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Creation of Eve & The Fall (Genesis 2:20–3:20)

1st Friday of Great Lent

This entire pericope (2:20–3:20) is read during Vespers on the first Friday of Great Lent, but it has been subdivided on this page for the purpose of providing more organized commentary.

Creation of Eve (Zoe / Life) (2:20–24)


Genesis 2:20–25 (ENGLXXUP), altered

20 And Adam gave names to all the cattle and to all the birds of the sky, and to all the wild beasts of the field, but for Adam there was not found a help like to himself. 21 And God brought a trance upon Adam, and he slept, and he took one of his ribs, and filled up the flesh instead thereof. 22 And God formed the rib which he took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to Adam. 23 And Adam said,

This now is bone of my bones,
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called woman,
    because she was taken out of her [mana].b

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 25 And the two were naked, both Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed.

a Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated ἀνδρὸς (andros) as “husband.”

b I’ve here changed the layout to reflect that Adam’s song/poem is poetic.


  • 20: St. Augustine and other fathers believed the primary way in which Eve was a help to Adam was her ability to bear children (cf. On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis 9.5.9). However, others believed that Adam and Eve lived in virginity prior to the Fall so look to other attributes in which she was his help.

  • 21: The fathers discuss God’s mercy in causing Adam to sleep so as to not feel any pain during this process. Contemporary commentators have speculated that Adam being asleep emphasizes God’s creative role in the creation of woman—Adam contributed part of himself but personally was not any kind of co-creator of woman.

  • 21–22: Just as Eve had no earthly mother, Jesus had no earthly father.


“Of whom was Eve begotten in the beginning? What mother conceived her who had no mother?” But Scripture says she was born from Adam’s side. Now then, if Eve was born, without a mother, from the side of a man, may not a child be born, without a man, from the womb of a virgin? A debt of gratitude was due from womankind; for Eve was begotten of Adam, not conceived of a mother, but, as it were, brought forth from man alone. Mary, then, paid the debt of gratitude when, not of man, but immaculately of her own self, she conceived of the Holy Spirit by the power of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Leo P. McCauley and Anthony A. Stephenson, vol. 61, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1969), 245–246 (Catechetical Lectures, 12.29).

  • 23: The Hebrew contains an etymological pun with “man” (אִישׁ / ish) and “woman” (אִשָּׁה / ishah), which is generally also present in English (man / woman). I altered Brenton’s (ENGLXXUP) translation herein to maintain the wordplay. With that said, Brenton’s original translation of “husband” is probably a more appropriate translation of ἀνδρὸς (andros) in context.

    • The first recorded words of Adam are his song/poem in praise of woman.

[T]he woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 10.

  • 23–24: St. Paul alludes to Adam’s song/poem and calls this union as one flesh a “profound mystery,” but relates this relationship between husband and wife to that between Christ and His Church, respectively (Ephesians 5:30–32). Also, just as a husband must leave his parents and “cleave” to his wife, Jesus (in a sense) left the Father (becoming human) to find and redeem His Bride, the Church. The fathers frequently comment on marriage as an example of the relationship between Jesus and the Church.

    • The fathers also commented on the process of God removing Adam’s rib, and some fathers believe God caused him to dream for the first time during this process, whereas others focus on the wound on Jesus’ side compared to the “wound” of removing Adam’s rib.

    • Robert Alter commented on man’s pursuit of woman “to regain a lost part of himself.”

  • 25: The fathers indicate that Adam and Eve were clothed in glory prior to the Fall, but then this glory was stripped away from them and they wore a garment of sin. This brought about shame and hence awareness of their nakedness. The fathers connected their nakedness to the baptismal practice in the early Church of entering the water naked.


After the anointing, then, it remains to go into the bath of sacred waters. After stripping you of your robe, the priest himself leads you down into the flowing waters. But why naked? He reminds you of your former nakedness, when you were in Paradise and you were not ashamed. For Holy Writ says: Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed, until they took up the garment of sin, a garment heavy with abundant shame.

Do not, then, feel shame here, for the bath is much better than the garden of Paradise. There can be no serpent here, but Christ is here initiating you into the regeneration that comes from the water and the Spirit. You cannot see here beautiful trees and fruits, but you can see spiritual favors. You cannot find here the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, nor law and commandments, but you can find grace and gifts. For sin shall not have dominion over you, since you are not under the Law but under grace [(Romans 6:14)].

St. John Chrysostom, St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions, ed. Johannes Quasten and Walter J. Burghardt, trans. Paul W. Harkins, vol. 31, Ancient Christian Writers (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1963), 170 (11.28–29).

  • 2:25–3:1: There is wordplay in the Hebrew connecting these two verses. “And the two of them were naked (עֲרוּמִּ֔ים / arummim, which is the plural form of arum)…. Now the serpent was shrewd (עָר֔וּם / arum)….”

The pun ties together the creation of Adam and Eve and their temptation, and it points to the futility of disobedience: “The nude humans have been duped by the shrewd serpent; they want to be shrewd, but in the end they are only nude….”

Although “nude” would make the pun more obvious in English, “naked” is the right word because of its association with vulnerability and shame.

Samuel L. Bray and John F. Hobbins, Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators (Wilmore, KY: GlossaHouse, 2017), 108.

The serpent and the Fall of humanity (3:1–20)


Genesis 3:13:20 (ENGLXXUP), altered

3 1 Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the brutes on the earth, which the Lord God made, and the serpent said to the woman, Wherefore has God said, Eat not of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, Ye shall not surely die. 5 For God knew that in whatever day ye should eat of it your eyes would be opened, and ye would be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate, and having taken of its fruit she ate, and she gave to her husband also with her, and they ate. 7 And the eyes of both were opened, and they [knewa] that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons to go round them. 8 And they heard the [soundb] of the Lord God walking in the garden in the afternoon; and both Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God in the [middle of the treec] of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called Adam and said to him, Adam, where art thou? 10 And he said to him, I heard thy voice as thou walkedst in the garden, and I feared because I was naked and I hid myself. 11 And God said to him, Who told thee that thou wast naked, unless thou hast eaten of the tree concerning which I charged thee of it alone not to eat? 12 And Adam said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me—she gave me of the tree and I ate. 13 And the Lord God said to the woman, Why hast thou done this? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me and I ate.

14 And the Lord God said to the serpent,

Because thou hast done this
    thou art cursed above all cattle and all the brutes of the earth,
on thy breast and belly thou shalt go,
    and thou shalt eat earth all the days of thy life.
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman
    and between thy seed and her seed,
he shall watch against thy head,
    and thou shalt watch against his heel.

16 And to the woman he said,

I will greatly multiply thy pains and thy groanings;
    in pain thou shalt bring forth children,
and thy [recoursed] shall be to thy husband,
    and he shall rule over thee.

17 And to Adam he said,

Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife,
    and eaten of the tree
concerning which I charged thee of it only not to eat—
    of that thou hast eaten,
cursed is the ground in thy labors,
    in pain shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
18 Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,
    and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of thy face
    shalt thou eat thy bread
until thou return to the earth
    out of which thou wast taken,
for earth thou art
    and to earth thou shalt return.e

20 And Adam called the name of his wife Life, because she was the mother of all living.

a Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated ἔγνωσαν (egnōsan) as “perceived.”

b Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated φωνὴν as “voice.”

c Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ ξύλου τοῦ παραδείσου as “in the midst of the trees.”

d Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated ἀποστροφή as “submission.”

e I’ve displayed vv. 14–19 poetically, approximating the structure of the RSV translation.


  • See note on 2:25–3:1 above for more about the wordplay connecting these verses and sections.

  • 1: The Hebrew word נָחָשׁ (nachash) was translated into the Greek LXX as ὄφις (ophis), meaning “snake” or “serpent,” which is the primary sense of this word in its noun form. However, the Hebrew word נָחָשׁ (nachash) could potentially also have been understood in other ways (not to imply that it should be translated differently, but that an ancient reader might have had these connections in mind within their “cognitive framework”). The implication is that an ancient reader would have known the “serpent” was a divine being that gave an omen to Eve—the account would not have been (mis)understood as a fairy tale about a talking snake. Additional semantic domains of the Hebrew word נָחָשׁ (nachash) in addition to its primary sense as “serpent” include:

    • The verbal root (binyan) נחשׁ (n-ch-sh) of the noun means “to seek and tell omens, foretell” and so refers to divination (HALOT 2000, 690).

    • Luminescent / brazen, as it pertains to copper / bronze (related by the binyan (נחשׁ) of נְחֹשֶׁת / nechoshet). See also the reference to the city of Nachash in 1 Chronicles 4:12, which implies a city of copper / bronze smiths. Copper / bronze is used in descriptions of divine beings as well (cf. Daniel 10:6 in the MT). The emphasis on “shining” or “luminescence” may be a bit of a stretch in my opinion, but the connection to copper / bronze is clear both in Hebrew and Aramaic.

      • Cf. Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 87–88, 90, and at 88:fn2.
    • “Snakes were a symbol in the ancient world of wisdom, fertility, and immortality.”

      • New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fully Revised Fifth Edition, ed. Michael D. Coogan, Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 15.
  • 1–5: Whereas the narration records the serpent as speaking directly to Eve, his statements to Eve use second person plural verbs, indicating that the serpent is targeting both her and Adam. In v. 6, we learn that Adam was “with her.”

  • 2–3: Both St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. John of Damascus taught that Adam and Eve had a pre-existing relationship with the serpent (cf. St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise 3.4; St. John the Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 2.10). St. Ephrem the Syrian also taught that the animals could not enter paradise, so Adam and Eve had to go outside the garden to meet with the serpent. In the previously referenced hymn, he expresses that the serpent only learned of God’s prohibition to Adam and Eve concerning the tree of knowledge through prior conversation. Whereas some contemporary commentators believe that Eve exaggerated God’s prohibition by saying they were not even to touch the tree, several of the fathers went further to indicate that Adam and Eve were not even supposed to look at the tree lest they be enticed by its beauty (cf., e.g., St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.20.1). St. Ephrem indicated that the tree of knowledge served “as a boundary to the inner region of Paradise…. [and] that it was not lawful to penetrate further, beyond that Tree.”

    • St. Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise, trans. Sebastian Brock, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), 91 (3.3).
  • 3: St. Ambrose indicated that God only spoke directly to Adam, whereas Eve learned of the prohibition concerning the tree from her husband. Thus, the serpent’s temptation of Eve was a means of circumventing Adam (On Paradise 12 (333)).

  • 5: The LXX indicates that if Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, they will be “as gods” (ὡς θεοί / hos theoi), which corresponds to the Hebrew הְיִיתֶם֙ כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים (heyitem k’elohim; i.e. “like the gods”). However, the gramatically plural elohim is generally translated in the singular, so English translations of the Hebrew often render this “like God.”

  • 6: Note that Adam was “with her,” yet did not protest, and he also chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve chose to listen to the serpent’s (re)interpretation of God’s word. “Flee from sin as from the face of a serpent: For if thou comest too near it, it will bite thee” (Wisdom of Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 21:2a, ENGLXXUP). By listening to the serpent instead of to God, “they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, BTV).


In this account, Eve is faced with two interpretations of reality…. One interpretation of this fruit and why it was forbidden was given by God, Who created Eve and everything else, and another one was given by the serpent, a fellow creature….

Eve, we could say, at this point decides that all that matters is the “text” alone—the two interpretations or statements made—along with how things look on the surface to her own eyes, which is only the superficial, physical reality. Apparently she doesn’t stop to consider who it is giving each interpretation, and what her relationship is with each interpreter. Like many modern-day commentators, she thinks that interpretation can be impersonal, “objective.” “Don’t ask God about this,” the serpent implies; “He is not trustworthy. He doesn’t really love you. He doesn’t really want the best for you.” Then he implies, “And don’t ask Adam, either. Judge for yourself—you don’t need others to help you discern the truth.”

The fruit really is beautiful. It looks good to Eve, and what the serpent says seems reasonable to her “unaided reason,” so she decides to accept the interpretation he offers, and to act on his statement—an action which the serpent implies she can make completely independently. However, Eve doesn’t realize that in choosing the serpent’s interpretation, and in acting with her supposed autonomy, she in fact chooses communion with the serpent over, and instead of, communion with God and her husband.

Mary S. Ford, The Soul’s Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation (Waymart, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, 2015), 50–51.

  • 6: The fathers taught that Adam and Eve’s pride and avarice led to their Fall. “Pride goes before destruction, And folly before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, ENGLXXUP). St. Augustine taught that since humanity’s downfall came about through pride, our path to restoration is the way of humility (“Faith and the Creed” 4.6 in On Christian Belief).

    • Indeed, Eve’s temptation serves as an example of how humans are tempted, summarized in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father, but from the world” (BTV). Eve’s reasoning is distorted and darkened by her passions, and she entertains the serpent’s temptation and enters into dialog with his tempting counsel.
Genesis 3:6 Excerpt (ENGLXXUP & WEB)1 John 2:16 Excerpt (BTV)
And the woman saw that the tree was good for foodthe lust of the flesh
and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplatethe lust of the eyes
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise
This statement is only present in the Hebrew MT and not in the Greek LXX. This is from the WEB translation.
and the pride of life
  • After illustrating the above comparison between Genesis 3:6 and 1 John 2:16, Fr. Reardon points out that, “St. Paul describes Eve’s beguilement as a corruption from ‘simplicity’ (2 Corinthians 11:3). In place of God’s emphatic command, known solely through the moral tradition available to her, Eve declared the autonomy of her own thought, not pausing to consider that her thinking was hardly more than the perverse assertion of her passions.”

    • Patrick Henry Reardon, Creation and the Patriarchal Histories: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Genesis (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2008), 41–42.
  • St. Irenaus pointed to Mary’s obedience beginning the process of undoing what Eve’s disobedience had brought about, and likewise Christ’s obedience undoing Adam’s disobedience:


That the Lord then was manifestly coming to His own things, and was sustaining them by means of that creation which is supported by Himself, and was making a recapitulation of that disobedience which had occurred in connection with a tree, through the obedience which was [exhibited by Himself when He hung] upon a tree, [the effects] also of that deception being done away with, by which that virgin Eve, who was already espoused to a man, was unhappily misled,—was happily announced, through means of the truth [spoken] by the angel to the Virgin Mary, who was [also espoused] to a man. For just as the former was led astray by the word of an angel, so that she fled from God when she had transgressed His word; so did the latter, by an angelic communication, receive the glad tidings that she should sustain (portaret) God, being obedient to His word. And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.

Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 547 (5.19.1).

  • 7: The serpent promised that if the forbidden fruit was eaten, Adam and Eve “would be as gods, knowing [γινώσκοντες / ginōskontes] good and evil” (v. 5). Once they had eaten, they knew [ἔγνωσαν / egnōsan] they were naked" (both words are forms of the same Greek verb meaning “to know” (γινώσκω / ginōskō). I altered the above translation to make the usage of the same verb in vv. 5 and 7 apparent.

    • Concerning the fig leaves, Rashi wrote: “This was the tree of which they had eaten; by the very thing through which their ruin had been caused was some improvement effected in their condition.” In contrast. St. Ephrem indicated that Adam actually left paradise: “he ran off and took refuge among the modest fig trees.”

      • St. Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise, trans. Sebastian Brock, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), 95 (3.13).
    • The fathers taught that although humanity’s downfall came about by means of a tree (of the knowledge of good and evil), so also did its redemption (on the cross).

    • The desire for deification (theosis: truly becoming “like God”) is not the problem (this was in fact God’s intention for Adam and Eve and for all humanity), but rather the means by which they attempted to obtain it via a shortcut. Instead of pursuing theosis through obedience, they were disobedient and attempted to obtain it on their own terms. They then were exposed to knowledge that they weren’t yet mature enough to receive.

      • This is a pervasive theme in later geneaological lists, standing in contrast to ANE perspectives that receiving knowledge from divine beings was a good thing. The Old Testament Scriptures instead point to the other divine beings as prematurely bringing knowledge to humanity that it was not mature enough to receive, resulting in the undoing of creation (descent into further chaos and death rather than order and life).

[T]he tree of knowledge was not planted originally with any evil intent, nor was it forbidden in a spirit of jealousy. Let not the enemies of God make any such suggestion or think to imitate the serpent. On the contrary, it was good if eaten at the right time; for as I understand it, the fruit was contemplation, which is only safely attempted by those who have attained a more perfect state. But it was not good for those at a lower stage of development, … just as mature food is not profitable for those of tender years who still need milk.

St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 45:8 on Easter; excerpt quoted in Panayiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ: The Nature of the Human Person (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987), 204.

  • 8: Several fathers comment on the time of day, making the point that the sun was now setting for Adam and Eve (literally and metaphorically).

    • I find it curious that they hid “in the middle of the tree of the garden” (“ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ ξύλου τοῦ παραδείσου”). The tree of life is described in 2:9 as “the tree of life in the middle of the garden” (“τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς ἐν μέσῳ τῷ παραδείσῳ”). Perhaps the implication in the LXX is that they hid within the tree of life in an attempt to avoid death—the promised consequence of their transgression.

      • Caveat: In the Hebrew, the use of the gramatically singular “tree” can refer to a plurality of trees (עֵץ / ēts is a collective noun). In Greek, ξύλον (xylon) means “wood,” and so it may perhaps also be used as a collective noun for trees, as translated by Brenton / ENGLXXUP. With that said, in support of translating ξύλον (xylon) as the singular “tree,” the LES also translated this “in the middle of the tree of the garden” and the OSB translated it “within the tree in the middle of the garden.” I hence offer this only as a qualified observation—I am unsure—but I am not alone in translating it as singular (“tree”).
  • 9: The fathers emphasize God’s patience and mercy in calling for Adam, giving him an opportunity for repentance.

  • 11: God’s follow-up question further demonstrates his patience and mercy. Instead of responding in anger, God asked a question, but also made it clear that He knew what had happened. Instead of humbling himself, Adam responded by pointing the finger at God and at Eve.

  • 12: Adam begins a cascading blame game that destroys the relationships between God and humanity, the marital relationship, the relationship between humanity and creation itself, and even the relationship within one’s own soul/self (e.g., shame). When Adam accused both God and his wife instead of accepting responsibility for his free choice to disobey God, he broke both relationships in a single sentence. Rather than simply saying “Yes” when God asked if he had eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam replied to God, “The woman You gave me, gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Note both accusations: “The woman” (blaming Eve) whom “You gave me” (blaming God).

  • 13: Whereas Adam blamed Eve and God for what was given to him (the fruit and the woman, respectively), Eve indicated that she had been deceived by the serpent. God also mercifully gave her an opportunity to repent, and patiently asked her a question rather than expressing an angry response.

  • 14: There is a contrast between vv. 1 and 14, on which Rashi commented, “Corresponding with his subtleness and his greatness was his downfall; ‘more subtle than all’ — ‘more cursed than all’”:

    • 3:1: “Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the brutes on the earth….”
    • 3:14: “Because thou hast done this thou art cursed above all cattle and all the brutes of the earth….”
  • 14: God does not question the serpent nor respond with patience and mercy to it. God responds to all three parties in reverse order of the blame game: first the serpent, then Eve, and finally Adam.

    • Whereas the Hebrew MT records God’s curse on the serpent as “upon your belly you shall go,” the LXX adds “on your chest and belly you shall go” (“ἐπὶ τῷ στήθει σου καὶ τῇ κοιλίᾳ πορεύσῃ”), perhaps to emphasize that the entire underside of the serpent is intended.
  • 15: The Protoevangelium: The fathers emphasize that Eve’s seed being referred to here is Jesus.

    • Note that only the serpent and the ground are cursed (v. 17)—Adam and Eve were not cursed (the first human cursed by God is Cain in 4:11).
  • 16: Whereas in 1:28, God blessed them, saying “Increase and multiply…,” He now pronounces that “I will greatly multiply thy pains and thy groanings….” The Hebrew MT and Greek LXX have the same verb in both of these passages. The implication for both Adam and Eve is that their role as God’s image-bearers has become more challenging. Eve will now experience suffering when striving to fulfill her roles as mother and wife.

    • Brenton / ENGLXXUP translated ἀποστροφή as “submission,” which I changed to “recourse.” However, the Hebrew תְּשׁוּקָה (teshuqah) is perhaps better translated “longing,” which appears to be the sense understood by several of the fathers.

[T]he traditional rendering is “desire….” Some ancient translations of Genesis understood the word to mean “desire” (e.g. Symmachus, Gen[esis] 4:7 Vulg[ate]). Most, however, understood it to mean “turning” or “returning,” as in the rendering of the Septuagint: “and to your husband shall be your returning” [(translated herein as “recourse”)]. That more prevalent rendering has often been explained as being based on a misreading, since the rare word used here differs by only one letter from a common word that means “returning” (teshuḇah). The usage of teshuqah in the ancient manuscripts found at Qumran, however, suggests that “desire” versus “turning” is a false choice. Given the limited number of occurrences, the matter is not certain, but the word seems to have the sense of impetus or movement with the connotation of desire. The best English equivalent would therefore be “longing….” This understanding of the word makes it unlikely that the preposition has an adversarial sense, as in ESV: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband.”

Samuel L. Bray and John F. Hobbins, Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators (Wilmore, KY: GlossaHouse, 2017), 120.

  • St. John Chrysostom saw this “longing” (or “yearning”) for her husband as part of God’s mercy to women:

As if to explain his reasons to the woman, the loving God said this, meaning, In the beginning I created you equal in esteem to your husband, and my intention was that in everything you would share with him as an equal, and as I entrusted control of everything to your husband, so did I to you; but you abused your equality of status. Hence I subject you to your husband: “ ‘Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.’ ” Because you abandoned your equal, who was sharer with you in the same nature … and for whom you were created, and you chose to enter into conversation with that evil creature the serpent, and to take the advice he had to give, accordingly I now subject you to him in future and designate him as your master for you to recognize his lordship, and since you did not know how to rule, learn well how to be ruled. “ ‘Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.’ ” It is better that you be subject to him and fall under his lordship than that enjoying freedom and authority, you would be cast into the abyss. It would be more useful also for a horse to carry the bit and travel under direction than without this to fall down a cliff. Accordingly, considering what is advantageous, I want you to have yearning for him and, like a body being directed by its head, to recognize his lordship pleasurably.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 1–17, ed. Thomas P. Halton, trans. Robert C. Hill, vol. 74, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), 240–241 (17.36).

  • 17–19: Adam’s “sentence” is the longest of the three. God cursed the ground. The sins of leaders often result in the bitterness and rebellion of their insubordinates. Likewise, creation itself now rebels against man due to his sin—our own bodies included.

Before the fall, all things were subject to the control of man, because God had made him ruler over all the things on the earth and in the water…. At that time the earth brought forth of itself fruits for the use of the animals that were subject to man, and there were neither violent rains upon the earth nor wintry storms. But, after the fall, ‘when he was compared to senseless beasts, and was become like to them,’ [(Psalm 48:13)] and when he had caused the unreasoning desire within himself to prevail over his rational intellect and had become disobedient to the commandment of the Lord, then the creation subject to him rose up against this ruler appointed by the Creator, and he was ordered to work in the sweat of his face the earth from which he had been taken.

John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” in Writings, ed. Hermigild Dressler, trans. Frederic H. Chase Jr., vol. 37, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1958), 228–229 (2.10).

  • 18: Tertullian drew a connection between the thorns and thistles due to God’s curse on the ground and the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, which then began the process of undoing the curse:

What sort of garland, however, I pray you, did He who is the Head of the man and the glory of the woman, Christ Jesus, the Husband of the church, submit to in behalf of both sexes? Of thorns, I think, and thistles,—a figure of the sins which the soil of the flesh brought forth for us, but which the power of the cross removed, blunting, in its endurance by the head of our Lord, death’s every sting.

Tertullian, “The Chaplet, or De Corona,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 102 (On the Crown (De Corona) 14.3).

  • 19: The pronouncement of mortality. The fathers make it clear that this was the result of humanity’s choice. Humans chose death and so brought it about by their free choice. Death was not a punishment imposed on humanity by God.

From what source did death come to Adam? Was it from the nature of a tree of this sort or actually from God? If we ascribe this to the nature of the tree, then the fruit of this tree seems to be superior to the vivifying power of the breath of God, since its fruit had drawn into death’s toils him on whom the divine breath had bestowed life. If we maintain that God is the responsible cause of death, then we can be held to accuse Him of inconsistency. We seem to accuse Him of being so devoid of beneficence as to be unwilling to pardon when He had the power to do so, or of being powerless if He was unable to forgive. Let us see, therefore, how this question can be resolved. The solution, unless I am mistaken, lies in the fact that, since disobedience was the cause of death, for that very reason, not God, but man himself, was the agent of his own death. If, for example, a physician were to prescribe to a patient what he thought should be avoided, and if the patient felt that these prohibitions were unnecessary, the physician is not responsible for the patient’s death. Surely in that case the patient is guilty of causing his own death. Hence, God as a good physician forbade Adam to eat what would be injurious to him.

St. Ambrose, On Paradise 7.35 (313).

  • “Therefore, [even] as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, death passed to everyone, because {of which} all sinned” (Romans 5:12, EOB).

  • 20: Whereas Adam named the creatures he ruled over in 2:20, he had not named his wife because she was his equal (cf. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 17.36). However, now that they have fallen and Eve has been subjected to Adam, he now names her as he previously did the animals. Her name points to hope for how humanity will now continue through childbearing, albeit with pain and suffering.

    • I herein refer to the traditional name “Eve” (חַוָּה / Havvah) despite the LXX (appropriately) using Ζωή (Zoe, meaning “Life”) in this pericope. She is later called Eve (Εὕαν) beginning in 4:1 (LXX). The Hebrew חַוָּה (Havvah) was etymologically related to חָֽי (hey, “the living”), which is retained in the Greek LXX: Ζωή (Zoe = “Life”) is the mother of the ζώντων (Zoōntōn = “living”).