, 37 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Been reading a lot about religious abuse and a lot of people writing about it talk a lot about Eden and the trees, and I'm feeling like it's time for a little thread about the trees.

So. Everyone knows this story, right?

Cool. Where was each tree located in the garden?
Here's the text.

(Incidentally, "Eden" is the same word, essentially, as "edna", pleasure--when Sarah hears the promise that she will bear a son, she laughs to herself at the idea that she will have "pleasure", eden/edna, again.)

But anyway, here's the text.
I'm not enamored of the translation Sefaria uses (I think it's the old JPS? like the 1917 or whatever one that's basically KJV) but here it actually does sort of preserve the structure of the Hebrew as far as where the trees are.
"And from the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad. "

So in the center, we have the tree of life.
And... somewhere, there's also the tree of knowledge.

(Tov v'ra, "good and bad," is an idiom that means "everything" -- the English equivalent would probably be closer to "Knowledge from A-Z.)
Ok, so, we've got the tree of life called out as being at the center of the garden.

And somewhere in the garden is the tree of knowledge.

And then we get instructions.
So if you want to read this literally in English, these instructions are given to Adam, because Eve isn't around yet.

But adam in Hebrew is also just "human." (adam from the adama, an earthling from the earth, a human from the humus.)
And there's a popular Jewish reading that says that the first human was actually male AND female, and Eve wasn't *created* from Adam--the first human was split into two.

So maybe she was around.

But if you want to be literal, the text only records this instruction to the man.
Anyhoo, we have the tree of life in the center, and the tree of knowledge somewhere, and the man gets told, don't eat from the tree of knowledge, and Eve doesn't exist yet (at least as a separate being).
So, Eve gets separated/created, & along comes the serpent, with a question that is already framed incorrectly (a tried and true lawyer technique--people will jump to correct you and accidentally admit things).

“Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?”
So, we don't know what Eve has actually been told, or by whom. Did God give her the same instruction God gave Adam? Did *Adam* have to pass on the instruction to her? Did he do it correctly?
So let's look at her answer:
The English here isn't super-accurate (it has Eve saying "we can eat of the OTHER trees," as if the serpent had asked about a specific tree, but it's more literally just "from the fruit of the trees of the garden we eat")...
"It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.’”

So, first, let's get something out of the way: she adds to the instruction. The original instruction didn't contain anything about touching.
(And if you're going, eh, so what, well, the Hebrew here is SUPER-terse. If something gets repeated, it's significant. And if it gets repeated with a change, that change basically has flashing lights over it.)
So either:

-God gave Eve different instructions (Adam wasn't told not to touch; she was).
-Adam relayed the instructions to Eve and added the part about not touching.
-Eve added the part about not touching.
If the story wanted us to know that God gave Eve different instructions, I'm pretty sure we would have gotten a scene with that.

So either Adam or Eve engaged in the first instance of the rabbinic practice of "building a fence around the law."
The practice of building a fence around the law is, if the Torah says "don't cook a kid in its mother's milk," you don't eat milk and meat together just to be sure. It makes the law stricter.
(BTW, Jesus was super-into the rabbinic practice of building a fence around the Torah--if the law is "don't murder," he says don't even get angry with someone.)
And the instruction is changed in another way.

God tells Adam, don't eat from the tree of knowledge.

Eve says, we're not supposed to eat from the tree in the center of the garden (which has already been identified as the tree of life).
So, the serpent says, you're not going to die, your eyes are going to be opened and you'll be like divine beings, knowing tov v'ra (literally good and bad, but colloquially, everything from A-Z).
And so she eats from... the tree.

The tree in the center of the garden? The tree of knowledge?

Nope. Just the tree.
Oh, and btw, the text is literally:

she took from its fruit and ate and gave also to her husband THERE WITH HER (imah) and he ate.

This entire time, the shmuck was standing right there not saying anything. All those stories about her running off to find him and seduce him? Heh.
funny how the majority of translations just... don't translate that word.
so anyway, God asks them if they ate

from the tree God had commanded them not to eat from

(God initially identifies the tree of knowledge, Eve identifies the tree in the center of the garden--it's like the text is doing a shell game with the trees.)
there's a lot that could be said about how bad the "pangs of childbirth" translation is -- it's *work*, an explicit parallel to Adam's *work* of tilling the soil. Equal weariness for equal work, but that's a whole different thread.
But then we get this.

God speaking (unclear to whom, or who can hear), saying "we can't let them also eat from the tree of life" or... they'll live forever.

But they were already eating from that tree, no? They had permission to eat from everything except tree of knowledge.
So what's going on?

Midrash goes WILD about the trees. It was two trees with a single root system, it was the same tree, one tree was the root system of the other, etc. Haven't encountered it, but there's probably stuff about the trees switching places.
Jewish mysticism goes even WILDER, collapsing space and time. Adam and Eve were originally a single being, and so were Lilith and Samael, and those two in their combined form WERE the tree of knowledge, they got split when the fruit was plucked, which is why Lilith is so pissed.
but also, the serpent was Samael and the tree was Lilith, there's stuff I can't remember exactly with the tree and the flaming sword of the cherub guarding the way back to the garden being somehow related...

Jewish mysticism doesn't always treat time as linear, so.
But I keep coming back to those two instances of

Eden as paradise
Sarah laughing to herself at the idea that she will have pleasure (edna) again in her old age. It's a root that doesn't occur all that often, so the link between those two instances rings out.
And you can read the text as God imposing punishment, like a vengeful parent.

You can also read it with God as an overprotective parent, who wanted to keep the knowledge of what inevitably awaits adults--toil, exhaustion, and ultimately death--from the kids for a little longer
But adulthood holds joys kids can't experience, too, like the joy of bringing life into the world.

And birth is intimately connected with death. In the natural order of things, the birth of a child marks the entry into your life of someone who will see you die.
In which case, they are the same tree. Life beyond childhood and knowledge and death are all of a piece.
Or, you can read it as both of those concepts--life/innocence and knowledge/death playing peekaboo with you throughout the text.
But in any case, *textually* speaking, there is something VERY WEIRD going on with the relationship between those two trees.
And, most importantly, there is NOTHING simple about this story. It *can't* be read literally, and it's too mysterious to serve as a just-so story about men and women.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Jessica Price
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!