When the serpent was enticing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, where was Adam? Was he standing silently beside her, passively watching as his wife was being tempted? Or was he off somewhere else in the garden, busy about his work? What are the implications of each scenario, and what might we learn from considering them?
Yet we’d use the same kind of language if Adam wasn’t standing right next to Eve, if he were anywhere in the Garden; it’s a matter of perspective. If I’m texting a friend, my wife’s with me at home even if she’s in another room. But to a child in my lap, mom’s not with me in the same sense. Since we’re told about the Fall from a distance, there’s no requirement for Adam to be within earshot of the serpent; this could go either way. What else might we consider?
Firstly, our understanding of the tactics of the serpent differ dramatically depending on our view. There’s no obvious wisdom, cunning or subtlety in attempting to deceive Eve with Adam present. (Ge 3:1) Wisdom tells us that temptation is typically discretely private, not in public before like-minded community who might offer support. Thinking Adam was present misses a key typological example of Satan’s tactical pattern. (2Co 2:11)
And how are we to understand the unfathomable passivity of a newly-married groom who stands by silently while his bride is threatened? Danger is apparent and Adam is charged with cleaving to his wife and considering her needs as his own. (Ge 2:24) An intruder is engaging the weaker vessel on purpose (1Pe 3:7); what reasonably sane husband tolerates such threats without engaging? Passivity here implies Adam is grossly negligent, unconcerned for his wife’s welfare, for no apparent reason. Such failure is sin, if anything is, and precedes the Fall. This is problematic on multiple levels.
And what should we make of God insistence, in light of Eve’s participation in the Fall, that women abstain from public debate in spiritual assemblies? (1Ti 2:11-14) How could this be punishment for being the gender that sinned first … when being deceived is less criminal than sinning deliberately, presumptuously, with our eyes wide open? (He 10:26-27) Adam chose the fruit intentionally, in open defiance of God; sin entered the world through Adam, not Eve. (Ro 5:12)
If the Fall doesn’t teach us that women are, as a rule, more easily mislead than men when it comes to discerning spiritual danger, and that this is a matter of God’s intrinsic, perfect design, one which ought to be benevolently recognized by men (1Pe 3:7), then what essential, spiritual principle are we to discern here, given God’s prescription for church order?
And if this assessment of woman is correct, then Satan’s tactic is much more intuitive and obvious: he would very likely have isolated Eve to exploit her vulnerability and maximize his probability of success.
And what shall we make of God’s observation that Adam listened to his wife’s voice in the context of the Fall? (Ge 3:17) Evidently, Eve spoke to Adam to entice him, a detail omitted from the initial narrative. If Adam were present all along, hearing and considering all the serpent said, the fact of dialogue between Adam and Eve seems incidental, insignificant, yet God mentions this as a key aspect in Adam’s sin. Evidently, it was Eve’s persuasion that moved him, not the serpent’s lies. This doesn’t square with Adam being present all along: Adam was a perfect man, a genius; if he had heard everything the serpent said, it seems unlikely that Eve would have been more persuasive than the serpent.
The above difficulties suggest (to me) that Satan approached Eve strategically, when she was alone, crafting a lie perfectly suited to her unique disposition as a helper; she was more emotionally oriented and intuitive than Adam, more aware of and connected with her environment, and focused on pleasing him, making her a suitable counterpart, yet more vulnerable to deception. Tempting Adam with recovering intimacy and alignment with Eve, in addition to the prospect of being like God, was likely the enemy’s plan. It worked: Adam deliberately chose to sin, pursuing fellowship and union with his lover over his Maker. It was the greater sin, for sure.
The Fall of Man is a foundation of our faith, containing key life lessons for us all. (1Co 10:11) If I am rightly dividing the text, it reveal Satan as a master strategist, with an intimate knowledge of his victims; he divides and isolates with precision and malice (Ja 5:16), leveraging the goodness of our design to take us down. (Mt 10:36) Let’s be sober and vigilant. (1Pe 5:8-9)