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Transcript

The Tree of Knowing Good & Bad

Podcast Date: June 17, 2019 
(48:54)      
                 

Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins 

Tim Mackie                                                                                         

       

                                                                        

Jon: Hey, this is Jon at The Bible Project and today on the podcast we're going to continue a conversation on how to read the wisdom books in the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and Job. And like we tend to do, we first are spending a lot of time in Genesis 1 through 3.

                       

Tim: Genesis 1 through 3 is crucial for grasping why the books of Solomon are what they are.

                       

Jon: In the garden are two trees. The tree of life, which God wants us to eat of and also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which if we eat of, we will die. Today we're going to talk about that second tree. And Tim points out that calling it the tree of good and evil is problematic.

                       

Tim: The word "evil" in English is pretty much narrowly connected to moral evil or essential evil. The Hebrew word "ra’" is not. Evil loads in too much cosmic moral meaning.

                       

Jon: If you look at other places in the Hebrew Scriptures where that phrase "the knowledge of good and bad" or in Hebrew "the knowledge of tov and ra’," you'll notice this phrase...

                       

Tim: ...is a way of talking about a mature adult human with discernment between good and bad. In other words, Adam and Eve are depicted as being in their moral infancy.

                       

Jon: So eating of the tree isn't just about whether we will choose evil. It's about how we're going to learn wisdom so that we can rule the world with God, because...

                       

Tim: ...he's called the child to rule. So the tree represents a choice about two different ways of learning what is tov and ra’. I can take it for myself because it's good in my eyes - that's what's going to happen - or hands-off, I will allow God in His own time to give me the knowledge of tov and ra.

                       

Jon: All that and more on today's episode. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.

                       

All right, we're going to continue our conversation about the books in the Bible that we're calling the wisdom literature, which I just learned from you is a modern construct. But there's something about these books as they're related to wisdom and to Solomon that it's important to understand that the entire the Hebrew Scriptures is intended for us to find wisdom.

                       

Tim: And it's actually called the wisdom literature within the Hebrew Bible itself.

                       

Jon: Psalm 119.

                       

Tim: Yeah, Psalm 19, the whole Hebrew Bible is wisdom literature.

                       

Jon: And this is so crucially important because the whole setup to the story of the Bible is humans trying to decide how they're going to get wisdom.

                       

Tim: Human's on a quest for wisdom. God as the provider and definer of what is good, and then humans are given a responsibility that also requires them to have wisdom

                                                       

       

                                                                        

about good and evil. The question is, what kind of wisdom and what's the baseline of that wisdom, and how will they get it? That's the drama.

                       

Jon: But we need wisdom.

                       

Tim: We need wisdom.

                       

Jon: And not just because our lives will be better but because we have this calling to rule with God.

                       

Tim: That's right.

                       

Jon: And how are you going to do that?

                       

Tim: Humans are given the responsibility to bear God's image and to rule it, steward to creation on the creator's behalf that requires decision making. And to make decisions, you need wisdom - how to evaluate and weigh factors on the other side of a decision. But the question is, what's your baseline? What are the different metaphors? What's your true north on your compass? What defines true wisdom? And how do you attain that wisdom?

                       

Jon: I think a lot of people will want a guidebook or a set of rules. That's kind of the cleanest way to know what to do between good and bad. In a way, in the story of the Bible, God does give a bunch of laws/rules to people. And so it's kind of easy to start thinking like, "Okay, well, then that's how you get wisdom is you just find the divine rulebook and adhere to it with your own grit."

                       

Tim: What this narrative is going to put in front of us is that even when humans get very specific rules and directives from God Himself, they still prove themselves unable to live by true wisdom. Because it's not just following a rule. The deeper set of issues are my motives and long term habits and character formation. You know, you can obey rules out of really bad motives?

                       

Jon: Wouldn't it be amazing if you had like an app where like at any given moment you can just open it up and it tells you the next right thing to do?

                       

Tim: That sounds terrible.

                       

Jon: It is a bit of a dystopia.

                       

Tim: That is a little bit what my phone does for me. It just doesn't for things that I don't care about. I've given it the responsibility to tell me where to go.

                       

Jon: Like maps.

                       

Tim: Like maps.

                       

Jon: You don't think about where to turn anymore. You let the computer algorithms decide that for you.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: That's right. I made a decision that I'm going to focus on other decisions that I'm given over directional guidance to a computer in my pocket.

                       

Jon: This is a tangent, but as machine learning gets more and more advanced, we will offload more and more decisions that we don't want to make.

                       

Tim: That's right.

                       

Jon: I think we've talked about this before.

                       

Tim: We have. But who decides what can be decided by an algorithm and what should be decided by a human who we would say has moral capacities?

                       

Jon: Obviously, if God designed an algorithm.

                       

Tim: Oh, understand. Yeah, I got it. But that's the whole point is that God wants humans to mature and grow into divine like wisdom so that their will and decisions imitate ultimate goodness and wisdom.

                       

Jon: He doesn't want us just checking things off lists.

                       

Tim: No. This is partners, true partners so that our wills are aligned. You don't have to be me and I don't have to be you. We can exist as to others in the world whose wills are aligned. But yet, I haven't assimilated you into me. We can have a unified will, that moves the world forward but both exist in our uniqueness and otherness. That's the depiction of God's will, and designed for the world on page one.

                       

And then that's imitated by the human that the humans are one species, Adam, humanity, but yet they are also consist of others. The two are one but also more than one. And then that explored the imagery of male and female and in Genesis 2. The two who become one. That's a whole other thing. But it's connected with God wants humans to become wise and to rule the world well on His behalf, to create more of the garden that he first provided.

                       

Jon: And that's the image of eating from the tree of life?

                       

Tim: Correct.

                       

Jon: I kind of imagine it's like you take one bite and you're set? you're like, "I got the magic tree of life apple in my belly and now I can live forever."

                       

Tim: Well, to be in the garden in God's presence, ruling with Him forever, eating from the tree of life, that's like one package image. But that is a fragile condition. It can be compromised. It can be lost. Even just on one choice, it can all go terribly wrong. And who doesn't know? That's life, man. That's life. The Eden story is very much trying to connect and be in tune with the way that we experience life.

                       

Jon: Which makes it so difficult to imagine what new creation really could be like. Tim: Yeah, totally. Sure. Sure.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Jon: Because of the fragility, like you just mentioned, how easy would it be to screw things up? And how can creation get to a place where we stop doing that?

                       

Tim: Well, but if you have creatures who have become one with their creator so that his life presence inhabits them...

                       

Jon: The Borg.

                       

Tim: No, Borg is different. The Borg is everything gets assimilated into the one. That's what we're just talking about. But the biblical vision is now a universe of others, but that are one through love for one another. Now we're talking the biblical storyline. And love doesn't erase the identity of the other, it allows them to exist in their uniqueness. But it also acts in a way that will sacrificially find a way so that our wills can be unified in mutual honor. Now we're talking. That's wisdom. Wisdom is finding that way.

                       

So in the Garden of Eden, this Eden state is fragile. That's the whole point of how it starts. Because God gives humans a choice. He puts them in this garden, loaded with goodness that God's provided by his wisdom. You have the two who are one there. Humans aren't making powerplays on each other. They're both ruling like kings and queens. They're naked. They're vulnerable. Everything is known, nothing is hidden, no one is hiding. Everything's open and everything is received in love. I mean, it's Eden, right?

                       

Jon: Yeah. And at the same time, they're exploring and they are building and creating.

                       

Tim: Correct.

                       

Jon: It's easy for my mind to slip into just some sort of boring utopia.

                       

Tim: Got it. But that's the environment where they care and work. Just what God told them to do in the garden - to care for it and working.

                       

Jon: I still imagine there are surprises and disappointments and all these things. It's not like you never experienced something uncomfortable. It's just everyone is loving each other, and there's wisdom.

                       

Tim: So part of that good setup is in Genesis 2:9. "Out of the ground, the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is good to the eyes, then good for food. The Tree of Life was also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowing tov and ra’ - good and bad." First, the whole garden is full of goodness. That's Genesis 1.

                       

Jon: A variety of goodness.
Tim: Variety of goodness. The tree of life is there. That's God's providing. Jon: The pinnacle of the goodness.

                       

Tim: Yeah, that's right. But then the last thing to be mentioned it's kind of like the most dramatic thing. The tree of knowing good and ra’. This is the first time the word is used in the Bible. I've made significant development in how I talk about the word ra’

                                                       

       

                                                                        

that I want to talk about with you. Because I think I found a great English word. Or at least I think. I think the English word "bad" actually does better in English what the Hebrew word ra’ does in Hebrew.

                       

Jon: Bad. Good and bad.
Tim: Yeah, good and bad, which are also pairs in English. Jon: The tree of good and bad.
Tim: Yes. Dude, that's exactly right.
Jon: It sounds really silly right now but...
Tim: No, trust me, it will help us in spades.
Jon: Okay.

                       

Tim: The word "evil" in English is pretty much narrowly connected to moral evil or essential evil. The Hebrew word ra’ is not. Let's focus on "good." "Good" in English can mean moral goodness, like inherently good in a way that corresponds to a cosmic principle or goodness. But good is also we can ratchet it down a few levels to just mean pleasant or enjoyable.

                       

Jon: It's got a wide range.

                       

Tim: "That was a good milkshake." It's not cosmically right. You know, it's just like I enjoyed it. It brought me pleasure. It was beneficial. Well, milkshake is beneficial? That was a good smoothie with all my fruits and vegetables for today. So tov is the same. It can refer to moral goodness that corresponds to God's character and wisdom, or it can describe pleasant or beneficial. The same with ra’. "Ra’" can be used in a moral sense. The opposite of God's character.

                       

Jon: What we would say evil.

                       

Tim: What we would say evil. But ra’ can also mean unpleasant, harmful, or just...Here, let me show you some examples.

                       

Jon: And you're saying in that situation, evil just is too much punch.

                       

Tim: Evil loads in too much cosmic moral meaning. But our English word "bad" can refer to both. He's a bad person. That was a bad decision. It can mean morally bad.

                       

Jon: Right. That was a bad burrito.
Tim: That was a bad burrito. Good and bad. This is perfect. Jon: Okay.

                       

Tim: I'm on like let's start a movement the tree of knowing good and bad. It's worked perfect.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Jon: We've got a lot of history to undo then. We've been calling it the tree of good and evil...

                       

Tim: Well, we can start with this video.

                       

Jon: All right.

                       

Tim: All right. Let me just show you some examples and you'll see what I mean - of the words tov and ra’ and how they work.

                       

Jon: Okay.

                       

Tim: In Jeremiah 24, he has a dream. The prophet Jeremiah has a dream. He says, "The Lord showed me two baskets of figs. One basket had very tov figs. The other basket had ra’ figs. They were so ra’ that they could not be eaten."

                       

Jon: They were morally bad figs. They're evil figs.

                       

Tim: Yeah, right? Of course not evil figs. But they're bad. They're rotten. They taste bad, whatever. They're bad. Tov and ra’.

                       

Jon: Tov and ra’.

                       

Tim: Tov and ra’. Good and bad. There's a proverb about having ra’ tooth - a tooth that is ra’, meaning...

                       

Jon: A ra’ tooth would be ra’.

                       

Tim: ...meaning you can't bite with it. It's broken. It's cracked. It's ra’. So a cracked tooth can be called ra’ in Proverbs 25:19. Solomon, when he becomes king in a time of peace, he says, "God has given me rest on every side. There is no enemy and there is no ra’." It doesn't mean there's no evil.

                       

Jon: No, it doesn't mean that?

                       

Tim: There's no enemy. There's no ra’. There's nothing bad. There's no catastrophes. There are no famines. There are no bad guys out to get me. So, ra’, this means harmful situations.

                       

Jon: Not beneficial.

                       

Tim: Not beneficial. However, ra’ can be used to refer to moral evil. In Psalm 140, the poet says, "Rescue me, O Lord, from ra’ people. Preserve me from the violent man who devises ra’ in his heart." So that's evil.

                       

Jon: So if a moral agent is ra’, then it becomes a moral issue. Tim: Oh, that's good. That's might be a helpful way.
Jon: Because a fig is not a moral agent.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: If a person is ra’, they are evil. If a fig is ra’, it's just bad.

                       

Jon: It's gone bad.

                       

Tim: Yeah, it's gone bad.

                       

Jon: Can a person be bad and not evil? If your body was broken in some way, you will be bad.

                       

Tim: A ra’ person can do ra. And the doing of ra’ will refer to just a harmful act. Jon: A bad act.
Tim: An act that brings harm.
Jon: When we're there, I'm more comfortable using the word evil.

                       

Tim: Okay. Okay. Then dude, check this out.

                       

Jon: Okay.

                       

Tim: God does ra’. God says here in Jeremiah 18. "At one moment, I might speak concerning a nation or a kingdom to uproot it, to pull it down, to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken, if they turn from their ra’...

                       

Jon: From their bad.

                       

Tim: They're evil.

                       

Jon: But they're evil.

                       

Tim: They're evil.

                       

Tim: "If they turn from their moral evil, I will relent concerning the ra’ that I plan to bring upon it."

                       

Jon: So is God's ra’ evil?

                       

Tim: So what is the ra’? To pull it down, to destroy it and uproot it. Catastrophe. A kingdom falling.

                       

Jon: Which we would say is a bad thing.
Tim: It's bad for the people who are...
Jon: It's unbeneficial.
Tim: It's harmful. It's a catastrophe. So unpleasant, harmful, destructive. Jon: But not all destructive things are evil.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: It is morally evil at least from the perspective of the biblical authors. From the perspective of Jeremiah, God spoke to do ra’ to Jerusalem. How? By allowing Babylon to come to...

                       

Jon: I understand that like it's not always evil to destroy something.

                       

Tim: Yeah, that's right. To do something that someone might experience as ra’ might from another person's perspective be the exact right thing to do or the good thing to do.

                       

Jon: Sure.

                       

Tim: And so these are the passages where God does ra’. Oh, when King Saul disqualifies himself to be the king of Israel, the narrator says God sent a ra’ spirit to torment Saul.

                       

Jon: That's right. That's usually translated evil spirit. It should be a harmful...Basically, he starts to go mad. He starts to go mad from his power complex. And he's so jealous to guard his own seat of power from any rivals he starts to go mad.

                       

Jon: Going mad from a power complex is a bad spirit.

                       

Tim: Is a ra’ spirit. Yeah, that's right. It's usually gets translated "God sent an evil spirit." How many times someone's read that and they come to me in crisis? Like, "What God does...

                       

Jon: ...sends evil spirits? Because they're imagining like a demon at that point.

                       

Tim: But it is a portrait of God that we have to reckon with in the Bible, that He will allow or do ra’ - bring about what is destructive for people who do ra’. For evil people, God will deal with them by doing ra’. By bringing them down.

                       

Jon: The Knowledge of Good and bad is not just they only do good, because there might be situations where you need to do something that tears something down or is to some people feels bad.

                       

[00:19:39]

                       

Tim: That's the first step. First step is what tov and ra’ are. Good and bad. Second step, the phrase knowing tov and ra’.

                       

Jon: Yeah, knowing it.

                       

Tim: This phrase appears four times in the Hebrew Bible. One of them is the tree. Here's the other three. Deuteronomy 1, Moses says, "Your children, your little ones, your sons who today do not know tov and ra’ are going to go into the land." So knowing tov and ra’ is a way of talking about a mature adult human with discernment between good and bad.

                       

1 Kings 3, Solomon says, "I am but a little child. I don't know how to rule these people or how to discern between tov and ra’." That's why he asked God for wisdom. Then in Isaiah 7, the child will eat curds and honey around the time that he

                                                       

       

                                                                        

knows to refuse ra’ and choose tov, for the boy will know to refuse ra’ and choose tov at a certain age. In all three cases, it describes children who are yet to mature unto a knowledge of tov and ra’.

                       

Jon: Solomon wasn't a child.

                       

Tim: That's right. In two, its actual children. In one, it's an adult who's confessing that he's....

                       

Jon: He's like a kid.

                       

Tim: ...like a child. So what does it mean to have the first humans, right? They're the humans in the garden...

                       

Jon: The baby human.

                       

Tim: ...and they've just been given great responsibility to rule.

                       

Jon: They are in their infancy.

                       

Tim: They're depicted as children who are yet to mature.

                       

Jon: It's so funny, I always picture Adam and Eve like in their 30s or 40s. But also had this picture of them at 14 or something.

                       

Tim: That's funny.
Jon: Right? It's like, "Whoa."
Tim: Well, I don't think this is about their age.
Jon: Totally.
Tim: All right. Yeah. Yeah.
Jon: I'm just saying like...
Tim: That is the assumptions built in the depictions of Adam and Eve. It's true. Jon: It's true.

                       

Tim: I mean, most of Western art history, they're white Europeans. In other words, Adam and Eve are depicted as being in their moral infancy. Of course, if they're going to rule the world, they're going to have to have wisdom. So what the tree represents is not whether or not they're going to gain knowledge of tov and ra. They have to have that. They must have it.

                       

Jon: We've talked about that. But we've talked about it in terms of just an assumption of like they're going to rule. But you're actually bringing even more of a case saying, "Look at how this phrase is used. It's used about growing into a moral aptitude. \"

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: Correct. That's right. Because remember, you can be wise but in your own eyes. Every human that's perceptive and using their brain...

                       

Jon: Has wisdom

                       

Tim: ...can become wise. The question is, how will you become wise and what's your baseline for defining what is the wise and the good? So the tree represents a choice about two different ways of learning what is tov and ra’. I can take it for myself because it's good in my eyes. That's what's going to happen.

                       

Jon: Or abstain from it.

                       

Tim: Or hands-off, I will allow God in His own time to give me the knowledge of tov and ra'.

                       

Jon: Now, that I'm going to allow God to do it, that's not explicitly talked about.

                       

Tim: No. But it's implied. The knowing of good and ra’ describes children who will mature. There was a choice in front of them, and then he says, "Don't take it for yourself."

                       

Jon: The assumption is that God's going to make them wise. Tim: He just said they're going to rule the world.
Jon: So from that, from their calling as co-rulers, then...
Tim: I infer.

                       

Jon: We infer that God is going to give them wisdom.

                       

Tim: Yeah, because they're being described as children. God, he's called a child to rule. He's called children to rule the world.

                       

Jon: Then, when we get to the tree, we're supposed to see that as an alternative to this implied assumption, which is just hang out with God and He will give you wisdom.

                       

Tim: He'll give you wisdom. What are they doing on there? When the voice of the Lord comes to walk in the garden in the windy time of the day, what are they doing?

                       

Jon: What are they doing?

                       

Tim: What is that about? The moment they take from the tree, it's as if God shows up for the daily walk and this time they're hiding instead of being vulnerable and open to Him. I think we are meant to infer that the tree represents a choice about how wisdom will be attained by these children. Will they take it for themselves based on what is good in their own eyes or will they receive it as a gift from God?

                       

Jon: We've had the conversation before about the location of this tree. Because the Tree of Life is said to be in the center of the garden.

                       

Tim: And also the tree of knowing good and evil.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Jon: So they're together?
Tim: Yeah.
Jon: Okay. That's clear in Hebrew.?

                       

Tim: Yeah. It says the tree of knowing good and evil because that's the punch line. You have all these good trees. Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden, and also the tree of knowing tov and ra’ - good and bad.

                       

Jon: We've talked about this before, which is like, it's this ever-present choice that's there. Even when you're in the midst of the garden eating of the tree of life, look over your shoulder, and there's the choice.

                       

Tim: That's right. That's right. As the story goes on, then you have the story about tragically, the one who has provided as the ezer, the Hebrew word for help. Again, it means like the indispensable salvation. It's the one who's provided...

                       

Jon: The essential other.

                       

Tim: ...to save as the rescuer and helper of a man ends up being the first one of the two. They both end up being deceived and eating. But she's the one targeted and she's the one...And again, this is all relevant for the wisdom literature. How men and women relate, it's a big theme in the wisdom books and the Song of Songs. And it's all keyed off of Adam and Eve in the garden.

                       

Genesis 3:6 "When the woman saw that..." That phrase "when somebody sees that," God did that seven times in Genesis 1. God saw that it was good. Now it's the first time a human is seeing that. It's human evaluating. And what she sees is that the tree of knowing good and bad was good. God saw that it was good, and you get Eden. A woman saw that something's good, now she's evaluating. She saw that it was good and it was beautiful to the eyes. It was beautiful in her eyes. The tree was desirable. That's chamad. It's the word for covet. Was covetous. "Oh, I want that." It was designed to make one wise. "I could have wisdom. I could take this wisdom for myself. It's beautiful. I want it." God said, "Don't eat from it. It will kill you." "But it's beautiful."

                       

Jon: So when she says it's good, it was beautiful.

                       

Tim: Correct. She sees that it's good. "Oh, this looks beneficial to me. This looks like a good thing." And not only that...

                       

Jon: She's exercising her own wisdom even before she eats of the tree that allows her to exercise her won wisdom.

                       

Tim: Yeah. The moment that she sees that it's good, she's exercising her own knowledge of good and bad.

                       

Jon: But there's a difference between having the insight of your own wisdom and then acting on it.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: I see.

                       

Jon: Right? Because she could be like, "Oh, man, in my own eyes that seems good." And then she could go, "But God said, and I can fear God."

                       

Tim: Exactly. That's right. She sees that it's good. But then the next phrase, it was beautiful in her eyes and she desired it. So it's not just, "Oh, I evaluate that as good," it's the next step of motive and impulse, "and I want it."

                       

Jon: And even there, that's not necessarily wrong.
Tim: No, no, it's not wrong. But I want the thing that God told me is going to kill me. Jon: And then you're at the crux of the choice.
Tim: You're at the crux of the choice.
Jon: "What am I going to do?"

                       

Tim: Because to live by the fear of the Lord would be to say, "That looks good and I want it, but I trust God's wisdom that says this is going to kill me. So I will not take it." She does the opposite. She sees it, "This looks beneficial to me, I want it because having this will be the beginning of me exercising my own moral judgment. This is my path to becoming wise. It's desirable to make one wise." And she took. Man if you slow down...

                       

Jon: Well, I guess maybe when I was trying to parse that out, the knowledge of good and evil isn't the ability to discern between good and evil on your own terms. Because she was able to do that without partaking it.

                       

But partaking of it, it's the decision that that's going to be the way I live. It's more than just knowing good from evil.

                       

Tim: And this is where our English word "know" is more mentally oriented whereas the Hebrew word know is experientially oriented. In Genesis 4, Adam knew his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. So it's about experiencing.

                       

[00:30:17]

                       

Jon: You're going to say there are all these bits to it.

                       

Tim: Well, it's the sequence she saw that it's good. She's evaluating. You can evaluate things as good and bad and not do anything about them.

                       

Jon: We can't help her do that.

                       

Tim: That's right. You're evaluating things all the time. So that's not bad. But she saw that it's good. Second step, and it's beautiful. It's attractive. It's not only beneficial, it's attractive.

                       

Jon: Which is another thing that you have very little control over.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: What you see as attractive.

                       

Jon: What you find attractive.

                       

Tim: Those are the first two steps. Third step, I want it. I want it to be mine because that will give me, in this case, wisdom.

                       

Jon: So desire.
Tim: Desire.
Jon: Now...
Tim: Evaluation, attraction, and desire.
Jon: ...you said a word for "covet." Covet is a very morally charged word. Tim: It is.

                       

Jon: Or desire to me is morally ambiguous.

                       

Tim: Once you use the word covet, you're making an evaluation on the desire that it is wrong. But it's the word chamad. It's the same word used in one of the Ten Commandments. Don't covet your neighbor's house or property.

                       

Jon: Don't have that desire, or is it don't act on the desire?

                       

Tim: Well, the tree is desirable. I want the tree.

                       

Jon: Isn't it natural when you see something that's desirable or beautiful to just automatically like, "I want that"?

                       

Tim: It is natural.

                       

Jon: Isn't that just natural? Or is that something that we actually can untrain or not have?

                       

Tim: Well, I think the idea is to retrain. Ideally, she would look at the tree, see that it's good, notice that it's beautiful, and then desire it.

                       

Jon: And then say, "I don't want it."

                       

Tim: And then say, "But God said it will kill me. So I trust that even though I desire it, it actually is not the thing that I should desire because it will kill me."

                       

Jon: Okay.
Tim: Each one of the steps is morally neutral.
Jon: But in The Ten Commandments, coveting is not morally neutral. "Don't do it."

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: Oh, I understand. Oh, that's interesting. Well, it doesn't say don't take your neighbor's house and donkey. It says, "Don't desire them." I guess the assumption being if you foster that desire, you'll eventually take it.

                       

Jon: It seems like there's a difference between this automatic desiring and the perpetuating of that desiring in your own heart.

                       

Tim: That's right.

                       

Jon: Of like noticing I want that and then relishing that and then like deciding...

                       

Tim: I mean, cultivating it.

                       

Jon: Cultivating it.

                       

Tim: Feeding the fantasy and so on. Yeah, that's right.

                       

Jon: To me, that seems like coveting is when you're cultivating it, where desire is just like, that just sparked within me something.

                       

Tim: I see. You're right. In English, the words are separated that way. In Hebrew, it's one word.

                       

Jon: It's one word that has that range of meaning. So in The Ten Commandments, it's talking specifically about the cultivate. It's not trying to say like, don't have desires for things that aren't yours.

                       

Tim: No. That's right. There's an analog to this. And Jesus points this out in the Sermon on the Mount, where he says, you know, "You've heard that it said don't commit adultery." Of course, one of the Ten Commandments. And then he says, "But I say to you, anyone who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery in his heart." He discerned between noticing someone that's desirable, and then actually feeding the desire and allowing it to grow.

                       

The whole point is that the first failed human action is described as a misguided quest for wisdom, and for knowledge of the good in the bad. And so that sets the tone for the whole story, then, because this misappropriated wisdom is actually going to lead to exile and death. Think of the narrative, the woman, then she takes, she gives to her husband, he eats. Then their first thing to do, their eyes were opened. Their eyes were opened, and they realized that they are arum. It's a wordplay because arum couldn't mean shrewd or clever. But it's also had the word for "naked."

                       

Jon: Oh, is it?
Tim: Yes.
Jon: Oh.
Tim: So the serpent was arum and it ended up with the humans realizing they are arum.

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Jon: But a different kind of arum.

                       

Tim: Yeah, different kind of arum. So their eyes are open all right, and the first thing they do then is provide a covering for their naked bodies. So the first thing they do is hide their bodies from each other. This knowledge ends up dividing them. The two were one, they were naked, no shame. The moment I take it upon myself to be the one who by my wisdom to know good and bad, it just all of a sudden there's a division between us. Because your knowledge of good and bad might be a little different than mine.

                       

Jon: So I don't want you...

                       

Tim: "Can I trust you? Am I safe with you?" It's fascinating. This is the first narrative consequence is division between human. Then they hide from God. They hide from each other; they hide from God. God says, "Where are you?" The man says, "Well, you know, I heard you in the garden and I was afraid. I had fear. I had fear of you."

                       

Jon: Oh.
Tim: It's the first time the word "fear" appears. But it's fear that did not... Jon: It's not a good fear.

                       

Tim: Yes. It didn't keep them from making the decision. The fear that they have is now fear of God because I just did the exact thing He asked me not to do. It's the sad fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord that doesn't lead to life is the fear of the Lord that results from disobedience. "Who told you that you're naked?" He says, "I hid because I was naked." "Who's told you that you're naked?"

                       

Jon: "How did you have that category?"

                       

Tim: "Hey, wait, have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you saying, 'don't eat from it'"? Then the man said, "The woman. The woman." Now you have two roles for Eve now. Version A of Eve was salvation for the man. Goodness, life, multiplication. But now you have this Eve, the Eve who did what was wise in her own eyes. And this Eve caused a problem. And so what he does is he blames her. He says, "The woman that you gave to me, she gave to me from the tree." And then He speaks to the woman, "What is this you've done?" "The snake?" she blames, "he deceived me."

                       

So the whole thing falls apart and it's a division between man and woman. There's an ideal Eve. The wise Eve could have led to life. And now you have the foolish Eve.

                       

Jon: The Eve that tempted to death.
Tim: Yeah, that leads to death. These are fundamental images for the book of Proverbs. Jon: Yeah.
Tim: So you walk out of the garden and you're like, "Oh, man."

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Jon: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.

                       

Tim: Totally. Yeah, it's Eve. Then it all exile, death, the whole thing falls out of this. And the rest of the book of Genesis is people doing what is wise in their own eyes and hurting each other generation after generation. So you walk away from the Eden narrative saying, "Man, if humans are ever going to be restored to the Eden ideal, it will be like humanity being reunited with the ideal Eve that God provided back in the garden."

                       

Jon: And this is where the woman becomes not a woman but more of an...

                       

Tim: She becomes a personification of God's wisdom, well, in the book of Proverbs. We'll get there when we talk about Proverbs. But the point is I walk away from the Eden story going, "Man, if we're ever going to recover that, we're going to need humans who can submit to God's wisdom. Not take and define wisdom by their desires, but define it by God's wisdom and command, going to result in man and woman, not power leveraging over each other, one ruling.

                       

Jon: Blaming each other.

                       

Tim: When God says to the woman, "Your desire - this is important for Song of Songs - your desire will be for your husband...

                       

Jon: This is in the curses in Genesis 3.

                       

Tim: In the curses of Genesis 3, "Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you," it's the opposite of Genesis 1, which is male and female together ruling. Now you have male ruling over female. It's the opposite of Genesis 1.

                       

Jon: And then there's that word "desire" again.

                       

Tim: And that word "desire" is a different word for desire. It's an extremely rare word that is going to appear again, one time in the Song of Songs. It's crucially strategic.

                       

Jon: Your desire will be for your husband. That verse has led to a lot of conversation.

                       

Tim: Yes, it has. The rabbit hole is quite deep on that one. But the point is, in the narrative, man and woman rule together on page 1. Now on page 3...

                       

Jon: The man will rule the woman.

                       

Tim: ...once they hide from each other, once they can't trust each other, then the man will rule over the woman. And that's portrayed as the opposite of God's intention.

                       

Jon: Yeah, it's a curse.

                       

Tim: It's a sad consequence of the division between Adam and Eve now. And why did that division happen? Because they did what was wise in their own eyes.

                       

[00:40:15]

                                                       

       

                                                                        

Tim: So there you go. That's the first step of understanding how the wisdom literature functions in the Old Testament. The wisdom literature is going to take that story and make it a paradigm for every human being.

                       

Jon: Thinking through on a daily basis and the grit of it all, how do we live in God's wisdom and eat of the tree of life versus eating of the tree of knowing good and bad?

                       

Tim: What I do is I live in the fear of the Lord. The kind of fear of the Lord the Adam had after when God showed up, that's not the kind of fear I want.

                       

Jon: You want that fear, but before you make the...

                       

Tim: I want that fear, but before, that will prevent me from doing what is wise in my own eyes. That's right. Yeah, totally.

                       

Jon: And that phrase is very loaded. It's a hard phrase.

                       

Tim: But think, the fear that Adam has when God shows up, it's a fear that he expects judgment. Because God said, "The day you eat of it, you'll die." God shows up in this storm wind immediately after, and he's afraid. He's afraid God's going to kill him. What does God not do? He doesn't kill them. He exiles them, but He doesn't kill them.

                       

Jon: Grace.
Tim: Yes. Not only does He not kill them, He provides for them. Jon: He gives them skin.

                       

Tim: Yeah, he gives them clothes. So that's meant to c

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