Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
No doubt this is a sad story of betrayal and consequences, and perhaps it is because I am reading the Bible actively looking for examples of radical love, but even this story of the fall of all mankind, the original sin, is a far more compassionate one than I remember. It also raises a lot of questions that I didn’t have before, so let’s go through it section by section and examine it.
First, let’s talk about the serpent. Nowhere in this passage is the serpent called Satan, and I find that interesting. According to other commentaries, it is made clear later in the Bible that the serpent is indeed an agent of Satan, so I’m going to reserve judgement on this omission until I’ve read more. But it is interesting, and I wanted to point it out, in case it’s been a while since you have read this story, too, and maybe forgotten some of the details.
Next, in verses 1-6, Eve and the serpent talk, and she eats from the Tree of Knowledge. Again, I’m going to pose a question that I do not have the answer to: Why will eating from the Tree of Knowledge cause death? Perhaps I’m succumbing to the same child-like curiosity Eve did in thinking, “if it looks pretty and smells nice why can’t I eat it?” Basically that’s the same reasoning we are warned about as parents, and why I keep my bright purple bottle of Fantastik cleaning solution well out of the girls’ reach. But the difference is I know Fantastik is poisonous and why, but I know nothing about the Tree of Knowledge and it’s fruit. If anyone can provide any good insight into what makes the Tree of Knowledge so forbidden as to cause death, please do share!
Verse seven is where Adam and Eve realize their nakedness, and try feebly to cover it up. Again, this reminds me of little kids. Have you ever caught a child (or perhaps remember being a child) trying to fix a mistake beyond their abilities? One time, mom had clean laundry in folded piles in the bathroom. My sister and I were taking a bath and got splashy, as kids do. I realized we had gotten some of the laundry wet and sudsy, so got out of the tub (all wet and sudsy myself) and tried to rearrange it to hide it. Mom came in to check on us, and grab some of the laundry away at the same time. Of course, she found the wet laundry right away and long story short, we got in trouble. My husband remembers playing with matches when he was little and hearing his dad coming. Knowing he was in the wrong, he quickly blew it out and hid the matches. His father, unbeknownst to a little and completely mystified Chris, smelled them, and Chris subsequently got in trouble for playing with matches. Sewing the fig leaves together is so human, so identifiable in my own childhood and in my own children, that it kind of breaks my heart.
In verses 8-14 it just gets even more heartbreaking. Look at the intimate communion we had with God: he would walk through the garden with us. One of my favorite things to do when I visit my parents, still to this day, is to go on a garden walk with them. They have a huge vegetable garden of 40 raised beds and every season it is a delight to see the little beet shoots coming up or peppers ripening, snap a fresh piece of asparagus off the stem or pick a handful of blueberries. I can just imagine walking through the garden with God in a similar manner, talking easily about the past day as the shadows begin to lengthen.
God calls, “where are you?” Like a human father of naughty children, he knows full well where Adam and Eve are, he’s giving them a chance to come repentantly to him. And, like naughty children, both immediately shift the blame for their sin. The woman made me do it. The serpent told me to. It just seems so pitiable, especially since God is walking through the garden on a nice evening to find his children, not running after them yelling in anger. Is he disappointed? Of course! Mankind even gets a punishment in a few verses. But does he still love us? Yes.
The rest of the chapter spells out our punishment. All of it more or less makes sense to me except verse 16, where Eve is told “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” I’ve read a few commentaries that suggest this means a woman’s willful disobedience to her husband, or trying to rule over her husband herself, are in direct conflict with God’s orders. I don’t think a good marriage should have either party “ruling over” the other one in such a way, so I’m having trouble reconciling this one. Especially since, at least according to this verse, Eve’s desire will be for her husband. Is it even part of the punishment, or is it part of the conciliatory statement? Could this desire for her husband be matrimonial love, that maybe wasn’t originally part of the plan? I really don’t know. Again, if anyone has found a good explanation they wish to share, I would love to read it!
Let me end with a little aside: Many will find this a very sympathetic, perhaps overly sympathetic, reading of the fall of mankind. Some may even see this whole project as me trying to excuse all our guilt, rendering sin an obsolete concern. That’s not what I’m doing. We have a lot to answer for, I just think it may be different than what we sometimes get hung up on. The more I read the Bible, pray, and talk to others, the more I think the main goal is to love as much as possible, and when we lapse in compassion, that is when we sin. We’re going to mess up. I raise my voice to my kids and roll my eyes at my husband basically every single day. That is not loving behavior, and I ask God forgiveness. But with His help, I’m trying to be more compassionate every day. If people say that I’m too sympathetic….well, that’s better than a lot of other things they could say about me, so I’ll take it.