Genesis 2:17, Thou Shalt Surely Die, Part I of II

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

//We all know the story. After God promised Adam he would die on the day he ate the forbidden fruit, the serpent showed up, contradicting God’s promise. “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” So Adam and Eve ate, and their eyes were opened, and nobody died.

I’m often accused of reading the bible too literally. Face value is best, unless there’s reason to think otherwise, right? God said they would die, they called God’s bluff, and nobody died. What confuses me is, why does this story need reinterpreting? Early Hebrew writers certainly found no evil in deception. On the contrary, God bestowed his blessing on several acts of deception, from Jacob deceiving his father to steal Esau’s birthright, to Jael pretending kindness before pounding a nail through Sisera’s temples as he slept.

God told a little white lie, it worked for a time until the serpent showed up and exposed the truth, and mankind fell. But by the time of the New Testament, even subtle deception seemed immoral, an activity that could never be attributed to God! Titus 1:2 even promises that God cannot lie.

So what do we do with the story of man’s downfall? We gloss it over with wordplay. We pretend God didn’t really mean “in that day,” or we pretend God meant a spiritual death, not a natural one. We ruin a great story by denying God a personality. Be honest, now: wouldn’t you find it much more interesting to meet the God that walked in the Garden, toying with his humans?

On Monday I’ll discuss another way of reading The Original Sin.

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