The Serpent and the Woman
This is a narrative reflection I wrote for a class on Genesis, where the assignment was to choose a character from the book of Genesis and outline their thoughts on a particular occasion. I chose the serpent preparing to tempt the woman in the garden, Eden (Genesis 3:1). [Note: the use of plural pronouns with singular verbs in what follows is an attempt to convey the serpent/Satan’s awareness of the trinitarian reality of God.]
“The eternal One knows I am here in Their garden, but as yet They has done nothing to acknowledge my presence. I know that I am neither welcome nor forbidden in this fecund new world, but I had expected my visit to, at the least, elicit some Divine comment. I did feel the backside of the Breath, at once both cold as the empty heavens and hot as the greater light, move past me when I was hiding in the goat, eavesdropping on Their final act of making: the pathetic dirtlings. Hah! Made in the image of Their holy perfection? No host will ever ring out in anthem in praise of those lumpy bipeds…I guarantee it, not one single gloria.
But when They knelt next to the inert form of the man, I shuddered with horror at the tenderness with which Their hand cupped the thing’s head and pushed its hair back from its brow—at that moment, I began to stomp and whinny with such disgust that the she-goat at my side snuffed, bared her teeth at me, and wandered off—and then, as I looked back again, They leaned in toward the earth creature, so close as to kiss its face. And They held Themself there, breathing softly over it for a time. I had to turn away from the choking revulsion and burning in my eyes, as if a thorn had just scratched my face. I made to leave the goat, but glanced over, just for an instant, only to see the man staring into Their face. As much as I hate this creature, and the next one who came out of him, and though I mean to destroy them both, I will acknowledge that there was a glimpse of something like the purity and beauty I remember from the court reflected in its eyes as it gazed into the love of the eternal One. I could stand the recognition no longer and fled the bewildered and agitated goat.
Now I wait for the woman, in a serpent, near the edge of the gentle river where she wades and dips under the water. I’ve taken notice that she likes the serpent, as it is slender and smooth in her soft hands and as the man once tickled her tender heel with its flickering tongue. She feels no intimidation with its size and therefore will sense no coercion when I speak to her about the prohibited tree, one of only two ancient things in this nascent land. She goes to the center of the garden sometimes to gaze at the tree, with mostly a happy curiosity and yet also a little fear, as she never comes close enough to really look at it with more than a squint. I mean to escort her right up to its limbs, close enough for her to see a different reflection in the luster of its fruit—her own beautiful face. I can see her, already, pulling the branch down and yanking off the fruit, sinking her teeth deep into its flesh, juice and seeds dripping down her neck. Will she feel as I did: a surge of power and then terror?
But how to get her from here to there…
She shakes her head, like the beasts, to send the water back to its source, which indicates she means to walk to the shore. And I now I need to find the words to get her to go with me to the tree. If I command her, she will simply laugh at me and stick out her tongue, saying, “Who are you, serpent, to command me, your queen and keeper?” If I say I wish to walk alongside her, hoping to subtly lead the way to the center, she will likely want to find the man to accompany us—she is drawn to his presence like rain to the earth—and he lacks any desire to go that way, as he avoids the tree altogether (the prohibition was among the first things They said to him, after all, and he heard it directly from the Voice, unlike the woman). I could deceive her and tell her the eternal One asked me to bring her to the tree, but then if They was not there, she would call out for Them and all would be for nothing.
But perhaps, and here she comes, perhaps if I asked her a question, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” she will want to take me to the place and correct my ignorance by pointing to the one forbidden thing, telling me this alone is the tree. And then, when we are close enough, I will tell her what I know, what I have tasted.
And she will want to know as well.
She will want to taste as well.
She stands now before me, unaware of her naked flesh for the last time.