Women and Words: Eve, the First Woman

If I’m being honest, Eve’s first recorded words in Genesis 3 are painful for me to read. When Adam’s first words are so beautiful and quite literally perfect, why, I ask myself, aren’t Eve’s the same?

I think part of the answer lies with the one to whom Eve is talking.

It’s easy to read Genesis 3 through 21st century lenses and raise a skeptical eyebrow at the Dr. Doolittle-esque idea of a snake talking to a woman. But when God has just called the whole universe into existence with his words, it seems completely consistent that the creatures He made for His glory might possess some echo of this attribute of their Maker.

The more significant detail in this passage isn’t so much a snake talking to Eve; it’s how, and why, Eve is talking back to the snake.

Genesis 2:4-23 reads like the opening scene in a Disney musical, with its once upon a time beginning, and its lush descriptions of gardens, rivers and gold to set the scene. Moses describes the beautiful way in which God makes Adam his necessary ally- someone who is both like him and not. Adam responds to God’s work with poetic exultation. You can almost hear the music begin to swell into the opening notes of a duet.

But then a third character suddenly breaks into the scene, and the music stops abruptly.

Moses introduces the serpent by calling out what makes him unique, but not in a way that negates the essential truth of what he is. He’s just a beast of the field. His wits may set him apart, but in all other respects he’s just one of the many creatures who move over the earth, over which God called Adam and Eve to rule, together.  So how is Eve drawn so unquestioningly into talking with him as if he’s an equal?  Why aren’t Eve’s first words directed at Adam, about who on God’s green earth this creature is to presume to strike up a conversation with her, uninvited and unintroduced?

The answer lies in his crafty, conversational strategy.

True to Moses’ description, the serpent engages Eve by framing his question in terms that presume upon the things they share in common, even spiritual things.  Both of them were made by God. Both of them have a role to play in God’s creation mandate. What could be more natural, even fruitful, than clarifying conversation between two of God’s creatures about His commands, just to make sure they were both on the same page?

Eve unquestioningly follows the lead of the serpent’s questions. Her answers stretch, and shape, and smooth God’s words until He looks like someone altogether different than who He actually is.

With her words, Eve:

  • puts herself and Adam in front of God, sidestepping His authority.
  • reduces the scope of God’s provision, reducing His generosity.
  • redraws the lines of God’s protection, exaggerating His boundaries.
  • diminishes the scope of God’s transcendence, diluting His glory

all in the space of a single sentence.

The god Eve’s words depict is a god Satan knows how to work with.

Eve’s words form the fatal framework for the lies Satan feeds her, and Adam, and all of us.

That’s why my heart aches when I read Eve’s words in Genesis 3. Because in her words I hear echoes of my own – in every time I’ve put my will ahead of God’s, in every complaint I’ve made over what it seems God has withheld, in every chafing at His protection, in my lust for glory that robs God of His.

The bitter consequences of Eve’s words, and all of ours like them, are what makes Jesus’ words in Luke 4:1-13 all the sweeter.

Several thousand years after Satan meets Eve in a garden, he meets Jesus in the wilderness. He deploys the very same strategies he used with Eve (Satan may be crafty, but he’s hardly creative), questioning authority, testing God’s boundaries, proffering power he doesn’t possess in exchange for the worship he continually craves.

But where Eve succumbed, Jesus prevails.

In the wilderness, Jesus, the Living Word, speaks over Eve’s words with the word of the living God.

  • Where Eve’s words set aside God’s authority, Jesus’ words submitted to it.
  • Where Eve’s words dismissed God’s provision, Jesus’ words rests in it.
  • Where Eve’s words rebelled against God’s boundaries, Jesus’ words revered them.

Eve’s words were the beginning of humanity’s undoing; Jesus’ words were the beginning of its rescue.

With His words, the second Adam spoke with perfection where Eve, and I, have not. And with His words, He modeled for me, and for all of us, the kind of speech that crushes the crafty serpent into the dust – speech that centers itself on the words of God, and the worship of God, all for the glory of God.

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