The Guardian Angels forsake paradise and return to heaven to report. God tells them it is not their fault, nor His, that Adam and Eve fell, for they had free will. Still, he will temper their just punishment with mercy.
Christ is sent to Eden both to judge the guilty pair and offer them God’s mercy. He is the voice of God in the Garden they hear calling to them. They hide and make excuses, then confess their fault. Adam said it was Eve’s fault, and Eve blames the serpent.
The voice says to Adam, “Was shee thy God, that her thou didst obey?” He promises Satan will pay for what he has done, decreeing that there will be enmity between Satan and man, and that Eve’s seed will bruise Satan’s head, as Satan’s will bruise man’s heel.
But henceforth, life will be difficult for human beings; men will labor hard for the fruits of the earth and women bring forth children in pain. In pity, God covers their nakedness with skins and with his grace.
At the same time, Death in hell sniffs the changes on earth. Sin and Death decide to follow Satan there. They meet Satan on his way back to hell and praise his deed. The devils in hell, however, when they try to applaud can only hiss, for God has turned them all into snakes crawling on their bellies.
As God watches Sin and Death going to earth to destroy His work, he again predicts the end of time when Heaven and Earth will be renewed. Meanwhile, all Nature feels the fall. The seasons become extreme, earth tilts on its axis, there is discord—animals devouring one another, passions rising in man.
Adam laments, questioning God’s justice, thinking death would be sweet, but afraid it will not come. Why should the whole race suffer for his sin? He blames Eve.
Eve repents, saying she will bear all the blame. She suggests they abstain from having children or kill themselves. Her repentance softens his heart. He says they must have children to defeat the enemy, according to the decree. They resolve to make the best of it and ask God’s forgiveness.
God reproves Adam more than Eve because he sinned with eyes open, foregoing his responsibility as leader.
The judgment that there will be enmity between Satan and humans is actually merciful because it means that God has not abandoned them. It will not be completely easy for Satan, for he will be known as the enemy. Humans thus have the path to heaven still open to them, while Satan does not.
The pronouncement of mercy about the seed of Eve wounding Satan’s head means that Christ will be born of her seed in due time and defeat Satan for all time. Satan wounding man’s heel means that Satan will not defeat man, but only hound him.
The judgment that life on earth will become difficult makes sense when one remembers that Adam and Eve are not using their higher faculties. They are reduced in ability, living by faith alone. The punishment is not arbitrary but the result of what they have done.
Why should the whole human race suffer for Adam’s sin? In mythological terms, he stands for all humans, and the story represents the current state of suffering in which humanity finds itself. How did it get that way? By living only the lower nature and cutting off from the divine source. This tradition of suffering is passed down to subsequent generations, knowing no other possibility.
Paradise Lost: Book 10