Adam had forgotten about the tree. Yahweh had told him not to eat the fruit, so he had avoided it. In fact, he had avoided the whole section of the valley where the tree grew. It was not an interesting place, just a few trees and some flowering shrubs in a meadow.
The area around the cave, however, was fascinating. There were several waterfalls, each falling into a small pond. Two of the ponds had small islands in them. Small streams carried the overflow of water from the ponds to a creek which meandered through a long flat meadow. The vegetable garden was in this meadow, where he spent most of his time tending the vegetables. An orchard grew on the far side of the creek. Flowers grew along the borders of the various patches of vegetables and along the side of the creek. Back in the orchard some bees had a hive and from time to time they would let him get some honey.
The cave was in a mountain. When he had time, he would climb up the mountain and enjoy the view of the creek valley. Farther downstream there were even more waterfalls. He could see great rivers off in the distance. On really clear days he could see what must be extremely tall mountains and thought that one day he would make the journey to them. But just now he and Eve were busy with the gardens and the orchard.
Eve was marvelous. It was fascinating to watch her with the animals. There were always at least a few animals following her, offering to help with some task. Moles and gophers dug in the garden to help prepare the soil for planting. If she dropped something a dog would fetch it and carry it back to her. Squirrels and birds would bring her ripe fruits and nuts from the high branches of the orchard. She was always willing to assist with any task he might be attempting, such as moving stones out of the vegetable patch or weaving a basket. And the way she prepared their food was wonderful. One of his favorite things was the way she put little nuts or fruits or savory leaves in the bread. The cave was much cleaner since she arrived. He had to admit that he was much more ordered in his lifestyle too.
But it was conversation with her that was the best. While the animals would talk to him, their point of view was limited. Squirrels would talk about fruits, nuts and the best way to build a nest, sheep and goats would have marvelous discourses on the best grasses. No matter which animal it was, the conversation centered on the animal’s world view. Beavers, for example, concentrated on the functionality and practicality of dam building. Beauty and craftsmanship were outside their comprehension. With Eve it was different. She appreciated beauty. Bees could only appreciate flowers for their pollen. Eve appreciated how different flowers looked planted next to each other. Geese saw the stars as an aid to navigation, but Eve could pick out designs in the stars and together they made up stories about the pictures in the sky.
It was no surprise when she began to spend some time with a new animal. New animals wandered into their valley periodically. And they normally followed Eve. This latest animal was a long, thick, wormlike creature. He figured it was about the length of two cows, but because it was so thin, probably weighed about as much as a dog. It had very short, stubby legs and, on its back, leathery wings. The head was most fascinating. It had a long snout like a crocodile, but its tongue was forked and it fluttered around as if it were sensing something. The eyes seemed to be made of water, they were round black balls that appeared to flow without moving. The beast would escort Eve to distant places. They would walk and talk the way Eve used to walk and talk with him. He felt lonely and began to follow them. For many days they would go to the big meadow where that tree grew. They talked about the tree and its fruit. They talked about what would happen when someone ate the fruit.
Most nights Eve would want to talk about what the beast had said. It bothered him that she would only talk about things that beast discussed. But he was intrigued by what she was saying. The concept of death was very strange. He knew that seeds would die and be put in the ground. Then they would sprout and live again. Animals would die and they did not come back when they were planted in the ground. The new beast said it was Yahweh’s magic. It said that there was magic in the plants, but not in the animals. He knew he should ask Yahweh about it, but he never did.
It was the idea that magic was contained in the plants. For some reason he didn’t want to talk to Yahweh about it. The seeds would die but come to life when buried. Eating plants would satisfy hunger. That was magic, also. The magic in the plants kept him, and Eve, alive. He had never thought this way before. Magic was intriguing. The new beast seemed very wise.
As he listened in on their conversation, it became clear that the beast thought that there was something that happened after death. It was also strange that the beast would say that eating the fruit would not make a person die, but would make that person like Yahweh. He remembered that Yahweh had said that he and Eve were created in the image of Yahweh. But Yahweh was different. Yahweh had created both of them and the place they lived. He did not know how to create people or beautiful lands. It was very confusing. The beast was saying that eating the fruit would open Eve’s eyes and give her the knowledge of good and evil and she would be like one of the gods.
He could not decide what to do. He knew he should ask Yahweh about all of this. However, the idea of eating something that was magic, that would impart special knowledge, was very compelling. Deep down in the depths of his soul he knew it was wrong.
Like the time he tried to dig a ditch to bring water from the creek to the vegetable patch. The ditch needed the water to flow in the reverse direction. He finally figured out that he needed to dig the ditch from upstream and it would flow down into the vegetables. He had tried to force the water to flow against its nature. Or when he planted potatoes in the soggy marsh near the creek. The potatoes rotted because it was not their nature to grow in the marsh.
But this was different. He had a choice. And the choice he wanted to make was the one that made him feel giddy. He felt the same way the time he moved the giant boulder. This was a little different—well maybe a lot different. The boulder he wanted to move this time was not a physical boulder. This boulder, if he moved it, would make him like a god. It would make him the equal of Yahweh.
He stepped out from the bushes like he had just walked up. He said hello to Eve, but she didn’t seem to hear him. The beast didn’t seem to notice him either. The beast was wrapped around a large lower branch looking intently at Eve. Its tail section drooped down to the ground. She was standing next to the forbidden tree with some of the fruit in her hands. He stood there for a moment with a myriad of emotions flowing through his veins. Fear, jealousy, envy and anger were mixed with elation, excitement, anticipation and a new sense of self.
Once, climbing on the mountain above the cave he saw a beautiful flower. In order to reach the flower he had to carefully pick his way across a narrow ledge. One false step and he would fall. He remembered that when he reached to flower he saw another way he could have gone. There was an easy, safe path to the flower. He glanced around, as if to look for another path.
The beast spoke, “See, you did not die when you touched the fruit, neither did you die when you picked it.”
He thought that he should say something. He knew that Yahweh had not said anything about touching the fruit or the tree. Yahweh had said that if they ate the fruit they would die. He said, “Eve,” and wanted to say more. But she did not look at him. So he called her name again, “Eve,” yet she still did not look at him. A third time he called to her, “Eve,” and still she did not look at him. She was looking at the beast with what seemed to be adoration. He felt jealousy rage within his soul. If she ate the fruit she would die. So be it.
She turned to him and smiled a wicked smile, perhaps the most wicked smile there ever was, then bit into one of the fruits. He could see the amazement on her face. She shoved the rest of the fruit into her mouth and chewed greedily, spitting out the seed with mild contempt. She shoved a second fruit into her mouth; it hardly fit and the juices ran down her face. She mumbled something about “delicious” and reached up to pick more fruit. This she gave to him.
The fruit felt no different from any of the fruit in the orchard. He looked hard at it and was going to put it down when the beast spoke, “So, my dear, you did not die.” And he understood that the fruit was more than just delicious, it was magic. It would make him a god, perhaps like Yahweh. He stared at the fruit. He wanted the magic. He looked at Eve. She was still eating the fruit. She was not dead. He bit into the fruit and felt the whole world spin, just like he was falling. It was the most delicious thing he had ever tasted. He ate the rest of the fruit and spit out the seed. He took another fruit from Eve and bit into it. It was not as good as the first one. Eve was now biting a fruit, spitting, tossing the damaged fruit to the ground and trying another.
For quite some time they tried to find a fruit that tasted as good as the first. They never did. But they did find something else. They discovered that they were naked. Embarrassment was a brand new emotion. Quickly they hid in a fig bush and fashioned a sort of apron with the leaves. They discussed their situation with anger and frustration. Surely a god did not feel naked and embarrassed.
Certainly they knew good and evil now, because they knew what they had done was evil. The fruit was not magic. It had not imparted any special knowledge. But disobeying Yahweh had. They had fallen outside the protection of Yahweh. This was the worst part. Had he chosen to obey Yahweh that act would also have imparted the knowledge of good and evil. Adam now knew good and evil, but he knew it in a self-conscious way. It made him feel naked. Plus, he was painfully aware that he was mortal and one day he would die.
He looked at Eve and was ashamed of his cowardice. He was willing that she might die just so he could find out about the fruit. He had betrayed her. The fruit was not magic. There was no magic. Magic was a lie told by the beast. The thing he had really wanted, to be like God, was not achieved by magic. It was achieved by obedience. It was wisdom. And now he had acquired some wisdom. But it was tainted, skewed wisdom. He knew good and evil, but he did not have the wisdom to judge good from evil. Before the beast came, before he ate the fruit, things were always good. Things might not work the way he wanted, but then he would learn how things worked. Now he… Now everything was bent, crooked, askew. He could still learn, but it was not the joyful learning he once knew.
Even worse, when Yahweh came walking in the evening like usual, seeking to talk with him, he had tried to blame her and Yahweh for his poor choice. He was afraid of Yahweh! How could he be afraid of the kind, loving Creator who had made him? He couldn’t talk to Yahweh like he did before. Disobedience was there, Sin was there. They were a barrier, a wall, between himself and Yahweh. And, because he didn’t understand the nature of the wall, he couldn’t get past it. He was trapped in Sin!
Yahweh’s reaction to their sin was much different than he expected. The serpent was cursed. The ground was cursed. He would have to deal with thorns and thistles. Childbearing was made painful. But they were not cursed. In this Yahweh showed that knowing good and evil was not enough. Yahweh showed mercy to them.
Banishment from the valley was also imposed. The garden in the valley could not bear their sin. An angel came and escorted them to the edge of the valley. As they looked downstream toward the far distant mountains, they realized that they now knew more about good and evil than they really wanted to know.