The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man,"You are free to eat from the any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?' " The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat from fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."
There's a lot going on here. First, we have the serpent who begins the conversation by baiting Eve into a discussion about the forbidden tree. He knows what God said, but first he must get Eve to become mentally engaged in the debate. So, he purposely misstates God's rule. Eve eagerly corrects him and then goes further by adding.." and you must not touch it, or you will die."
We don't know why Eve added that last part. Had she come to believe that merely touching it would kill her? Had she misunderstood what Adam had told her about the tree? We'll never know, but it probably became an important issue as she moved further towards the fall. The mishandling of God's word and the addition of a little superstition and legend can be very destructive.
Imagine Eve as she approaches the tree. She is intrigued, fearful, probably shaking from the adrenaline that is coursing through her veins as she takes one step closer to a tree which is so deadly, merely touching it would kill her. She gazes at it for a few minutes, contemplating the risk, the words of the serpent ringing through her ears. She reaches out, head turned away, eyes closed, and quickly pokes the tree with her finger, pulling it back rapidly, expecting pain, fire, a shout from heaven and is met with only silence. Nothing happened. She looks herself over, examines the immediate area, listens for disaster and hears only the birds chirping overhead. Nothing. She thinks, "Maybe this serpent was right. I touched it and nothing happened." Suddenly doubt grows and the serpent looks a little wiser than he did a few minutes ago.
Once the fruit is eaten their eyes are opened and they are filled with shame. I have often pondered why their first response is to clothe themselves. God made them naked. Being naked is not sinful. It was just the two of them in the garden. Perhaps, it is human nature to try and fix a spiritual problem with a physical solution. They felt naked because they had something to hide. They had learned what doing wrong was. They had learned what it feels like to be on the other side of a wide gulf. Covering their reproductive areas might have made them feel secure, regardless of how ridiculous that sounds. It is like the two-year-old learning to play hide and seek who thinks that if he stays in plain view, but covers his eyes with his hands, then he is invisible to everyone else in the room, because he can't see himself.
I also wonder if they covered themselves because sin is a very intimate act. We do it in secret and it usually involves very strong emotions. Often the bible uses the word "know" to convey sexual relations between men and women. After all, if you've seen someone naked, you really do know them better than someone who hasn't.(unfortunately that's not always the case in our current society) I should check and see if the word "knowledge" is coming from that same root. Pleasing, desirable, these are words of seduction. Eve was being seduced.
Anyone who has been a christian, for any length of time, can find these moments in their lives. Hopefully they are few. But, even low in number, they forever alter us. Moments when we have stood at the edge of a cliff, pondering how long it would take to fall and whether climbing back up would really be that big of a deal, leave an indelible impression. We peer over the edge, look back at the uninteresting place we currently occupy, and slowly inch closer to the precipice. Sometimes we jump enthusiastically into the gulf. At other times, we just fall off out of the impetus of our lives heading in the wrong direction. We know there's going to be a big crash at the end, but feel unable to fight the gravity of our circumstances pulling us down.
If you have had one of those moments where you have betrayed God, yourself, or someone close to you. If you have done something of which you never considered yourself capable, then you know what I am talking about. Even if it only happened once, you are left with an unmistakable, lingering taintedness in your soul. You can recover, find your way back, but once you've seen the dark places of your soul, you can never forget it. The mind only acquires knowledge; it never releases it.
The act of choosing to eat the fruit was probably the real source of The Fall. I guess it is possible that God could have supernatural fruit with incredible properties, but I think the key lay in the actions of Adam and Eve. When you have acted on an impulse, you can't travel back in time and take it back. They very act of disobedience was, in itself, the lesson. How disappointed and filled with shame were Adam and Eve after eating the fruit and realizing that they had listened to some idiot serpent? Their eyes were opened, not because of the magical properties of the fruit, but because they realized that they had sold out their fidelity to God for a morsel of food. They had believed that God was being stingy and deceitful with them and so had rebelled, only to discover that is wasn't true. They had learned to believe evil over good. They had learned to trust themselves and not God. They now knew what evil was, because they had just engaged in it.