The question behind Genesis 2-3 would seem to be Why is life so hard? Why did God allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and our nation? The issue is not about who were the first people or the origin of sin. Sin does not appear in this story at all…
As part of our context we note that the place where they are, Mesopotamia, literally means the place in the middle of potable water, namely the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The agriculture watered by canals and carried out by slaves. They have not seen food produced like this before. And probably on the way there, saw tribes of nomads who reminded them of their own traditions of a gathering culture, which usually required about 5 hours of work a day with tasks equally divided between men and women.
Howard-Brook reminds us that for 99% of humanity’s two million years, we lived as gatherers. The move to surplus agriculture was a move from a woman’s tool, the hoe, to a man’s tool , the plow. It would make men’s place the field and women’s the tent. The heritage of surplus agriculture would be monarchies, clerical hierarchies, bureaucracy, trade networks and military units. Not so much a matter of complexity, but hierarchy in terms of social organization.
Genesis 3 is essentially a story of punishment for disobedience. It is informed by the Exodus story and is a critique of surplus agriculture. It’s not so much condemnation for listening to the serpent’s voice or the woman’s voice but of listening to any voice other than God’s.
This critique will appear again in the story of Jacob and Esau, Jacob the man of the tent, loved by his mother, and Esau the man of the field, loved by his father.
Adam in this story is human, not man. His name comes from adamah, humus, earth. He is essentially inspired earth, breathed into earth. Eve is havah, life. For their food, they will now have to eat bread, which is not natural, but manufactured.
Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve misstates the prohibition to the snake. It is only eating, not touching that is prohibited. Touching is superficial, eating is intimate. Like kissing vs. sexual intercourse. The Hebrew word yadah, knowing, as in knowing good and evil, means both knowledge and sexual intercourse.
The message seems to be that by exile is a punishment for turning away from God, not listening.
Howard-Brook also suggests that since the serpent is nourished by what accompanies agriculture, mice, etc., and helpful to it, the serpent may have devised this plot to get agriculture going.
We find that ides a bit of a stretch. And also there’s a lot else going on here. Our friend Steve Phelps suggests that agriculture was a response for how to feed the millions and millions. Though we note that gathering culture requires less people, women’s menstrual cycles are slowed and less children are born . The shift to agriculture requires the birth of more children and changes the role of women. Much harder in childbirth.
Steve points out, that as authors like Avivah Zornberg and Stephen Mitchell have pointed out, this story may also be a parable for the coming of humanity to consciousness. Not so much a fall as a graduation exercise. How each of us comes to consciousness and must take responsibility for our lives.
He also notes that the tree of life only gets prohibited after the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is eaten. Otherwise, they would be like gods…
For me, the original sin is the attempt to have the full knowledge of the mind of God or to believe that you have the full knowledge of the mind of God.
Time to head to the Gate for a post study recap and continuing the conversation.