This will be the first in a two-part post looking at a couple stories in Genesis which help us think through how to defeat temptation: first, the story on Eve and the serpent in chapter 3, then the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in chapter 39. I recently finished Genesis in my morning reading, and I was struck by the similarities in the two stories. In both, someone is blessed and given authority (dominion) over an area in order to tend it for a higher authority. Adam and Eve are given responsibility for the garden in 1:28 and 2:15 and Joseph is given responsibility over Potiphar’s house in 39:5. And in both circumstances, the “higher power” (God in chapter 2 and Potiphar in 39) puts one thing off limits to those he grants authority to. In the garden it was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and in Potiphar’s house it was his wife. (This really comes out in Eve’s reply to the serpent in 3:2-3 and Joseph’s reply to Potiphar’s wife in 39:9.) Looking at how the two “temptees” respond can be very instructive in our own battle against temptation.
Today, a look at the process of Eve’s conversation with the serpent (or more properly, with Satan, the spiritual power behind the serpent):
- Satan draws attention to a prohibition in God’s will. Specifically, he questions a prohibition in God’s word, questioning (probably) both if and why it was spoken. (3:1)
- Eve responds with a fact of reality about what they are permitted to do. (3:2)
- …but she also adds a prohibition which God didn’t expressly state. (not touching the fruit – 3:3)
- Satan ignores her explanation and deals with the consequence of sin, directly contradicting God’s word. (3:4)
- Satan offers new information, changing the nature of the discussion. He slanders the character of God and claims that the restriction is more about a problem God has than it is about Adam and Eve. The rule about the tree is really (Satan says) about control and about God protecting His own place, as if God fears His own creation.
- Satan states that the thing God has prohibited actually offers some new experience that is to be desired, and for which there will be no consequences. (3:4&5)
- Listening to these suggestions opens up a space in Eve’s mind for her to contemplate the forbidden object on its own terms: how beautiful and tempting it really is! (3:6) In fact, how good it is and would be for her…
All that’s left at this point is the consummation.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how different Joseph’s response is.