On verse 2 of the "Rowing with Michael" Series
Eve and Adam made some clothes. Alleluia.
God walked by and said, “What are those?” Alleluia.
“Now you have to work until you die.” Alleluia.
“Pretty big price for some apple pie.” Alleluia.
How did God know that Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit?
Once I would have answered, “No problem. God knows everything.”
But this biblical storyteller gives us a God who has to figure things out. He
observes the people’s embarrassment at their nakedness and concludes, the way
anybody might have, they must have committed the first sin. It’s an
unsophisticated concept of God. This very human God also goes for walks in a
garden in the cool of the evening to see his friends.
The story was composed very early. God’s people had not yet
developed the concept of the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the psalms and
the creation-in-seven-days story. Still it’s a much needed gift even to this
presumably sophisticated age. It’s a story about evil, but it doesn’t pretend
to explain evil as most ancient myths that I am aware of (and modern people way
too often) do. It doesn’t imagine reasons and excuses to make evil sound not so
In an African myth, God gives the people a command, which they
then disobey and bring evil on themselves. In this story, the command is “Don’t
build a fire.” Well, it got cold at night, so they needed a fire to keep warm.
The evil that followed was that the animals became afraid and no longer lived
peacefully with the people. I can just imagine the people saying, “If God
didn’t want us to build fires, he shouldn’t have made the nights so cold.”
A Greek myth about the origin of evil also puts the blame
somewhere else than on people. Pandora opened the box from which came all the
world’s evils, but only because a god gave her the “gift” of curiosity.
Getting back to the Bible, some Christians mistakenly make the
Adam and Eve story into an explanation of evil. They say the snake is a sexual
symbol and the first sin was picking the unripe “fruit.” That completely
changes the meaning of the story by making that presumed first "sin"
all too easy to understand and blame on someone else. Didn’t God give us sexual
If you just hear what the story says, you can avoid that
misinterpretation; but then you have another issue. You’re tempted to think,
“How stupid Adam and Eve were. I would have done better.” But then we should
turn and sympathize with our first parents. They merely did what every one of
us has done many times—pretend that something we absolutely know isn’t so or
doesn’t really matter. This story is an entirely realistic look at sin.
The Bible story contains one more gift that also doesn’t appear
in most myths. That is hope. First the story tells it like it is. God says to
the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your
seed an her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
That’s not the hope that I'm thinking of. It's not a prediction of the Messiah,
just a picture of our lasting struggle against the evil inside and outside of
us. God enlarges the picture with details of the pain and trials the man and
woman will go through. The hopeful part comes at the very end, where we see how
compassionate God is toward the ones who just disobeyed him and covered
themselves up in fig leaves:
God said, “You can’t go dressed in those. Alleluia.
You’re gonna need a better set of clothes.” Alleluia.
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of
skins and clothed them.”
On to Cain and Abel