“Did God really say that you would die?”
That was the first question that the snake asked Eve. Unlike God, he didn’t go in there shouting prescriptions and statements like “Let there be light” and “Don’t eat from that tree, or you’re gonna die”. He wasn’t busy doing or making things for his own glory. Instead, the snake begins with a question. Asking questions has long been known to be of great facility in the area of encouraging others to think; prescriptions have been proven to make people obey. In many ways, I would argue that the fundamental nugget of the snake’s question is “How much do you trust God?”
Let’s talk about what the snake knew about God. Most Christians accept the interpretation that Satan and the snake are one and the same, so we’ll go with that. If we were reading the Bible in order of chronology, we’d have to start with the war in heaven, which happened way before we came into the picture. What did Satan learn about God from that?
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. (Isa 14:14)
Well, considering that right after this Lucifer is cast down from heaven to earth with a God-sized cosmic bootprint in his ass, I’d say lesson number one equals, in the words of The Wire, “The King stay the King.” But on a serious note, God seriously went medieval on Lucifer for no apparent reason. His crime was that he wished to be like God, and God couldn’t have that. He’s sounding more and more like a drug kingpin by the minute.
Flash forward to the snake, and what do we learn? We learn that God’s motives for the commandment not to eat from the tree are exactly the same as before. Whereas some apologists attempt to shoehorn a benevolent design in there (i.e. God knows all the things that are good and bad for his children, but he allowed the tree to be there for their free will to be unaffected), God’s words later in the chapter contradict that. The snake tells Eve:
For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:5)
So not only is God concealing information from Adam and Eve, but the reason is that he would not like to share his power. Whereas from the first story, we don’t know if Lucifer is just having delusions of grandeur in wanting to be like God, he says here that not only is it possible to be like God, but that God knows that. Not only that, but he is deliberately concealing information from Adam and Eve that would allow such a transition. In Gen 3:22, it says,
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. (Gen 3:22)
So you’re telling me that they have become like God in their knowledge, and because of this, he hastily barricades from their reach the one other thing that could make them like him? He sure sounds like a dictator trying to hold on to an empire raging against him, stamping out the fires of insurrection with brute force. And by the way, the snake was totally right, as this verse from God shows clearly that there was no initial provision for man to live forever, given that they had to eat from the tree of life to make it happen. An argument that I often hear from apologists is that God’s proclamation of death may not have taken effect immediately, but given the fact that we die, it is correct. But why would God tell them that they would die if they were going to die already?
I think you already know the answer. To me, the most egregious offense committed by God in this story is the manipulation and coercion that he used to effectively block the progress of knowledge. He was willing to lie to Adam and Eve, by omission or by action, to program them into certain modes of behavior that would please him. This is a tactic we’ve seen over and over from the world’s dictators and evil rulers and slaveholders alike. The only difference is that we tolerate, indeed, we praise it in this one. The snake, truly the liberator of the story, deserves to have his question heard once more: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?”
Do you trust God?
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