Daniel Anlezark’s Old Testament Narratives explores the tale of Adam and Eve, but it allows for an inspection between the relationship of God and humans through the interesting dynamic of the Forbidden Fruit of Knowledge.
At the beginning of Genesis B, God commands Adam and Eve to “renounce that tree, guard yourselves against the fruit. For you two there will be no unsatisfied desire” (19). And Adam and Eve continued to live their lives the way they were commanded. When the serpent first comes to them with tales of how eating the fruit would “make your form the more beautiful” and “your mental capacity would grow greater,” Adam spurns him and refuses to eat the fruit. Adam is not tempted with appeals to his personal desires and so the serpent turns to Eve, and argues that God will become enraged because they are disobeying the orders that the serpent is simply delivering to them. Concerned with following the will of God, Eve eats from the fruit, not for the purpose of bettering herself, but to follow what she believed were orders from God. She convinces Adam to eat the fruit with her, and then, “with a loyal intention,” they eat from the fruit of death (54).
This is critical to understanding the motivation on why God becomes enraged with humans and banishes them from the garden of paradise. The narrator says that Adam and Eve “were beloved of God while they intended to keep his holy word” (19). But didn’t Adam and Eve always believe they were following God’s commandments? Didn’t they eat the fruit “with a loyal intention” (54)? How can God punish the deceived when they believe they were following his will?
A closer inspection of Anlezark’s OTN allows for an argument to be made that it wasn’t the act of eating the Forbidden Fruit that inspired God’s rage, but rather the conflict of humans encroaching on the power of God. In describing the tree of death, the narrator reveals that “whatever person tasted of what grew on that tree, must know how good and evil turn in this world, must ever after live in torment” (39). So when Adam and Eve are tricked by the serpent and eat from the Forbidden Fruit, they learn “how good and evil turn in this world.”
It brings to question why exactly is it wrong for Adam and Eve to know good and evil? And why are they ever subjected to “live in torment” because of this knowledge (39)?
The ability to distinguish between good and evil comes close to resembling the power of God, and it is this encroachment that inspires God’s fury towards humans, a fury that allows evil to take root. The leader of God’s enemies at one point says that “If they break his commandment, then he will become enraged with them; after that the goodness will be taken away from them and torment will be made ready for them” (35). If Adam and Eve feel shame, it is because their goodness was taken away from them, not by eating the fruit, but because God chooses to take away their goodness after they were deceived.
It’ll be fair to say that it is God who gives humans the capacity to do evil by taking away their “goodness.” God’s decision ultimately plays right into his enemies’ hands, who are attempting to subvert his authority by giving humans the ability to commit evil. By punishing Adam and Eve who were acting in a way they believed was loyal to God, the story of Adam and Eve becomes a tale of God’s betrayal to humans and a tale of evil overcoming good.
Anlezark, Daniel, ed. Old Testament Narratives.Harvard, 2011 (OTN)
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