In the Beginning

One day God woke Adam from his sleep. His voice was stern but kind. "There’s something I need to show you." The hour was early and Adam slow to rise. Eventually he climbed to his feet, and stretched, and yawned, and asked God what it was. "There is a hill behind you. I want you to climb to the top of that hill." Adam obeyed, and quietly pondered what this might mean. He’s been busy again, he thought. Up to something no doubt. The hill was large and it took some time for Adam to reach the top. While he picked his way through the clumped tangles of bushes and vines a serpent carefully followed his progress, calmly gliding along beside him, silent, unnoticed. At the summit Adam’s gaze wandered over what God had created for him. He felt grateful and wanted to thank God very much for the earth, the sky, for the beasts of the field and the fish in the sea, for day and for night, one looked over by the bright sun, so warm, and the other by the moon and the beautiful stars. But God spoke first. "Do you see, in the centre of my garden, a large tree, set apart from the others, with strong roots and large leaves and plentiful fruit?" "I do." "That tree is the Tree of Knowledge. Of all other trees you may freely eat but that tree guards a secret and is special. You may not eat from that tree. It is forbidden. I forbid it. Do you understand?" "I do." "Not only must you not eat from that tree but you must also prevent the beasts of the garden from doing so. You I have endowed will free will but they I have made dumb and in need of protection. Is this understood?" "It is." "If you do this it will show you how much you love me. Is there anything more you wish me to tell you?" "One thing." "Yes?" "Underneath the Tree of Knowledge there is something large and heavy-looking…" "That is a tortoise." Over the following days and weeks Adam took his responsibility very seriously. He ate and slept and tended the garden, all the while keeping watch over the tree. Occasionally he would have to chase away curious animals, which he always did with a light heart for he knew how important this task was to God, whom he loved. In order that the task be made easier he slept beneath the tree, close to the dangerous fruit. Many times during the night he would wake, perhaps to ward off a beast or a bird, sometimes for other reasons. He began to wonder about the secret held within the fruit of the tree. What could be so important that God would forbid him from trying it? Why was this tree so different from all the others? Adam did not like these thoughts. They unsettled him. As the weeks passed these idle speculations started to spin more frequently through Adam’s mind. They became all he could think about. He now guarded the tree violently and wildly, jealous of all intrusions by any other of God’s creatures. In this state sleep was a torture, filled with nightmares about what the fruit contained. What did the fruit contain? How was it different? In what way was it special? God did not speak to Adam during this time. Adam was lost, and afraid, and unsure of the path he should take. He remembered the time before the Tree of Knowledge as a distant summer, one that would never return. He felt sure he would fail in his task, and displease God, and betray his love. But it came to pass that in his despair Adam had an idea. He suddenly knew what he had to do. He gathered together wood and stone and spent a morning fashioning something he felt was necessary. And then Adam took the axe, for that is what it was, and began to chop at the tree. The work was hard, and took him until night, but the tree fell, and Adam slept, pleased with what he had done. From nearby the serpent, who had been watching Adam all this time, left to tempt something else, disappointed. In the bright morning of the next day God woke Adam and asked him what had happened. "I have removed the Tree of Knowledge, and with it all temptation, so I may love you more completely and offer you a purer worship." And God struck Adam to the ground, and left him dead near to where the tree had fallen. And the next day, with this knowledge, and with all of his power, God tried again.

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