1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:1-6, NASB)
This passage from Genesis records one of the most pivotal moments in the history of mankind and our relationship with God. There’s no doubt that the tempter in this passage is none other than Satan who the apostle John refers to in the New Testament as “the serpent of old” (Rev 20:2). However, as the story unfolds, the reader realizes that Satan apparently manifested himself in the guise of a snake. Not surprisingly, this causes many students of the Bible to take pause. A snake? Really? Are we expected to believe that a snake actually talked to Eve? How dense was she anyway? Let’s face it, if a snake slithers up to one of us on the street and starts talking, we’re going to know immediately that we shouldn’t trust it. Why? Because snakes don’t talk!
But let’s put ourselves in Eve’s shoes for a second … well, not her shoes for she was naked for the time being, but hang with me anyway – Eve was a relatively new creation at this point. It was Adam that God presented all the animals to so they could be named in Genesis 2:20; Eve wasn’t created until Genesis 2:22 – she had probably never seen a snake in her short life at that point. In her naivety, Eve was a perfect target for Satan’s ruse. And she fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
So are we to believe that Satan literally spoke to Eve through a snake? I believe we are. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) and Peter adds that Satan prowls about like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) so we should expect Satan to go to great lengths to fool us! But allow me to put this question into perspective just a bit. We can get so caught up in the question of rather this is a literal snake or not that we miss the principle that should be derived from the scene.
Satan, the father of lies, fooled Eve and he is still trying to fool us today. To see this in action, take a look at Acts 5:1-3:
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?”
Satan conspired with the inclination of Ananias and Sapphira’s hearts to cause them to sin. Peter immediately discerned this and asked, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Satan baited their hook and they fell for it. And he is baiting your hook right now.
“You surely will not die!”
Whatever sin your heart is inclined toward, Satan is trying to bait your hook with opportunity and reassure you with the lie that you won’t die. It’s all going to be okay. But Scripture reveals the truth. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and we are all called to respond to Jesus’s plea “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Satan may not be appearing to you as a snake, but he is appearing to you in some fashion. It may be in the form of alcohol, drugs, pornography, a relationship that’s bad for you … there are countless ways he may disguise himself … but his whispered lie remains the same, “You surely will not die.”
The challenge for all of us to hear Jesus’ voice above the whispers of Satan, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”