In the eighth book of Paradise Lost, Satan had entered the body of a serpent. In that form, he persuaded Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Subsequently, Adam shared in her transgression.
When the angels who were guarding the Garden of Eden realized what had happen, they sadly return to heaven to render an account before God. God absolved them of all responsibility. He knew that their sincere efforts could not prevent the fall of man. He had endowed Adam and Eve with free will, and He knew that they would misuse it.
He sent His Son to judge Adam and Eve. By sending Him, the Father indicated that He was going to temper justice with mercy; for the Son was the Friend of mankind who had volunteered to redeem the human race.
Though He was their Friend, Adam and Eve did not receive Him as such. Hearing the voice of God walking in the garden, they hid themselves among the thickest trees.
God said: “Where art thou Adam, wont with joy to meet My coming seen far off? I miss thee here, not pleased, thus entertained with solitude, where obvious duty erstwhile appeared unsought. Or come I less conspicuous, or what change absents thee, or what chance detains? Come forth.
At God’s command, Adam and Eve were compelled to appear before Him. After some hesitation, Adam explained that because he was naked, he was afraid and hid himself when he heard God’s voice.
The gracious Judge then pointed out that Adam was never afraid of Him before. Then He confronted Him with his guilt, saying: “That thou art naked, who hath told thee? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee not to eat?”
Though Adam felt that it was his duty to protect Eve, he decided to blame her for the transgression. He pointed out that Eve was the finest gift that the Lord had given him. He thought that no harm could come from anything that he received from her hand. Therefore, when she gave him the forbidden fruit, he ate it.
In response, God said: “Was she God that her thou didst obey before His voice, or was she made thy guide, superior, or but equal, that to her thou did’st resign thy manhood, and the place wherein God set thee above her made of thee, and for thee?” He pointed out that the endowments He had given Eve were designed to attract his love, not his subjection.
The Lord then addressed Eve, saying: “What is this which thou hast done?”
Nearly overwhelmed with shame, Eve replied: “The serpent beguiled me and I did eat.”
God then pronounced a curse on the serpent. He worded the curse in such a way that it also applied to Satan, who used the brute as his instrument. He said: “Because thou hast done this, thou art accursed above all cattle, each beast of the field, upon thy belly groveling shalt thou go, and dust shalt eat all the days off thy life. Between thee and the woman I will put enmity, and between thine and her Seed; her Seed shall bruise thy head, thou bruise his heel.”
Milton explained that this oracle was fulfilled when Jesus, the Son of Mary, who was a second Eve, suffered a fatal bruise but despoiled the powers of darkness as He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
The Lord then turned to Eve and pronounced the following judgment: “Thy sorrow I will multiply by thy conception; children shalt thou bring in sorrow forth, and to thy husband’s will thine shall submit; he over thee shall rule.”
Then, because Adam had eaten the forbidden fruit, the Lord turned to him and pronounced the following sentence: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thou in sorrow shalt eat thereof all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles it shall thee bring forth unbid, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for thou out of the ground wast taken; know thy birth, for dust thou art, and shalt to dust return.”
Thus the Lord upheld the threatened death sentence, but deferred it to a later date. He then treated Adam and Eve with the same love that He showed to mankind at a later date. Just as He became a servant to His disciples when He washed their feet, so He now served Adam and Eve. He covered their nakedness by clothing them with the skins of beasts, just as He later covered the inward nakedness of mankind with a robe of righteousness.
The Son then returned to the Father and interceded for mankind.
Meanwhile, Sin and Death had been dwelling in hell. In the second book of Paradise Lost, We learn that the devil had begotten sin before he was cast out of heaven. He had also become her paramour. Their offspring was Death.
After Satan and his hosts had been cast into hell, God gave Sin the keys to the gates of hell and told her not to open them. However, when Satan wanted to leave so that he could attempt to ruin the new world that God had created, he persuaded Sin to open the gates and let him out.
Now Sin felt new strength rise within her. She felt that she was about to enjoy dominion far beyond the confines of hell. She felt confident that the mission of Satan had been successful, and something was drawing her irresistibly. She decided to leave hell and follow Satan to the new world. Death detected the smell of carnage, so he willingly accompanied Sin.
Since the turbulent realm of Chaos lay between the new world and hell, Sin and Death decided to construct a solid path between the two. They had no trouble finding the way, since Sin felt instinctively drawn to the new world.
Sin and Death had reached the confines of empyrean heaven and of this world when they spotted Satan disguised as a radiant angel.
After tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan had retired into the woods and changed his shape. From his hiding place, he watched to see what would happen. However, when he saw the Son of God approaching, he fled. He returned that night and listened to the conversation of Adam and Eve. From their words, Satan learned about the punishment that he himself was doomed to suffer. He was glad that it would not occur immediately. He then began to return to hell, and met Sin and Death on the border of the realm of Chaos. He was glad to see that his journey back to hell was facilitated by the path that they had built.
Satan told Sin and Death to go to the new world and reign in bliss, exercising dominion on the earth and in the air. He commanded them first of all to make man their thrall.
Satan wanted to inform his associates of his success, so he hastened to hell over the path that Sin and Death had made.
When Satan arrived, his followers were assembled round about the walls of Pandemonium, a palace that the fallen angels had built in hell. The leaders were inside, sitting in council. Satan entered unobserved, sat on his throne, and then revealed himself with all the glory that God had permitted him to retain in his fallen state.
In a public address, Satan announced the success of his mission. He had seduced the inhabitants of the new world from their obedience to the Almighty. God had abandoned His creation, and they were now its lords. He pointed out that Sin and Death had built a comfortable path to the new world, and he confidently announced that he was about to lead them triumphant from the infernal pit to a new spacious home.
Satan admitted that he was going to be punished. The Seed of the woman would bruise his head some day. However, he declared: “Who would not purchase a world with a bruise, or much more grievous pain?” He told his followers to go and enter into full bliss.
Instead of the applause that he expected, he heard a chorus of hisses. Such expressions of contempt surprised him until he realized that he and his demonic audience were turning into snakes.
The rank and file demons were still outside the palace. They were shocked when they saw Satan and his council emerge in the form of snakes. Then they noticed that they too were acquiring serpentine features.
To enhance their shame, the Almighty caused a grove to spring up in hell. In it they beheld the forbidden fruit. They suffered a fierce hunger and could not abstain. However, when they ate, the fruit became ashes in their mouths. Nevertheless, the illusion persisted and they ate repeatedly, until the Almighty permitted them to resume their original shape. Some say that this humiliating experience was an annual event.
Meanwhile, Sin and Death had arrived in the Garden of Eden. Death complained that he was hungry. Sin told him to start eating the herbs and beasts of the field. She assured him that man would eventually become his sweetest prey after she had properly seasoned him.
In heaven, God observed the activity of Sin and Death. Although the prince of hell and his adherents thought that God had abandoned His new creation to them, God said that He Himself had summoned Sin and Death to the new world. They were His hell hounds destined to carry out His judgments.
In the end, he would hurl Sin, Death, and the grave through Chaos with His mighty arm, and they would obstruct the mouth of hell forever. Then heaven and earth would be renewed. They would be sanctified and receive no stain.
In response, the hosts of heaven burst into song: “Just are Thy ways, righteous are thy decrees on all Thy works; who can extenuate Thee?”
God commanded the angels to alter the heavens, so that the earth would suffer bitter cold and scorching heat instead of enjoying perpetual spring. The moon and the planets were arranged in such a way that they exuded a noxious influence. The winds and thunder were instructed to terrify the earth.
As Adam beheld the gradual deterioration of the world around him, various contradictory thoughts assailed his mind. He lamented the fact that his descendants would curse him for what he had done. He wished that he would return to dust or that he had never been created in the first place. He even questioned the wisdom and justice of God for creating him without his consent.
Though he longed for death, it occurred to him that the breath of life that God had given him might continue to exist and to suffer pain after he died. He debated this question with himself, expressing various contradictory thoughts. He also expressed contradictory thoughts on the guilt and punishment that he would bequeath to his descendants.
Eve tried to soothe him with soft words, but Adam called her a serpent, berated her at length, and turned away from her.
Eve fell at Adam’s feet, saying: “Forsake me not thus, Adam.” She called on heaven to witness the love that she bore him. She did not know how long it would be before they suffered death, but she asked that peace might prevail between them until it happened. She resolved to return to the place of judgment and importune heaven, “that all the sentence from thy head removed may light on me, sole cause to thee of all this woe.”
Adam’s anger dissipated. He told Eve that if prayers could alter high decrees, he would ask God to forgive her and punish him alone. Then he said: “But rise, let us no more contend, nor blame each other, blamed enough elsewhere, but strive in offices of love, how we may lighten each other’s burden in our share of woe,” especially since the death that they were doomed to suffer would probably be a long and painful process, not only for them, but also for their descendents.
Eve suggested that they prevent their descendants from suffering the doom of death, either by not having children or else by taking their own lives.
Adam replied that such measures would anger God. He pointed out that their Seed was destined to crush the serpent’s head. Adam figured that this meant that their Seed would punish Satan. If they remained childless, Satan would escape his destined punishment, and God would heap extra punishment on their heads because of their attempt to evade His judgment. In view of these things, Adam said: “No more be mentioned then of violence against ourselves, and willful barrenness, that cuts us off from hope, and savors only rancor and pride, impatience and despite, reluctance against God and His just yoke.”
Adam also pointed out that God had heard and judged them with a mild and gracious temper. The judgment had not been as severe as expected, and he figured that God would hear their prayers and help them in the difficult days to come.
At Adam’s suggestion, they returned to the place where God had judged them, confessed their fault, and asked for pardon.
Literature.Org: Paradise Lost