And she acquired not the Lord, as she hoped, but a murderer.
It is an odd euphemism, isn’t it, for sex. “To know” someone has for millennia elicited stifled giggles from the adolescent male, “in the biblical sense,” knowwudimean? It is doubly strange because the Bible, especially the Christian Old Testament, blushes not to describe sexual activity in ways that would make Chaucer blush. The story of Onan and his brothers is so explicit that it is simply off-limits in mixed company (Genesis 38). Translators of the prophets often notoriously smooth over certain images to prevent hyperventilation among the Ladies Aid set, whose fundraisers pay translator salaries (Isaiah 64:6). And some images are untouchable (Ezekiel 16).
So why to know as a euphemism?
It’s not a euphemism: it’s the story of sexual dominance. The bible is describing exactly what Radical Feminists are expressing, as Paul Crider reports in his latest post. The bible is describing the fall from a graceful relationship, in which the woman came out of man to help him have dominion over the earth, a relationship which seems best to describe as a willing partnership, unfettered by coveting, which is the sin of the self which drives all the other sins. Now, instead of a willing partnership, which was to have dominion over the earth, in part, by filling it up, multiplying, the primary relationship of a man to a woman is that of sexual dominance: Adam knew his wife Eve.
God had set them in a garden, where he gave them leave to eat the fruit of any of the trees of that garden, even the Tree of Life, but they were forbidden to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Except the translation is difficult, and can’t express what this tree is for.
A little Hebrew: the noun knowledge might be a verb (I hereby make the case that it is), which changes the nouns following, i.e., “good and evil” from a genitive relationship into the direct objects of the verb. Thus, we would render the phrase as “You may not eat of the Tree of Knowing Good and Evil.”
It becomes, therefore, parallel to Adam knowing his wife Eve.
But first, why would God not want his creatures to know good and evil? I think a second question helps answer this one, and also furthers us into understanding just what in the hell happened at that tree: how would they know what good and evil are, so that they could choose between right and wrong?
Ah, but it’s not about intellectual information: they would first trust God to teach them, then they would learn information as they set themselves to the task of having dominion over the earth, also known as wisdom, reasoning with each other, and their many and varied offspring, as to the best course for developing the resources of the earth for the good of all. Instead, knowing good and evil is about acquisition. It is a rare usage, which makes this entire post tenuous, at best, but it is a usage nonetheless that when one acquires property, one knows it, to the effect that one has control over it and exercises authority over it. That is what this tree is for: to exercise authority over good and evil.
With application to sexual activity, a counterexample is helpful. The Son of God became flesh, John says, and made his dwelling among us, not by the will of a man, but by the will of God (John 1:12-14), a reference to Jesus’ origins which are much discussed through the heart of John’s Gospel, the Jews of whom called Jesus a Samaritan, which is equivalent to calling Mother Mary a whore.
And so, to know someone sexually is for the male to overcome the female (no furtive giggling, you there in the back row), for him to acquire her for the sake of begetting. The story of Jacob acquiring his two wives, the daughters of Laban, through fourteen years of labor, exemplifies this, and their desire to acquire him, one over the other, is made plain when, in the etiological Sadie Hawkins dance, after purchasing the rights to Jacob from Rachel by means of mandrakes, Leah runs up to Jacob, saying, “You must come into me tonight, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes!” (Ah! The romance of youth!) (Genesis 30:14ff).
At the beginning, Eve was certainly aware of this relationship change, seeing it as plain as day that her husband had acquired her in a relationship of domination, thinking that she was due her own acquisition in the process: “I have acquired a man, Yahweh (the Lord)!” And she called him Acquisition (Cain), the progenitor of human culture, starting with murder.
Human culture has its primeval foundation in sexual domination, which the Lord pronounced against them, either as part of the curse for reaching out to acquire domination over good and evil, or as a mere description of the consequences of the same. He says, “You, Woman, shall desire to be over your husband [in a dominating relationship], but he shall lord it over you.” Yes, the willing partnership is now dissolved, and a grappling of domination has taken its place.
All respect is due, then, to the Radical Feminists, who have seen and named the sexual relationship as it is, agreeing in whole with the picture presented in the first part of the Christian Bible, especially when they condemn pornography and prostitution as vehicles to perpetuate the domination of the man over his woman. We shall see, having progressed so far as to produce the Radical Feminists, whether our society can unloose what our mother and father wrought.