If you haven't read part one of this two part series, please get the some essential information on 'The tree of knowledge of good and evil' before continuing.
The tree of death
Many have wondered why God placed the ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil’ and the ‘tree of life’ in the Garden of Eden. Why would God make it possible for one sinful act of man, to corrupt the whole of mankind and all of creation?
This second and concluding article in the series, answers this fundamental and important question.
A question of free will?
A common suggestion given as to why God put the two special trees in the Garden of Eden is, that demonstrates that god had given man free will, that man was not a robot but was a living being, who had the freedom of choice; but didn’t man have free will without the need for these two trees?
16. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Inherent within the commandment above, is the idea that free will was already established. Adam and Eve had that ability to choose and eat of any tree in the garden they wanted. Okay, so maybe choice is one thing, but more specifically, what about free will to disobey god?
It is irrational to believe that god would command man not to eat of a fruit tree, which was put there to demonstrate man had free will, this is paradoxical. The only way to test free will then, would be to go against god’s will and do something he commanded you not do.
Clearly free will doesn’t make sense in light of the analysis above. Fortunately the reason god placed the two special trees in the midst of the garden, is rather more simple and straight forward.
The commandment of death
God commanded that Adam should not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, if he did, the punishment was death:
Why would god make the penalty so extreme, just for eating some fruit? Why didn’t he make the punishment less severe, such as having itchy skin for forty eight hours? At least that way nobody dies, Christ would not have had to endure such pain or offer himself as a sacrifice, and the rest of mankind and creation could continue in its perfect, originally created state? Instead mankind has had to endure sickness, all manner of evil and of course death.
The punishment indeed seems quite severe if looked at in light of the action involved. Many of today’s judicial systems pass a death sentence only upon those found guilty of the most heinous of crimes, and many countries have removed capital punishment altogether from their sentencing and penalty tariffs.
The punishment for sin
Of course Adam, and by extension mankind, was condemned to death (loss of eternal life) not because they ate some fruit, but because they broke the commandment of god, and breaking god’s commandment is sin. Eating the fruit of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ was the only thing god commanded they could not do, there was just one commandment.
A rational and objective person would surely conclude that, this one commandment would be an easy commandment for man to keep. That it would be beyond reason for Adam or Eve to even consider eating the fruit of one particular tree, where such a heavy punishment was associated with it, and where Adam and Eve could freely eat from every other tree in the garden.
For Adam and Eve to break that one commandment, they would need to have disregarded it and the penalty. The condition of their heart would certainly have been at the centre of any consideration, their heart must surely have said “I know God said don’t do it, but……”
We find out from reading scripture that Satan was in rebellion with God, and perhaps if he wasn’t, Adam, Eve and their descendants (us), would still be living in a world you could describe as paradise. Instead we see Satan is actively working to destroy god’s creation, and so sets about to deceive Eve, and get her to focus on the one tree that was forbidden.
Can you see the wood for the trees?
If you have been following closely everything that has preceded this point, both in this article and in part 1, you will have a pretty good understanding of the fundamentals surrounding the ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil’.
It should also be evident by now that the scriptures are in fact quite clear, providing many of the answers we seek, perhaps even hidden in plain sight.
So why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the garden with the associated commandment and penalty of death? It was to show that there is nothing higher that God’s commandment, and the transgression thereof comes with the highest penalty. God and his word are inseparable, to disregard his commandment is to disregard God himself.
God put the tree in the Garden to remind man that God is god, that he has the highest authority, that he alone is the creator of life. Indeed, as has been stated before, there were two trees set in the midst of the garden, one brought life, and the other death, it was a clear choice.
The trees provided a vivid example; to obey God is life, to disobey God is sin, and the penalty for sin is death.
No more death
That fact is that death and suffering are in our world today, but the good news is that a solution is available, a sacrifice and payment has been made to overcome what the Bible itself describes as “the last enemy” which is ‘death’, and death shall be destroyed.
So that’s the end of these trees – right?
Given that the Garden of Eden no longer exists nor the two trees that were in the midst of the garden, you might be forgiven for thinking we’ve heard the last of them, well yes and no.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil shall never make a return, nor any other thing that brings death with it.
The ‘tree of life’ however does shows up again after God creates (renews) a new heaven and a new Earth, which is fitting because the fruit of that tree was never forbidden to be eaten from, and in the final book of the Bible we see its appearance, with healing and life being its sole function.*
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*Whilst the book of Genesis is an entirely historical document, the book of Revelation is mostly metaphorical in nature, and the description of the ‘tree of life’ should be considered in this context.