Adam, say something!

As I was reading over through Gen. 3.1-8 it stood out to me all over again that the serpent continually addresses Eve in the masculine, plural. While it could be argued that the serpent is merely quoting God it could also be proposed that the serpent is addressing two people–Adam and Eve.

We know that the Apostle Paul didn’t see Eve’s error as originating sin amongst humans (cf. Rom. 5.12: Adam brought αμαρτια) but that he saw Eve as a transgressor based on ignorance (Gen. 3.13; 1 Tim. 2.14: Eve “transgressed: [παραβασει]). God created Adam first (Gen. 2.7, cf. 1 Tim. 2.13) and therefore he was the one to receive the commandment regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2.17).

Oddly enough Eve adds to the commandment given by God saying that they cannot eat nor touch the Tree (Gen. 3.3). It is as if Adam relayed God’s commandment wrongly. Adam added something or at least Eve seemed to think the prohibition was stronger than we see from God. It may be that Eve added the additional command on her own, but I have a hunch that the Apostle Paul didn’t read it that way. He understood her to be ignorant of the command and therefore a transgressor; Adam knew better and therefore he was a sinner.

One very interesting Midrash (Gen. Rabbah 19.3) says that the serpent pushed Eve into the tree and that when she did not die he asked why she thought she’d die if she ate from the tree.  Tamar Kadari shares it like this:

According to one tradition, Eve was led astray because she made a restrictive measure for herself that became more important than the actual prohibition. While God had only forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Gen. 2:17): “but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die,” Eve added an additional limitation, and told the serpent that God had also forbidden touching it (Gen. 3:3): “Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said: You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.” The serpent saw that Eve added things, and pushed her against the tree. He said to her [jestingly]: “Here, you have died!” He also told her: “Just as you did not die by touching it, so, too, you shall not die by eating of it” (Gen. Rabbah 19:3).

While it is impossible to know whether or not this tradition can provide insight into how to better interpret this story (not to mention the complex debates over whether Adam and Eve are symbolic or literal) it is nevertheless very interesting. It seems to bode well with Paul’s reading. It is not too imaginative an interpretation of the extra line stated by Eve that was not stated by God.

Where it gets really interesting is when v.6b comes around: Eve simply turns to Adam and hands him the food of the tree. She does not have to seek him. She does not have to call for him. She turns to him.

This would make good sense of the plural address from the serpent: Adam stood and watched the whole time. He knew the command of God directly. He heard Eve misrepresent God ignorantly. He let’s the serpent lead Eve into temptation without a recorded whisper. After all that he partakes and then he has the gall to blame Eve for deceiving him (3.12)!

Nahum M. Sarna says this in The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (p. 27):

The woman is not a temptress. She does not say a word but simply hands her husband the fruit, which he accepts and eats. The absence of any hint of resistance on his part is strange. It should be noted, however, that in speaking to the woman, the serpent consistently uses the plural form. This suggest that man was all the time within ear’s reach of the conversation and was equally seduced by its persuasiveness. In fact, the Hebrew text here literally means, “She also gave her husband with her (‘immah),” suggesting that he was a full participant in the sin, thereby refuting in advance his later excuse.

I think Paul took it even further than that he participated in the sin: he was the only one who actually did sin in any significant manner.