The Garden of Eden, Sex, Slavery & Yhwh’s Appetite
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
According to Wikipedia:
“The Genesis creation narrative is the creation myth of both Judaism and Christianity. It is made up of two parts, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis.
In the first part (Genesis 1:1-2:3) Elohim the Hebrew generic word for God creates the heaven and the earth in six days, starting with darkness and light on the first day, and ending with the creation of mankind on the sixth day. God then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh day. In the second part (Genesis 2:4-2:24) God, now referred to by the personal name Yahweh, creates the first man from dust and breathes life into him. God then places him in the Garden of Eden and creates the first woman from his side as a companion.
The second part of the Genesis creation narrative, Genesis 2:4-3:24 opens with… (the LORD God, lit. YHWH Elohim) creating the first man (Adam), whom he placed in a garden that he planted “eastward in Eden”.
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. —Genesis 2:9
The man was free to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Last of all, the God made a woman (Eve) from a rib of the man to be a companion to the man. In chapter 3, the man and the woman were seduced by the serpent into eating the forbidden fruit, and they were expelled from the garden to prevent them from eating of the tree of life, and thus living forever. Cherubims were placed east of the garden, “and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep him away from the tree of life”. (Gen.3:24)
The biblical Garden of Eden (GOE) story is obviously allegorical. The GOE was located on the Hebrew deity’s mountain; Mount Layl (Night Mountain where El ruled as a moon god.). This was the mountain whose peak the Hebrews viewed as the central pillar that upheld the sky (Job 26:11) and whose base upheld the land (1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6, Ps 79:3). According to Psalm 104, the Hebrews thought that mountains were the source of all fresh and salt water in the Middle East as well as north and central East Africa. Since, mountains were the source of life generating water in the arid Middle East, mountains, which gushed water, were thought of as an ejaculating penis. For this reason, the resident male deity or El wore the glans penis as a crown and was worshiped as the ‘Rock’ who ‘sired’ the Hebrews (Deut 32:15) and as the ‘father’ (Isa 63:16) of his devotees. This crown adorned the heads of such Ancient Near Eastern fertility gods as Osiris, Baal and El, to name a few.
It was El’s mountain that was the central source of the four rivers which watered the arid regions where the peoples of north and central East Africa and the Middle East dwelt. The Nile (Gihon in Genesis 2) watered Ethiopia, Nubia and Egypt. The Tigris and Euphrates (Hiddekel and Parath) watered Mesopotamia and the great salt river, Pishon (meaning connector), comprised of the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf, surrounded the Arabian Peninsula.These four rivers were created to demarcate a vast empire which Yhwh promised the Judeans according to Gen. 15:18. The following are two interpretations of the verse.
According to the New Living translation this passage reads: So the LORD made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River–And according to the Authorized King James version, this passage reads: In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
The confusion arises from the names Gihon and Pishon which are Greek. Gihon means border and Pishon means connector because the Judeans viewed the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf as connected by one salt river which they named the Pishon. The Gihon and Pishon are a late inclusion to the GoE scenario. These names were added either under the Seleucids or the Ptolemies. The Judeans were simply claiming that it was Yhwh who created these waterways and used them as boundaries to demarcate Judah’s rightful inheritance as per Gen 15:18, i.e, all of the land between the west bank of the Nile and the Euphrates. In other words, the Judeans claimed all of these river and sea trade routes as their Yhwh given inheritance . Of course, these boundaries would include all of the land trade routes too; the King’s Highway, the Via Maris, the Babylonian trade routes as well as the eastern and western incense trade routes that connected Mesopotamia, Canaan and Egypt to the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Judeans were a frustrated folk who saw themselves as worthy of a vast empire. However, they never even came close to fulfilling their imperial dreams.
The Judeans viewed the Pishon as a salt river which encircled the Arabian Peninsula. On the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula was the wealthy commercial port of Aden which is spelled exactly the same way Eden is spelled in Hebrew. This mountain top garden was named after Aden or Eden because Aden was a vastly wealthy kingdom; rich in gold and gem stones as described in Gen 2:11,12, as well as incense and fresh water provided by the twice yearly monsoons; the source of Aden’s well watered horticultural paradise. So, it was in this Garden located on El’s mountain that Adam and his wife, Eve, first encountered the talking serpent who engineered their expulsion from this paradise by convincing them to partake of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Western interpreters often assign a sexual interpretation to the forbidden fruit and snake; an interpretation which is derived from Western psychology and not from Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture. However, nowhere in Genesis did Yhwh forbid the pair from a conjugal relationship. Yhwh created Adam so that he would be ‘fruitful and multiply’ (Gen 1:28). He created Eve so Adam would have a sexual partner who would produce more slave offspring to be born into Yhwh’s service. The role of Adam and Eve in the GOE was to maintain the premises (Gen 2:15) and to produce offspring who would take their place when they became incapacitated due to age and death. In addition, the peoples of the ANE did not have victorian hang-ups regarding sex. Eve was created as a fully mature adult female according to Gen 2:23: “The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ (iysh in Hebrew) for she was taken out of man.”
Iysh not only means woman, it means wife. The word for a virgin female would be bethulah or an immature girl would be yeldah. The fact that the word iysh is used indicates that the authors intended the reader to understand that she was created as Adam’s wife and that she had already fulfilled that conjugal role. Gen 2:25 goes on to point out that both of them felt no shame in being naked in the presence of each other most likely because their sexual union was sanctified by Yhwh himself.
According to biblical professor Ziony Zevit from the American Jewish University in Maryland: “The theory, put forward by revered biblical professor Ziony Zevit, suggests God made Eve from Adam’s baculum, or penis bone. To support his theory, Professor Zevit said the Hebrew word ‘tsela’, taken from the Old Testament, does not translate as ‘rib’ and instead ‘refers to limbs sticking out sideways from an upright human body.’
The word ‘tzela’ or ‘tsela’ appears a number of times and in different contexts in the Old Testament, and Professor Zevit said this is what led translators astray. He claims that the word was used for any part of anatomy protruding from the body, including feet, arms and penis. Professor Zevit said this explains why man has no baculum, unlike most mammals, and why men don’t have an uneven number of ribs compared to women. Elsewhere, he added that Genesis 2:21, in which God closes the flesh beneath the ‘tsela’, refers to the flesh that exists on the underside of the penis.
Professor Zevit’s theory is very controversial, but if Professor Zevit is correct, this would explain why Eve emerged from Adam’s body as his wife. The sexual union with Adam was part of her creation. The only problem with this theory is that Genesis specifies that it was one of Adam’s ribs. However, if the word ‘tsela’ means a limb protruding from the body, then Zevit is correct. Adam would have had five limbs protruding from his body, two arms, two legs and a penis. Of these five limbs, Yhwh chose the ‘penis bone’ from which to create Eve. This left Adam without a baculum while he retained the bones in his legs and arms. Also, the biblical authors do use euphemisms to refer to human sexual parts. For instance, the word ‘heel’ (aqb) also means testicle (Gen 25:26-Jacob born holding Esau’s testicle) and thigh also means male sexual parts (Gen 24:2-oath of the giving of the hand).
The role of Adam’s ‘limbs’ is important to the Genesis narrative, but he is not the only Genesis character whose limbs were controversial.The Genesis narrative implies that the offending snake also had limbs. According to Genesis 3:14 Yhwh condemns the serpent to crawl upon its belly and eat dust; the implication being that this reptile’s belly was elevated on limbs before the condemnation. This limbed snake appears to have been a Hebrew conflation of the Mesopotamian gods Ningishzida, a serpent god whose name means ‘Lord of the Good Tree, and Mushussu, a hybrid dragon. This conflated mythical creature is represented in the Babylonian version of Ningishzida, the god Nira.
Ningishzida’s icon was the double helix snake or caduceus wound around a pole much like Yhwh’s icon, the nehushtan (copper serpent wound around a pole – Numbers 21:9) but without the copulating partner. This god was often depicted as a man with serpent heads protruding from his shoulders or as a snake with a human head, which explains why the GOE snake could talk. Ningishzida was a god of healing and magic and he was one of the two guards of Anu’s celestial palace (the sky); the other guard being Dumuzi (Tammuz). Ningishzida’s role as the Lord of the Good Tree and as Anu’s palace guard explains his presence in the GOE as a guardian of another ‘good tree’; the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Ningishzida’s fellow deity and resident of the Garden of Eden was Yhwh who guarded the Tree of Life. The two celestial serpents, Yhwh and Ningishzida seem to have been worshipped as astral deities; the constellations Draco (AtTineen in the ancient Near East) and Ophiuchus or Nira in Babylonian cosmology. Draco or AtTineen (both words mean serpent) guarded the Tree of Life or the constellation Ursa Minor. Nira was a serpent-god who was sometimes depicted with his upper half human but with serpents for legs, which fits the description of the serpent guardian of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. This tree represented the healing and magic arts.
Ningishzida guarded the Tree of Knowledge of good (the healing arts) and evil (the magic arts) and Yhwh guarded the Tree of Life. Yhwh crippled Ningishzida, but did not expel him from the garden because he was a fellow immortal deity. Yhwh then took possession of the tree of knowledge of healing and magic and he became the sole possessor of these two arts. Yhwh allowed mankind to practice the healing arts but forbade the magic arts which he kept for his own personal use. If man possessed the magic arts, Yhwh feared he would use them to become immortal gods which explains Gen 3:5; ” “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” and Gen 3:22: ” And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
So, the eating of the fruit and the ‘opening of the eyes’ did not symbolize copulation and carnal knowledge thereof. It symbolized the realization that the two human beings, Adam and Eve, had become immortals or deities. They were no longer naked slaves of the deity. Slaves in the ancient Near East were deprived of proper clothing to indicate their slave status. Clothing meant status, so slaves were often ‘naked’. Adam and Eve were ashamed of their naked slave status so the two new deities set about making themselves garments (Genesis 3:7) as an indicator of their new status as immortals, which is why they hid from Yhwh. Yhwh had created the pair to be his perpetual naked slaves, so he was bound to be unhappy with his slaves’ divine status.
Adam and Eve were no match for Yhwh who controlled the trees they needed to be immortal gods. Yhwh then deprived them of access to the two trees and clothed them with animal skins instead of wool or linen to indicate their lowly status. He then expelled them from the Garden and permanently condemned them to a life of farming and animal husbandry. So, Yhwh clothed the pair with humiliating garments and condemned them to a life of toil so that he could be perpetually fed by the humans he had created as slaves (Leviticus 25:55) for the purpose of feeding him with sacrificial animals, grains and fruits. This explains why burning animal flesh and roasted plants were a ‘pleasing aroma’ for a hungry Yhwh (Gen 8:21, Ex 29:18, 25, 41; Lev 1:9, 13, 17 etc., etc.). That Yhwh experienced hunger and satisfied it by consuming food is implied in Psalm 50:12: “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” According to Leviticus 7:12-21, Yhwh demanded to be fed with grain, oil and meat; the very products he condemned Adam to produce from the ground Yhwh cursed (Gen 3:17).
Adam and Eve’s consumption of the forbidden fruit turned them into mortal gods according to Gen 3:22. However, in ANE mythology, gods could die. According to the Baal cycle, Baal Hadad, a Mesopotamian storm god, murdered Yam, a god of the seas. In retaliation, Mot, the god of death, killed Baal Hadad. Mot was then killed by the goddess Anath; the sister and lover of Baal Hadad. Adam and Eve, like the Mesopotamian gods, were also condemned to mortality when they were deprived of the benefits of the Trees of Knowledge and Life. Mortality became the lot of this couple’s descendants, the Judeans. However, their status as gods and sons of the deity was also inherited by their offspring. According to Psalm 82, Elohim declares of the Judeans: “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”
The theme of the divine status of the Judeans as sons of the deity can be found in Deuteronomy 32:18. In this verse, El ‘sired’ or begat (yalad in Hebrew) his devotees. The themes of the Judeans as sons of the deity, who is their father, are expressed in other verses of the Bible as Psalm 89:26, Isaiah 9:6, 38:5, 63:16 etc.. The idea that the deity sired his devotees may pre-date the-creation-of-man-from-dust stories. This idea certainly hints of a very early history of ancestor worship in which the ancestors were deified by their descendants who pacified their spirits with offerings of food and drink. This cultural concept of spirits who were dependent upon their offspring for material comforts blossomed into religious cults in which the deity became the sire of his devoted slaves who tilled the ground and husbanded animals so that the deity remained well-fed. The biblical authors of the Garden of Eden tale described Yhwh as such a human dependent deity who was determined to ensure the slave status of his devotees so that he remained well fed with grain, oil, wine and animal burnt offerings.