Anyone who has read the book of Genesis knows the story of man’s fall from grace. But why are we privy to the dialogue between Eve and the serpent, if not to learn from it? What then can be gleaned from their encounter to instruct us as to the operation of his wily methods? How was he successful in getting her to disobey God’s instruction? For those who are unfamiliar with the account, the LORD’s command was as follows:
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Now imagine the scene at the opening of Genesis 3: The serpent approaches Eve and says, [Hey. (Nods head curtly and casually) … So, I was there in the garden with your husband when God was giving him the tour, and I couldn’t help but overhear — Am I getting this right?] — “Did God truly (spoken with incredulous emphasis) say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”
The purpose of his word selection wasn’t to convey that Adam and Eve weren’t allowed to eat from any of the trees — such an idea would be easily dismissed as ludicrous in relation to God’s clear instruction. Yet it appears that this is the context in which Eve initially views the serpent’s query.
She replies in her innocence: [Ha ha ha, of course not! Don’t be silly!] “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden[!]”…
No, at this point Satan is content to simply instill the concept of constricting limitation into Eve’s mind: for up to then the world had known no want. Such a notion would be foreign to her, so he is attempting to manufacture the idea of being denied something desirable. His agenda was to get Eve to understand the question to mean, “Did God really say you couldn’t just eat from any tree that you want?” He was introducing her to a new perspective, and hoping to get her to adopt the progeny of his mind — to nurture and care for it as her own. It appears that it is received into its hoped for home, since Eve’s retort continues,
…[…Oh! (In the sense of a dawning revelation — as if to say, ‘I see!’)] “But God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it…”…
Her addition of the stipulation ‘you must not touch it’ is quite telling. By placing another restriction on top of God’s solitary one she reveals that a change has occurred, and that the concept of constrictions is now being considered. The serpent has become a boa and achieved his first objective. A pristine soul is being squeezed from its abode, displaced by the wicked child she unwittingly welcomed, as it stealthily, ethereally coils around her mind, pinioning her thoughts. Eve has taken on a greatly inferior vantage point, and the first hint of a fall has begun. It’s worth pointing out that the serpent accomplished this without overtly attempting to disparage God. To the question ‘Did God really say…’, he did not add, [Wow. Hmmph! Seems kind of unfair to me, don’t you think?]. It’s true the intimation of a value judgment underlies his question, but he cleverly avoids a direct challenge. He didn’t want the exchange to become an issue of how he felt about God: for why should Eve care about his opinion?
God’s command indicates that He supplied no explanation as to why Adam and Eve were to refrain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil beyond that they would die if they ate from it. Their obedience to this point implies that they required no further reason. Yet in order to accomplish his ultimate goal, at some point the serpent would need Eve to relinquish her simple trust and acceptance of God’s word. How might this be done? Now that she understood the intent of Satan’s question to mean they couldn’t just eat from any tree they wanted to, a whole new series of possible questions could be introduced. Continuing with some more imaginary dialogue will allow us to follow a thought process, and see the gears begin to turn as the machinery of sin and disobedience is set in motion within the mind.
As she is speaking the words ‘you must not touch it’ — and before her first recorded sentence is completed — a query not previously considered flashes across her mind, [… I wonder why God doesn’t want us to eat from that particular tree? What’s different about it?] …
… “or you will die.”
The next task for Satan was simply to plant a seed of desire in Eve’s heart. He strikes like lightning, quicker than the speed of thought, to supply his answer to the question she had posed only to herself.
[Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk! … Oh, thaaat God!] (Chuckling to himself, and shaking his head amiably and knowingly)
“You will not surely die!”
(Cough, cough, *muttered disclaimer* … At least, not today! )
[Trust me, I know him. God and I are old friends — we go waaaaay back! Seriously, he’s just trying to scare you.]
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Here Satan directly contradicts God’s statement that she would die, and offers an alternate explanation for why the tree’s fruit was being withheld — his final stroke. Oh how subtle and crafty the serpent! He did not attempt to countermand God’s directive with a contrary command — indeed, he made none. Neither did he even recommend she disobey. He suggests no course of action whatsoever. To employ such a strategy would risk affronting autonomy, and potentially give rise to the inquiry, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” If such a question were to be asked, he would much prefer it to be directed toward Eve’s Maker, not himself. No, all that was needed was to frame the fruit differently — to cast it in an alluring light using the subjective lens of the photographer. He knew that if he could introduce a want, it might quickly become a NEED, and a NEED always seeks to be gratified. His formula had been a simple one, as most successful plans are. He transplanted two ideas, asserted God’s word had been untrue, and then called it a day. First he had assaulted the mind, next he moved to the heart, finally the spirit. Having finished his part, he was now free to Exit Stage, Left, to allow desire to complete the rest of the scene.
He seemingly takes leave of his prey, allowing her to perhaps ponder his proposition that concern for perishing was preposterous. She gravitates to the tree, newly perplexed. A voice she only imagines to be her own asks, “Why would I die?” She examines the tree in search of the answer, and her descent gains speed. She observes that it’s good for food, just like all the other trees. The questions breed and give birth to more, multiplying as if they had been the recipients of the Lord’s command to fill the earth. [And it’s sooooo Beautiful! How could something so lovely possibly be bad?] [Why wouldn’t God want me to be wise? Surely, he would be happy if I were to be like him!]
Having narrowly inspected the forbidden, she determines it to be harmless in and of itself, and wonders afresh: [Hmmm… So if the fruit itself won’t kill me, how would I then die? It can’t be that God would kill me — He seems far too nice — and certainly not for something so trivial as eating a piece of fruit that He Himself made! Maybe the serpent was right, maybe he was just trying to scare me…]
Dear mother, why have you allowed yourself to be thus persuaded? Alas, thou hast been deceived!