The Fig

The Fig

            The Chaos and Emptiness over which Spirit hovered was clothed in darkness.

            On the first day, Spirit said, “Let there be light,” and light appeared.

            On the second day, Spirit made a firmament to divide the Upper Waters from the Lower Waters and named it “Heaven.”

            On the third day, Spirit assembled the Lower Waters in one place and let dry land emerge. Spirit named dry land “Earth” and the assembled water “Sea.”

            On the fourth day, Spirit created Sun, Moon and Stars.

            On the fifth day, the Sea-beasts, Fish and Birds.

            On the sixth day, the Land-beasts.

            On the seventh day, Spirit looked upon Creation and rested.


Then Spirit caused a great mist to moisten the dry land. Herbs, grasses and trees sprang up. Reeds, marshes, swamps, valleys, meadows. And a Garden, where two rivers flowed, one of milk and honey, one of oil and wine that branched into four heads and surrounded Earth.

Spirit looked upon this work and sighed with jealous pride. Spirit whistled. A funnel of dust arose. Spirit shaped First Man.

First Man lurched and stumbled. He squinted at Spirit, whose garments of light stung First Man’s eyes and burnished First Man’s skin.

Spirit named First Man “Adam.” Adam named Spirit “Yahweh.”

Yahweh ordered Adam to oversee the Garden, whose trees bowed down with fruits like blazing jewels of every color.

“Behold,” Yahweh said to Adam. “I give you dominion over all my Earthly Creation. Over fish in the sea, over birds in the air, over cattle, over every creeping thing that creeps upon the Earth. Over every seed and all the green.

“Eat freely of any herb or any tree but this one,” Yahweh told Adam. The Tree of Knowledge stood apart. Around its trunk, a languid Serpent coiled.

Adam did not ask why.

No death trammeled Yahweh’s Garden. No leaf or blossom shriveled and fell. No creature aged or rotted to feed the soil. Light was neither bright nor dim. Yahweh’s Garden was still and perfect.

And Adam attended the Garden as Yahweh had commanded. Stale as the dust from which he was formed, Adam wandered among Yahweh’s exquisite Creations. He ate freely of every herb and the fruit of every tree but one.

Adam avoided the Tree of Knowledge as Yahweh had commanded. Its fruit did not gleam like gems, but was small, wrinkled and brown. Its leaves were lobed, its twigs stubby and its trunk gnarled. The Serpent swung from its pearly-grey branches, back and forth, blinking and wearing a pensive, distant grin.

And piled upon the ground beneath the Tree of Knowledge, among layers of shed Serpent skin, were dried and withered leaves and blossoms, and pulpy, purplish fruit decaying. Yet the Tree of Knowledge renewed itself again and again, whereas the other trees remained suspended in ever-growth.

Centuries passed. The Serpent smiled at Adam. Adam shunned the Serpent.

And Adam was alone, but for the company of Land-beasts and the entertainment of bird song. He watched the Land-beasts coupling, and he, too, coupled with the females among them. And this was the first of Man’s confusions.

So Adam called to Yahweh.

“Father!” he cried. He shielded his eyes from the glorious garments of pure light. “I am lonely. The other beasts have mates, but I have none.”

Then Yahweh caused Adam to sleep a deep sleep on a mossy bed and while Adam slept, Yahweh drew his rib from his torso and shaped it into Woman. When Adam woke, he found a like companion asleep beside him. But where Adam was smooth and flat along his body, she had breasts like the udders of female Land-beasts. And at her nether parts, no bulbs like his, but a nippled slit hidden by thick, dark curls.

Adam fumbled from behind into First Woman’s cavity as he had done with Land-beasts. He awakened First Woman with his coupling and when he was finished, he thanked Yahweh for this gift. First Woman glowed under the full moon, which hung eternally above the Garden. There were no hours, no tides or seasons in Yahweh’s Garden.

First Woman did not greet Adam, but stared at the twisted, mangled Tree of Knowledge and at the Serpent coiled around its trunk.

Adam took First Woman’s hand and raised her from the mossy bed where she watched the Serpent on the Tree of Knowledge.

Adam walked hand in hand with First Woman and showed her Yahweh’s Garden that was Adam’s to rule. He showed her every ornament: flowers, grasses, herbs and trees, the two rivers of milk and honey, oil and wine.

“Never eat from that tree,” Adam said. He pointed shyly at the Tree of Knowledge and averted his eyes from its peeling bark. He turned his nose from the stinking pile of snake skin, leaves and fruit composting beneath its boughs.

“Why?” First Woman asked, using the word Adam had himself never used. It was the First Word she spoke.

“It is Yahweh’s tee,” Adam replied.

Adam guided First Woman from place to place in the Garden. He spoke little, for he had little to say. Long had he lived in the Garden and nothing there was new to him or fresh, for everything except the Tree of Knowledge was vernal and timeless.

Step by step as they explored the Garden, First Woman grew more curious and lively. She dropped to her knees to watch insects. She scooped soil in her hands, sniffed it and let it sift through her fingers. She rubbed dirt against her cheeks and tasted it from beneath her nails. She caressed the grasses with her toes.

She laughed and mimicked birds and frogs. She nibbled herbs and considered the sensations of each on her tongue and in her body. She caressed the petals of flowers and peered into their hearts. She gamboled among the Land-beasts and pulled Adam into the herds to dance. And Adam was happy, for at last, he too, had a mate.

Adam loved First Woman. She was noisy and quick and inquisitive. But Yahweh was discontent with this Creation. She was the first of his Creations that he doubted and it was not Yahweh’s custom to doubt himself.

First Woman skipped through the Garden exploring clay and loam, the rivers and all the plants and every creature. One by one she named them, “Butterfly,” “Sparrow,” “Trout,” “Toad,” “Mint,” “Ram,” “Spider,” “Pecan,” “Dove,” “Plum,” “Gazelle,” “Rose,” “Mouse,” “Wheat,” “Oxen,” “Cedar,” “Grape,” “Crow,” “Worm,” “Citron,” “Camel,” “Pomegranate.”

While Adam slept on their bed of moss, First Woman gazed at the Tree of Knowledge which stood alone, twisted, ugly and mangled. Its forbidden fruit, the homely brown bags, swayed under the Serpent’s weight. The Serpent undulated round and round its branches and smiled at First Woman. First Woman smiled back.

“Fig,” she whispered, naming the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge.

“Fig,” the Serpent hissed.

She rose from the bed. She crept to the Tree of Knowledge. She raised her hand and touched the Serpent’s round head. She stroked the Serpent’s smooth cool body. The Serpent sighed.

“Eat my fruit,” the Serpent pleaded.

“I cannot,” said First Woman. “Adam forbids it.”

“Why?” asked the Serpent.

“He does not know why,” said First Woman. “Only that this tree belongs to Yahweh.”

“Can you not see that Yahweh is jealous of knowledge and possessive of truth?” the Serpent asked. “Eat and like Yahweh, you will be able to name all things beyond their outward appearances. This Beauty is intoxicating. Eat, and like Yahweh, you will know good and evil and recognize all truths. Eat, for the fruit is delicious.”

The Serpent plucked a ripe brown fruit from the tree. It reminded First Woman of the bulbs between Adam’s legs. First Woman pressed her lips against the Serpent’s jaw and sucked the fig into her mouth. Juices dripped down her chin. She licked the seeds from her teeth. She caressed the sweet pulp with her tongue. She closed her eyes and swallowed.

First Woman shuddered with pleasure. When she opened her eyes, the Garden seemed suddenly lifeless and artificial. First Woman looked at the lush decay in which she stood beneath the tree and she recognized Death. She looked up at the tree’s abundance leaves, its buds and bountiful fruit.

“Give me another,” she said. “Death brings with it birth. I want more.”

“You have named one truth. There are many, many truths,” the Serpent said, dropping another fig into her mouth.

Adam awakened. He saw First Woman eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. And this was the second of Man’s confusions. Should he run away, calling for Yahweh that he would not be blamed for Woman’s disobedience? Or should he, too, eat from the fruit that he might join First Woman in her fate?

First Woman held out a fruit to Adam. He gobbled it. He looked upon First Woman and knew that she was naked. Had he not always seen her naked? Now he looked on her nakedness and was perplexed. He turned his eyes from her and knew that he, too, was naked. And shame was the third of Man’s confusions.

Adam plucked lobed leaves from the Tree of Knowledge and hastily wove them into aprons. His nether parts shriveled in fear and he hurried to hide them. Then he covered First Woman’s body. The Serpent chuckled, not malevolently, but amused by this diversion. First Woman gathered figs in her apron. One by one, she fed the other creatures in the Garden that they might all know Death, that they might all possess truth and wisdom as each one judged it.

“Adam! Where are you?” Yahweh’s voice boomed from somewhere high above. A glaring light stalked menacingly about the Garden.

Adam shoved First Woman into the bushes and hid.

“Adam!” Yahweh called. The ground shook and Adam fell to his knees, cradling his head in his arms. First Woman stepped into the open and confronted Yahweh, disregarding his brilliant robes.

Yahweh rose as if to smite First Woman. “Where is Adam?”

“Stay your blows, Father, I am here,” Adam crawled into Yahweh’s sight.

“Why are you dressed thus?” Yahweh demanded.

“We were naked, Father, and ashamed to show ourselves before you. And covering our nakedness might hold back the Death we have seen.”

“And who has taught you about nakedness?” Yahweh pulled Adam upright. Adam’s skin burned where Yahweh touched it. “You have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, have you not? He roared.

Adam nodded and sobbed. “She…she…O forgive us your trespasses, Lord.”

“You deceived us, Yahweh,” First Woman said. “You used beauty to inebriate us and you withheld beauty’s truths to enslave us.”

“I withheld Death from you, foolish Woman!” Yahweh smoldered. “But no longer. Now, you will leave my Garden and you will know Death. And worse, knowing good and evil, you will know Sin and be punished for it.”

Adam gasped.

First Woman shrugged. “With knowledge of good and evil, we will learn ignorance,” she said.

Yahweh turned to the Serpent. “You will writhe on your belly forever, eating dust. You will be despised by the children of Woman. They will stamp on your children’s heads until their heels are bruised.”

The Serpent dropped from the Tree of Knowledge and slithered away, knowing he would be back.

Next Yahweh cursed First Woman. “I will multiply your labor and sorrow. You will bear children in pain. You will yearn for your husband and be ruled by him.”

And this was the fourth, but not the last, of Man’s confusions.

First Woman neither cringed nor begged for mercy. She gazed past Yahweh and considered the truths of pain and its rewards. She wondered at the naming of “Sin.”

Yahweh glowered at Adam. “Because you have listened to First Woman, because you love her more than me, I curse the soil that you must now till all the days of your life, eating bread made from the grain harvested by the sweat of your brow, struggling to uproot thorns and thistles. And, at length, Death will return your body to the dust from which I formed it.”

Adam wept.

First Woman imagined bread and sweat and thought of the beauty of work, the truth of toiling on the land, the goodness of eating fruit grown by her own labor. She considered the evil of curses and especially of curses upon the land. She was suddenly impatient to know and name thorns and thistles.

“Come,” she said, taking Adam’s hand. “Hurry. Another garden awaits us.”

They took the Moon for seasons and tides and the Sun to divide their house into Day and Night. In her apron, First Woman carried figs. The Serpent crept ahead, shedding his skin and bearing Old Age in his jaw.

And Adam named First Woman “Eve,” Teacher, Mother of all Living.

from a Hebrew myth


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