Seen from above, the garden stretched on and on; a vast cultivated island in the midst of a wild, tangled wilderness even vaster. Its center claimed the highest elevation, but Eden was also blessed with verdant mountains round about its circumference. Down from the rarefied heights of its center flowed a river which soon divided into four rivers that spread out to water the garden this way and that.
At the exact middle of the exact center of the garden, two magnificent fruit trees grew side by side. A woman stood gazing at them, her eyes riveted. Her garments would be difficult to describe. The most accurate picture I could give you would be to say that she appeared to be clothed in robes of light. The man with her was similarly attired. He stood back a pace or two, studying her reaction to the trees.
I suppose I had better describe them. The tree at the left bore a fist-sized oblong fruit of an incredible yellow-green hue, its beauty enhanced by its rosy cheeks. This fruit covered the tree and quite a lot of it was easily within reach of any who might desire it. Even the smaller animals might have eaten of the many samples sprinkled around on the ground, yet none had been touched. Lush, bluish green foliage nearly hid the dark trunk from view except at its base, where its massive foundation spread out in the grass as a huge undulating octopus might do. As wide as its base was, its canopy was broader, and blocked out the light of the sun so that to enter under its shelter would be almost like walking into an unlighted house.
The tree on the right had not one huge trunk, but many smaller trunks twined together and spreading out from the main support like a small forest with one wide-spreading canopy of flickering spring green. Whenever a breeze blew through, the silver-backed leaves twinkled like millions of tiny daytime stars. Light filtered to the leaf-littered grassy forest floor in ever-changing patches of pale gold. Anyone desirous to eat of its fruit would need to climb one of its many trunks and fetch it down. It had a curious appearance, being almost bread-like in color, shaped like a huge peanut, with a savory, spicy scent that left one dreaming of worlds and beauties incomprehensible, yet wondering what it reminded one of. The fruit was far too large for one person to eat alone. It was a fruit meant for sharing.
As Eve gazed on the trees, a bit of colorful movement from the left-hand tree caught her attention. Bright as that tree was, a creature still brighter moved in its branches. Intrigued, she drifted nearer, trying to see what it was that hid in the leaf-cloaked limbs. A voice, rich and melodious floated into her ears as she approached. It was too soft to discern the words, but it sounded like a serpent’s voice. Eve always enjoyed the serpents in the garden. She loved their smooth, patterned skin and their dry, subtle sense of humor. And of course, they spent their days in the trees since no serpent would wish to crawl around the ground on its belly.
“Eve . . . is it true?” the serpent said, now in her hearing. “Is it true that God has said you and Adam may not eat of the fruits of the garden?”
What? Why would the serpent say such a thing? Surely he knew better than that. “Of course not!” she replied. “We can eat from any of the trees of the garden except this one. God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it lest you die.'”
The serpent gave a short huffy hiss. “Dying?! You do not die. God doesn’t want you eating from this tree because He knows that in the day you eat of it you’ll become like Him, knowing good and evil.”
Eve’s mouth was already open for a denial, but as she began to speak, the fragrance of the fruit, so abundant all around her, befuddled her senses. Its heady aroma went straight to her mind, whispering . . . things. She had never before desired knowledge. Everything she had wanted to know, she had received from God as soon as she had asked it. But to have her own knowledge . . . she glanced at Adam . . . to have her own personal knowledge even apart from that of her husband whom she loved . . . yes, a heady thought indeed. What could she make of herself if she were like God? And she would share — her husband should have this opportunity, too. But God had said she would die.
Well, Adam had said she would die. Had he already eaten from the tree? He always seemed to know more about things than she did. She quite forgot the multitudes of times she had supplied his lack and remembered only the times he had known things that she had not. Why was God holding out on her? Surely knowledge was a good thing. And how would she know how to avoid evil if she didn’t even know what it was? The fruit was unquestionably good for food. Certainly it was pleasant to look on, and apparently desirable to make one wise. In a moment she made her decision. She plucked a fruit and took a bite. As she wiped the juice from her chin, she noticed Adam standing next to her.
He looked into her eyes and Eve knew in that moment that he had not deceived her. To make it up to him that she had even thought such a thing, she plucked a second fruit and placed it into his hand. “It will make you wise,” she said. “I can already feel it working in me. And it’s delicious.”
What Adam was thinking I do not know, but I do know that he wasn’t deceived as Eve had been. He had been around the garden a little longer and he had received the warning not to eat this fruit directly from the mouth of God. No, he knew better, but for whatever reason, he bit. It was sweet in his mouth, and it seemed that he felt a rushing into his mind — a foundational change in himself that could not be reversed. And he realized with a shock that he was naked.
(Part 2 tomorrow)