Singular and plural in Genesis 3

One of the problems with studying the Bible in English is that most translations don’t differentiate between singular “you” and plural “you.” One place where that becomes very noticeable is Genesis 3. As we start looking at this chapter, I want to present the text (from the HCSB) with clarification as to who is being addressed in each verse. That’s a start to understanding this chapter. Reflect on this, then we’ll continue our discussion in the next post:


1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You (Eve and Adam) can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You (Eve and Adam) must not eat it or touch it, or you (Eve and Adam) will die.’”

4 “No! You (Eve and Adam) will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your (Eve and Adam) eyes will be opened and you (Eve and Adam) will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you (Adam)?”

10 And he said, “I heard You (God) in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

11 Then He asked, “Who told you (Adam) that you (Adam) were naked? Did you (Adam) eat from the tree that I commanded you (Adam) not to eat from?”

12 Then the man replied, “The woman You (God) gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

13 So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you (Eve) have done?”

And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent:

Because you (serpent) have done this,
you (serpent) are cursed more than any livestock
and more than any wild animal.
You (serpent) will move on your (serpent) belly
and eat dust all the days of your (serpent) life.
15 I will put hostility between you (serpent) and the woman,
and between your (serpent) seed and her seed.
He will strike your (serpent) head,
and you (serpent) will strike his heel.
16 He said to the woman:

I will intensify your (Eve) labor pains;
you (Eve) will bear children in anguish.
Your (Eve) desire will be for your (Eve) husband,
yet he will rule over you (Eve).
17 And He said to Adam, “Because you (Adam) listened to your (Adam) wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you (Adam), ‘Do not eat (singular verb) from it’:

The ground is cursed because of you (Adam).
You (Adam) will eat from it by means of painful labor
all the days of your (Adam) life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you (Adam),
and you (Adam) will eat the plants of the field.
19 You (Adam) will eat bread by the sweat of your brow
until you (Adam) return to the ground,
since you (Adam) were taken from it.
For you (Adam) are dust,
and you (Adam) will return to dust.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.

22 The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
(Parenthetical statements added by Tim Archer)

2 thoughts on “Singular and plural in Genesis 3

  1. Nick Gill

    What about “man” in verse 22?

    That’s also nominative masculine *singular* with the article preceding it. (ha’adam)

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    I’ll mark that one as well. Thanks. It’s singular in English, yet is sometimes used in a plural sense, so your observation is a good one.

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