I would be interested to know if there was any passage in the Bible more commonly scrutinized and taught from than this. The whole, “exactly where did we go wrong, and how” questions are on everyone’s minds.
- Was it all Eve’s fault?
- Was it Adam’s?
- Was it rooted in distrust of the goodness of God?
- Was mankind never intended to know about evil?
- Is our sin rooted in our thirst be to our own judges?
- What changed at “The Fall”?
- Was childbirth originally supposed to be easy?
- How easy was farming before?
- Did bees always sting?
- Were some animals originally not poisonous?
- Was it normal that animals talked?
- Where did these other people (ie. wives) come from?
- Et cetera …
Whether we realize it or not, most of us have formulated varying degrees of assumed answers to these questions.
The reason it’s worthwhile to reread and reconsider these (even going back to see if these are the right questions) is because most of our theology flows downstream from what we decide is at this point.
One major concept that I had to grapple with, in recent years, is the basic evangelical theology that God can’t look at, or be around, our sinfulness. Hence, the need for Jesus. While these is something obviously needed about Jesus (something about crushing a snake’s head?), these chapters lead me to believe that’s just not true.
God seems to always be looking for people in their most sinful moment.
“Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (3:9-11)
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?'” (4:6)
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?‘ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.'” (4:9-10)
He is always showing up and asking questions, making them engage in conversation. Even when they’re hiding, He’s calling out to them.
Another thing I notice, as I posture myself as a post-Exodus Israelite, is the usage of plural pronouns used by God.
“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'” (3:22)
We, Christians, love to retrospectively use this as evidence of The Trinity, but what would these original readers have assumed? So much modern theology only makes sense in our time, which calls it into question.
Okay, so back to the question: what would have been assumed by the post-Exodus Israelites?
They were coming out of a polytheistic Egyptian worldview. With the LORD handedly defeating all the powers of Egypt, they might read this as Him speaking to the lessor gods around Him. We may take these to be angels or demons. “Someones” who are heavenly, yet unequal, to the LORD. This will be important to remember moving forward, because there only keeps being more references to the interference of these lessors.
It should be noted that most ancient (or commonly called pagan), deities have semblance of powers and are always claiming to be helpful with what? Farming & Fertility. These two cursed aspects of our fallen lives.
Don’t be afraid to engage in these questions! There’s so much that’s easy to skip over because our minds don’t have context for them. God disregards vegetable offerings? Right after He told them to farm?! Jubal was the father of all musicians? Is that a thing?