Only after Adam and Eve disobey God’s commandment does the dissonance of shame and insecurity begin to characterize the first couple. We read about a new kind of relationship with the Maker that was characterized by disconnection, fear and shame.
וַתֵּרֶא הָֽאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל וְכִי תַֽאֲוָה־הוּא לָעֵינַיִם וְנֶחְמָד הָעֵץ לְהַשְׂכִּיל וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּתֵּן גַּם־לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ וַיֹּאכַֽל
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה עֵינֵי שְׁנֵיהֶם וַיֵּדְעוּ כִּי עֵֽירֻמִּם הֵם וַֽיִּתְפְּרוּ עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם חֲגֹרֹֽת
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen 3:7)
וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת־קוֹל יהוה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יהוה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן
They heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the Garden at the breezy time of day; and the man and his wife hid from the LORD God among the trees of the Garden. (3:8)
וַיִּקְרָא יהוה אֱלֹהִים אֶל־הָאָדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַיֶּכָּה׃
The LORD God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (3:9)
וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־קֹלְךָ שָׁמַעְתִּי בַּגָּן וָאִירָא כִּי־עֵירֹם אָנֹכִי וָאֵחָבֵא׃
He replied, “I heard the sound of You in the Garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (3:10)
וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל־מִמֶּנּוּ אָכָלְתָּ׃
Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree from which I had forbidden you to eat?” (3:11)
וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָדָם הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי הִוא נָתְנָה־לִּי מִן־הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל׃
The man said, “The woman You put at my side—she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” (3:12)
Part of the reasoning here is to give you a simple way to grasp the basics of how words function in a Hebrew sentence. These insights are meant to provoke in you a commitment and desire for more serious study. So in this section, I am going to show you how Hebrew attaches suffixes and prefixes to expand the meaning of a word into a phrase. For example, in verse 6, we see that Eve, after violating God’s command, gave the forbidden fruit to her husband to eat. The phrase “also to her husband” גַּם־לְאִישָׁהּ (gam le-ishah) has the letter הּ (hey) after the word אִישׁ (ish; “husband”), and this הּ makes the meaning of the word into “her husband.” The word also begins with the preposition לְ (le), which, in this case, means “to.” So we see that just one word in Hebrew, לְאִישָׁהּ (le-ishah), translates into no fewer than three English words: “to her husband.” In fact these kinds of prefixes and suffixes adding to the meaning of root-words are normal occurrences in ancient Semitic languages such as, Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew.
When God enters the Garden, He encounters something “unexpected.” (because the biblical story is told in fully anthropomorphic terms, we should continue reading and talking about it in the same terms). Suddenly, Adam and Eve feel uncomfortable in God’s presence. It is very interesting to observe how the author describes this encounter. Offering a literal translation to the beginning of verse 8 — וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת־קוֹל יהוה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן — renders this fascinating phrase: “and they heard the voice of the LORD God walking around the Garden” (3:8). It is normal to speak of hearing people walking around, or hearing someone’s voice, but to speak of the voice walking around is most unusual. How could they hear “the voice walking”? Without addressing the blame-shifting games of Adam (Eve was to blame), God questions Eve, only to get a similar response from her (the serpent was to blame). Upon hearing this, the LORD pronounces a permanent curse upon the serpent in reverse order from the progression of blame-shifting he just heard from the humans.
כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה עַל־גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל־יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ׃
…“Because you did this, More cursed shall you be than all cattle and all the wild beasts: On your belly shall you crawl and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:14)
וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב׃
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They shall strike at your head, And you shall strike at their heel.” (Gen 3:15)
The Hebrew word אָרַר (arar) is usually translated as “curse” and hence, in our mind, it carries an uncertain, though certainly negative, meaning. Many uses indicate that it should be defined along the lines of “binding,” “thwarting,” or “restricting” someone or something. (cf. Gen 3:14; Exod 22:28; Job 3:8) This matches the content of the serpent being cursed (limited and restricted) more than any other animal life. The Hebrew Bible never identifies the serpent with Satan. The well-known story that is thought to actually place Satan in the Garden of Eden (Ezek 28:13-15), doesn’t refer to a serpent either. It was not until the late first century Jewish, anti-Roman document, which we call the Book of Revelation, that the “ancient serpent” could be identified with the presumed head of the demonic powers – ο οφις ο αρχαιος (ho ofis ho archaios) “the ancient serpent” ος εστιν διαβολος και ο σατανας. (hos estin diabolos kai ho satanas) “he is the devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:2). The Lord does not curse Eve, but instead issued a strong disciplinary measure. We read in Genesis 3:16:
אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ׃
And to the woman He said, “I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing; In pain shall you bear children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (3:16)
There are two things that will significantly affect the woman. First, she “will suffer greatly in childbirth” הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ (harabba arbeh itzvonech). Secondly, she will have a special longing for her husband (presumably one that he will not have for her), as “he will rule over her” יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ (yimshal bach). This is a confusing text which few have made much sense of, especially as we try to understand it from the standpoint of our modern egalitarian values. Adam did not receive personal disciplinary action, as did Eve. However, he did not escape painful consequences of his disobedience. God announces that the He is cursing the ground because of the Adam. It is clear that God holds Adam accountable for everything that took place. The fall of humanity from God’s full favor is caused ultimately, not by the serpent, nor by Eve, but by Adam himself.
וּלְאָדָם אָמַר כִּי־שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ וַתֹּאכַל מִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכֲלֶנָּה כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ׃
To Adam He said, “Because you did as your wife said and ate of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ Cursed be the ground because of you; By toil shall you eat of it All the days of your life… (Gen 3:17)
וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ חַוָּה כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה אֵם כָּל־חָי׃
The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. (Gen 3:20)
The English word “Eve” is not the original name of the first human female. Her name was the Hebrew חַוָּה (chava) which has a Hebrew root connection with a verb לִחְיוֹת (lichyot) “to live”, and words such as חַי (chai) and חַיִּים (chayim) communicating the idea of “life”. In Hebrew, therefore, it makes perfect sense to call to call Adam’s woman חַוָּה (chava), because she will one day become the mother of “all the living” כָּל־חָי (kol chai). God’s accusation against Adam has to do with Adam preferring the voice of God’s beautiful and gracious creation (Eve) over the voice of his Creator, in spite of the explicit commandment not to eat of the forbidden tree. However, in great mercy to his final creation, God does not curse Adam himself, but only the ground אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה (arurah haadama). This curse will later be removed because of the faith and sacrifice of Adam’s descendant, Noah – but more about this later. The LORD’s further actions were far from a whimsical judgment. Instead they were already directed towards the restoration of humanity and everything that humanity was supposed to nurture and protect.
וַיַּעַשׂ יהוה אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם׃
And the LORD God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. (Gen 3:21)
The Hebrew word for the garments God made for Adam and Eve should probably be translated “tunics”. In this case they were not tunics made of fabric, but of “skin” or “fur” – כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר (katnot or). It stands to reason that, once the first human (Adam) disobeyed God’s only commandment thus thwarting His purposes for his creation and role in the world, animals had to die; blood needed to be shed. We understand that because we read that God “clothed” Adam and Eve יַּלְבִּשֵׁם (yalbishem) with the tunics made of animal skin, thus laying the foundation for the future animal sacrifice practices of Israel.
וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה אֱלֹהִים הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ לָדַעַת טוֹב וָרָע וְעַתָּה פֶּן־יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ וְלָקַח גַּם מֵעֵץ הַחַיִּים וְאָכַל וָחַי לְעֹלָם׃
And the LORD God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!” (Gen 3:22)
וַיְשַׁלְּחֵהוּ יהוה אֱלֹהִים מִגַּן־עֵדֶן לַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח מִשָּׁם׃
So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. (Gen 3:23)
וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֶת־הָאָדָם וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן־עֵדֶן אֶת־הַכְּרֻבִים וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת לִשְׁמֹר אֶת־דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים׃
He drove the man out, and stationed east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)
The Hebrew word translated “banished” is גָרֶשׁ (garesh). In Modern Hebrew, this is the very root that is used to form a variety of Hebrew words connected to the divorce of a married couple. In a very real sense the LORD God “divorced” Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (and from Himself), because of the clear and immediate danger that the Tree of Life now presented to them. In spite of what is traditionally thought, God did not judge Adam and Eve by sending them away from the Garden of Eden. Exiling them from the Garden of delight was not disciplinary, but protective and merciful. Now that they were exposed to the knowledge of good and evil, the well-founded fear of God was that humanity may remain in that state of misery and death forever, if they also continued to eat of the “tree of everlasting life” עֵץ הַחַיִּים (etz hachayim), which was also located in the same Garden. Thus it was for their own safety, hope and redemption that God now barred them from the Garden.