Moses 4: The Fall—Doctrinal Perspectives and Insights

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. —Doctrine and Covenants 93:38


With the Council in Heaven and the fall of Satan as the revealed backdrop for the fall of humankind, Moses witnessed the events in Eden from an entirely different perspective. In Moses 4 we encounter the devil tempting Adam and Eve, leading up to what prophets and theologians have long referred to as the Fall.[1] Understanding this doctrine is foundational to understanding the role of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer, and Moses is about to learn more about it.[2] The revelations received by Moses and the Prophet Joseph Smith restore a unique perspective for the Fall, framing anew the events in the Garden of Eden and their long-ranging outcomes as eternal positives. Some have even defined such a view as felix culpa (“happy guilt”) or the “fortunate Fall.”[3] This is consonant with scholar Ziony Zevit’s explanation of the etiological function of the Garden of Eden story:

Perhaps the most significant etiological feature of the Garden story is its explanation of how all humanity, not only Israelites, obtained the knowledge to discriminate between the more and the less preferable when making choices. This knowledge conferred on people the ability to make legal, ethical, and moral choices consciously, an ability that the species was obligated to exercise thereafter. All these developments underlie the stories that follow in Genesis, from the foundation of cities, to the flood, to the tower of Babel, to the confusion of languages, to the establishment of urban civilizations around the ancient Near East. . . . It is not the story of a decline but of a rise.[4]

Adam and Eve learned through their experiences that the result of sin is death (both spiritual and, in a very real way to them, physical), and they were taught the absolute necessity of a redeemer. Redemption constituted the crucial element in the story, a focal point in the equation, not a peripheral variable: “as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:9). This necessity has been described by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as follows:

In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. . . .

[T]hese two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. To add further sorrow and complexity to their circumstance, their transgression had spiritual consequences as well, cutting them off from the presence of God forever. Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced.

. . . With prophets ancient and modern, I testify that “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” Thus, from the moment those first parents stepped out of the Garden of Eden, the God and Father of us all, anticipating Adam and Eve’s decision, dispatched the very angels of heaven to declare to them—and down through time to us—that this entire sequence was designed for our eternal happiness. It was part of His divine plan, which provided for a Savior, the very Son of God Himself—another “Adam,” the Apostle Paul would call Him—who would come in the meridian of time to atone for the first Adam’s transgression. That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments.[5]

From this crucial perspective, the Book of Moses begins to paint a picture of the fortunate Fall.

Foreknown or Foreordained?

The revelations portray the events in the garden as a learning process that would inform and enable choice through experience, teaching principles of obedience versus disobedience. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that God was fully aware of the results of agency before the creation of the earth, thus highlighting his omniscience in providing a Savior to redeem, not condemn, Adam and Eve and their posterity who would inevitably falter in their obedience to him:

The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever “the morning stars sung together for joy”, the past, the present, and the future, were, and are with him one eternal now; he knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the ante-diluvians, of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family; their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostacies, their crimes, their righteousness and iniquity; he comprehended the fall of man, and their redemption; he knew the plan of salvation, and pointed it out; he was acquainted with the situation of all nations; and with their destiny; he ordered all things according to the council of his own will, he knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come.[6]

Thus, in remarking on this delicate balance of what would and could be, Joseph Smith described God’s foreknowledge of the evil and the good that would come in consequence of the Fall. It would be a temporary step downward but forward, and God not only knew that it would happen but had made ample provisions for such. Joseph Smith further declared:

I believe, said he, that there is a God, possessing all the attributes ascribed to him by Christians of all denominations. That he reigns over all things in Heaven and on Earth; and that all are subject to his power. He then spoke, rationally, of the attributes of Divinity, such as foreknowledge; mercy, &c &c He then took up the Bible. I believe, said he, in this sacred volume— In it the Mormon faith is to be found. We teach nothing but what the Bible teaches. We believe nothing but what is to be found in this Book I believe in the fall of man, as recorded in the Bible. I believe that God fore-knew every thing; but did not fore-ordain every <thing>. I deny that fore-ordain and fore-know is the same thing. He fore-ordained the fall of man: But all merciful as he is, he fore-ordained, at the same time, a plan of redemption for all mankind. I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that he died for the sins of all men, who in Adam had fallen.[7]

Through revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith had learned the good news that our omniscient Heavenly Father had provided a savior who would be sent as “the way, the truth, and the life,” enabling all who would believe in him to “have everlasting life” (John 14:5–6; 3:16). For Moses, these principles would remain the foundation of the law of sacrifice and worship at the tabernacle that would be set up (see Exodus–Leviticus). For the Saints in the Restoration, these same principles would inform the worship established in the temple. The important concept of the Garden of Eden was that a savior would literally save and redeem Adam and Eve, and all of us, from the effects of the Fall (see Articles of Faith 1:2–3; 2 Nephi 2). The Savior truly is the hero of this story, for he was appointed by the Father to redeem us from sin and death and bring us back to him once again upon conditions of repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel that he would set up and deliver to Adam and Eve and their posterity (see Moses 5–6). For Moses, and later the Prophet Joseph Smith, the revelatory groundwork was established in understanding the redemptive nature of the Garden experience.

Agency or Compulsion?

With God’s foreknowledge, and even foreordination of the Fall, the question arises as to whether Adam and Eve ever had a choice in the matter. Was their decision forced? Were they divinely entrapped? If the Fall had to be, then how does agency factor into the equation? As will be seen, what God knew would be, did not interfere with Adam and Eve’s agency and what could be, and could not remove the consequences of their exercising that agency.[8] The revelations would explain that Adam and Eve were innocent yet accountable for their decision and that their innocence precluded their actions from being accurately characterized as sin. Rather, in their innocent state their actions constituted a transgression of the command they had been given in the garden.[9] They did transgress a command from God, but why? God’s foreordaining both the Fall and the work of redemption that would stem from it would strike the perfect balance between (1) allowing what he knew would need to happen for our ultimate good because of the Fall, as well as the agency, knowledge, understanding of obedience and disobedience, and accountability that would be obtained in the process, and (2) providing a redeemer to save Adam and Eve, and all of us, from the result of the transgression. Thanks to the Redeemer and the plan of salvation, the learning process would serve to exalt, rather than condemn. God would redeem Adam and Eve while they learned to exercise agency, gain knowledge, and come to understand accountability. The Fall and the plan of redemption worked in tandem, and each would introduce necessities of God’s salvific work. God did not force Adam and Eve to disobey his command by partaking of the forbidden fruit, but he knew that as they were learning to exercise agency and were being subjected to temptation, they would transgress—and a way was provided to save, not to eternally condemn, them. This vital provision would become necessary when our first parents partook of the fruit. The Joseph Smith Translation of Moses 7:32 offers unique insight into what this all meant for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, for God explained, “I gave unto them their intelligence and in the Garden of Eden man had agency.”[10]

Adam and Eve did have intelligence, instruction (see 2 Nephi 2:5), and a choice. The commandments had been given with consequences attached, without which there could be no real choice. But had God really given them a commandment, and if so, was he really giving them a choice to break it? Furthermore, would this indicate that Adam and Eve were deliberately willing to break it? If so, how would this reflect the character of a loving God who allows such harsh consequences for something he “foreordained” Adam and Eve to do—even if they were willing to do it? These are some of the enigmas of the story. In a September 1829 revelation the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that “the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation (Doctrine and Covenants 29:40; emphasis added). This revelation appears to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between yielding to the temptation and partaking of the fruit. As will be seen below and in the next chapter, Adam and Eve, in their innocence, seem to have made that decision without full comprehension or understanding of the decreed consequences. In any event, the devil’s deception played a key role in that equation, and God was fully aware of the magnitude of that influence. Viewed this way, the garden became a template of hope and redemption through Christ. The conditions of the Fall were precipitated by human agency as Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation and thereby placed themselves in the adversary’s power. Thus the Father’s plan of salvation did not constitute a plan of compulsion put in place by him. What happened in the garden, rather, evidenced the love of our Heavenly Father. It further attested his omniscience, and that foresight of what would be enabled him to prepare for what could be in foreordaining a savior who would overcome the effects of the Fall that our Father knew would ensue but he did not actively cause. Learning the difference between good and evil, the importance of obedience, and the consequences of and accountability for one’s actions all underlie the divine purposes of Eden. Helping humankind learn these lessons, without eternally condemning them for mistakes in the use of their agency, bespeaks the love of God and the importance of the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

Thus the Garden of Eden account was never intended to cast Adam or Eve as the villains or the heroes. The hero of the story is Jesus Christ, God’s “beloved Son” (Moses 4:2), the Savior who would be sent to redeem Adam, Eve, and their posterity from the effects of what happened in the Garden of Eden, liberating them to engage further in the process of learning and becoming responsible for individual actions (see 2 Nephi 2:27–29). Joseph Smith had already learned from his translation of the Book of Mormon that the Savior’s life and death would save all of us from the effects of the Fall:

Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual. But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord. (Helaman 14:16–17)

As is clear already, interpreting the Fall and reaching definitive answers is elusive; many theories have been propounded through the centuries in efforts to resolve the interpretive cruxes. When Joseph Smith began receiving the revelations in Moses 4, probably in the late summer or early fall of 1830,[11] Church members were inquiring about the nature of the Fall, apparently confused by parts of those revelations and by Book of Mormon passages on the subject. Ancient scripture and revelation challenged then-current paradigms and required early Church members to view the Garden of Eden within a restored ancient paradigm. The following highlights the uncertainty early members were feeling in September 1830 with regard to interpreting the events in the garden:

A Revelation to Six Elders of the Church & three members they understood from Holy Writ that the time had come <that> the People of God should see eye to eye & they seeing somewhat different upon the death of Adam (that is his transgression) therefor they made it a subject of Prayer & enquired of the Lord & thus came the word of the Lord through Joseph the seer <saying given> At Fayette Seneca County State of New York[.][12]

The Innocence of Adam and Eve: Sin or Transgression?

Doctrine and Covenants 29 addressed potential questions surrounding the Fall. For example, it began to define Adam and Eve’s partaking of the fruit as a transgression resulting from giving in to the devil’s temptations, thus disobeying God’s command not to partake. This new revelation described the attendant consequences, including how Adam and Even became subject to the will of the devil. Importantly, it also taught of redemption and atonement, not condemnation. The relevant part of the revelation read as follows:

Wherefore it came to pass that the Devil tempted Adam & he partook of the forbiden fruit & transgressed the commandment wherein he became subject to the will of the Devil Because he yielded unto temptation Wherefore I the Lord God caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Edan from my presence because of his transgression Wherein he became spiritually dead which death is the first death even that same death which is the last death which is spiritual which shall be pronounced upon the wicked which shall be when I shall say depart ye Cursed. But Behold I say unto you that I the Lord God gave unto Adam & unto his seed that they should not Die as to the temporal death untill I the Lord God should send forth Angels to declare unto them Repentance & redemption through faith on the name of mine only begotten Son & thus did I the Lord God appoint unto man the days of his probation that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life even as many as would believe on my name . . . & now behold I declare no more unto you at this time amen[.][13]

The Book of Mormon had already clarified some positive outcomes of the Fall:

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit. (2 Nephi 2:26–28)

For the early Saints, these revelations may have contradicted any preconception that the Fall was inherently bad. They learned that God knew the effects of the Fall on his children and that it would serve his designs in bringing to pass our immortality and eternal life, an outcome enabled by the Savior. While Adam and Eve would move forward in their journey of progress toward heavenly reward, God would teach them about forgiveness through the redemption and atonement of Jesus Christ and also that they would not be punished in their innocence but would rise to exercise agency in a way that would eventually exalt them. The consequences of their choice became temporary through Christ. The Fall was thus fortunate.

The childlike innocence of Adam and Eve in the garden[14] militates against any notion that they were sinners. President Joseph Fielding Smith clarified: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. . . . This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin.”[15] While there were consequences for partaking of the forbidden fruit—including eventual physical death, removal from the immediate presence of God, and a knowledge of and accountability for sin, the first two could be overcome through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Kent P. Jackson remarks:

As Joseph Smith said, because of the Fall, we have lost the divine nature we possessed in the Garden of Eden. But “through the atonement of Christ and the resurrection and obedience in the gospel, we shall again be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus Christ. Then we shall have attained to the image, glory, and character of God.” Because Christ redeems us from sin and death, we too can rejoice, as did Adam and Eve, that we are here in this testing ground of mortality.[16]

This Fall truly was merciful and fortunate as the Father’s foreordained means of teaching his children and developing their use of agency and accountability without further condemnation.

Although it is difficult to comprehend the nature of the state of innocence in which the Lord placed Adam and Eve—that is, intelligent but unable to discern between good and evil—we can clearly see how the Lord mercifully led them from that state to one of accountability, a process of growth that we too undergo. Elder Orson Pratt taught:

We believe that all mankind, in their infant state, are incapable of knowing good and evil, and of obeying or disobeying a law, and that, therefore, there is no law given to them, and that where there is no law, there is no transgression; hence they are innocent, and if they should all die in their infant state, they would enjoy eternal life, not being transgressors themselves, neither accountable for Adam’s sin.

We believe that all mankind, in consequence of the fall, after they grow up from their infant state, and come to the years of understanding, know good and evil, and are capable of obeying or disobeying a law, and that a law is given against doing evil, and that the penalty affixed is a second banishment from the presence of God, both body and spirit, after they have been redeemed from the first banishment and restored into his presence.[17]

Adam and Eve lived in an innocent state and were the first to receive these commandments and have consequences attached to them while in this state.[18] It was a merciful way for God to teach them through their own experiences without condemning them beyond the temporal conditions already imposed on them and subjecting them to a permanent spiritual death. While there would be consequences to help them learn, partaking of the fruit would not be sinful on their part. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “It is proper and according to the scriptural pattern to speak of the transgression of Adam, but not the sin of Adam. . . . Knowledge of good and evil is an essential element in the commission of sin, and our first parents did not have this knowledge until after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”[19] Elder Dallin H. Oaks further differentiated transgression and sin in a moral and legal sense:

This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.[20]

There was nothing inherently wrong with Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit that would give them wisdom, but under the circumstances it had been formally prohibited, possibly in the attempt to teach the principle of obedience. President Brigham Young asked, “How did Adam and Eve sin? Did they come out in direct opposition to God and to His government?” He then answered: “No. But they transgressed a command of the Lord, and through that transgression sin came into the world. The Lord knew they would do this, and He had designed that they should.”[21] This statement does not imply that God had entrapped Adam and Eve. As Elder John Taylor explained:

How did Adam get his information of the things of God? He got it through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through this same Priesthood of which we have been speaking. God came to him in the garden and talked with him. We are told that no man can see the face of God and live. How was it that he obtained his knowledge of God? Through the Gospel; and he was the first man upon this earth that had the Gospel and the holy Priesthood; and if he had it not, he could not have known anything about God or his revelations. But God revealed himself to him and told him what he might do and what he might not do, what course he was to pursue and what course not to pursue; and when he transgressed the laws which the Lord gave to him, he was driven from the face of God, and left in a measure to grope in the dark.[22]

When the command was transgressed, God let the consequences follow. In fact, toward the end of Moses 4, God states, “For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled. So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life” (vv. 30–31). The good news was that this was not the end; it was a beginning, and redemption would come upon all who would be affected by the partaking of the fruit. This would include the entire human family (of which we are a part) who would now begin to develop as Adam and Eve would begin to be blessed with children. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the good news of redemption and reconciliation of sin and death through the grace of God’s Son:

adam Did Not Comit sin in [e]ating the fruit, for God had Dec[r]eed that he should Eat & fall— But in complyance with the Decree he should Die— only he should Die was the saying of the Lord therefore the Lord apointed us to fall & also Redeemed us—for where sin abounded Grace did Much More abound— for Paul says Rom.— 5— 10 for if— when were Enemys we were Reconciled to God by <the Death of> his Son, much more, being Reconciled, we shall be saved by his Life— (emphasis added)[23]

All Redeemed from the Fall

Orson Pratt explained the Fall and redemption through Jesus Christ as follows:

We believe that all mankind, by the transgression of their first parents, and not by their own sins, were brought under the curse and penalty of that transgression, which consigned them to an eternal banishment from the presence of God, and their bodies to an endless sleep in the dust, never more to rise, and their spirits to endless misery under the power of Satan; and that, in this awful condition, they were utterly lost and fallen, and had no power of their own to extricate themselves therefrom. We believe, that through the sufferings, death, and atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind, without one exception, are to be completely, and fully redeemed, both body and spirit, from the endless banishment and curse, to which they were consigned, by Adam’s transgression; and that this universal salvation and redemption of the whole human family from the endless penalty of the original sin, is effected, without any conditions whatsoever on their part.[24]

Through the human experience of mortality, good and evil would be learned, but not via coercion. Moreover, accountability would enable repentance of wrong choice through the Savior if one should choose to pursue that path.[25] The mortal experience that would ensue would allow Adam and Eve to grow, overcome the temptations of the devil, and to eternally prevail over sin and death through the atonement of Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

The Principl of Salvation is given to us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ Salvation is nothing more or less than to triumph over all our enemies & put them under our feet & when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world & a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come then we are saved as in the case of Jesus he was to reign untill he had put all enemies under his feet & the last enemy was death Perhaps there are principle here that few men have thought of. <person> can have this Salvation except through a tabernacle[26]

In Moses 4 we become personally acquainted with how much our Savior has done for us and how absolutely dependent we are on him to become justified and sanctified before God (see Moses 6:59–60). The events that took place in the Garden of Eden become ever more sacred as we recognize the love our Heavenly Father had for Adam and Eve—and has for each of us.

The Serpent and Subtlety

The objectives of the devil having been detailed and the role of the Savior established in verses 1–4, Moses 4 picks up where Genesis 3 begins:

5 And now the serpent[27] was more subtle[28] than any beast of the field which I, the Lord God, had made.

6 And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought[29] also to beguile[30] Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.

7 And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?[31] (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.)

The serpent is described as subtle (ʿārûm, a wordplay on ʿărûmmîm, “naked,” as Adam and Eve are described in Genesis 2:25). The word ʿārûm means crafty and sly to the point of being stealthy and almost imperceptible.[32] There may be some question as to whether or not the serpent is specifically the adversary or is the influence he exerted on another figure in the form of the serpent; however, the end result is the same: his intent is to beguile, destroy agency, and destroy the world.[33] In 2 Nephi 9:9, Jacob offers us a curious possibility as to what may have happened in the garden—namely, the devil transformed himself into an angel of light in order to deceive:

And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

The statement is somewhat implicit, but perhaps the adversary appeared to Adam and Eve as an angel of light with the intent to deceive.[34] In Alma 30:53, Korihor describes his deception by the adversary in the form of an angel of light:

But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

If the “serpent” (hannāhāš) in Genesis 3 and Moses 4 can be connected with a seraph as a divine being—like the seraphim around the divine throne in Isaiah 6, the “fiery serpent”/“seraph” (śārāp) on the pole in Numbers 21, and the “fiery serpents” (hannĕḥāšîm haśśĕrāpîm) that bit the people[35]—perhaps we have another textual inference of Satan’s attempted imitation of divine glory. The figure of the “anointed cherub” in Ezekiel 28 strongly resembles the serpent (Satan) in the narrative of the Fall and the figure of Lucifer in the parable of Isaiah 14:12–25.

While the scriptures do not seem to indicate that Adam and Eve’s partaking of the fruit was a sin, it is interesting that when she was trying to get Adam to eat the fruit, a similar pattern emerges: she declared the fruit to be desirable, something she had not earlier observed regarding the fruit. Eve was repeating the words of the adversary, so perhaps the adversary had appeared to her as an angel of light to perpetrate his deceit. This dramatic scene later became an important part of the Nauvoo temple ritual.

Satan “Knew Not the Mind of God”

The statement “for he [Satan] knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6) could mean that the adversary simply did not understand the plan of God and that he was unwittingly destroying himself and defeating his own diabolical designs by tempting Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit. However, there is another way to look at this. We already know that the adversary became Perdition, having fallen from a position of authority as one bearing light to a fallen and lost state. This, along with the wisdom imagery attached to the figure of the serpent, seems to indicate that the devil knowingly rebelled against God with knowledge of this, thus reflecting his opposition to God’s plan rather than simply his ignorance of it. Revelation 12:9, 12 states that the adversary knows his time is limited and that he will be overcome:

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. . . .

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

The adversary knows that he cannot win the game, but perhaps he believes he can take a few innings. It seems his sole purpose in deceiving Adam and Eve was to ensnare and destroy as many of God’s spirit children who would be born to them as he could (knowing that if he cannot win, he can at least make others miserable with him). As 2 Nephi 2:18 teaches, “Because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” Elder Richard Scott explained:

Not long ago you came to mortality with all of those magnificent capacities and endless possibilities. Yet there is real danger in the environment surrounding you. Your great potential and ability could be limited or destroyed if you yield to the devil-inspired contamination around you. However, Satan is no match for the Savior. Satan’s fate is decided. He knows he has lost, but he wants to take as many with him as he can. He will try to ruin your goodness and abilities by exploiting your weaknesses. Stay on the Lord’s side, and you will win every time.[36]

Thus, another way that we might understand the phrase “for he knew not the mind of God” is that the adversary does not see as God sees, know as God knows, or desire what God desires (describing those who receive the celestial kingdom of God; see Doctrine and Covenants 76:94–95). This phrase does not necessarily mean that he misunderstands God or his plan, but rather that he may have chosen to reject it and wreak havoc against God, his Son, and all those who accept God’s plan. President Joseph F. Smith taught, “There is a difference between knowledge and pure intelligence. Satan possesses knowledge, far more than we have, but he has not intelligence or he would render obedience to the principles of truth and right.”[37]

The adversary knows his time to wage war against God’s children is limited. By persuading Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit, thereby ushering in mortality, the devil could go after more souls than those he already claimed in premortality, as witnessed in the story of Cain and Abel (see Moses 5).

With Satan’s deception now in play, we witness Eve’s response to the serpent and his efforts to convince Eve of the merits of partaking of the fruit:

8 And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;

9 But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

10 And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die;[38]

11 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.[39]

We notice the subtlety used in the adversary’s conversation with Eve. He said, “Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Moses 4:7).This was true, and the Lord had given this as part of the commandment (see Moses 3:16).[40] However, there was the second part that prohibited partaking of that particular fruit at that particular time. Satan repeated God’s injunction in the negative in rebellion.[41] Satan spoke as if he were God, but he is not, and what he has to say contradicts God. His shrewd and sensible falsehoods are spurious, but convincing and subtle, almost to the point of being undetectably contradictory to God. However, Eve recognized this and refuted him and his request. The adversary started simple and then began to weave lies in with truth. Their eyes would be opened, and they would know good from evil, but he also stated that they would not die, something God said would assuredly happen upon disobeying him and partaking of the fruit (see Moses 3:17).[42]

Orson Pratt described the underlying danger:

The devil can adapt himself to the belief of any person. . . . If he could get you to swallow down one or two great lies that would effect your destruction, and which you would preach and destroy many others, he would not mind how many truths you might believe. He would be willing that you should believe a great many things absolutely true if he could only deceive you and lead you astray and get you to reject some of the fundamental principles of your salvation, and the salvation of the people.[43]

What Moses appears to be learning through his own experiences, as described in Moses 1 and now Moses 4, is succinctly summarized in a statement made by Elder Howard W. Hunter: “The surest way to lose the blessings of time or eternity is to accept them on Satan’s terms.”[44] The next chapter discusses moving forward on God’s terms.


[1] The word fall (נפילה in Hebrew) is not used in the Hebrew text of Genesis 3, perhaps indicating that “the main narrative is concerned not with how sin entered but how knowledge to discriminate was gained. Its focus is not theology (i.e., sin’s origin) but wisdom; not about a loss, but a gain.” Zevit, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?, 264. Some see the story through the lens of “the transgression” (Arnold, Genesis, 62) or as a type of wisdom literature, as “its function of provoking hard reflection on the nature of life in the world with a view to moral or spiritual growth is congruent with such a classification.” Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 87. The Book of Mormon describes the fall of Adam and Eve and the theme of redemption and salvation through Christ (see 2 Nephi 2:4, 25; 9:6). Gordon J. Wenham, in Genesis 1–15, 51, sees a chiastic pattern conveying the corresponding events in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. The pattern begins with Adam and Eve being placed in the garden, followed by dialogues about God and commandments; the center of the chiasm deals with the disobedience, and the inversion with the results of the Fall. The concept of the Fall is implicitly in place in Genesis 3 and was developed explicitly in later Judaism and by the Apostle Paul and St. Augustine. See Arnold, Genesis, 62.

[2] The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines redeem as “to purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability to suffer or to be forfeited, by paying an equivalent; as, to redeem prisoners or captured goods; to redeem a pledge. To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor.” Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “redeem.” It may seem that the apparent lack of explicit attention the Garden of Eden story receives in subsequent Old Testament scripture may render the concept of the Fall irrelevant (Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 70–71); however, the ancient temple experience and architecture appear to reenact and represent the Creation and the garden experience over and over, thus preserving the sacredness of the account and its theme of redemption. The redemption themes in the garden are thus very much active in ancient Israelite religion and theology. Additionally, “redemption (Heb. geʾullâh, Gr. lytrōsis, apolytrōsis) is a metaphor used in both OT and NT to describe God’s merciful and costly action on behalf of his people (sinful human beings). The basic meaning of the word is release or freedom on payment of a price, deliverance by a costly method. . . . Two virtually synonymous verbs are used in the OT doctrine of redemption: gāʾal, usually translated ‘to redeem,’ and pādhāh, usually translated ‘to ransom.’” Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary, 850. These concepts define the framework of the story.

[3] See Judd, Fortunate Fall.

[4] Zevit, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?, 264.

[5] Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet.”

[6] History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842], p. 1322, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[7] Discourse, 5 February 1840, p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[8] See, e.g., Alma 42:5: “If Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated”; and Alma 12:26–27: “If it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect. But behold, it was not so; but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end.”

[9] See History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842], p. 1285, The Joseph Smith Papers; and Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842, p. 709, The Joseph Smith Papers. The distinction between sin and transgression will be taken up later in this chapter.

[10] OT2. See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 618; and Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 25.

[11] See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 57–59; and Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 96.

[12] Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29], p. 36, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[13] Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29], p. 39–40, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[14] See Jackson, Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis, 94. See 2 Nephi 2.

[15] See Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:114–15.

[16] Jackson, Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis, 98; see Revelation Book 2, p. 58, The Joseph Smith Papers: “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning, and God haveing redeemed man from the fall, men became again in their infant state innocent before God”; compare Doctrine and Covenants 93:38.

[17] Appendix: Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840, p. 26, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[18] Eating of the fruit was not in the same category as the sins proscribed in the Ten Commandments and thus puts it in an entirely different realm. See Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 82. God meant for Adam and Eve to keep the commands, but they were specific to Adam and Eve’s circumstances and opened up an opportunity for God to teach them more and extend further commandments that would be binding on all people with the intention of leading them to eternal life and salvation.

[19] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 804.

[20] Oaks, “Great Plan of Happiness.”

[21] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 10:312. Although God knew that Adam and Eve would partake of the forbidden fruit, his omniscient foreknowledge does not interfere with our ability to make choices, nor is it a determining cause of what subsequently happens because of our decisions. He knew that Adam and Eve would, when left alone in their innocent state and being tempted by the devil seeking to destroy them, seek to do good by following that opposing voice. This was a part of God’s grand design that enabled him to account for their decision and provide a Savior in advance to atone for it. God had taught Adam and Eve not to heed any other instruction, yet he was aware and understanding of the process leading to a knowledge of good and evil. Thankfully, a Savior had already been chosen to make our immortality and eternal life possible despite the conditions of sin and death that would enter the world following Adam and Eve’s transgression. That Heavenly Father would foreordain Adam and Eve to be the parents of the whole human family and send them to earth with a knowledge of the events that would unfold at the instigation of the adversary, who they knew had rebelled and rejected the plan of God in the premortal existence and who would turn his attention on them in their innocence when they were placed in the Garden of Eden, inspires confidence in the valiancy of Adam and Eve. Once they came to know good and evil through their own experiences in the garden, their unwavering characters of obedience to God in the premortal existence would then be developed and demonstrated throughout their mortal lives in their stewardship over the human family. God knows exactly what he is doing to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

[22] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 7:363.

[23] Account of Meeting, circa 9 February 1841, as Reported by William P. McIntire, p. [11], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[24] Appendix: Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840, p. 24–25, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[25] The Prophet Joseph Smith understood the principle of agency well. In December 1839 he heard of people who were about to make decisions that he knew would have negative consequences. Rather than compel, he admonished them, “Now brethren, this being the case, we advise you to abandon such an idea; yea we warn you, in the name of the Lord, not to remove back there, unless you are counseled so to do by the first Presidency, and the high council of Nauvoo. We do not wish by this to take your agency from you; but we feel to be plain, and pointed in our advice for we wish to do our duty, that your sins may not be found in our skirts. All persons are entitled to their agency for God has so ordained it.— He has constituted mankind moral agents, and given them power to cho[o]se good or evil; to seek after that which is good, by pursuing the pathway of holiness in this life, which brings peace of mind, and joy in the Holy Ghost here, and a fullness of joy and happiness at his right hand hereafter; or to pursue an evil course, going on in sin and rebellion against God, thereby bringing condemnation to their souls in this world, and an eternal loss in the world to come. Since the God of heaven has left these things optional with every individual, we do not wish to deprive them of it. We only wish to act the part of faithful watchmen, agreeably to the word of the Lord to Ezekiel the prophet, Ezekiel 33 chap. 2 3 4 5 and 6 verses, and leave it for others to do as seemeth them good.” Letter to Saints Scattered Abroad, 8 December 1839, p. 29, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[26] Discourse, 14 May 1843, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff, p. [30], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[27] In the ancient Near East, serpents would be viewed in terms of death and chaos, as well as the enemy of God (see Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary, 1857), but they are also often associated with wisdom, symbols of protection, and renewal of life. This dual association makes the actions of the serpent all the more deceptive in the Garden of Eden. “Here the serpent is a symbol of antigod. Although not named here, he is the adversary of God and humanity, called the Satan (Hebrew śāṭān [“adversary, persecutor, or accuser”]) in the Old Testament and the devil (diabolos, the Greek equivalent) in the New Testament. He originates in heaven, standing outside earth’s natural order. He is malevolent and wiser than humans, bringing them under his rule. He knows divine matters . . . and uses speech to introduce confusion.” Waltke, Genesis, 90. The serpent is certainly portrayed in negative terms in Genesis 3 (see Day, Studies in Genesis 1–11, 36–37), and Moses 4 explains why and what the serpent is doing. In early blessings given in the restored Church, language was employed such as “You shall have the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the Dove in proclaiming the Gospel.” Blessing to Lorenzo Booth, 1 March 1835, p. 171, The Joseph Smith Papers. In an 1836 revelation, the Lord also commissioned: “be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin, and I will order all things for your good as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen.” Revelation, 6 August 1836 [D&C 111], p. [37], The Joseph Smith Papers; and History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838], p. 750, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[28] Subtle may also be translated as “crafty, shrewd, prudent, clever, or discerning.” Its usage in the Hebrew Bible can be positive or negative and is associated with wisdom. “When craftiness is used for ill, it leads to masterful manipulation of others (Exod. 21:14; Josh. 9:4; Job 5:12; 15:5; Ps. 83:3). But when it is used for good, this trait enables a person to escape evil and to perform remarkable deeds (Prov 1:4; 12:23; 13:16; 14:8; 15; 22:3).” Hartley, Genesis, 64. “The description of the serpent commences with its being ‘more prudent than all the creatures of the field’ (3:1) and, after having tempted Eve, concluded with its being ‘more cursed than all the creatures of the field’ (3:14b). Verses 1 and 14 are nearly identical in the Hebrew, suggesting an intentional contrast between the two verses.” Postell, Adam as Israel, 123. This may be a way the text is attempting to convey that knowledge is good if it is used prudently. The serpent’s use of deception via knowledge is a twisting of the concept of wisdom and its application of knowledge for good. The deception thus becomes a “shrewd” application of knowledge with the intent to lead astray. “Satan’s serpentine embodiment matched his sinuously deceptive encroachment and temptation (cf. Rev 12:9). Challenge to God’s prohibition (v. 1) and the contradiction of God’s threat (vv. 4, 5) betrayed the anti-lord identity of the deceiver-usurper.” Kline, Genesis, 21. “Satan’s craftiness is seen in his cunning distortion of God’s words. With subtle guise, the adversary speaks as a winsome angelic theologian.” Waltke, Genesis, 90. He is not trying to help Adam and Eve, but he is trying to hurt them.

[29] OT1 reads “he thought to destroy.” OT2 reads “sought.” See Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 90, 600. Sought perhaps emphasizes this is not just cognitive, but an active pursuit.

[30] Beguiling is what the adversary is attempting to do. Later in the story, Eve declared that he succeeded: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Moses 4:19).

[31] “Satan smoothly maneuvers Eve into what may appear as a sincere theological discussion, but he subverts obedience and distorts perspective by emphasizing God’s prohibition, not his provision, reducing God’s command to a question, doubting his sincerity, defaming his motives, and denying the truthfulness of his threat.” Waltke, Genesis, 91. God is not threatening Adam and Eve, but he is informing them of consequences attached to disobeying his commands. Reconciling this tends to be the sticking point when we attempt to remove God’s command and replace it with an optional suggestion, giving Adam and Eve carte blanche to keep the command or disobey it as if it were never really a command. The language of the Hebrew text is most certainly a command.

[32] “‘Subtle,’ in this context, also has to do with the ability to make something appear one way when it is actually another. Thus, it will not be in the least out of character later for Satan or his accomplices to disguise their identity in order to deceive.” Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:246.

[33] As described above, in ancient times serpents were noted for healing powers, protection, wisdom, and knowledge of death. See Hendel, “Serpent,” in Van Der Toorn et al., Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 744–47. The devil’s subtlety is clear as he attempts to deceive Adam and Eve. Much modern scholarship denies the existence of belief in the devil until later Judaism and Christianity. Yet, after examining later Canaanite theology within the framework of the garden story, scholar F. F. Hvidberg “avers that, if he is right about the identification of the serpent as ‘Prince Baal’ (Bel-Zebul), the adversary of Yahweh in the struggle for Israel’s soul, then ‘the old Jewish-Christian belief that the serpent is the devil is far more historically true than late Judaism and early Christianity could conceive.’” Arnold, Genesis, 63n127. The devil does not seem to be a later invention that has no earlier historical parallels. Restoration scripture confirms this.

[34] It has been stated that “Moses 4:7 retains a statement lost from the Book of Genesis: ‘And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.’ Both Genesis and Moses suggest that Satan worked through the serpent because the nature of the serpent ‘was more subtle than any beast of the field which I, the Lord God, had made’ (Moses 4:5; Gen. 3:1). . . . Whether the serpent is literal or figurative is really immaterial as far as the outcome is concerned. Eve was tempted and yielded to the temptation. Adam yielded also, and the fall was initiated.” Millet and Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2, 93. While this may be true, the story does seem to be the Lord’s description of a conflict involving the devil portrayed as a real character. Doctrine and Covenants 129:8 tells how to detect false spirits: “If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.” This implies that these evil spirits take on the appearance of a person that is convincing and difficult to detect with sight alone. Touch is thus necessary, and the shaking of hands was implemented to assist in avoiding deception. See Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:54.

[35] On the symbolism and significance of seraphim and cherubim, see Gee, “Cherubim and Seraphim.”

[36] Scott, “For Peace at Home,” 29.

[37] Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 58. “Even though he is exceedingly brilliant, Satan’s brilliance is unanchored and contains a fatal flaw: now, as then, Satan ‘knew not the mind of God.’ (Moses 4:6.) In our lives, we must strive to know ‘the mind of God’ and to ‘give place’ for such things.” Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple, 89. Victor P. Hamilton, in Book of Genesis, 187, also discusses the subtlety of the serpent but notes that he is not wise.

[38] “The serpent’s conversation starter now turns to its insidious purpose. . . . ‘You will not die’ is a direct challenge to God’s authority and character (Gen 3:4; 2:17). This is followed by a less direct nuancing—a reinterpretation of God’s command, where we learn just how shrewd the serpent really is (3:5). Here he uses half-truths to distort the whole truth; misinformation to cloud reality. In a certain twisted sense, human eyes will indeed be opened, and they will, in fact, gain knowledge (3:5; compare 3:7).” Arnold, Genesis, 65–66. What they will come to know is the difference between right and wrong, obeying God and disobeying him. Eve appears to understand God’s commandment but will disobey, not because God did not command or did not want them to obey the commandment, nor because she thought she had a better way, but apparently because the devil deceived her into thinking that the path he proposed was the only way, Eve innocently believing it to be true. “When the woman looks again at the forbidden tree, seeing it with fresh eyes in light of the serpent’s words, all she can see is everything looks desirable; so, why should there be a problem with it? Thus she, together with the man, acts on the apparent desirability (3:6). Given the story so far, what would one expect to happen as this point? One would expect God’s words would be proven right, the serpent’s wrong. That is, the woman and man would die.” Moberly, Old Testament Theology, 80. At this point, however, Adam’s and Eve’s lives will be extended so that God can mercifully and lovingly teach them the source of their redemption and provide them a period of growth and development before they die. God’s foreknowledge of what would be enabled him to provide a Savior from the foundation of the earth and allow choice and accountability to become fundamental principles of growth.

[39] “The serpent’s statement is but a half-truth. It is true that Adam’s and Eve’s eyes will be opened to a glimpse of the divine, but what will they know? At first, only that they are naked. Later, they will begin to further exercise their capacity for discernment—for example, in recognizing Satan for who he is. . . . Partaking of the forbidden fruit is only the beginning of [the learning] process.’ Ultimately, ‘deification comes through obedience to God, not through disobedience.’” Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:253. “D&C 29:39 affirms that ‘if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet,’ implying that the ‘forbidden tree offers an experience that is both pleasant and painful; it awakens those who partake of it to the higher knowledge and to the pain that both come with moral choice.’ . . . Though eating the forbidden fruit will bring Adam and Eve to the threshold of knowledge, it will not automatically confer wisdom.” Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 1:254–55. The translation of the line in Hebrew does not say they will immediately know everything like God does. The translation does imply “‘you will be like divine beings, knowers of good and evil.’ . . . After they eat of the forbidden fruit, the text says unambiguously, ‘They have become like one of us, knowers of good and evil’ (lit., Gen. 3:22).” Waltke, Genesis, 91. The line is about coming to understand the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, which at this point Adam and Eve as intelligent beings do not seem to be able to fully distinguish in their innocence. It seems that “since ‘good and evil’ often have a moral connotation, the issue at stake was moral knowledge. ‘Know’ may be interpreted as ‘to have mastery over.’ Thus humans were seeking to gain for themselves the prerogative of determining what was good and what was evil.” Hartley, Genesis, 67. Discernment of good and evil is at the heart of the matter, and Eve “took of the tree and ate because she ‘saw that the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom [lehaśkîl]’ (v. 6)”; however, “the serpent represents the obtainment of a certain kind of wisdom (ʿārûm)” that Adam and Eve may have never anticipated, and “his wisdom (ʿārûm) led ultimately to the curse (ʾārûr, v. 14).” Sailhamer, Genesis, loc. 3301–3304.

[40] In the Hebrew text, the Lords states, “You most certainly can eat of every fruit.” However, it is contrasted with “but not of this one” followed by an emphatic command not to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

[41]Surely you will not die. Here the serpent is more aware of what the Lord God said than the woman was; he simply adds a blatant negation to what God said. In the account of Jesus’ temptation Jesus is victorious because he knows the scripture better than Satan (Matt 4:1–11). . . . The response of the serpent includes the infinitive absolute with a blatant negation equal to saying: ‘Not—you will surely die’ (לֹא מוֹת תִּמֻתען, lomot témutun). The construction makes this emphatic because normally the negative particle precedes the finite verb. The serpent is a liar, denying that there is a penalty for sin (see John 8:44).” Biblical Studies Press, NET Bible, at Genesis 3:4.

[42] One could translate “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” in Moses 4:11 as ‘You will be like divine beings who know good and evil.’ The following context may favor this translation, for in 3:22 God says to an unidentified group, ‘Look, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.’” Biblical Studies Press, NET Bible, at Genesis 3:5. “Another view understands the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ as the capacity to discern between moral good and evil.” Biblical Studies Press, NET Bible, at Genesis 2:9. The Hebrew text presents God explaining to Adam and Eve that death really is the consequence for disobeying his command. Perhaps the capacity to discern stems from the fact that the consequences of experiencing death and a separation from God will help Adam and Eve understand the difference between good and bad choices, obeying God and disobeying him. There is a great lesson of the shrewdness and subtlety of the adversary. Eve had gone from protesting against the adversary’s queries by citing God (“Ye shall not eat of it”), then adding her own rejection of his advances, something not spoken of by God in the text (“neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die,” Genesis 3:3), to apparently repeating the adversary’s words to Adam to get him to eat (“the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise”). The adversary took a spiritual principle of truth—a way to become like God—and deceitfully masqueraded it in a falsehood that removed consequences for disobedience to God and concealed it in a physical benefit tailored to the senses.

[43] Pratt, “Revelations and Manifestations of God,” 13:62–75.

[44] Hunter, “Temptations of Christ,” 18.