As Professor Mikics points out, in Genesis 3, the woman does indeed take the lead in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, good and evil, and the man follows her. And though this act will eventually lead to the woman’s dependence upon and subordination to the man, I would like to round out this portrait of their marriage by looking at the woman’s disobedience from a slightly different angle.
It is the woman, under the suggestive influence of the cunning serpent, who eats and shares the fruit that then opens the eyes of both human creatures. If our deepest human desires are embodied in the two forbidden trees—those desires for knowledge and for immortality—then it is the woman who, in reaching first for the fruit of knowledge, helps begin to fulfill that first desire. It is she who gives knowledge to the man, and by extension to humankind. Further, though this disobedience will get them both kicked out of the garden of Eden, it is only in the world of thorn and thistle that the man and the woman—now called Adam and Eve—can bear children, fulfilling that command that God had given the male and female in Genesis 1 to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it.”
Eve may be a precursor to some of the other wives we will meet in Genesis—women who, despite their subordinate and dependent positions, manage through shrewd and crafty means, to preserve that fragile seed, which, though often troublesome and occasionally in need of wiping out, will eventually become God’s Chosen People, numberless as dust.