Defending God's Word_02 (6)

Genesis 2:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,[1] for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”[2]

There were plenty of trees to eat from in the Garden of Eden, more than enough to satisfy the desires of the first human couple. However, there was the tree that they were forbidden to eat from, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen 2:17) This probation to not eat from that tree was so severe that Adam must have been very emphatic when he told Eve. How do we know that? We can infer it from Eve’s Response to the Serpent when he was tempting her. Eve not only said ‘you cannot eat from it,’ but also added, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”–Genesis 3:3.

Some have suggested that the prohibition against the fruit of this tree is symbolic, the fruit standing for sexual intercourse. Others have suggested that it stood for having a knowledge of or an awareness of right and wrong. Still, others have suggested that it stood for the knowledge that they would have attained upon reaching maturity, by way of experience, which could be used for good or bad. The sexual intercourse can immediately be dismissed, as they were commanded to, “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28) The awareness of good and bad must be dismissed as well, because both had that capacity already, as it was good not to eat from the tree, and bad to eat from the tree. Lastly, the idea of it being a sin to acquire knowledge upon reaching maturity, as this would contradict the whole of the rest of God’s Word, not to mention the idea of expecting the human creation, He designed to grow and mature, to remain in an immature state, is illogical.

The Bible is silent as to the type of tree. However, the idea of the tree being symbolic is correct. The fruit had no intrinsic power to give knowledge, as was evidenced after their eating from it. It did symbolize God’s right of sovereignty, His right to set a standard of what is good and bad. To eat from the tree would have been a rejection of that sovereignty, a rebellion that said that could set their own standard of good and bad, independence from their creator. This was a simple test, for a couple that was to serve as the father and mother of a perfect human race. A footnote on Genesis 2:17, in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

This knowledge is a privilege, which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognize his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.

[1] Lit eat from it

[2] Lit dying you [singular] shall die. Heb. moth tamuth; the first reference to death in the Scriptures