Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the Lord God sent him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3: 22-24 NRSV)
We know that biblical history – the actual accounting of events – begins with Abraham, who was the first historical figure who inhabited identifiable places. There are those who have sought physical evidence of other stories (such as Noah’s ark and the flood), but, despite their claims, they have not yet successfully satisfied the scientists.
Scientists tell us that the first humans emerged from the Great Rift Valley, in what is now Ethiopia. They have found fossilized bones of an early woman they named Eve, because the bones are the oldest human remains yet discovered.
The Great Rift runs north out of Africa, veers somewhat eastward, and includes the valley that runs from the Red Sea at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula northward through the Dead Sea, through Judea all the way to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. So, if humankind began in Ethiopia, their path out of Eden was pretty clearly laid out for them.
Wherever its setting, the human story begins with a man and a woman who walked with God in the cool of the evening.
That is an endearing picture of camaraderie, of fellowship, of familial love. Imagine God enjoying a stroll with His children, in the beauty of a garden. Wouldn’t you love to eavesdrop on the conversation? Hear God laugh at Adam’s names for the animals?
Like all children, Adam and Eve were innocent and willing to be cared for, until …
Until they reached the rebellious age that we all go through, the age when we know better than anyone else, and will make our own decisions and hang the rules.
They were, of course, aided and abetted by the serpent. Jean Kerr, author of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” also wrote “The Snake Has All the Lines.” One of her sons came home from school one day, dejected because he had been chosen to play Adam in a school skit. His mother tried to cheer him up by telling him how important Adam was in the story, but her son’s rebuttal was, “Yeah, Mom, but the snake has all the lines!”
He had a point.
We have never been able to get back to Eden. We live in a fallen, broken world, and each of us has rebelled enough, and yes, sinned enough, to have earned our own fate, so let’s not blame Eve. Or Adam.
The good news, however, is this: Even though we are barred from Eden, God still walks with us. And if we walk with God, that is paradise enough.