John Wesley’s explanatory notes on Genesis-3 throws light on the intricacies of the relationship between Adam and Eve. At the outset, the choice of Serpent as the incarnation of devil is explained. The serpent is a sly creature that can operate with subtly in capturing its prey. Since the serpent can strike a fatal blow, its choice as the agent of Satan is apt. The first few stanzas of Genesis-3 also states how reason and speech are deceptive and can lead humans on the path of immorality. Adam and Eve, our first parents, were thus deceived by the serpent’s persuasive discourse of words. Eve, having thus been seduced by the power of reason, bit into the forbidden fruit, thereby condemning all further generations of humankind as bearers of that sin. Wesley’s interpretation is elaborate, in that, he lays out the methods of logic employed by the serpent. For example, the serpent spoke the following falsities in convincing Eve to commit the original sin:
“He questions whether it were a sin or no, Genesis 3:1,2. He denies that there was any danger in it, Genesis 3:4. 3. He suggests much advantage by it, Genesis 3:5. And these are his common topics. As to the advantage, he suits the temptation to the pure state they were now in, proposing to them not any carnal pleasure, but intellectual delights.” (Wesley)
As Wesley further deliberates, the serpent combines sound logic to the lure of false promises. It goes on to say to Eve, how by biting the forbidden fruit, her “eyes shall be opened” and that she “shall be as gods”. (Genesis 3:3) These claims and promises are outright lies propagated by the earthly manifestation of Satan that the serpent represents.
In comparison to Wesley’s account, Matthew Henry’s commentary is more pronounced on the ‘fatality’ of the induced sin. The temptation by the agent of Satan is said to be the most vicious plan. Accordingly, the serpent approaches Eve when she is alone and vulnerable. The utter cunning of Satan is revealed herein, when “It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us.” (Henry) But Henry too captures the vein of misogyny evident in the original Biblical passage. The female gender is shown to be inherently weak and more so when she is alone. It is upon this susceptibility that Satan had preyed on: “It was Eve’s weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny.” (Henry)
Wesley’s commentary makes it clear to the reader that the story surrounding the forbidden fruit is a grand analogy to the immoral tendencies in humans. Wesley’s commentary thus takes the story beyond its literal interpretation and into a broader-philosophical lesson to the faithful. The seduction of our first parents into the great transgression is at once a deprivation of the tree of knowledge. There is an element of misogyny in the latter verses of the Genesis, for the woman is treated as the “ring-leader in the transgression”. (Wesley) She is apportioned a greater share of the guilt for falling for the pleasant sights, odors and tastes of the tree and its fruit. The woman, thus convincing herself of the value of the said tree, “gave also to her husband with her”. (Genesis 3:6) The husband (Adam) merely follows Eve’s example and “he did eat”. (Genesis 3:7) As the duo realized the dire consequence of their deed, “the eyes of them both were opened”. (Genesis 3:8)
In terms of dramatic detail, Henry’s commentary is more expressive than that of Wesley’s. For example, he likens our first parents’ transgression as a process of spiral toward the pit. Henry’s condemnation of Adam and Eve for their fall is sharper when compared to Wesley’s. Henry likens their transgression to amounting to contempt of God. In eating off the forbidden tree of knowledge and eschewing the tree of life, Adam had shown the highest form of disobedience to God’s command. Henry also takes a philosophical analysis of verses 6-8, whereby he speculates on the nature of man’s free will and its capacity to be employed morally. There is also a scholarly dissection into the nature of sin itself, where Henry notes,
“See her what dishonour and trouble sin is; it makes mischief wherever it gets in, and destroys all comfort. Sooner or later it will bring shame; either the shame of true repentance, which ends in glory, or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day. See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned.” (Henry)
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Genesis 3, Christ Notes, retrieved from http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=3 on 2nd June, 2014.
John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, Genesis 3, Christ Notes, retrieved from http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=wes&b=1&c=3 on 2nd June, 2014.