Adam, Eve and the Ten Commandments

How many of God’s laws did Adam and Eve break in Eden? In one sense, they had just the one, which they promptly broke by taking the forbidden fruit. In another respect, they broke them all. Here are the Ten Commandments, as recorded by Exodus 20 (New King James Version):

And God spoke all these words, saying, 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

By heeding the serpent’s words and obeying him, Eve ennobled him to the status of god, a parody of the real God who had recently created her. Paul calls the devil the ‘god of this world’. He is so honoured and obeyed, taking from God the worship due to Him alone. Eve ceded to him an authority to which he was never entitled.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

No carved images were made in Eden; if anything, the very opposite happened. Eve and Adam were themselves images of God- holy, righteous and pure. By discarding God’s simple command, that image they marred and ruined. Although the fallen human shares some of God’s characteristics (creativity, a capacity to love, an eternal spirit) we are now images of fallen Adam rather than the God who made us. In that sense, Adam and Eve created successive generations of ugly, shattered ‘likenesses’ and distorted images- us.  

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

We see no record of ungodly cursing and swearing in Genesis 3, but vainly taking God’s name is more than just pronouncing a word or phrase in a fit of pique. It is to disrespect Him, to speak ill of Him, to despise His character. His name means I AM, the self-existing One, the One who cannot be ignored or side-lined. Yet this is exactly what our first parents did. Likewise, those who deny Jesus Christ’s saving work and mission deny His name- the One who saves- and therefore takes it vainly.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The sabbath day was instituted at creation; it is a day with which Adam and Eve would have been familiar. Adam was set to work in the garden by managing the earth, with Eve assisting him. Doubtless, the sabbath day was a welcome break even from this most rewarding of occupations. There is no evidence in the text that they took the fruit on the Sabbath, and I do not think it would have made any difference if they had. Yet their work lives were significantly affected by their rebellious actions. Whereas Adam’s work and purpose was to manage the earth in all its splendour and beauty, after the fall it became an urgent and necessary means of survival. He must now persuade the earth to yield its fruit by the sweat of his brow, while fighting thistle and briar. Originally made to serve God and wait on His majesty, he was demoted to the rank of serf, tied to the land, toiling for his bread.

12 “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Adam and Eve had no mother and father. Yet by disobeying God and leading the other astray, they dishonoured their fellow parent of mankind. They should have left us an inheritance of beauty and abundant wealth; instead, we were willed a scorched, hostile world and a destructive, impoverished sinful nature. Furthermore, they rejected God their Father, He who had begotten them. Children rebelling against and reviling their parents are just a snapshot of humanity’s petulance and arrogance towards its Maker. Our first parents’ days, though longer than ours, were still infinitely shorter than they ought to have been. Their days in the land were cut short.

13 “You shall not murder.

Paul says that through Adam, death entered the world. He unleashed destruction on to all those still to come. Like Saturn consuming his own children, so did Adam destroy his. By eating that fruit, the pair signed their own suicide notes and their children’s death warrants. God had warned them that they would die and die they did. Their spiritual deaths were instant, their physical deaths delayed. Furthermore, the natures they bequeathed us would sometimes become so selfish and bitter that we literally murder each other on battlefields, in dark alleys, in abortion clinics.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

There were not other people around with whom illicit sexual congress might have been had, so this seems to be a commandment from which they were exempted by default. Yet adultery in the Old Testament is often metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness. Likewise, the community of the redeemed, both old Israel and the Church, are described as a bride betrothed, called to be pure and above reproach until the bridegroom comes. By abandoning their first love for the serpent’s charms and beguiling temptations, they sold their chastity to a rival. Never was a divorce more painful, nor its consequences so bitter.  

15 “You shall not steal.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. This included the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and its ripe, juicy fruit. That God had forbidden its fruit did not in anyway negate His property rights. We gladly lend our possessions to each other, but we prefer people first ask rather than help themselves. Eve took that which did not belong to her. She then, having handled the stolen good, passed it on to her husband. That act of theft unleashed a whole barrage of thefts, burglaries, robberies and raids. Like children, like mother. Now, we must lock our homes, guard our savings, alarm our cars, lest our fellow descendants of Eve take a fancy to those tasty things forbidden them.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Eve misquoted God, claiming His instruction was ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” We do not have a record of God telling Adam not to touch the tree. I suspect Eve is quoting her spouse here, rather than God, who might have told her that if its fruit was forbidden, she should avoid going anywhere near it, and to certainly avoid touching it. She had not yet been corrupted by the Fall, so I think her motives were pure, but she still misquoted. Even the best people sometimes misrepresent what God has said in His word, often with hazardous consequences. She is hardly bearing false witness against the serpent, but she does attribute to God words of which we have no record He actually spoke. We must always be so careful when ‘quoting’ God, for it is the worst form of false witnessing we can perform.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”

When Eve looked, she ‘saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes’. Its pleasantness was irrelevant- what God forbids remains forbidden whether it appears pretty or not. She longed for something not hers. Adam took the fruit from her without even commenting on its appearance, he carelessly ceding his leadership. Denied all the goodness of Eden and God’s fellowship, Adam and Eve would be expelled from paradise, condemned to coveting and craving the tawdry things of their now fallen world.

The Ten Commandments were given to the human race many years after the Fall occurred. Furthermore, they are but a short summary of God’s law given to Moses, and the whole of divine law by which humans shall be judged. Yet they managed to break them all, in the sense of their opening up the floodgates of rebellion. Human sin is simply rebelling against God. It is more than just a list of bad actions; it is a disease, a corruption, a defining characteristic. Rebellion is ingrained in our natures. Thankfully, God provided a second Adam:

For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

What Adam broke, Christ fixed. Whereas Adam bequeathed corruption and doom, Christ offers healing and hope. 

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay