8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Such evocative language here, the intimacy of Yahweh’s relationship with the garden he has made is so strong that he is pictured as going for a stroll in it. In the cool of the day, like any of us would, strolling when the temperature was most pleasant.
And the man and his wife hide among the trees. Those trees! A sign of abundant generosity has become a place of fear. They hide behind the trees now, their former confidence broken.
Where are you?
Is God professing ignorance? I doubt it. He is calling for the man to emerge, which he does, with a quick explanation. I heard you, but I was naked so I hid. Nakedness now equals fear in front of his creator, the one who had moulded him from dust. The childlike fearlessness is gone.
Again God draws him out: who told you…? Have you eaten…?
The woman you put here with me…
The man distances himself from the act not just by casting blame on the woman, but actually, more directly onto God himself. The one God had put here with him. There’s a defensive, childishness in the retort. If you hadn’t done this, it wouldn’t have happened. The celebration, the joyful outburst of ‘flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone’, recedes. What is left is recrimination and blame.
The woman is addressed, next.
The serpent deceived me, and I ate. Interesting. Both the man and the woman, with eyes wide open, know they’ve done it wrong. The serpent tricked me, says the woman, and certainly it did – but the trickery, apparently, has only just been recognised. Or, perhaps, admitted. Is there regret, even here, before the consequences have been spelt out? Does the eating of the very fruit they were told not to eat give them the knowledge of their own downfall?
And I ate. There can be no doubt; in spite of all the pointing fingers, there is that lonely ‘I’. I ate. The man and the woman, as individuals, both ate. Both are accountable for their own actions, both made a personal decision.
There is always a choice, in spite of all the other voices. And the choices they have made have shattered the unity between humanity and God, between man and woman, between humanity and animals. The consequences are far reaching, changing the very terms of their existence.
There’s no voice for serpent now, no excuses to be heard from it. It appears to be silent, or perhaps it is given no chance to reply – God does not ask the serpent for its reasons, merely goes on to pronounce its punishment…