Humanity falls in our reading from Genesis today. (Genesis 3, 1-8)
“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
‘Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?’”
Adam and Eve, given life, are instructed by God about the forbidden tree in the garden. (above) Behind them stands the Tree of Life, mentioned only once in the Genesis account. Did they forget to eat enough of that tree?
A serpent, “the most cunning of all the animals,” initiates their fall. The authors of Genesis do not want to give equal power to the Evil One. Satan’s not God’s equal. So a serpent brings down humanity. Satan’s there, but other things as well.
In Mark’s gospel Jesus says to Peter, who wishes to change Jesus’ acceptance of his Father’s will: “Get behind me Satan; you’re not thinking like God, but like human beings do.” Peter’s speaking for Satan, but he’s speaking “reasonably” like human beings do.
In the Book of Job, Satan tempts Job, not directly, but through his friends, who also speak the way human beings do, “with a serpent’s tongue.”
The serpent, “the most cunning of all the animals,” represents the wisdom of a world that challenges God, the Creator. “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” he asks the woman, demeaning God.
Some see eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a decision for moral autonomy made by humans, a claim to know it all, to say what’s right or wrong, rejecting the limits and finite freedom they have as creatures of God.
It can also be seen as trusting only in the experience and knowledge we gain as we live– like children distancing themselves from parents. We’re meant to grow in self-sufficiency and wisdom of our own, but without distancing ourselves from the God of wisdom and life who created us and wishes us always to be his children.
Two things to remember:
The Book of Genesis and other books of the Bible, never see the world – or us –belonging to Satan. God is king, always present, master of this world as the days go on, day and night, in light and darkness. The plans of his heart stand from age to age. The serpent doesn’t win.
Tomorrow’s reading ends promising a return to the land we lost and the Tree of Life. God is merciful.