When Christians or others speak of Adam as the first sinner, this comes from the Apostle Paul where he states,
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
It means that sin entered the world through Adam—that he is the one credited with sin’s entrance and hence the subsequent entrance of death and suffering and the need for a Savior—a last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). When we look back at Genesis, it is true that Satan rebelled, and also Eve sinned, prior to Adam’s disobedience.
The Sin of Eve
There were several things that Eve did wrong prior to eating the fruit. When the serpent (who was speaking the words of Satan) asked in Genesis 3:1, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” her response was less than perfect:
And the woman [Eve] said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2–3; emphasis added)
A possible depiction of the serpent as shown in the Creation Museum
Compare this to what God had commanded in Genesis 2:16–17:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Eve made three mistakes in her response:
- She added the command not to touch the fruit: “nor shall you touch it.” This seems to be in direct contradiction with the command of Adam to tend the Garden (Genesis 2:15), which would probably constitute touching the tree and the fruit from time to time. It also makes the command from God to be exceptionally harsh.
- She omitted that God allowed them to freely eat from every tree. This makes God out to be less than gracious.
- She amended the meaning of die. Let me explain. The Hebrew in Genesis 2:17 is “die die” (muwth–muwth), which is often translated as “surely die” or literally as “dying you shall die,” which indicates the beginning of dying—an ingressive sense. In other words, if they had eaten the fruit, then Adam and Eve would have begun to die and would return to dust (which is what happened when they ate in Genesis 3:19). If they were meant to die right then, Genesis 2:17 should have used muwth only once as is used in the Hebrew meaning dead, died, or die in an absolute sense, and not beginning to die or surely die as die-die is commonly used. What Eve said was “die” (muwth) once instead of the way God said it in Genesis 2:17 as “die-die” (muwth–muwth). So she changed God’s word to appear harsher again by saying they would die almost immediately.
Often we are led to believe that Satan merely deceived Eve with the statement that “You will not surely die?” in Genesis 3:4. But we neglect the cleverness and cunning that God indicates that the serpent had in Genesis 3:1. Note also that the exchange seems to suggest that Eve may have been willingly led. That is, she had already changed what God had said.
If you take a closer look, the serpent argued against Eve with an extremely clever ploy. He went back and argued against her incorrect words using the phraseology that God used in Genesis 2:17 (“die-die,” muwth-muwth). This, in a deceptive way, used the proper sense of die that God stated in Genesis 2:17 against Eve’s mistaken view. Imagine the conversation in simplified terms like this:
God says: Don’t eat or you will begin to die.
Eve says: We can’t eat or we will die immediately.
Serpent says: You will not begin to die?
Eve offering Adam the fruit, as presented in the Creation Museum
This was very clever of Satan—using God’s Words against her to deceive her. This is not an isolated incident. When Satan tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11), Jesus said, “It is written” and quoted Scripture (Matthew 4:4). The second time, Satan tried quoting Scripture (i.e., God) deceptively, just as he had done to Eve (Matthew 4:5–6). Of course, Jesus was not deceived, and corrected Satan’s twisted use of Scripture with a proper use of Scripture (Matthew 4:7). Because of Eve’s mistaken response of God’s command, it was easier for her to be deceived by Satan’s misuse of what God had said.
Another point that can be brought out about Eve was her adoption of Satan’s reduction of “Lord God” to simply “God” in Genesis 3:3. This mimicked the way Satan addressed God when he questioned Eve in Genesis 3:1. Satan had degraded God by not using the term God had used in Genesis 2:16–17 and Eve followed suit.
From her response, though, she started down the slope into sin by being enticed by her own thoughts about the fruit (James 1:14–15). This culminated with her eating the forbidden fruit and giving some to her husband, who also ate. Eve sinned against God by eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil prior to Adam eating it. However, upon a closer look at the text, their eyes were not opened until after Adam ate—likely only moments later (Genesis 3:7). Since Adam was created first (Eve coming from him, but both being created in God’s image), and he had been given the command directly, and since he was the responsible party for his wife, it required his sin to bring about the Fall of mankind. When Adam ate and sinned, they knew something was wrong and felt ashamed (Genesis 3:7). Sin and death had entered into the creation.
The Sin of Satan
Like Eve, Satan had sinned prior to Adam’s disobedience. His sin was pride in his beauty (Ezekiel 28:15–17) and in trying to ascend to be like God while in heaven (Isaiah 14:12–14). He was cast out when imperfection was found in him (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:15) and then we find his influence in the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:13; Genesis 3).
Unlike Adam, Satan was never given dominion over the world (Genesis 1:28). So his sin did not affect the creation, but merely his own person. This is likely why Satan went after those who were given dominion. Continuing in his path as an enemy of God, he apparently wanted to do the most damage, so it was likely that his deception of Eve happened soon after his own fall.
The Responsibility of Adam
Adam taking the fruit from Eve, as depicted in the Creation Museum
Adam failed at his responsibilities in two ways. He should have stopped his wife from eating, since he was there to observe exactly what she was about to eat (Genesis 3:6). Instead of correcting the words of his wife (Genesis 3:17), he listened to her and ate while not being deceived (1 Timothy 2:14).
We could also argue that Adam failed to keep and guard the Garden as he was commanded in Genesis 2:15. God, knowing Satan would fall, gave this command to Adam, but Adam did not complete the task. God knew that Adam would fall short and had a plan specially prepared.
Many people have asked, “Why do we have to die for something Adam did?” The answer is simple—we are without excuse since we sin, too (Romans 3:23, 5:12). This has caused some to ask, “Why did we have to inherit a sin nature from Adam, causing us to sin?” We read the following in Hebrews 7:9–10:
Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
If we follow this argument, then all of us were ultimately in Adam when he sinned. So, although we often blame Adam, the life we have was in Adam when he sinned, and the sin nature we received was because we were in Adam when he sinned. We share in the blame and the sin, as well as the punishment.
But look back further. Everyone’s life (including Eve’s) came through Adam and ultimately came from God (Genesis 2:17). God owns us and gives us our very being (Hebrews 1:3), and it is He whom we should follow instead of our own sinful inclinations. Since the sin of Adam, all men have had the need for a Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who would step into history to become a man and take the punishment for humanity’s sin. Such a loving act shows that God truly loves mankind and wants to see us return to Him. God—as the Author of life, the Sustainer of life, and Redeemer of life—is truly the One to whom we owe all things.