One of the more unusual features of Genesis 2–3 is this:
1. God tells Adam that on the day Adam eats of the tree he will surely die. Genesis 2:17: “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” NET: “for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.”
2. But the serpent tells Adam that will surely not happen. Genesis 3:4: ““You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.”
3. The serpent was right. They did not die.
How to explain this? A few options:
1. Maybe “death” here is that they will eventually die, though not as quickly as one would have thought from reading Genesis 2:17, which says they would die “on that day.”
2. Maybe it only means “mortal” but that Adam needed the tree of life suggests without eating that fruit they’d not live forever.
3. Maybe it means metaphorical death as in kicked out of the garden, a kind of death since it means cessation of fellowship with God.4. Maybe this is a spiritual death and not a physical death.
Claude Mariottini, in his book Rereading the Biblical Text, has another suggestion: Maybe God changed his mind. That is, maybe the serpent knew how compassionate God was and that the compassionate God would not destroy what he had made, but would make a new offer in grace. That is, “the grace of God intervened” (9). This was the view of John Skinner, who said God “changed His purpose and modified the penalty” (9). In the history of theology this is where common grace enters human history, where God begins to restrain the recompense for sin and corruption.
Thus, the serpent did not misunderstand God; the serpent knew the nature of God and believed God would find a way to show grace.
What do you think?