After having questioned Eve about the instructions that God gave them regarding eating of the trees, Satan now turns to an out-right lie. He tells Eve according to Genesis 3:4, “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” According to George Whitefield, what Satan is telling Eve is, “It is all a delusion, a mere bugbear, to keep you in a servile subjection.”[1] Yea, I know. I had to look up the word “bugbear” as well. Here’s what Webster says about it:  it is “…an imaginary goblin or specter used to excite fear.”[2] Don’t you find it interesting that although Eve left out the word “surely” in her reply “lest you die,” Satan put that “surely” back into the equation. Satan reverses the certainty. God said “be certain” that you will die and Satan says “be certain” that you will not die! Pink suggests that Satan might have even shown her that there was nothing to be afraid of. He says, “Then he (Satan) denied that there was any danger in eating the fruit. First, he had by implication slandered God’s character; and now he told a downright lie. If, as we believe was the case, he had himself eaten of the forbidden tree in the woman’s presence, then his action would lend color to his falsehood. It was as though he said, ‘You need not hesitate. God is only trying to frighten you. You can see for yourself the fruit is quite harmless, for I have eaten it without suffering any ill effects.’”[3]

For the first time a lie, an untruth, a falsehood, is introduced into the experience of man. Exell elaborates on this: “Now crookedness, illusion and deceit began their career. The false in all its forms and shades is traceable to this first lie. All ignorance—all error—all superstition—all base fear—all inward treason of heart, took their rise here. It poisoned the moral blood, degenerated the race, and introduced every hideous deformity and foul impurity into the human family and species.”[4]

Could it be that Satan was telling Eve, and Adam, that they were way too precious for God to let them die? They were the epitome of God’s creation and His most precious possession. He would never “kill” them because of a simple disobedience? It’s interesting that Jesus knew his destiny was to “die” on the cross for all the sins of the world from Adam and Eve to our day and beyond. In Jesus’ wilderness temptation, Satan tells Jesus something similar. “Your are the Son of God. Go ahead and throw yourself off of the high mountain. Nothing will happen to you. You are too special.” Boteler says, “He (Satan while tempting Jesus) suggests this brilliant and daring way of winning the people en masse instead of the slow and painful way that had been set before him. Perhaps he (Satan) used the same old sneer that he used in the garden of Eden—“You shall not surely die.”[5]

[1] Whitefield, George. 1999. Selected Sermons of George Whitefield. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2003. In Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[3] Pink, Arthur W. 2005. Gleanings in the Scriptures: Man’s Total Depravity. Logos Bible Software.

[4] Exell, Joseph S., and Thomas H. Leale. 1892. Genesis. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary. New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Boteler, Mattie M. 1915. Sermon Notes from the Ministry of Jesus. Cincinnati, OH: Standard.