The Temptation of Adam and Eve
3 The snake was the most intelligent[a] of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
2 The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees 3 but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’”
4 The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! 5 God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 3:1-4 CEB
The Fall, as it is often called (not a biblical term), begins with the serpent – typically understood to be a representation of Satan – approaching Eve and asking a fairly innocuous question. This post will be scattered, but there are definitely a few things we can learn from this short exchange:
Satan likes to make God out to seem worse than he is. Satan probably knew that God said they could eat of any tree except for that one, but instead asks if God really doesn’t let them eat at all. I see similar tactics in dialogue sometimes around Christian ethics where a straw man argument is made out of an extreme rather than stopping to understand the much more nuanced approaches. Nobody ever wins in that scenario.
The Fall begins with talking about God as if he isn’t there. According to the previous chapters, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in deep relationship. Yet when questioned, Eve answers on her own instead of simply asking God to clarify. In other words, the Fall started with the first attempt at theology – talking about God rather than to God.
Eve is wrong about the command: God never said they couldn’t touch it. She was given one law; you’d think she’d be able to get it right. To me there seem to be two equally dangerous options here: either she was genuinely misinformed by Adam and thought the extra requirement was necessary, or she added it as a “fence around the law.” We definitely still do fences around our ethical positions today (ie purity culture saying to men that if we are afraid of objectifying a woman as sex objects we should just not look at them, which of course objectifies them). We also are often genuinely misinformed. Assuming you have at some point in your life listened to advice, somebody has probably given you bad information. Our ethical decision-making, after all, is corrupted by the brokenness in our nature and in the nature of those who we turn to for help. In either case, it is noteworthy how it is this that has given Satan his opportunity.
Lastly, and perhaps most surprisingly, a lot of what Satan says is actually true. Sort of. He was right that they didn’t die, immediately and physically at least. And he was right that they would be like God in knowing, most of the time, Good from Evil. Humanity ever since has continued eating of this Tree and judging one another and ourselves. We play God all the time, often with literally thousands of judgemental thoughts and actions a day (at least for me a lot of days). Satan was right in telling us we would have that tendency. Of course, Satan neglects to mention how much this way of being like God is going to turn us from the flawless image-bearers of God to being fundamentally broken, abandoning the relationship offered with God to settle for judgemental religion instead.