While reading Paradise Lost, I noticed that at some point in the text before the forbidden fruit is consumed, Adam refers to Eve by name. This bothered me: I read the beginning of Genesis a couple weeks ago and remembered that in the text, the naming of Eve is not recounted until after we are told of the consumption of the fruit and God's response (3:20).

And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

(That it is Adam who comes up with a name makes sense to me, per 2:19-20.)

It's always possible that the text doesn't describe events in a chronological progression---e.g. I certainly wouldn't interpret the events of Genesis 2 as occurring after those of Genesis 1. However, this does not appear to be the case here: the mention of Eve's naming is wedged between God's curses and a verse that states that "garments of skin" were created for the man and woman. The latter two events must occur after the fruit is consumed, and it would be odd then for a single line between them to take place outside of the time-frame they cover.

Thus, my interpretation has generally been that Eve wasn't named until after the forbidden fruit was consumed. This raises two problems:

  1. Am I correct about this interpretation? (If not, is there a reference I could consult?)

  2. If I am indeed correct, why wasn't Eve named earlier? After all, the reason for her name---that she is "the mother of all living"---doesn't seem contingent on the fruit having been consumed. (Or is it? Perhaps I'm just lacking additional context.)

2 Answers 2


Malbim explains that Adam had been calling her "woman" because of her role as his helpmeet. Since she failed in that role by ill-advising him to eat from the tree, he stopped calling her that. Instead, he called her after her remaining function to him: mothering his children.

Haamek Davar has a long thesis regarding the sin of Adam and Eve, its causes, and its results — too long to include here. But as a part of it, he says that Eve gained human intellect on eating from the tree, and that that intellect brought with it a human-like desire for luxuries and pleasures: animals don't desire such things.

3:20, then, he reads as follows:

Adam called the name of his wife Chava, because she was the matriarch of all life (chay)

— "life" in the sense of "the good life" or "this is the life", meaning luxuries and pleasures.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says that Adam here — after being told he is destined to die — realizes that nonetheless mankind will survive in the form of descendants. Eve's role as the mother of all people is thus realized to be more important, and he names her for it.

A tip of my hat to Danny Schoemann for pointing me to the K'li Yakar, who explains that Eve was renamed Chava after the sin because it is reminiscent of chivya, "snake" (and not a big change from what had been, according to K'li Yakar, her previous name, Chaya, "living"). She'd been called Chaya as the mother of all life.

Radak says Adam named Eve after the sin because only then (on acquiring the desire for marital relations) did Adam realize that they would have children and that she would, therefore, be the mother of all the living.


Rashi says that the name occurred earlier and we're just being told this later:

And the man named: Scripture returns to its previous topic (2:20): “And the man named,” and it interrupted only to teach you that through the giving of names, Eve was mated to him, as it is written (above 2:20): “but for man, he did not find a helpmate opposite him.” Therefore, (ibid. 21): “And He caused a deep sleep to fall,” and since Scripture wrote, (ibid. 25):“And they were naked,” it juxtaposed the section of the serpent, to let you know that because he saw her naked and saw them engaging in intercourse, he desired her and came upon them with a design and with guile.

In 2:23 Adam called the woman ishah, naming the "category" but not the individual as he had done for the animals. Rashi says that he also named this ishah "Chava" at that time, but the torah delayed telling us.

Why? The torah intersperses the episode with the snake to connect their unashamed nakedness (2:25) with his (the snake's) own jealousy over seeing them naked. Adam and Chava were not bothered by their nakedness, but the snake was. And the torah wraps the snake episode in the "bookends" of naming so that we can learn this.

It appears that Rashi bases this on B'reishit Rabbah 18:6 (Soncino translation):

AND THEY WERE NOT ASHAMED. NOW THE SERPENT WAS MORE SUBTLE, etc. Now surely Scripture should have stated, And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin (Gen. III, 21) [immediately after the former verse]? Said R. Joshua b. Karhah: It teaches you through what sin that wicked creature inveigled them, viz. because he saw them engaged in their natural functions, he [the serpent] conceived a passion for her. R. Jacob of Kefar Hanan said: It is thus written in order not to conclude with the passage on the serpent.


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