With the creation of the first man and woman, God saw “everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The divine work of creation was now complete. Genesis chapter two leaves us with a picture of the “very good”-ness of creation as the man and the woman enjoy a perfect relationship with one another, with the rest of creation, and most importantly with their Creator. It was a world in which poverty could not exist. A world free from any material, relational, or spiritual need. It’s the world we still long for today.
In this perfect world, there was only one rule, found in Genesis 2:16-17: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.” We don’t know how many days, months, or years passed, but for some time Adam and Eve obeyed that single command. Then the serpent came, a cunning creature that was no mere reptile. He was apparently the devil himself, come with one agenda: to tempt God’s image-bearers to reject their Creator.
What makes the serpent so cunning is that he doesn’t grandstand. His technique for tempting Adam and Eve to disobey God is subtle and understated. He starts by simply slithering up to the woman and starting a conversation.
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” the serpent asks. At first glance, it almost sounds like the serpent is merely asking for clarification. But something else is going on. God had made a ruling about one single tree. By suggesting that God’s prohibition extended to every tree, the serpent misrepresents God. He also positions Eve to begin to think differently about God and his commands. That’s the way temptation is: subtle, multi-layered, and easy to miss.
The serpent’s temptation leads Eve to fix her eyes on what she doesn’t have—freedom to eat of the fruit of this one tree—rather than on all that God has graciously provided, and this discontentment gives the serpent his opportunity to strike. You can almost hear the twisted delight in his voice as he says, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
With Eve already contemplating disobedience, the serpent gives her a final incentive to sin: she will be like God. If she does the one thing she is forbidden from doing (eating from that particular tree) she will have the one thing she does not now possess: a supposed equality with God—the God who suddenly seems so unreasonable and oppressive.
All it took was a single question—a conversation starter—to move Eve along the serpent’s train of thought. She went from devoted follower and faithful friend of God to not merely doubting God’s goodness, but wanting to be like him.
—from Awaiting a Savior, pp. 14-16