Lessons from Genesis: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

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“… but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17, NASB).

The history recorded in the second chapter of Genesis tells us that God formed man out of dirt and then placed him in a garden of God’s creation (2:7-8). The garden contained trees that were good for food and pleasing to the sight; including the tree of life which was the means by which God sustained Adam and Eve. However, in the garden was another tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil of which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat because it would lead to their death. This famous tree presented Adam and Eve with a choice; they could listen to the instructions of God or to the whispers of the serpent, “You will surely not die.”

I’ve often pondered how things would have been so much easier had God not planted that evil tree. Why was it there to begin with? Certainly its presence reveals how much God values free will and choice and, of course, we know that Adam and Eve ultimately chose to eat from the tree. We may be tempted, however, to ask what the big deal is with their choice to eat the fruit, after all, the tree was only off limits because God said it was. They ate the fruit, so what?

In my last post, I wrote about God blessing mankind through His creation. God created the universe, the sun, the earth, and all of creation because it was good for mankind … and then He prescribed the best way for us to live within that creation. In the case of Adam and Eve, the best way for them to live was to avoid the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God is free to issue such prescriptions because He is the God of creation. He and He alone is God. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit it was more than just a simple act of disobedience. They were asserting that they knew better than God Almighty Himself when it came to what was good for their lives. In his commentary on Genesis, Bruce Waltke writes, “”That famous tree symbolizes the ability to discern good (i.e., what advances life) and evil (i.e., what hinders life)” (p. 85).

And guess what folks, we’ve been eating from that tree ever since. God’s Word prescribes for us the best way to live our lives and yet we keep pretending to know better than Him. Sex, gluttony, hatred, lust, greed … when we choose to sin we are asserting that we know better than God what is good for us.

Surely we won’t die … right? 

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. When we claim to know more than God about what’s right and wrong for us we are choosing a route that will lead to our deaths. We would do well to learn the lesson of Job:

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ (Job 42:3-4). 

God alone knows what’s best for our lives. It takes tremendous audacity for us to presume to know more about our lives than the very God that created us. God is God and we are not. He has the right as the Lord of all creation to tell us what’s best for our lives. When we presume to know better, we are choosing spiritual death.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). 

The best way for us to live our lives is the way our Creator has told us to live our lives. We would do well to listen to Him … after all, He is God and we are not.

Related Posts: Lessons from Genesis: God Delights in Blessing Mankind