Genesis 3 – The first human predator

This text was copied from Biblegateway.com and is the New International translation. Thank you Biblegateway and the translators who make this available to all.

The Fall

In many Bibles this passage is titled The Fall. It wasn’t a fall. It was a choice to take something that belonged to God. The term fall implies that there is some spiritual law of gravity that humans and even God must obey.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Serpents are wise in mythology. The writers probably had a dragon in mind here. Think of a Chinese dragon, long like a snake but with legs and wings. This translation says the serpent was a wild animal. Other translations use ‘beast of the field’. Wild animals live by being predators. Not all predators only kill to eat. That is a modern naturalist myth. Many predators harm for the sake of doing harm.

The serpent was being very crafty here. If someone is trying to manipulate you one of the things they do is put doubt in your mind about something you know to be true.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

I heard one preacher say this was the first instance of phariseeism. In chapter two God had only said to not eat of the tree. By chapter three humans had added the not touch part. He may be right or it could be the writer of Genesis was being economical with words in chapter two and left the not touch part to be stated here.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 

The serpent may have told a straight up lie here or he may have been playing with words. The humans didn’t immediately drop dead upon eating the fruit. Their death came later.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Every expositor that I have heard says that the serpent was appealing to human pride here. He was encouraging the humans to raise their status to that of God. It certainly sounds like that is what the serpent is doing. Expositors will say that pride was the first sin and many argue that it is the root of all sin. What this passage is saying is that the nature of humans was already such that pride could be appealed to. Humans today have pride and humans in the Garden of Eden had pride. This part of human nature did not change when the first humans ate the fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

The fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye. This part of human nature also didn’t change. Humans today have trouble resisting things that are good for food and pleasing to the eye. We have an easier time resisting things that give us wisdom. The way the sentence is structured wisdom, was a secondary consideration for the first woman too.

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 

A lot effort has been spent on blaming women for the first sin. Men know that a pretty woman has a lot of power over them and they resent it. Men want power for themselves. The man was with her. He heard the serpent’s temptation too. If the first man and woman were operating according to sexual stereotypes, then the woman liked the fruit more because it was good for food and pleasing to the eye and the man wanted to be like God. Stereotypes are simplifications for people who need them. I’m sure both ate the fruit for both reasons.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Was this a magic opening of the metaphorical eyes or was it the result of realizing that they were predators? They had stolen from God. Now that they were predators the law of predators applied. They could be preyed upon. God, who treated them like partners was under no obligation to continue the partnership. They could also no longer trust each other.

Humans are uniquely vulnerable among animals. Without spears and clubs we are a prey species. We are especially vulnerable before God. Even a god who walks around like a human. They were very vulnerable.

Another interpretation is that the fruit magically awakened sexual desire in a way that it didn’t exist before. Children, who don’t have the sexual hormones yet, don’t care about nakedness. Adults who do have them view nakedness as an invitation to sexual relations. Even when sexual relations are not possible, nakedness arouses anticipation of sexual relations. The anticipation is pleasurable too. This awakening would not need to be magical. Once people decide to be predators they prey on each other for sexual relations. Especially if the object of sexual desire is ‘pleasing to the eye’.

One commentator I read said this is the cause of almost all human misery. Over indulgence in sexual relations means the population out grows the available resources. It means people are poor. It means people go to war to acquire resources. It means there is no extra when a natural disaster reduces available resources. That commentator said it was sex that drove humanity from the metaphorical garden. There is a lot of merit to that opinion. During the baby boom unemployment was a big problem. Since birth control our problem is finding people to do all the jobs available.

Whatever the interpretation the first humans were no longer children. They were adults. Whether it was magic or just wisdom gained from the experience.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

The boss is coming and you know you are going to be punished. It is like when the bill collector calls and you don’t answer the telephone. It just delays the inevitable.

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Being naked was just an excuse. He was hiding from the Boss. It also gave away what he had done.

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Having already acted as predator towards the Boss why not continue to act as predator towards the woman. The man had a choice. The fruit he ate came from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Some people call the tree just the tree of knowledge. They imply that eating of the fruit is the reason humans are a technological species. Some people think that by eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil humans learned how to be evil and the man was using that knowledge to blame the woman. It was the tree of knowledge of good AND evil. Before eating the fruit humans didn’t know how to be good either.

Before eating the fruit humans lived in partnership with God and each other. Partnership is neither good nor evil. A partnership is a fair trade. God gave humans a garden. In return they needed to take care of it. They were like house sitters who can live in a rich person’s mansion as long as they keep it clean and don’t do the one thing the owner told them not to do.

According to the story, the man now knew how to be good. Being good means doing more than partnership requires. The man could have taken full responsibility for his own actions. He could have said he ate and he didn’t stop the woman from eating even though he could have. That would have been good. A partnership response would have been to take responsibility for his own actions. The first man chose the evil response, he blamed his partner.

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The woman had the same choices as the man but chose the evil one. Like the man, she could have stepped up and taken full blame. She could have asked, in Christ-like fashion, that the full punishment fall on her. She knew how, just as we do. She knew that it is good people who sacrifice and take on more responsibility then they are required to. She and the man chose the way of the predator.

Both of them could also have asked forgiveness. They didn’t because it would have resulted in a loss of status. Status was the reason they ate the fruit. They wanted to be like God. To ask forgiveness would have put them below God again. People resist asking for forgiveness today for the same reason. People today and people before eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil are exactly the same in this regard. That is why I don’t believe in original sin. At our most basic level we are still the way God created us. We still care about status, good food and that which is pleasing to the eye.

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[seed] and hers;
he will crush[strike] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

People who read deeply here notice the ‘HE will crush your head’. He is personal. This verse is about how people treat snakes and how snakes treat humans. It is also a prophecy about a ‘He’ who will strike the source of sin on the head.

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

This is another verse that is interpreted magically that doesn’t need to be. Now that humans can prey on each other for sexual relations women are going to be pregnant or raising children or both for most of the time after sexual maturity. Now that woman have lots of children they need a husband to help feed and care for them. Men rule women because men are stronger and in world of human predators the stronger rule the weaker.

There is some wisdom in the last part of this verse. Whether God made women to be ruled by men or the writer observed that it is so and put it in, this is good wisdom. The last part of verse 16 works in reverse too. When a man rules over a woman she begins to have feelings as if that man is a husband. It makes even good women vulnerable to adultery. It is why women have sex with their bosses, psychiatrists, and sadly pastors. I would advise against women who wish to control their sexuality to not be around men socially too much either, for the same reason. I’m not saying the Bibles says this. It’s just good advice.

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

This verse too is interpreted magically but doesn’t need to be. The assumption is that the whole world was cursed and prior to the curse the whole world was the garden of Eden. That is going beyond the meaning of the text. The Garden of Eden was one small part of the large world.

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Man had to take care of it because if he didn’t it would revert to being wild. No longer allowed to live in the place where growing conditions were ideal, and banished to the wild world, and burdened with lots of children, man’s life became hard. This is the first stating of the common sentiment ‘life sucks and then you die’.

20 Adam[The Man] named his wife Eve,[Eve means living] because she would become the mother of all the living.

The first man and woman had ‘become one flesh’ in chapter two. There were no children yet so they didn’t have sex very often.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 

I’ve heard this interpreted to mean that God killed animals to make clothes for humans. Not necessarily. He is God after all. We need clothes now that we are not in a garden. We need hats to keep the sun out of our eyes and shoes so we don’t step on sharp things. We need protection from the cold since we don’t have fur. We also don’t want to invite unwanted sexual encounters.

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 

God knows that most of what man is going to do is be evil. The worst thing that can happen is for an evil person to live along time. A too often the only thing that spares us an evil person is that they die of old age. Every time an evil person dies it gives a chance for a less corrupted person to take their place.

23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[or placed in front] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

People have know since this was written that there is no way back into the garden. Or is there? What if God provided a way for us to get back. We can do it. We know how to be evil but we also know how to be good. By being good we can get back.

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