Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
The opening blow in the war against humanity. I had skipped over God’s command in Chapter 2 (his second mandate, after keeping the garden):
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
God in fact was pretty explicit. He had made a special point of affirming that the man may freely eat (‘akal ‘akal) from any tree except for the one of the knowledge of good and evil (da`ath towb ra). So clearly, the serpent was up to no good, spinning half truths, twisting God’s words to make Him look cruel and unreasonable.
God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
I am of the school that suspects Adam is partly responsible for Eve’s fall, by a) not being there, and b) perhaps not properly instructing her. Eve appears to think God also commanded her not to touch (naga’), rather than just not eat (‘akal). Somehow, I wonder if that was the first, fatal mistake. We think God stricter and more arbitrary than He actually is, and thus lose sight of the fact that His commands are for our good.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
The serpent seems to seize on the opening, and ascribe to God all manner of malicious motives. Knowing evil (yada’ ra’) — another of these devious half-truths — carries the sense of personal experience. God presumably experienced evil in the fall of angels, which happened before this. I would go further in saying that God actually intended Adam and Eve to learn to be “as gods” (‘elohiym) by conquering natural evil, rather than personally experiencing spiritual evil. That is, they were supposed to learn to be like God by doing the things God does — creating a very good (m@`od towb) world out of chaos (tohuw).
Alas, humanity lost sight of God’s ultimate purpose — misinterpreted His second command as restricting the first — and the rest, as they say, is history.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Thus begins a tragic sequence of breaking. First they hid from each other. Then they hid themselves (chaba’) from God. Then they pass blame down (man to woman to serpent). Interestingly, God seems to partly accept the delegation of responsibility, in that He starts his curses (‘arar) with the serpent. But not totally, since He also meets out curses along the entire chain:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Given Genesis 1 and 2, I believe the structured relationship of husband and wife, and the mandate to have children, preceded the fall. But clearly those institutions have been deeply wounded, even perverted. The last phrase, literally ‘desire husband rule’ (t@shuwqah ‘iysh mashal) is one of those that will probably be disputed until Christ returns. Interestingly, it is the same ‘rule’ used for the Sun ruling over the day. I can’t help but wonder if one of the implications is that Eve lost something of her initial relationship to both God and the world, which she would ever after try to recapture in her relationship with Adam: either idolizing him (instead of God) or manipulate him (instead of the world).
And unto Adam he said … cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.
The joyous mandate of subduing the world in God’s image is replaced by a tortuous battle for survival. Then it gets worse — or is it better?
Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Fascinating. Before, there was no prohibition on eating from the tree of life. I wonder if this is what Tolkein calls man’s “gift of death” — the hope of future redemption in the next world, vs. being trapped in this one. Maybe its also a reminder that God does not want us to go back to the garden of innocence, however much we may miss it; we must journey forward to the city of redemption, the New Jerusalem — though it will be many years before we reach it.
God, regardless of what Adam and Eve did or did not do, I know I have sinned. I have misunderstood your Very Good commands, and thought they hindered my purpose and happiness, and sought to be my own God. Please forgive me. Restore me to a right relationship with the world, my wife, and with You. Let me accept Your covering of shed blood, rather than my own fig leaves of human works. Help me to fully grieve the loss of Eden, recover a right purpose, and move forward to the New Jerusalem, where God Himself is the Sun. Amen.
Note: Devotional vs. Expositional
I realize I was probably overly ambitious in my initial phrasing. I am spending roughly one hour per chapter per day, six days per week, so with almost 1200 chapters in the Bible that’s 200 weeks, or about four years (if I keep it up!). Which by itself is pretty much in line with my plan, but with only one hour there’s no way to fully digest a chapter. At best, I can cherry-pick a few of the most relevant insights. That is why I use the term Devotional — in the sense of a meditation on what struck me from a passage — rather than Expositional — which implies a thorough study of the author’s original intent in a passage. Because of my relatively superficial study, there’s no way I can develop any sort of credible ground-up theology. The best I can hope for is to develop some valid scriptural insights which can inform traditional theology.
Therefore, I should affirm that I implicitly assume what is sometimes called neo-evangelical theology as my starting point, and in particular the empowered evangelicalism associated with John Wimber. I should also mention I’m no theologian — I was trained as a physicist , though I’ve logged many hours of inductive Bible study through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. As a good Protestant, I believe everyone has the right and duty to discover the “plain meaning” of scripture for themselves — but they also have the responsibility to validate personal interpretations in the context of other scripture, historical understandings, the worshipping community, and church leadership. For my part, I will endeavor to be faithful to standard evangelical hermeneutics, even if I occasionally disagree with traditional interpretations (which I will try to clearly indicate). However, if you see anything here that seems at all off-base, please let me know and/or check with your own spiritual mentors.