Understanding Satan’s Strategy

In Genesis 3.1-8, we find the account of the temptation and fall of mankind in Eden. Here’s the biblical narrative:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 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.  6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

It’s not uncommon to hear preaching or teaching about temptation filtered through the lens of 1 John 2.15-17. There, John instructs believers to not love the world. Then, he poignantly states that what is in the world is 1) the lust of the flesh, 2) the lust of the eyes, and 3) the pride of life. These three avenues are used to discuss the temptation of Christ, the temptation of Adam, and the temptation of every believer in history.

However, imagine that we lived prior to the end of the first century. Imagine that we were trying to discern Satan’s strategy from Genesis 3 without the inspired Johannine writings. If we were to look at the Genesis account with this perspective, I believe we could discern five hooks that Satan uses to bait, lure, tempt us to sin.

He emphasizes the “Thou Shalt Nots”

This tempter is introduced in the pages of Scripture as more crafty, more subtle than any other creature. In that craftiness, he knows not to emphasize all of the trees that the first couple have access to. To accentuate the freedom would be self-defeating…he needed to accentuate the restriction – the one forbidden tree.

In the course of this temptation, Eve’s attention has been refocused from what is permitted to what is forbidden. Be on guard – Satan still uses this hook today.

He questions the Outcome

Once Eve is now focused on the restriction, Satan has to overcome her belief-system about the consequences of eating this fruit. She has said, “We will surely die.” What Satan says is the opposite, “You will not die!”

Notice, in this encounter Satan is redirecting her attention from the pain (death) to the pleasure (sin). He is planting doubts about the actual outcome of this potential decision.

Do we not see this today? Why are our prisons full; why do streets (or even entire cities) feel unsafe? Partly, this is prophetic in that evil men and seducers grow worse and worse; partly, it’s due to the fact that a mentality of living “above the law” exists.

How do seemingly intelligent people throw their fortunes away on drugs? In saner moments, they would probably agree that drugs are a dangerous path for other people – but they thought they were exempt from the consequences. This is part of Satan’s strategy from the very beginning.

He reframes the Action

God views this potential decision of Adam and Eve as sin; Satan frames it in the context of personal growth and experience – “Your eyes shall be opened…You’ll have so much knowledge…”

What action that was once viewed as disobedience has now come to be viewed as the necessary step to grow to the next level – amazing deception!

Yet again, we recognize that we live in a day where moral issues are being reframed from the context of sin to the context of personal preferences. We don’t refer to the death of pre-borns as murder – that’s harsh. We reframe it as a pro-choice decision.

We don’t refer to the father who abuses his wife as a drunk…he has a disease called alcoholism. The list could continue – but with a little reflection, we could probably all add to this from our personal observations.

He presents a Polished Choice

It’s all in the packaging! Eve saw that the fruit was good and pleasant. While the package may have been pretty, the contents were poison! Satan is a master at packaging, promoting, and marketing.

While the package may have been pretty, the contents were poison!

J. Michael Lester

When a teenager is given his first drink, it’s usually at a “party” – a word that implies fun, celebration, and good times. What is not shown is the hangover the next morning, or the potential loss of lives as they sit behind the wheel of an automobile.

In today’s world, we must be vigilant to not be fooled by the pretty packaging or the polished choice.

He subtly attacks God’s character

Consider the implications of listening to the devil’s presentation. Yielding to temptation is accepting Satan (who is the father of lies) as the truth-teller and accepting God (who is the embodiment of truth and cannot lie) as the lie-teller! Read that statement one more time and let it sink in.

Obviously, when we yield to temptation, we don’t consciously say, “God, I think I can trust the devil better than you in this situation…” – but it doesn’t negate the fact that this is still the implication.

In the original temptation, Satan questions God’s goodness. “He knows when you eat, you’re going to be like Him…Eve, He’s holding out on you…” He questioned God’s truthfulness. “Eve, God said what? That’s not true – you won’t die for eating one bite…” He questioned God’s love: “How could a loving God withhold the very thing that is necessary to help you in your personal growth? Surely a loving God would enable growth, not restrict it!”


Here’s the problem. We can detect all five of these steps in a historical narrative – yet, we struggle to discern it in our own very lives! Personally, we can see the pattern in hindsight – but in the moment, it seems so real, so “good,” and we struggle to overcome the compulsion.

At its core, the temptation to do evil (to live in rebellion to God’s commands, etc) is an indictment about God’s truthfulness, goodness, and love (as well as all of the other attributes). It gives the implication that God cannot be trusted, but Satan can.

Perhaps this is why Peter reminds us to “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about as, seeking whom he may devour.” That’s good counsel and we should heed it!

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