Wednesday, July 20, 2016
From Temptation to Sin 1 (Genesis 3:1-5)
“Serpent” is the first key word in this verse. Nachash simply means snake or serpent. This serpent stands out, however, due to his role in the fall. The story itself highlights the serpent in describing something of its character, which is something the Biblical Hebrew text seldom does. Who is this serpent? Complete answers are not found in this passage. We are simply told that Yahweh God made him along with all the other “beasts of the land.” We are also told he was the shrewdest of all the beasts. For now it is best to let the text speak for itself and not seek out these answers that are unimportant for what this passage wants to teach.
The word shrewd (‘arum) is a key word in two ways. First, stylistically, it is a verbal play on the word in the previous verse, ‘erom. Thus the pair was nude, and the serpent was shrewd. At the same time it tells the reader that the words of this animal are going to carry extra weight and meaning. Watch out! The question of the serpent is crafty indeed. The uses of the word actually (`aph) in addition to the slight change of God’s statement are what make it so clever. The fact that the serpent begins with a partial truth is going to be continued throughout the story. It awakens doubts and temptations without directly leading the woman astray. The fact that the serpent uses `elohim, instead of Yahweh God as is the habit of the rest of the chapter is also telling in its distancing from God.
The key word of verses two and three is the verb “touch” (naga’). The woman has added something to the command of God. She gets the rest of the command correct and leaves nothing out. Why add this part? Did she add this condition, or did her husband teach her this perversion of God’s command? After all, she was not made when the command was given. Is this the beginning of legalism? It does show how humanity, in an attempt to protect itself from temptation sets up barriers for themselves, and thus misses out on part of God’s plan. The danger is when these self-imposed barriers are broken. Since no sin is committed, no consequences result. But since the legalism taught something as sin that wasn’t, then actual sinning becomes easier.
The phrase translated “surely die” is unusual language. It is really a combination of the infinite absolute, death (moth) with the imperfect verb, literally, “You will die death.” Here the serpent uses the same words used by God in Genesis 2:17, but negates them. Once again in the statements of the serpent we find half-truths. Indeed, when they sin, humanity does not immediately die. Their eyes are opened, and God even says in verse twenty-two that man becomes like Him, just as the serpent said. So at first it seems as though God is the liar. This shows the serpent’s shrewdness. He has taken the human tendency to misunderstand and assume, as well as the overprotective nature of legalism, to get them to question and doubt the word of the Creator. He has sown the seeds for rebellion.