Why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6)?

First, she apparently believed (she was “beguiled” by; Gen 3:13) the serpent, who had told her that she would not die, not making her believe it was not God’s rule, but that God would not enforce the rule. Second, she merely considered that the fruit was food, after all. Third—and this is perhaps the most subtly telling—she found the tree was “pleasant to the eyes.” She was beguiled again, not by the serpent but by her own thought that nothing so pleasant could have evil consequences. Finally, and most significantly of course, she considered what the serpent said: the tree would “make one wise,” a thing much simpler than what the serpent says: “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” In short, she was innocent of the ways of evil and thus easily fooled; she had never experienced deceptive appearances and so reasoned badly that harmless appearance meant actual harmlessness; and she was ambitious or prideful, which was perhaps the very worst part of the sin.

Did Adam know, when he ate it at Gen 3:6, that Eve had given him the forbidden fruit? In any event, what was Adam’s sin?

There is nothing in the Gen 3 text that settles the matter clearly. Adam is not mentioned in Gen 3 until this verse. It is possible that he was listening in while the serpent spoke to Eve; but it seems to me that such an important detail would be mentioned if true. It is also possible that he recognized the distinctive fruit, but perhaps not. And of course it is possible that Eve told him, before he ate the fruit, that it was the forbidden fruit and that she had eaten it. Elsewhere, however, Paul told Timothy, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:14) If Adam was not deceived, very well; but about what was he not deceived? Perhaps Paul means he was not deceived by the serpent. In that case, was it still possible that he could have been misled somehow, even if not deceived, by Eve’s encouragement and example? That seems to be what happened. If so, then he was influenced by her words and sinful example, and therefore indirectly manipulated (but not deceived) by the serpent. If Adam was not deceived at all, then it seems he ate trustingly and carelessly when Eve gave him the fruit. In that case, his error would not have been to willfully disobey, but to fail to ensure with due care that his wife had followed the one rule they had. It is indeed possible even in that case that God punished him as the head of the family and as the hapless, unwitting partaker of the sin. Regardless, it is interesting that Adam soon recognized his own role as sinful and shameful, whether willful or not, whether he knew the fruit he ate was the forbidden one, or not. I do not think the text makes it quite clear enough (or it is not clear to me, anyway), but my best guess for now is that Adam’s sin was carelessness and forgetfulness of God’s law. If that is correct, then when Eve offered the fruit, he simply did not care enough about the law to inquire about where it came from.

What does “the eyes of them both were opened” (Gen 3:7) actually mean?

The short answer is: they immediately became aware that they had violated God’s commandment, and that fact alone made them aware of the evil within themselves and the serpent who had misled Eve. More profoundly, their eyes were opened to the deceptive pleasures and unexpected pains of a fallen world in which they were left to their own devices. Let me explain. We can take some clues, at least, from the context. This knowledge is forbidden by a God who has their welfare at heart, but who also does not want them to become “like gods,” as was the ambition of the men of Babel whom God threw into confusion (Gen 11:1-9). The knowledge immediately lets them know that they are naked; but since God allowed them in his holy presence to go about naked, the knowledge seems at the same time to have made their nakedness shameful. Finally, we can say the knowledge gave them the ability to handle the harsh penalties imposed upon them by God. Given that it is called “the knowledge of good and evil,” one is tempted to say that it is the rational, adult ability to discern moral goodness from evil; after all, the naive, newly-created Eve certainly lacked such discernment in her encounter with the serpent, and ever after, there would be “enmity between [the serpent] and the woman” (Gen 3:15). But I am not sure sure about the latter suggestion; I think more likely is a suggestion I read in one commentary, that “good” and “evil” here are not meant in their moral senses but in the sense of blessing versus curse. To eat of the tree would give them knowledge of the cursedness of the world, and the natural consequence was that the world was cursed; it had to be, for them to have knowledge of the evils of such a world. And after all, previously, it was “very good.”

But if that (Gen 3:7) is the meaning of “knowledge of good and evil,” then why did God forbid it? Why does God not want them to have wisdom?

There seem to be two reasons. First, as a loving father, he knew and greatly feared that they were ill-prepared to face the vicissitudes of such a world. Surely he did not want them to suffer, and he knew they would. Second, he knew that any such efforts to make themselves more “godlike” would end in abject failure, because they were not, in fact, godlike; their attempts at greatness would only bring heightened grief upon all, which is what happens to whomever has like ambitions. The most eloquent commentary on such ambitions is the famous passage in which the Lord says of the “Day Star,” also translated “Lucifer,” “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isa. 14:13). Yet God rebukes him roundly: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isa. 14:15) Lest you think that God was anti-intellectual and forbidding an attempt to get wisdom, you must bear in mind that this was not theoretical knowledge, but rather direct experience of the dubious benefits and especially the deep, tragic costs they would bear without the blessings of his holy presence and guardianship.

Why should, or might, they have been ashamed of their nakedness (Gen 3:7)?

This is by contrast with Gen 2:25, which states that before eating the fruit, they “were not ashamed.” Here, after eating the forbidden fruit, they cover their nakedness with inadequate fig leaves. The reason nakedness should be shameful is not explained at either place, or later, although we can guess. The text suggests that sinful man is naturally ashamed of his nakedness, but sinless man is not. That man ought to be ashamed of “uncovered nakedness” is a point emphasized throughout the Bible. God makes Adam and Eve the first animal-skin clothes (Gen 3:21), implying that God agrees that, at least as long as they are in a state of sin or rebellion, their nakedness needs covering. A bit later in the narrative, Ham saw Noah naked in his tent, and told his brothers, who managed to cover their father with without gazing upon his shameful nakedness (Gen 9:20-25). For this Ham’s son Canaan is cursed to serve his brothers. Similarly, the priests must not use altars with steps, so that “thy nakedness be not discovered” (Ex 20:26), and they must wear “linen breeches to cover their nakedness” (Ex 28:42). Aholibah, one of two women against whom Ezekiel prophesied, will “play the harlot” with Egyptians, who “shall also strip thee out of thy clothes” (Ezek. 23:26)—a shameful condition indeed. A similar curse is prophesied by Hosea against his harlot wife, who is a symbol of the idolatrous Israel: “Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born” (Hos. 2:3). Finally, Isaiah (Isa. 20:2-4) and Micah (Mic. 1:8) themselves both go about naked to demonstrate the state the Israelites would be in if they did not repent. There are other messages that equate the exposure of nakedness with shame as well.

Surely another explanation of this sense of shame (in Gen 3:7) is that “eating the forbidden fruit” was itself symbolic of another act associated with nakedness, namely, sex?

This suggestion has made its way into the vernacular; and the presence of “carnal knowledge” as a Biblical expression seems to clinch the notion. (That is, “knowledge” of “good and evil” is akin to “knowing” a woman.) The case can be strengthed in two ways. First, sex would result in childbirth, which combined with immortality would eventually result in overpopulation, so that death would have to result. Second, they immediately realized they were naked; doing so might well mean they came to realize, after they had sex, the potent sexual significance of their nakedness. There are three problems with this theory, though. One is that if indeed they had relations at that time—if the text meant to say so—then the text would have said so, because the text do say so in the very next chapter (“And Adam knew Eve his wife”; Gen 4:1). Why would a symbol be used in Gen 3 and more literal description in Gen 4? Besides, “be fruitful and multiply” bears such implications, as did the notion that Adam was married to Eve, whose body delighted him and to whom he clove. Second, this and many other texts throughout the Bible that refer to the forbidden fruit give absolutely no indications that the fruit stood for anything else than the “Knowledge of Good and Evil,” i.e., a loss of general moral innocence. Third, if the fruit were a metaphor for sex, then sex, like the fruit, would thereby have been forbidden, but sex was a perfectly natural thing, being the means of “multiplying,” and surely not forbidden. It was hardly forbidden by God to a man and his wife; quite the contrary, in fact. It was only forbidden outside of marriage.

Once they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the first thing they are said to have “known” is that they were naked (Gen 3:7), and they immediately remedy that situation. Does this imply that their nakedness was evil?

Well, so it seems. Again, it seemed to be shameful and symbolic of their deeper sin, namely, their willingness to rebel against God and put their own judgment before his. God’s protection was like a covering that made every other covering unnecessary. Without it, they were naked indeed, and that is an evil state indeed. But this is not “evil” in the sense of “wicked” but in the sense of “desperately unfortunate and shameful,” which is not really the same thing.

If Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the Lord God” in Gen 3:8, can we say what God was saying, or what sounds he was uttering?

We do not know, and this is not explicitly stated. With the charming scene of God strolling through paradise in the cool of the day, one might imagine God to be humming or singing. But there is some small reason to think otherwise, because Adam and Eve hid—implying that they thought God was looking for them—and in the next verse, the voice of God is reported as saying “Where art thou?”

Why did they hide in Gen 3:8? Surely they knew they could not hide from God.

Perhaps they thought they could. Again, we have many indications that they had been quite childlike. “Knowledge of good and evil” did not mean they understood all, of course. This was just the first of many fruitless attempts to hide from the face of God. It was also the first of many reiterations that no one can, in fact, hide from the face of God, who knows all of our sins.

If God was walking in Gen 3:8, this implies he had a body, which seems to contradict the notion of his spirituality, or at least supports the idea that he had a body. Correct?

It’s complicated; this suggestion is somewhat misleading. We have many other examples of God’s appearing in some sort of visible form—called a theophany—but that does not mean that is in some sense the form of God himself, as if God were limited by having a body. Moreover, God said, “there shall no man see me, and live” (Ex 33:20). Yet the human-appearance face of God, in theophanies, was shown to people, most famously that of Jesus, but also to Abraham in Gen 18, and here to Adam and Eve—and the people did not die. So we must conclude that there was some other more literal “face” of God that it was indeed deadly to see; it would be an encounter with God, directly before the presence of God, as he is in himself. Isaiah seems to have had such an encounter at the beginning of his prophetic career, and when he saw the Lord, he said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” As if to underscore the truth of this, a seraph gives him special permission to stand in the Lord’s presence: “having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken…from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo…thy sin is purged.” (Isa 6:5-6) And, particularly because Adam and Eve were then in their sin, the walking, apparently bodily God had to have been a theophany that failed to reveal God’s true nature—or else Adam and Eve would have been destroyed. That is, they would have been destroyed unless, being sinless, they were able to look upon his face; but then, after they sinned, God confronted them in the Garden, and they were not instantly destroyed. So it is likely that it was, again, a theophany that they saw, one that did not reveal God’s true nature.