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Genesis 1:26 Then God [elohim] said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness [h1823], so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Genesis 3:5 "For God [elohim] knows that when you [Eve] eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

and you will be like God,
כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים (kê·lō·hîm)
Preposition-k | Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 430: gods -- the supreme God, magistrates, a superlative

Didn't Eve know that she was like God already?

How did Eve understand the word "evil"? What did it mean to her?

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  • Genesis 1:26 : דְּמוּת demuth Strong 1823. // Genesis 3:5 : אֱלהִים elohim Strong 430.// Gen 3:5 - 'like God' (as to knowing good and evil) is much stronger than Gen 1:26. But I wait for expert Hebrew advice. Good question +1. – Nigel J Sep 8 '20 at 19:33
  • If one is already married to a loving and attractive spouse, why search for physical intimacy elsewhere, with another person, only to get what one already has ? And if one's proverbial pockets are bursting with money, why attempt to rob someone else of their riches ? Logically, it doesn't really make much sense, does it ? But, nevertheless, it still happens quite often (2 Samuel 12:1-10). – Lucian Sep 8 '20 at 20:49
  • @TonyChan - This is one of your best questions yet! +1. – Dottard Sep 8 '20 at 22:29
  • I agree with NigelJ. The qualifying phrase "knowing good and evil" is critical. – Mike Borden Sep 9 '20 at 22:52
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    Within the word "Knowing" is the ability to discern and distinguish. The temptation was for Eve to take this ability for herself rather than look to God regardless of what her understanding of evil was at the time. She was not being tempted to better her understanding, she was being tempted to kick God to the curb. – Mike Borden Sep 11 '20 at 19:46
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I am not sure this will fully answer the question but let me offer a few comments.

Vocabulary

First, the words in Gen 1:26 for "in our image, in our likeness" (כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ) are different from that in Gen 3:5 for "like God" (כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים). Despite this, the semantic (as distinct from the lexical) relationship is obvious.

Alike but Different

While humankind was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26, 27), there were numerous important differences which included:

  • Humanity is finite, God is infinite in knowledge, power, etc.
  • Humanity is flesh and blood, God is Spirit.
  • Humanity was created, God is not

One of the important differences that God initially made for humanity was innocence. God knew of Satan and sin but Adam and Eve had never experienced sin. (One assumes that God may have warned them about Satan but we have no record of this.)

Therefore, Satan used a characteristic of God that humanity lacked (in which lack there was a blessing!) to tempt Adam and Eve. In this respect, Satan was correct - by eating the fruit, they would then know, "good AND evil".

By accepting Satan's temptation and reaching for that which in its absence was a blessing, they took what they did not need and brought a series of curses on themselves.

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My answer will depend on a completely different understanding and translation used here:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Notice this word Yea is translating two Hebrew words: אף כי (aph ki). It is very worthwhile to look up its use and translation all through the OT. It seems to be a way of saying... "on top of that", or "furthermore" or "much more/less than"...

For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?(Deu 31:27)

When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings: How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth? (2Sa 4:10-11)

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (1Ki 8:27)

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince. (Pro 17:7)

And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments, (Eze 23:40)

אף כי (translated here as "Yea"), is simply not used to start a conversation or a thought but used to compare something with something that has just been said in greater intensity.

This suggests that we are catching them in mid-conversation, at its back-end apparently. What were they talking about before?

Looking at the remainder of their conversation:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.(Gen 3:1-5)

"gods" is a perfectly good translation here, and choosing "God" instead depends on interpretation not translation. I will go with "gods" as the Greek Old Testament does and every English Translation up until the Revised Version.

Now, it always struck me as odd that she was intrigued at the idea of being as the gods knowing good and evil. How does she know anything about them or what it is like to know good and evil? She does not ask any questions about it, she seems to know exactly what he is talking about...

My conjecture is that he has been telling her about them, and about himself as one of them: "one of the gods that knows good and evil", and how that he is part of a divine class of beings called gods and sons of God by the Most High, and set as judges over the earth... and tempting her that she can be like him/them by eating of this fruit.

Are there such beings: gods that know good and evil?

It does appear from Psalm 82 that there is a heavenly court called the congregation of the mighty with celestial judges who the Most High God appointed as judges and calls gods, and even children of the Most High.

Psalm 82: A Psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations. (Psa 82:1-8)

Could this be what the sons of God refers to of whom Satan was one?

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Gen 3:22)

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.(Gen 6:2)

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. (Exo 22:28)

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6)

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2Co 4:4)

If so, it would make sense of what the content was of the conversation between the Serpent and Eve prior to what has been recorded here. And also what she was tempted with: not to be as God knowing good and evil, in whose image she is already created (in likeness not knowledge), but to become as one of the gods who had knowledge of good and evil in order to stand as judges over the earth.


And to answer OP's explicit questions:

Eva must have known she is in the image of God, but that does not mean she was "like" God. She was in "in our image, after our likeness". That does not mean man (and woman) was in every respect "as him", since God himself said, "now man has become as one of us" in this aspect, after the fall.

It is reasonable and proper to assume that Eve surely would not have had a concept, reference or experience of evil prior to her conversation with Satan. So other than what the Serpent may have tried to convey to her in whatever they had been talking about prior to our us entering in on their discussion, we can and should assume se had no knowledge of evil. Maybe, similar to animals, morality (knowledge of Good and Evil) was simply not a concept in her mind.

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  • This assumes that the conversation recorded for us is a transcript picked up midway through the conversation rather than a distillation. I would like to see that substantiated. – Mike Borden Sep 9 '20 at 22:56
  • @MikeBorden: Hi Mike. I tried to substantiate it with אף כי (aph ki)... Very worthwhile to look up its use and translation all through the OT. It seems to be a way of saying... "on top of that", or "furthermore" or "much more/less than"... It is simply not used to start a conversation or a thought but used to compare something with something that has just been said. – Pieter Rousseau Sep 10 '20 at 9:05
  • Perhaps the referent of the 'Yea" is not the prior conversation of the serpent with Eve but the relaying of God's command to Eve through Adam. The serpent is then asking, "Is it true/did I hear that God hath said...." – Mike Borden Sep 10 '20 at 11:41
  • @MikeBorden: Sorry Mike, not sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying that the "yea" is the serpent's, way of introducing his question? Or do you mean that phrase (אף כי) is how we know it is a question in English? – Pieter Rousseau Sep 10 '20 at 12:03
  • The serpent introducing his question by referring to a prior conversation. I don't assume it has to have been his conversation. Young's Literal Translation has "Yea" rendered as "Is it true". We know that Adam relayed God's command to Eve because the command came before Eve's creation. We also know that Adam was with Eve when she was deceived and ate. Perhaps Adam had just finished relaying God's command to Eve and the serpent sidled over and said "Yea hath God really said..." – Mike Borden Sep 10 '20 at 12:11
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Did Eve know that she was 'already' like God?

  1. We must not assume that Eve was a finished creation. Being made in the likeness of God is a process for all mankind - Adam was the beginning of this process. This process will not be finished until - at least - the kingdom, or perhaps some stage after that. Only then, when men have followed Jesus into immortality will men be in the 'likeness' of God (and then ONLY in Christ - him being the first of the first-fruit).
  2. That Jesus was figuratively 'slain from the foundation of the world' (Rev 13:8) and that the deceiver was in the garden - according to God's plan, we may say that Eve was not aware of who she was or would/could become. IOW, she too was part of the process begun with Adam - the first humans who would join with all others to be saved from sin by the saviour to come.
  3. God is creator. It isn't something He 'did' - He IS creator. We, the most precious of all creation are a work in progress - heading toward that which was always intended. But by a route that included sin and man being made with the ability to sin and with a ready source of deception close at hand.

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Ephesians 4:24 And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Once resurrected and changed to have a 'spirit' life from a fleshly mortal one, humans will be 'made' in the likeness of God. As Eve will also be.

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Adam and Eve knew that they were made in the image and likeness of God but they were not all knowing, otherwise, Satan’s tempting promise​—“your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad” wouldn't have been that irresistible for Eve. (Gen. 3:5).

When Satan aprroached Eve, he actually challenged the rightfulness and righteousness of God's sovereignty. He intimated that God was unrightfully withholding something from her; he also declared that God was a liar in saying that she would die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Additionally, Satan made her believe she would be free and independent of God, becoming like God. By this means this wicked spirit creature raised himself higher than God in Eve’s eyes, and Satan became her god, even though Eve, at the time, apparently did not know the identity of the one misleading her.

The original serpent,” Satan the Devil, deceived Eve by leading her to believe that eating fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” imparted special knowledge that would enable her to decide what was good and what was bad. She did not show respect for her husband’s headship by asking him about the matter.

Satan also distorted the facts. He implied that God was unfair in demanding that Adam and Eve “must not eat from every tree of the garden.” Next, Satan got Eve to think about herself and how she could supposedly improve her lot in life, becoming “like God.” Eventually, he got her to focus on the tree and its fruit rather than on her relationship with the One who had given her everything. ( Genesis 3:6.) Sadly, by eating of the fruit, Eve showed that God was not the most important Person in her life.

Did Adam and Eve’s choice eventually enhance their freedom in any way? Sadly, it did not. Their choice did not bring them what Satan said it would. In fact, they soon learned that rejecting God's direction and going their own way resulted in disaster. (Gen. 3:16-19) Why? Simply because God did not give humans the freedom to determine for themselves what is good and what is bad.​— Proverbs 20:24 ; Jeremiah 10:23.

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    There is nothing supporting an association of the serpent with Satan. In fact the serpent appears as a representation of God’s power. The “Nachash” is what the staff Of Moses turns into to demonstrate God’s power. The Nachash is what Moses sets up in the desert as a symbol of obedience to God (Numbers 19), and John extends this association to Jesus too (John 3:14-15). The serpent may represent eternal life given that it shed’s its skin. I think the primary reason for demonizing the serpent was second century competition with Asclepius. See Justin Martyr. – Gus L. Sep 13 '20 at 14:50
  • @GusL. Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 identifies Satan as the old serpent. Who was the serpent that deceived Eve if it was not Satan? – user35499 Sep 14 '20 at 10:33
  • One option is the tannin dragon sea serpent that represents chaos like the egyptian apophis. God created this in Genesis 1:21. Another is rahab or leviathan. Another is “the deep” itself from Genesis 1:2 and elsewhere like Psalm 77:16 which has the hebrew name tehomot... this matches the primordial chaos sea dragon of the babylonians tihamat (note the consonants are identical. Here is the page for tannin, explore where it appears. biblehub.com/hebrew/8577.htm – Gus L. Sep 14 '20 at 23:47
  • Also, the serpent did not deceive Eve. The serpent told Eve three things that the text is careful to show came true. It is the woman (not yet named eve) who lies to God. All of this matches up with the concept that God stills the chaotic waters in the story of calming the sea in the gospels. In revelations the sea will dry up representing a final victory over chaos. – Gus L. Sep 14 '20 at 23:54
  • @GusL. You said "the serpent did not deceive Eve" whereas 2 Corinthians 11:3 and Genesis 3:13 say the serpent did deceive Eve/the woman. You also said that "There is nothing supporting an association of the serpent with Satan". Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 identifies Satan as the old serpent. Who was the serpent that deceived Eve if it was not Satan? You also said "The serpent told Eve three things that the text is careful to show came true. It is the woman (not yet named eve) who lies to God" can you please cite verses to substantiate this. Is Satan's statement "Ye shall not surely die true? – user35499 Sep 15 '20 at 3:32
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Adam and Eve knew that they were like God. It was obvious to them from their interactions with God. None of the animals were like God until the Serpent spoke to her.

Her initial understanding of the concept of evil was that of being not good, the opposite of good. .

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

After they ate and God's curses, they realized that the Serpent was evil and they developed a better notion of evil as they grew older.

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Your question is based on an assumption that you have accepted as correct. That Eve was like God prior to eating. This is a common theologically taught concept that has no scriptural support. It is more correct to say that Adam and Eve were sons of God. But, man is incapable of being ‘like god’, man needs (a) God, and that is how man was created.

‘Made in the image of God’ needs to be understood - correctly. And, to do that, you need to apply Jewish hermeneutics, not ‘westernised hermeneutics’. ‘Image’ means you ‘see’ God ‘in’ man, that is, man ‘reflecting’ Gods glory. Now, let’s look a little deeper.

It was not until after Eve ‘ate’ that they became like god (lower case ‘g’). That is, and this is actually important to accept, everything the serpent said was right! Note what God said later in Genesis chapter 3, it confirms this.....

GEN 3:22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us,

After ‘eating’, man became like god, something he was not created for, nor capable of being.

Curiosity- which understanding of ‘evil’ are you referring to? And, where is the source you used to question Eve’s understanding of ‘evil’?

The Hebrew word for ‘evil’ references a state of mans heart, an inclination, that is, ‘evil’ is something ‘within’, not an act, but it can result in, or lead to an act And Eve ‘eating’ was not evil. She was deceived. The English understanding of ‘evil’ is not even close to the Hebrew understanding of this word.

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  • Do you have any supporting authors for the claim that "‘Image’ means you ‘see’ God ‘in’ man, that is, man ‘reflecting’ Gods glory." is an idea in Jewish Hermenutics? This appears to have been popular in Hellenistic thought... So I would be interested to see if that was in Jewish culture prior and if there's an argument that that inspired the philosophers. – James Shewey Sep 10 '20 at 15:24
  • (Interesting link.) - The Hellenistic view you outline differed in that is a takes a philosophical stance. My use of ‘reflect’ may have lead to the comparison, I maybe should have used ‘mirrored’. Nevertheless as per your question, for reference, I would recommend Dr Michael Heiser. (drmsh.com) – Dave Sep 10 '20 at 18:18

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