The Fall: Eve and the Serpent

The biblical story surrounding the events that took place in the Garden of Eden concerning Adam and Eve is fairly well known by everyone. However, everyone’s understanding of the details may not be completely accurate according to the Scriptures. For example, it’s commonly believed that the fruit Eve ate was an apple. This may serve to embellish the story somewhat, but the Bible doesn’t specify which type of fruit was produced by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Bible only says that it was fruit.1 Although this may be a detail that one could dwell on, it will not be the focus of our discussion on the fall of man. There are many other details that are much more interesting and certainly more controversial.

The story, as told in the Bible, has a strong resemblance to a fairy tale. (Or is it really the other way around?)2 In the story we have a naked woman having a theological debate with a snake under a fruit tree. Pretty fantastic! It’s common for folks to take all of this at face value without considering the implications, but the story raises a lot of serious questions. The Scripture clearly states that the serpent in the story was a beast created by God, and that he was craftier than all other beasts.3 Were other beasts also capable of speech? If only the serpent, then why was the serpent singled out for this ability? The scientific community likes to criticize the Bible as being unscientific, yet as far back as Genesis 3 we are told that animals were obviously created with a high-level of intelligence! Has evolution been going in the wrong direction? It’s also interesting to note that the word “crafty” in Genesis 3:1 is the transliterated word “arum” (Hebrew NASB Number: 6175) which is also defined as sensible and shrewd…sensible? In Genesis 2:18-20, we are told that God created the animals to be helpers or companions for Adam. Why would God create any kind of animal to be a helper for man if He didn’t also give the animal intelligence along with the ability to communicate? I believe we can infer from these verses that animals were in fact capable of speech, otherwise wouldn’t Eve have been apprehensive of a talking snake?

It’s also interesting to theorize about what the snake actually looked like. I would tend to say that the serpent resembled man, at least to the degree that he stood upright. Unlike Thulsa Doom,4 he most likely didn’t appear fierce or threatening in any way. Of course, this is all speculation.

Even if you accept the notion that the serpent was devious and cunning, what was his motivation for trying to get Eve to eat the forbidden fruit? Put another way, what was in it for him? What caused him to turn against God? Was he inherently evil, or was there some external force at work? It’s clear from Genesis 3:1 that the serpent wasn’t some kind of supernatural being. So, was the serpent, in this case, an incarnation of Satan? Or can we say that Satan was only speaking through the serpent? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t provide full disclosure. However, I believe it’s possible to derive a position based on the events that occurred after Adam’s transgression which I’ll provide in a future posting.

Does anyone find it strange that God would place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil directly in the middle of the garden, so that it couldn’t be overlooked?5 Also, based on Genesis 2:9, the tree of life was most likely nearby. Why didn’t Eve eat from the tree of life? The Scriptures tell us that both trees were appealing and that their fruit was editable.6 Can it be as simple as that which is forbidden is always the most attractive?

I’ve heard many sermons preached where Eve is criticized for her response to the serpent’s accusations. Specifically where she adds the phrase “or touch it”7 when quoting God’s command prohibiting them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe Eve should be given the benefit of the doubt. Eve did not receive the command directly from God—Adam did. God gave the command to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 when He first placed him in the garden before Eve was created later on in Genesis 2:22. The Scriptures don’t say, but I would expect that it was Adam who informed Eve about which trees they were allowed to eat from. It’s possible that Adam added the “don’t touch” restriction to God’s command. If so, was he just being overcautious? Or was it Eve who was being overcautious by adding the innocuous “don’t touch” restriction to the “don’t eat” command. We don’t know. And, why didn’t Eve mention the tree by name? Either way, wouldn’t touching be the first step towards eating?8

It would be an understatement to say the serpent was shrewd; he was a master at rhetoric. As any good politician would do today, he presented his half-truths with conviction while at the same time mocking the opposition with false accusations. “’You surely will not die!’”9 was his first pitch to Eve. His accusation was that God didn’t really mean what He said, it was only an idle threat. After all, why would God deny someone the wisdom that they were entitled to have?

On a different note, it would be interesting to know what Eve knew about death since at that time death, physical death, was at best a concept and not a reality. Again, on this subject the Bible is silent. On the other hand, I believe we can infer from the story that she had already acquired some knowledge of evil as a result of being informed of the command not to eat from a specific tree.10

For the most part, this is academic. The serpent successfully convinced Eve that it was really okay to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve believed the serpent’s clever arguments and ate the forbidden fruit. If only she would have stopped right there…but that’s not the end of the story.

 Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

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Copyright 2013 Gerard Sczepura

  1. Gen. 3:2-3 NASB 

  2. Kate Woolford, “Garden of Eden and Fairy Tales,” Diamonds & Toads (blog), December 22, 2009 (6:19 a.m.), http://www.diamondsandtoads.com/2009/12/garden-of-eden-and-fairy-tales.html. 

  3. Gen. 3:1 

  4. Conan the Barbarian, directed by John Milius (1982; Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 2000), DVD. 

  5. Gen. 3:3 

  6. Gen. 2:9 

  7. Gen. 3:3 

  8. Ibid. 

  9. Gen. 3:4 

  10. Rom. 3:20 

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