Why Did God Plant the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

“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.”

Genesis 2:9

Part of the process of maturing includes willing cooperation and the free choice of love and commitment to God.

The man and the woman were perfect and had the ability to stay that way. So God put before these two people a test of their continued commitment to love God, to listen to God, believe Him, trust Him, and turn to Him.

Through continually choosing good, through trusting God and following His instructions, and rejecting evil—evil would be distrusting God, ignoring His counsel, and violating His instructions—this tiny community of two people would experience spiritual growth, maturing of their character, and increasing joy. The man and the woman’s faith would grow strong, preparing them for greater work, work that would require greater faith. After all, there was a whole wild, unsubdued globe out there, beyond Eden, waiting for humankind to come into its destiny.

God’s one prohibition, here, was designed to strengthen the man and the woman, both individually in their own discipline, and together, as they helped each other, were strong for each other, encouraged each other, rescued each other. To disobey God would bring death, that is a spiritual law. Like the laws of physics, this spiritual law explains something that simply is so. In order to strengthen their faith, to enable is and ishah to one day resist much greater evils down the road, God was now presenting the man and the woman with this much smaller test, in the middle of a very safe place, where every possible desire could be met.

The woman must have felt both the strong pull of the Tree itself, and her own fascination with the secret promises it seemed to hold. Temptation had found a hook in her heart, and the pull was strong. To combat its magnetic draw, the woman drew from God’s words for help. But the words she held onto were not simply God’s words, but an added word. To God’s Law had been added something a little extra. Oral Law. And, from her disastrous exchange with the serpent, we discover three truths:

1) Not knowing God’s Word, and God’s words, very well puts you and me in jeopardy when we face tough situations, like temptation.

2) Adding to God’s Word and words doesn’t strengthen our faith. It weakens it.

3) Making extra boundaries for ourselves, beyond the limits of what God Himself has given, creates a false impression of God, and clouds understanding of what God has really said.

In this case, ishah, the woman, had become overly fixated on the tree itself—don’t eat, don’t even touch—when the test of faith was really about God, to believe God, listen to God, trust God, turn to God, follow God.

Genesis 2 ends with the profound statement that the man and the woman were free of shame. Because of shame, none of us today really knows what perfect peace and harmony feels like, looks like, or sounds like. We actually are incapable of really, fully, even imagining what that might be like.

In Eden the man and the woman had so far never felt embarrassed, never felt bad, never felt condemned or judged or humiliated or disapproved of. But when they disobeyed God, suddenly the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.” They felt exposed, suddenly vulnerable in a way that felt risky, and shaming.

Would the man and the woman have come to know good and evil if they had never eaten of the forbidden tree?  Actually, they already had the basic components for knowing good – good is Who God is, what He says, and what He provides, “It is good, it is very good.” Evil, on the other hand, is anything contrary to God and His words. Growing in the knowledge of good and evil from the perspective of goodness would have come from trusting in and alignment with all that is good, God and His W/word.

Fulfillment’s Failure

Instead, the man and the woman chose to come into their knowledge from the perspective of evil, choosing to align themselves with the serpent, who opposed God. They doubted and ultimately disregarded God’s good word, thereby separating themselves from the source of goodness. Knowledge came through discovering evil because they chose to do it, rather than coming to know evil by choosing to be distanced from it. In a terrible irony, at the moment of their ingesting the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, instead of becoming like God, the man and woman became profoundly unlike God.

God had warned them the judgement for sin was the penalty of death, and immediately the rigors of death set in.

Their deep communion with God broken, they were now terrified of the Lord, so they ran and hid from God when He came to them in the Garden, reflecting a spiritual death.

Instead of gaining God’s knowledge, their minds became clouded, and humankind lost the knowledge of the mystery of God’s will and purpose for the universe, and for themselves, revealing the corruption of their inner beings.

Abruptly, instead of no shame, they felt for the first time feelings of exposure, guilt and deep shame; instead of intimacy, they set about covering themselves from each other; instead of living in the truth they laid the blame for their own wrongdoing on someone else; all gave evidence of another aspect of God’s warning about death – their innocent natures had died

I blame you, God, for making that woman and giving her to me. This is on You! When the man blamed God, His mind had already become so clouded by sin that he could dare to throw accusations in God’s face for his own offense.

No, you can’t pin this on me! I was a victim of deception, the woman cried. That serpent there, the one You let into the Garden, God, manipulated me, and I was overwhelmed.

Neither one admitted they were wrong, guilty. If they had only been honest with God.

[Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons]

Published by Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer

Bible Teacher and partner with Ancient Voices, Sacred Stories

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