Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.
This week at Dive Deeper we looked at Genesis 3, often referred to as the story of "The Fall," a story about the separation between humanity in God through sin. The focus of tonight's lesson centered around how easy it is for us to attach our expectations, and cultural assumptions to scripture. It's really important that we read scripture carefully and closely so we can interpret and understand what is there, while also recognizing what is not there.
One of the most well known and influential stories
This is one of the most taught and well known stories in the Bible. It has inspired countless works of art, and informs a lot of our understanding about how sin separates us from God. One of the reasons we should study scripture in depth is because there is always something to learn. One of the things I learned this week in preparing for this lesson is that for as important as this story is, it is not mentioned/told anywhere else in the Old Testament. There are a few references to the Garden of Eden as a paradise a handful of times, but the closest parallel story we have to Genesis 3 comes in Ezekiel 28:11-19.
In the parallel story of Ezekiel 28:11-19 we see a lament against the king of Tyre that seems to place him in the garden instead of Adam and Eve. Missing from this parallel is any mention of the forbidden tree, forbidden fruit, or a serpent. So, why does this theologically weighty story have no parallel reference to it in the rest of the Old Testament? There are at least two prominent possible interpretations:
- This section of Genesis, or perhaps much of Genesis, was written after the majority of the Old Testament. This story was only an oral tradition at the time of the other writings and therefore does not make it into other books.
- This story is understood as allegorical and not as a historical event. We are to insert ourselves into the place of Adam and Eve, because we all choose to separate ourselves from God in some way.
These are of course just two possible interpretations for why this story is not mentioned in other parts of the Old Testament, but it is worth making mention of.
Let's see what else is or is not included in the scripture.
It's a serpent, and God made it.
One of the first parts of this passage that people often attach something to is the role of the serpent in this story. Nowhere in this story does it talk about the serpent being Satan, the or the devil. In fact in the first verse it says that the serpent is part of God's creation, something God made, and if we carry over the story from chapter 2 something Adam named and then deemed good.The focus of this story isn't even on the serpent but instead on the human reaction to the choices presented.
We also usually depict the serpent as this evil, deceiving figure. In the story though the serpent is said to be part of God's creation which he has deemed good. The term "more crafty" (or arum in Hebrew) that is attributed to the serpent is most likely a play on words with the term "naked" (arummium in Hebrew) found in Genesis 2:25 and later in chapter 3. The serpent goes on to point out humanities vulnerability, and through the choice he lays before them they become aware of their nakedness. It also worth noting that in this story, the serpent does not play the role of a deceiver but of a truth teller! In verse 5 the serpent says,
““For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
Genesis 3:5 NIV
And later on God says:
“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.””
Genesis 3:22 NIV
Again, the emphasis is not on the serpent in this story. The serpent merely stands in for any part of creation that offers us a choice to obey to or disobey God. The focus on this story is on the human response.
You just had to eat it didn't you?
If you Google, The fall frodm the garden of Eden, one of the images that comes up will be of an apple. This is part of our culture creeping into our expectations of the passage. No where in scripture does it say what kind of fruit it was, simply that it was good for food. Through thousands of years of artistic interpretation we have come to expect the fruit to be an apple.
Another thing commonly associated with this story is Eve's being the one to blame for Adam eating the fruit. If you closely read the text though you see that Adam was with Eve the entire time, and was present for the same "temptation" by the serpent. He also chooses to eat of the fruit.
“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. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
Genesis 3:6 NIV
It is time to stop blaming Eve for everything and recognize that Adam is equally complicit in everything.
So what is the result?
Ultimately one of the first things that happens after Adam & Eve eat the forbidden fruit is a break in relationship. When God is walking in the garden they choose to physically separate themselves from him by trying to hide. When he confronts them about what happens, Adam first try's to blame Fod for giving him Eve, and then tries to blame here for him eating the forbidden fruit. Eve also tries to blame the serpent, part of God's creation. Sin is inherently tied to a break in relationship. It causes us to break relationship with God, with others, and with God's creation/our intended purposes.
In the aftermath of Adam and Eve's we see God declare:
“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.””
Genesis 3:16 NIV
From our brokenness we see a change in the relationship dynamic between Adam and Eve. Eve was created to be a helper for Adam, in a symbiotic equal relationship. In their sin we see an imbalance in relationship with Adam "ruling" over Eve. The good of creation intended for a equal, give and take relationship. "The Fall" introduces a new, imperfect, relationship dynamic. When we consider the type of relationship we have with our partners we should recognize that God intends for us to be in an equal and symbiotic relationship, not one with an imbalance of power.
So, what was new to you this week?
Culture can do a lot to change the lens through which we view scripture. What was in the scripture this week that you didn't anticipate? What was missing from the scripture that you expected?