Saturday, October 16, 2010

Genesis Chapter 3 - The Fall of Man

Chapter 3 of Genesis is the classic tale of the Fall of Man and the expulsion from Eden. It starts with the description of the Serpent as "the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made." No where in the Chapter is the devil mentioned - it is just the serpent using the skill granted more to it by God than to any other of God's animal creations - cunning. Interestingly, God has apparently created another creature with intelligence.

Next, the serpent entices the woman to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are not given any reason why the serpent would do so; it is simply because of his cunning. It reminds me of the story of the turtle and the scorpion, in which the turtle agrees to ferry the scorpion across the river if the scorpion promises not to sting him. The scorpion agrees but stings the turtle anyway, drowning both animals. The scorpion's only explanation was that it was his nature. Apparently, the only reason the serpent corrupts the woman is that it is his nature to do so. Maybe the scorpion lacks the free will to do otherwise. The serpent suggests that God only wants to hide what is good and evil from the humans in order to keep them from being "like gods who know."

The woman eats the fruit (not explicitly an apple, seems more likely to be a date or olive or something like that). She eats it because, in part, it was "desirable for gaining wisdom." Gen 3, 6. The man eats it simply because she offers it to him. This would appear to be another opportunity for modern feminists to point out the nature of the woman to seek out wisdom, and the man's blind obedience.

Once they eat the fruit, they realize they are naked and cover themselves with fig leaves. Gen 3, 7. I am intrigued that the symbol of knowledge of good and evil is nakedness. If the knowledge of the difference leads to covering up nakedness, that would suggest nakedness is an evil. But then why does God originally place the humans in Eden in an "evil" state?

The humans walk around the Eden and the humans hear him and hide. An curious human physical behavior for God. When God finds out the humans know they are naked he reasons they ate the forbidden fruit. Then there comas a lot of passing the buck by the man (who blames the woman) and the woman (who blames the serpent). Then we have the punishments God metes out, of which we are probably all familiar. First, he curses the serpent to have no legs, crawl on the ground, be "banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures" and eat dirt. Gen 3, 14. To me, this sounds more like an earthworm than a snake. Since when do snakes eat dirt and stay separate from other creatures. However, Gos also states that the woman and her offspring will be enemies of the serpent and "he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." Gen, 3, 15. Unless there are some scary, biting earthworms, that seems more like a snake. Second, God curses the woman with the pains of childbirth, but still with the "urge" for her husband (nice innuendo there), and makes man her "master." (Maybe the feminists would want to skip that part in their modern interpretation of Genesis). Third, he curses man with having to work an unpleasant earth for food and lastly, with death. Gen 3, 17-19. Note that woman is not cursed with death directly. Apparently, just a small lapse by the author.

For some reason, after God curses the three wrongdoers, the man decides to call the woman "Eve" "because she became the mother of all the living." Gen 3, 20. God has already told the people to be fertile and multiply, the name must relate to the working of the Earth for food. According to the New American Bible the Hebrew word for Eve is related to the Hebrew word for hay. So Eve is the mother of the fruits of the Earth. Mother Nature?

Now God shows a bit of ego. He banishes the man and Eve from Eden. He notes that by knowing the difference between good and evil, the man has "become like one of us." Gen 3, 22. Note the plural "us." Some have suggested that the original conception of the Hebrew God was simply one of the numerous Gods worshipped in the ancient world, and that that explains the ability of the Jews to live relatively peacefully with certain other cultures, whereas the Christians had more difficulty because they seemed to care so much about rejecting the worship of other gods by other people.

So the significant difference between "us Gods" and the humans ends up being that the humans will not live forever by eating the fruit of the tree of life. This is an interesting concept: that what separates God and man is not the knowledge of what is right and wrong but immortality.

Finally, God kicks the man and Eve to the east of Eden "to till the ground from which he had been taken," and stations "the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life." Gen 3, 24. This is the first appearance of non-God yet unearthly beings. Where did this cherubim come from? Is the cherubim one of the "us" with the knowledge of good and evil? As for the "fiery revolving sword," I've got nothing. Clearly, God really wanted to keep humans away from that Tree of Life. But why wouldn't he just destroy it? A quick Google search shows that some believe he did not destroy it because the Tree of Life (read: immortality) would be available to humans after Jesus. Personally, I think God would be hesitant to destroy something he created which was so powerful and, therefore, would keep it. It is also possible that the Tree of Life was necessary for life to exist, and destroying it would end all life. That is just a guess, however.

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