Musing on Genesis 3
“Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree of the garden?”
The serpent isn’t so much attempting to verify God’s exact words as he is injecting a note of incredulity, pointing out the absurdity of God’s edict. With one word, the serpent calls into question God’s judgment, his reasonableness. And when the created puts himself in the position of judging his creator, all hell breaks loose.
The woman doesn’t see it coming. She tries to hold her own: “Not every tree. Only the one in the middle of the garden.” She doesn’t specify which. We can only assume she knows the tree of knowledge from the tree of life. “God says if we eat its fruit we’ll die.”
“You absolutely will not die!” the serpent declares. Now it’s word against Word, a brazen accusation: God lies. The implication is, “Why would God tell you this lie?” Suddenly, God’s motives, his intent, his very character are called into question.
Once the woman buys into the serpent’s paradigm: God on the witness stand and she as his judge, the picture he paints seems right. When the question is no longer, “What did God say?” but “Why did he say it, and does it make sense to me?” simple logic takes her the rest of the way. It looks good, probably tastes good, and it will make me a better person. Nothing wrong with that.
The woman is convinced. The man, why so silent? Maybe he doesn’t know what is going through the woman’s head, but surely he knows what God said. The serpent’s words are a blatant contradiction, and the man knows it. Why does he stand by and say nothing? Has he also been beguiled by the notion of becoming like God? Did he forget he was already made in God’s image?
Maybe it had happened too fast. The woman bit into the fruit before he could stop her. But this doesn’t explain why he followed suit. Maybe he can’t bear to part with the woman who is so much a part of himself. Maybe he can’t imagine life without her. Wherever she’s going, he wants to go — no matter where it is. Or so he thought.
The moment of bitter revelation occurs only after they’ve both eaten the forbidden fruit. Under each other’s gaze, they suddenly feel shame at their nakedness. They realize they are the ones on trial, and now they are afraid.
Both the man and woman hide, but God calls only the man. “Where are you?” Of course God knows where he is. He could have gone right up to where the man was hiding and pulled him out by his ear. Busted. But that’s not God’s way. He calls and waits for a response.
God says, “Where are you?” but what he really means is “Why are you not here, out in the open where I am?”
The man knows this. “I’m hiding because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because I’m naked.” He still has honesty and immediate clarity regarding his intents and motives. He hasn’t yet learned to hide. This is what it looks like when you have only one piece of baggage instead of a boatload passed down through the generations.
The man: You gave me this woman, clearly she’s flawed because she steered me the wrong way, giving me the fruit from the wrong tree. I just went along because I thought, well, since she is my helper, she probably knows what she is doing.
The woman: Well, I had the best intentions, but I had the wool pulled over my eyes. I was tricked into thinking this would be a good thing, and that’s the only reason I did what I did. I wanted the best for me and my husband. The serpent, he tricked me. If there’s anyone to blame here, it’s him.
The serpent doesn’t get to testify.
For the serpent: So you thought you’d chum it up with the woman. Well, no more. From now on you are enemies, and one of her children will defeat you.
For the woman: Pain is going to be a regular part of your life. Your husband is going to rule over you, but you’ll never give up trying to take the wheel. You’ll keep thinking you know what’s best, and you’ll be frustrated by your attempts to take control.
For the man: You shouldn’t have listened to your wife. Life isn’t going to be easy. Besides having a wife who will keep trying to tell you what to do, you’re going to have to fight this earth to get your sustenance. And your sentence of death? It’s already started. You’re slowly turning to dust, and one day the regeneration will stop, and the disintegration will take over.
The man names his wife, because he still has the authority to say what is what. He had called her woman, and now he calls her Eve, the mother of all the living. Amidst the sentence of death, her name carries hope. She will bear the One who will bring eternal life, the one who will crush the serpent’s head.
God always has the last word.
Note: Though I try to remain faithful to the events and characters as described in the Bible, I take some liberties where the Bible is silent, especially regarding what the characters might have thought or felt. I encourage you to read the original story to separate fact from fiction.