Part 2. Adam, Eve, and Sin
A Quick Re-cap
In the first part of this series, we’ve broken down some important “take-aways” from Genesis 3:1 to verse 8. Let’s simplify and review before moving on with the rest of the story.
The first set is a review of the Characters. We’ve learned a great deal about the overall nature of the first man and woman on earth:
- They are both intelligent, knowledgeable, rational, and relational beings who understand one another as husband and wife.
- They are able to relate to God, the world around them, and to one another, and can communicate and comprehend what is communicated.
- They have the ability to choose (free will), to identify things, to name things, and even to think through things before acting upon a decision.
- God has a special and unique relationship with the man and woman and they have an innocent respect for it.
So, these are some important features to consider which allow us to understand that before eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve had every other feature we can think of when it comes to our humanity. But we have also learned a few other things.
- The first man and woman were made in the image of God, though they were not God, they had many of His features.
- The first man and woman had no knowledge of good and evil, and it is also likely they would die at some point, having not attained to eternal life. Thus, the two trees and their respective names.
- The first man and woman both had the capacity to sin prior to having any knowledge of good and evil.
- The serpent was the first creature to sin, acting in disobedience to God when it deceived Eve.
Now, there may be some other take aways that are overlooked at this point, but as we continue on, these are the ones that stick out the most to us, especially given the context of the traditional doctrines of Original Sin. Here, we see that there is an original act of sin (Adam and Eve disobeying God by eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) and that Adam and Eve were a part of this original act, as well as the serpent.
So let’s pick up where we left off.
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
He [meaning Adam] said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so, I hid myself.”
And He [meaning God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Gen. 3:8–13 NASB).
Let us stop here for now. There is a great deal in this section that we must be sure to analyze carefully. When studying any text, it is the objective reader’s goal to determine what the author is attempting to convey to his or her audience. If we are to learn anything from this text, we need to let it speak to us, and not put our own thoughts or preconceived notions into it. So, let us consider what the text is revealing to us.
Remember, the Bible is a text that does not attempt to “prove” God’s existence, it presupposes His existence, and reveals to us God’s work across human history. It is a story about God’s work, and through God’s work, we can also learn about His nature and His intentions.
New Experience of Fear and Shame.
This section starts off with Adam and Eve hiding from God when He enters on the scene. At the beginning of this chapter, there was something of a scene transition (so to speak), where God, it is assumed, is elsewhere while all the conversation with the serpent was going on. So, here He is, strolling back onto the scene, looking for man in the cool of the day. We know nothing of His intent, or what He was looking to do. All we can really know is that God was looking for the man in the garden.
The act of Adam and Eve hiding from God is the first time we see man behaving in such a manner toward God. In all previous sections, man and woman had displayed no fear of God whatsoever. They listened to God and enjoyed God’s special favor as He showed them all these wonderful things that He had made for them. These two only knew of God’s apparent love and care for them both. But now, they have acquired something new. There is something in them now they knew nothing of before, and it has caused them to fear God (our first hint of what sin is).
But even before this, this new something even made them look upon one another and see that they were naked. They made loin coverings for themselves! Now they hide from God because they are naked, but most significantly, they hide from God because they are scared of Him. What is it about the knowledge of good and evil that makes man scared of God? They already had the capacity to sin before having knowledge of good and evil. I thought sin was something that was detrimental to us. Yet, man had no knowledge of sin being what it was, yet they clearly had the capacity to do it, otherwise it would not have been possible for them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil to begin with! Well this is awful interesting, now isn’t it? Are we seeing the effect of sin? Is it the effect of sin in combination with acquiring knowledge of Good and evil?
The First Lesson.
Adam and Eve, having the capacity to sin, but having no knowledge of good and evil, were innocent in their nature. God created them as He had intended to at that time. We can not possibly know if that was how He intended for them to always be, nor can we know whether He desired for them to remain that way or not. All that we do know is that God did not want man to acquire knowledge of good and evil by eating from the tree. God did not forbid the consumption of the tree of life, however, He did forbid the consumption of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, it would appear that God more than likely had some intention that lies outside of our ability to be made aware of, given the revelation He has provided to us. When God was returning to the garden, looking for man, we can only assume (and most reasonably so) that He was planning to do something with the man and his wife. But those plans were disrupted by the actions of the serpent, Eve, and Adam.
We also come to the realization that it is morality which permits us to know that disobedience to God (sin) is not a good thing. Without a moral sense, we would have no clue. Had Adam and Eve had some moral sense before they had taken of the fruit, they would have been more likely to not have eaten of the tree. The first reason obviously being that they had no need of it, but the second reason being they would know it was wrong. Without knowledge of good and evil, the actions of Adam and Eve as something “not good” means nothing different. Indeed, other than having knowledge that they would die if they ate of it, they had nothing to fear about eating it or not.
So, it is clear they had free will choice in the beginning. Now we know, morality has nothing to do with free will or free agency, but that morality is in and of itself something quite unique from all other human faculties. So important was it, that God did not desire for man to attain to it without something in mind to happen before hand.
Keep this first lesson in mind. It is a lesson about God, and what God’s intentions were for our good. When God gave the command to not eat, He did so to protect the man, whose action in doing so would have been innocent, as he had no concept of right and wrong, but some concept of death as God tells him. But, now that man has eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and has not yet died, what did God mean? Had they disobeyed God some how in some other way, they would not have known it as bad, and would not have been scared when God came.
Now, it is here that many people have the tendency to veer off course into various tangents that have nothing to do with the story being told. Many begin to wander down paths of “What if they did not sin? What if they ate of the Tree of Life? What if they did ________?” You can what if this all day long. As I have had to tell my Marines on many occasions while training them in various aspects of warfighting, in the end, all such questions lead to answers which only satisfy those questions and which teach us nothing of value. The author is trying to tell us something about this event. Whether we believe the event did or did not occur is of no value, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the story being told. Whether we accept it as a literal event in the past or as just some myth or legend means absolutely nothing. Those are things that are irrelevant and useless to us, as all they do is affirm themselves, and provide nothing of value to the story whatsoever. So, do not allow yourself to start jumping off of the various deep ends, or go chasing rabbits down their holes. You’ll only end up floating back up to the surface (where you started) for the former, and reaching the end of the hole in darkness for the latter. Neither very helpful, now are they?
Our first lesson is to understand that God had the intention of doing something with the first man and woman that would make the knowledge of good and evil that could have been acquired from the tree of no need. God gave the first command in order to protect the man and his wife, and to keep them from death. God had given the man all that He needed to be in right relationship with Him, and His wife was an important part of that. God had already given them the command to be fruitful and multiply, so we can also accept that God was going to guide them down that path as well. God’s intentions from the beginning were for the good of the man and his wife, and the giving of the command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a part of that good intention. By telling them, do not eat, he was protecting them from what we are now witnessing. In other words, the man and his wife were living in the fullness of the grace, blessing, and love of God, dwelling with Him in the garden that God had made just for man and his wife, and in which laid the tree of life.
The First Dialogue.
Having gathered our first lesson, let us dive into reviewing the dialogue between the man, his wife, and God. God calls out to the man and asks him “Where are you?” Ok, well, nothing of significance here (though we could go chasing the rabbit down the hole of God’s omniscience, but I thought I said something about that earlier…) but let us continue. The man answers God “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” As I read this, I feel drawn towards putting nuances on the man’s voice of not even he really understanding why he hid himself. Adam is certainly being honest here. He is speaking with God as we might expect a man to speak with His friend. God does not respond to the man’s words and demeanor with “I will smite thee!!!!” power and might. Instead, God responds to Adam’s words as one might expect a father would with his son.
“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Now it is here that I find the first really interesting thing. God first asks the man “Who told you that you were naked?” Hey, so there are others? Others who know what naked is? Where did that come from? Now again, we can go chasing that rabbit, but finding the answer to such questions would really contribute nothing to our understanding of what is being revealed here. However, it does let us know one important thing. Man could have learned something of morality without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now, in response to the question from God, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man says, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” It is here that most people interject “Ah ha! We see man pointing fingers and trying to put the blame and responsibility elsewhere!” But, hold on a minute. Let us think about this for a moment. Is that really what he is doing? We need to put this within the context of the people of their time, their culture, and as such, their behaviors. In our time, one might view this as “shifting the blame,” but in reality, is that what Adam is doing? Or, do we see Adam simply reporting the fullness of truth to God? Adam could have certainly blamed Eve all together, saying that she ate of it and leave it at that. He could have said that Eve had deceived Him, and that would most certainly have been shifting the blame. But the author is telling us that such was not the case. Indeed, all that we can draw from what the author is telling us is that Adam was giving the fullness of truth to God regarding the situation. Now, this is not to knock the centuries of scholarship on exegetical review of this passage. It is, however, an effort to not allow tradition to affect our reading. It is an effort to allow just the text to be what is speaking to us.
Now, it becomes clear that God is satisfied with that response, but we still do not see Him responding with clear anger or damnation. Instead, we continue to see something of a fatherly response to the reports being given to Him. God turns to Eve next, “What is this you have done?” Isn’t that an interesting choice of words? He affirms what the man has told Him, and thus acknowledges His acceptance of Adam’s explanation (and of course, He obviously knows), but the way he turns to Eve and says, “What is this you have done.” There is just something about this word usage that gives an air of God’s disappointment and heartbreak. He turns to the woman and says this as one might think of someone who has just unintentionally broken something of value. Remember, God made her to be a “help-mate,” yet here she has gone and brought the man into disobedience! My precious child, what have you done? It is hard to describe or explain it, but if you are the father of a daughter, and she is precious to you, and she has just done something terrible in her childish innocence, there is that heartbreak that comes up when you look in her innocent eyes of having no idea, and you just wish in your heart that she never had to experience it. That is the vibe an honest man would get out of a careful reading of this passage.
The woman responds now, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” I can see my own daughter, confessing the truth, head down, and speaking with sadness here. Now, I ask you, is she lying to God? Or is she telling the absolute truth about the matter to God? Is she attempting to shift the blame, or is she identifying the culprit? She certainly does not hide the fact that she did eat of the tree. However, she is doing right in exposing the origin of the crime. She could have protected the serpent and told God it was all her, would that not have been sin number two? She could have simply absorbed all responsibility, but then she would actually be lying, covering up the serpent’s responsibility. So, it would be rather out of place to attempt to say anything ill of the first woman for responding to God as she did. She did indeed tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The Second Lesson.
What is there to glean from this, the first dialogue between man, woman, and God? First, we can learn that God had intentions that go beyond the horizon that is offered to us in the text. God was coming to find Adam for a reason, but we are not able to know what for. We also come to discover that evidently, Adam and Eve could have come to a knowledge of good and evil without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To do a logical transition, so too one might accept the notion that man and woman could have attained a fullness of life by means other than the tree of life. We also glean from this portion a detection of God’s disappointment and fatherly love of Adam and Eve as they confess their sin to God. Indeed, they tell God the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding the events that had occurred. We can also learn that God’s response to their confession is one of accepting what the man and woman had to say, showing God’s patience and self-control with man, who for the first time has disobeyed Him.
Another lesson we observe (remember, the Bible tells us about God and His nature) is God’s justice. He permits both Adam and Eve the opportunity to tell the truth. Our first example of confession, and its role in our relationship with God. While Adam and Eve have sinned, and they did hide from God, when God called them forth, they responded and answered in truth. Here, we do not see Adam and Eve die as God had told them they would. This calls us to a few things:
- Was God speaking of a different form of death other than physical?
- Was God delaying the act of what would be death soon to come after affording the opportunity to defend themselves?
- Was it really Adam and Eve who sinned? Or, due to Eve being deceived by the serpent, and Adam having no idea that it is wrong to disobey God after watching his God-given wife do so, are Adam and Eve truly guilty of sin and therefore worthy of death?
- In what follows, will we see God bring forth the punishment of death upon them? Or, given point 3, will there be a lighter punishment?
Now, granted, these are not necessarily “lessons” in the traditional sense of gleaning “the moral of a story.” However, since when were we trying to glean a moral from the story about the discovery of morality? Remember, the Bible is a text that is about God, that reveals to us the character and nature of God, and that shows us how He interacts with His creation across at least human history. So, do not always expect the lessons we learn to be “morals” of the story. As we continue from here, we will be moving into the punishments that God sets in response to the first act of sin. But let us catch a few things from the greater context.
- We have yet to see the word “sin” be introduced.
- Was what the serpent said true, or not?
- What is it that man is falling from?
Be sure to think these things through a bit, and we shall continue on with our walk through in part three.