and when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit, and ate Genesis 3:6
When – When did Eve sin? Was it the moment she took a bite from the fruit of the tree, or was it a little before that, when she decided that her evaluation of the circumstances was the correct one? Why was this tree suddenly different, no longer prohibited but now desirable? What did she see?
The Hebrew combines the entire verbal structure in a single word, va-te-re, “and when she saw.” Let’s think about this. Eve knew about the tree before it became an issue. She saw the tree before it became a temptation. Before her interaction with the serpent, it was a tree – an unusual one, to be sure – but still a tree. Now it isn’t just a tree. Now it is the Good, the True and the Beautiful (the three qualities that the Greeks realized were the epitome of Man’s quest of divinity). Now she sees something that wasn’t there before. Now she sees her own evaluation of what is good, true and beautiful. Now it is no longer what God says is good, true and beautiful. Now it is what she decides.
How did this happen? We can investigate the text and discover the answer but our discovery won’t mean much if we don’t realize that this is the absolute core of sin. What Eve did is what we do. Her shift in perception is no different than ours. If we don’t see what is happening with her, we will fall into the same delusion with the same result.
Now, let’s investigate.
The serpent never contradicts God’s command. He does not ask a question. As Luther says, “the serpent uses the word aph-ki as though to turn up its nose and jeer and scoff at one.” The serpent doesn’t tell Eve that God is wrong. He just says, “So what?! What does it matter what God said. You have your own inner voice to guide you.” The serpent is cunning (and naked – arum, arom). He notices that Eve places this tree at the center of the garden. But God doesn’t. The Tree of Life is in the center, but for Eve, the center of her attention is on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She has the wrong point of view to begin with. She is focused on what she can’t do, not on what she can do. It is just enough for the naked snake to get some leverage.
“What do you mean God prohibits you from enjoying that? Why should God stop you from doing something that seems so good? God’s cruel, that’s why. He knows you want it, but He is preventing you from really being who you are. You should be able to decide what you want. After all, it’s your life, isn’t it? Didn’t God make you with the ability to decide?”
The difference between being human and being an animal is the difference between living according to God’s determination of what is good or living according to my determination of what is good. Ever since Eve, every human being sees another path to the Good, the True and the Beautiful. That other path is my way instead of God’s way. That other path leads directly away from the Tree of Life and the center of the Garden. It leads to alienation from the presence of the Creator and His creation. It is my way, but it is also the way of the naked snake.
And which way are you going right now?
Topical Index: Eve, Fall, see, Good, True, Beautiful, Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Genesis 3:6, ta-ve-re