Wednesday, March 10, 2010

an intro to Genesis 3

Genesis 3:1 introduces us to Satan through the guise of a serpent. Biblically, Satan is a created/finite being who rebelled against God, tempted both Adams (Rom 5; Gen 3, Mt 4), and is the enemy of both God and man. Our three enemies are Satan, “the world” (the worldly system), and “the flesh” (sin nature); Satan is the first appear, but he uses the others here.

Anderson’s book was useful in considering why Satan rebelled. He cites Jewish tradition, Gen 1:26-28, and Milton’s Paradise Lost on the idea that Satan didn’t want to bow to man (I Cor 6), given that man had been created afterwards (Ps 8:3-8). His envy of man made Adam & Eve a natural target of his animosity—and provided him a goal to test them and God’s plan.

It is a frequent Biblical theme that the elder would serve the younger (Gen 25:23)—or at least be favored. See: Cain/Abel, Ishmael/Isaac, Rachel/Leah, Jacob/Esau, Joseph/Reuben, Ephraim/Manasseh, and Israel vs. other civilizations. Anderson notes that “the story of ‘reversed primogeniture’ is pushed one step back in time, from the era of the patriarchs to the creation of Adam himself. God’s electing activity is woven into the very fabric of creation itself.”

The serpent—at least with Satan’s influence is described as the most "crafty" or cunning. This contrasts with the other key characteristic we’re given of Satan—his power and use of intimidation. The term “crafty” is not inherently evil; the NIV translates it 8x in Proverbs as “prudent” (Mt 10:16b)! But combined with ill motives, we’re going to see some trouble.

Satan’s use (and God’s allowance) of a serpent is interesting as well. The serpent turns out to be prominent in Near Eastern myths. Kass observes that it is an excellent picture of a.) appetite (“a mobile digestive tract that swallows its prey whole”; Heb 12:16-17, Phil 3:19); b.) rationality (“cold, steely, and unblinking…the image of pure attentiveness and icy calculation”); c.) cunning (“slithering, sinuous, and utterly silent movements”); and d.) ambiguous in gender (as God): can be seen as masculine (a phallic symbol and the seduction of women as here) or feminine (re-birth and self-renewal in shedding of skin).

The serpent’s name—as given by Adam—means shiny and enchanting. Kass seizes on this to note that this may point to Adam’s ignorance/innocence: “In this very subtle way, the text may be suggesting the inadequacy of human perception and naming. For the man who named it nachash, the serpent was shiny, attractive, and enchanting. For the text, however, the crucial thing about the serpent is that he is clever, cunning, smooth, and beguiling…”

This is also the Bible’s 1st quoted conversation. So we’re moving from speech to dialogue; from naming to asking/answering. Interestingly, the conversation begins with the first question in the Bible. As later in Genesis 3, the question does not seek information. Kass observes: “Like any question…disturbing immediate participation in life and forcing introspection and reflection.” That’s a very cool point—and one I’ve explored previously in the ministry of Jesus and his (ample) use of questions. We also see questions, biblically, from the prophets. And questions are at the heart of effective teaching, counseling, and parenting. They promote engagement and “ownership”.

Why did the serpent approach Eve? Perhaps her youth and naivete? ;-) Eve may also be more vulnerable to temptation because she has received God’s command (Gen 2:16-17) second-hand from Adam.

Or perhaps it was her personality. Kass notes that this may point to Eve’s openness: “shows that it is she, not the man, who is open to conversation, who imagines new possibilities, who reaches for improvement. Unlike the man, with his desires sexually fixated upon the woman, the woman is more open to the world—to beauty and to the possibility of wisdom. She, in short, has more than sex on her brain.” In any case, this was perceived by Satan as best strategy.

Three closing questions provide fruitful food for thought and application: 1.) Was she often near the tree or just happening by? 2.) Was this the first time she had met Satan—and had they built up a (casual) relationship? 3.) Why didn’t Eve ask Adam or God for help?


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