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According to the Ancient Israelite view, the Garden is a manifestation of sacred space (this is the sacred space theology. The Holy Temple was a manifestation of sacred space on Earth), guarded by seraphim, which is a place of absolute purity and Holiness, the abode of G-d, blessed be He.

However, the serpent is by nature a deceitful creature, using manipulative tricks to get Adam and Eve to eat the apple. This of course, is against G-d's eternal moral laws for He is the truth while the serpent tries to move people away from goodness, truth and righteousness.

But if this is the case, then why did G-d, blessed be He, allow the serpent to exist in His sacred and holy space, in the first place? Its like He tolerated the existence of evil there when there shouldn't have been evil. Would this make Him partially responsible for the fall?

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  • Accepting the logic in your question leads to the conclusion that the serpent was not inherently "unclean". The serpent is the challenge, no system can justify its own existence without a challenge, however exalted that system may be.
    – The GRAPKE
    Jan 29 at 9:45
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    The question here needs to be about the assumptions. It takes way too many things for granted, most of which are not the standard Torah understanding. IOW, the question should have been, "Which parts of this question are wrong?"
    – MichoelR
    Jan 30 at 13:43
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    Please provided specific sources to your "Ancient Israelite" sources which explain your question as you are framing it. Jan 30 at 14:50
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    This is not traditional Jewish teaching or practice. It is intellectual speculation by non-Jews about what they think the Bible is saying. Like I stated previously, your question is off-topic and should be closed. With respect. Question: Are you Seung Il Kang, the author? Jan 31 at 13:01
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    @setszuWhat you just said is (in my opinion), This question does not belong on this forum.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 31 at 13:09

4 Answers 4

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Tractate Makkot 24b tells a story that I think in a round about way is a possible answer for this.

“Again it happened that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiva went up to Jerusalem. When they reached Mt. Scopus, they tore their garments. When they reached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies. The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva laughed.

Said they to him: "Why are you laughing?"

Said he to them: "Why are you weeping?"

Said they to him: "A place [so holy] that it is said of it, 'the stranger that approaches it shall die,'1 and now foxes traverse it, and we shouldn't weep?"

Said he to them: "That is why I laugh. For it is written, 'I shall have bear witness for Me faithful witnesses—Uriah the Priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.'2 Now what is the connection between Uriah and Zechariah? Uriah was [in the time of] the First Temple, and Zechariah was [in the time of] the Second Temple! But the Torah makes Zachariah's prophecy dependent upon Uriah's prophecy. With Uriah, it is written: 'Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; [Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the Temple Mount like the high places of a forest.]'3 With Zachariah it is written, 'Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem.'4

"As long as Uriah's prophecy had not been fulfilled, I feared that Zechariah's prophecy may not be fulfilled either. But now that Uriah's prophecy has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zechariah's prophecy will be fulfilled."

With these words they replied to him: "Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva, you have consoled us!"”

Perhaps Adam and Chava’s sin was necessary to set off the chain of events that would lead to the entire rest of the Torah, and sometimes Hashem lets unholiness dwell in holy places to fulfill greater prophecies.

I dunno, maybe that’s a bit heretical because obviously God gives people free choice and the rabbis said that had Adam held off eating the fruit, we would’ve all lived in Gan Eden forever.

Alternatively, some commentators such as Sforno (see his commentary on Bereishis 3:1) understand the snake as being the evil inclination.

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  • So we were created by default with evil inclination by G-d, blessed be He? That would contradict His goodness, so I don't really accept Sforno's view. And the whole thing about G-d using this for further things is literally a non-answer and causes major problems, so I don't really accept this as a valid response to the issue.
    – setszu
    Jan 29 at 18:02
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    I don’t believe there are separate forces outside of Hashem, so yes I would say the evil inclination was created by Hashem
    – A S
    Jan 29 at 18:27
  • @setszu We were not created with an evil inclination. We were created with a free will. The "evil inclination" was created so that we can exercise that free will. It would be pointless for the Creator to give a command not to do something (like in Gan Eden) when there is no choice whether to do it. It works for God. Look at the advice God gave Cain Gen 4:6-7. God give you an adversary, an intelligent training dummy, and encourages you to overcome it.
    – user34203
    Mar 21 at 13:33
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I think you've got some ideas out of order. When the garden was originally created it had no guards. The guards only came into effect to keep humans out after they had eaten from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Presumably before mankind ate from the fruit, the animals came and left as they pleased.

The serpent found in the garden is introduced as being the smartest/shrewdest animal either at that time in the whole world, or the smartest/shrewdest creature in the garden itself. We are not given anymore information about the serpent or its motives.

Genesis 3:1-5

  1. Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that God יהוה had made. It said to the woman, “Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?”

וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ הָיָ֣ה עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָׂ֖ה יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה אַ֚ף כִּֽי־אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֔ים לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְל֔וּ מִכֹּ֖ל עֵ֥ץ הַגָּֽן׃

  1. The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden.

וַתֹּ֥אמֶר הָֽאִשָּׁ֖ה אֶל־הַנָּחָ֑שׁ מִפְּרִ֥י עֵֽץ־הַגָּ֖ן נֹאכֵֽל׃

  1. It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.’”

וּמִפְּרִ֣י הָעֵץ֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּתוֹךְ־הַגָּן֒ אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים לֹ֤א תֹֽאכְלוּ֙ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ וְלֹ֥א תִגְּע֖וּ בּ֑וֹ פֶּן־תְּמֻתֽוּן׃

  1. And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die,

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַנָּחָ֖שׁ אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁ֑ה לֹֽא־מ֖וֹת תְּמֻתֽוּן׃

  1. but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.”

כִּ֚י יֹדֵ֣עַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים כִּ֗י בְּיוֹם֙ אֲכׇלְכֶ֣ם מִמֶּ֔נּוּ וְנִפְקְח֖וּ עֵֽינֵיכֶ֑ם וִהְיִיתֶם֙ כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים יֹדְעֵ֖י ט֥וֹב וָרָֽע׃

Also, in the garden of Eden we are never introduced to God as a moral being. We are introduced to God as a creative being.

This distinction is important because we don't know what the fruit does other than the serpent's claim that it will make humans like God. And in the end of the story we find out from God Himself that the serpent was correct from the beginning, the humans did become like God.

Genesis 3:22

  1. And God יהוה said, “Now that humankind has become like any of us, knowing good and bad, what if one should stretch out a hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֗ים הֵ֤ן הָֽאָדָם֙ הָיָה֙ כְּאַחַ֣ד מִמֶּ֔נּוּ לָדַ֖עַת ט֣וֹב וָרָ֑ע וְעַתָּ֣ה ׀ פֶּן־יִשְׁלַ֣ח יָד֗וֹ וְלָקַח֙ גַּ֚ם מֵעֵ֣ץ הַֽחַיִּ֔ים וְאָכַ֖ל וָחַ֥י לְעֹלָֽם׃

So when the serpent tells Eve she will be like God we need to understand what/who Eve thought God was, because it will help us understand what she might have thought eating the fruit would do. If she believed God was a moral being, she might think that eating the fruit would allow her to be more moral? What would be wrong with that? Doesn't God want us to be more moral?

But if she believe God was a creative being, then she might think that eating the fruit would allow her to create life. This makes the most sense to me because Eve's punishment for eating the fruit is that her childbirth would be painful, as if God is letting her keep the power of creation that the fruit gave her, but now will make it painful.

And finally, it does not appear that the serpent lies about anything in its conversation with Eve. He tells her when she eats of it, she won't die but she'll become like God. And that's exactly how the story of the Garden of Eden ends in Genesis 3:22. But the question remains, how does the snake know what the fruit does? Many interpreters say the snake is a demon, or the satan, and therefore possibly has access to secret knowledge that it's using against the humans. But I think the narrative of these stories gives a much clearer interpretation: that the snake has already eaten the fruit, and therefore he knows what the fruit does and can tell it to Eve.

Evidence for this can be found at the end of Genesis 2, Adam and Eve are "עֲרוּמִּ֔ים" (Arumim) naked, but not ashamed. Whereas the snake is "הָיָ֣ה עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה" the most naked/shrewd/subtle (Arum) of all the animals. The Bible clearly chose this word to tell you that the "Arum" of humans not having eaten the fruit is qualitatively different than the "Arum" of the serpent that has eaten the fruit.

So I don't see any reason why the serpent would have been precluded from being in the garden. The Bible doesn't consider the serpent to be inherently evil. Instead the Bible seems to give the impression that the serpent has eaten from the fruit already, and the "knowledge" that comes from that turns someone from naked but not ashamed, into shrewd, crafty, and sensible. The snake also doesn't seem to tell any lies. And to me the story seems to imply that the rest of humanity might not be around if not for the snake since Eve might have needed to eat the fruit in order for her to have children. So perhaps that's why the snake was there for the sake of the narrative?

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  • How do you translate עָר֔וּם, and how do you explain the הָיָה֙ in 3:22? I also ask how you translate cunning, in the first dictionaries I tried it came up "deceptive", but I think I know what you mean. You are trying to say that the snake was up to a good plan, and had to achieve it with skill
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 29 at 20:36
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    'Arum as far as I know means: subtle, shrewd, crafty, sly, sensible, or prudent. But it's also obviously a play on Adam and Eve being Arumim, naked but not ashamed, in Genesis 2:25. More evidence that Adam and Eve don't seem interested in sex despite already being naked. I believe the chapters come to tell us that the only difference between the snake and Adam is that the snake had already eaten from the tree, making him "shrewd," whereas Adam and Eve had not and so that's why their "Arum" is only nakedness. Once Man eats from the tree, then he becomes "עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת"
    – Aaron
    Jan 29 at 22:47
  • I've added some more edits based on your question
    – Aaron
    Jan 29 at 23:04
  • I'll have to re-read this, but any type of craftiness or deception which would lead to sinfulness (and the snake knowingly tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the tree) would be evil and hence, against G-d's sacred and Holy ways. Thus it shouldn't have been in the sacred space in the first place.
    – setszu
    Jan 30 at 0:48
  • I'm stating that the serpent simply has free will, which all animals would since they all presumably ate from the tree. Go read the story of the talking donkey and tell me whether you think the donkey understands the nuance of right and wrong. I see no evidence that the snake was inherently sinful or deceitful. The serpent merely has free well like the rest of the animals and decided at some moment to commit a sin. Maybe he was jealous he wasn't chosen as Adams mate, maybe he wanted to be the smartest in all the world and wanted to dethrone Adam
    – Aaron
    Jan 30 at 4:10
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Based on your assumption one can still start with a few answers. 1 . Acc to zohar and pirkei drav eliezer really the samech mem was controlling the snake. So it was controlled by an angel, which presumably had a right to be there. 2. According to the chizkuni the snake got its nature because it itself ate from the tree of knowledge. (And it wasn't punished for that, because it wasn't commanded not to eat from it).

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  • "According to the chizkuni the snake got its nature because it itself ate from the tree of knowledge. (And it wasn't punished for that, because it wasn't commanded not to eat from it)." Oh wow, I'll look into this, thanks!
    – setszu
    Jan 29 at 6:03
  • I don't like the first option because it just shifts the blame to an angel and implies that an angel (and they don't have free will) was de-facto evil, which in some ways, is FAR worse. But answer 2 seems interesting, I'll look into that
    – setszu
    Jan 29 at 6:04
  • I was wrong. Its a useless answer because if G-d is pure truth, then any deception gets one away from Him. But He still permitted the serpent to exist within the sacred space of His where His Holiness and goodness is present. If it became deceitful and wanting to go against G-d, blessed be He, then He could've immediately just expelled the snake because the consequences would've been worse, but He didn't do that.
    – setszu
    Jan 29 at 18:00
  • @setszu if what you said is true that angels dont have free choice, that itself proves that no angel is evil. It was just doing what it was created for.. and acc to chizkuni the snake didnt do anything wrong by eating from the tree, so you cant unjustly exile it for that reason alone.
    – Shlomy
    Jan 30 at 0:10
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    @setszu .. G-d created the yetzer hara to test man... thats what its supposed to be doing.
    – Shlomy
    Jan 30 at 6:48
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"Would this make Him partially responsible for the fall?"

Yes. Yet in such a way that He cannot be charged with wrong. He is flawless, perfect in all His ways (which, along with His thoughts, are higher than ours), kind in all His works. Job 34:10 + chapters 38-42, Psalm 145:17, Isaiah 45:7, 55:8-9.

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  • Do you not see an obvious contradiction here with claiming that He is responsible for the Fall and thus, evil, while at the same time, absolving Him of any responsibility because He Himself claims that He is all of those things?
    – setszu
    Jan 30 at 1:34
  • By the way, none of these passages imo actually promote or speak about "omnibenevolence" or G-d being "all-good". I even read a collection of papers on this topic recently where many of the earliest Rabbis explicitly avoided calling G-d "perfect" even though they knew that such terms were being used by e.g. Neoplatonists and the like.
    – setszu
    Jan 30 at 2:59

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