This article starts out by examining issues that reinforce the reality of the Tree of Life and The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Later, while I was developing the “Creation was not Utopia” article some further insights about sin and about God became clear. What makes it really exciting to me is when I see yet another link to what Jesus achieved on the Cross, buried here in Genesis. See what you think...
Fruit is known to be a good source of antioxidants, and in some cases especially in the skin ripened by the sun. Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate a chain reaction of damage before vital molecules are damaged. (It’s hard to avoid diet programs telling you this.) This has many benefits including slowing the aging process. Then consider that Adam’s DNA was not as corrupted as ours, as I have described in other places. So how hard is it to imagine some super antioxidants in the Tree of Life’s fruit that does not merely slow aging but cancels it out. But more on this later.
We know that our brain has many small regions that seem to control various high level functions. Some of these regions can be non-functional for various reasons but are known to be stimulated by certain chemicals. So I am going to make a suggestion to you. When God said He made man in His image and after His likeness, I think that this included the part of the brain that discerns good and evil, right and wrong. But for reasons I will discuss later, He did not want man to know this, so He made that region dormant in some way. The fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil simply contained chemicals that activated what was already there. The chemicals did not impart knowledge in the sense of learned moral values, but simply activate the potential that was originally there. In fact we know that DNA has a tremendous amount of information encoded within it, and it’s all about enabling different parts at different times and places in our development.
This suggestion is to help you see the reality or feasibility of what might have happened. I’m not trying to prove it was exactly like this. But God says that He can exceed anything I can dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, 1 Corinthians 2:9). So if this helps you picture it then you can be confident God did it. But in regard to my suggestion, some will ask why God would create the very centre in our brain that He did not want to see activated because He instructed Adam not to eat of this fruit. There will be more on this later. But for now I see God as an “all-the-way”, 100%, with-holding nothing God. The discernment of Good from Evil is not bad because God, who alone is good, has this knowledge (Genesis 3:22). So God did things this way so that man would start out without this knowledge, but God with held nothing from man. In the same way man was created mortal but God did not withhold the potential for immortality via the Tree of Life.
While dealing with these understanding of chemicals and their effect on our body, I recalled how various drugs have an addictive effect. Addictions cause cravings and drive us to satisfy such desires. Addictions can even be passed from a mother to her baby while still in the womb. Now this is talking things in the natural, while sin is really a spiritual issue. But does this help you picture how we are slaves to sin and born in sin. (John 8:34, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3)
Without getting too much into it, the desire and focus on one’s self, the flesh, greed, envy, rebellion, etc (Romans 1:29) underlies so many aspects of sin. Immediately after sinning, Adam became self-conscious, realising he was naked. So if sin, closely linked to selfishness and cravings, is easily pictured as an addiction in the natural then so too in the spirit.
Natural chemistry, like a parable, has helped us picture the reality of the trees. Now let me add a supernatural dimension to the picture. God hand planted and specially created these trees. They were placed in the centre and most intimate part of the garden where God regularly walked with Adam. Where ordinary trees take in light and energy from the sun, these trees also received the tangible glorious light that shines from God Himself. These trees could have been designed to concentrate this into supernatural agents to provide life and knowledge. So God provided that Adam and Eve could receive not just in the natural but in the supernatural.
I talked about “God reflected in our Anatomy” in another article. It’s worth a read. It draws attention to how the left/right halves of our brain deals with the logical/emotional aspects of our thinking. God also has two primary aspects to His being. On one hand He is a Holy, Righteousness god. On the other He is a Loving, Merciful god. Can you now picture God reaching out His two hands and He creates in His right hand from his Righteousness the Tree whose fruit gives knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil. In His left hand He creates from His Love and Mercy the Tree of Life. To me this is a beautiful picture and it helps us deal with the hard question.
“Why did God create the Tree of the knowledge of good only to then declare that it must not be eaten, with such dire consequences?”
Let’s review the issue so far...
So, “Why God created the tree of knowledge”, is simply that it comes out of His nature. But there is actually a flaw in man, lurking behind this question. You see, we are trying to blame God for creating something which we see as bad. But the knowledge of good and evil is not bad. In fact we are trying to blame God for Adam’s sin, suggesting that if God had not created that tree everything would have been all right. Well God made it clear to Adam and Adam exercised his free choice.
In other places in the Bible I see that God allows His work to be tested. Jesus was tested many times. Also our work will be tested (Hebrews 2:18, 1 Corinthians 3:10-13, 2 Corinthians 8:8, John 6:6, James 1:3). But we never test God. His one rule facilitated that. Interestingly when Adam broke the rule, not to eat, Adam did not get poison, he got something that was good, for God Himself has the knowledge of good and evil. In fact by breaking the one rule Adam got the knowledge to know that he had done evil. But I don’t think that God put the tree there as a test!
In the Creation was not Utopia article I pointed out that by knowing good from evil, man could make judgments and if man was also allowed to live forever, man would not be subject to judgment and would be as God (Genesis 3:22). This is man being equal with God, not a child of God. This I thought was surely the reason why man was not to know good and evil. In fact the whole reason God created man was that He might have children that freely loved Him. Freedom meant a free choice, and the decision to eat embodied that choice. The decision to eat was a rejection of the Father-son relationship, by seeking to be on equal terms. Now, this is important but it is not the full answer.
Before we go on it’s worth noting a few things that Jesus said or did that have relevance here. I won’t preach them to you – just hope you see it...
This is the reason why there was only one rule. As long as man did not know he had done evil, he would not fear God nor hide from God. God’s children would always be able to come to Him in full assurance of His love. They would never feel condemned or afraid. This is what Adam lost. This is what Jesus won back for us. I have to say it again and boldly...
God wanted his children to always be able to come to him in full assurance of His love, so they would never feel condemned or afraid.
Today believers are forgiven, though imperfect. God has His ways to discipline and teach those He loves but we are never driven away or condemned. I am sure that God could have disciplined and taught Adam whatever might have come up, but once Adam understood evil, he was in fear of God. Isn’t that exactly what happened after Adam sinned? He became self-conscious and hid. He knew he had done evil and tried to deny it by blaming others. He was driven from the garden.
I think that God always planned to give knowledge to man, but we find it in the person of Jesus, the bridegroom (Colossians 2:2-3). Man was not to take it for himself.
The preceding section achieved my initial goal in creating this article. But as I was developing this article in my mind, I had seen so many other things, in particular in Genesis 3. So I decided to note down these miscellaneous insights here. As usual, when I think I am finished, God shows me some more cool stuff. In particular about “trust” which is an on-going major theme in our relationship. So perhaps this was just for me. Perhaps you will get blessed by accident.
Let me ask a question. How did God expect Adam and Eve to live harmoniously with each other and with God without knowing good from evil? (Of course the title of this section gives away the answer.) There was only one rule and that was not cast as a right or wrong. Simply not to eat from the one particular tree to avoid death. So Adam knew God did not want him to die.
When Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and Adam first saw her, he declared her to be “woman” and recognised their oneness – bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh (Genesis 2:23-25). They were both naked and not ashamed – they were not at all self conscious. Immediately after they sinned they hid from God. But in fact their hastily fashioned loin coverings were to hide their nakedness from each other. Then Adam, perceiving Eve was other than one with him, saw the need to name her. The name he chose, “Eve”, meaning “mother of the living” also indicated that she was the source of life and not God. In this one act Adam drew up boundaries between himself and God and Eve.
Under the New Testament, what are God’s rules? It is the one rule of love – to love God and our neighbour. This rule means that we become conscious of other people’s needs rather than our own. As created by God, Adam and Eve were not self conscious so they intuitively lived under God’s rule of love. They did not need the knowledge of good and evil. In fact the knowledge of good and evil is a bit like the law. It does not enable you to do good, only love does that. The knowledge only condemns you when you do evil. God could have that knowledge because He is perfect and never does wrong. Jesus was able to live a perfect life not by being under the law but by always doing what pleased his Father – by being other-conscious.
OK, Eve was deceived, but for the life of me, I could not work out why Adam ate when presented with the fruit. Adam saw Eve pick the fruit and knew what it was. He knew what God had said. Why did he eat? It’s impossible to say for sure because the Bible does not say, but I think there are some hints.
Genesis 3 begins with the snake speaking to “the woman”, for she was not yet named. Some people think that Adam was over-hearing this conversation because later in verse 6 when she took some of the fruit it specifically says that her husband was with her. But later in the Bible, when Satan, who is embodied in the snake, tempts someone, he usually does it when they are alone. Jesus was alone in the desert. Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to guard them against this. When two are gathered in my name, there I am with them. There is strength in unity.
I can easily imagine Satan talking to Eve in verses 1 to 5 when she was alone and not even in the middle of the garden where the two trees were. Then, verse 6 refers to a later time when Adam and Eve are together in the middle of the garden. Now Eve looks at the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and recalling the deception planted by Satan, she eats.
Let’s look at the conversation between the snake and the woman...
But the woman was wrong. First she suggests there was only one tree that was at the centre and does not name it as tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and so clearly she is unaware of the tree of life. And she further deviated from what God had told Adam, saying that you must both avoid eating it and even touching it. If this was a casual mistake or a memory error then she might have had some excuse before God. No, I think the most plausible explanation is that she repeated exactly what Adam had said to her when he relayed the instructions that God had given him. Can you see how Adam simplified it – just avoid the tree in the middle – don’t even touch it. At a superficial level it might seem he was being overzealous in protecting her. Sadly, this is exactly the way the Pharisees would, over time, re-interpret God’s word until they had turned it upside down. (A good preacher here could insert about 20 examples and half a sermon, but I’ll leave you to look into it.)
Adam’s simplification actually showed that he did not trust this woman. Tragically it opened the door for Satan to deceive her. Now, it was Satan who told her the real purpose of the tree – to give knowledge of good and evil that would make her like God. All that was true. All good lies have a basis of truth. The lie was that Satan said she would not die if she ate and implied that God was just trying to stop her/them improving themselves. In verse 6 Eve looks upon the tree, seemingly for the first time, and visually it seems to confirm that it was indeed good. In fact it was good! But tragically the warning not to eat had been dispelled. (It seemed strange that Adam had not taken her there earlier.)
God had been completely up front with Adam, telling him the purpose of the tree, so Adam knew there was no deceit or attempt to hide the tree. But Adam’s simplification enabled Satan to cast a different spin on the tree. I think Adam simplified it and exaggerated God’s warning because he did not trust Eve. In turn Eve did not trust God – that His purpose in telling them not to eat was for their good. If Adam did not trust Eve then he ate because he did not want her to become more knowledgeable than him.
By the way, even if Adam did listen in on the conversation between the snake and Eve, he would not have found fault in Eve’s reply since that is what he told her – neither eat nor touch. And since the answer clearly showed she knew the consequence there was no need to correct her statement. But if Adam did hear that conversation then perhaps he, like the woman, could have blamed the snake. However Adam blamed the woman and then indirectly God, for giving the woman to him. He blamed those whom he did not trust. And of course, blame is a form of allocating guilt – of judging, that came with the knowledge, and with sin!
So it was a failure of trust. Perhaps you could tell the story with a different spin and put a different focus on it. (And the Holy Spirit may well do that!) But trust is a big thing to me. Jesus always did what pleased his Father. But you cannot do that without trust – trust that goes beyond your understanding (Proverbs 3-5). Again, it seems to me that if I was not always trying to decide what was right and wrong, good and bad, for myself, it would be easier to trust God. The knowledge of good and evil was not the cause of Adam and Eve’s lack of trust, but it causes us to make decisions based on our limited understanding – upon our self – not upon God.
Did you grasp that? Self (sin) seizes our limited knowledge to undermine love as the basis of our decisions and trust in God. In Romans 7:7-13, Paul is saying how the law was good but sin used it to condemn him. Read it all, in several translations, and then wonder if the knowledge of good and evil, which is good, was used to condemn us. Again God did not want us to have this knowledge because He wanted us to be free to always come to Him and know His love. In the same way the law, simply a more detailed definition of good and evil, was used to condemn us. Praise be to God who sent His son to do away with the written code (Romans 7:6). And can you see now that this has also done away with the problems introduced by the knowledge of good and evil?
Late update: May 2015, Adam lied to Eve gives another exciting follow-up to why Adam ate.
The trees were real, but more than real. We could comprehend them in the natural, but they had supernatural qualities God had imparted from his very own nature. From His Righteousness and Holiness came the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From His Love and Mercy came the tree of life. Man was created without self consciousness which enabled him to live intuitively under the rule of love, of God and each other, without need to know the difference between good and evil. God did not want them to have that knowledge because although it was good, it would cause His children to hide from Him and lead to condemnation, if they ever did anything wrong. But man, not trusting God, sought to be like, in the sense of equal to, God rather than a child of God.
Later on, God gave man the Law as a way to exist under His righteousness. Man now had the knowledge of good and evil, so man now had to choose good (Amos 5:14). God’s desire was still that man live forever for He says in many ways and places, “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). But man was unable to “do this”. So out of His love, God sent Jesus that man may live forever. Jesus did not come with the knowledge of good and evil so as to judge the world (John 3:16-17), and Jesus did not seek equality with God (Philippians 2:6). He lived a perfect life, not by trying to obey the law, but by living selflessly, always pleasing his Father (John 8:29). This was the victory over sin that had lead man into self centred choices. This was how man was to live in the garden. This was possible because Jesus loved and trusted his Father.
Jesus is now the source of eternal life with God in heaven (John 1:4, 1 Corinthians 15:45).
How do I roll this up? I have just seen that all the history of Israel and the law was just a second attempt to clean up after the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus led a perfect life not by trying to be obedient to the law, but by trusting his Father and being focused on pleasing Him and not himself. The events in the garden embody everything that happened in the rest of the Bible.
Jesus’ victory on the Cross did not just deal with the law. It took us all the way back to Adam’s state in the garden, before he ate. The knowledge of good and evil and how it drove us away from God has been undone. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). So boys and girls, it’s our choice again. The tree of life is now Jesus. Taste of this tree and live. Taste of the tree provided by God’s love that keeps us other centred and not self centred.