Eve was a Risk Taker, Not a Temptress or Victim

The first rebel.


Woman's sexual awakening goes hand in hand with the life force, the drive to procreate. She must attract the man to her because she cannot conceive on her own. God knows that woman will be the first to take advantage of his gift and be drawn to the forbidden tree. In accord with his grand scheme, Eve is biologically, genetically, and mentally designed to perpetuate the species. Like every woman after her, she is born with all the eggs she will need for every child she will ever bear.

Embedded in this charming allegory of sexual awakening is the gap between the female and male sexual response. Woman's arousal is gradual and internal, enlisting all her senses and emotions, as described in Eve's deliberations before tasting the fruit. We imagine the process she goes through before she is persuaded to take the ultimate step. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eye, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and did eat," the Bible says. The procreative drive has been awakened and overwhelms all other considerations. For the woman, the consequences of a sexual relationship can be much more serious than for the man. She is the one who becomes pregnant. Her decision is therefore slower and more deliberate than the man's.

Eve reaches out to Adam, holding the fruit. In contrast to the female, the male is immediately susceptible to any sexual invitation. Observing the ease with which man accepts the forbidden fruit, woman has already learned that man succumbs easily to sexual temptation. The female ignites the flame of his desire by her mere presence or through the subtlest of means—a smile, flattery, the offering of an apple—and the male is immediately seduced. This theme of man's instant responsiveness runs through the Bible.

  • Women of the Bible
  • Introduction
  • Old Testament

    • Eve: The First Rebel
    • Sarah and Hagar: Dueling Mothers
    • Zipporah: The Woman Who Stood Up to God
    • Bathsheba: Wife, Mother, Queen, Object of Royal Lust
    • Jezebel: The Reigning Icon of Womanly Evil
    • Esther: A Clever Heroine
    • Ruth: Mixed Message
    • Dirty Rotten Men
    • Delilah: One Fiesty Femme
    • Deborah: Facing Down ‘900 Chariots of Iron’
    • Hearing God moving about in the garden, man and woman panic and hide. God calls out to man, "Where are you?" He replies, "I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid." God asks, "Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree from which I forbade you to eat?" Man's immediate defense is to blame the woman as well as God: "The woman you put at my side—she gave me of the tree, and I ate." God then turns to woman: "What is this you have done!" She replies, "The serpent duped me, and I ate."

      Both man and woman shirk their own responsibility by blaming someone else. Man could have chosen to protect woman, who has just fed him and given him pleasure. He could have said that she did not force him to partake of the fruit. Woman could have explained that she chose to trade immortality in the Garden of Eden for knowledge and wisdom. Like man, however, she disavows any accountability for her action.

      Eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the first independent act by the human beings in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve cannot be said to have been fully aware of the extent of their transgression because they did not yet have knowledge of good and evil. They do, however, know that God has told them explicitly not to eat of that tree. In that respect, they are like children, who may understand that certain behavior is expected but do not fully understand why.

      Like any concerned parent, God wants his children to learn to accept responsibility for their actions, however painful it may be. Indeed, God has lovingly provided all of the arrangements in the garden—a secure life, the edict against one tree—but also the capacity for free choice that will cause Adam and Eve to mature. He knows perfectly well where the humans are in the garden, but he asks his question, "Where are you?" to draw the story out of them and begin the process of moral development.