Wide Angle: Presenting God as a “Cosmic Spoilsport”

As Genesis three opens, we find man, male and female, living in perfect harmony with one another, with creation, and with God. But remember that man, sub-creator and ruler – the image of God – has been endowed with the ability to choose his own path. And in today’s text, the path forks, and man must choose which way he will take.

Consider verse 1: “Now the serpent was more crafty [the Hebrew word does not connote malice like the English word, though there is malice aplenty in this story] than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””

We are not told where this serpent came from, why it could talk, or why it was tempting the woman to do what God commanded her not to do. The text doesn’t even take up those questions. But later in the Bible, we find that “serpent” is another name for the satan, a spiritual being, who previously chose to reject God’s way.

I have always assumed, when I read this passage, that the entire temptation took place in a day, even in a few moments. But the text does not really say this, and I suspect that it is not so. Perhaps this temptation continued at intervals for days, or weeks, or even months.

The serpent began by asking a question—not that he cared how the woman answered the question. It was not an answer he was after. He only asked the question to prepare the ground of her mind for the seed of doubt he intended to plant. By prefacing his question with the words, “Did God really say,” he introduced uncertainty into the situation and into her mind.

Notice also the little word any. God, of course, did tell Adam and Eve not to eat from one special tree, the one known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But by inserting the word any, the tempter slyly implies that God is, as Vaughan Roberts put it, “a cosmic spoilsport.”[1]

The woman, coming to God’s defense, hardly noticed the effect those words were having on her thinking. She said (verse 2), “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden [to this point, the woman was exactly right, but notice what she says next], and you must not touch it, or you will [or, lest you] die.’”

I think the insinuation that God was a spoilsport had already begun working on the woman’s thinking: something caused her to add the words, “You must not touch it.” That was not something God had said. She was distorting his words. She also changed something else. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of this tree, on that day they would surely die. But when the woman repeated that, she says merely “you will die” or, as other translations have, “lest you die.” The reality of God’s word had given away to uncertainty.

By misstating what God said, the woman made herself vulnerable to what the tempter was about to say. At first, he only dared to question God’s word, but after his initial success he was able to flatly contradict it (verse 4): “You will not surely die.”

At this point the soil had been plowed, and it was time to plant the seed. The tempter bluntly called God’s character into question (verse five): “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

At this point the soil had been plowed, and it was time to plant the seed.  The tempter bluntly called God’s character into question (verse five): “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Look at that verse again. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened [this part was true], and you will be like God [this part was not], knowing good and evil.” That last part was true and false. Yes, they would know evil: They would know it as their children have known it ever since: in fear, hiding, blaming, lying, hating, longing, and despair. But they would not know evil and good as God does. Their choice to disobey made that impossible.


[1] Vaughn Roberts, God’s Big Picture, Downers Grove: IVP, 202.  p. 38

About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
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