← Rewind to Genesis 1-2 Fast-forward to Genesis 3-4 →
Jump to Parallels and Deleted Scenes (coming nigh!)
(3:1-3) Enter the serpent, who was craftier than the other animals. It asks the woman about the dietary rules of the garden, to which she replies that they may consume the fruit of any of the trees, but “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, or else you’ll die.'” Question: why isn’t the woman (later named “Eve”) freaked out that a snake just started talking to her? Do all animals talk in the garden? Or is Eve just a relative of Lord Voldemort and speaks Parseltongue?
(3:4-5) The serpent enlightens Eve that she’ll not die by eating the fruit but will become like a god in knowledge. God doesn’t want this as prefers to be the only one with knowledge of what’s good and bad – allowing him to remain the only film critic and keep The Da Vinci Code at 6.5 stars where it belongs.
(3:6-7) Eve, who has yet to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, doesn’t seem to know for some reason that it’s bad to disobey God and so takes a bite of the fruit. She then hands some to Adam, who, probably not wanting to start a squabble with his one and only, also eats from it.
Then, it hit them: they had genitalia. Gross, but oddly attractive fleshy organs. Now knowing that interacting casually in the nude is not very appealing – especially when dining or trying to open a jar of cashews – the two made loincloths out of fig leaves.
(3:8-9) Adam and Eve hear God gracefully walking in the garden and quickly hide among the trees. Forgetting to enable his divine omniscience, God calls out asking where they are.
(3:10-13) After a short round of Marco Polo, Adam explains to God that he hid because he was naked. God responds, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam palms his face, realizing that he had just given away their disobedience. If only he had said that they wanted to surprise God with their new fashionable garments – which they put on due to windchill.
Like stealing cookies from the cookie jar, Adam refuses to take blame and expresses fault on both Eve and God, saying that it was “The woman, whom you placed with me…” God turns to Eve, who then points to the serpent – claiming that it tricked her.
(3:19) Grabbing his gavel, God begins his first set of wrathful punishments. To the serpent: “Eat dust!” Literally. Henceforth all snakes shall be without legs (so was the serpent originally just a lizard?).
To the woman: “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing.” Many readers seem to miss the word “increase” here, assuming that there was no pain at all in Eden. But childbirth automatically makes that impossible. Surely before the fall giving birth would have been unbelievably torturous. Now, thanks to Eve, it’s unrelentingly unbelievably torturous. Her punishment doesn’t end there, however. In addition, God declares that her husband “shall rule over you.” A verse all feminists must cherish
When it’s the man’s turn, the environment also suffers: “the ground is cursed on your account. You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life. And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation. By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground.” Good thing man used his knowledge to invent a way out of that one.
(3:20) Now that she’s legally his property, Adam names “his woman” for the first time, calling her “Eve.”
(3:21) God isn’t impressed with the two’s leafy loincloths (which were so last flood season) and skillfully crafts them skin garments.
(3:22) And YHWH God said, “Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.” Not specifying who he’s talking to, God then banishes Adam and Eve from the garden because of the newly formed threat that they might also eat from the tree of life. To ensure that they may never reenter, he places cherubs and a flaming sword at the east entrance of the garden; instead of, you know, maybe putting an electric fence around the tree of life.
(4:1-2) After taking some time to get to know Eve a little better, like a gentleman, Adam fornicates with his woman and they have two sons, Cain and Abel. Abel takes up shepherding while Cain takes up farming.
(4:3-5) One day Cain brings to God an offering of fruit he had grown. A nice gesture indeed. Shortly thereafter, Abel offers up to God the first born of his flock – which were nice and fat. Due to his carnivorous nature as a god, Yahweh happily accepts Abel’s offering while ignoring Cain’s. This left Cain very upset, especially because it would be another few thousand years before a farmer’s market would give him the chance to feel proud of his hippie lifestyle.
(4:8) “And Cain said to his brother Abel. And it was while they were in the field, and Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him.” Hold the pickles…what did he say? The next verse just says that Cain killed him in a field. Did he say, “Hey brother, let’s go over to that baseball field and play a friendly game of catch?” And bludgeoned him to death when he wasn’t looking? For a such a popular book the Bible sure like to leave out juicy details. But I guess that’s why midrash exists!
(4:9-11) Surely yearning for some more of that prime animal fat, Yahweh asks Cain where his brother is, to which he replies, “Pfft. Heck if I know. What am I, his lifeguard?” But God has seen too many episodes of NCIS to know that something’s up. He sweeps the fields: nothing; he dusts for fingerprints on the few possible murder weapons: nothing; he interrogates every single family member: nada. But then, rather miraculously, God hears Abel’s blood cry out to him from the ground. And it sounds like a homicide.
(4:12-16) For the murder of his brother, God curses Cain to roam the earth the rest of his life. But Cain is afraid that anyone who finds him will kill him, so God places a sign on him to prevent any violence towards him. It was a rather heavy sign, made of cedar wood with carved lettering which read: “He’z kool. —YHWH”
(4:17) So Cain “went out from YHWH’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.” Hold the mayo…where did Cain’s wife come from? Was she mail-order? If you take a fundamentalist interpretation to scripture, incest appears to be the only option. Awkward.
(4:25) Adam fornicates with Eve again, this time to replace Abel with Seth. Why? ‘Cause he was Able.
Click here to view more art depicting scenes from Genesis 3-4.
Alright, enough frivolous rendition. Time to learn some scholarly material.
(3:1) Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is the snake equated with Satan. The claim that the two are the same is a Christian invention.
(3:3) “and you shall not touch it.” But God never told Adam that the fruit couldn’t be touched. Moreover, it’s not recorded that God warned Eve about the tree. Perhaps then she learned about it from Adam, who added this extra rule to protect her.
(3:6) Despite the thousands of Christian art pieces which traditionally portray the forbidden fruit as an apple, nowhere in the Bible does it say that it was an apple – or any particular fruit for that matter. The reason the apple stuck so well in Western Europe is likely because in Latin the native noun for evil (mălum, with a short “a”) is extremely similar to the Latin noun for apple (mālum, with a long “a”) – allowing for an easy misunderstanding or intentional pun.
So what was the fruit if not an apple? Many scholars and rabbinic writers have suggested figs, seeing as how Adam and Eve cover themselves with fig leaves. Another common suggestion is grapes since it is the only (fermented) fruit forbidden in the Bible, namely among Nazarines (Numbers 6:3). This also is the thought of some rabbis; in the Zohar, Noah is recorded as making a failed attempt to rectify the sin of Adam by using grape wine for holy purposes (Zohar Noah 73a). A Pomegranate has also been proposed based off the idea the Eden was in a Middle Eastern region where they were native. The oddest ancient theory I’ve come across is that Adam and Eve ate from a mushroom, as this 13th century fresco illustrates.
(3:6) Where was Adam when the serpent approached Eve? It’s often claimed that Eve wickedly persuaded or seduced him to eat the fruit, as preached by theologians for centuries as a way of castigating women. But no act of persuasion is mentioned. In fact, the words “gave to her man with her” allow one to suppose that Adam was with Eve the entire time, despite his rather questionable silence. Moreover, the serpent speaks with plural verbs, suggesting that he is including Adam.
(3:14) This verse provides an explanation as to why snakes crawl on their bellies: God removed their legs as punishment for deceiving man. Despite how most artists have chosen to depict the serpent – in its modern appearance – we should picture it with legs prior to this scene. There are, however, notable exceptions such as Hugo van der Goes’ rendering. It is also interesting to note that in other parts of the Hebrew Bible there is mention of flying serpents (Isaiah 14:29, 30:6), once icons of God’s guardian entourage as probably influenced by Babylonian myth (see parallel). One can’t help but wonder then if God removed not only legs but wings from our antagonist.
(3:20) In Hebrew, Eve (hawwah) is the feminine form of the word for “life” (hay). If that wasn’t enough of a pun, scholars have noticed that the Semitic root of the word can also mean “snake.”
(3:22) The “us” God is referring to is probably the heavenly court.
Like the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, knowledge is a divine treasure that once obtained comes at a severe price.
(3:24) Cherubs/cherubim are a type of winged creature of mixed species like the Egyptian Sphinxes and the Mesopotamian Lamassu (see parallel). Later in the Bible statues of cherubs are placed over the Ark of the Covenant to guard its contents, which include the tablets of the Ten Commandments – another source of divine knowledge.
(4:8) The second half of Cain’s sentence to Abel appears to be missing. Richard Elliot Friedman explains: The Samaritan, Greek (Septuagint), and Latin (Vulgate) texts read: “And Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.'” Cain’s words appear to have been skipped in the Masoretic Text by a scribe whose eye jumped from the first phrase containing the word “field” to the second.
The word “field” occurs quite a few times elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible in tales of brotherly conflict. The “wise woman of Tekoa” tells David a fake story of her two sons who fought “in the field”, one killing the other (2 Sam. 14:6); Esau is referred to as “a man of the field” (Gen. 25:27) and approaches Jacob “from the field” (25:29); Joseph, relaying an offensive dream to his brothers, begins recalling it saying, “here we were binding sheaves in the field” (Gen. 37:7); the war between Benjamin and the rest of the tribes of Israel is told in terms of brothers killing brothers (Judg. 20:13,23,28; 21:6) with the word “field” appearing twice. This obvious pattern seems to have been a way for authors to connect with previous stories of brother killing brother.
(4:9) “Am I my brother’s watchman?” I prefer this translation over “keeper,” as it conveys a continuation in Genesis of the need to watch over something. Man was originally placed in the Garden “to watch over it” (2:15). When they were forced out, cherubs were placed at the entrance “to watch over” the path to the tree of life (3:24). And now, Cain fails his brotherly duty to watch over and care for his brother in the most extreme sense. With Abraham a climax of the term is reached: “all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed because Abraham listened to my voice and kept my watch” (26:4-5).
(4:17) Cain’s marriage, along with his fear of others, presumes the presence of a broader population, indicating that the narratives about him were not originally connected with creation.
- Tree of Life motif (coming nigh!)
- Snake guardians of Mesopotamia (coming nigh!)
- Man failing to obtain food of immortality (coming nigh!)
- Winged guardians of Mesopotamia (coming nigh!)
- Farmer vs. Shepard/Brother vs. brother motif (coming nigh!)
- Satan is the serpent, deceiving Eve a second time after the fall. (coming nigh!)
- Adam’s diamond (coming nigh!)
- Seth and Eve ventured back to the Garden to cure a deathly ill Adam with the Oil of Life (coming nigh!)
- Cain was conceived from Eve and the evil angel Samael (coming nigh!)
- Eve dreams and Cain will slaughter Abel (coming nigh!)
- Cain killed Abel over a woman (coming nigh!)
- Cain’s death (coming nigh!)
- The creation of centaurs (coming nigh!)
- Alexander the Great discovered the Gates of Eden (coming nigh!)
Sources and Further Reading:
- Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible by Peter Enns
- The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis by Dr. Nahum M. Sarna
- From Creation to Babel: Studies in Genesis 1-11 by John Day
- Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender by Kristen E. Kvam
- What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? by Ziony Zevit
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV)
- NIV Study Bible
- The Oxford Bible Commentary
- Commentary on the Torah by Richard Elliot Friedman
- The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliot Friedman (click here for pdf sample)
- Understanding The Bible by Stephen Harris
- Historical Context for Genesis by Nathan Schumer