My fellow blogger Aubrey Eicher posted an essay on Eve and the apple.” She writes, “When we love, we do not want to do anything to hurt the heart of the person, or in this case, God.” Which are fine words from a young Christian woman writing in 2015. We have at least five millennia of experience in what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. If you doubt this, do something out of bounds to a woman and see what happens. Actually, don’t. There is enough out of bounds behavior without my encouraging it.
Neither Adam nor Eve had knowledge of how you love, what love is/was, and what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. *Everything* is new, a first, including what it means to be a partner to someone. Aubrey says, “Surely, myself included, we would love to go back to the garden and slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand, and give her a piece of our mind, ‘What ARE you doing, you dumb broad, didn’t you hear what God said? Yes, Aubrey, she did. Eve didn’t have the benefit of a few thousand years of hindsight. Worse, not knowing of good and evil, she had no way to express nor process events and behavior that felt out of bounds. Adam could and probably did, do things that caused Eve duress. But it was all good (right?) because without knowing of good and evil there is nothing that is out of bounds. Last, a word from us, the malcontents, we know, she knew and it wasn’t enough, isn’t enough.
I find it beyond reason that the purported prior-fall Eden was entirely sunshine and lollipops. God created a world in which free will exists. This includes the freedom to use his creation for ill as well as good. C.S Lewis, in his, “Problem of Pain“, talks about a baseball bat being a tool for sport as well as a weapon. God made the baseball bat. Man makes a choice and it is either used for sport or for crime. He leaves it to us to decide what to do with His creation. Google News will give you plenty of examples of poor choices. I find it hard to believe that the lack of knowledge of good and evil would obviate the possibility of ill will. Either he made an Eden where free will was impossible, and thus made a couple who were not completely in His image, or he made an Eden where they didn’t know what was and wasn’t in-bounds behavior but could, out of innocence, still behave in ways that were transgressive. You could slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand and she would still be stuck with an impossible to understand feeling that some of what Adam did was not right. Enter the serpent. Eve had her reasons.
To recap: the serpent tells Eve that if she defies God and eats of the forbidden fruit she will gain the knowledge of good and evil. She ate and fed some to Adam as well. In all the sermons I’ve heard and retellings of this tale I can’t remember any time spent in the run-up to her choice. It’s narrated as a series of disconnected events, the serpent talking to Eve, then Eve eating, then Eve feeding some of the fruit to Adam, then feeling shame at their nudity, then clothing themselves, then hiding from and being found by God, then banishment and consequences. It is beyond reason to me that Eve was not talking to Adam through all this. On many Sundays in the sermon I’m told that Eden before the fall was a paradise where evil was impossible. Paradise for whom?
The bible is conspicuously silent on what Eve was going through in her early days. Or that Eve wasn’t processing the events of her life and trying to figure out (a) what it all means and (b) what she should do about it. It was all new to Adam as well. He had no frame of reference, save what God had been telling him, of how to live on God’s good side. Not knowing of Good and Evil, without the law, he had a hard time with Eve, who was not as rebellious as Lilith but was still crazy making. There was no one he could commiserate with, no parents to talk to, no fellow newlywed men to joke about married life with. He had to bootstrap all of this himself. Eve, younger than him, didn’t know either and for all it mattered, was dumber than a box of rocks.
There is another discredited narrative lurking about in Jewish folklore–Lilith. She, it is told, was the first woman, created of the same soil as Adam, and banished from Eden because the fight between her and Adam got so severe she fled to the desert, spewing threats and curses the whole way. One more element. We don’t have a story that connects Lilith to Eve. Lilith exists in Mesopotamian folklore and predates Judaism. If folk tales of Lilith and Eve exist they have not survived. Suppose these two women were alive at similar times, are we sure they never spoke? We can’t say because we don’t have anything to connect the two. But . . . this space is the realm of the bard. This is not a limitation here. This blog can say it, taking the privilege of the story teller, and proceed from there. We’ll say Lilith was able to fill in the details of the dispute over a salad of smoked rattlesnake, sunflower seed and kale dressed with a lime, cilantro and peanut oil vinaigrette served with a nice Riesling. Eve would hear that she wasn’t the first, and why Lilith lived in the desert, shunned.
This means that if she was to get along with Adam she could not merely defy him. She could not plant her flag on equal liberty with Adam and expect to gain his assent. There had been too many words between the angels, Adam and Lilith, too much done, to make that reasonable. Eve needed a new way to be with Adam. Could it be that if he knew what he’d done wrong, if he could be made to see the error of his ways, that there could be rapprochement in Eden and the strife of the past could remain in the past, leaving Eve safe?
Consider Eve’s position. She is newly made of Adam’s rib. She is physically a woman, fully capable of everything God expects of her. Adam has all these “should’s” and “spose-to’s” from his disastrous relationship to Lilith. He’s still seething at the mention of her. He feels entitled to being treated a certain way, full of rants about being respected and the proper place of a 妻. Though she is physically mature she is still young to this life and so much is hard to sort out. Knowing the right thing to do isn’t straightforward. She has no history to refer to, no older kin to speak with. Her only source of reference is God, who is at a turn loving and paternal in frustrating ways, and Adam, who isn’t helping.
Eve has no friends save for these two men, one her father, the other her husband. They are men. They try when she wants to talk. But . . . guys are not girls and though they mean well, it’s not the same talking to them. Lilith is banished so getting to speak with her is extremely difficult. Eve and Lilith had that lunch but since then God has had angels watching her so getting out hasn’t been possible. Adam and God have no clue what it’s like to be a woman in this paradise. Instead, there are legion expectations and pompous, chest puffed, chauvinist ideas about what an ideal woman should be. Into this comes the serpent, who is wise enough to know when to shut up and let Eve talk.
God’s call to Eve was to be Adam’s helper. God keeps talking about children and that’s just disgusting. Adam has a lot to say about this, much of it conflicting with her conversations with God. God wants Adam to love him more dearly and wants Eve to help him with this. Adam seems to want sex (which, btw, could not have gone well at first, “You pee with that thing. You want to put it inside me and pee inside me? That is so not happening ever.” hot meals, a willing ear and someone to clean up after him. No mention of loving God in that. No shortage of what God owes Adam, though. So, here she is, newly made, newly married, to this creature who is inconsiderate, stubborn, resentful, angry at his ex, loudly declaiming that God owes him, and demanding of her. The serpent says that if Adam knew the difference between right and wrong maybe he’d understand the error of his ways and stop being such a prick.
Keep things the same in the garden, tolerating Adam and his anger toward women, toward Lilith and by extension, Eve, trusting God to work it out, or . . . disrupt, defy and in the defiance maybe get this lughead to come to his senses. Yes, the price was death but as in many of these broken relationships, physical death may be threatened but it is the spiritual death long ago initiated that has destroyed the souls of those involved and made physical death seem comforting. Plus, the serpent kept telling her that she would not physically die, not really. She would know from Lilith that the price was more probably divorce from Adam and banishment. So, it became a choice miseries.
Eve chose to eat of the apple and lived to suffer another day. Adam it seems, became a farmer and settled down enough to father Cain and Able. For Eve, good enough. She could live as a farmer’s wife and let the raucous early days of her life fade into fond family stories. For the rest of the story you can read your Bible. It’s all there.
Eve’s sin is still the sin of hubris. Though, not the sort of pride I’ve heard in so many sermons on so many Sundays. No, the old lie the serpent tells us and that we still fall for that we are alone, that no one else understands our problem the way we do, and that we have to take care of it ourselves. It is a pride that comes from fear overtaking our trust in God and in turn letting Him open our eyes to the hidden love and solutions possible once we stop being so scared and proud. Eve was young, thought she had to figure it out for herself, and listened to the serpent as he talked her into feeling isolated and desperate. It doesn’t justify her sin. It’s maybe like Chris Rock said about OJ Simpson–it isn’t right but you can understand.