For most readers of the Bible, Genesis 3 is where we first recognize the presence and influence of Satan, and it is a decisive incident in the Bible and in the history of mankind. There are a lot of layers to this particular incident, far more than I am able to discuss at present, but I would like to discuss how this chapter views Satan and at least some of the implications in the relationship between Satan and mankind (and God) that begin here as they wind their way through the rest of the Bible and through human history at large. As far as Satan’s own presence is concerned, let us look at Genesis 3:1-15: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound 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 among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.””
Let us note at the beginning that the whole interaction between Satan and humanity is a set-up. God absents Himself from the garden and immediately (and predictably) Satan starts working on Eve in order to deceive her. Adam’s own lack of proper masculinity in being firm in the right and Eve’s propensity to be deceived (something that Paul follows up on twice in the New Testament in his letters) aside, we see that Satan’s aim here is to murder humanity by deceiving them into destroying themselves. Satan has been a liar and a murderer from the beginning and this interaction shows how it is done, through inciting a lust in Eve to do the one thing that God had forbidden Adam and Eve to do, a tactic that has been repeated frequently to the present-day, with consistent success. And even the means of enticing people to sin and cross over boundaries have been the same, defined elsewhere in scripture as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Wherever God, or any authority, has set boundaries on what not acceptable to do, that thing, whatever it is, will become more alluring to us, a universal human problem that makes consistent societal morality and personal morality a task of continual restraint and discipline.
Returning back to what the Bible has to say about Satan, though, it is interesting to see that when God returns the first man and woman predictably have tried to cover his tracks and is reluctant to face up to authority and answer for what he and she have done and the blame game begins. Adam, first to be interrogated by God, blames the woman for eating of the tree and giving it to him rather than owning up to his failure. Eve then turns around and blames the serpent. The serpent has no one to blame. Then, in an interesting chiasm, God’s judgment begins with the serpent (it later, in the verses after the included passage, discusses judgment for women and men, but these are not a part of the present discussion so I have omitted them). This judgment is the first messianic prophecy, and contains distinct foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and so this particular prophecy in Genesis 3:14-15 has been known as the protoevangelium because it is the first hint of the Gospel message, prophesying that there will be hostility between those who follow God and those who follow Satan (which has been true in every age of humanity), and that while the Seed (singular here, referring to Christ) would have his heel bruised, as occurred in the crucifixion, Satan’s head would be crushed, signifying death and total defeat. We eagerly await the fulfillment of this part of the prophecy.
Just as happened in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, here too Satan is not called by a personal name but is referred to as a serpent. Perhaps it was unwise and naive that Adam and Eve did not seem confused to be talking to a snake or think that it might not have been a good conversation. Also of interest is the fact that this passage directly connects to the appearance of Satan as a dragon in Revelation 12, yet another case where the Bible uses symbolic language to discuss Satan rather than referring to him as a personal being in the way that human beings are referred to or that God and Jesus Christ are referred to, or even other angels, including those who are named like Gabriel and Michael. The end result here is that the dragon is turned into a snake that lies on its belly, and humanity is given a reason for fear of snakes and for their venomous fangs. From that moment for some time, Satan is absent from direct interactions with humanity, but we will see his fingerprints in the history of early man even when we cannot see his presence directly.