Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why Does the Snake Go after the Woman (Genesis 3)?

In my OT-1 course, a student inquired during lecture about why it is Eve and not Adam whom the snake goes after? In conversation after class, I mentioned that often in Gen 1-11, Bible is putting a new "spin" on older poetic stories, putting broken fragments of mythology to new use. In this case, Bible may be manipulating older ancient Near Eastern associations of snakes/serpents with a divine woman. Scholars have long noted that the name Eve (חַוָּה) bears resemblance to an Aramaic word for "snake" (O.Arb. חוה; J.Arm. חִוְיָא). For discussion, see Saul Olyan, Asherah (1988), pp. 70-71 (now contested by O. Keel).

Egyptian Qudshu. Qedeshet plaque. Painted relief carving on white limestone. Dated ca. 1300-1200 BCE. Louvre.

3 Comments:

Blogger Danny Zacharias said...

thanks for that ancient egyptian pornography ;-)

Tue Nov 11, 03:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Gary said...

The key is that despite Eve seeming to be the villain here (or the gullible rube), throughout the story other elements point to her equality with Adam, and so turn the notion of her as the culprit (which is probably an inherited detail of the story) on its head:
1) In Genesis 2:18, when Eve is created, she is described as a "helper" to Adam (the same word used for God in Psalm 70:5 and elsewhere) and as "corresponding to him" a countercultural mutuality or parity in her relationship with the male.
2) Adam's denial, "SHE gave it to me, Lord!" is intentionally ludicrous and easily dismissed.
3) The statement in Genesis 2:24 that a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife was also countercultural in putting marriage above family ties, further elevating the woman in importance. Indeed, the verb “cling” is used elsewhere to describe the relationship between Israel and God.
4) The consequences for the sin of eating the apple which are meted out to Adam and Eve are linguistically equal: each gets "pain" - Eve in childbirth and Adam in his labor...although most women wouldn’t equate the two!

Tue Nov 11, 11:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you, Gary. Very well said! ---SLC

Wed Nov 12, 03:33:00 PM GMT-5  

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