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Details in Genesis 3 that get lost in Translation

There are some things that just do not translate well into modern English, and may lead to a misunderstanding of the text. Here are a few observations from the Hebrew text.

 

  1. The conversation in verses 3:1-8a is almost entirely plural i.e. We, y’all, us, etc.. When the serpent speaks, he doesn’t speak to Eve exclusively he speaks to both Adam and Eve (‘you’ plural). Interestingly, depictions of the temptation in art always included Adam and Eve until English began to lose the 2nd person plural; then pictures depicting only Eve and the serpent began to appear, corresponding with the change in our language that makes it difficult to distinguish between the 2nd person plural and the 2nd person singular. However, there are still strong clues in our modern English texts that Adam was there i.e. Eve uses “We,” she gives the fruit to her husband “who was with her,” etc… While the plurals are less clear, they are not entirely absent.
  1. In the section beginning in Ge. 2:4 and ending in 3:24, God is addresses almost exclusively as YHWH Elohim (Lord God); YHWH is the name of our Lord. There are only two exceptions in this section of Scripture; when the Serpent speaks, he uses only “Elohim (God).” This is also seen in Job where the narrator uses YHWH, but Satan uses Elohim (God). The impression in the text of Genesis 3 is that the serpent refuses to use God’s name.
  1. In verse 8, the last plural is used when “They hear God,” the text then switches rather dramatically to the singular, “and that man hid HIMSELF and his wife from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the garden.” We get the sense that when they heard God, Adam recognized the sin and then took action (unfortunately English translations keep this in the plural). Maybe this is a hint to why Paul made the declaration he did 1 Ti. 2:14. Note, the conversation that then ensues between God and Adam, unlike the earlier conversation with the serpent and Eve, is entirely in the singular voice.
  1. When God addressed Adam in vs. 3:11, he specifically addresses the command Adam violated i.e. “Did you eat from the tree from which I commanded you to not eat?” This is significantly different than his address to Eve in vs. 13 where God simply asks “what did you do?” and God never asks the serpent for any explanation at all.
  1. Adam’s response in Ge. 3:12 emphasizes his blame of God. In the phrase “The woman who you gave me,” the verb “You gave” is emphatic. In Hebrew “נָתַ֣תָּ עִמָּדִ֔י” is “You gave me,” but when the suffixed ה is added i.e. “נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י”, it become “You gave me!” Adam’s blame of God comes across much stronger in the Hebrew text.
  1. Many have accused Eve of blame shifting, like Adam, when she responded to God’s question saying, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” However, Eve may be getting a bad rap here; her statement reads far more like a statement of fact than it does an attempt to shift the blame. This may be another hint an explanation for Paul’s declaration in 1 Ti. 2:14. Similarly, God’s response to Eve is far gentler than his response to Adam i.e. simply stating “because you did this…” Below is a pretty graphic picture of the differences in Adam’s blame shifting speech and Eve’s response i.e. When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise. (Prov. 10:19)”

 

Adam said:  הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י הִ֛וא נָֽתְנָה־לִּ֥י מִן־הָעֵ֖ץ וָאֹכֵֽל

Eve said: הַנָּחָ֥שׁ הִשִּׁיאַ֖נִי וָאֹכֵֽל

 

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