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
Pleasant To The Eyes – When does a glance become a desire? Someone attractive walks by. We catch a peripheral glimpse. The signals prompt a response to look. Glance becomes desire. Now I see what I want. I expand my borders by moving the fence around my behavior to include what was once outside the boundary.
Do you suppose that Eve had never seen the Tree before? Of course not. She knew exactly where it was. She was near the Tree when the serpent began the conversation. But now the peripheral becomes the center. Her glance becomes desire. It is pleasant to the eyes. Now the Tree is inside the boundary of her desire.
What does that mean to say it was “pleasant to the eyes”? The Hebrew phrase is strange and revealing. It is ve-ki ta’ava-hoo. First, there is ve-ki. This is the combination of “and” and “because, that, or for.” The particle has a wide range of meanings and is translated according to context. Here it seems to be saying, “and because it was.” But that brings up a very interesting point. Was it pleasant before Eve determined that it was? Isn’t the perception of pleasant in the eye of the beholder? Eve sees what she wants to see. She sees according to her desire. It really doesn’t matter what the actual physical characteristics of the fruit were. It is pleasant to her. Her shift in perception has already clouded her vision. She no longer sees it as it is. She sees it as she wants it to be.
What does she see? She sees ta’ava-hoo (pleasant it). This is also unusual. The addition of the particle hoo is like adding an emphatic adjective. It is not just that the tree was pleasant. It is that this tree was pleasant. Suddenly, this tree stands out from among all the other trees so that it alone becomes the pleasant tree. Not only does Eve see what she wants to see, she sees that only this is what she wants. The noun alone expresses the tree’s visual attraction but by adding hoo our attention is focused here and here alone. Echoes of Adam’s reaction sound throughout the forest. “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This is just what I am. This one is perfect for me.”
The pictograph illuminates the concept. The root A-V-H paints the picture, “what comes from the first nail” or “what is secured first.” Eve secures first her fixation on the Tree. She makes it her desire. It is not simply pleasant. It is essential. Now she must possess it. Now the Tree is inside the fence instead of outside the fence. Now Eve decides, “My will be done.”
Jesus had something to say about the lust of the eyes. Lust is blind seeing because it refuses to see what the Lord has revealed. It puts on center stage what was designed for the peripheral. It makes the trivial most important. God is pushed behind the curtain while my desire occupies the spotlight.
Ta’awah has a homophone. That’s a word that is spelled the same and sounds the same but has a different meaning (almost like pear and pair). In this case, the second ta’awah has a different root. This word indicates the outer boundary of the land. Isn’t that interesting? The limit is the edge of my desire, the place where I slip from simply noticing something good in God’s creation into wanting it for myself. The Tree was good. God made it so. But it was the border, the boundary that God set within the ordered framework of God’s creation. It was one of the trees in the Garden. Not the most important. Not the one in the center. Just one to be respected for what it was – the boundary of my obedience. But when Eve moved the fence that God set, the Tree became a coveted possession. The Tree no longer held its proper place in the created order. Eve’s desire for the Tree changed its position from somewhere in the Garden to the center of the Garden. Eve coveted the Tree, and that was enough to uproot all creation. Instead of gratitude, Eve expresses greed. She wants what she wants. Don’t think she wants it for completely selfish reasons! That is not the appeal of the core of sin. The appeal of the core of sin is that we need what we want because we will be better for it. We will be better in the role God has given us. We will be more equipped to do His bidding. We will be stronger and more capable decision-makers. We will no longer be dependent. We will be free to be what we were intended to be (by our standards, of course). No, Eve is not greedy for herself. She is greedy to be what God designed her to be. And that’s why she listens to the serpent. She sins in her strength, not her weakness. She crosses the boundary because she thinks it will improve her design.
Did Eve need this pleasant-to-the-eyes fruit? Of course not. If she had needed it, God would have provided it. But now Eve no longer cares what God has provided. Now she wants a hand in providing for herself. The naked snake has convinced her that she knows what is beautiful and beautiful is worth having. Sin refocuses our attention. The naked snake convinces Eve that she knows what is best for herself. After all, God made the Tree. The Tree is good. Wouldn’t she be better if she just took the good thing that God made?
Where is the boundary of beautiful? How will you decide – ah, maybe the real question is who will decide for you? Who sets the fence for you?
Topical Index: beautiful, pleasant, Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, ta’ava-hoo, Genesis 3:6