“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5
Like God – The serpent doesn’t tell Eve that she will be God. He doesn’t even tell her that she will be like God. He only says that she will have one faculty that he ascribes to God – knowing good and evil. Eve isn’t going to become omniscient or omnipotent. All she is supposedly going to gain is the knowledge of good and evil. Apparently, this must be very, very important since it was by itself enough to entice Eve. But is this really what the serpent says? Let’s take another look.
Maimonides points out that the Hebrew word here is elohiym. In most contexts, this is a plural noun used to describe the singular God (like Genesis 1:1). But elohiym also means gods (like the false gods of idol worship), judges and princes. Jesus uses this homonym when he quotes the Psalms, “You are gods” (John 10:34). Perhaps the serpent only suggests that Eve will be elevated. It is not that she will become God but rather that she will be better than she currently is. She will be royalty, the Queen of the cosmos. The appeal implies a subtle discontent with the way things are. God made her a little less than the best and now Eve can rectify that situation by improving on God’s design.
The subtlety of sin is found in our discontent with the way things are. We don’t really believe that God is completely in control. From our perspective, He didn’t do things quite right. There is room for improvement. I just need a little spiritual plastic surgery to make my world (and me) a better place. I just need to help God out by rearranging His design.
Everything about the creation of Eve shouts God’s careful and deliberate handiwork. The verb implies a purposeful design, executed according to plan. The fact that she is taken from the man underscores her uniqueness. Her designation as ‘ezer kenegdo tells us that God had a very specific role in mind for her. That she is the last of creation speaks to her place as the crowning achievement. But Eve is not content.
It isn’t that she is restlessly searching for the “new” Eve. She hasn’t read the latest book on hard bodies or fashion make-overs. She isn’t chasing the best life now prosperity nonsense. She just wants to be all that she can be – and that’s why the serpent only needs to suggest one small addition to her capabilities. If she could just add this, then she would really be the best at what she does.
Have you ever heard this offer made to you? All you need is just this one small addition and then you will be complete. It is an offer that offends in two ways. First, it rejects the sovereignty of God. It calls into question His design and purpose. Secondly, it offends His omniscience. It assumes that God didn’t quite know exactly what He was doing and, consequently, things need a bit of improvement. Furthermore, the suggestion places Eve (and you and me) in the role of the Creator. Now we determine what is best. We decide what is good – for us.
Don’t object that contentment leads to stagnation. If no one ever attempted to improve things, we would still be living in caves, but that is not the issue here. The serpent does not appeal to improve the world around me. This is an appeal to improve God’s design in me. It is an assumption that God has not equipped me to accomplish what God has called me to do and to be. This is about a personal design flaw, not an improvement in my environment.
Maybe you’ve heard the serpent hissing in your ear. If you have, it’s time to remember that when God rested, nothing more needed to be added.
Topical Index: gods, elohiym, Eve, serpent, improvement, design, Genesis 3:5