There is frequent debate and disagreement about exactly what transpired in the Garden of Eden relative to the partaking of the forbidden fruit. There are those who interpret the entire account allegorically – who come up with widely varying ways to liken it unto themselves. However, even among those who read it literally, there are widely differing ways that the actions and statements are perceived.
One of the most often discussed verses, with the most wildly divergent perspectives, is Genesis 3:12, where Adam is quoted as saying:
The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
One common interpretation of this verse it to criticize Adam for passing the buck – for blaming the woman (and, by some interpretations, even God) for his actions. However, when the words themselves are parsed strictly for what they actually say (especially when the PofGP version is considered), I believe a very different message and statement appears.
1) “The woman whom thou gavest [me]”
It is apparent in this phrase that Adam was referencing how he came to be with Eve – that they were together because God made it happen.
2) “to be with me [and commanded that she should remain with me]”
It is apparent in this phrase that Adam was referencing what God had told him about Eve – that they were commanded to stay together. It also is worth noting that this commandment was given before the commandment to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – meaning that the command to remain together appears to have been viewed by Adam as the “first and great commandment” he had been given by the Lord.
3) she gave me of the tree
In this phrase, Adam simply explains very succinctly and accurately what had happened, and it is important to point out that there are no disclaimers that would add any blame or recrimination or anger or any other emotion. As actually worded, this phrase is as dispassionate as it is possible to be.
4) and I did eat.
This phrase, like the previous one, is a dispassionate statement of what happened, and it also can be viewed as a summation. It is the conclusion of a simple and straightforward “this, therefore” juxtaposition. The only question is if there is some contextual meaning hidden within the words – and I find no reason to believe there is such hidden meaning.
Therefore, I believe the straightforward meaning of this verse, strictly parsed into modern terms, would be something like:
“You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her.”
Personally, to add a bit of the background story, I would fill it out thus – knowing that it is going beyond simple parsing, but confident that it is not wildly speculative or off-the-wall:
“You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. That was the first and greatest commandment you gave me. Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her – and fulfill the first and highest law you gave me. I had a choice to stay with you alone or be with her outside your presence, and I chose to remain with her rather than to remain alone with you.”
I have read quite a few varying interpretations of this verse, but each of them requires that the interpreter make some core assumptions about the relationship between Adam and Eve – and, in almost all cases, those assumptions are a direct reflection of either our modern conception of relationships, an obvious argument for a particular politics- or gender-specific issue or a view that simply is not supported by the text itself. As someone who sees the story figuratively rather than literally, I understand differing interpretations, but the one I have outlined is the only one that makes sense to me – given the totality of the account and the initial command to “cleave unto her and none else”.
Consider carefully the following point: “None else” includes the Lord, Himself – so, in a very real way, Adam was making the choice we teach that all will have to make in the eternities (to “leave home” and the presence of the Father and Son and embark on our own eternal journey as a united couple – “God” to our own spirit children). Thus, I see figurative meaning in the Garden for both our mortal and immortal existences – and I see Adam’s statement in Genesis 3:12 as his straightforward explanation of his choice to accept the Father’s plan. (I also see Eve’s partaking as a similar manifestation of her acceptance, but the difference between the two is a topic for another post.)
If you agree with this interpretation, what about it resonates with you? If not (if your interpretation is different), why is that so? What would you change about this version?