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Adam and Eve forbidden fruit


At the moment I’m reading up on Genesis chapters 1–3 in preparation for the “Genesis, Scripture and Creation” session at The Gender Conversation, which will be held on Monday the 7th of September 2015 at Morling College. Today I read this statement written by one of my fellow presenters.

“… the prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is spoken to the man alone (in 2:17). He is given responsibility to mediate this command to his wife after her creation and protect her from disobeying it. Presumably this command could have been given to both of them after the creation of the woman, but the account as it stands implicitly gives the man this responsibility to which he is later held to account …”

I’ve read this kind of statement many times. Is there any truth in it? What does the biblical account “as it stands” tell us about God’s command concerning the forbidden fruit? Did God give the command to the man alone? Did God give Adam the responsibility to tell Eve about the command?

Some also suggest that, because Eve’s rendition of the command in Genesis 3 is not exactly the same as the command recorded in Genesis 2, Adam did a poor job of telling Eve about the command.

In this article, I look at the wording of Eve’s reply to the serpent and I address ideas about Adam’s presumed role in conveying the command to Eve.

Here is what the woman said to the serpent.

“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” Genesis 3:2–3.

Plural Verbs versus Singular Verbs

The woman’s quotation of God’s command in Genesis 3:2–3 is slightly different from the command given to the man recorded in Genesis 2:16–17. The extra phrase about touching the fruit in Genesis 3:3 is an obvious difference, but there is another difference between the two quotations that is not immediately apparent in modern English translations.[1]

In Genesis 2:16–17, where the solitary human is being given the command, there are three singular verbs in the Hebrew text. Note the use of the singular pronoun “thou” three times in the King James Version of Genesis 2:17: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

In Genesis 3:2–3, however, the command is quoted with three plural verbs in the Hebrew text. Note the use of the plural pronoun “ye” three times in the King James Version of Genesis 3:3: “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said,’ Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’”

Is the plural significant here?

Eve’s Honesty

The text of Genesis 3 tells us that Eve was deceived by the snake but it does not tell us she was a fibber. Later in chapter 3, her answer to God’s question regarding her eating the fruit shows honesty, candour, and accuracy (Gen. 3:13).[2] Her answer in verses 2–3 to the serpent’s question may have been equally honest, candid, and accurate. The author of Genesis 3 may well have meant for his readers to understand that Eve, in fact, correctly quotes what God has said.[3]

The veracity of the woman’s statement to the serpent, however, has been doubted and its significance downplayed or distorted, but there is no reason to assume her quotation of God’s command is flawed.

We are told at the conclusion of the temptation scene that Adam was with Eve (Gen. 3:6). And while the serpent directed his speech to the woman, its use of plural verbs also may further indicate that Adam was present during the entire conversation, and Adam doesn’t contradict or correct what his wife said.

The Narrator’s Story

The narrator of the Genesis 2–3 story gives no explanation as to why the woman’s words are different from those in Genesis 2 but this has not stopped people from making their own assumptions. Instead of the idea that Adam relayed the command to Eve and did a poor job of it, as is suggested by some, an equally credible idea is that God gave the command about the forbidden fruit at least once to the solitary human (with singular verbs), quoted in Genesis 2:17, and at least once to the couple (with plural verbs), as quoted by the woman in Genesis 3:3.

Importantly, however, the narrator is simply not interested in how Eve came to know about the forbidden fruit command. It’s not part of the story he wants to tell or and it’s not important for the points he’s making. Speculations may take us away from the narrator’s aims.

Furthermore, the narrator nowhere mentions that Adam had a God-given responsibility to be the mediator of the command about the forbidden fruit. The biblical text is completely silent about any such suggestion. It is also completely silent about any presumed failure of Adam to do the job properly.

Differing Versions of the Same Story

Stories and statements are sometimes repeated in the Bible in slightly different ways, with elements being added or omitted or emphasised. This story-telling technique provides variety and can highlight certain plot points.

An example of a shorter statement given first, and a longer one with additional information given later, occurs, for example, in 1 Samuel 30:9 and 30:24 about David’s 200 exhausted men who stayed behind with the baggage, and also in 1 Samuel 31:10 and 31:11–12 about Saul’s body hung on a wall, as well as his sons’ bodies.

An example of a divine message being repeated in slightly different ways occurs in Judges 13. Here the angel of the LORD gives instructions to Samson’s mother and to Samson’s father that are slightly different but essentially similar. The mother’s own account of the angel’s message is also slightly different again.[4] No one assumes the angel of the LORD got it wrong despite relating two different versions of the one prophecy. And no one assumes the mother’s account of the prophecy is flawed. Yet most people presume Eve got it wrong.


To summarise:
~ The woman’s statement about the forbidden fruit is different in a few regards from the statement in 2:17, but that doesn’t mean her statement is incorrect.
~ The Bible gives no indication that the woman got it wrong. No one corrects her and she is presented in Genesis 3 as someone who speaks truthfully.
~ Stories and statements are often repeated in the Bible in slightly different ways, with more or less, or even slightly different, information.[5]

The assertions in the quotation at the beginning of this article do not agree with the biblical text “as it stands.” There is no mention, implication, or hint in the biblical text that the first man was given the responsibility of passing on God’s command to her, or that he was meant to protect her from disobeying the command. These ideas are simply not present in the text.


[1] Another difference between the command as the woman tells it in Genesis 3 (compared with how God tells it in Genesis 3) is that the woman mentions the position of the tree in the middle of the garden, but God doesn’t (Gen. 2:16–17), probably because the narrative in Genesis 2 has already mentioned the tree’s position in Genesis 2:9. On the other hand, the woman doesn’t identify that the tree is “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” probably because this piece of information has already been given twice (Gen. 2:9 & 17). Several important plot points are repeated once in Genesis 2–3, often in spoken dialogue.
Plot points are also repeated in Adam’s and Eve’s replies to God (Gen. 3:12 & 13). I suggest the narrator of Genesis 3 did not intend for his readers to understand that either Adam or Eve was trying to pass the buck in their replies to God as is commonly understood. The man and woman answer God accurately and honestly.
Their short statements relate exactly what happened. And each finishes their statement to God with the damning admission, “and I ate” (וָאֹכֵֽל). They recognised their own guilt.

[2] God seems to confirm the honesty of Eve’s statement in Genesis 3:13b. As soon as she explains to God “The serpent tricked me, and I ate,” God says to the serpent, “Because you have done this …” (Gen. 3:14f).

[3] Furthermore, if we understand that the woman, or a significant part of her, was originally one side of the first human in Eden, she would have heard the original command. But this is pushing the story very hard, too hard in my opinion. (More about the first human in Eden having two sides, here.)

[4] Compare the angel’s original message to the mother in Judges 13:3–5 with the mother’s statement in Judges 13:7: Judges 13:7 doesn’t include the word “razor” or the phrase about deliverance. And compare the angel’s original message to the mother with the angel’s message to the father in Judges 13:13–14: Judges 13:13–14 doesn’t include the words “razor” and “Nazarite” or the deliverance phrase, but adds the phrase “anything that comes from the vine.”
Compare also the angel’s message to Mary first, recorded in Luke 1:26–38, and then a shorter version given to Joseph in a dream, recorded in Matthew 1:18–21. (Admittedly these two versions are recorded by different authors.) Mary probably told Joseph what had happened, but he needed to hear it directly and not second-hand. Similarly, I see no reason for the common assumption that Eve was told about the forbidden fruit second-hand from Adam, rather than hearing it directly from God.

[5] Another example of different dialogue highlighting different elements is the telling and retelling of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus in the Book of Acts. Compare Acts 9:3–9 with Acts 22:6–21 and Acts 26:12–18.

© Margaret Mowczko 2015
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Postscript: September 2, 2019
Wayne Townsend and Deitrich Bonhoeffer on the Truthfulness of Eve’s Reply

I just came across this paper on Eve’s words to the serpent: P. Wayne Townsend, “Eve’s Answer to the Serpent: An Alternative Paradigm for Sin and Some Implications in Theology” in  Calvin Theological Journal 33 (1998): 399–420.  A PDF of this paper is freely available here.

Townsend does not believe the author of Genesis 3 meant for readers to think that Eve misquoted God. On page 406 he writes,

[Eve] specifies that “God did say … you may not touch it [the fruit] ” (Gen. 3:3). If we restrict the context of these words to Genesis, then we must admit that God did not say that (Gen. 2:17). But, if we allow that the writer of Genesis expected a basic familiarity with the law of Sinai, we must allow a broader context for this statement, including the Sinai laws found in the whole Pentateuch. In this broader context the words, “you may not touch,” take on deeper significance. We find parallels to Eve’s words in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Leviticus 11 defines food that is lawful for Israelites to eat. Concerning unclean land animals, verse 8 states, “You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you” (emphasis added). The vocabulary and sentence structure of this verse strongly parallels Eve’s words in Genesis 3:3: “You must not eat fruit … and you must not touch it…. Read in this light, the original readers of Genesis 3 would have understood Eve’s words as a natural outgrowth of God’s command in Genesis 2:17.

Also on page 406, Townsend cites Deitrich Bonhoeffer as saying,

[Eve] does not know or recognize evil and she can therefore do nothing but repeat the given commandment and put it correctly. This is a great deal, she remains true to the commandment. (Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1–3, 69.)

On page 420, Townsend summarises his arguments and writes,

The words of Eve in Genesis 3:2, “you shall not touch it,” have been grossly misrepresented. They are not the expression of prefall apostasy or weak-mindedness on the part of the first woman. They communicate to God’s redeemed people that the Fall and original sin can be understood through the metaphor of uncleanness. [See his paper for his discussion on the metaphor of uncleanness.]

Postscript 2: July 6, 2023
Jeffrey J. Niehaus on the Truthfulness of Eve’s Reply

In his 2020 book, When Did Eve Sin? The Fall and Biblical Historiography, Jeffrey Niehaus proposes that Eve did not add to God’s command when she said, “Neither shall you touch it.” He argues that biblical authors, when writing history, often use a  “third-person omniscient narrator followed by a first-person retelling of the same story with additional details.” For more on this, see Philip Long’s review of Dr Niehaus’s book, here.

Image Credit

The Temptation of Adam and Eve (cropped and slightly recoloured). Detail of a stained glass window in the Virgin Chapel of Saint-Julien Cathedral in Le Mans (Sarthe, France). Photo taken by Selbymay. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. (Source: Wikimedia)

Explore more

Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay God’s command to Eve?
What was Adam’s Excuse?
Is Adam solely responsible for the first sin?
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, similar or similar to the man?
Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:16
A Suitable Helper (in the Hebrew)
A Suitable Helper (in the Septuagint)
Women, Eve, and Deception

45 thoughts on “What Eve’s Reply to the Serpent Tells Us

  1. Agreed…I went through the same thought process…here is another thought.

    Who planted the tree? Was it part of God’s work (it was very good)? OR was it planted just after God finished His work?…by Satan? Was this why God had to warn the two? It might be as reflected in this verse…”The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
    25 But while men slept , his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way .”Matthew 13:20-30

    Either way it might have been part of God’s good plan to ensure mankind loved him for the right reasons, or it might have been Satan’s plan to destroy God’s work…We will not know until we are in Heaven.

    1. The creation accounts definitely raise more questions than answers.

      1. I think her reply does say a lot about misinterpreting and adding to God’s command. Jesus was angry at the Pharisees for this very reason of adding extra regulations. Also, Paul answers in 2 Timothy any questions about how we should view the deception when he says “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
        1 Timothy 2:13‭-‬14 KJV

        1. No one in the Bible, including God, says or hints that Eve misquoted God. No one corrects her quotation of God’s words to the serpent.

          God’s concern was that Eve was deceived by the snake and that both she and Adam ate the forbidden fruit.

          Also, Eve doesn’t add to the Torah, the Law. Rather, Eve’s words are part of the Torah.


          Speaking about Paul, it seems he (or Luke who records Paul’s speech) “adds” to God’s word when he quotes from 1 Samuel 13:14.

          The original statement: “… The LORD has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over his people …” 1 Samuel 13:14 CSB.

          Paul’s quotation in Acts: [God] “testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.'” Acts 13:22 CSB.

          Did Paul (or Luke) misinterpret God’s word? I don’t think so.

  2. This is brilliant! I’ve often wondered why people are so quick to assume God didn’t give the command to Eve as well. Thanks for working this through, Marg. So appreciate your scholarship – I can’t even say how much it has helped me grow in my understanding the scripture the past few years!

    1. Hi Gail,

      I think the assumptions comes down to a bias in biblical interpretation. The words of women are skimmed over, seen as less authoritative than men’s, and possibly suspect. 🙁

      I deeply appreciate our friendship even though we’ve only met once IRL. 🙂

  3. Are you familiar with Katharine Bushnell’s interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis? She not only addresses some of the issues you raise here, but she’s got a really provocative interpretation of the divergent responses Adam and Eve gave upon being confronted in the Garden. Eve rightly confessed that the Serpent deceived her, and she ate. Adam, however, accused God: “The woman YOU put here with me caused me to sin.” She calls this the true fall into sin. The implications of this, as you might imagine, are profound–for interpreting the rest of Scripture, and human history. You can find more in Bushnell’s God’s Word to Women, but it can be a bit convoluted at times. I have a chapter on this (Ch. 5: Leaving Eden) in my book A New Gospel for Women, just out with Oxford–you might enjoy taking a look at it as you prepare for your Gender Conversation. Best wishes!

    1. Hi Kristin, I borrowed the Katharine Bushnell’s book once and leafed through it, but didn’t have time to read it all the way through.

      I found some of her interpretations truly fascinating, but others were a little far-fetched. You’ve piqued my interest so I’ll take another look.

      I think Adam and Eve reply to God honestly and, by doing so, they repeat important elements in the story.

      Your book A New Gospel for Women looks wonderful. I’ve seen reviews of it. I’ll definitely have to read it!

    2. Kristin, I found this in your book (at Amazon) on page 117:

      “Bushnell ascribed profound significance to Adam and Eve’s contrasting responses. By “becoming a false accuser of God,” Adam “advances to the side of the serpent.” But Eve, by exposing “the character of Satan before his very face, created an enmity between herself and him.”

      Wow, they are strong statements, and worthy of consideration.

  4. This really is so helpful Marg. I have often taught Genesis and this question almost inevitably comes up. I’ve always told the students – we can’t know if God gave the command to Eve as well or only to Adam. I’ve never actually noticed that Eve is reporting what God said in quotation marks if you can believe that. People always make a big deal that she adds to God’s command. But perhaps that’s what he really did say to THEM. I find the idea that God would communicate something so important only to the man not in keeping with his character elsewhere.

    Regardless of what we don’t know though, to make a point about implicit authority or responsibility (I’ve heard people blame Adam for her lack of understanding because he didn’t pass the command on correctly also), etc. does the text a disservice. That’s not how to do good, careful interpretation. What you’ve done here is.

    1. It doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t notice that Eve was reporting. I think we’ve all been brainwashed to think that Eve couldn’t have had anything noteworthy or worthwhile to say, let alone quote God verbatim.

      I’ve also heard people who say the first sin wasn’t eating the forbidden fruit, it was Adam’s lousy leadership in not passing on the command properly. This teaching is just plain ridiculous, and it is tragic that it passes as biblical interpretation. 🙁

      1. Adam did pass on the commandment of God to his wife correctly as he was told. And Eva also replied to the serpent correctly , if he forbade them from eating it then he also forbade them from getting near to it and touching it, lest you develop a desire for it, but this was in their power to know and return the information as they were created in God’s image and likeness. They were made to think. Adam was with the woman in this sense, she was carrying a commandment given to her by her husband from God. As she failed to keep it by eating of the fruit so did Adam also was eating the fruit.

        1. Hi Classen, There is no Bible verse that says or implies that Adam passed the command about the forbidden fruit to Eve. None.

      2. Take this example, if I tell you not to bath in the river cos the day that u bath into it u will die. See now that there are some information you have to return e.g why I have forbidden u. In the river they might be crocodiles , snakes and other things that might bring harm to u. Now tell me would crocodile not catch you if u were to be at the edge of the river..? We are talking about giving and catching your attention here.

        1. Hi Classen, I understand the point you are making, but the story is not about crocodiles in or near a river, or something similar. It is about forbidden fruit on a special tree. Crocodile have brains and muscles; fruit doesn’t.

          Crocodiles can take people, but it was Eve and Adam who took the fruit. The fruit didn’t take them.

          The fruit didn’t sneak up on Eve, overpower her, and jump down her throat. She took the fruit and ate it. And she gave it to her husband and he ate it. Eve and Adam were in control of their own actions. They weren’t helpless like someone being savagely attacked by a powerful crocodile. So I can’t see how the crocodile story helps to explain the situation.

          Eve told the serpent that God had said, “You (plural) must not eat it or touch it, or you (plural) will die” (Gen. 3:3). And I believe her.

  5. initially I believed that Eve had misquoted the command of God and that Adam had failed to teach his women. also that it was Gods order that Adam would be responsible and protective of her disobeying Gods command. in addition I believed it was Gods desire that Adam have authority over Eve prior to the fall,{ Which later became true in Gods judgement of the women that the man would rule over her ,and that he would be the head of the family} However after reading this article I can now accept that Eve could have together with Adam heard at a later time Gods commandment even though its not recorded, The bible says there are not enough pages to record everything that happened, also in the accounts of Mathew, Mark ,Luke and John they all saw the same things but each recorded it slightly different does’nt mean its wrong its just different angles and points of view. Now with all that said if Eve did accurately hear and understood Gods commandment as recorded and by her acting on her own authority( not under the authority of Adam) removing Adams need to be responsible and protect her from disobeying Gods command, I can now understand the judgement God rendered on both Adam and Eve , They shared equal responsibility .However,I have to disagree strongly when you say Adam was present with Eve and the serpent when they were{{{ talking, about a tree in the midst of the garden,}}} The bible never said they were at the tree although they were in the garden possibly near the tree,But everybody assumes they were physically at the tree because they were constantly talking about a tree. , one thing is to be at a tree and another is to be at a conversation that is slightly near the tree, The bible says Adam was at the tree when she ate the fruit but the Serpent was not present. Likewise when Eve and the serpent were talking near the tree Adam was Not Present . It is very possible to be near a tree having a one on one conversation an not be exactly at that tree and then in minutes later be at that tree having fruit with your husband without your talking serpent present.

    1. Hi jaarules,

      Yes, you’re quite right; the Bible doesn’t actually say that the conversation in Genesis 3:1-5 occurred beside or near the tree. Adam and Eve may have been near the tree, or perhaps they walked over to the tree after Eve’s conversation with the serpent ended (cf. Gen. 3:6ff).

  6. The bible doesn”t say either that the conversation in Gen3:1-5 occurred at the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is what I initially said. However it does say it was somewhere in the garden of eden. Its an assumption on my part to say it may have been near the tree but not exactly at the tree. just as you assume that Adam and Eve (may have been) near the tree, or (Perhaps) they walked over to the tree after Eves conversation with the serpent ended. to make matters worse the bible scholars assume without scriptural evidence that the conversation took place at the tree of knowledge. note that their conversation was primarily about the tree so most assume without question they were at the tree. They could have been anywhere in the garden talking about the tree. Most including myself assume she was very close because its recorded that she partook of the fruit with her husband. the danger is we dont know with certainty how much time elapsed between scene 1: the conversation between Eve and the Serpent and scene2: the eating of the fruit of Eve and her husband at the tree of knowledge. Once again everyone assumes it was right away, it could have been hours or days apart. IN conclusion here is the problem with the word assume, excuse my language ASS-U-ME. We are all guilty of it. the great danger is that many people base there lives on the wrong assumptions of others.

    1. Hi jaarules,

      I am agreeing with you. However, Adam and Eve must have been near the tree at some point, even if it was hours or days or weeks later, especially as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in a central location in the garden.

      Genesis 3:6 indicates that the woman looked at the fruit of the tree, appraised the fruit, took the fruit, ate some of it, and then gave some of it to her husband who was with her; and he ate it also.

      I have not specified or assumed a time frame except to say that this all happened after the conversation with the serpent.

  7. I agree that at some point both Adam and Eve were near the tree and eventually at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I also agree that it happened sometime after the conversation with the serpent but I do not agree that Adam was there with the woman when she was speaking to the serpent as stated in the article. There is no evidence or scripture supporting this assumption. Like I said earlier everyone assumes he was present because he is later present at the tree. but these are to different events, one is conversation between Eve and the Serpent and after{some unspecified time frame} later Eves seen eating of the fruit and giving it to her husband to eat at the tree of knowledge. The problem is that everyone seem to combine the two events together as one when there really two independent events. the bible never says Adam was present at the conversation and that the serpent was present at the eating of the fruit at the tree. everyone just assumes they both were present at both events. heres a scenario more consistent with what is written in scripture Adam and Eve both in the Garden near the tree but not at the tree but seperated for a brief moment just long enough for Eve to have a brief conversation with the serpent without Adam present but in the area, Shortly after Eves conversation she walks over alone to the tree of knowledge At some point she reunited with Adam and together, upon arrival at the tree gen3;6 SHE LOOKED AT THE FRUIT OF THE TREE ,APPRAISED THE FRUIT, TOOK THE FRUIT, ATE SOME OF IT, and then gave some to her husband who was with her: and he ate. note there is no mention of a serpent at this time

    1. Hi jaarules,

      You wrote, “I do not agree that Adam was there with the woman when she was speaking to the serpent as stated in the article.” You may well be correct, but this is not what you have been saying or emphasising in previous comments. In your other two comments you were saying, in quite a few words, that there was no evidence that the couple were near the tree when the conversation took place.

      You could have spared us both some time if you had been clearer and shorter in your previous comments by simply saying that there is no biblical evidence that Adam was present during the conversation between Eve and the Serpent.

      So, are you making two points: (1) Adam and Eve may not have been near the tree, and (2) Adam may not have been around when the serpent addressed Eve? Or are you making one point: Adam was not around when the serpent was speaking?

      While the serpent did, in fact, direct his speech towards the woman, I suspect we are meant to understand that Adam was there beside her, because, like Eve, the serpent also used plural language:

      “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat (תֹֽאכְל֔וּ plural verb) from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1).
      And “… you will not die …” (תְּמֻתֽוּן plural verb) (Gen 3:4).
      And “… on the day you eat of it … (אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם plural verb) (Gen.3:5)
      And “… then your eyes will be opened …” (וְנִפְקְח֖וּ plural verb) (Gen. 3:5).
      And “… and you will be like God…” (וִהְיִיתֶם֙ plural verb) (Gen. 3:5).

      Adam may have been beside Eve. But we can’t be certain about it one way or the other.

      You also said, “SHE LOOKED AT THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, APPRAISED THE FRUIT, TOOK THE FRUIT, ATE SOME OF IT, and then gave some to her husband who was with her: and he ate. note there is no mention of a serpent at this time.”

      Yes, I understand this and have been agreeing with you! So why use the caps? Let me repeat myself: “I have not specified or assumed a time frame except to say that this all happened after the conversation with the serpent.” I have never said that this happened while the serpent was on the scene.

      I have been agreeing with you, but you are arguing with me as though I am disagreeing with you. It may seem that I am disagreeing with you because you have been far from clear in making your points! And please don’t use all caps. This is regarded as yelling.

      Also, you simply don’t know if Eve walked to the tree on her own, or if she was reunited later with Adam. You have rightly pointed out that the Bible doesn’t say that Eve was near the tree or that Adam was with her when the serpent was speaking. That is fair. So why then add your own embellishments and abuse your very points? You criticise others for making assumptions and then you make your own. That seems very odd to me.

  8. Marg,

    Your view is refreshing. I see so many people insist that Adam passed down the words to Eve and got them wrong. Or that Eve lied. Why do people insist that we need a record of God saying those words to Eve? Eve’s testimony should be enough to tell us that God spoke those words to her personally at some point. Didn’t God walk with them in the cool of the day? I am sure they had private conversations during that time that are not recorded for us.

    Other than sexist discrimination against the credibility of womankind, why would we assume Eve lied? I think comps prefer to read it like Adam passed down the command to Eve because they are desperately looking for “headship” in the creation narrative.

    If Eve’s exact words in Gen 3 would have been the same exact words recorded in the command given to Adam in Gen 2, then comps would say it was proof that Adam passed down the command to Eve because we have no record of God giving the command directly to Eve. That would justify headship for them pre-fall.

    Now that Eve’s words are different and she says God told her those words, they make her out to be a lier. If anything, the variation of Eve’s words indicates that God gave her that command personally at a different time. This works against the idea of headship pre-fall.

    The creation narrative itself does not have any hint of headship in it and Jews are often astonished when they learn that evangelicals see hierarchy in the creation narrative. People get the idea to read headship back into Gen only after having exposure to 1 Tim 2:11-15. They don’t take 1 Tim 2 at face-value either. At face-value, 1 Tim does not even say Adam was to lead Eve. It does not say Gen shows Adam was to lead Eve. It simply says Adam was formed first. That is it.

    The passage also starts with “I (Paul) don’t allow…” It is Paul’s personal reading of the Gen narrative and his personal extraction and conclusion of it and not something Gen itself supports. Paul did not say “God does not allow,” he said, “I do not allow.” This is Paul’s own Midrash. So it is futile to run back to Gen and read things into it that are not there and dismissing the things that are clearly spoken there like both the man and woman being commanded by God to have dominion.

    1. Thanks Anca.

      It’s so unnecessary and annoying that people have disbelieved Eve or treated her words with suspicion. And I completely agree that Genesis is our primary source of information on Adam and Eve.

      Paul used Adam and Eve, thousands of years later, to make certain points. And while Genesis helps us to understand Paul’s points, it does not necessarily work the other way around. This seems to be especially the case for Paul’s use of Adam as a type of Christ. Many have not taken into account the genre of typology and have understood Romans 5:12-21 to mean that Adam was solely responsible for the first sin. This was not Paul’s point! https://margmowczko.com/is-adam-solely-responsible-for-the-first-sin/

  9. My feeling is that the man and the woman were together in one body until they were divided, so they both understood God’s instructions. Adam means earth; it’s not a masculine name … it’s the human God created which contained them both.

    1. Hi Bev,

      I also think it’s important to treat the first man and woman as a very closely united couple, a unit.

      My understanding is that the Hebrew word adamah, which is grammatically feminine, means “earth” or “ground.” But that adam, which is grammatically masculine, means “human” or “humanity,” and is also used as a masculine proper noun “Adam.”

      The word adam is derived from adamah. The first human (ha’adam) was made from the ground (adamah).

  10. The linked journal article includes this interesting point from page 3 of the PDF, “The rabbis that Plant quotes are right in considering an “embroidery of the truth to be the opening wedge of sin.”9 Indeed, the Bible consistently condemns any addition to God’s Word as sin.”
    It may be those who denigrate Eve’s testimony who are themselves adding something to or removing something from God’s Word! Thus, they commit the sin they criticize.

  11. A few comments:

    1) My understanding is that the early Gen stories are parabolic retrojections of the creation of Israel (with many condensations/omissions), so it is entirely appropriate to use the entire primary history of Israel (Gen-Kings but not Ruth) as the literary context of the early Gen stories. At least using this literary context solves some puzzles such as Noah treating clean animals differently before they are defined, etc.

    2) You wrote: “There is no mention, implication, or hint in the biblical text that the first man had authority over the first woman before the Fall, or that he was given the responsibility of passing on God’s command to her, or that he was meant to protect her from disobeying the command. ” Gen 2:15  The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  I think Gen 2:15 gives 2 positive commands to the man, to work the garden and the keep/guard the garden. This same 2 verbs are what the priests are to do with the tabernacle/temple. To guard something means there is some possible threat (which shows up as the serpent) and to guard the garden means to me to guard the things in the garden from harm, which includes the man and the woman. My understanding is that the man failed to protect the garden and therefore was the first sinner, contra the idea that the woman was.


    1. I’m not sure that “guard” was the sense, or a sense, that was intended when the first human was told to till/toil and “keep” (care for? tend?) the garden. But even if it was, the Bible says nothing about a failure of the human to guard it.

      In the Life of Adam and Eve, a circa first-century Jewish work that adds nothing credible to the biblical account, it is Eve who opens the garden gate and lets the snake in when Adam is absent. This work is disturbing in how Eve is held responsible for the first sin.

      1. BDB H5647
        BDB Definition:
        1) to work, serve
        1a) (Qal)
        1a1) to labour, work, do work
        1a2) to work for another, serve another by labour
        1a3) to serve as subjects
        1a4) to serve (God)
        1a5) to serve (with Levitical service)
        1b) (Niphal)
        1b1) to be worked, be tilled (of land)
        1b2) to make oneself a servant
        1c) (Pual) to be worked
        1d) (Hiphil)
        1d1) to compel to labour or work, cause to labour, cause to serve
        1d2) to cause to serve as subjects
        1e) (Hophal) to be led or enticed to serve

        BDB Definition:
        1) to keep, guard, observe, give heed
        1a) (Qal)
        1a1) to keep, have charge of
        1a2) to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life
        1a2a) watch, watchman (participle)
        1a3) to watch for, wait for
        1a4) to watch, observe
        1a5) to keep, retain, treasure up (in memory)
        1a6) to keep (within bounds), restrain
        1a7) to observe, celebrate, keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), perform (vow)
        1a8) to keep, preserve, protect
        1a9) to keep, reserve
        1b) (Niphal)
        1b1) to be on one’s guard, take heed, take care, beware
        1b2) to keep oneself, refrain, abstain
        1b3) to be kept, be guarded
        1c) (Piel) to keep, pay heed
        1d) (Hithpael) to keep oneself from

        Seeing Gen 2:4-4:26 are a very condensed version of the story of Israel helps, because they did fail to guard the temple, so it was destroyed. In other words, I think Jews reading this in the literary content of the Gen-Kings would be able to fill
        in the blanks/omissions/super-condensations, although I agree that it is not explicit.

        1. I’m just not sure “guard” was the primary sense, or a sense, intended by the author of Genesis 2. I didn’t mean to imply that shamar can’t mean “guard.”

          BDB simply says this about shamar in Genesis 2:15: “1. a. keep, have charge of, garden Genesis 2:15”

          But as I said, even if the Hebrew word does mean that the first human was to guard the garden, the Bible says nothing about his failure to do so.

          1. For Gen 2:15 ISV has work and guard. TLV has cultivate and watch over. GNB has cultivate and guard. And others obviously have keep. Hebrew words have broader meanings than English words, but I think the use of both of them in a temple context later means something for the way they are to be understood in Gen 2. Recall John Walton thinks that Gen 2 is a temple text from the clues given and I agree. In other words, if you understand it as a temple text and someone is told to work and keep/guard it, then the natural mapping carries forward. As always in early Gen, because it is so condensed or omits things, people can see things differently with each acting in faith. I am just explaining how I see it.

          2. I also think the temple analogy is an important theme or subtext to both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

            In my previous comments, one of my points was that, regardless of the intended meaning of shamar, there is no mention of Adam’s failure to guard the garden in the Genesis story. Guarding just doesn’t come up except perhaps for Genesis 2:15. (Please let me know if I’ve missed a reference, as that would be important.)

            I don’t see it exactly the same as you, but I have no wish to persuade you to change your mind on this. Like you, I’m just explaining how I read the text, but I do keep in mind the guarding scenario, as well as many other ideas concerning the Genesis creation stories.

          3. P.S. This is not an original insight with me, I read it in some commentary and it made sense to me. People claim that there was only one command in the garden, I think one can infer more.

            I do not think a story has to make everything explicit, in fact, to be memorable, often a good story author assumes the reader will infer things. In “The Most Dangerous Game” the story ends with the hunted informing the reader that he slept the soundest sleep of his life in the hunter’s bed (but never makes explicit that the hunter is dead)! Another example: with Joseph’s 2 dreams, the reader should be on the lookout for when they are totally (and not just partially) fulfilled, especially as Joseph takes a clue later in the story on what to do from the current state being only a partial fulfillment. Similarly, when the human is told to work and protect, the reader can be prepared to look for examples of these things, else why mention it at all? Perhaps it will not show up, but at least look for it. So I see the whole serpent episode as an example of the human’s failure to guard the garden.

  12. Thanks for the update in the footnotes. I have been studying Genesis 1-3 for a couple of years now and this will add more food for thought.

  13. Did the serpent have access to eating from the tree? I know the Bible doesn’t say. Was the serpent eating from the tree while speaking with eve. Had Adam and Eve seen other animals partaking of the tree?

    1. In the text, the serpent just talks.

      Here’s everything the Bible records about the serpent’s conversation in the garden.

      Now the serpent was the most clever/cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You (plural) can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

      “No! You (plural) will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you (plural) eat it your (plural) eyes will be opened and you (plural) will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

  14. I think that Adam was standing in shock to see a serpent (snake) talking. He was the one who gave names to all of the animals. This was probably why Adam didn’t speak up to correct Eve or come to her defense. It was just a test from God anyway, to see if they would be obedient to what God had told them not to do. They didn’t pass the test. God always had a plan B for us. He doesn’t want any of us to perish

  15. The whole problem stems from men not believing the testimony of a woman. Eve clearly repeats what God had said to her yet, Christian men do not believe her because they assume that God would not talk directly to a woman even though the text shows us twice that God spoke directly to her in the garden.

    Their sexist biases make Eve out to be a liar just for being female because these men read the text through a pre-existing sexist lens and project those biases onto the text.

    If anything, perhaps Adam was the liar that added a Jewish boundary clause to God’s word when passing down the info to Eve through the “chain of command.”

    It is also absurd to think that after God created the woman and BROUGHT her to the man, that God as her personal creator did not say a word to her nor introduced Himself to Eve while God and the woman were alone together.

    “Brought her” to the man, means that at some point God and the woman were alone together. I doubt they never talked during this time.

    Then again, most of the talking narratives in Gen 2 are a chiasmus, and in what real life scenario outside of literary myth and fiction do real people talk in chasms?

    1. Sadly, I have no doubt that Eve’s statement to the serpent has been doubted and disbelieved, sometimes quite readily, because she was a woman but also because the conversation led to her being deceived.

      I don’t recall examples of direct speech in chiasms, but there are plenty of examples of real people and indirect speech in chiasms.

  16. I am confused. Are you guys Christians or Evolutionist’s?

    1. I don’t understand the relevance of your question, eden. No one has mentioned evolution except you.

  17. Your work is exemplary. Thorough and well-researched. I’m learning so much! You are detailed and commendably patient in your responses to questions and comments. I just signed up for Twitter a few weeks ago and your website has been a delight. Thanking God for your scholarship and witness.

    1. Thanks, Cathy! 🙂

  18. Doesn’t this have implications for marriage roles today? If God gave Adam the responsibility of telling Eve about the tree, then God left Eve’s education in Adam’s hands, similar to making a parent responsible for telling a child not to cross the street alone, thus placing Eve in a subservient position, having to rely on Adam to teach her how to behave. However, if God spoke to Eve separately with the tree instructions, she must have had equal status with Adam. This puts Adam and Eve on the same level below God. That’s equality, and that’s how marriage was meant to be.

    Maybe the reason for plural verbs in the quote by Eve in Gen. 3 is that Adam was already formed when God spoke to her, so God used “ye” instead of “thou”, while the original statement to Adam occurred before Eve was formed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Adam was present when God spoke to her, although we know he was present when they both ate the apple.

    It does rankle me when interpreters claim that Eve “got it wrong.”

  19. […] Others, however, place more blame on Adam. Some suggest he failed to guard the garden (cf. Gen 2:15). Or failed to protect his wife from the serpent’s influence. Or failed to adequately teach her about the forbidden fruit (cf. Gen. 2:16–17). They see him as silent, passive, and weak. But none of these presumed failings have a firm basis in the biblical text. God does hint at any of these presumed failings. […]

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