What was so enticing about the temptation that led to the “original” sin? Surely there is nothing that attractive about apples, or pomegranates, or whatever the center tree in Eden bore. Delectable taste does not compel such high-risk behavior. Nor does food–however beautifully presented. Nor does the prospect of nutritional benefits whether in mind or body. No, the key to this compulsion, the trigger to this temptation, is found in the name of the tree itself: it is the tree of “knowledge” of “good and evil.” “Knowledge” here is Hebrew idiom and refers to knowing based on personal experience. In the longer phrase here, it is experience in making independent moral decisions, which is the Hebrew usage of the expression “good and evil.”
Adam and Eve are not self-existing. They are created beings, wholly dependent on God for existence and for everything else that is good. Because he made them, God knows what is good and what is not. The only open question is whether the dirt-critters will take God’s word on that subject (and by doing so, accept his role as Creator), and accept their own reality as totally dependent creatures. Will they let God be God or will they insist on deciding for themselves what is”good”? We know how that went. And, whatever can be said about the effect of Adam’s sin on us, we all went right in step behind them at that crossroad when our own turn came.
Satan started with a simple question: “Did God say . . .?” Then came the serpentine spin: “God is actually jealous of his position,” the devil explained, “and he is threatened by your likeness to him. If you eat the fruit, you will become all-knowing and will not need him to tell you what is right and wrong.” Eve bought the tale, Adam knew better but went along, and the rest is history. The last verse of chapter 2 says that the man and woman were naked but unashamed. “Naked” is literally “slick.” The first verse of chapter 3 says the serpent was more subtle than any other beast. “Subtle” is also literally “slick.” Three slick characters. Too slick for their own good, as it turns out.
In Romans 16:17-20, Paul urges believers to avoid the same error made by Adam and Eve. Paul’s language is packed with figures from the Garden of Eden. Beware evil teachers, he says, who serve their own “appetites.” By “smooth talk and flattery” they “deceive” the minds of naive people. Your past “obedience” is well-known and a cause for joy. Continue to be content with “wisdom” about what is good. Remain “innocent” about what is evil. Soon the God of peace will “crush Satan under your feet.”
By Edward Fudge, visit his website for many, many written resources.