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Bereshit 3:22:

ויאמר ה' אלקים הן האדם היה כאחד ממנו לדעת טוב ורע

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil"

Is this the correct translation? Shouldn't it rather be: the man has become like one from (as in distinct) us? The reason for my question is that the Hebrew places a kaf in front of the word 'one/echad' which I understand means 'like' and a mem as a suffix for the word ' מִן" which I understand means 'from'. Therefore, I understand the verse as God saying that the man (adam) has become like one separate from us. Am I understanding this correctly? It makes sense in a way as man was already 'like' God because God said let us make man in our image and likeness. Therefore, eating from the forbidden tree shouldn't in effect have made adam like God?

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  • “k’ehad mimenu” means “such as one from us”.
    – ezra
    Sep 22, 2023 at 12:36
  • @ezra it also means "like the Being Who is One amongst Us"
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 22, 2023 at 12:58
  • "Like us," as in, "Knowing Good and Evil"
    – Swivel
    Sep 22, 2023 at 22:15
  • @RabbiKaii That’s not a very direct translation.
    – ezra
    Sep 23, 2023 at 2:46

2 Answers 2

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thanks for being here and asking questions that help you come closer to the God of Israel. I'll happily help you with this one.

Generally, we base all our understanding of the Torah on the commentaries. Please see this answer as to why the commentaries are necessary, and where they come from.

There a couple of commentaries1 that reach your conclusion, but not by the way you arrive at it. They base it on the hebrew word היה, which is past tense, so they read it "behold Adam was like one of Us [and he is no longer]".

Generally though, the commentaries interpret the words to mean that Adam has indeed become like God, because he knows good and evil, which animals and other forms of life do not share. E.g. Rashi:

היה כאחד ממנו IS BECOME LIKE ONE OF US (or, like the Being who is One, Unique amongst us) — Lo, he is unique among the terrestrial ones, even as I am unique among the celestial ones. And in what does his uniqueness consist? In knowing good and evil, which is not so in the case of cattle and beasts (Genesis Rabbah 21:5).

The phrase כאחד ממנו doesn't translate the way you have proposed. It is literally translated as "like one from us", or in more technical logic: "He is similar to one from the category of those that we count ourselves among". This category is "those who know good and evil".

If you are quite technical with your understanding of the hebrew language and grammar, you might find this Ibn Ezra a good read into understanding how this pasuk is working, and it deals with all the words you question.

tl;dr: there is a tradition that this means we lost our status as being "similar to Him", but also a a tradition that we became more similar to Him. The way we resolve that is to realise that both are true. On the one hand, we developed the ability to internally appreciate good and evil, which is a status only shared with Hashem, but on the other hand, having that appreciation of evil in a physical body activates an urge to do evil, and cause him to chase the material rather than the spiritual aims set for Him when God made him in the Divine Image.


1 - e.g. Sforno, Rabbeinu Bachaye

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  • Thank you very much for your answer. I understand it now. But why did God not want adam to have this knowledge? I am not sure if I can ask another question in the comments. Sep 23, 2023 at 4:56
  • Would this "He is similar to one from the category of those that we count ourselves among" mean then that adam had become like satan (who was amongst the sons of God in Job 1 and in Zecharia 3:1) who was the serpent who encouraged Eve to partake of the fruit? Could this have been the serpent/satan's intention with the temptation? Sep 23, 2023 at 5:38
  • @LisaCremer I've never heard that. The way it is taught is that the force of temptation for evil was outside man, and then by eating the fruit, that became an internal temptation. See aish.com/what-was-the-serpent
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 23, 2023 at 20:16
  • @LisaCremer re your question about the reason for evil, my above comment is referencing the yetzer hara
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 24, 2023 at 9:31
  • @LisaCremer I do think you should ask about why God didn't want Adam to have the knowledge as a separate question - very interesting
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Oct 22, 2023 at 23:59
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Refer to the commentaries there.

Rashi:

היה כאחד ממנו. הֲרֵי הוּא יָחִיד בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי יָחִיד בָּעֶלְיוֹנִים, וּמַה הִיא יְחִידוּתוֹ? לָדַעַת טוֹב וָרָע, מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בִּבְהֵמָה וְחַיָּה

היה כאחד ממנו IS BECOME LIKE ONE OF US (or, like the Being who is One, Unique amongst us) — Lo, he is unique among the terrestrial ones, even as I am unique among the celestial ones. And in what does his uniqueness consist? In knowing good and evil, which is not so in the case of cattle and beasts (Genesis Rabbah 21:5).

Ibn Ezra:

ופי' ממנו. ל' רבים כמו איש ממנו. וכבר ביארתי בספר היסוד למה נדגש נו"ן הרבים. ואנשי מזרח הקוראים אותו בלא דגשות יטעו. וטעם הפסוק כמו והיית' כאלהי' יודעי טוב ורע. או פי' על מחשבתו. ואל תתמה על מלת ממנו כי כמוהו נעשה אדם בצלמנו הבה נרדה וזה דבור השם עם המלאכים

The word mi-mennu can be rendered of us or of him. as in ish mi-mennu (none of us) (Gen. 23:6). I have already explained in The Book of Foundation why the nun of mi-mennu receives a dagesh when in the plural. The Babylonian grammarians who do not place a dagesh in it are in error. The meaning of the verse (v. 22) is the same as ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil (v. 5). On the other hand, God might be saying what was in Adam’s mind. The use of the term of us presents no problem. It is similar to Let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26) and Come, let us go down (Gen. 11:7). God in all these cases is addressing the angels.

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