God called it the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But what’s in a name?
The woman had never paid much attention to the serpent, not that she could recall. He had stayed on the periphery, his voice interjecting occasionally, but always under the radar. At times she wasn’t sure he had said anything at all. If she glanced at him, he seemed to have his attention fixed elsewhere.
As a result, she couldn’t say precisely when the conversation began, when she first began to engage him. When she thought about it later — and she thought about it a lot — she could see the question had been coming for a long time, a cleverly placed pit at the end of a primrose path.
“Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” the serpent had asked.
“Of course not,” she replied. “That would have been absurd,” she thought to herself, “a waste of perfectly good and delicious fruit.” “We can eat the fruit from any tree,” she gestured widely, emphasizing God’s generosity. “Just not the tree in the middle of the garden.” Her eyes turned to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with its broad, dark leaves and branches fanned out against the sky. Like all the other trees, it was laden with fruit.
“God said if we eat that fruit — or even touch it, (that did seem a little extreme, now that she thought of it), “we’ll die,” the woman replied.
The serpent smiled at this bit of exaggeration. God had never said anything about touching the fruit. The woman had snipped a tiny hole in the fabric of truth, and it made him bold.
“You won’t actually die!” he said.
The woman thought this over. Yes, God could’ve been speaking metaphorically. Quite possibly they had been blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Perhaps God had meant something else entirely. But what?
As if reading her thoughts, the serpent continued, “God knows your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.” Be like God. The serpent relished the cloying sweetness of these words as they rolled off his long tongue. Strangely, they seemed to have little effect on the woman, but then she was already made in God’s image. He watched as she drew closer to the tree.
The woman had passed by this tree many times, walked under it’s shade, but she had never lingered, never really admired its beauty or touched the firm smoothness of its fruit. Until now. She held the fruit to her lips, inhaling its intoxicating fragrance. Perfectly good and delicious fruit. And it would make her wise.
The woman bit into it and handed it to her man.