3. Working out the Main Theme of the Story (Exegesis with Literary Study)

In the following exegesis, literary study will be adopted in order to identify the main theme of the story. Before moving to the actual part of exegesis, some techniques adopted in the narration that should be observed in literary study will be introduced first.

3.1 Five Narrative Techniques

The following five techniques used by the author should be noted In the following exegesis:

1. Variations in the narrative mode (narrative or dialogue)

2. Norms of judgement

3. Dynamics of the relationship distance among the characters

4. Plot

5. Introversio (multiple chiasmus, parallel/ mirror structure)

The above five techniques will be mentioned when they are appropriate in the following exegesis. It is expected that only the original meaning intended to be delivered by the author is revealed from the study of how it said. It is not influenced by ones theological thought in the interpretation process. Some of the key findings revealed through the above method will be introduced here to help us focus when we read the following exegesis:

  1. The comment made by the author, e.g. shame and ashamed, etc. (norm of judgement)
  2. The final conclusion prepared by the author. (norm of judgement)
  3. The ideological thrust on the relationship of the plot of the story: establishment-broken-reestablishment. (plot)
  4. The climax of humans decision in following Gods command or to be independent as this scene is the central part of the parallel/ mirror structure. It is believed that the central part should be the climax. (Introversio)

Regarding the technique of changing the narrative mode, it will be illustrated in the following section. In the following, the parallel structure of the story will be introduced. (Introversio)

3.2 Parallel Structure

The study of structure is considered in the literary study. It can help to identify and show the introversio technique used in the story clearly. The story of Adam and Eve is divided into seven scenes. Headings are assigned to the scenes in order to highlight the main idea of the scenes. The seven scenes are:

Scene 1: Active establishment of the relationship by God (2:4b~17)

Scene 2: Close relationship among the man, the woman and God (2:18~25)

Scene 3: God, the other one (3:1~5)

Scene 4: Decisive moment (3:6~8)

Scene 5: Relationship in tension (3:9~13)

Scene 6: Consequence of the decision / relationship re-establishment (3:14~19)

Scene 7: Alienation forever? (3:22~24)

This structure may not be the most perfect one, but it has two advantages. Firstly, it can be found that there is a perfect symmetry/ mirror literary structure of the passage. Moreover, the well structured changing relationship among different characters in these scenes are revealed:











Sole actor

Present, passive







Main actor

Minor role































Main Actor

Minor role







Sole actor






(the cell in grey indicating the involving of the character in the scene)

It has been mentioned that the dynamic changing relationship among the characters is one of the narrative techniques which should be noted. Thus, this structure showing the dynamic relationship among the characters have the distinct advantage over other possible suggested structures of this story.

3.3 Seven Scenes of the Story

In the following, the exegesis will be held on the story scene by scene with special emphasis on narrative techniques.

3.3.1 Scene 1: Active Establishment of the Relationship by God (2:4b~17)

4b When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens--

5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,

6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground--

7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the he had formed.

9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.

11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.

12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)

13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.

14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take of it.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;

17 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."

This is a scene described by a third-person narrator and the main focus is the preparation of building up the relationship between God and adam initiated actively by God. Moreover, the prestige status and limit of adam is described.

Through the preparation, God shows his care by the preparation of good living environment and vocation for adam actively. God has prepared a pleasant, safe and beautiful living environment with plants and rivers (v.8~10) for adam before he is put there. God assigns adam a vocation and responsibility of taking care of the Garden (v.15). Gods tender care to adam should be noted in the preparation.

According to the status of adam, he is prestigious but with responsibility and limitation. He is created in a special way. Adam is so special that he it is not only separated from dust, but also separated from other creations because he is the only one has the breath from God(v.7). Comparing with the literature of Babylonian on the creation story of human, there is a special added word breath in the Biblical Text. It implies the special value of the planned creation of adam and he is the center of the creations. Moreover, it should be noted that the subjectivity of adam revealed from dialogue/command from God to him(v.16~17), it implies the subjectivity and responsibility of adam . The command is in the form of you are free and you must not. The focus may be the presence of the subject of adam. However, the I of God is not mentioned in the passage. It implies that God is in a superior position for giving the command to the adam. They are not in an inter-subjectivity position when this serious command is given. In spite of the different status between God and adam, the relationship can be very good. The relationship between the master and servant may be very good, but the servant cannot have the same status with the master. It is the limitation of the servant, adam .

Moreover, adams limitation is concretely stated in the Gods command, adam is limited not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or under the threat of death(v.17). There is no elaborated explanation behind this command. One should only accept that there is a kind authority, one should accept it without questioning. Although adam accepts this authority, the tree is still attractive to him as the fruit of the tree are described as pleasing to eye and good for food(v.9). The tree does not only give a sensory attraction to adam but also evolves a desire for him to take it. It implies that adam may have some deficiency or emptiness leading to the strong desire of him. The author has left a cue that there is a central conflict between the command and the psychological desire. Adam may need to make a decision between obeying the command of God or fulfilling his desire.

The main idea of this sense has been mentioned. It is the prestigious status with limitation of adam living in the active provision of God. Moreover, there is tension of adam decision to fulfill his desire and obeying the command of God.

3.3.2 Scene 2: Close Relationship among the Man, the Woman and God (2:18~25)

18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh.

22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be woman, for she was taken out of man."

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The focus of this scene is Gods tender concern for adams partner and the relationship between the human pair and God. The narration mode is still in third- person.

God states that adams living alone is not good, healthy and complete(v.18). In fact, it should be understood that mutual help is essential to human existence. Thus, God thinks that it is important to have a partner for him to establish dynamic relationship. Gods empathy with adam is shown in Gods self-utterance. God only uses singular form rather than plural form in the self-utterance. It may imply that God tries to stand with adam on the same reference in order to show his empathy on him.

Regarding the relationship between the man and the woman, it can be reflected from the narration of their nature and the speech of adam. Before the woman is constructed, adam is assigned to name the creatures that are formed from dust and try to find the partner there(v.19~20). Adams nature is different from them as he is the one with Gods breath and he cannot have a full conversation with the animals. After the construction of the woman who is from a portion of adam, but not other creation from dust(v.22), adam can have a full conversation when he faces the woman(v.23). The word used implies their nature and the content of the conversation reflects the close relationship as well. Firstly, the word woman(issah) is derived from the word man (is) (v.23). In fact, everything is created from dust, but only issah come from is. The term is is used once in this story to indicate the particular individual. It implies the close unity for these two particular individuals. Secondly, in the first-person narration of adam, the woman is described as my bones and flesh of my flesh(v.23). Moreover, the relationship between the man and the woman is also described as one flesh as well(v.24). These show the close and un-separable intimacy between them. On the other hand, the relationship can be understood through the direct statement of the author. It is reported that "two of them" are naked but not ashamed (v.24). These statements may be considered as the conclusion of these two scenes by the author. It should be noted that the phrase not-ashamed is correlated with a positive character that is different from the customary association of nude and shame.

There is a good relationship among God, adam, the woman and the natural environment/ animals in the scene 1 and 2. However, this situation is challenged in scene 3.

3.3.3 Scene 3: God, the Other One (3:1~5)

1 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'?"

2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,

3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.

5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

In this scene, the mode of narration is changed from the third-person narrative to a dialogue. It may be useful to show the inner world of the characters through speech. Moreover, it creates an atmosphere to invite the readers involvement into the text. The key concern in this scene is that the position of God seems to be displaced to the other one, a stranger. In fact, the authority position of God seems to be replaced by the serpent.

In the dialogue between the serpent and the woman, God is only the other one without importance. God is no longer taken as a subject in the discussion but is only an object to be discussed. On the other hand, the role of the serpent may be more important in the womans mind. The skill of the serpent gaining the trust of the woman and the internal conflict of the woman are described in sequence. Firstly, the image of the serpent presented to the woman should be quite positive. It is described as craft that may means smart(v.1). This character is what the woman looking for. Thus, she may have some confidence in the serpent. Secondly, the serpent only uses the word God but not the LORD God. It implies that God is the one who is distant(v.2). This may begin the atmosphere of alienation to the woman. Thirdly, the serpent tries to twist the original meaning of Gods command. It feels surprised and has sympathy for the woman that God has made such unreasonable command of limitation in the suggestion to her(v.2). The womans trust on Gods command is shaken by the question of the serpent. Thirdly, the woman enlarges the command of God(v.3). God has not forbid her to touch the fruit. However, the woman tries to set her own law for attending the transgression. If she does not receive any effects, she will try to take further action to eat it. The position of God should be noted: the woman said that God had said that implies that God becomes the object of the discussion. She is not talking to God but about God. Moreover, she has adopted the wording used by the serpent that she uses the less friendly title God. It has shown the progress of alienation between God and the humankind. Fourthly, the reminder from the serpent that she will not surely die(v.4) may bring attraction worth for consideration to the woman as the violation does not necessarily bring her to death. Finally, the serpent further tries to twist the intention of God(v5). It intends to describe that God is selfish and makes the prohibition for Gods interest only but not the human pairs. The serpents reply implies that God wants to preserve his power of knowing good and evil and does not want that the human pair to open their eyes and gain God-like power through eating the fruit. Now, the woman may have a strong desire to have the God-like abilities of being independent . It does not mean that she does not know how to make moral decision. Otherwise, she will not know to response to the serpent. It means she wants to make the decision herself without the involvement of God. Comparing with the Ancient Near Eastern text, man can become the paganism (gods) who can make decisions independently. This may be the critical moment of womans decision to keep living independently or not.

It can be observed that the relationship between God and the woman is in the progress of alienation. Gods role has been displaced. The cause of the alienation is that man wants to break their limit. The human pair make the decision in the following scene.

3.3.4 Scene 4: Decisive Moment (3:6~8)

6 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.

7 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.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

In this scene, the mode of narration is changed back to the narrative. There is the only presence of the human pairs in this sense. It seems that this third-person narrative creates an atmosphere of silence. The only human pair can make a serious decision alone under the internal conflict. They need to decide if following Gods command or fulfilling ones desire of being independent. It should be noted that this is the active decision of the human pair, but not forced by the serpent.

The woman finds that the fruit is lust to the eyeslovely to look at (v.6). This is a parallel pattern. It does not implies only that she looks at it but also has a desire of getting it. Moreover, there is an implication of the internal struggle of the woman. It can be described that the woman thinks that "I desire the wisdom delivered by the tree" . It should use the first person description. However, the third person is used instead. It shows the internal conflict of her. She wants wisdom but still has some reservation. Therefore, the direct description in first person is not used. In other words, she is described as a subject who can make the decision herself. It implies that she desires the attribute of God-like and wants to be independent in making decision. The meaning of wisdom(v.6) should be noted. Wisdom is always a gift from God. However, she wants to get it through her own means. It further illustrates her inner desire. The changing relationship should be noted. It changes from the subject-object (God toward man) to an inter-subjectivity one.

As she finds that the fruit of the tree is extremely attractive and she has a strong desire to get it. She makes the decision to get the fruit(v.6b). It should be noted that the action of the woman is described with the technique of waw-consecutive clauses. It implies that the sequence of the actions are in a quick motion. It means that she may be very nervous at the decisive moment. She is under the tension of satisfying her desire of being independent and violating Gods command. Thus, she just completes the action quickly and tries to over-look the risks behind.

There is a remark on adams role in this scene. One should learn that adam is there when the woman attempts the violation in this scene(v.6b). It is unlike the traditional belief that adam is not there. In fact, he is with the woman but keeps silent to the action. It is suggested that this silence signifies the inner division with his wife, the woman. Moreover, the author describes the relationship between adam and the woman in a reversing order. It is described as "her man with her". This description may imply that there is a dissonance between them.

The consequence of the violation is unexpected to the man and woman. Their eyes are opened and what they found are their nakedness that is the outer difference(v.7a). Moreover, there is an inner feeling of shame. It is symbolized and expressed through picking up the fig leave to cover their bodies(v.7b). Furthermore, they needed to hide themselves when the sound of God is heard(v.8). These descriptions may expose the original judgement of the original writer: "it is a shame" that is associated with negative meaning. Shame may be the comment of the author of this action. The result of action is not the victory but shame. When this comment is contrasted with the not-ashamed in scene 2, the progress of the alienation can be observed here.

From scene 5 onward, the consequence of the violence of the human pair is further elaborated.

3.3.5 Scene 5: Relationship in Tension (3:9~13)

9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

The mode of narrative in this scene switches from the narrative back to the dialogue again. In the previous dialogue between God and the serpent, God is only considered as the third person object for discussion. In this scene, God takes back the role of being a subject in questioning them. The main concern of this issue is the tension of the relationship. The vertical relationship between God and the human pair is broken. Moreover, the horizontal relationship within the human pair is broken as well.

The changes of the vertical relationship can be identified from the narrative skills. Firstly, LORD God is only described as a third person(v.9). On one hand, the usage of third-person implies that the relationship between them is no longer the one with inter-subjective but God is only considered as a stranger. On the other hand, the usage of the term LORD God shows the possibility of a close relationship. These narration create a tension in relationship between God and the human pair. Secondly, when God asks them "where they are", instead of answering here I am, they hide themselves(refer to v.10). It is because their perception towards the world is changed. They learn that something must be concealed. They learn that their nakedness which associated with shame should be concealed. These outside actions imply that they have fear and anxiety. There is a gap formed between God and the human pair. Finally, it is noted how the inner division of adam is described. In adams response to God, he uses the subject I repeatedly(v.10): "I heard I was afraid I was naked". It shows the weakness, solitude and guilt that adam felt. His inner division is reflected externally through this verbal expression. It seems that there is a development of the antagonist between adam and God as I is used to describe both the characters.

The relationship between adam and the woman is broken as well. Their relationship is changed from trust to a deception and blaming. When adam is questioned by God(v.11), instead of taking the responsibility and protecting her wife, he blames that this is the fault caused by the woman(v.12). The gift of Adam is considered as the source of trouble. It implies that the violation worsen the relationship between them.

As a short summary of the development of the story, the following changed status can be identified:

Unashamed versus ashamed

Naked versus clothed

Revealed versus concealed

Harmony versus disharmony

Although the relationship is in high tension, God takes the initiative to resume the relationship.

3.3.6 Scene 6: Consequence of the Decision / Relationship Re-establishment by God (3:14~19)

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

In this sense, God takes the active role. The concern in this scene is the consequence of the human pairs violation which is the corruption of the relationship among the characters in the story. It includes the changing of the relationship between the serpent versus the woman, the woman versus adam and adam versus the earth. However, there is a description of Gods actively re-establishing relationship.

About the relationship between the serpent versus the woman(v.15), they become opponents. Regarding the relationship between the woman versus adam, they should be one flesh, but the relationship is changed to domination/sub-domination that may imply the tension between the antagonists(v.16b). With the changes of the relationship between adam and the earth, adam is suffered from hard working for living(v.17b) and there are new plants growing opposing to adams works(v.18).

The implication behind the changing relationship is that they are experiencing the limit of the human nature. When they choose to be God-like (to be independent), they are not only suffered from the alienation between them and God, but also the alienation with other and even themselves. Moreover, it implies the reality and irony of man as well. It states that there were certain limit of mankind when they perform their roles. There may be no longer interest in performing their responsibility but pain. For example, the womans responsibility may be childbearing, but she will be suffered from the pain of child-bearing(v.16a). Moreover, the duty of adam is working and taking care of the garden, he will be suffered from the pain of work(v.17b). Furthermore, there is no escape of the fate of death of them(v.19). It may be the fate of the humankind. On the other hand, it seems that adam has recognized this fate. It can be reflected from the naming of the woman given by the adam. The name of the woman is Eve that means the mother of all life(v.20). It implies that they have accepted their fate and this fate will be the one of all offspring as well.

Regarding the active re-establishing relationship by God, it can be symbolized by Gods active preparation of clothes that can be a gift for them(v.21). It is believed that God creates an positive atmosphere of relationship re-establishment.

3.3.7 Scene 7: Alienation Forever? (3:22~24)

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

In this last scene, the mode of narrative is also the third-person narrative. This scene can be studied from the view of God and the human pair. Please note that there may be the conclusion of this story given by the author.

From the view of the human pair, they are banished from the Garden. The author uses a strong word banish(v.23). God is the subject for the banish implying that the human pair cannot transgress their limit. Moreover, it means that there is a determined action of separation. Furthermore, the way to the garden is guarded. It further strengthens the idea of separation. The garden out versus garden in situation highlights the alienation of the human pair and the unchangeable fate of them. On the other hand, the loneliness of the human pair may be identified with God. This is why God uses the self-utterance(v.22). Therefore, this scene may be considered as a picture of grief, loneliness and alienation. How should one interpret this conclusion? The suggested heading of this section is alienation forever?. It indicates there is still a reservation of this implied conclusion of this scene. This question may be opened in order to imply that the story about God and the human pair will be continued. The human pair may need to continue their life with suffering. On the other hand, Gods active action of relationship re-establishment begins.

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