The Creator "brought her to the man," and he presents her with a courteous flourish. Man is instantly moved to poetry: "This one at last / Is bone of my bones / And flesh of my flesh."
Now man has a "fitting companion," different but equal, who stands upright and laughs and cries and talks like him. Both are naked, but neither is ashamed. They are as innocent as infants romping at the beach.
The Bible introduces the idea of the need for companionship before it even mentions sexuality and procreation. By introducing this concept first, the Bible makes the point that the companionship we offer our mates is the most enduring and rare gift we can bring to an intimate relationship. Sexual desire—although indispensable—may ebb and flow, but the need for companionship is constant. One rabbinical commentary suggests that woman was created second so that man could experience loneliness and more fully appreciate his partner. Another opines that as Adam named the animals as they passed by him in pairs he commented: "Everything has its partner, but I have no partner."
In the Garden of Eden, God designates one tree off limits, and he warns man never to touch its fruit on pain of death. The forbidden fruit is that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Hebrew word for knowledge, da'at, means sexual knowledge. "To know" is the biblical verb that implies more than the sexual act alone. It is an elegant euphemism for the intimate and sensitive understanding that evolves over time within a sexual relationship.
Lurking about the forbidden tree is a serpent, "the shrewdest of all the wild beasts." Sidling up to the woman, it asks if God really forbade eating fruit from the trees of the garden. She corrects the serpent: "God allows the eating of the fruits of all trees, except for the one in the middle of the garden." She recites God's edict (presumably told to her by Adam): "You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die." The serpent tells the woman: "You are not going to die, but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil."
The serpent, a phallic symbol and fertility idol in cultures across the world, is a reflection of the sexual yearnings stirring in the woman's body and soul. The serpent cunningly addresses the woman's unconscious and casts doubts. Woman, however, is not easily swayed. She is not rash; she takes her time and deliberates; she is aware that the punishment for disobedience to God will be severe. She is alone when the serpent works to persuade her, but then she is with Adam when she finally reaches for the fruit. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took the fruit and ate. Then she gave some to her husband, and he ate."
Eve deliberates before eating the forbidden fruit, but Adam devours it without hesitation and without questioning the consequences. The fruit has an instantaneous effect: "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves" to cover their private parts. Before eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, they had nothing to hide either from their Creator or from each other. But afterward, they become self-conscious, ashamed. Privacy thus becomes part of human sexuality.
The repast of fruit in the garden is a defining moment in the human saga. Soon the first couple's repertory of emotions expands to include shame, guilt, and desire. Man and woman begin the awkward and painful transition from the innocence of childhood to sexual awareness, awakening, experience, and accountability. It is the beginning of puberty and maturation.