Good old Eve. In the view of some folks, she messed it up for all of us, with that bite of the apple — original sin and all that. And so Jesus had to come and die to undo the damage she had done The fancy theological term is substitutionary atonement.*
But what I hear in this story is not the tale of a vengeful God’s thirst for payback for Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience. What I hear, instead, is that even though there are consequences for that disobedience, what comes through in the end is God’s grace and protection.
It seems to me that, like a good and caring, maybe even over-protective, parent, God sought to shield us from the “knowledge of good and evil.” It was not, as the serpent claimed, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Isn’t that knowledge what so often torments us? So, perhaps God was trying to shield us humans from the those torments, just as we parents try to shield our children from danger, or even unhappiness.
Doubt that? What did God do, even though God had said Adam and Eve would die if they even touched the tree of life. But did they? No. Sure they were banished from the Garden of Eden, but what else did God do? “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21).
Hardly the actions of a vengeful deity. And that’s one of the reasons that it is false to try to claim the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament.
A grace-giving God abounds in both.
*OK, so Wikipedia is not known as a high-end theological dictionary, but it’s a sufficient on-line reference for my purposes. There are plenty of deep theological discussions on substitionary atonement if you’re after more.