The Forbidden Tree of Knowledge – part 1

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by the tree of knowledge of good and evil

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In the first book of Genesis we read that God allowed Adam and his wife Eve to eat the fruit of any tree of the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Ever wondered why death, suffering and evil exist in the world today? For the answer to that, we need to look back in history, back to the book of Genesis and the forbidden tree.

Metaphorically speaking

There are a large number of people that believe that the tree of knowledge and indeed the entire book of Genesis are entirely metaphorical. They believe that the tree and its fruit were not real, and the story of Adam, Eve and of course a talking snake, were simply metaphors to convey various truths.

There seems to be two main reasons why people would regard the contents of Genesis to be metaphorical in nature, they either find that a straight reading of Genesis and the idea of a talking snake to be preposterous, or because the currently accepted scientific model (which is based on naturalism and evolutionary thinking), conflicts with what is written in the book of Genesis, and the scriptures therefore need to be re-interpreted.

As many others have pointed out, the book of Genesis can and should be accepted as an accurate historic document. Those that find the idea of a talking snake ridiculous should also find other events recorded in the Bible such as the miracles of Jesus or even Balaam’s donkey, to be equally ridiculous. As for the need to re-interpret scripture due to incompatibility with modern naturalistic science, Christians would do well to question the validity of the science, before calling the scriptures into question.

This article will take a close look at the details surrounding the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’, and evaluate the details from the point of view of an actual historical event.

The location of the forbidden tree

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2:9b

God planted these two special trees in the middle of the garden. I find it significant that God should choose to plant these trees in ‘the heart of the garden’, not just so Adam and Eve would know their location, but that the significance of the trees and their effects are also at the very heart of the relationship between God and man, that is, life and obedience.

What type of fruit tree was it?

Many have speculated as to what type of fruit grew on the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ and the ‘Tree of Life’, the most common depiction being apples.

The fact is that the Bible does not mention what type of fruit actually grew on these trees, but they definitely were NOT apples.

Even just a few verses of scripture can reveal so much, and do away with the need for speculation.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

Gen 1:11

It is fascinating to note that the fruit grown on these two trees cannot be any fruit that is grown on trees that exist today. How can we be so certain? As God stated in ‘Genesis 1:11′, the seeds of the fruit of the trees, can only produce the same fruit. Now bear in mind that the trees and the Garden were guarded by Cherubim after Adam and Eve were banished, and consider the fact that nobody has eternal life today in their fallen state means, we do not have the fruit of these trees in existence today. So what happened to these trees and the Garden of Eden? My best guess is that they were destroyed by the global flood of Noah’s day.

God names the trees

When it comes to naming the things that God created, Adam was allowed to name all the animals, but it was God who named two trees specifically.

It is also interesting that God did not name either of the special trees, an ‘Apple’ tree’ or an ‘Orange’ tree for example, that is, he did not name them according to the fruit that grew on them. Instead he called one tree ‘The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ and the other ‘The Tree of Life’. The trees were named according to the effect on the person that ate of it’s fruit, further signalling to Adam and Eve that these two trees were different from all the rest.

Not just the tree of knowledge

Many articles have referred to the tree merely as the ‘tree of knowledge’, when God in fact called it the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’, and this distinction is important as it can lead some sceptics to ask “why did God forbid man to eat from the tree of knowledge, does God want man to be ignorant and stupid”?

Of course this kind of accusation is preposterous and not well thought out; not only does God encourage man to be wise and knowledgeable (see the book of Proverbs), but if God wanted to deprive man from the virtues of knowledge and wisdom, he could just as easily have created man without the ability to reason and limit his understanding in the first place.

God called it the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’, because the effects of eating the fruit would open the eyes of the consumer to the existence and understanding of evil, whereas before, both Adam and Eve only knew and understood good. One can only image what that must have been like.

To be like Gods

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Gen 3:5

So what was the temptation that made Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree?

Of the two special trees, eating from tree of life provided eternal life, whilst eating from the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ provided death, so given that choice why did Adam and Eve choose death?

  • Was it to have something they didn’t have already, i.e. knowledge of evil?
  • Was it to have more than what God had already given them, a desire to have what was forbidden and not being content with what they had?

Eve saw the fruit was  ‘a tree to be desired to make one wise’ and was told by the serpent that “ye shall be as gods” and  “you shall not surely die”; clearly these temptations and deceptions were enough to dismiss God’s commandment and warning of the consequences.

Pride indeed comes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), but the consequences on this occasion had far reaching effects on the whole of God’s creation.

Freedom and the Tree of Life

Adam and Even had complete freedom to eat of “any tree of the garden”, so it wasn’t like they were spoilt for choice. There was only one tree they were forbidden to eat from, just one.

In fact, they could have eaten from the ‘Tree of Life’ first. They were not forbidden to eat from that tree. The point is, in terms of these two trees, Adam and Eve had a clear choice of ‘life’ or ‘death’ depending on which tree’s fruit they decided to eat. Only the fruit of one tree lead to death, the very tree God forbade them to eat.

After they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree however, God turned his attention to the ‘Tree of Life’, as eating its fruit would have seen man living in a sinful state forever.

Faith or death

It is evident from the current fallen state of the human race, that we do not live on a planet that resembles paradise, where harmony exists and where death is absent, all because just two people decided go against God, even after all the things God created for man and had given him including; a home (Earth), a garden, food, the ability to procreate and have dominion over it all.

People alive today face the same choice that faced Adam and Eve back in their day, that is, the choice of life or death. Jesus, the son of God, gave himself as a sacrifice for the payment of the sin of not just Adam and Eve, but for the sins of everyone who ever lived, but instead of just one fallen angel deceiving two people, we have billions of people who are against Jesus and deny God. There are global media corporations that promote the theory of evolution and mock religion, and despite this overwhelming force against God, the stakes are still the same, it’s a choice of life or death, whether you believe it or not.

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  1. It was not the eating of the fruit that resulted in death it was the “knowledge” of Good and Evil. So what is the “knowledge of Good and Evil? The “knowledge of Good and Evil is the basis of all religions in the world ever, “Do Good Get Good, Do Evil Get Evil”. But Jesus through the Gift of Righteousness delivered us from that “knowledge”. Now the “knowledge” in Christ is, “Do Good Get Good, Do Evil Get Good”. That’s why Paul asked, ” Shall we sin that Grace may abound?” “God Forbid”

    • Reforming Monk says:

      Hi Charles,

      You said:
      “It was not the eating of the fruit that resulted in death it was the ‘knowledge’ of Good and Evil”.

      The Bible says:
      But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you EAT of it, you shall surely die.”
      Gen 2:16-17

      God’s command was, if you EAT the fruit, you will die.

      You said that death came because of:
      “it was the ‘knowledge’ of Good and Evil”.

      which is impossible, as the bible says that death came because of sin:
      Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;
      Rom 5:12a

      Sin is the transgression of the law, or, the transgression of the commandment of God (see 1 John 3:4), and God never commanded Adam or Eve to not acquire any knowledge, but he did command them not to EAT of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

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