I've been thinking for some time, and listening to some recent sermons ( # 1 & 2 ) by one of my friends brought it back to my remembrance; working on the assumption that the story chronicled was primarily allegorical, though most probably based on factual historical events; that the tree of life mentioned in Genesis 2:9, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, mentioned in the same verse, are one and the same tree!
Right off, some more conservative and traditional people would most likely object, saying something like, "The Bible says that there were two different trees", or "God is not the Author of evil, therefore since the tree of life typifies, or typified, Christ, all throughout Scripture; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must typify, or have typified an opposite, or the fallen spiritual being, known ( traditionally ) as Satan".
I will explain now, why I've made this interesting, and maybe even frightening statement.
Going to the first mention of these two ( as is traditionally thought ) trees, that God planted in the midst of His garden, ( This could bring up another interesting subject, or, as I've said before, 'open another can of worms'! ) in the second chapter of Genesis;
8 "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the eye and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
I'll skip a few verses here.
15 "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'."
The next time we hear of either ( ? ) tree, is in the next chapter ( 3 ); from which I'll quote, starting with verse 1;
1 "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden"?' 2 And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' 4 Then the serpent said to the woman,'You shall not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'."
My thinking here, was that Eve mentioned only one tree that was 'in the midst' of the garden; whereas the first mention of any certain tree, or trees, was back in verse 9 where, at first glance, it would seem like two separate trees are mentioned, and then, in verse 17, God told Adam that he was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, else he would die. Let me submit, though, concerning the first mention of the trees, or tree; that the latter part of verse 9 might be a sort of a 'biblical parallelism', which I have mentioned before to my readers, and to others as meaning that the Author, or author says the same thing twice, in two different ways. I think that, in the context of the whole passage, and other Scriptures that I'll bring to your remembrance as we continue; that this may be the case here.
Now, about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: we need not remind ourselves that this tree, if indeed different than the tree of life, was planted by the Lord God, as we see in verses 8 & 9, cited above, 'The Lord God planted a garden............and out of the ground the Lord God made every tree that is good for food and pleasant to the eyes". Let's remember too, that in verse 6 of the following chapter ( 3 ), that Moses ( traditional author of Genesis ) records that the fruit of the tree in question was 'pleasant to the eyes' and further 'a tree desirable to make one wise', which according to David and Solomon, in the Psalms and Proverbs, and later, Christ, in the Gospels, that wisdom is spiritual food unto true life, or life ( eternal ) in and with Christ and God!
Also remember, in connection with these trees being planted by God, that it is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that;
" Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good................"
Here's a good question; how did Adam know which of these ( two? ) trees 'in the midst' of the garden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, if indeed there were two separate trees?
One might say, 'God must have told him"; but if indeed God did tell him, why did Moses not record it? Do you think the tree looked so different from all the other trees of the garden that Adam would have remembered which was which? Eve seemed to imply that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the center, or in a prominent place, 'in the midst' of the garden: so was the tree ( singular ) that she mentioned, planted in a more prominent area of the garden, so that there would be no mistake, or did the the tree have a different kind of fruit on it than all the other trees around it?
Ok: So that was more than one question ( and there are so many more that could be asked ), but it just goes to show that a strictly literal, and scientifically factual reading of this whole passage ( Genesis 1-3 ) brings up so many needless ( and useless? ) questions!
From my understanding; the traditional interpretation of this passage is that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the 'wisdom' gained thereby, was, quite 'simply', the ability to know the difference ( for one's self ) between good and evil, in essence, the ability to judge for one's self what is good and what is evil. I am fairly satisfied with this understanding, but I think that it is by no means comprehensive of the full import of the words of this passage!
Here's another good question for you; did the serpent really lie to Eve??
Well; yes and no!
Yes: he told Eve that they would not 'surely die'; but then he told her that 'you will be like God, knowing good and evil'. Look at Genesis 3:22, and the first part of the verse;
"Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.......' "
That much was true: my friend, in his sermon ( #3 ), recalled the likeness of the temptation of Eve in the garden, to the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, and I thought that he made a very good observation there. Without going into why God told them that they would 'surely die' the day that they partook of the tree ( another can of worms could be opened here ), and then later, after they did exactly like they were told not to ( just like most children ); He agreed with the serpent that they were now like God, knowing ( Heb. yada-to ascertain by seeing ) 'good and evil'.
To get back to my original purpose for this paper, and my argument that there were not ( necessarily ) two separate trees, one called the tree of life, the other the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, planted, by God, in the 'midst' of the Garden: I now have a better understanding ( I think ), thanks to my friend's sermon ( #3 ), of the purpose of the temptation of Eve with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 'a tree desirable to make one wise'; which brings up another good point; even though Eve, like her daughter Sarai, after her, went about it the wrong way; I think that she correctly understood that this 'knowledge of good and evil' which was forbidden them, would make one wise ( but not unto salvation: that was to come later through Christ-who was signified by the tree of life, interestingly enough! ).
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was, I believe, as Eve correctly ascertained, a tree that could make one 'wise'. As I pointed out though, she ( they ) made the same mistake that countless others have made, in thinking that God's promise ( of life ) was obtainable by human means. Let's look at a few examples from the Old Covenant Scriptures:
Genesis 15:4 "And behold, the word of the Lord came to him saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who shall come from your own body shall be your heir'." context
Let's skip over to the next chapter for a bit more;
Genesis 16:1 :Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her'. And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai." context
First; we have the promise of God, just like with Abram and Sarai
Genesis 25:23 " And the Lord said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'." context
Skipping over several chapters now, to another example of faithless impatience;
Genesis 27:19 "Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me'." context
Now, in reading these examples; one must understand that these acts of impatience were ordained by God, like all things, for His good purpose.
Back to my thoughts on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; First of all, the knowledge of good and evil would imply the ability to judge, would it not? Let me quote now, from Genesis 32:
28 "And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.......'" context
I'm sure that most, if not all of my readers are aware of this; but according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the Hebrew word, or name, Yisra-el means, 'he will rule as God'! Pretty interesting, when you think too, of Israel ( as God's chosen people ) being typical of the Church ( God's Elect ).
Young's Analytical Concordance basically agrees with this, saying that the Hebrew meaning of Yisra-el is 'ruling with God'.
Here's something interesting, though: Zondervan's NIV Exhaustive Concordance has Yisra-el as meaning 'he struggles with God', which is interesting; because, not only does it fit in better with the context of the renaming, it also conveys thoughts that are reminiscent of John 5:18 and Philippians 2:6.
Returning once again, to our topic: it is interesting that the forbidden tree is named 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. From this tree then would assumably come, not only the knowledge of evil ( which, I think, is where we tend to throw the spotlight ), but also, the knowledge of good would come from eating of this tree!To illustrate my point further; the Hebrew word rah, that is translated 'evil' here, simply means 'bad', as in 'something distasteful, unpleasant, etc. It can mean 'wicked' ( certainly so if applied to God's distaste or displeasure! ), but not ( necessarily ) mean 'wicked', as in 'wrongful', etc. Several examples, from the book of Ecclesiastes, are;
6:1 "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: 2 A man to who God has given riches and wealth and honour, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desire; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction." context
9:3 "This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all..." context
From the book of Isaiah, chapter 45;
7 "I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create calamity
( KJV says 'evil' here ); I the Lord do all these things.' context
One last reference, from Jeremiah 24;
3 "Then the Lord said to me, 'What do you see, Jeremiah?' And I said, 'Figs,the good figs very good: and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad'." ( In every instance of the word 'bad' here; KJV translates rah, as 'evil' ) context
We can see that, as I alluded to, most of the context's of these passages that I just quoted contain usages of the word 'evil', that most definitely have a direct connotation of 'wickedness', 'sinfulness', but we can also see, from the passages that I quoted, and others like them, that the use of the word 'evil' ( Heb. rah ) does not ( necessarily ) connote 'wicked', 'sinful', etc.
By saying, above, that 'also, the knowledge of good would come from eating of this tree!'; I didn't mean to imply that Adam had no knowledge of good, before he ate of the tree: he most certainly did! However; when they ate of the tree, which they were forbidden to do, they became aware ( conscious ) that they were naked; a fact of which neither seemed to have noticed, before they partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:25 "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
Interesting, that even though, as the story traditionally goes; God 'walked' with ( dwelt with? ) Adam and Eve, in the Garden; Moses still records them as being 'naked'. I'm not denying the historicity of the account; just noting how Adam and Eve's nakedness before the Fall was a picture, or type, of the nakedness of the unbeliever before God, until Christ clothes hiim in His own righteousness.
Genesis 3:7 "And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made coverings for themselves."
Most importantly here, I think, is the last phrase: "and made coverings for themselves". They knew ( from eating of the tree of knowledge? ), whether instinctively, or by some other means
( ? ), that they needed to be covered; however, like most children with their parents, they also figured that, since they had disobeyed God and found out something that they didn't want to know ( they weren't ready for it! ), they had better provide their own coverings, and just try to avoid 'Daddy' for awhile! As I can personally attest; this doesn't work; for sooner or later, daddy comes calling; 'where are you?', and the 'jig's' up!
Maybe a better way to put it, would be: knowledge ( or consciousness ) of good would also come from eating of this forbidden tree: For one thing, Adam learned how good he really had it, in the Garden, where he walked ( and presumably, talked? ) with his Creator, where his food was more pleasantly and easily obtainable ( no sweat, man!-metaphorically speaking ), and he wasn't (presumably ) 'bothered' by wild animals. For another, since he was 'booted' out of the Garden, his 'race' was propagated throughout the known world ( his 'world' ).
Now, putting two and two together, or tree and tree, as the case may be: take a look at this familiar passage, in the book of Numbers, chapter 21;
8 "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." context
First of all, and I think everyone would agree with me; this passage ( 6-9 ) is typical of Christ on the Cross, in a figurative way, but what I think is interesting, is that these people were 'saved' ( physically ) by gazing upon, with faith in God's promise. the very image of their destroyer, or 'enemy'.
Secondly; I think Scripture itself, shows us that God is both the Punisher of 'evil' ( in the sinful sense ) deeds and the Rewarder of good deeds. In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, He shows this;
30 "'Therefore, I will judge you,O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways', says the Lord God" context
Earlier, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 60, God instructed Isaiah to write;
10b "For in My wrath, I struck you, but in My favor, I have had mercy on you." context
Isaiah also writes, of God, in chapter 59;
18 "According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, recompense to His enemies......" context
Ezra realized this, in the 9th chapter of Ezra, when he cried to the Lord;
13 "And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since you our God have punished us less than our sins deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, 14 Should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?" context
In the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy; God makes it very clear;
39 "Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand." context
When taken in the context of Numbers 2:6-9, I think it's pretty clear that God alone is Judge, Jury, and Executioner; for as Moses records above, 'I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal".
So, were there actually two different trees, one leading to life, and the other leading to the knowledge of good and evil?
It is my opinion that the account that we read in Genesis 1-3, although undoubtedly based on historical events, is not a scientifically accurate account, and most definitely not to be taken literally. Therefore, I have no problem saying that the 'trees', as they are presented in Genesis 2 & 3, are 'both' meant to represent, or were typical, of Christ.
Having said all this; let us now look at the word 'knowledge' as it found in the scriptures;
Exodus 31:3 "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship," context
Numbers 24:16 "The utterance of him who hears the words of God,and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open:" context
Deuteronomy 1:39 "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it." context
Think of this passage in connection with this one, in Isaiah;
Isaiah 7:13 "Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 14 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings." context ( especially compare 7:16 & 8:4 )
Psalm 19:2 "Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge." context
( biblical parallelism )
Psalm 53:4 "Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?" context
Psalm 94:10 "He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge? context ( biblical parallelism )
Psalm 119:66 "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe your commandments."
Psalm 139:6 "Such knowledge is to wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it." context
Proverbs 1:7 & 28,29 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction" ( biblical anti-parallelism )
28 "Then they will call on Me, but I will not answer; they will seek Me diligently, but they will not find Me. 29 Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord." context ( biblical parallelism )
Proverbs 2:6 & 10, 11 "For the Lord gives wisdom: from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." 10 "When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you." context
Ecclesiastes 1:18 "For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow" context
Ecclesiastes 2:26 " For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind." context
Ecclesiastes 7:12 "For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense; but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it." context
Isaiah 5:13 "There fore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst." context
Isaiah 11:2 "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him' the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." context
Isaiah 45:20 "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped fro the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save." context
Isaiah 53:11 "He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." context
As we can see from this short list of Old Covenant usages of the Hebrew word da'ath, that saving knowledge comes from God alone, and His Spirit, and that He administers it when, where, and to what extent He pleases! David understood this: is son Solomon, although he realized that knowledge was not ( necessarily ) an evil, it could be wearisome and grievous! Solomon further tells us, and then God, later, through Isaiah, that the knowledge that God gives, through Christ and His Spirit alone, is the essence of salvation, and that those who do not have it, are without God!
Let's look now, at some of the Greek usages of 'knowledge' in what is called the New Testament;
As we can see, the two Greek words, epignosis and gnosis ( 1922 & 1108 ) are the most approximate in meaning to the Hebrew da'ath, having both a connotation of familiarity, or intimate perception.
Luke 11:52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." context
( for more context on this verse and passage, read Matthew 23:13 )
Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;" context
Romans 11:33 "O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out." context
Romans 15:14 "Now I myself am confident concerning you my brethren, that you
are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another." context
I Corinthians 1:4&5 "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge." context
I Corinthians 8:1 "Now concerning things offered to idols: We all know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." context
I Corinthians 12:7&8 "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all, 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit," context
I Corinthians 13:2 "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand (1492 ) all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." context
II Corinthians 4:6 "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." context
II Corinthians 10:4&5 "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," context
Ephesians 1:17 "( I pray ) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him," context
Ephesians 4:13 "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" context
Philippians 3:8 "Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered all things, and counted them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." context
Colossians 1:9 "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;" context
Colossians 3:9&10 "Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him," context
I Timothy 2:3&4 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 desires all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." context
II Peter 1:2&3 "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue," context
As we can see from the examples we've looked at ( and there are many more ), gaining knowledge is not ( necessarily ) a bad thing, in fact, from most of the examples that I've shown, knowledge ( of God, spiritual things ) is a good thing: as with most things, it depends on how you choose to use that knowledge: if you choose to use that knowledge to become intimate with God in Christ, then you've chosen wisely. On the other hand; if you decide to use that knowledge to become intimate with the things that displease God, as Paul told the Romans;
Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind..............." context
It's interesting, as I noted above, in the Luke passage; that if you compare the two gospel accounts of Jesus' saying, it looks like He is equating the knowledge of God with the kingdom of heaven! That may, however; be a subject for another time, and possibly another paper.
Paul realized, as he told the Corinthians, that knowledge, in itself, can be a good thing; for instance, in chapter 8 of his first letter, when combined with love ( of God ), and he echoes this again in chapter 13 of the same letter. In his second letter to the Corinthians, and then to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and in his first letter to Timothy; he reiterates the fact that it is the knowledge of God that, as I've also said in a previous paper; brings life, and true life at that!
You might be asking yourself at this point ( if not earlier ): "What does it matter, whether there were two separate trees in the midst of the garden ( as a literal interpretation would tell us), or even, maybe, whether or not it has any bearing if the account written down for us, in Genesis, chapters 1-3 are a covenantal, rather than a scientific, physically accurate history of the Creation and the Fall?" Well: I think it does; and here's why:
Many Orthodox 'traditionalists' would say that it does indeed matter if one says that the Creation account in Genesis 1, to say nothing of the mentions of the creation of the Garden in chapter 2, and the Fall in chapter 3; for one thing, because if we don't 'swallow it, hook, line, and sinker', no matter how weird that may seem; we might be branded 'liberals', or even worse, 'heretics'! I think however, with a more careful study of the covenant context of passages like Genesis 1:1-3, and remembering the historical scene in which it was written ( at least 2,000 years after the 'fact' ), it should not be too hard to see that it was not meant to be read in a 'wooden' literal scientifically physical sense.
As I mentioned earlier, I think that contextually we need to realize that God alone is Judge and that He righteously judges evil works with an everlasting punishment ( not in the sense that it never ends, but in the sense that it is final, never to be reprieved ), and good works ( through Christ alone ) with a never ending reward, His Presence!
I spoke earlier of the trees of Genesis 2 & 3 being the same tree; that was kind of 'tongue-in-cheek' because obviously, if the whole account had more of a covenantal, rather than a scientifically accurate meaning, then there were not ( necessarily ) any special trees in the 'midst' of the Garden, one bearing fruit that would 'make one wise', and 'like God', and one that would give immortality. I think that the two 'trees' were both representative of Christ, in that if we try to make ourselves wise, as Eve foolishly thought, we will 'surely die', but if we 'Come................and take of the water of life, freely', which Christ alone can give, then we have partaken of the Tree, the Bread, the Water of Life!
I pray that this little study will be edifying to it's readers and glorifying to God alone, who is worthy of all our praise!
In His Kingdom, and basking in His glorious Presence,