Life and Knowledge-Good and Bad

To me, one of the most confusing stories in Tanach has always been the story of Adam and Chava in Gan-Eden.

Some immediate questions that come to mind:

1. What is the distinction between the etz hadaat and the etz hachaim? Alternatively, what’s so bad about knowledge?

2. They got thrown out of the garden, and punished with the hardships of life, simply because they ate from the wrong tree. I understand that there was a lack of obeying God here, but come on…it’s a little harsh.

3. What’s the connection between putting Adam in the garden, and realizing that “it’s not good for man to be alone?” What about the garden made God realize that? The two stories are clearly related, as they are written intertwined with one another.

4. Why do we have to know that they were naked, and the shame (or lack thereof) that came along with it? Is that the “knowledge”? What’s so important about that? (see question 1)

5. What’s the role of the etz hachaim? Look at verse 9 and verses 16-17 (I posted them below). Is it a comparison of good vs. bad? How come etz hachaim is not mentioned in v. 16?

There are many more questions that come to mind, but they are not pertinent to this post, so I left them out.

I think that there’s an important element that’s often skipped over.

ט וַיַּצְמַח יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן-הָאֲדָמָה כָּל-עֵץ נֶחְמָד לְמַרְאֶה וְטוֹב לְמַאֲכָל וְעֵץ הַחַיִּים בְּתוֹךְ הַגָּן וְעֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע

and a few verses later:

טז וַיְצַו יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הָאָדָם לֵאמֹר: מִכֹּל עֵץ-הַגָּן, אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל.יז וּמֵעֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע–לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ: כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ–מוֹת תָּמוּת. יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

The creation of Chava comes directly after the commandment of which tree to eat from. Then later, in chapter 3, the element of nakedness comes into play. Clearly, this story has a lot of sexual elements in it. It’s a fairly accepted principle that the first creation story (in chapter 1) is the creation of nature. It includes plants, animals, constellations, and people. The second creation story (what we are looking at, in chapter 2) re-tells the creation of man, but the focal point is the etiology of marriage. The climax is the creation of woman, and the advise for a man to leave his parents and cleave to his wife.

So what does the beginning of the chapter have to do with marriage? Why need to know all the information about the trees and the garden?

I think the key word here is daat-knowledge. That’s what the whole Gan-Eden story is focused on. That’s the tree that Adam can’t eat from.

It’s a well known fact that “knowledge” has two definitions in Tanakh. The first is simply having an internal awareness of facts. The second, a more sexual meaning. To biblically know someone is to have sexual relations with them, as in chapter 4:

א וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן

Perhaps thats what the etz hadaat is referring to. The etz hadaat and the etz hachaim are metaphors for types of sexual relations: procreation vs. an intimate knowledge of one another. And verse 9 tells the preferred type: He created a tree of life and a tree of knowledge, good and bad. The “tree of life” is good, and the “tree of knowledge” is bad. Alternatively, the good and bad can be applied both to the tree of knowledge. The “tree of knowledge” or, sex for enjoyment, is both good and bad. If the SOLE purpose of the sex is for the physical enjoyment, that’s “bad”. If, however, it’s combined with marriage/procreation, the physical enjoyment is “good”.

Verses 16 and 17 are still troublesome. Perhaps it’s another rule of sex. “From every tree of the garden (types of women?) you can eat, but make sure it’s not only for the enjoyment of the act.”

So, according to this read, the chapter goes something like this:
-God creates Man
-God creates sex
-God gives Man rules of sex: Don’t do it simply for the enjoment of sex.
-God creates Woman.
-God gives man and woman Marriage.
-The desire is too much for Woman to overcome, so she convinces Man to have sex with her, for the enjoyment of it.
-Man and Woman realize they are naked, and are embarrassed.
-Woman is punished by having childbirth be difficult.

It makes a lot of sense, and things connect better than in the “simple” read of the pesukim, although there seem to be a few flaws in the idea. First, what about the worry of God that “now man will be like one of us?” (3:5, 3:22). Where does that fit in? Also, the punishments of the snake and of Adam don’t seem to have anything to do with sex or marriage.

I’m not sure that I like this read of the chapters, and it DEFINATELY wouldn’t fly in (most) feminist circles, but its something different. It requires a lot more thought, but I just wanted to put the idea out there.

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