Alice C. Linsley
Eve was created to enjoy a unique relationship with the Creator. Being made in the Creator's Image, she enjoyed communion with the Creator as no other living thing. She also enjoyed a special intimacy with Adam, from whom she was made while he slept.
In considering Eve, we note that she had two trustworthy relationships in her life: one with her Creator and another with the man from whom she was created. In both relationships, Eve experienced a unique and special existence. She was a woman of high estate whose life was encompassed by great potential for fulfillment and joy.
What happened with Eve? Why did she act against her high estate and against the trustworthy relationships that were to bring her fulfillment? Why did she listen to the serpent’s lies instead of listening to God in whose image she was made? In listening to the creature rather than to the Creator, Eve became subjected to a creature of low estate. She exchanged the natural for the unnatural. So the first trespass was against the order of creation.
Likewise, instead of listening to God, Adam listened to his wife's delusion and became like the serpent, eating dust all the days of his toil. Adam’s fall recalls his origins from dust: "And God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7).
St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest biblical expositors of Christianity, explains that Eve's action is that of exchanging truth for falsehood. He wrote:
"...she revealed the secret of the instruction and told him what God had said to them, and thus received from him a different kind of advice, bringing ruin and death. That is to say, when the woman said, 'We do eat of every tree of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, Do not eat or even touch it,' that evil creature, enemy of our salvation, in his turn offered advice at odds with that of the Lord. You see, whereas the loving God had forbidden their tasting that fruit on account of his great care for them lest they be subject to death for their disobedience, that evil creature said to the woman 'You will not truly die.'[ Gen 3:4 ] What kind of excuse could anyone find appropriate to the woman for being prepared to give her complete attention to the creature that spoke with such temerity? I mean, after God said, 'Do not touch it lest you die,' he said, 'You will not truly die.' Then, not being satisfied with contradicting the words of God, he goes on to misrepresent the Creator as jealous so as to be in a position to introduce deceit by this means, get the better of the woman and carry out his own purpose. 'You will not truly die,' he said. 'God, you see, knows that on the day that you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.' [ Gen 3:5 ] See all the bait he offered: he filled the cup with a harmful drug and gave it to the woman, who did not want to recognize its deadly character. She could have known this from the outset, had she wanted; instead, she listened to his word, that God forbade their tasting the fruit for that reason 'He knows that your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil' puffed up as she was with the hope of being equal to God and evidently dreaming of greatness.
Such, after all, are the stratagems of the enemy: when ever he lures someone to a great height through deceit, at that very point he casts them down into a deep abyss. The woman, you see, had dreams of equality with God and hastened to taste the fruit; she had evidently set her mind and her thinking on that goal, and she thought of nothing else than how to drink the cup prepared for her by the wicked demon. That is to say, listen to the account Scripture gives so as to learn that she was bent on this course after receiving that deadly poison through the serpent's advice. 'The woman saw that the tree was good for eating, pleasing for the eyes to behold, and attractive to contemplate. She took some of its fruit and ate it.' [ Gen 3:6 ] True it is that 'evil converse corrupts good behavior.' [ I Cor 15:33 ] Why was it, after all, that before that wicked demon's advice she entertained no such idea, had no eyes for the tree, nor noticed its attractiveness? Because she feared God's direction and the punishment likely to follow from tasting the fruit; now, how ever, when she was deceived by this evil creature into thinking that not only would they not come to any harm from this but would even be equal to God, then evidently hope of gaining the promised reward drove her to taste it. Not content to remain within her own proper limits, but considering the enemy and foe of her salvation to be more trustworthy than God's words, she learned shortly afterwards through her own experience the lethal effect of such advice and the disaster brought on them from tasting the fruit. The text says, remember, "She saw the tree was good for eating, pleasing for the eyes to behold and attractive to contemplate," and she reasoned with herself, probably from the devil's deceit which he proposed to her through the serpent: If the tree is good for eating, can so delight the eyes and has some indefinable attractiveness about it, while tasting it provides us with the highest esteem, and we will have honor equal to the Creator, why should we not taste it?
Do you see how the devil led her captive, handicapped her reasoning, and caused her to set her thoughts on goals beyond her real capabilities, in order that she might be puffed up with empty hopes and lose her hold on the advantages already accorded her? 'She took some of its fruit,' the text says, 'and ate it; she gave it to her husband also, and they both ate it. Their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked.' [ Gen 3:6, Gen 3:7 ] O woman, what have you done? You have not only followed that deadly counsel literally and trampled on the law imposed on you by God, spurning his instruction and treating it with such displeasure as to be discontented with such great enjoyment, but you have also presumed to take fruit from the one tree which the Lord bade you not to lay hold of, you put faith in the words of the serpent, you regarded its advice worthy of greater heed than the instruction given you by the Creator, and have been ensnared in such awful deception as to be incapable of any claim to excuse. Surely you're not, after all, of the same nature as the one who offered you the advice? He happened in fact to be one of those under your control, one of the servants placed by providence under your authority. Such being the case, why did you disgrace yourself, departing from the one for whom you were created, as whose helpmate you were made, in whose dignity you had equal share, one with him in being and one in language why then did you agree to enter into converse with the serpent, and by means of this creature accept the advice of the devil, which was plainly at variance with the Creator's injunction, without being turned aside from such evil intent, but rather presuming to taste the fruit through hope of what had been promised?
Well and good, then: so you cast yourself into such an abyss and robbed yourself of your preeminent dignity. Why did you make your husband a partner in this grievous disaster, why prove to be the temptress of the person whose help mate you were intended to be, and why for a tiny morsel alienate him along with yourself from the favor of God? What excess of folly led you to such heights of presumption? Wasn't it sufficient for you to pass your life without care or concern, clad in a body yet free of any bodily needs? to enjoy everything in the garden except for one tree? to have all visible things under your own authority and to exercise control over them all? Did you instead, deceived as you were by vain hopes set your heart on reaching the very pinnacle of power? On that account you will discover through experience itself that not only will you fail to achieve that goal but you will rob your self and your husband of everything already given you, you will fall into such depths of remorse that you will regret your failed intentions while that wicked demon, responsible for concocting that deadly plan, will mock and insult you for falling victim to him and incurring the same fate as he. I mean just as he had ideas above his station, was carried away to a degree beyond what was granted him, and so fell from heaven to earth, in just the same way did you have in mind to proceed, and by your transgression of the command were brought to the punishment of death, giving free rein to your own envy, as some sage has said: 'By the devil's envy death entered the world.' [ Wisdom 2:24 ]
Our text says, 'She gave it to her husband also, and they both ate it. Their eyes were opened.' Great was the man's indifference, too: even though like him she was human and his wife as well, still he should have kept God's law intact and given it preference before her improper greed, and not joined her as a partner in her fall nor deprived himself of such benefits on account of a brief pleasure, offending his benefactor who had also shown him so much loving kindness and had regaled him with a life so free of pain and relieved of all distress.
After all, were you not free to enjoy everything else in the garden in generous measure? Why did you not choose for yourself to keep the command that was so easy? Instead, you probably listened to the promise contained in the deadly advice coming from your wife, and buoyed up in your turn with hope you readily shared in the food. As a result you incur the penalty from each other, and experience teaches you not to place greater importance on the wicked demon's advice than on God.
Read all of St. John's commentary here.