Part Three of Three
Warning! Please be aware that the story you are about to RE-READ may shock and amaze you. The 3rd narrative of the Adam and Eve chronicles in Genesis, Chapter 3, practically requires this disclaimer.
It is a story we think we already know. Certainly, we are very familiar with the figures of the narrative and the actions that take place. There’s Adam and Eve, the serpent and the apple, the “fall of humanity,” and the consequential blame game that follows: Who was REALLY at fault? Who gave the “apple” to whom? What did God really say to the couple? Who was cursed and who wasn’t? Who received the worst punishment from God and why? Who caused the fall of humanity, Adam, Eve, the serpent or all three? The questions go on and on, and frankly so do our judgments.
So, are these questions helpful at all? Do these particular questions assist us in understanding what is important in the narrative and what we ultimately should learn from the story? Do the judgments we bring to the story impede the spiritual message of the narrative and what we should actually glean from it? Does an allegorical* reading help us to understand the story better, or is it better to read the story literally, as some church traditions suggest?
As Frederick Douglass once wrote: “Without a struggle there can be no progress.” Certainly, this thought applies to the biblical narratives of scripture, as well. Our growth and spiritual maturation come from the struggle to learn and apply the principles of these divinely inspired stories to our own lives. There are no easy answers. There are often shades of biblical gray. Oftentimes, we step away from these stories with more questions than answers. But, God honors our process, and we are certainly better Christians because of it. So let’s begin – AGAIN, and see what this particular story teaches us.
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Genesis 3: 1-24 (New Revised Standard Version- NRSV)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to the man[b] he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man named his wife Eve,[c] because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man[d] and for his wife, and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
The story of Chapter 3 in Genesis was written as a connective thread (to Genesis1&2) to explain the existence of disharmony between God and God’s creation, as a result of human disobedience. While the words “sin,” “fall,” and “devil,” never appear in chapter 3 of Genesis, a traditional read of the story projects these words and their concepts into the narrative, and results in an unfair judgment of Adam and, especially Eve. From here, we are confronted with the notions of fault, blame, and misrepresentations of Eve, as the initiator and cause of humanity’s fall, which really has little to do with the original intent of this narrative.
Adam and Eve, in all three stories, were presented as the “crown” of God’s creation, and gifted with the divine spark or spiritual energy of God, in order to act as stewards upon the earth, and to procreate God’s world. Unlike God’s animal creation, Adam and Eve were accountable and responsible for their actions, as opposed to the instinctual behavior of animals. Thus, the dominion of the earth provided by God to Adam and Eve, comes as a gift; but, also with the weight and freedom of choice – to obey or to disobey God, their (our) Creator.
Setting aside our preconceived notions and judgments of the story can assist us in obtaining new revelations about the narrative, and a fresh perspective of its elements and teachings. The first step is to understand that the serpent, in this story, is NOT Satan, the devil, or even an evil presence in the garden. These words and concepts are missing in the text. To make this assumption about the serpent is to add agenda (eisegesis**) to the narrative, when the intent of the story and the presence of the serpent, in the story, was not to imply evilness. In the story, the serpent is personified, and this acts as a literary method to show us that Eve and Adam had the ability to think for themselves. (Almost as if they were talking to themselves). The serpent represents the thoughts of Eve, as she contemplates and weighs the choices of whether to eat the fruit (not an apple) or not. Note that the adjective for the serpent is “crafty,” (cunning, shrewd), not evil.
The second notable is when Eve describes the directive from God (to the serpent) about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She speaks in plural, “we” for several reasons. The first and primary reason is one that we miss in the narrative. ADAM IS STANDING WITH EVE, AND HEARS THE SAME CONVERSATION AS SHE. Note in the text: ” and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” Anecdotally, we are/were taught that the serpent “seduces” Eve and she takes the fruit to Adam ( who is not present with her for their conversation), and seduces him. Secondly, Eve, who is often presented as a liar when she adds to the story, “nor shall you touch it,” was not present when God gave the directive to “the adam.” (See Genesis 2:15-17). Therefore, we can choose to view Eve as misrepresenting the truth, or we can choose to see Eve, as receiving the story from Adam, secondhand.
While the serpent directs the conversation to Eve, we should not make the assumption that Adam was not with her. Additionally, giving or offering the food to Adam (and Adam accepting it), should not imply that Adam was seduced by Eve, or helpless in the decision to eat the fruit. Rather, the story demonstrates here that both were culpable in disobeying the directive, which God specifically gave to “the adam” about the tree in the garden of Eden.
In the next movement of the story, we begin to see how disobedience prompts disharmony and separation from God , humanity, animals, and the earth. We note serpent, woman, man, and even God are all “thrown under the bus,” as Adam and Eve begin to blame others for the result of personal disobedience. Prompted by God’s questioning of the circumstance, Adam blames Eve and God, Eve blames the serpent, and the result is the consequence of disobedience and disregard for God’s will for the earth.
Note here that only the serpent is cursed by God. God never mentions Eve or Adam are cursed in the text. To the contrary, God acts with great compassion, even dressing the couple! The couple receive the consequences of the poor choice of their own behavior, and the result is God’s judgment upon their lives. But, they are not cursed. Only the serpent receives a curse: from walking to crawling and eating the dust of the ground. Disharmony, disorder, and especially separation from God, become the tragic result of Eve and Adam’s wanton decision.
It is here especially that we, as readers of the narrative, continue to judge the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Is Eve “more at fault” because God addresses her before Adam? Is Eve’s punishment more severe than Adam’s? Are we to understand that “ruling over Eve,” is a reward for Adam?
Scholars suggest that “ruling over Eve,” is as much a judgment on Adam, as it is on Eve. Disharmony, disorder, and hierarchical separation cannot be viewed as a reward; but rather a tragic result of their combined disregard of God. Without judging the consequences, or the actors in the narrative, we find that the primary teaching is this: Disobedience equals = disharmony, disorder, and separation from God, our Creator. Relationships are broken. There are no winners. No one escapes God’s judgment unscathed.
Hopefully, we have learned that the intent of this story is not to cast blame or to judge any of the actors (Adam, Eve, or the serpent) in the narrative. Ultimately, this story teaches us that refusing to allow God to direct our lives has dire consequences. It demonstrates that disobedience of God creates disorder and disharmony, the very opposite of God’s intent for creation and humanity. There are simply no winners when we choose our way over God’s way.
Definitions: eisegesis – An interpretation of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the genuine meaning of the text.
allegorical – a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms. Figurative treatment of the subject, as opposed to literal.
Ego, which can be defined as “Edging God Out,” is a disastrous path from the very start. The serpent in the story (an allegorical read) appeals to Eve and Adam’s egos. Our egos often seek one of two rationales: the seduction of exaltation ( to seduce us to think we are equal to God) or the seduction of inadequacy (to seduce us to think we are less than what God creates us to be). Either way, we edge God out, subtracting God from our lives, in an attempt to create our own destiny. The take-away from the story is to learn that God’s way is best and that God desires relationship and communion with us, as creatures made “just a little lower than the angels.”
Ultimately, we learn that we fall; but we get up, through God’s unconditional love for us. As scripture tells us: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Questions for our study and consideration:
As we look at the connecting thread of the three stories, what is the most important “take-away” in your opinion?
In this particular story, why do you feel that Eve has traditionally been judged so harshly, as the seductress of Adam, and the primary cause of the “fall,” of humanity?
Does a different reading of this story help you to gain any empowerment from it? Explain?
If our egos are one of the reasons that prompt us to make poor choices (including disobedience to God), why do you think God created us with ego,, or do you think ego is a man-made creation?
How can we, as God’s feminine creation, seek to re-establish harmony and peace in the world?
“It is only through thanksgiving that I truly become myself.” (taken from Deepak Chopra)
“Every blessing unrealized becomes a curse.” Paulo Coelho
“When you allow your ego to control your thought, everything you believe becomes an illusion.” Rusty Eric
“With the disappearance of God, the ego moves forward to become the sole divinity.” Dorothee Solle
The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and the Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series. They may be used by you with our permission, which may be revoked at any time. All copies of the material must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright  Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters, and is distributed with permission.”
written by Evangelist Angie Garrett – for Tabitha’s Daughters Women’s Empowerment Bible Series