Study: Genesis 3:22-24

[Before you read: Start by committing to leave your pre-suppositions and biases behind. Those may come in useful later in the interpretive process, to fill in the gaps, but at first take scripture alone as your guide.] 

The Text: Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV)

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Compare this version with three other English Bible versions of your choice. Are there any differences that catch your eye? Are they significant or not? 

Ask these research questions (cite Bible verses in answers):

  • When (approximately) was this passage written?
  • Where was it written? Can we know with certainty, in this case?
  • Who wrote this passage?  
  • To whom?
  • Why? What is the writer trying to accomplish?
  • What does it mean to you today? What picture of God does it paint?

Questions to provoke thought help guide deeper study (wrestle with these):

  • “Behold the man has become like one of us…” What does “us” mean in this context? Are there other examples of God using a plural pronoun to refer to Himself? Why would God do that?
    • Further: Did man indeed become more like God through sinning?
  • “Behold the man has become like one of us…” Is this implying that only the man has become like them? Or did the woman become like them as well? Is it implying that only the man sinned or is responsible for the sin? Or is the woman sinful/responsible as well? 
  • “Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” Why shouldn’t man live forever? Why does God take immortality from them? Is it God, or is it a tree that determines eternal life? 
  • “He drove out the man out of the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken…” Again, is this referring to just the man, or is it referring to the woman as well? If the man is to work the ground from which he was taken, does that mean the woman is to work the man from which she was taken (that question is somewhat a joke, but think about it). 
  • “Cherubim…” What is that? Remember, use the Bible to answer this question. Where are all the times “Cherubim” is used in the Bible (use a concordance or an online study like blueletterbible.org). Is it significant that God puts one of them outside of the garden to guard the tree of life and keep the man out of the garden?
  • “And a flaming sword that turned every way…” Why a sword? Does God (and angels) use swords? Are there swords in heaven? 

After you have exhausted all of your resources and ability to answer these questions simply from the Bible, consult some useful commentaries (just remember, they have biases)

  • First, look to see if Ellen White says anything about it (egwwritings.org has a helpful search engine).
  • SDA Bible Commentary on Genesis
  • Any other commentaries that seem useful (Anchor, Matthew-Henry, etc.)