The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Scripture tells us that there were two named trees in the Garden – the Tree of Life that sat in the midst of the Garden and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which was either next to it or more likely at the edge of the Garden. The Lord God commanded Adam, Eve had not yet been created, to freely eat of every tree in the Garden except the Tree of Death. In the day that he should eat of it he would surely die.
The idiom ‘in the day’ (Hebrew yom) is used in Gen 2:4 and Gen 2:17. Both verses imply that something has happened or will happen over a longer period of time than a single day. This is significant because neither Adam nor Eve died the same day they ate of the forbidden fruit. This can be looked at at least two different ways.
It can mean that they did die spiritually on the day they ate or that ‘the day’ they ate covers a very long period of time as Adam did not die for another 900 years.
Gen 2:9 – Out of the ground the Lord God made 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 the knowledge of good and evil.
It is important to note here that only the Tree of Life is in the midst of the garden. Eve will garble this up later when she is questioned by Satan. Its very name and prominent place in the Garden should indicate to Adam its extreme importance.
It seems clear from the Genesis narrative that neither Adam nor Eve ever ate of the Tree of Life, for if they had we are told they would live forever (Gen 3:22). Why this should be is something of a mystery that deserves further attention and will be addressed below.
We do not know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden before they sinned and were driven out. It could well have been and probably was a fairly long time. Sin does not happen immediately, it is a process that takes place over time and in the case of persons without a sin nature the process would most likely have taken a long time.
James tells us that we are tempted when we are enticed by our own evil desire and dragged away (from the truth). Then when desire is conceived in our hearts it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Some have argued that this description of sin only applies to fallen man. I would argue that some process at least similar to what James describes must have taken place in the hearts of Adam and Eve or it would have been impossible for them to sin. Impeccability, the impossibility of sinning, applies only to the God-man Jesus Christ and to no other human being.
The Heidelberg Catechism states (Q & A 6) that Adam and Eve, in addition to being innocent, were also created ‘in true righteousness and holiness’ citing Eph 4:24 ‘and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.’ This is an inappropriate citation. Adam was created in a state of untried innocence. He would not be confirmed in true righteousness and holiness until he had by faith eaten of the Tree of Life, received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and been given eternal life.
The Tree of Life represents Christ and salvation. The Apostle John writes in his Revelation that in the new Heaven and the new Earth the Tree of Life shall be again and that its leaves will be for the healing of the nations, that is all the people of earth called by Christ’s name. The Tree of Life had a sacramental character to it for to eat of it would be to live forever and because of this fact God drove the man and the woman out of the Garden after they had sinned.
Gen 3:22-24 – Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the world and all the lusts thereof. The Apostle John tells us that the world encompasses three things contrary to God, these are: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These were the three things that tempted Eve. She saw that the fruit of the Tree of Death was good for food (the lust of the flesh), pleasant to look at (the lust of the eyes), and would make one wise (the pride of life).
1 John 2:15-17 – 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.
Gen 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
In contrast to the Tree of Death the Tree of Life offered nothing in its outward appearance that would commend itself to man. In Eve’s befuddled answer to the Serpent we see what might have amounted to an actual fear on their part to even approach the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life was placed in the Garden as a simple point of faith. No overwhelming demand, no great accomplishment, no mighty task was set before Adam and Eve. They had to quite simply reach forth their hands, take of the its fruit, eat and receive eternal life.
Because neither Adam nor Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, despite God’s command to Adam to do so, I believe they were afraid of it. I suspect this fear arose from the nature of the Tree of Life itself. I believe that the Tree of Life had an odd and foreboding appearance; its fruit no doubt small, strange and unappealing. It may have given off an unpleasant odor. The Apostle Paul uses this metaphor in reference to the gospel when he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘We are to God the fragrance of Christ to those who are being saved and to those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of life but to the other we are the stench of death.’ II Cor 2:15-16. If the gospel appears such to the natural man then so too must the Tree of Life have appeared to our first parents.
Isa 53:2 – He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
There would also have been a spiritual presence, an aura if you will, around the Tree of Life that was frightening and unnerving to them in their natural state. But for whatever reason neither Adam nor Eve ever ate of its fruit. From a spiritual standpoint this fruit could only be taken by grace and through faith in the Word of God.
Eve is the first person recorded in scripture to practice witchcraft – as she actively sought hidden knowledge by consulting the dead. She was not content with the revelation of God given to her through Adam and sought to know the things of God hidden from them up to that point. And there is a reason she did this. Under the headship of Adam her only recourse to God’s word was through him. She chaffed under his headship, sought his priesthood and became a witch.
What Adam and Eve really sought was spiritual maturity or wisdom. There is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, we are commanded to seek wisdom throughout scripture. Wisdom is to be prized above all gifts. James says if any of us lacks wisdom we should ask of God and it will be given. Such also was the promise to Adam and Eve. Eat of the Tree of Life and they would receive true, Godly wisdom and eternal life. There is a godly wisdom that leads to life which stands opposed to a worldly wisdom that leads to death.
James 3:13-17 – Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 1:5-8 -If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
She must have visited the Tree of Death often, pondering what secrets it held, wondering in her heart how such a beautiful tree with such a pleasing fruit could possibly do them harm. Perhaps her wishes, the desires of her heart, formed a prayer which she whispered upon the wind until one day a strange and interesting creature appeared near the Tree, a magical creature who could talk. She should have run from such a creature but he immediately drew her in by addressing her secret desires.
‘Did God truly say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ A clever double lie. Satan, in the guise of a talking serpent, not only casts doubt upon the Word of God, and Adam who gave it to her, but he also completely misquotes it. The woman then answers by misquoting the scripture herself. She tells the serpent that they can eat of the trees just not the one in the middle of the garden and then adds they must not even touch it. But the scripture said that the Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden, not the Tree of Death, and of the Tree of Life they were to freely partake. This statement reveals the state of Eve’s heart for she forsakes the Tree in the midst of the garden, the Tree that gives life, and would rather have the fruit of the Tree planted elsewhere, the one forbidden to them, the one that promised death.
In addition to her participation in sorcery she also violated the headship of Adam under which she had been placed. Adam had given to her the revelation that he had received from God but she wanted to know the secret, hidden things of the spirit world. In her heart she coveted Adam’s headship and wanted the priesthood for herself. But Adam was also guilty for he despised his priestly headship and did not defend the Word of God delivered to him. Instead of pulling his wife away from the forbidden Tree he stood idly by, no doubt also fascinated by this strange creature, while his wife spoke with the dead.
In the created order of things Adam, acting as priest, should have taken fruit from the Tree of Life and after eating of it himself, given it to Eve. This would have been his first act of faith in God’s word to him and would have brought eternal life. In the proper order of things Adam would sacramentally give the life of Christ, represented in the Tree of Life, to Eve and she would have eaten and together they would have been given eternal life, transformed into beings who now were in fact holy, righteous and good. Their children would have then been Godly seed and all mankind would have been saved in Adam who was in Christ.
And something else obtains from this situation. What they were really seeking was maturity and wisdom. They were not to remain in innocence forever. Paul says we need to grow up into maturity. Adam’s true test was the Tree of Life. If he had taken and eaten of the Tree of Life his eyes would have been open to true wisdom and a true knowledge of good and of evil. He would have been given Godly wisdom and maturity, the very thing Eve vainly sought by eating of the Tree of Death. There is worldly wisdom which leads to spiritual death and Godly wisdom which leads to eternal life.
Heb 5:11-14 – 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
James 1:2-4 – 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In the unnatural and perverted order of the world Eve, acting as a priestess, took the fruit from the Tree of Death and after eating of it herself offered it to Adam. In the false religion of Eve she sacramentally gave the death of Satan, represented in the Tree of Death, to Adam and to their children. The Apostle Paul tells us that Eve was deceived but that Adam knew what he was doing. He willfully turned his back on the revelation of God in Christ and partook of the lie because he desired (the affections and allure of) Eve more than fellowship with God. When he partook of the Tree of Death he brought death to himself and all mankind with him.
It would have been impossible for Eve to conceive and bear children until they had made their choice and either eaten of one tree or the other. Otherwise the children they conceived and gave birth to would have also been innocent and would each have to undergo the test of faith individually for themselves. It is important to remember that God considers children, even those still ‘in the body’ of their father, as under his federal headship. Adam represented the entire race of man including Eve who came from his body. Abraham represented Levi, the collector of tithes in Israel, when he paid tithes to Melchizedek; and God visits His wrath unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.
Most commentators believe that Adam and Eve’s innocence precluded their having sexual relations. However Scripture tells us (Gen 1:28) that God commanded them (husband and wife) to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth before they sinned. They would have tried to fulfill this command, indeed they would have enjoyed fulfilling this command, and having marital relations would not have opened their eyes to their nakedness because there was absolutely nothing sinful in this act. Nor do we believe that children remain in their (relative) innocence until they experience sex but rather that they come to know the good from the bad at some earlier age such as seven or eight years old.
Deut 1:39 “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.”
Isa 7:15 “He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.”
No one is to remain in a state of innocence forever. We must all move on from innocence to maturity. We must all come to know good and evil and attain enough maturity to distinguish the good from the evil. We cannot remain little children forever in regards to spiritual maturity. Even as we are to become like little children regarding our trust in God, Jesus also admonishes us ‘to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ In other words it is foolish to go out into the world in a naive way, like a child, and equally foolish to come to God in any way except as a child and without any hint of guile.
Phil 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Jas 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Heb 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
This inability to conceive would have brought added pressure to Eve for them to make a choice between the two trees. Scripture portrays barrenness as something married women consider a disgrace and source of shame (e.g. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth). This situation of sex without children was far more acceptable to Adam than to Eve. The longer Adam delayed his decision to eat of the Tree of Life the harder it would become to do so. Eventually he lost all interest in both trees but not Eve. She was afraid of the Tree of Life but charmed by the Tree of Death. She needed to force Adam’s hand.
Another important thing to consider is that after eating of the Tree of Life they would realize that, like the angels, adult human beings need to be clothed as this is the proper attire of heaven and not because they were ashamed of their nakedness as transpired after they ate of the forbidden fruit.
God, in his mercy, did not leave them in this state of death forever. In a strange and wonderful irony God promised redemption in the seed of the woman. But not until Cain had murdered Abel and the full horror of sin lay before their eyes did men begin again to call upon the name of the Lord – which is salvation.
In the future all those who have despaired of their own righteousness and called upon the name of the Lord saying – God have mercy upon me a sinner – will once again enter the Garden (the new heavens and the new earth) and reach forth their hands and take again of the Tree of Life and eat of its fruit and drink from the River of Life and live forever. And all of the pain, and the hurt and the sorrow of sin will be washed away (as represented in baptism) and remembered no more as they live forever in the light of Christ beholding the face of God – the most beautiful vision a creature can possibly have. And whatever good they have done in this life will be remembered forever and will clothe them in glory according to the good works God ordained for them to do.
In contrast to this the self-righteous, those who have rejected the testimony of scripture concerning their sins, will live forever in darkness with the full face of their sins constantly before their eyes causing them to feel within themselves the pain, the hurt and sorrow their sins have caused to God, to others, and to themselves. And whatever good they may have done in this life will be remembered no more and their nakedness shall be exposed and they shall die in their sins over and over again forever.
One more point about about clothing, nakedness and holiness.
We have never seen an ancient painting or illustration of the residents of Hell nor the fallen angels with clothing on. They are always naked. Nakedness is always in scripture either a sign of childlike innocence or of judgment, shame and condemnation.
At the last judgment a person will either be clothed with the righteousness of Christ or be found naked in their own sinfulness. The residents of Hell will be naked and ashamed.
Adam and Eve needed to be clothed. Their nakedness was not a sign of ‘true righteousness and holiness’ but rather a sign of their childlike innocence. Adam should have chosen the fruit of the Tree of Life and eaten, been clothed with the robes of righteousness, and lived forever – not because he earned salvation or fulfilled some covenant of works, but because by faith and the Holy Spirit he received eternal life as a gift of God and grace.
The Tree of Life can only be eaten of by the choice of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and by faith through grace. God had other plans for us and showed all creatures that no creature will choose life by himself. Except God had kept the elect angels they all too would have followed Lucifer to their everlasting death and destruction.
Why did Adam live just less than 1,000 years? Because God said, ‘In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die.’ A day is unto the Lord as a thousand years.
Copyright by Lord Buckbeak – July 2002.