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When Did Adam First “Know” Eve?

Rashi is of the opinion that Eve’s pregnancy occurred before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden,[1] since the verb for “know” יָדַע (yāda‘) is written in the pluperfect, signifying that Adam had known Eve just as he always “knew” her—before the “Fall.”[2] Had they not procreated in the garden, Adam and Eve would never have been able to observe the first of God’s commands, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

The Torah purposely utilized a euphemism of “knowing” rather than using a more vulgar expression like וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ — “and he fornicated her” as in Genesis 34:2. Ramban asserts that יָדַע in this case means more than just intellectually knowing; יָדַע denotes “to know personally by way of experience.”[3] In other words, Adam did not “know” Eve in a casual manner, he knew his wife intimately as a life partner and friend.

Mark Twain, in his short but moving essay “The Diary of Adam and Eve,” echoes Ramban’s point and in some ways goes far beyond his Kabbalistic insight. The author takes a midrashic position that, while Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were–for all practical purposes–strangers in Paradise. It was only after their expulsion from the Garden that they grew to love one another. Twain has Eve saying:

It is my prayer, it is my longing, that we may pass from this life together–a longing which shall never perish from the earth, but shall have place in the heart of every wife that loves, until the end of time; and it shall be called by my name. But if one of us must go first, it is my prayer that it shall be I; for he is strong, I am weak, I am not so necessary to him as he is to me‑‑life without him would not be life; how could I endure it? This prayer is also immortal, and will not cease from being offered up while my race continues. I am the first wife; and in the last wife I shall be repeated.

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At Eve’s Grave:

Adam: Wherever she was, there was Eden.[6]

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Footnotes:

[1] In fact, Rashi goes one step further and argues based on the Talmud (from T.B. Sanhedrin 38b) that their children were actually born before the expulsion! It is obvious that this interpretation was championed by the rabbis as part of their polemic against the Christian doctrine in “Original Sin”. Indeed, there is nothing in the text that would indicate that the children were born before the “Fall”; it is evident from the text that they must have been born afterward. Kimchi differs with this interpretation, and he sees the pregnancy as a result of the “Fall,” for it was afterward that the desire for human sexuality was born. Ibn Ezra concurs, observing that it was only after the “Fall” that Adam realized that he was not going to live forever, so he and his wife co-created life together. There is no linguistic or textual evidence from the phrase וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת־חַוָּה that Adam never had sexual intimacy until after the expulsion from Eden. Cf. Maharsha’s notes on T.B. Yebamolth 18b.

[2] For the Early Church Fathers, the rabbinic analysis went against their theological belief that all of Adam and Eve’s children were born in a state of sin. They contended that if Adam had begotten children in a state of innocence, they would have been free from sin. This argument is not very convincing. God created human sexuality before the expulsion for good reason, for without sex, the human race would have becomes extinct soon after it was created.

[3] Igereth HaKodesh, c. 2.

[4] Gen. 19:5; Num. 31:17–18; Judg. 19:22.

[5]If we expand Ramban’s midrashic observation, we might also suggest that there are other nuances of (yāda`) that are lexically worth considering. Often when we speak of God “knowing,” as an euphemism for looking after a person one cares for (cf. 2 Sam. 7:20; Nah. 1:7; Ps. 144:3). This idea could fit here as well—i.e., as a result of Adam’s looking after Eve, he came to discover her as a person, and loved her. “Knowing” is sometimes used as a synonym for “revelation,” (Exod. 6:3). This idea would suggest that while the primal couple was in the garden, there was no intimacy and revelation of the Other. As a result of the expulsion, they discovered one another in love.

[6] “The Diary of Eve” reprinted in “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000), 195-199.



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