Chapter 3 of the book of Genesis has always stimulated discussions, and much has been written about the meaning of the chapter.  In my opinion, Moses delivered a simple message, namely that one should obey God.  To make this message easy to understand, Moses used a parable.  When explained in this way, the chapter makes perfect sense.  It was the moral of the story, not the story itself, that was important.


An essay on Genesis, chapter 3 

Historically, the importance of Genesis chapter 3 is that Moses set the tone for the relationships between men and women.  Clearly, women were subjugated to men, and that attitude has guided western civilization for about 3000 years.  It is only in very recent times, that we have seen a change in attitudes, and those changes are not universal.


More importantly, Moses defined the divine nature.  He made it clear that the divine knowledge was contingent, not eternal.  God needed to ask questions, which would make no sense if God were omniscient.  Also, Moses gave God human characteristics by showing God’s changeable nature, his compassion, and his inability to predict the future.  These limitations have been discussed countless times.


Moses set the format for religious books, in which dialogs between God and specific people are reported.  Those dialogs were all written in human form, that is, as conversations, when, in fact, they were inventions.  Moses used this method to create the notion of a personal God, which, at that time, was a new idea.  The conversational method has survived into modern times, as the Book of Mormon, and Aimee Semple McPherson’s gospel exemplify.


Borrowing from Egyptian symbolism, Moses demonizes the serpent to represent evil.  The use of serpents to symbolize evil is very old.  In the ancient religion of Egypt, Nehebkau is the serpent who “harnesses souls”, and guards the entrance to the underworld.  In the three religions that developed from Abraham, the serpent is the embodiment of deceit.  In the Jewish tradition, the serpent also symbolizes sexual desire, and the phrase to “put enmity” was the justification for the suppressive attitudes toward sex.  The transformation of the serpent in Genesis to Satan did not occur until Acts, which was written in the 4th Century AD.


If we examine the text, we find numerous inconsistencies and contradictions. That fact supports my opinion that the story was a parable that Moses used to convey his ideas.


An analysis of the chapter.

The text in black was quoted from the NIV Bible.


1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Clearly, this passage is figurative, not literal.  Snakes do not talk.


2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 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, or you will die.' "


4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."


6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

This passage is the heart of the story.  Eve believed the serpent and dismissed the divine threat.  Why would she do such a thing?  What was the appeal?  For what did she need “wisdom”?  She knew the prohibition, the threatened punishment, and it appears that she understood the meaning of death.  Clearly, she understood that she was subordinate to God, and, therefore, must have wanted to be like God.  So, and here is the central point, she chooses to disobey God.


She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Adam was persuaded by Eve, not the serpent, and the questions about motivation also apply to him.  Adam, then, chose to disobey God.


7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

From this statement, we can only conclude that they knew how to sew.  One wonders how and why they acquired this skill.


8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,

This passage can only be figurative since God is a spirit.


 and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

One of the attributes we assign to God is omnipresence.  If this concept is true, then God’s question is difficult to understand in literal terms, and it is impossible to “hide” from an omnipresent God.


10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

One of the attributes we assign to God is omniscience, in which case there was no need for the questions.


14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,
"Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.


This passage is figurative, not literal.  All snakes are carnivores, and none eat dust.  The implication here is that prior to the curse, the serpent had legs, otherwise there would be no point in making the serpent ‘crawl on your belly.’


15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

The meaning of this line is unclear, and scholars have argued about it for centuries.


16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.

This line is interesting, because up to this point, there is no mention that Eve bore any children.  However, the implication is clear that she did bear children, otherwise an “increase” in the “pains of childbearing” would have no meaning.


  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

It appears that this line refers to sexual desire, and the man is made the dominant partner.  In fact, this interpretation was the explanation until modern times.


17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

This passage is fascinating!  In Genesis chapter 1, there is no mention of the material from which man was made.  Verse 1:27 reads “And God created man to his own image; to the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  In Genesis chapter 2, it reads that “And God formed man of the dust of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”    Eve was made from a rib, not dust.


20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.


21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Why does God renege on his threat that they will “die the death”?  Why does God make garments for them?  Clearly, God did not rescind the knowledge of good and evil.


22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

What is meant by the word “us”?  Clearly, this passage meant that Adam had become ‘godlike’, the qualification for which is the knowledge of good and evil, that is, morals.


He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

The implication of this passage is that the knowledge of good and evil is more important than immortality, otherwise they would have eaten the fruit from that tree first.


23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. [meaning the dust used to make Adam]


24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

The man”?  What about the woman?  If guarding the trees was so important, why did God leave them unprotected in the first place? When the word “guard” was used, against whom was the “guard” meant as there were no other humans besides Adam and Eve.