Genesis chapter 3, verse 1:
Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Let’s start with the first sentence of verse 1. Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. The context of this sentence lets us know that the serpent is not satan or the devil, as many people have come to believe. The serpent is just a wise, slick, crafty, wild animal made by God, Himself. It was not until the period of Alexander the Great to about the first century before Christ that Hellenistic Jews–Jews of the Diaspora who adopted the Greek language, philosophy and culture–began to interpret the serpent of Genesis 3:1 as satan. In fact the word satan does not appear in the first five books of the Bible at all. The first time it surfaces is in the book of Job. The reason that I’m raising this issue is to suggest that the interpretation of particular passages of Scripture at any given point in history has been shaped and influenced by the culture, politics and social values current at that particular time in history.
I must note that there is a real suggestion in the text that the Hebrew word used here in verse 1 for crafty or subtil as the King James Version translates it, is a play on the Hebrew word for naked in verse 25, the last verse of Chapter 2. Because of this play on words, verse 25 of chapter 2 and verse 1 of chapter 3 are vitally connected as we shall see shortly.
Let’s move on to the second sentence of verse 1: He (the serpent) said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ” The man and the woman are naked together in the garden of Eden and not ashamed. The man had named the serpent, indicating humankind’s mastery, control and dominion over him. Then the serpent starts a conversation with the woman. Wait a minute! A guy and his wife are standing together in a plush garden and a serpent named by the guy starts talking to the guy’s wife. What does the guy say? Nothing! What does the woman say? Everything! Verses 2 and 3:
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ”
Here’s a great chance for the first man, Adam, to speak up. But, he doesn’t. He could say, “Baby, don’t talk to this snake. Let me handle him.” Bur he doesn’t. He could have spoken directly to the serpent and commanded him to stop talking to his lady, to shut up and chill, but he didn’t. Brothers, does this scene somehow sound all too familiar to you? When you and your lady are together, does the salesman, waiter, delivery man or whoever else, ignore you and talk straight to your lady–even though you are the one who will always end up paying the bill? Well, next time, don’t act like your ancestor Adam did: speak up and make these clowns come through you. And sisters, when you’re with your man and you’re approached by these people whose only mission in life is to get over on you big-time, learn how to hesitate about forty seconds before you open your mouth to speak, and let the brothers do their “man protecting the woman thing”–it will save you money, grief, heartache and possibly the loss of a meaningful relationship. Anyway, because the first man on this planet did not take his rightful place and get with the snake–and in private didn’t get with his wife as well–but rather, abdicated or gave up his responsibility for what was going on with his woman and a snake, big trouble came to little planet earth. Verses 4 and 5:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Here is another perfect place for us to ask: “Adam, where in creation are you? You hear this snake talking to your woman. You know she doesn’t have her facts straight, and you know the snake is lying. But you stand there and say nothing.” There is an expression used in the African American community to describe what Adam’s problem is. However, for purposes of etiquette, let’s just say Eve had Adam’s nose so wide open that anything she wanted to say or do was okay by him.
We’ll come back to verses 4 and 5 in a moment. In the meantime, we need to reflect on why the serpent would ignore the man and talk to the woman. And proper reflection on this will help us learn an important lesson that we can’t afford to miss. The serpent knows that the man is his master–he’s too wise to approach his boss directly. He has been in the garden long enough to observe that the man is out of his mind in love with the woman and that the woman gets her way with the man. Why wouldn’t a wise serpent get to the man through the woman who had the real power in the man/woman relationship? Yes, real power. Remember: women have beauty, knowledge and power; Men have majesty, wisdom and authority.
The serpent’s craftiness and cunning lay in his ability to exploit the woman’s power to undermine the man’s authority…authority has to do with the rightness or legitimacy of rule, while power has to do with the brute force necessary to rule.