Genesis 3:5 New International Version

"For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Did evil exist at the time that this was spoken? Had someone already committed an evil act at this point? Was the serpent being evil?

  • God does not create darkness. He creates light. God does not create confusion, he creates order. Thus , the earth being without form and void and darkness being upon the face of the deep indicates the presence of something adverse to God. That is to say, evil. And then . . . . . . a serpent appears and deceives and lies and tempts : and murders. (Up-voted +1 as I think you have answered your own question. God created heavens (plural) and there was the evil, as you say : a spiritual evil. In the second heavens.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 15 at 14:59

Did evil exist?

Did evil exist in the experience of man? The first recorded sin of man comes after Genesis 3:5, unless we count Eve having anything to do with serpent as sin.

Did evil exist in the experience of God at the time that this was spoken?

God is outside time. Christ experienced the effects of evil on the cross. Satan entered Judas Luke 22:3.

God knows evil in that He knows its cause and effect. Before time God knows/knew evil. Revelation 13:8 "before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb...".

God is holy. Nothing in Him is evil. Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts".

God is holy but knows evil. It is always part of the experience of eternal God.

Satan was evil to tempt. James 1:13. God.."he himself tempts no one". Satan does tempt. Satan was evil to tempt.

  • +1 very good answer. I clarified my question a bit.
    – Tony Chan
    Jun 15 at 15:35

Did evil exist at the time of Genesis 3:5?

Answer: Possibly not.

First, we might understand that "evil" is not a "thing"; rather, it is behavior contrary to the will of God. The Lord's brother James clarifies this a bit:

James 1:14-15: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

Perhaps we might infer from James' words that evil is "sin accomplished." We have a further definition of sin from John's First Letter:

1 John 3:4, 8: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness... 8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning."

From these, we may deduce that "sin" occurs when lust is conceived; it is a transgression of divine Law. We also know further on in John's First Letter:

1 John 2:15-16: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."

Since all Scripture is inspired, James and John seem to be telling us the same thing: The lusts of the world are what we must avoid, because "when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin" and that leads to death because sin matured is both lawless and evil.

So, we have:

  1. Practicing sin is lawlessness (since it brings forth death);
  2. Practicing sin, lawlessness, disobedience to God is evil;
  3. Satan has practiced lawlessness "since the beginning" (we will look at this further in a moment).

From the passage cited in the OP:

Genesis 3:5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from [Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Surprisingly, the serpent has told the truth in this verse. The moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened. They recognized that they had disobeyed God's only Law, and that recognition brought forth death because it was evil to disobey God. (As well, they became prideful humans.) Thus, the knowledge of evil became manifest.

We do not know to what law the serpent was accountable. However, it certainly stands to reason that he committed the sins of lying and spiritual murder against the first couple:

John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

When else did Satan become a liar and a murder if not the Garden of Eden? And, precisely what "murder" are we discussing? It seems the only death anyone had yet encountered was Adam's and Eve's spiritual death — based solely on the text of Genesis 3.

Genesis 3 appears to be the most direct evidence of "evil" initially being committed in the Bible: that of the serpent knowingly deceiving these two innocent souls to inflict spiritual death not only on them, but on the entire human family.


This is very contentious!! The first recorded sin in the Bible is certainly that of Gen 3 - but that begs the question: If Satan was responsible for tempting Eve and Adam, then Satan must have sinned and fallen into sin prior to this point.

We are not told how much time there was between Stan's initial downfall and the incident in Gen 3; but there must have been some time. See appendix below.

Thus, God and other heavenly beings would have been aware of Satan's "evil" intentions before the Gen 3 incident.


If, as many believe, the Book of Job is the earliest book of the Bible ever written, then "Satan" appears in the first chapter. Here is a list of cases where "Satan" appears as a person with super-human capabilities and as adversary:

  • Job 1:6, 7 - One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. “Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.” See also Job 1:8, 9, 12, 2:1, 3, 4, 6, 7.
  • Zech 3:1 - Then the angel showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
  • 1 Chron 21:1 - Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

In the NT, "Satan", Σατανᾶς is a transliteration of the Hebrew, שָׂטָן and occurs 36 times in the NT from Matthew to Revelation. Significantly, as BDAG describes this word thus:

in our literature, only as a title or name: (the) Satan , in a very special sense, the enemy of God and all those who belong to God, simply, Satan, the enemy ... almost always with the article. [For more details in the extensive entry, see BDAG.]

Note that not only does Σατανᾶς almost always appear with the article, but it also occurs in the vocative case, eg, Matt 4:10, 16:23, Mark 8:33, where Jesus directly addresses Satan.

Other Names

In two places in Revelation Satan is given alternate titles:

  • Rev 12:9 - The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • Rev 20:2 - He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

This confirms what is already revealed in other places that when διάβολος has the article, “The Devil”, it is referring to "Satan", eg,

  • Compare Matt 4:1, 5, 8, 11 with V10
  • Luke 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 13 tells the same story of Jesus' temptations. In Matt 10:25, 12:24, 27, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, 18, 19, Satan is given the name Βεελζεβούλ, (Beelzeboul), "lord of flies", a false god of the Ekronites (2 Kings 1:2) - a Jewish name of extreme contempt.

In the rest of the New Testament Satan is either given the proper name “Satan” (Acts 5:3, 2 Cor 2:10, 11, 11:14, 2 Thess 2:9, 10, 1 Tim 5:14, 15, Rev 3:9), or “devil” (Matt 4:10, 11, 2 Tim 2:26, Eph 6:11, Rev 12:9, 1 John 3:8), “the serpent” (Rev 12:9, 15, 20:2), “the dragon” (Rev 12:9, 20:3), “Beelzebub” (Matt 12:24), “Belial” (2 Cor 6:15), “the temper” (Matt 4:3), “the enemy” (Matt 13:39), “the evil one” (Matt 5:37, 13:35, John 17:15, 2 Thess 3:3, 1 John 2:13, 14, 5:18), “the adversary” (1 Peter 5:8), “the thief” (John 10:10), “father of lies” (John 8:44), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the deceiver” (Rev 12:9).

Thus, both the OT and the NT treat Satan as personal being just as much as any other person whether human or superhuman, including vocative address. The theology of Satan is far more highly developed in the NT than the OT.


Several passages in the NT describe Satan and his minions as falling from heaven to earth such as Luke 10:18, Rev 8"10, 9:1, 12:8, 9, 13. These all appear to allude to the poetic/symbolic references in Isa 114:12-15 and Eze 28:12-17.

Lastly, the naming of Satan as the "serpent" in Rev 12:9, 20:2 appears to allude to the very thinly veiled description of the serpent in Gen 3.

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