Published: 15 March 2021

Eve’s Quest For Wisdom

No moral compass

Mankind’s basic problem is that we have no moral compass. God didn’t create us with one. It’s true that He gave us a conscience, but without training and wisdom our conscience can mislead us. Just ask the Apostle Paul. 

Even after persecuting, imprisoning, and murdering Christians (before he became one himself) Paul was able to say, “I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day” (Acts 23:1 ESV). He thought he was doing the right thing when he was persecuting Christians, but in reality he was a cruel and insolent man whose actions were dictated by his own ignorance (1 Tim 1:13). Conscience is only a safe guide if properly trained and conditioned!

We all think we are doing the right thing until the aftermath of what we have done catches up with us. We are our own worst enemy because we can’t tell the difference between wisdom and ignorance. We think we can tell the difference between right and wrong all by ourselves. So did Adam and Eve.

The serpent’s words were mostly true

Isn’t it interesting that most of what the serpent said was true? 

“4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Gen. 3:4–5 ESV)

He told them that they would not die if they ate from the tree of knowledge. That was a half truth. They did not die that day, but they would eventually die because they lost access to the tree of life.

Next he told them that if they ate, they would be like God – they would know good and evil. The serpent’s statement here is true, but he neglected to mention that there was an exceedingly high price to be paid, with unimaginable consequences, to obtain the knowledge.

The serpent implies that God is withholding good things from Adam & Eve as if God was stingily protecting something that was His. The serpent was successful in eroding their trust in God. 

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life

So far in the creation narrative, it has been God who had declared things good, but now Eve declares that something was good which God had said was not good for mankind. 

Genesis 3:6 is virtually a parallel of 1 John 2:16:

“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16 NKJV)

the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
(the lust of the flesh)
and that it was a delight to the eyes, 
(the lust of the eyes)
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
(the pride of life)

Can there be any doubt that John had Eve in mind when he wrote his letter? 

Humans are incapable of knowing what is good

This story shows that mankind is simply incapable of deciding what is good on our own. This certainly flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but is true nonetheless. We aren’t nearly as intelligent or sophisticated as we like to think. We don’t have the intelligence, wisdom or foresight to be able to know what is good for us. We can be deceived and/or yield to selfishness. 

Selfishness is really the root of the problem. Every sin is caused by selfishness. The book of James gives us the scoop on how sin comes to be:

“13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13–15 NKJV)

James says we are tempted by our own desires! When we give in to those temptations, sin is the result. You see, we want what we want no matter the consequences. We don’t care who we have to inconvenience – or hurt – so long as we get to indulge our desires. We think it will be good if we can obtain our desires.

Adam and Eve had the ability to make a choice, but already had the weaknesses which allowed them to choose unwisely. They were not perfect beings with a sinless nature. Their nature didn’t change when they disobeyed resulting in all of their descendants inheriting their “sinful nature.”

Selfishness is the reason people commit adultery. They like the attention they get from their illicit lover and think it is good to be with this person. How this behavior may hurt others is an afterthought. 

Selfishness is the reason people love money. They love the power, attention and material possessions that money can give them. Lovers of money think it is good to accumulate it – by dishonest means if necessary. It doesn’t matter to them if they have to rob others to get it.

Selfishness is the reason people murder unborn babies. An unwanted child is a commitment that may derail a mother or father’s plans for their own life. They believe it would be good if this baby just “went away.”

We convince ourselves in the moment that these things (and many more) are good, but God has said they are not good. Like our first parents, we still want to define good and evil on our own without any input from God.

Eve desired wisdom

Genesis 3:6 tells us that everything about the tree seemed good to Eve. She especially thought it would give her the wisdom of God. The Bible does not portray Eve as a rebellious woman who wanted to defy God. The problem was that her trust in God had been undermined and she trusted in herself to decide what was good.

“Precisely at this point the author raises the issue of becoming “wise”: “And the woman saw that the tree was … also desirable for gaining wisdom” (3:6). Thus, the temptation is not presented as a general rebellion from God’s authority. Rather, it is portrayed as a quest for wisdom and “the good” apart from God’s provision.”1

Isn’t wisdom needed for ruling?

And why shouldn’t Eve desire wisdom? She and Adam were God’s image bearers and as such had been given the rule over God’s creation. Doesn’t someone with this much responsibility need to be guided by wisdom?

Yes, much wisdom would be required to reign over the Earth as God’s vice regents. The implication in the text is that God would have taught them and coached them to be the kind of rulers He wanted them to be. God would have taught them how to discern good from evil. We were not equipped to have this knowledge apart from God. It was to be a partnership, but Adam and Eve took matters into their own hands.

The real puzzle here is not that Eve disobeyed – she was deceived. The conundrum is why did Adam disobey – he was not deceived (1 Tim 2:14)? The author of Genesis doesn’t answer this for us. 

What we can conclude is that Adam and Eve had the ability to make a choice, but already had the weaknesses which allowed them to choose unwisely. They were not perfect beings with a sinless nature. Their nature didn’t change when they disobeyed resulting in all of their descendants inheriting their “sinful nature.” Whatever they were before they sinned, they still were after (more about this in the next article).  

God always gives a choice

God did not create us with the wisdom to discern good from evil. His intention was for us to learn wisdom from Him. Throughout biblical history God has always presented humans with a choice. We have the choice of trusting God or trusting ourselves. This choice must be present or there is no free will and free will is neither relevant nor meaningful if there is no risk of choosing unwisely.

God’s intent was to protect them from the horrible consequences that result when mankind doesn’t rely on Him to know what is good. Instead, they trusted the serpent and doomed their descendants to experience the unimaginable consequences of gaining wisdom on their own terms. 


  1. Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (p. 104). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.