a fallen, sinful state.  The implication seems to then be that had they eaten the Tree’s fruit after sinning, they could have lived forever.  This was an imperfect plan for humanity, because it meant living forever in a world filled with pain, suffering and sorrow.  God, in His mercy, drove them away from the Tree, because there was no way for them to save themselves.  God’s own plan of Redemption would provide for eternal life free of suffering, sin, and death.  Abraham prophesied this in Genesis 22:8, by faith explaining to Isaac, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” What will be the outcome of God’s perfect plan?

Revelation 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

In the judgment received by Adam (Genesis 3:17), we read that mankind must toil to gather and produce food.  The Garden of Eden was not a place that required labor in order to produce food, so Adam and Eve had to leave in order to experience the “sweat of your brow” judgment.  A question remains as to why God left the garden and the Tree of Life, albeit guarded so that no person could enter.  One possible answer is that humanity would know what it had lost by having the garden and the Tree of Life present, but unattainable because of sin (Isaiah 59:2 …your iniquities have separated you from your God).  Another possible answer is that it would give humanity hope that the Redeemer would restore humanity to its place in God’s eternal plan.  There could be other reasons.  We can be sure today that the garden of Eden and both trees are gone, likely wiped out in the Flood.  There is a Tree of Life in heaven (Revelation 22:2) although that phrase can be translated a “wood,” or forest of trees if life.  So we do have hope, provided by promises in Scripture, that we can have peace with God and be reconciled to Him, because we were created for Him.  Here are just a few of the many promises of hope:

  • Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • Romans 5:11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
  • Colossians 1:20 And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation
  • Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

I did not plan it this way, but seeing these particular passages presented here in this sequence causes me to reflect on a thread that passes between them:

I am justified by faith → I have peace with God → I am brought near to God → I experience joy → My life has purpose in Christ → I have been given the ministry to reconcile others to Christ → My whole universe exists by Him and for Him.