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REFLECTIONS ON GENESIS 3:1-24 Part 1
The text deals with deception, which causes the first sin of man. This leads to the disruption of the relationship between man and God and to the consequential curse. We have the deception of appearances in the snake, the deception of words in the distortion of God’s command, we have lies and also the deception of the senses, the mind and the emotions. Each of us can easily identify with this couple for we are made in their image and likeness.
The first deception is the outward appearance of the father of deception and lies, Satan, who takes on the form of an innocent creature of God. This temporary incarnation of Satan takes the form of a snake, the most crafty of creatures.
Craftiness suggests an underhand, strategic use of intelligence. Satan never appears in an unambiguous way, but as a spiritual being acting through circumstances, events, people and any other tangible reality; he also appears as an angel of light. Here he appears as a snake. 1
There is no fear on the part of the couple as they are living in an environment where all is harmony and reassurance and therefore negative emotions are absent. Why should there be fear? Did not man name the animals, denoting his authority over them, including the snake, presumably?
There is also the deception of words. We have seen numerous times the use of the "word" as a vehicle for creation ("let there be light"). Here we see the word as a destructive force that undermines the work of God. At the basis of that destructive force is a question followed by a lie. Satan manages to involve Eve intellectually and emotionally by an apparently simple request for information which, however, provides Eve with the opportunity to correct the studied inaccuracy contained in the question itself. This is a very subtle technique calculated to create some sort of dialogue which a flat denial of the truth of God’s command would have rendered impossible. This is the craftiness and subtlety of Satan in action, a successful strategy as it turned out.
Notice that Satan immediately calls God into question: "did God say"? His main concern is God and man and the relationship that exists between them. His strategy is to undermine this vital relationship and thereby create havoc in the whole of creation, in which, until that moment, all was unity and harmony. One single weak link upsets the whole universe. He knows that sin, and particularly disobedience, is contagious.
Eve falls for the bait and corrects Satan’s question and is forced into dialogue with him. However, Eve introduces two further inaccuracies. She uses the singular “the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden”. There were, in fact, two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Focusing only on one reveals what the object of her curiosity was and her obsession with what was forbidden. Satan then merely brought to the surface what already lay hidden within her. The other inaccuracy was that she added that it was forbidden to touch it even, which was not the case and which also tends to support the idea that she had this tree uppermost in her mind before the temptation. The two trees, which represented a balanced choice, did not correspond to a balanced frame of mind on the part of Eve. This was the cause of her downfall. Now that Satan has involved Eve in dialogue he can now safely deny the truth of God’s words, “you will not die” and attempt to undermine the basis of man’s relationship with God. He who is called the father of lies (John 8:44) accuses God of lying. This is a typical Freudian projection. There is a mixture of truth and lies in what he says: “you will not die” is a direct contradiction of the words of God: “in the day that you eat of it you shall die”, although, even here, there is an element of truth for in the day she ate the fruit she died spiritually but not physically. Also he is right in saying their eyes will be opened. He has effectively manipulated Eve with half-truths and lies and has demonstrated the full force of his craftiness.
The snake is a common figure in the Eastern fertility cults which represented a danger to Israel attracting them away from Yahweh and the covenant, whose laws were portrayed as restricting the liberty of man.
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