Before beginning his shiurim on Chumash, Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash pg. 2) felt it imperative to preface the series of shiurim with the following introduction:
When we learn Tanach we must bear in mind that we are literally light-years away from the spiritual level of the people described therein. For example, we read how Yeshaya castigates his generation with extremely harsh accusations. "Woe, a sinful nation, a people laden with sin, evil offspring, destructive children; they have forsaken Hashem, angered the Holy One of Yisrael and turned their back toward Him" (Yeshaya 1, 4). A superficial reading of this pasuk would lend us to think that his generation was full of corrupt depraved people. However, the very fact that they merited hearing the rebuke of a navi is the greatest testimony to their awesome spiritual level!
One might ask if they really were so great how could it be that they were idol worshippers? The answer is that in truth we cannot understand their behavior since we have no idea what idol worship was all about. The drive was so immensely powerful that King Menashe came to one of the Amoraim in a dream and told him that had he lived in an earlier generation he would have picked up the hems of his clothing to enable him to run even faster in the pursuit of idol worship! The urge was so difficult to overcome, that Chazal felt compelled to daven to Hashem to abolish this desire. Their wish was granted and, hence, we have no clue as to the challenge that the previous generations had to overcome.
In order to understand on what type of spiritual plateau those mentioned in Tanach lived, we must look at them via the numerous generations that divide their era from our era. We can still partially relate to the mussar given by the Chofetz Chaim, but we are totally disconnected from the mussar of Reb Yisroel Salanter who lived a generation earlier. When he rebuked those around him for their apathy toward Elul, he was not referring to the acute indifference toward the Yomim HaNoraim that abounds today. Similarly, Reb Yisroel's generation couldn't match the generation of Reb Chaim Volozhin who also complained about the low spiritual level rampant in his times. The same variance exists between the generations of Rav Chaim Volozhim and The Ramchal. One of the early Rishonim, Rabbeinu Tam, wrote a mussar sefer and explained in his introduction the impetus for his writing a sefer on mussar when there were already other such seforim around. He felt that his generation could not relate to the concepts mentioned in the Chovos Halevovos who lived a number of years earlier. This trend continues through the generations of Geonim, Amoraim, Tanaim and Nevi'im.
This being the case, we have absolutely no ability to comprehend their greatness. When Yeshaya leveled the above mentioned criticism at his generation, he was referring to a subtle laxity in their dveikus to Hashem. If we want to gain an inkling of an understanding into the spiritual situation of those generations, we need merely to remember the feelings we felt after Rosh Hashana. After two days of lengthy and intense davening, didn't a thought creep into our minds when we remembered that the following day we once again would have to get up early for Selichos: "More davening? Isn't it enough already?!" Such a thought borders on forsaking Hashem and ever so slightly resembles the feelings of those who literally lived their lives in such close proximity to Hashem that the slightest deviance from Him would be considered an act of forsaking Hashem.
If the Torah relates the stories of Adam, the Avos, the Shevatim and Bnei Yisroel then even we, with our limited spiritual capacity, are expected to learn and attempt to understand them. Yet, when we read how Adom ate from the eitz hada'as and other similar transgressions, let us bear in mind that the people being discussed were immeasurably greater than we could ever imagine.