Genesis iii. 10-13.

June 26, 2010

And he said: I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.  And he said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?  And Adam said: The woman, whom thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this?  And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.

10. Adam’s reply.

St. Augustine: “They were already so ashamed of themselves that they had made themselves girdles; much more vehemently did they fear to be seen thus clad by Him, who, in an intimate manner, was coming to see them through a visible creature, as if with human eyes.  That very friendship weighed them down with shame after sin, which gave them trust and courage before sin; nor did they dare now to show their nakedness to such eyes as His, when it was so displeasing to their own” (De Genesi  ad litteram, XI. xxxiv. 46.).

11-12. God’s second question to Adam; Adam’s excuse.

St. Chrysostom: “Behold the enormous mercy and patience of God.  For He could have deigned to give no response to him who had sinned, but at once inflict the punishment that He had already decreed for the transgression; instead He is patient, tolerant; He asks, and receives an answer: and He asks again, as though inviting him to defend himself,  seizing this opportunity even after such a transgression to show His mercy to him.

“Consider, beloved, the excellence of God’s goodness; how He speaks as one friend to another, and how He remonstrates with him who violated the command.  What He says is not lacking in emphasis, nor in a certain hidden force: of the only tree:[1] as if to say, ‘Did I actually order narrow limits on your enjoyment?  Did I not grant you all in abundance, and give you power over all the things in paradise, commanding you to abstain from this single tree, so that you would be able to know you were under a lord, to whom you owe obedience?  What therefore is the meaning of such disregard: not content with such fruits, you did not want to abstain from this single one, and thus at once rushed forth to break the command I gave to you, and entangle yourself in such evils?  What was the use of this to you?  Or did I not warn you? did I not wish to restrain you and arm you with the fear of punishment? did I not tell you what would happen? was it not precisely so that you would not fall into such evil that I forbade you this food?  Who is to consider you worthy of pardon now, when after such commands you were ungrateful to God?  Did I not instruct you, like a father to a beloved son, clearly and distinctly enough in all things, to taste the others but to abstain from this one, so that you would not lose all your goods at once?  But perhaps someone else has given you advice better and more trustworthy than my command; and you did this in exspectation of a greater good, and so despised my command and dared to eat of the tree.  Look what has happened to you; now you have learned from experience of evil what destruction was in his counsel.’  Do you see the judge’s clemency? do you see His indescribable gentleness and patience? do you see how He tempers His words, in a way greater than can be spoken or thought of? do you see how by His question, and by these words, He wishes to open to him the gates of defense and show His mercy to him who had sinned so greatly?” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xvii. 3, 4.).

St. Augustine: “And Adam said: The woman whom you gave with me, she gave to me from the tree, and I ate.  Pride!  Did he say, ‘I have sinned’?  He shows the ugliness of one confounded, not the humility of one confessing.  The woman whom you gave with me, she gave to me from the tree, and I ate: as if she were given for this reason, and she were not rather to obey her husband, and both of them to obey God” (De Genesi ad litteram, XI. xxxv. 47.).

“He wants to blame God Himself for his sin.  For he does not say: ‘The woman gave to me’ but adds: The woman whom you gave to me.  Now nothing is so common to sinners as to blame God for whatever they are accused of: and this because of that vein of pride, so that as the man has sinned because he wants to be equal to God – that is, be free of His rule, just as He is free from all rule, because He is Ruler and Lord of all – because there could not be any equal to the majesty of God, the sinner, already fallen and lying in his sin, tries to bring God down to his level.  Or, rather, he wishes to show Him to have sinned, and himself to be innocent” (De Genesi contra Manichæos, II. xvii. 25.).

Fr. Haydock: “Heretics have since treated the Sovereign Good with the like insolence, saying plainly, that God is the author of sin, and that the crime of Judas is no less his work than the conversion of St. Paul.  See Calvin’s works, and many of the first reformers, Luther, etc.” (HB).

St. Chrysostom: “We have heard God; let us also hear the accused, let us hear what he will reply.  And Adam said: The woman whom you gave to me that she might be with me, she gave to me from the tree, and I ate.  Wretched words!  So full of compassion, and so worthy to be presented to the clemency of God, so gentle, victorious over our sins through its goodness!  ‘I know,’ he says, ‘I have sinned: but the woman you gave to be with me, of whom you yourself said, Let us make him a helper like him – she was the cause of my downfall.  The woman you gave to be with me.  How could I have known that she would afflict me with such disgrace, when she was made to be a comfort for me?  You gave her to me, you led her to me.  She gave me of the tree – I do not know why – and I ate.’  He seems to say these things in self-defense, but they are utterly unworthy of pardon.  ‘Of what pardon are you worthy,’ He says:[2] ‘you who forgot My commands, and thought the gift of the woman was to be preferred to My words?  For granted that the woman gave you the food, was my command, and the fear of punishment, not sufficient to stop you from eating?  Or did you not know? were you unaware?  This was why I warned you, taking care for you so that these things would not befall you: and so although the woman served you for the breaking of the command, you are not therefore without guilt.  For you should have had greater faith in My command, and not only for you yourself to avoid eating, but also for you to teach the woman the seriousness of her sins.  For you are the head of the woman, and she was created for you: but you have reversed the order – not only have you not corrected her, but you were yourself snatched away with her in sin; and although it befits the rest of the body to obey the head, it has happened differently here, and the head has yielded to the rest of the body; the things that were above are now below.  You thought that I had deceived you, and I had not allowed you to eat this food because I did not wish you to enjoy greater delights.  And what reason would I have for deceiving you, when I have established you in such kindness?  And was this not itself great kindness, that I pointed out to you and warned you of what you were to avoid, so that you would not meet with the ruin you have met with?  But you made nothing of all this.  Look, experience is now teaching you how great your sins are: for the rest, you are not to assign the guilt to the woman alone, but also to your heedlessness’” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xvii. 4.).

13. God’s question to the woman; her response.

St. Augustine: “Nor does the woman confess her sin, but blames another; unequal to the man in sex, but equal in arrogance.  And yet from these two was born him – who did not imitate them, though he clearly experienced many evils – from these two was born him who said, and will say until the end of the world: I said: O Lord, be thou merciful to me: heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.[3] How much better if these two had spoken likewise?  But to this point the Lord had not cut the necks of sinners.[4] There remained labors, sorrows, deaths, and all the grief of the world; and the grace of God, which came to help men at the proper time, and taught the afflicted not to be presumptuous.  The serpent, she says, seduced me, and I did eat: as if anyone’s suggestion should be placed before the command of God” (De Genesi ad litteram, XI. xxxv. 48.).

St. Chrysostomus: “See, too, how the terrified woman defends her sins.  Just as the man placed the blame on the woman, so does she herself, finding no way of escape, confesses the deed, and says, The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.  ‘That wicked beast,’ she says, ‘brought this fall upon us; his destructive counsel forced us into this disgrace; he deceived me, and I ate.’  Beloved, let us not pass simply pass over the things now being said, but let us rather carefully examine them, and gain a most important use from them.  For judgment is terrible, and full of dread: and it befits us to hear all these things carefully and bring them into our minds as a great treasure.  For consider what the man says, The woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave it to me, and I ate.  There was no necessity, no violence: only choice and will.  She only gave; she did not compel, she did not use force.  And she herself in rendering her excuse did not say: ‘The serpent forced me, and I ate.’  What did she say?  The serpent deceived me: but to be deceived, or not to be deceived, was in her own power.  The serpent, she says, deceived me.  The enemy of our salvation gave his counsel and deceived: he did not use force, he did not compel, but he achieved his frauds by his pernicious counsel; he rendered the woman, who easily accepted the deception, worthy of no indulgence.  The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.  See the good Lord, content with their words, not forcing them to say any more.  For since He did not ask these things in ignorance, but with knowledge, with full knowledge, it is to reveal his mercy that he lower Himself to their weakness, and prompts them to confess their sins.  And so for this reason He does not seek anything further from them” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xvii. 5.).


[1] The LXX text has de quo solo præcepi (οὗ ἐνετειλάμην σοι τούτου μόνου) for the Vulgate’s de quo præcepi.

[2] This speech St. Chrysostom puts in God’s mouth should be seen more as an objective indictment of Adam’s behavior than of God’s actual response to the excuse; for as the text says, He turns without replying to the woman, thereby manifesting anew his mercy and patience.

[3] Ps. xl. 5.

[4] Cf. Ps. cxxviii. 4.

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