Adam & Eve: The Version You Won’t Find in a Kid’s Bible

I’m going to be induced in three days. I’m not going to lie; my heart sank a little bit when I found out that I wouldn’t give birth naturally. We currently live in a time where “natural birth plans” are praised. We wait for our bodies to be ready, wait for the baby to take her time – and there is nothing wrong with that. There is also nothing wrong with emergency C-section, or inducing for the health of the mother and child.  These medical short-cuts not natural – but I also must point out – neither is spontaneous labor.

Yes, I did write that. Labor is not natural. Pregnancy is not natural. Squeezing a tiny human out of another human is not natural.

It’s necessary, but it’s not natural. Genesis 2 and 3 have convinced me of this.

It seems that everyone knows the story of Adam & Eve. It’s the first story we read in our Bibles, even children’s Bibles. It’s common even in today’s Biblically illiterate world. But this story is hard. It’s difficult. And I assure you, it is not a children’s story. It’s apocalyptic in nature, it’s full of imagery, and loaded statements. And somehow, we have turned this heavy material into a black-and-white story about an idiotic woman who eats a piece of fruit!

So give me a chance. Give me a chance to tell the story the way I see it culturally, linguistically, and most important, theologically. And let me tell you – it impacts the way I am going into the birthing process!

See, Genesis 2:5 opens up saying that  before there was the world we see – before there were plants, and seasons, and an order to the world (basically, before there was the story of Genesis chapter 1), there was a chaotic mist of waters that covered the land. And these waters were hostile; they weren’t ordered by seasons and vegetation. They were nothing but a foggy mist springing up from unknown salty depths. This mist was not of God.

God is Life. But this ancient mist was chaos and death.

So, in this time of deathly mist, God fashioned out of the dead ground, Man. And that man was nothing but the dusty, acrid, ground until God breathed into his nostrils.

And that is when Life as Creation began.

And this is where in 2:8 God plants a garden. As God plants His garden he places the man – the man who was once in a misty chaotic world – into the garden.

This is where in verse 9, God creates a Tree. But not just any tree: a perfect tree; a complete tree; an entire tree that is in the very center of the garden (I do not think our English translations should be translated as “God sprouted up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food”). Instead, it should be “God sprouted up a whole/complete/perfect/entire tree”. And from this tree there flowed a river out of the garden and into all the world – the misty, desolate, chaotic world. And wherever the river flowed, order was brought to the chaotic, deadly, desolate, mist that existed before God’s creation.

But the text also mentions another tree. A tree of Knowledge – the knowledge to know what is good and what is evil. But, a weird thing that we miss in our translation is that the location of this tree is never specified. We know that the Tree of Life itself is in the  the very center of the garden. But this other tree is simply there – tagged on like an afterthought in the text. From where does it come? We will get to that later.

But for now, we know that God puts man in the garden to work the ground and keep it. For the man was always one with the creation – because man himself is creation. There is harmony in working the ground – the ground that is being fed by the Tree of Life in the center of the garden. The man also eats from the Tree of Life and from it’s river. For all Life comes from this whole/complete/entire tree in the middle of the garden.

And this is where we first hear the command that God gives man. God says, “From the entire tree in the garden you may eat aplenty, but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – you should not eat from it. For when you eat apart from us you will truly die”.

It seems we finally have our first clue as to where this Tree of Knowledge comes from – it literally comes from somewhere that is apart from God. It’s not connected to the Creator, not connected to the land that the man works. It’s not connected to the Tree of Life, or to the river that flows out from it. No – it comes from something else – something that is apart from Life itself. But again, we will have to see where the story goes to find out it’s location.

So after this command is given God tells the man in verse 18, “It is not good for the man to belong to himself alone, I shall make help for him, one to face him.” And this is how God goes about making the birds and beasts of the field. And as he does, each creature is brought before the man to see if the man would call anything out for himself. And as the man called out, each animal’s very essence was named – and yet there was no help for the man. He was a part of creation, yet he was alone.

And this is when God puts the man into a sleep, and as the man slept, God built a woman out of the man’s own flesh. She did not come from the dead dust of the earth has the man did – for that would make her separate from the man. No, she was fashioned out of the man’s very nature.

They are together. They are emeshed. They are united. They are truly one. And so she is called “from man” (notice her name is not yet Eve). Together, they are Man (AKA: complete humanity).

It’s it a beautiful story? Isn’t is peachy keen? Genesis 2 is so rich! So full of philosophical material! But alas, the story is not over. No, the stage is simply set.

See, there is a serpent in this story – and as any original audience member would know – when a serpent speaks, you listen. Serpents, tricky and clever, are the most wise of all the animals. So when one speaks to you, you might want to be weary, but you should definitely listen to their words – for there is always some sort of worldly wisdom they are wanting to impart.

So the serpent, the wise, wily serpent (who is not wrong in his assessment) asks the woman if God really commanded them not to eat from the perfect tree of the garden?

And the woman clarifies saying that they can eat from the perfect tree, but it is from the other tree which is now in the midst of the garden that they can’t eat – and the command gets more specific than it was the first time we heard it. It still includes, “don’t eat apart from us”, but now it also includes “don’t even touch it, lest you both shall die”!

And the serpent denies God’s statement by saying, “you won’t die, you will simply be like God” instead of being with God in His creation. In other words, if you eat of this other tree, then there will be two sources in this garden instead of one. Instead of one whole/entire/complete tree watering the whole world in the unity of Life, there will be two trees. Two ways.  And as the serpent seems to suggest, two different ways of understanding what life is.

Furthermore, it seems as if this conversation between the serpent and the woman is causing this Tree of Knowledge to move into the center of the garden. This garden where there is one Tree in the center is starting to get a little crowded.  Now this other tree; a tree that comes from a place that is apart from God is encroaching closer and closer to the center of the garden.

And I say this because in the next verse (3:6), this other tree starts to take on the attributes of the tree of Life! Just like God’s perfect Tree of Life was “pleasing to the eye” and “good for food” so too does the woman see that this other tree is also “good for food” and “desired in her eye” (something that was never stated about this tree before).

And she took the fruit. (She was not supposed to touch it!)

But nothing happens . . .

And she ate it. (Oh No!)

Again, nothing . . .

And she gave it to her husband. BAM!

Just like that – there eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked! Because the command was that Man (AKA: complete humanity – man and woman together) should not eat from this Tree of Knowledge. Now, Man (complete humanity) is no longer together, emeshed, united, one. No: Man (complete humanity) is now separate, other, different, two. And this is why they are naked and ashamed. They are ashamed of the fracture they caused – one that fundamentally did not exist before – and all of Creation can feel it. And so they sewed together fig leaves to hide the fact that they are no longer one.

And this is where the story gets even weirder! God is walking in the garden and he can’t find the man and the woman! How is it that in this perfect garden where all life comes from one source, how is it that the Creator can’t find his creation?

Because they ate from a tree that is apart from him – they chose to be a part of a very different sort of creation – a creation of their own making.

They ate from a tree that was never meant to be in the garden. Could it be that this particular tree of Knowledge was brought in from outside the garden? If so, who would be able to do that? Not the animals, for they came into existence within the garden. Not the vegetation, for they came into existence within the garden. No, the only thing that was brought into the garden from outside it was Man. He was fashioned out of the dust of the earth before there even was a garden.  Man was created in the desolate, misty, chaotic land before there was anything else and then he was placed in the perfect garden with the perfect tree.

And when they ate from the tree apart from God, the world flew apart – apart from God. First the serpent lessened. The serpent would no longer hold wisdom above the other “normal” animals. Now the serpent would be like any other animal and would live in tension with humanity for the rest of time.

The man, who had always worked and been a part of the land through the Tree of Life would now toil and sweat and live in tension with creation itself.  Land and Man no longer shared in the Tree of Life. They too are fractured, apart, separate.

And the woman, the woman who was once together, emeshed, united, one, with the man would develop a fundamentally different name. Now we are introduced to Eve for the first time. Since life is no longer sourced in the Tree of Life, it would have to be sourced somewhere else – within herself.

For God commands, “I will cause you much conception in great pain. In that pain you shall beget generations.” Isn’t it interesting that Eve (literally “life comes forth”) is not named until after this fracture from the Tree of Life. God had to cut off the garden that He created from Creation itself. For if that garden remained, there would always be two ways. But by cutting it off, he offers everyone – all of Creation a way back in.

We made the fracture. We made the world a little bit more chaotic, desolate, and misty.

We ate from a tree that we brought with us. And we entertained that tree slowly overtime. And overtime that tree creeped closer and closer to the center of God’s perfect Life.

This is the complicated story of how Man (complete humanity) became Adam and Eve. It’s not child friendly. It’s not easy to wrap your head around.

* *

So, three days from now, when I’m induced, I will be reminded that being hooked up to an IV and being pumped with hormones is not natural. But neither is waiting for my water to break, or my contractions to start. Because Life was never supposed to come forth from me. It was, is, and always will be sourced in a Tree of Life.

I may birth a daughter – but she is not mine – she is God’s. The only reason I am the one to birth her is because I put a tree that is apart from God within the center of God’s garden. I decided that is was pleasing to the eye and good for food.

And I ate.

But the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is not natural.

This unnatural event of birth is both beautiful and painful because it is necessary.

I birth life so one day, my daughter – no, God’s daughter, will receive a begetting of life.

It’s not natural.

But it’s necessary.

 

 

A Little White Lie: A Defense of Rebekah’s Deception

Why did Rebekah Deceive Her Husband? (Gen 27)

This week we are going to switch gears and focus on Rebekah. Of all the stories about the “horrible women of Genesis” this one is on the top of the cake in bright red frosting. Rebekah does a horrible sin – she orchestrates the ultimate lie between father and son – and gets away with it! It is this story that leaves a horrible taste in everyone’s mouth. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing from his sickly father. What underhanded horribleness!

Or is it?

The story goes as follows: Esau and Jacob are twins, children of Isaac and Rebekah, although Esau is the first-born of the two. So when Isaac is old and near death he tells Esau to go out into the wilderness to hunt game and prepare a feast for him. At this feast, Isaac will bless Esau. (Blessing are a big deal in the ancient world – they have the power to make or break a people).

Rebekah hears Isaac making this plan with Esau (it wouldn’t be a secret to overhear – everyone would have heard), so while Esau is gone hunting for the feast, Rebekah tells Jacob to kill two goats from their flock as she is prepares them for the meal while Jacob disguises himself as his brother Esau and goes in Esau’s place. Since Isaac is blind, Isaac will give the blessing to the wrong son. All this comes to pass. Lo and behold! after the blessing is given, Esau shows up but it’s too late. Jacob has been blessed instead.

This is normally where people talk about how horrible Rebekah was – how she was a horrible wife who lied to her husband. But this is highly unfair to both the culture of the time, and to the biblical text itself. So let’s jump in! Before we even get to the text, let’s look at the culture of the ancient world.

Continue reading A Little White Lie: A Defense of Rebekah’s Deception

De-Bunking the Biblical Patriarchy & The Hidden Matriarchy

The following post is something I have held to my heart for a couple years now. It’s compromised of archaeology classes, Akkadian classes,  ANE classes, ancient warfare research, scribalism research, and women’s issues in the ancient world. I wish I could tell you that you could read this in a textbook. I wish I could tell you that someone has written a book on this topic. I hope that one day, I could be that person who shatters some of the lies we’ve been told in our Old Testament classes.

Everything I will *briefly* touch in this post is there in the biblical text. And once you see it, you see it everywhere. I see it in the opening of the bible when a man “leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife”. I see it when David passes his reign to Solomon. And I see when Mary tells Jesus to turn the water into wine. As I write this, I want to tell Christian girls, those who have struggled just like me, that you don’t have to question the faith just becasue you only see man, after man, after man, serving the Lord in the Bible.

The biblical patriarchy is obvious – you can’t miss it, it’s littered all over the pages of the Bible.  But it might surprise you to know that it was the women: the matriarchs, who put it there. They didn’t put a pen to paper- they did something much more influential: they created a culture that relied on remembrance to define them.  And the product of that remembrance is the Bible that sits on our shelves.

This week in Genesis we are going to cover a topic that has been touched in the last three weeks: the matriarchy. And we are going to do it by really stepping into culture in a whole new way. And when we do, we will be able to answer this question:

Why did Lot’s daughters sleep with their own father?    (GEn. 19:30-38)

Continue reading De-Bunking the Biblical Patriarchy & The Hidden Matriarchy

Sarai Punishes Hagar: Where History and Bible Collide

I’ve been doing a weekly series on the Matriarchs of Genesis, and breaking down history in order to defend the choices that these women make. This blog is building off the previous blog post, so if your wondering what a “shifhah” is, read the previous post: http://whollyofholies.com/2018/06/why-hagar-slept-with-abram-a-perfectly-normal-act/

Why did Sarai “deal harshly” with Hagar?    (GEN. 16:4-6)

Before we jump in this week, I want would like to say that this passage is not straight forward. There are 4,000 years (if not more) separating this story from our present day.

If you were to read these three verses in the original Hebrew, you would find that there are words being used that have never been used before and there are weird grammar slips that don’t quite make sense. So I’m not going to sit here and try to chase down some scholars’ belief about the vocabulary and the grammar (you would be bored to tears).

Instead, I want to take a step back and simply look at what is taking place on a larger scale – as if this this scene were in front of us on a stage. Instead of looking at the little details, I will look at the major movements in these three verses.

Continue reading Sarai Punishes Hagar: Where History and Bible Collide

Why Hagar Slept with Abram: A Perfectly Normal Act

I’ve been giving voice to the women of Genesis by looking at the choices they make and bring those choices to life. So what is this week’s question?

Why did Sarai send Hagar to sleep with her husband? (Gensis 16:1-3).

Please note this is my personal opinion of what is going on in the text. Therefore, there is room for disagreement. That being said, I have heavily researched this topic and find that the following interpretation covers all the questions posed in the text. So if you have questions, feel free to ask them.

So what’s going on the first three verses of chapter 16?

Well, in the previous chapter (15), Abram tells God that he has no child (AKA: no inheritor). He then asks God if Eleizer, a member of his household should inherit. God answers not only saying no, but God informs Abram he his own son will inherit. It is then that God makes a covenant with Abram and his offspring.

And this is where chapter 16 opens. Sarai essentially tells Abram that if he is indeed to have a child to inherit – it can’t come through her because she has been childless for 10 years. So Sarai tells Abram to produce a child through her servant Hagar – and it is through Hagar that she, Sarai, will build up her own household.

Sarai’s own household? Catch your attention at all? I thought the focus was on Abram’s household.

Continue reading Why Hagar Slept with Abram: A Perfectly Normal Act

The Women of Genesis: Sarai in Egypt

In the past two years I have become passionate about the women of the Bible – and uncovering a part of the culture that isn’t documented in the scriptures. This passion has grown even more in the last few months due to extensive research into the lives of the matriarchs. So I think I’m going to speak out – or write out – for the matriarchs of our faith: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.

For too long people looked at the decisions these women made in the book of Genesis with contempt. These women – these mothers of our faith – have been put under the harshest scrutiny. We look at them as women who made horrible choices against the “perfect” model of their patriarchal husbands. But if we do that, we are completely missing out on half of their culture.

So in the coming weeks I want to unravel some of the decisions they make – one story at a time. Why did Sarah send Hagar to sleep with Abraham only to kick her out of camp later? Why did Rebecca deceive her husband? Why is Rachel holding unto idols in secret? These are some of the questions I will dive into.

There are also other questions from the women of Genesis such as: why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit? Why did Lot’s daughters have sex with their own father? If you want to understand the women of Genesis in a new way, follow my blog in the coming weeks as we go through the book of Genesis. Every time a woman makes a decision, we will stop and digest what we are reading and what hidden things are in the text that we don’t notice at first glance.

Continue reading The Women of Genesis: Sarai in Egypt