The God that Knows When to Say EnoughAnd so the story moves on and we're told more about this creation of man that God made in His image and declared to be good.
We're introduced to a garden -- Eden ("delight") as God calls it -- and told that it is full of trees that are pleasing to the eye and good for food. We are told about two trees in particular: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Then we're told about four rivers in one of the weirdest additions to the biblical text that I've ever found. Outside of mystical interpretations (which may be completely legitimate, but not my textual "go-to-punch"), this paragraph appears to be nonsensical, irrelevant, wasteful, and a complete detraction from the current biblical narrative. But, hold onto that thought, because no word is wasted -- it will come back in a later post.
God commands man not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and then makes a partner suitable for him. She is taken from his ribs -- the innermost parts of him -- and is said to be his ezer k'negdo. This term translates as the "help that opposes" (perhaps more on this later, but not for this post). When God presents her to Adam, he names her "woman", a term that speaks of who she is.
We're then told that they are both naked.
This idea comes up a lot in the story, by the way. The author seems to be particularly interested in this fact that doesn't seem to have too much relevance outside of explaining our incessant need for clothing. At the beginning, we are told they are naked. They eat from the tree and realize they are naked. They hide from God and when God confronts them the main point Adam feels compelled to bring up is his nakedness. Then God makes skins to cover their nakedness.
But there are other problems with the story, aren't there?
What about this tree? It is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and yet -- it is not. Eve has a perfectly good understanding of good and evil. She explains to the snake that she is not to eat of the tree -- that doing so would be wrong. And even if that is not true, how can God justly punish a person who did not obtain the knowledge necessary to make the appropriate decision. Justly, He would only be able to punish her on the SECOND time she ate from the tree; this is the only time she would have possessed the knowledge necessary to act in disobedience.
And why does Adam name Eve twice? At the end of the story, he names her Eve. But she already had a perfectly functioning name given to her by Adam -- Woman.
And how about this snake? Why does nobody seem to be bothered by a talking snake?
You see, this story is full of problems. Much like the story of Genesis 1. And any Jew would tell you that when there are problems in a story, grab a shovel, because there is more going on and you need to start digging.
Well, to be fair, you don't hear the story in the original language. So you don't hear one of the triggers inherent in the story.
Remember the idea of nakedness that seems to keep coming up over and over again in the story? And do you remember the idea of chiasm from the last post? Well, sure enough, this story is a chiasm as well. The story begins with Adam naming her Woman and them being naked. The story end with Adam naming her Eve and their nakedness being covered. And in the middle of the story? They eat from the tree, their eyes are opened, and they realize they are naked. The whole story is about nakedness -- somehow.
Well, the Hebrew word for "naked" is 'arowm and the word for "nakedness" (used in the rest of the story) is 'eyrom.
And if you were listening to verse 3:1 in the Hebrew, you would have heard that the serpent was "crafty" or 'aruwm. The word is so close to the word for naked, you almost wouldn't have noticed the difference at first.
Not only this, but the story keeps trying to make the serpent look awfully like the humans. The serpent can talk. The serpent can walk (Didn't think the snake was walking? God's curse is that it would crawl on it's belly for the rest of its days). The serpent can reason and argue. The serpent can relate.
So, why is the author trying to make the serpent like the naked humans? It's almost as if the author is begging the question: What makes a human different from an animal? Try to answer that question and look at the above paragraph. All of the things we would typically say to answer that question don't work within the Genesis story.
Did we notice anything else about the story that was amiss? Did you notice what Eve saw when she looked at the tree? God had said that all the trees of the garden were pleasing to the eye and good for food. But when Eve looked at the tree, she saw that it was "pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable..."
The rabbis teach that the difference between man and beast is desire. Think about it. When an animal wants to eat, what does it do? It eats. An animal is not capable of practicing self-restraint. This is actually the temptation of Eve. The serpent tempts her to think that she is no different than an animal. "God put the tree in the garden. It's pleasing and good. Just eat it. God gave you desire for it, didn't He? How could He give you desire and not want you to act? You're just a beast like me."
You remember the invitation of Genesis 1? To trust the story. To trust that creation is good enough. There is nothing more that God could do. God's not holding out on you.
Adam and Eve are being invited to trust the story. Yes, the tree is pleasing and good -- and desirable. But you can trust that creation is good enough. You can trust and rest.
One of the other answers to the question, what makes humans different from animals is that we are made in the image of God. That is the right answer, but it simply leads to another question. What does it mean to be made in God's image?
One of the names for God is "El Shaddai". We translate that a lot of ways in the English, but it is very difficult to translate accurately. The ancient rabbis said that the name literally should translate "the God that knows when to say enough".
And that's who He was in Genesis 1. He knew when to say "enough". He looked out at creation and He said, "It's very good. I'm done." He didn't rest because He needed a nap or was exhausted. He rested because there was nothing else to do. If He kept creating, He would actually destroy creation. He knew when to say "enough".
You are made in the image of God. You are built to be capable of saying "enough". You aren't an animal. You can control your desires. But controlling your desires and saying "enough" is only an option if you trust the story.
God told His people in Genesis 1 that they had value, worth, and acceptance just because of who they ARE and not for what they produce. Did you notice the two names of Woman/Eve? The first name (before the tree) was all about her essence; who she was. The second name (after the tree) was all about what she could produce. It's the tragedy of not trusting the story. We become people driven by our desires -- most importantly, our desire to be accepted. And so we go and we go and we go. We produce and we produce and we work and we impress and we do and we do.
But God invites us to trust the story. God invites us to rest from our incessant need to be "human doings" rather than human beings. God invites us to be made in His image and tell our desires enough -- they cannot rule over us.
Will you trust the story?
Will you enter God's rest?
Are you able to say "enough" to your deepest desires?
You are more than a beast.
** There are parts of this post that were formed from the teachings of Rabbi David Fohrman and his multi-part teaching "Serpents of Desire".
Comments are closed.