Though this story is often taken by Christians as an account of “original sin,” the word “sin” never occurs in it. Instead,
it describes how the maturing of humans into civilized life involved damage of connections established in
between the LORD God, man, woman, and earth.
This characterization of the snake emphasizes his wise craftiness (Heb “_arum”), a characteristic that contrasts with the
innocent nakedness (“_arum”) of the man and woman. Snakes were a symbol in the ancient world of wisdom, fertility, and immortality.
Only later was the snake in this story seen by interpreters as the devil.
The snake introduces doubt through rightly predicting the consequences of eating the fruit—the humans will not be put to death
as implied in the language of
and their eyes will be opened (see v. 7
) so they gain wisdom, knowing good and evil.
The woman sees that the pleasant fruit of the tree is desirable to make one wise; she eats it and shares it with her husband. The result is enlightenment, the eyes of both were opened. Such wisdom takes them from the unashamed nakedness of before (
) to clothing, a mark of civilization in nonbiblical primeval narratives.
Legal forms again predominate as the Lord God interrogates first the man and then the woman (see 2.16–17n.
). The disintegration of earlier connectedness is shown by the hiding of the humans from the LORD God and the tendency of the man to blame the woman (and implicitly the LORD God) for his action. Later interpreters of the story have shown a similar tendency to blame the woman.
A proclamation of sentence follows the interrogation, starting with the snake and concluding with the man.
Here the crawl of the snake is linked to the LORD God's punishing curse. As a result, later audiences can look to the crawling snake as a reminder of the story and testimony
to its truth.
Though this is often understood as a “curse” of the woman to pain in childbirth, the word “curse” is not used in these verses.
Others have suggested that this text sentences the woman to endless “toil” (not pain) of reproduction, much as the man is condemned in vv. 17–19
to endless toil in food production. The man's rule over the woman here is a tragic reflection of the disintegration of original connectedness between them.
The Lord God's clothing of the humans here reflects care for them in the process of becoming civilized, even though that process
As elsewhere in the ancient Near East, humans here are depicted as having a brief opportunity for immortality. The LORD God's fear of humans becoming godlike (cf. 1.26–27
) recalls the serpent's assertions in
. The term “us” probably refers to the heavenly court (see 1.26n.
Cf. Ezek 28.13–16
. The last echoes of temple imagery occur here. The cherubim are winged creatures like the Sphinx of Egypt, half human and half lion. Statues of them guarded sanctuaries like the one
in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6.23–28,32,35
). The gate to the garden of Eden is in the east, like the processional gate to the Temple (Ezek 10.19
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