Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Genesis Notes: Temptation and Response

The Fall of Adam and Eve as depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

We also are shown how Satan cleverly twists the truth, putting a "spin" on it to serve his own purposes. He makes his offer in such a way that Adam and Eve must have total trust in God to prevail. This makes it a little easier for me to understand Adam and Eve's behavior. I always wondered how anyone who got to walk with God every day could make such a choice. Well, we've all got weak spots, right? Genesis Part 1: God and His Creation prompts me to have a little more compassion for Adam and Eve who are looking the devil right in the eye and having to think on their feet.
They know what God has revealed to them to be good and evil, although they have not yet experienced it. The serpent suggests not that they shall experience evil (for where is the attraction in that?) but that they will be able to determine for themselves what is good or evil. This temptation strikes at the heart of their relationship with God. Can they trust God to be the only reliable authority about what is good and evil? Don't they want to figure it out for themselves?

John tells us that Satan "is a liar and the father of lies." Satan is adept at lying under the cover of partial or twisted truth. When he says "You will not die," there is a grain of truth in it. Adam and Eve do not die physically the moment they eat the fruit. Their death was a spiritual one, and, as we will see, it happened immediately. This characteristic of Satan-mixing a little truth with a lie-is what makes him so cunning and dangerous.
This is probably one of the most surprising things I read about Genesis ... that Eve wasn't alone when she was tempted. The use of second person plural in Hebrew makes it clear that Adam was there too. Holy Moly! That changes my view of the whole thing. It also is interesting because it shows the two ways we tend to respond to temptation ... taking action as Eve did or passive acceptance as Adam showed.
Because Eve turns and gives fruit to her husband, it appears Adam is right there with her in the garden. Some Bible translations are more specific: the NIV says she "gave some to her husband, who was with her." That is perhaps the only way to get across in English what is abundantly clear in the Hebrew. All the verbs the serpent uses are in the second person plural, indicating that he is speaking to more than one person. We are not told why Adam is silent. Given that he is in charge and sees it all happening, he should do something. Quite possibly the snake was intimidating, if not physically, then by the fact that he appears to have superior knowledge and contradicts God. Adam may be wondering where he came from -- why God didn’t warn him -- where God was at the moment -- whether the serpent was right, and whether he should do what it says because right now it looks pretty dangerous. Perhaps Adam perceives a veiled threat from the serpent when he assures Eve that they wouldn’t die if they eat the fruit. "No, eating it won’t make you die, but not eating it might." At the most basic level, the serpent’s challenge causes Adam to wonder whether he can trust God. And-like uncertainty does to us so often-he’s rendered speechless and unwilling to act ...

Adam’s status as child of God, husband of Eve, and keeper of the garden requires him to stand up in some way to the serpent, and he does not. He should have stepped in to defend his bride, the garden, and God’s name in whatever way that battle had to be fought. If the thought of that was frightening to him, he could have cried out for help from God: "Oh, Father! What do I do now?" Was he silent because he was calculating the cost of opposing the serpent? Did he think it might cost him his life, or, if not his life, at least some pain? Did he find no encouragement in the presence of the Tree of Life? God had said the only way he would die would be to eat of the forbidden fruit. Does he not trust God?

No, he does not. His trust in God dies when he encounters the serpent. He does not trust God enough to face down the challenger, whatever it might cost. Adam’s unwillingness to act, even if it meant suffering, left Eve vulnerable to the serpent. She is left to manage all on her own. She valiantly tries to make the best of it, but what effect does Adam’s silence and inaction have on her? Adam’s self-donation would have confirmed her in what she knew to be true about God. His living example of putting complete trust in God’s Word would have led her to do the same.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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