And the serpent said to the woman, no dying will you die! For God knows that in the day of your eating from it and your eye is opened – then you become like gods, knowing good and evil. (Gen. 3:4-5)
Elohiym can mean ‘gods’ or God, but I chose ‘gods’ because ‘you become’ (hayiytem) is in second plural form, and ‘gods’ was more likely meant to be read in plurality as well. Both translations, however, demonstrate competition with the Most High God, which I believe was the serpent’s intent.
All three parties – the serpent, Adam, and his wife – are complicit in this deception, evidenced by their later judgments (cf. Gen 3:14-20). Their downward spiral featured several errors along the way:
First, the nachash (serpent) lost his power, and could not accept mankind’s dominion (Gen 1:26). It then plotted to destroy mankind and regain its throne as “the wisest of all”. It invested in knowledge, learned God’s commandment verbatim, and waited for the opportune time.
As Adam taught Chavah (Eve) God’s original commandment, parts of it were added and redacted. Most importantly, they lost their thanksgiving. They lumped together every fruit they were given and equated them with that one fruit they just couldn’t have.
So when the serpent entered stage right, it said (basically) ‘God said you can’t eat from every tree, huh?’ The woman replied (basically) ‘we can eat fruit – but yes, you’re right, we can’t eat from that one tree.’ She neither rebuked nor corrected it, because at her core she agreed, showing the couple’s obsession with that forbidden tree.
There was only one thing left for the serpent to do – take advantage of one key misunderstanding.
Consider that God’s original Word was “from the Tree-of-Knowledge… you will not eat… for in the day you eat from it, a dying will you die.” Now I admit, this word is entirely open-ended. God doesn’t answer the ‘why’ of the commandment (as in ‘why would we die if we ate it?’) What God does provide is the truth –mankind would in fact experience “dying” leading to a final death.
However, a ‘why’ of the commandment was answered, but not by God! And obviously, it was answered incorrectly.
Adam and Chavah first sought the ‘why‘ from each other. Chavah obviously misunderstood God’s warning as an immediate “lest we die” (3:3) death from a place of fear. She wouldn’t touch it, nor would she even look at it (cf. 3:3,6). I interpret this as Adam teaching Chavah that the Tree was poisonous.
Now, I have opined before that the Tree of Knowledge was meant to be holy, as the fruit of the tree was meant to be an offering to YHVH – the only arbiter of good and evil.
In other words, Adam had to touch the Tree to prune it, and pluck its fruit for YHVH, but again, they misunderstood and developed their own why of the commandment: ‘God said not to eat it, because it’s poison! We mustn’t touch it, nor look at it!’
If they had only tarried a little while, God would have visit them, and they could have sought His face with their questions (cf. 3:7)! To me, the real tragedy is that Adam and Chavah had more access to The Living God than any other in history… but they just couldn’t WAIT!
The nachash “diviner” was all too eager to fill the void. After it assuaged Chavah’s unnecessary fear, it replaced the couple’s misunderstood why (a poisonous Tree) with a false ‘why’ of its own. And like all diviners, it offered a counterfeit version of truth, which are true statements designed to create enmity between humans and YHVH Elohim. For example, the fortune-teller in Acts 16:16-17 said a truth: “these men have arrived to tell us of the Most High God”, which was in fact true, yet that spirit of divination was attempting to disrupt and minimize the Most High’s messengers, and compete with the ‘Most High’.
The serpent did the exact same thing. Both of its statements were counterfeit truths (pardon the oxymoron), because while true, it did not teach the understanding required for truth to properly function.
So the diviner offered its own representation of “God”, but its success would be determined by the couple’s susceptibility to thinking that the Most High is the enemy (the enmity). The sad truth is, the serpent only provoked what Adam and Chavah were already flirting with: rebellion. They DID want to be equals with the Most High, with no limitations.
For some time, Adam knew the tree’s name: THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL (Gen 2:16). The serpent never broadcast headline news; the couple already knew it would make them wise. It’s just that they harbored enmity within. If you’re paying attention, the humans were just like the serpent – they did not want to be subjugated!
“Let no one say he is tempted by God. For each one is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:13)
And the woman saw the good of the tree to eat, and that it was delightful to her eyes, and that the tree was desired for intelligence, then she snatched from its fruit… (Genesis 3:6)
When Chavah lost her fear and gazed upon it, when she knew it wasn’t poisonous, and when she knew it would make her a god, all three hesitations of Chavah were removed. Her physical hesitations did not trump her spiritual hesitation to obey the voice of the Living God, because at the core, the couple did not believe the Word God spoke to them. They considered God lied to them and was keeping them from being gods themselves. And thus the downward spiral was complete.
These reasonings should sound familiar! These are the same charges levied against God today. Scoffers still say God is a liar, and that humans should be free from His control. When you hear such things, do not marvel – these arguments are as old as Adam and Eve. There is nothing more natural than to rebel against YHVH Elohim, the Most High God. ♦