In Genesis 2 mankind was created
and given instructions for life. God first created Adam, the first man, made out of the dust of the ground, who was given the breath of life by God. (Gen. 2:7). Soon after Adam was created God shared with Adam about the garden in which he was to inhabit. Adam was taught how to tend the land and how to care for it properly, but Adam was also given a specific instruction for one type of tree in the garden. Genesis 2:16-17 shares, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “’You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” Adam proceeded to cultivate the garden for food, to name each and every animal, and come to know the Lord Himself. But God declared it was not good for the man to be alone. The Lord caused Adam to fall into a deep slumber and from his rib, God made a helper suitable for him, a wife to be his ezer kenegdo, or his “helpmeet.” Adam’s wife was called Eve, and for a time all was truly good in creation.
What Was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
“The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” –Gen. 2:9
There were many trees in the garden, some were simply good for eating while two others had a purpose other than sustenance. Though the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the only tree in the garden that truly presented humanity with an option. To not eat of the tree meant that Adam and Eve were choosing not just obedience but also satisfaction. To not eat would mean that they were satisfied in God Himself and the life He had given them; it would be an acknowledgement that they had all they needed, what more could they want. On the other hand, the option to eat the fruit meant not only were Adam and Eve disobeying a command from God, but they also wanted more than what God had given them. Living in the presence of God was not enough, they wanted to be the god of their own life. They wanted to know everything that God knew, and so they chose desire without care of the consequence that was sure to come. They chose to trust the serpent and their own desire over God’s words.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.‘” – Gen. 2:16-17
We don’t know what kind of fruit hung on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; what we know is that it looked like food and was pleasing to the sight, according to Genesis. But the type of fruit, though many have symbolized it in art with an apple or pomegranate, is not important.
Why Was the Fruit Forbidden by God?
Simply put, God forbid the fruit because He loved and cared for humanity. He knew the consequence of sin, should humanity choose it; He knew what would result in the human heart and across all of creation. Eden in itself was designed for full relationship without separation from God. The Lord came and spoke with Adam, and He was present in the garden with the couple. God gave humanity the gift of free will, which is something true relationship requires. So Adam and Eve were given the choice to choose God, to love Him, to trust Him, and be satisfied in life with Him (by refusing the fruit). God in His sovereignty knew the choice Adam and Eve would make, but it was their choice to make. The Lord in His love wanted His best for Adam and Eve, so He instructed them not to consume the fruit, not to fall into sin.
Why Was the Fruit Tempting to Adam and Eve?
In Genesis 3 the temptation unfolds, led by Satan who embodied a serpent. In Gen. 3:1, “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” The serpent twisted the question by making it seem like all the trees were forbidden; he was already presenting God as the ‘bad guy’ by focusing on what God had forbidden rather than what God had provided. And when Eve responded to the question she added an element that was not part of God’s original command. Eve responded to the serpent, saying they had been told they could eat of any tree in the garden but not the tree in the middle of the garden, reciting “…and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Possibly Eve misspoke or misremembered the command, as this “touching component” was not part of God’s original command to Adam. It could be she thought touching it would be just as bad an action, or maybe as Simon Turpin, contributor for answersingenesis.org, points out she said it out of exaggeration:
“So, Eve exaggerates what God had forbidden: “Neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (see Genesis 2:17, 3:3). Yet, knowing enough of what God was like, Eve should have responded, “This is Eden. God made it, and it’s very good. It’s unthinkable that we should even challenge him. If he says not to do something, then it is for our good. Get out of here!”
Eve’s response, however, entertained the possibility of standing in judgment over God, which leads Satan to challenge what God had said by telling her, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Now, as a result of the deception, Eve has doubt in her mind and has fallen into unbelief.”
The serpent’s response, “’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil‘” (Genesis 3:4) conveniently leaves out the fact that when they come to know the reality of evil, it will pervert their hearts and desires. In fact, this perversion will affect all human hearts in existence after them. Ligonier Ministries explains,
“Satan was not wholly incorrect when he told Eve partaking of the banned tree would make her “like God” (3:5), as to be more aware of the horror of sin is to come closer to God’s knowledge of all things (v. 22a). However, as he is wont to do, the serpent never gave Eve the whole truth. He did not tell her man would develop a love for perversion by such knowledge of evil. Moreover, he lied outright in asserting that death would not follow her transgression (v. 4). To tell half-truths and outright lies is in our enemy’s very nature (John 8:44). He enjoys calling God’s truthfulness and goodness into question with subtlety, as he did with Eve by over-emphasizing what the Lord forbade instead of what He permitted (Gen. 3:1b).”
Eve saw that the fruit looked like food and was pleasing to the eye, and in her desire to gain wisdom apart from God, she took the fruit ate it and handed some to her husband, who was standing there with her as the serpent spoke. Both Adam and Eve consumed the fruit in an act of disobedience and doubt toward God, committing the first sin. They were tempted to believe they were missing something, and in sinful action, they chose what they wanted (to know good and evil like God) over obedience and gratitude for what they already had. They got what they wanted but at a cost much higher than they had dared to imagine.
What Kind of Death Resulted from the Forbidden Fruit?
The original Hebrew, Genesis was written in, provides more context for the meaning of the forbidden fruit. Dr. Elmer Towns shares, “The Hebrew language indicates here that if Adam sinned he would die twice! . . . There are two kinds of death . . . physical and spiritual. In the Bible, the theological meaning of the word “death” is “separate.” The death of the body is the separation of soul and spirit from the body. The death of the soul and spirit is their separation from God. This is the death that Adam died, and in Adam we died also.”
The context behind this is that the disobedience of consuming the fruit was the second sin, the first being that Adam and Eve chose to not believe God was telling the truth. This invoked a double death or separation. Adam and Eve would experience in time a natural death but also a separation from God directly being cast from the Garden. This was not a punishment, rather a consequence of their actions.
What Was the Significance of the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden?
The forbidden fruit is a metaphor in the sense that it represented the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve knew what was good, for they were in perfection itself in Eden. They had not only a good marriage but a perfect one without flaw. We are told that shame did not exist in this perfection, there were no flaws. The fruit, though it resembled food, represented far more. The fruit represented an alternate reality: separation from God. It represented the coherent choice to believe God was holding something back from humanity. The fruit hosted the option to sin, and Adam and Eve both made the choice to take part in sin.
This story of the original sin and the forbidden fruit is important for mankind today to learn from. We may not always understand specifically why God asks us to do something, but we must trust Him. Adam and Eve did not trust God, they fell into the sin that the serpent knew better than God, and they endured the consequence of their sins. Following His commands and walking in obedience will always, in the long run, be the best route because God sincerely wants His best for us. It is also vital for us to remember that despite our separation and death in sin along with the original Adam, we are given new life and forgiveness when we choose to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose again in order to forgive not only the sins of Adam and Eve but the sins of all mankind for all time.
Walking in obedience to God will always lead to His best for you. Eden in all its paradise was forfeited because of the conscious act of falling into sin by not trusting God and consuming the forbidden fruit. Proverbs 3:5-6 shares, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all ways, seek Him, and He will make your path straight.”
- desiringGod.org, History’s Most Misunderstood Tree
- Biblesprout.com, Forbidden Fruit
- Biblestudytools.com, NIV Bible: Genesis 2-3
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/olga_d
Cally Logan is an author and US History teacher from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys mentoring youth and spending time in nature. She is the author of Hang on in There, Girl! and Dear Future Husband: A Love Letter Journey While Waiting for God’s Best. Check her out on Instagram and Twitter, @CallyLogan and TikTok Cally_Logan.
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