The Tree of Knowledge of Good And Evil

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | June 17, 2024

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.”   
Genesis 2:16-17

“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.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Genesis 3:4-6

“Knowledge is power” often implies knowledge will make us successful and better human beings. In many settings, this principle is helpful. However, it can take on a darker meaning. Have you ever met someone who thinks they are the smartest person in the room, no matter what room they are in? Driven by self-importance, these people believe their superior wisdom entitles them to make the rules. Such arrogance has its roots in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve coveted knowledge that would make them like God.

The serpent, cunningly aware of how to manipulate Adam and Eve, suggested that God was limiting their power by denying them access to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He insinuated that if they ate from the tree, they would gain the knowledge necessary for making their own rules. Armed with this knowledge, Adam and Eve would be like God. Swayed by the serpent’s deception, they ate from the tree. 

Their choice had profound consequences. Despite knowing God personally, they willingly traded their relationship with him for a lie. They did not immediately experience physical death, but they did undergo a spiritual and relational death. Out of kindness, God put them out of the garden so they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in this fallen state (Gen. 3:22-24).

Thankfully, Jesus, the ‘second Adam’, came to reverse the curse of death. Just as we inherited a sinful nature through Adam’s disobedience, we are made righteous through Jesus’ obedience (Rom. 5:19). Since death entered the world through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man (1 Corinthians 15:21). 

Ironically, when God created Adam and Eve in His image, He did so to make them like Him. Our ability to reason may be part of what it means to be made in God’s image. Reasoning and knowledge are blessings if they do not lead us to defy God. 

Like Adam and Eve, there are times when I act as though I know what I need better than God does. Sometimes, I do not pray for His input because I think He will say no. Other times, I do what I want, pretending He is unaware. Then I hide like Adam and Eve. That is when I need to be reminded I am not helpless when tempted. If I allow it, the Holy Spirit will provide weapons to take my deceptive thoughts captive and transform me by renewing my mind. 

Next Steps

Compare Genesis 3:1-6 with Genesis 2:16-17. Notice the serpent opened with the phrase, “Did God really say…” How did he change God’s command? Eve corrected him, but what extra restriction did she add? Have you had a “Did God really say?” moment where you questioned the fairness of God’s commands? 

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