Genesis 3

This chapter, the story of the so-called fall of mankind, appears to contain a number of serious flaws.  I will address them as they arise.

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אַף  3:1

כִּי־אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן

Gene. 3:1         Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  And it said to the woman, “Moreover, that God said you shall not eat of any tree of the garden, ….”

From the Hebrew in this verse, it can be construed that the serpent is continuing a conversation that started before the action described in this verse.      More>>

וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה אֶל־הַנָּחָשׁ מִפְּרִי עֵץ־הַגָּן נֹאכֵל   3:2

Gene. 3:2         And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat,

וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ־הַגָּן אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ פֶּן־־תְּמֻתוּן   3:3

Gene. 3:3         but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden God had said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die because of it.’”

Now the woman appears to be exaggerating God’s prohibition as well as distorting His words.  He did not tell them they could not touch the tree.  As in the first verse, the two instances of you in the verse are masculine plural.  So it appears from the woman’s words that God may have warned both of them, not just the man.  But if we look back at the previous chapter, Gene. 2:16 and 2:17, God was talking only to the man.  The woman had not yet been formed.  So her description of God’s prohibition must be a paraphrase of something she’d heard from the man.  Thus she can’t really be blamed for her inaccuracy, and apparently she isn’t trying to exaggerate.

וַיֹּאמֶר הַנָּחָשׁ אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה לֹא־מוֹת תְּמֻתוּן   3:4

Gene. 3:4         And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall surely not die.”

Again the you is masculine plural.  The serpent continues to address them both, although the woman is the only one responding.  The man is ignoring the serpent, but the woman cannot resist answering it.

כִּי יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם וִהְיִיתֶם כֵּאלֹהִים יֹדְעֵי טוֹב וָרָע   3:5

Gene. 3:5.      “For God knows that in the day of your eating from it, then your eyes shall be opened and you shall be like God, knowing of good and evil.”

The two instances of your and the one of you are all masculine plural, as is the participle knowing. The serpent is exaggerating now – knowing of good and evil is only a small part of God’s capability.  One knowing only of good and evil would not be like God.  The claim by some scholars that the woman, as well as the man, was tempted to eat so she could be like God, seems to be poorly supported by this conversation.  The conversation is naïve and simplistic, as a child’s fairy tale might be.  Why would totally, unimaginably innocent humans strive to be like God?    It’s only we “knowing” humans who do that.

וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל וְכִי תַאֲוָה־הוּא לָעֵינַיִם וְנֶחְמָד הָעֵץ לְהַשְׂכִּיל וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ   3:6

וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּתֵּן גַּם־לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ וַיֹּאכַל

Gene. 3:6         And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was to be desired.  Considering, then she took from its fruit and ate.  And she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

It looks as if the woman is much more adventurous than the man, but he goes along, perhaps reluctantly.  She appears to be the boss.  She may have been influenced by the serpent; nevertheless she appears to be smitten with the tree.  The word considering implies that she hesitated before taking the fruit.  Was she afraid?  What might she have been afraid of?  Of dying?  How could she know about death?  Of disobeying?  What would she know about disobeying?  That it was wrong?  No way!  Before eating the fruit, she didn’t know it was wrong.  It’s practically impossible for any of us to put ourselves in her place.  Most of us cannot even imagine it.  None of us is so inexperienced as to be that ignorant, unless we’re a newborn infant or an imbecile.  Besides, we have been so ingrained with the idea that the woman, Eve, had committed the first human sin, that we have trouble being completely objective in judging this incident and her guilt.  The truth is, however, that Eve didn’t know she was doing wrong until the fruit entered her mouth, or perhaps after it was digested.

וַתִּפָּקַ חְנָה עֵינֵי שְׁנֵיהֶם וַיֵּדְעוּ כִּי עֵירֻמִּם הֵם וַיִּתְפְּרוּ עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם חֲגֹרֹת  3:7

Gene. 3:7         Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed together the leaf of a fig tree and made girdles for themselves.

At first glance this verse might appear to be expressing a cultural prejudice.  Why would knowing of good and evil cause the man and woman to be self-conscious about their nudity?  Strictly speaking, nudity is neither good nor evil.  But implied or hinted at by the wording, while hidden within the verse, may be the obvious reality that they immediately became aware of their libido.  But what is wrong with that?  If they were man and wife, wasn’t sex appropriate and proper for them?  That hadn’t been forbidden to them.  On the contrary, in chapter 1 they were commanded to fill the earth.  Were they now embarrassed for God to see them naked?  Why would that be?  He created them naked; so why would that seem wrong to them?  Again, the scribe’s attempt to illustrate their new knowledge is not very inspirational.  Wouldn’t they have immediately realized how wrong their disobedience was?  Wouldn’t that have overwhelmed them with guilt and chagrin, dulling their senses to their interest in each other or in their nakedness?  If I had received this message from a divine source, I would likely say something like, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they had done a terrible wrong by disobeying God, and they were overcome by fear and dread.”  Would that have ruined the story?  Maybe not, but it might have changed Judaism and Christianity, though.

וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת־קוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה   3:8

אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן

Gene. 3:8         Then they heard the sound of the Lord God “walking” in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his woman hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God in the midst of a tree of the garden,                                                                        [Return to Deut. 23:15]

In these early chapters in Genesis the scribe often depicts an anthropomorphized God.  Was God actually “walking” in the garden?  I will have more to say about this later (relating to Gene. 6:6 and Deut. 23:15).

וַיִּקְרָא יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל־הָאָדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַיֶּכָּה   3:9

Gene. 3:9         as the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

In conformity with the discussion relating to Gene. 2:20, we might assume that God knew where the man was, but was encouraging him to respond in a responsible way.  However, the next verse hints at something else too.  See below.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־־קֹלְךָ שָׁמַעְתִּי בַּגָּן וָאִירָא כִּי־עֵירֹם אָנֹכִי וָאֵחָבֵא   3:10

Gene. 3:10       And he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

The implication in the man’s response is that God had been calling to him but he had not responded until now, when the Lord probably began to sound insistent.     More>>

וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל־מִמֶּנּוּ אָכָלְתָּ   3:11

Gene. 3:11       And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”

Why does God ask these questions?  Doesn’t He know what the man and woman have done?  Is the scribe merely attributing human-like qualities to God again?  As before, we might guess that the Lord is offering the man an opportunity to exercise his free will, and come clean

וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָדָם הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי הִוא נָתְנָה־לִּי מִן־הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל   3:12

Gene. 3:12      And the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, so I ate.”

The man passes the buck, blaming his woman, although he was presumably standing by and listening to the serpent but not responding.  Maybe he was too shy, or passive by nature, or dull.  We know nothing of the man’s personality.  His behavior remains uninspired throughout. 

In addition, this verse and the next contain the same double anomaly we discovered in v. 3:10 above.  The verb part for “so I ate.” in both these verses is first-person imperfect and a consequence of the preceding verb.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לָאִשָּׁה מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂית וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה הַנָּחָשׁ הִשִּׁיאַנִי וָאֹכֵל   3:13

Gene. 3:13       And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, so I ate.”

And the woman, who was not shy, also passes the buck, blaming the serpent.  This chapter reeks of symbolism.   The man and woman clearly represent humankind.  The serpent is the embodiment of the traps, pitfalls, lures, and dangers of everyday life.  Eden is the safe haven to which we are inevitably headed, whether in the afterlife or at the end of time.  Maybe that’s why the second-person pronouns in the early part of this chapter have been plural.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל־הַנָּחָשׁ כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת   3:14

הַשָּׂדֶה עַל־גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ

Gene. 3:14       And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you shall be cursed more than all the cattle and more than any beast of the field.  Upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life.”

Does this sound like the serpent is Satan?  Perhaps.  After all, the serpent had known of good and evil.  Therefore, it could have been nothing but an angel.  So now it was a “fallen” angel – Satan?  We are told in Job Chapter 1 that Satan may be permitted to test the loyalty of humans.  But he doesn’t appear to be a fallen angel there.

This is the first occurrence of the expression “the days of ….”  As we shall see, the word ymey> is often used in reference to someone’s life.  In such cases it seems most definitely appropriate to consider this an idiom and to use the translation “the time of” or “the period of.”  However, the literal translation is understandable, so I’ll stick with it in most cases.

One other aside seems appropriate.  What did the serpent do before this incident?  Apparently, it didn’t crawl on its belly.

וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ  עָקֵב  3:15

Gene. 3:15       “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He shall crush the front of you, and you shall bruise the heel of him.”

The Hebrew of the last part of this verse is rather strange.      More>>

אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ   3:16

וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ

Gene. 3:16       To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain and your travail.  With pain shall you bring forth children, and your longing shall be for your husband that he may rule over you.”

Is this verse the source -- or the evidence -- of anti-female bias?  Were women cursed from the beginning to be subservient to men? 

וּלְאָדָם אָמַר כִּי שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ וַתֹּאכַל מִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל   3:17

מִמֶּנּוּ אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ

Gene. 3:17       And to the man He said, “Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate of the tree which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground for your sake.  In toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life.”

Interesting . . . ., The “You” in “You shall not eat of it,” is singular, not plural.  So here the Lord repeats His original admonition, which was indeed only to the man.

וְקוֹץ וְדַרְדַּר תַּצְמִיחַ לָךְ וְאָכַלְתָּ אֶתעֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה   3:18

Gene. 3:18       “And thorn and thistle it shall bring to you as you eat the herb of the field.”

בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם עַד שׁוּבְךָ אֶל־הָאֲדָמָה כִּי מִמֶּנָּה לֻקָּחְתָּ כִּי־עָפָר אַתָּה וְאֶל־־עָפָר   3:19

תָּשׁוּב

Gene. 3:19       “By the sweat of your nostrils shall you eat bread until your return to the ground, because out of it were you taken, for dust you are and to dust you shall return.

It looks like at this point in the narrative we are still vegetarians.

וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ חַוָּה כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה אֵם כָּל־חָי    3:20

Gene. 3:20       And the man called the name of his woman Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

The name hWx, Eve, means living. Is the meaning of this verse that once they left Eden they would begin to have children?  That in the garden of Eden they were meant to live without offspring?  Yet we assume that they were not immortal until and if they would eat of the tree of life (see v. 3:22 below).  Complicated theological considerations arise from this conjecture which I can’t answer.  And, if as I suspect, Eden is prophetic, are we to have no more children at the end of time?  That would seem reasonable. 

וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם   3:21

 

Gene. 3:21    And the Lord God made garments of skin for the man and his wife and clothed them.

Did God create the skin?  Did He slaughter one or more animals to get it?  Were the animals already dead?  The word made carries no implications of creating.  Thus it would appear from this verse that God may think little of the slaughter or death of animals.  Yet later in the Torah God cautions humans several times to be kind and considerate to animals, to consider their feelings.   Could the scribe have made a booboo here again, relating to his own later time?  Or is the slaughter of animals all right so long as it is done with kindness?

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ לָדַעַת טוֹב וָרָע וְעַתָּה פֶּן־יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ וְלָקַח גַּם   3:22

מֵעֵץ הַחַיִּים וְאָכַל וָחַי לְעֹלָם

Gene. 3:22       Then the Lord God said, “Behold the man has become as one of us, knowing good and evil, and now lest he put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever ….”

From this verse, we can conclude that the humans were not immortal, even in the garden of Eden, before eating of the forbidden fruit.  See the discussion of the next verse.  Also notice the use of the first person plural pronoun, us.  Is God speaking to the angels again?                      [Return to Gene. 11:6]

וַיְשַׁלְּחֵהוּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִגַּן־עֵדֶן לַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח מִשָּׁם   3:23

Gene. 3:23       So the Lord God took him from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

Either we have another problem here, or we need to look more closely at what is happening, in order to understand the implications of these few passages.  In v. 3:17 God tells the man that he shall have to toil to eat the produce of the ground.  But it isn’t until v. 3:22 that God “thinks” to remove him from Eden.  Before this, was the man to have lived out his curse in Eden?  Might this tell us something new of Eden?  Verse 3:22 implies that the man and woman would not live forever until they ate of the tree of life. Therefore, our view of Eden as the place of eternal life may be erroneous.  Adam and Eve did not lose life eternal when they were banished.  They never had it.  Their lifetimes were also limited in Eden.

However, once again we must question our view of the scribe’s apparent description of God’s actions.  Would God have cursed Adam and Eve without already “knowing” that they were to be banished?  I believe that v. 3:22 is simply the scribe’s way of explaining the historical events as he understood them.  He, as many of the bible scribes after him do, attributes human-like qualities to God.  Could the supreme Ruler of the universe, the Creator of everything, be like a human?  Yet throughout the bible He is depicted as possessing the attributes of humans.  At the same time, and often by the same scribes who depict God with human traits, God is greatly exalted, as being so far above humans as heaven is above earth, for example.  Is it appropriate for us to imagine God being like a human?  Like a BIG Man?  I earnestly refuse to accept this depiction.  I think it is inappropriate for us to try to describe God, period.  We don’t possess the capacity.  To try would be like trying to make God less holy.  However, God does inform us of His attributes:  Holy, infinitely patient and merciful, everlasting, ever faithful and caring, all-knowing, vigilant, possessive of His people, ....

וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֶת־הָאָדָם וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן־עֵדֶן אֶת־הַכְּרֻבִים וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת לִשְׁמֹר   3:24

אֶת־דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ־הַחַיִּים

Gene. 3:24       When He drove the man out, then He placed the cherubim at the garden of Eden’s east, and the flaming sword that turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

The words here meaning the flaming sword can also be translated as the flame of the sword.  Otherwise the phrase is an idiom.  Flaming is masculine and sword is feminine.  So the phrase is either correctly translated as the flame of the sword or it is indeed an idiom.  I have assumed it to be an idiom.

Besides this “trivial” tidbit, two implications, also perhaps trivial, are apparent in this verse.  To start with, Adam and Eve must have been sent out east of the garden, because that was the place to be guarded.  But remember that God had set the garden eastward (Gene. 2:8) in Eden.   Wherever Eden is, it was not where they were sent.  They were sent further eastward, presumably away from Eden.  So Eden was lost to them (and maybe to us?) forever, as was the garden itself.

Secondly, this verse makes it apparent that if the entrance to the garden were not guarded, humans could easily return there.  Will we ever dwell in the garden again?  Our knowledge of medicine and extent of our medical technology are approaching a point at which some researchers dare to say that soon people will live much longer lives, maybe to 150 years.  And they hint that within this century life spans could conceivably be extended to a thousand years.   In light of this verse, are we being too presumptuous?  God tells us that the tree of life is inaccessible to us.  Are we grappling with the flaming sword?  What is really in store for us in the future?

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