Saturday, January 7, 2017

Establishing motives (Gen 3:1-7)

At the start of chapter 3, the serpent enters the story. He is described as "the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made." This chapter may leave me with more questions than answers I suspect, first one being: how was this serpent talking?? (Shrewd, indeed! What was the second-shrewdest wild animal able to do!?) Like the chronology in the last post, I'm going to set that aside because it does not seem to be the point. The story is about the first humans being convinced to sin.

In previous study I've done of this passage, several things in the dialogue here have been pointed out to me. First, the serpent gets the command of God wrong in his question. God only prohibits eating from one tree, not all of them. Second, Eve gets the prohibition wrong too. She says they must not even touch it, when God has only said they must not eat its fruit.

The serpent doesn't push her on the details of the command, rather he tries to get her to disregard the consequence of disobedience, and judge for herself whether she should try the beautiful, and practically magical, fruit. She is convinced by the serpent's argument, which was partly true. He promised her eyes would be opened, which they were. The lie was that she wouldn't die. Her stated knowledge of the rule, though not quite right, does include the consequence of death. She must have just weighed the two testimonies she received about that from Adam, or from God, and from the serpent, and made the terrible error to trust the serpent.

Her reasoning in her decision was based on three factors: the beauty of the fruit, how delicious it looked, and her desire for wisdom. These are not bad motivations, if there weren't a direct 'no' from the Lord about this question. But that is the main thing here. God said no, but Eve decided to trust the appearance of the temptation and the false testimony of a bystander, rather than believe and honor her creator.

But let's stop here and ask a question. Why does the serpent approach Eve instead of Adam? Some historical voices have said it's because she was by nature more prone to deception than Adam. The evidence for this is that she was deceived. But of course Adam ate the fruit too. We aren't told his reason for eating, and that is a big big question in my mind. I would like to point out that Adam was given this command from God before Eve was created. How was it communicated to her? She knows of it, clearly, but is not rock solid on the details. Did her error come from herself or even from Adam? Did the serpent approach her because he thought she didn't know the command as well as Adam? Either way, she knew enough that she should have been able to refute the serpent.

Let's consider Adam's process in deciding to eat. "She gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Just like that. How was Adam convinced?? We are given nothing about his motivation, in comparison with the three reasons the woman decided to eat. Did he trust her reasoning more than God's faithfulness to follow through with his promised consequence too? Did he go along with her in order to preserve their unity even at the expense of the loss of his immortality? What would have happened if he hadn't eaten? Another wife for him from another rib?

I'm not sure that there is enough information for us to conclude why the serpent approached Eve first. Perhaps he happened to run into her first from wherever he was walking (pre-curse, remember, he had legs!). Perhaps he thought she was an easier mark due to her lack of information or her inherent gullibility. There is however, no denying, that for whatever reason, she was the guilty person who brought sin into the world.

They ate and "at that moment," instantaneously, their eyes were opened. It is interesting to note that "that moment" when their eyes were opened, occurs after Adam has eaten. Was Eve still chewing when she passed it to him, or were her eyes already opened when she offered it to him, or did both of their eyes only open after Adam ate? Why did she pass it to him? Why did they sin together? Again, the narrative keeps moving, without answering these questions I would love to know the answers to. We will have to leave them here, I think, and keep building observations from what we do have.

Continuing on, the first sights their newly opened eyes saw were their own selves in a new light--they felt shame at their nakedness. Together, touchingly futilely, they sew fig leaves to cover themselves, then later seek to cover themselves even further, hiding from God. We'll pick it up there next time.

  • Eve trusted the serpent's testimony about the consequence of eating the fruit over the word of God.
  • Eve ate the fruit because it looked delicious and tasty, and she wanted wisdom, and she trusted the serpent's contradiction of what she knew--that she would die if she ate it. We don't know why Adam ate it.
  • The first taste of their new knowledge was shame.

Questions for the comments:

  • Why do you think the serpent approached Eve?
  • Why do you think Adam ate too?

No comments:

Post a Comment