After creating a beautiful paradise for Adam, God encouraged him to enjoy all of its bounty, except for that of one tree: “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.”1 But because of mankind’s propensity to idolize self, this idyllic Eden was not to last.
Self-idolatry, however, is not limited to mankind. Isaiah recounts the story of Satan’s fall from Heaven, writing that Lucifer’s damning sin was his desire to exalt himself to equality with God: “I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”2 In this account, we see that Satan’s own weakness is how he tempted mankind. Satan wanted equality with God, and that’s exactly how he enticed Adam and Eve. History inevitably repeats itself when the creature rebels against the Creator. In other words, error loves company.
This history-changing error was encapsulated in a single question: “Has God indeed said?”3 That question, first posed to Eve by the serpent, was nothing if not clever in its appeal to Eve’s nascent doubt. It was an indirect attack on God’s command about the Tree of Knowledge. If the serpent had simply told Eve that God had lied and that she should eat the fruit, Eve’s reaction may have been different. But the serpent was subtle, indeed, more subtle than any other creature that God had made, and knew that the human propensities for doubt and self-exaltation could be exploited.
Eve knew God had promised Death if she ate the tree’s fruit. The serpent had succeeded in casting doubt on God’s words, but Eve still heard them echoing in her mind. In fact, they were her last recorded words before eating the fruit with her husband. Her temptation was so all-consuming that she cast aside not only a regard for God’s clear command, but also a regard for her own safety. The serpent only told her she might not die, but she had been told by God that she would.
Here stands one of history’s greatest juxtapositions: The God of Truth versus the Father of Lies. The God of Truth promises death to those who eat of the Tree while the Father of Lies promises that those who eat its fruit will be like God. Each promise is the antithesis of the other. But in that moment, Eve chose to believe Satan instead of God.4 She chose to eat the fruit, even though she had no guarantee that the serpent was telling the truth. In other words, the serpent made the prospect of a God-like existence so appealing that Eve was willing to die on the spot for her actions.
This was the first time the inerrancy of God’s words would be questioned, but it would not be the last. The great lie of the serpent still echoes today: “Has God indeed said?” At the beginning of human history, this lie was used to lead mankind into sin and death. At our own point in human history, this lie is being used to cause the whole world to be deceived about the truthfulness and reliability of the whole of Scripture.