There are a few quirks in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Are these translation problems, text errors, or puzzles that the biblical author/editor put in deliberately to make me think more?
Text from the Jewish Bible online
Source: Jewish Publication Society, 1917
My comments follow the verses below:
9 And out of the ground made HaShem G-d to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
. . . . . . .
16 And HaShem G-d commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat;
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’
The CEV translation is explicit: “If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!”
. . . . . . .
1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which HaShem G-d had made. And he said unto the woman: ‘Yea, hath G-d said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’
2 And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, G-d hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’
[Eve may be incorrect. It is not the tree in the “midst of the garden,” the tree of life, that is forbidden by God, but rather the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, the latter tree may also be in the “midst of the garden,” but maybe not. Anyway, the serpent is not misled by Eve, if she is incorrect.
Translators have a hard time with the location of the trees. See https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Genesis%202:9 for many translations on one page for that verse and various attempts to harmonize or make sense of it.]
4 And the serpent said unto the woman: ‘Ye shall not surely die;
5 for G-d doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as G-d, knowing good and evil.’
[KJV has “as gods.”]
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
[Presumably the tree that makes one “wise” is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but we don’t really know which tree she ate from: the forbidden tree or that other tree that she maybe incorrectly stated was forbidden? We never actually find out which tree they ate from, although the indications are that they gained knowledge.]
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles.
8 And they heard the voice of HaShem G-d walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of HaShem G-d amongst the trees of the garden.
[What is the voice they hear? Is God talking to himself?]
9 And HaShem G-d called unto the man, and said unto him: ‘Where art thou?’
[Clearly, either God does not know where Adam is, or God is pretending he does not know.]
10 And he said: ‘I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’
[But at this point Adam is no longer naked, having just made himself a fig leaf garment. Is Adam confused or lying? Or are the fig leaves not providing sufficient coverage?]
11 And He said: ‘Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?’
[Doesn’t God know Adam is not naked? Doesn’t God know if they ate the fruit?]
12 And the man said: ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’
13 And HaShem G-d said unto the woman: ‘What is this thou hast done?’ And the woman said: ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’
14 And HaShem G-d said unto the serpent: ‘Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
[The serpent didn’t actually do anything except speak the truth, something a god of truth should admire. And yes, here I am assuming the serpent spoke the truth.]
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.’
[“They shall” and “their heel” is quite different from the Christianized “he” and “his” purporting to link this passage to Jesus overcoming Satan in most of the Bibles on Biblegateway, a Christian website. Of course the biblical writer of this passage did not consider the serpent to be evil, just shrewd.]
16 Unto the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’
[Why is Eve being punished? Not fair, because only Adam had received the instruction from God about the forbidden tree, not Eve (2:16-17, 3:11,17).
Why does Adam get to rule over Eve when both ate the forbidden fruit? Not fair. Eve was persuaded by the serpent, ancient symbol of Her wisdom. Adam was persuaded by a woman. Who was more gullible, Adam or Eve?]
17 And unto Adam He said: ‘Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
[It does not seem that Adam “harkened unto the voice of his wife” as there are no words recorded. She just handed him the fruit.
Also, why is Adam condemned to eat soil just like the serpent in 3:14? The translators have difficulty with this at https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Genesis%203:17
Adam did not immediately die “in the day” (2:17) from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. So was God incorrect about the consequences?
See the various translations at https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Genesis%202:17 . I think there is general agreement among the various translations that if Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he was supposed to die that very same day. But some translations finesse it like the TLB: “If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.” However, the MSG doesn’t leave any room for doubt: “The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”]
. . . . . . .
22 And HaShem G-d said: ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.’
[In this verse 22, God seems to believe he knows which tree they ate from – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
[“One of us.” Obviously God is either plural or there is more than one god.]
23 Therefore HaShem G-d sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life.
[“He drove out the man.” Was Eve driven out also??
At first, the only tree that was forbidden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but then God decided it was necessary to seal off the tree of life. This god does not seem to have a fail-proof plan.
The serpent was correct, that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not bring death. Rather, it was not having access to the tree of life that brought mortality.
Or – Adam and Eve did not die that very same day because they had NOT eaten from the forbidden tree, and God’s presumption in 3:22 regarding which tree they ate from is incorrect. But then again, God should have been able to guess that they did not eat from the forbidden tree because they did not instantly die. So God knew they would not instantly die?]
The Garden of Eden story is not a fairy tale for kids. You have to pay attention when you are reading it or you miss a lot. The quirks make it interesting.
It is obviously a retelling of an even older tale, and I don’t think any of the characters in the retelling cover themselves with glory. Oh well, maybe the serpent is OK, if it told the truth. It is interesting that the male god does not directly issue a prohibition to the woman Eve or ban her from the Garden. Since Eve replaces the Goddess in the story, the biblical author seems hesitant to have the male god (whose name is Yahweh) confront Her in a way that is insulting, as many of the author’s contemporaries presumably would not have tolerated it. The tree of life is Her tree and the idea of a male god telling Her that She cannot have access to it to distribute its life-giving fruit likely would have been inconceivable when the Genesis story was invented. Rather we are left to guess that Eve leaves the Garden because she has become subject to her husband who is banned from the Garden and in a following chapter she is with him. Eve is only separated from the tree of life through her own words, spoken apparently in error, to Her beloved symbol of Wisdom, the snake, when Eve states that she and Adam are denied the tree in the “midst” of the Garden.
A story about a god who bestows the gift of eternal life via the tree of life and then snatches it away, only because the humans he created begin to gain awareness, doesn’t appeal to me. Wouldn’t a good god want people to become more aware? How are people going to excel at performing kindnesses if they don’t know what good is?
I do have to wonder if the story is really Yahwist or if it is instead cleverly reactionary, as it is not necessarily a favorable portrayal of Yahweh.
I feel that I have gained a lot of awareness by reading it.
Posted on April 7, 2015