God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2023

Extended studies on Genesis 3:
God, man and sin 
Curse and condemnation 
Redemption and grace in Genesis 3 

We now look at Genesis 3. That is where our human doubts about the goodness of God started. That is where sin and suffering started. Prior to Genesis 3, there was only good. There was no such thing as evil on the earth and in the physical universe. So absent was evil that our original ancestors, Adam and Eve, did not know what ‘evil’ was. In their positive, face-to-face, dependent relationship with God there was only ‘good’.

Evil – death and suffering – existed only as a possibility that was excluded by God’s ‘No’ (God’s ‘do not ...’) in Genesis 2:17. Had we obeyed that one ‘do not’, suffering would not exist. We would not be having these discussions about the goodness of God, because we would know nothing but goodness. ‘Evil’ would be a meaningless word.


In Genesis 2:17 God, in his goodness, confronted man with one prohibition. The existence of this prohibition is an essential companion of creation in the image of God. It sets man apart from:

[1] the inanimate creation, which functions in a mechanical manner,
[2] the animate creation, which functions by programmed instincts.

Created in God’s image, humans had the freedom to act by choice, within the realms of what is possible. This freedom included the freedom to obey and the freedom to disobey. Here in this command, man, created in a relationship of communion with God and trust in God, is asked to live in the reality of that relationship by choice. To love and obey God freely. [Note that it was not about the fruit; it could have been a line in the sand. It was about us and God: did we believe God? Or would we choose to not believe him?]

When we ask the question ‘Why did God create Adam with the ability to disobey, that is, to sin?’ we are in effect inferring that we wish God had made us without the ability to choose, without the freedom to choose. We are wishing that he had made us either like the animals or like the inanimate creation: pre-programmed, predetermined. We would then have been less than human, less than the image of God.

God did not create us sinners. But in creating us free, unprogrammed, undetermined creatures he created us with the ability, the possibility, to sin. Nor did God create sin. But in giving the word of prohibition ‘but you must not eat ...’ God implied by this prohibition and exclusion that sin was possible. God did not create suffering. But by stating the consequences of sin – ‘you will surely die’ - he revealed that suffering was possible, and that it would happen, if we chose disobedience, if we chose to attempt to live independently of God.

Let us note that sin and suffering had no independent existence or reality of its own: it existed only as a possibility dependent on our disobeying God’s word of prohibition. Sin – our disobedience to the divine command, our refusal of the fundamental creature-Creator distinction and roles, our refusal to love God – is something to which God said ‘No.’ So also are all the flow-on effects of sin - both here in Genesis 3, and whenever we do what God prohibits.

Genesis 3 records our rejection of the creature-Creator relationship that is taught in Genesis 1 and 2. In response to Satan’s deceptive suggestions the first humans exchanged

Trust for doubt.
Belief for unbelief.
Dependence on God for independence.
Obedience to God for disobedience.
Submission to God’s word for rebellion against God’s word.
A God-centred life for a man-centred life.
Trusting God for trusting oneself.
The truth for a lie.
Life for death.

The impact of this choice is catastrophic.

A. 1 Why?
People often ask ‘Why?’ Why does God allow suffering?

Think about Genesis 2:17. Answer these questions:
By this command, did God ‘allow’ or ‘prohibit’ eating the fruit?

By putting this boundary there, did God ‘allow’ or ‘prohibit’ suffering?

Whose choice was it to give suffering an entrance into this world – God’s or ours?

What would God have had to do differently, to prevent us making this choice?

How would that have diminished the goodness of God in creating us?



When God said ‘you will surely die’ in 2:17, he was not speaking only or even primarily of physical death. He was speaking of human life as he created it, human life as he planned and purposed it. Life as the image of God would be impossible. Life, as the image of God, would die. Because by this choice, in turning our backs on God, we would throw away our face-to-face relationship with God. We would no longer image him. We would lose our glory.

In Genesis 3, everything changed. Life, the life God gave us, ceased. What we are left with is not the life God created us for. Because only in relationship with God do we truly live.

Bible study: Read these verses and answer these questions:
2:17 – What did God say would happen when they ate the fruit?

3:1 – 5 – How did the evil one create doubts about God’s goodness?


3:7 (compare 2:25) – What was the first and immediate consequence of their choice?

3:8 – What was the consequence for their relationship with God?


3:12, 16b – What were the consequences for their relationship with each other?


3:15, 17, 18 – What were the consequences for their relationship with their environment?


3:16a, 19 – (compare 1:28, 29) What happened to the blessedness that God had placed on them?


God in his goodness created us for a life of glory and blessedness, a glory and blessedness that is possible only when we are in a positive relationship with him. To cut ourselves off from him is to cut ourselves off from ‘life’. In Genesis 3 we see:

Our relationship to ourselves seriously altered. Instead of our lives being focused on God and taking their meaning and significance from God, a destructive self-awareness has entered – 3:7, so that we became separated from ourselves. An I/me tension within us began. Focused on self, self, rather than God, began to define us. Shame, self-rejection, self-negation, inferiority (and superiority) complexes began. We constantly assess ourselves, measure ourselves, try to promote ourselves. Instead of the glory of imaging God.

Our relationship with God changed – 3:8. Separation from God began. Instead of living freely and joyously in the presence of God, fear of God and guilt in his presence began. We began to run from God, to hide from him. Anything rather than being face-to-face with him. With our now twisted (and idolatrous) ideas of God, fostered by the devil’s lies, we no longer see God as good, we no longer want to be with him.

Our relationship with each other changed – 3:12. Instead of the joy and unity of Genesis 2:23, 24, there is separation from each other arising from the perceived need to promote, preserve, defend and justify self. Because self, instead of God, has become the centre of life, because we doubt God’s goodness, we must now look after ourselves. Self must be protected, even if it means accusing the other. Interpersonal love and trust are jettisoned for the sake of self. Never again do we fully trust each other, because we know the other is driven by the same insecurities and need for identity and significance as we are.

Instead of blessedness (1:28a), marriage/family became the context of suffering. Child-birth and child raising became painful. The marriage relationship became filled with stress and tension: instead of taking her identity, meaning and security from God, whom she has rejected, the woman now looks to the man to be everything for her - 3:16b. And this is something that he simply cannot be – because he is not God. The headship that he enjoyed in Genesis 2 under the sovereign authority of God is now altered. Both her desire and his rule are now destructive and divisive, generating tension and frustration that were never there before. Not by God’s command, but as a direct consequence of rejecting God and dependence on God. In the absence of God, this is the way it is.

Our relationship with the created world changed. It is now threatening – Genesis 2:15, and it now threatens our survival. Instead of our life in the created world being a blessing (1:28b), we now live in a world that is cursed, and in which survival is difficult (3:17 – 19).

There are only two of the above results that are not cause/effect consequences of our human choice to reject God:

The pain of having and raising children: God said ‘I will greatly increase your pains ...’
The cursing of the earth: ‘Cursed is the ground because of you ...’

Unlike all of the others, both of these are physical things; both cause physical suffering, and both can cause physical death. All of the other changes are non-physical, and result automatically from our rejection of God.

[Note: When we return to God, he in his goodness, begins the process of restoration/renewal . This is particularly evident in the first three – our relationships with God, ourselves and others. ]



In strict and perfect justice God could have terminated human life immediately Adam and Eve ate the fruit. That would have saved him a lot of bother, and it would have saved billions of humans a lot of suffering. But such an abrupt end of human existence was not his purpose. As we have seen in Study Four, God knew that Genesis 3 would happen. He knew what he would do about it. God in his goodness had a deeper, more comprehensive, justice in view that involved the substitutionary death of his Son. And God knew that the glory that would follow was worth it all.

We see this goodness and grace of God in Genesis 3 in:

C.1 God’s continued communication
Although humans rejected and disobeyed God’s one prohibitive command, God continued to reach out and communicate with them – 3:8 – 19. This reaching out, this speaking has continued throughout human history. We will be looking at how God speaks and reveals himself and his saving purpose, in the next study.

C.2 God’s promise of the One who would defeat the evil one – 3:15
Here is God’s first verbal statement about the coming Saviour/Redeemer/Conqueror; the first verbal anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Victor.

C.3 God’s provision of a covering – 3:21
Here again, this time in symbolic form, is an anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ, who by his death would provide a covering of our guilt and shame – forgiveness of sins through his blood.

C.4 God’s limitation of human life – 3:22, 23
This verse reveals God in his goodness prohibiting human access to the ‘tree of life’ because, now that man knows both good and evil, ‘he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’

When we think of all the pain and suffering that is caused by humans, we can appreciate the goodness of God in limiting our physical lives. Our physical death does two things about suffering: (1) it provides release from a life of suffering; and, importantly, (2) it limits the suffering perpetrated by any individual human being. To live forever with pain and suffering would be unbearable. (We can understand why some seek relief via suicide or euthanasia.) But also, for human beings whose whole lives cause others to suffer, to live forever, would mean ever increasing evil, ever increasing suffering, ever multiplying methods of causing suffering, with nothing to stop its constant increase.

C.5 The tree of life – barred, but still there – 3:24
Although man, the sinner, the one who now knows ‘evil’, is barred from the tree of life, God did not remove or destroy the tree of life. It is, of course, a symbol. And we will understand it better when we remember that Jesus claimed to be ‘the life’ and the source of eternal life, and the apostles stated that ‘he who has the Son has life’ (1John 5:12). We will also understand it better when we remember that in the Tabernacle and the Temple, cherubim (embroidered on the curtain) similarly barred access to the presence of God. [This prohibition was ripped away at the very moment Jesus died (Matthew 27:50,51).] This tree of life is mentioned again in Revelation 22, where it is accessible to all who are in the new heavens and new earth.

Although we, as sinners, were banned from eternal life, eternal life is still there, still given to those who return to God. In returning to God we return to life.

Sin, suffering and death entered the world because we humans said ‘Yes’ to what God had said ‘No’ to. It was our choice, not God’s, that brought evil and suffering into the world. But God in his goodness did not immediately implement his justice. Rather, here in Genesis 3 the age of grace began: this age in which we suffer is also the age in which return to relationship with God is possible. This goodness and grace of God in Genesis 3 is solidly grounded in God’s eternal purpose for us accomplished in and through Jesus Christ.

Discussion questions:
What has impacted you most in Genesis 3?


In what ways is Genesis 3 consistent or inconsistent with the goodness of God?