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So last time we talked about this word over here – cunning, and the idea of cunning having something to do with nakedness in Hebrew, same word, the word arum. But today we want to talk about a different aspect of this phrase, and that is if you start by telling me that…my very first introduction to the snake is that he was a serpent – “the serpent was more cunning, more tricky than any of the wild beast that God has made. The serpent asked the woman….?” What’s strange about that is just that, you are tricky, you are cunning in service of something, in service of some sort of goal, right? In other words, if I am tricky, there is some sort of goal which I am trying to attain through subtlety.
The problem is that what that goal is, is not specified. What exactly was the serpent trying to do? If I am cunning, I must be trying to achieve certain aims through staph. What are those aims? It’s just not clear. What’s in it for the snake? Like what is he trying to do? What’s in it for the snake? And again if you consider the snake a Devil on a bright red suit, you can just say, ‘well, the snake is the architect of evil and he is not out for anything.’ But if you just take the snake as a snake; again won’t he try to achieve anything, like what’s in it for the snake? What’s exactly is the snake trying to do? How come the Torah is silent about motivation? You can’t begin by telling me someone is cunning if you don’t tell me what their cunning is about, what they are trying to achieve.
How should we relate to the snake’s “missing” motivation?
So here is what I want to suggest. If this is the Torah’s introduction to the snake and we are told that the serpent is more cunning than any of the wild beast of the field, maybe the reason why the Torah doesn’t tell us what his motivation is is because it’s obvious. It’s obvious from context. So you’ll tell me, what do you mean with context? This is the first verse in the chapter. Ah, that’s true, but there is another chapter, right? There is chapter two. Let’s look at chapter two. The story, actually, is not the beginning, there is a pre-story before this and maybe if we look at the pre-story before we hear about the snake, maybe there is something there that if we are just reading the text starting from chapter one to two to three, maybe we will just be obvious to as what the snake’s motivation is, OK? So, let’s go back to chapter two.
So here I put up in the screen a good part of chapter two, all the stuff is chapter two before you get into chapter three over here. And the first question I asked about chapter two is – where would you say the story of the tree of knowledge actually begins, right? Where does it actually begin? Well, most people kind of read the story, it’s that, you sort of look at the tree of knowledge, the story is beginning around here; you know, “the serpent was cunning than all the beast of field…” And it begins with the temptation of the serpent. The serpent says, eat from the tree, and they eat from the tree and they get banished.
But really, if you think about it, the story begins a lot before that, because all the way up over here we already hear about this tree and this really is the beginning of the story of the tree of knowledge, right? Back here in 2:9 “God made grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to look at and good to eat [including] the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.” And then just a few verses later when God takes the man and places him in the Garden of Eden to work and to watch it, He says, “You may definitely eat from very tree of the garden. But from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, do not eat, for on the day you eat from it, you will die.” So, there clearly is this whole section up over here in the beginning of chapter two, which really is the first part of the tree of knowledge story.
Now, what’s interesting about that? Does that mean that there is a whole section in here which we are just going to put it in green, which kind of interrupts between these stories? There is sort of the beginning of the Tree of Knowledge story which we call the Tree of Knowledge one, and there is the end of the Tree of Knowledge three, Tree of Knowledge two. And the beginning is the command not to eat from the fruit; and then the end over here, number two is what mankind actually does, right? What they do. And then, there is this stuff here at the middle and the question is – what’s that middle stuff doing there? It seems to kind of be a digression. So let’s look at that middle section; let me clear up some of those incoming slides and then we can just focus on them.
So this apparent digression starts over here in verse 2:18 or so. And basically, what God says is, “It’s not God for a man to be alone, I will make a compatible helper for him.” In this point, remember, Eve had not yet been created; there was just mankind, there was just Adam. And God had said it is not good for Adam to be alone; I am going to make somebody to be with him, right? Somebody who is going to be a companion for him! OK, so now if we just stop right there, stop the tape; so we are going to now play one of my favourite sesame street game, which is ‘what happens next?’
“Hello there. Kermit the frog here and today I’m going to demonstrate my new invention, the ‘what happens next’ machine. Note this rope. You see this rope right here? This rope goes up into the air, and across there, and down to that sandbag. See the sandbag? OK! Now, first of all, I am going to cut this rope. Now when I cut the rope, what happens next is that the sandbag is going to fall down and land on this end of the seesaw. See that? OK. What happens next is that this end of seesaw goes down which means that his end of the seesaw over here goes up. OK? Now, when this end of the seesaw goes up, it’s going to pull this rope, which is tied to the lid of this box. Do you see that? So, what happens next is that the box is going to open and this balloon, which is inside the box, is going to go up into the air. And you will note that the balloon is tied to the switch of the radio. So, when the balloon goes up into the air, it’s going to turn on the radio.”
So, basically, Kermit is got this really fancy Rube Goldberg style or contraption, which he’s got this radio that he is trying to turn on over here, the orange thing. And if you cut the cord a little release the sandbag, and the sandbag is going to release this balloon. And then Kermit actually tries it out.
“And now, for the first time anywhere, the Kermit ‘what happens next’ machine. First of all, I’m going to cut the rope which is going to drop the sandbag. And here we go – I cut the rope. And what happens next is…the sandbag is…maybe eh, um…I guess it’s…I guess it’s some sort of entangled or something up there or eh, um…what happens next when you got entangle….”
Real life often defied our expectations…
So what Kermit discovers is that things don’t always happen the way you think they are going to happen next. And the same thing is true as difficult text. When you read these stories, if you stop and ask yourself – what do I think is going to happen next? Often you are surprise when you look at what actually does happen next.
Let’s try it over here in our story. Alright, so you are God, right? So, imagine you just created man, and you created one man and you think you did it all wrong; it’s not good for man to be alone; you shouldn’t have just created one, you should’ve created two; man needs a companion. What are you going to do next? So, especially if you know the end of the story, you will say, well, it’s time for Eve. Create this beautiful woman and bring her to man and everyone is going to be happy; there will be nice romance, they will love each other, they will have a good life and they will fade off into the sunset.
That’s not exactly what God does. It’s not in fact what God does at all; instead look at 2:19 what God does. “God forms every wild beast and every bird of the heaven under the ground. He actually brings them to man and see what he will call them.” And then this whole dating game goes on. Where Adam goes and tries to date all these animals and get to see whether he is going to find companionship with any of them. He names every livestock animal. “But the man did not find a helper who was compatible for him.” Oh boy, that’s so unfortunate! You know, here, first he try with the Flamingo to see maybe the Flamingo is going to be his companion, and then maybe the Zebra is going to be his companion, and then maybe the hippopotamus; but it just didn’t work out. I mean why this first? God is smart; God knows it’s not going to work out, why does God go through this first, almost dating game? Brining all these different animals; if it wasn’t going to work with a Flamingo, it wasn’t going to work with a Hippopotamus; it’s going to work with the Turtle? I mean, why is that we even have to go through this if we know that the answer is going to be Eve.
Bottom Line: Why doesn’t God create Eve immediately?
Why make Adam name all the animals in a fruitless attempt to find a soul-mate among them?
One final problem I want to suggest you, which is one little word over here which is strange. And let me introduce it by giving you the verses before this. After the whole experiment with the animals fails, and when God finally gets around to deciding – now it’s time for Eve. So what does God do? He puts man into a deep state of unconsciousness, man sleeps, takes one of his ribs, built the rib into a woman, bring the woman to the man. At that point the man names her. He says, now, this is the bone for my bone and flesh for my flesh, she should be called woman (ishah) because she was taking from man. In Hebrew the word ishah, the ‘ah’ at the word ishah literally means ‘from ish’; and ish is the word for man, so ishah actually means ‘from man’. And that’s where woman actually comes from in Hebrew.
Anyway, so he names her that. And then the narrator actually declares – this is why ‘alkane’, you see this therefore here, this is why a therefore, in the actual Hebrew, it appears right over here, it’s the first word of the verse. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Now, this is the narrator sort of stepping out of the story and talking to you the reader and telling you something about the human nature – This is why people leaves their parents when eventually they are married.
Now, the question is, what do you mean – this is why? You begin by telling me therefore and that means that if I want to understand why people leave their mother and father behind, I have to understand what it was the man said when he named Eve. So if we go back to what man said, “Now this is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taking from man.” And nothing in there clearly seems to explain why it is that man does leave his mother and father and be united with his wife. There is some sort of secret here in man’s declaration upon first seeing Eve, which explains of all things why people want to leave their parents and get married. How is it do we understand that? So just to keep track of our questions, I guess we’ve got sort of three questions, maybe more than that.
But question number one is, right, – why the digression in the story of the trees? We had a very nice story about the creation of the two special trees, and if you and I are reading the story, immediately after you created these trees, you’d say, and then the serpent came along and the serpent told Adam and Eve not to eat from the trees. And if you are going to have a story about the creation of woman, the story of creation of woman, the good place to put that would be right before all of this and let’s get the creation of the man and the woman out of the way. When we are done with that, let’s talk about these trees, and then how they were told not to eat from the trees, and then along comes the snake; instead that’s not the way the bible does it, instead we talk about the creation of the trees and then we digress and talk about the creation of woman and then we talk about the trees again. So what’s that digression doing there? OK, so, that is question number one.
Question number two is, within the digression, there is a digression. Whenever we talk about God’s desire that creates someone else – it’s not good for man to be alone, instead of getting the logical thing that happen next, the creation of Eve; we get the creation of all this animals, and a whole strange dating game. And that’s strange.
Finally, after the experiment fails, Adam’s declaration upon seeing Eve is somehow suppose to explain to us why it is alkane (therefore) it is the man leaves his mother and his father, why?
“This time, a bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh; she shall be called “woman” because she was taken from man…”
This is somehow the reason why man leaves his parents to marry…
Why does that Adam’s declaration explain the reason why does the people get married? So these are the three questions we have in the story and I want to argue that if you put these three questions together, what you will actually get is an answer to the question which we started with which is – what is the snake’s motivation? Where is the snake coming from? Why does the Torah seem to suggest to us that we know why the snake is doing what it is he is doing? And after answering these three questions, we will come back next time to tackle that.
1. Why the digression about the creation of woman in the middle of the Tree of Knowledge story?
2. Why the “digression in the digression”; why mention the animals?
3. How does Adam’s declaration upon seeing Eve explain the reason of marriage?
1. The Lullaby Effect
2. Kinds of Questions
3. The Mystery of the Pre-Tree World
4. The Tale of Two Trees
5. Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle
6. The Primal Serpent
7. A Perplexing Temptation
8. A Naked Paradox
9. A Snake in the Garden
10. Beasts of the Field
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. What Does It Mean to Know?
13. A World of Broccoli and Pizza
14. Are All Dilemmas Created Equal?
15. The Phantom Boxer
16. The I of the Beholder
17. The Filter of Desire
18. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey
19. Epilogue: God as Knower of Good and Evil (Premium)
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