Not the first Bible-story retelling I ever wrote, but . . . it makes sense for it to be the first one I post. This one was written, I think, in 2002, shortly before I returned to the U.S. from London.
Genesis 2-4 (NRSV [Link isComplete Jewish Bible due to availability, but quotations below are NRSV])
I will put enmity between you
and the woman,
and between your offspring and
He will strike your head,
and you will strike His heel.
The world was young when God spoke that. It is old now, and so am I, and I am still waiting. Perhaps I will die before I see the fulfillment. For I will die. God said so, and God does not lie.
Painting by Yuri Annenkov. Of whom I had never heard before, until I discovered the blogpost you can get to by clicking on the picture.
The first time I saw the Man, he was sleeping, and he was beautiful—the sun and leaves above him dappling his earth-brown skin. I knew I was his and he was mine, and God was there at our meeting.
The Man knew it, too, when he woke up, and he sang a poem of delight about me:
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man was this one taken.”
He was the Man. I was the Woman. We were both naked, and we were not ashamed.
We knew our one-bone-and-one-flesh-ness, and we shared all things. All things were a delight and to be shared, in that Garden in the morning of the world. We shared with each other, and in the time of the evening breeze, God came down, and delighted with us in our delight.
So maybe that was why I shared the fruit I never should have touched. We shared everything. Maybe that was why.
The Serpent was talking to me. He sat in the Forbidden Tree and made me doubt God. At least, that was what I told God afterwards. Really, I just listened, and doubted God all by myself.
“Did God say,” the Serpent hissed, “’You shall not eat from any tree in the Garden?’”
He was wrong, but at the mistake, I doubted. “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the Garden,” I replied, “but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the Garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” I was wrong, too. God had never forbidden the touching. But as touching may lead to eating, so one doubt may lead to another. For the first time a shadow shaded the light of God’s image.
The shadow grew deeper when the Serpent said, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I could not at first hold the thought. I had never known someone to say anything other than what was, or what would be. I had never known God to keep back good from the Man and me because He wanted it only for Himself. Was it possible? But was that Tree not really as it seemed then—the most beautiful Tree ever to grow from that beautiful soil? And was God not holding it back from us? The fruit beckoned and I touched. And I ate. And I delighted.
And I did not die. And now I knew what a Lie was—that spoken thing which did not tell what was or what is or what will be. So God was a liar. The Liar. The greatest Liar—because He was God.
But forbidden delight sours. I had scarcely tasted when I felt the dread and the wish for undoing. Maybe this was dying after all. But maybe I could postpone the dying and prolong the delight if I shared it. We shared everything, the Man and I, and he was right there.
He was looking at me with an expression I had never seen before then, but have seen many times since, and now I know it means Fear. But when I gave the fruit to him, he touched it. Not eagerly as I had done, but reluctantly. And then, seeing the light of delight still in my eyes, he ate. The light in his died. And we were naked. And ashamed.
Then God came down, and I knew what Death was. Death is realising that the Lie was not God’s, and that you believed it. Death is wishing, when God comes, that He had not. Death is knowing, when He finds you, that you are still not with Him at all, and it’s your own fault.
“Where are you?” God called. It was terrible—the separation of worlds in the question. It was a stern question—angry. It was an anguished question—sad. Before, God always knew where we were. Before, we always wanted Him to.
We came out in the fig leaves we had sewn, and the Man said, “I heard the sound of You in the Garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
But God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the Tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Then the Man, the bone-of-my-bones-and-flesh-of-my-flesh Man, separated the worlds even more. “The Woman whom You gave to be with me,” he said, “she gave me fruit from the Tree and I ate.”
It was true, but the words cut more than a lie, because they were true and they were not. He had eaten that fruit himself. But when God turned to me, I said the same: “The Serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
Then God was angry. Then I knew what Holiness was, because suddenly we were outside it. He cursed and cursed and cursed. Holy curses, and we were damned. But maybe not, because it was then He spoke the Promise to and against the Serpent about my offspring: “…He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.”
First I thought He meant Cain. The pain of bearing a man inside was worse than I could have thought, in spite of the curses, but when Cain emerged, I wondered, and sang, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” I loved Cain, and I loved his brother. But the one killed the other, and then the dead one could crush serpents no longer, and the live one was cursed by God like we were.
Now I have Seth. And now on the earth there are many of us, and now we need the promise fulfilled more than ever, and maybe Seth will do it. In any case, I know that, whether I live to see it or not, it will happen. God said it will. And God does not lie.