Study Guide

Book of Genesis Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

Getting the Boot

  • A cunning serpent decides to probe the woman's knowledge of God's very first and only command (2:16-17).
  • She knows the law pretty well, and quotes it more or less verbatim, but she does add that they're not allowed even to touch the tree (3:3). This stipulation is absent from God's statement of the rule (2:16-17).
  • The serpent and the woman are the first to engage in Bible study as they probe and debate the meaning of God's rule and its possible ambivalence. 
  • The serpent insists that the woman will not die if she eats, but will know good and evil, and this will make her god-like.
  • The woman eats the fruit, which looks to her about as yummy as pizza looks to starving teenage boys. Be careful, Shmoopers: it's not an apple, just an unknown type of fruit. The apple's a later elaboration.
  • She shares with her husband. Like ya do.
  • Their eyes are opened and they realize they're naked (recall 2:25). It's kind of like one of those dreams where you're giving a speech before class and suddenly you realize that you're in your underwear.
  • That leads them to implement the very first act of culture: making clothes. From fig leaves.
  • They hear the deity enjoying an evening walk in the garden. 
  • Wait, what?! God is walking? 
  • Yep.
  • This is a very (big word alert) anthropomorphic image of the YHWH 'elohim (i.e., Lord God). That just means that God is imagined as doing things humans do. Like walk.
  • The man and woman hide from the deity because they totally know they messed up. 
  • The deity calls out to the man: "Where art thou?" (3:9 KJV). They're not very good at playing hide and seek.
  • The man fesses up, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself" (3:10 NRSV). 
  • The Lord God interrogates the couple using one of those great rhetorical tactics that parents love to use. You ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, didn't you? 
  • The man blames the woman for giving him the fruit. 
  • Ouch.
  • The man dares to implicate God as well, as is clear from the way he phrases his response: "the woman whom you gave to be with me" is the one who gave him the fruit. 
  • The lady follows suit and blames the serpent. 
  • Everyone gets punished by the Lord God. Womp womp
  • The serpent has to crawl and eat every creature's dust. People will stomp on serpents, who will in turn bite them in the heel. They were scared of snakes back then, too. 
  • The woman has to bear kids, which will hurt a lot. Plus, the man will rule over her. 
  • Notice how it's the woman who's responsible for knowledge and the dawn of human culture. Those are good things, right? Without the woman who ate from the tree, there'd be no knowledge—no Shmoop—and we'd all be running around naked. But we're living in a post-feminist world, we know.
  • The man has to farm soil that's not very fertile. He'll have to sweat, and then when it's all said and done, he'll die and return to the very dust from which he came. 
  • Great.
  • The man names the woman "Eve" (in Hebrew: hawah), which sounds like the word for "life" (hayah). She's the primal mother, after all. Perhaps this is a little hope after God's severe punishments.
  • The deity offers the two some nicer clothes. 
  • He worries that the man might eat from the tree of life now and live forever. He's already become god-like in his knowledge of good and evil. 
  • Big question: who is God talking to in 3:22? Who's the "us"? Other gods maybe? Check out 1:27 for more of this "us"-business.
  • Just to be safe, God kicks the man and Eve out of Eden and appoints the Cherubim as otherworldly bouncers.
  • God also sets up a flaming and whirling sword. No one's going to get to the tree of life, that's for sure.

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