Genesis 3 and the story of humanity’s fall is a significant and revealing text. It is a text with ramifications that are cosmic in scope, addressing the origins of sin, evil and wickedness, while also clarifying much on a personal level related to the nature of temptation, sin, and judgment. It is the Christian answer to the question of what went wrong and plays a critical role in the development of a cohesive biblical worldview. There is certainly much to learn from it.
However, one of the things that is particularly enlightening in this passage is an observation related to the phrase “And the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good” in Genesis 3:6. The verse continues by qualifying what it is Eve finds good about this fruit. It states that she finds it good for: 1) food, 2) the pleasure of the eye, and 3) the gaining of wisdom. What is significant is not so much why Eve finds the fruit to be good as it is that she is determining the goodness of the fruit in the first place.
The language here should not be unfamiliar to us. Genesis 1 has used the same language on 5 separate occasions. God is revealed to have declared that what He has created is good. God determines and pronounces that what has been created is indeed good. Then, here in Genesis 3:6, Eve (though she hasn’t been given this name yet at this point) is revealed to have determined and pronounced the fruit of this tree to be good. This is hardly coincidental language employed by the author. Eve is here doing what only God should be doing, determining the goodness of something.
Much has already happened in terms of the procession toward the first human sin act in the conversation that takes place between the serpent and the woman. The serpent has challenged the woman’s understanding of who God is and has provoked her to distort what God has originally said. There are certainly concerns already in the story. However, this next statement is, without question, ominous. Losing sight of who God is has led her to lose sight of who she is, and so she begins to act in the same manner as the serpent has tempted her, indulging in the delusion of being like God, having knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of good and evil implies the ability to judge good from evil, and this is exactly what the woman does, resolving for herself whether the fruit is good or not.
The story eventually reveals that such action proved to be destructive in ways no one could have possibly imagined. In attempting to do what only God was meant to do, judge good from evil, man failed miserably, proving that when man’s tries to do what only God can do things go horrifically wrong. We are not good at being God.
The message here is deeply instructive. God is the only one that is qualified to judge what is good and bad, right and wrong. God is the one who established the standard of goodness. When man begins to do so, it will prove only destructive for mankind. Cultures and societies and governments that believe they can determine right and wrong will ultimately fail. Individuals who believe it is their responsibility to decide what is right and wrong, good or bad, for themselves, will lead themselves to destruction. Like the woman, we are bad at being God. Our responsibility is not to judge what is good but to embrace the standard established by God regarding goodness and evil. The knowledge Adam and Eve gained that day was knowledge they were never meant to have and could not handle properly. The same is true for us today. We have been warned: Submit yourselves to God’s standards, judging not for yourself. He is a sure and trustworthy guide, capable of guiding our lives and the peoples of the earth. Good is what God declares it to be, not what we would like it to be.