There were Two Trees in the Garden
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing 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 2:8-9; NASB)
The book of Genesis is also known as the book of Beginnings. In it we read not only about the creations of the heavens and the Earth, but we also read about the beginning of Gods relationship with mankind. Through its stories, we learn of the splendor of God and His creation, the subsequent fall of that creation, and the forces God set in motion to restore His fallen creation. All of the history of the world that has since followed is but the mere outworking of Gods plan of redemption, and a continuation of the themes that begin in the book of Genesis.
Far from being merely a collection of mythological stories that simply explain the primitive origins of the universe and the Hebrew nation, as some critics regard it, the book of Genesis describes historical events whose themes are repeated ten-thousand times over, not only within the framework of Scripture and history, but are repeated time and time again within our individual lives. As the apostle Paul said, Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11) These events were written not simply for historical purposes, rather, they were written to preach to us, so that through the patterns they establish we might understand what is going on in our age and within our lives. Armed with this understanding, I believe we can glean some practical insight from the drama that unfolded in the garden of Eden, and apply it to our daily lives.
In Genesis 1-3, God created all of the world and placed mankind within a beautiful garden named Eden. Eden was a place of pleasure and delight. At the heart of the garden, God planted two trees. One tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The other tree was called the tree of life. Of these two trees, God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, promising the day they ate of the tree, they would surely die. And, as we all know, Adam and Eve eventually did eat the fruit forbidden to them.
Of course, this story helps us understand the classical Christian doctrine of original sin, and why we live in a world where misery and death rule and reign. Simply put, God told Adam and Eve that there would be consequences for eating the tree forbidden to them. The choice they made in the garden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil allowed sin to enter this world, killing mankind not only spiritually, but physically as well. Ten out of ten people die today because of the choice Adam and Eve made in the garden.
It is my conviction, that though our lives are far removed from the paradise that was the garden of Eden, that every single one of us still find ourselves in a scenario not too unlike what Adam and Eve were placed in. Though we are no longer in a literal garden named Eden, we still are born into this world, and in a sense, the place where God has placed us can be considered our Eden. Where we live is our Eden in the sense that we were born into is the place of Gods choosing, and we have been given a stewardship to tend to the things God has placed in our lives, just as Adam and Eve were. Likewise, while we dont have a literal tree of knowledge of good and evil and a tree of life to eat from anymore, I believe the things that those two trees represent are still available to us today, and like Adam and Eve, I believe we still have the daily ability to choose from which tree we will eat.
What exactly did the two trees represent in the garden of Eden? Of course, we know the names God gave to them. But why were they named such? Why did one tree have the ability to give the knowledge of good and evil, but by imparting such knowledge, kill those who ate of it? Why did the other tree have the ability to nourish those who ate of its fruit, and give life to them? Such, the text of Genesis never directly explains. Because God said so, is about the closest thing we get directly from the text. But with that said, I believe we can still carefully deduce a practical application from the actions and attitudes of everything that transpired in the garden of Eden.
This may come as a shock to you the reader, but, in and of themselves, I dont believe there was anything particularly magical about either of the two trees in the center of Eden. In and of themselves, I dont believe either tree had any special trait, characteristic, or power that made one have the ability to give knowledge and the other to give life. Quite the contrary, in and of themselves, I believe both trees were just trees. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Contrary to having any mystical powers in themselves, the power released from either tree was simply a reflection of where Adam and Eve stood with God in their relationship to Him. If Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of life, such was a reflection of their dependence upon God for His grace to sustain their very lives. Thus, in eating of the tree of life, they lived. But if Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, such was a confession of their willingness to act independent from God in their relationship to Him. For God had forbidden them to eat from that tree. Thus, when they ate of that tree, with the knowledge they obtained independent of God, entirely apart from His grace, death set in. For God created this world for us to be entirely dependent upon Him in order to live. But when man declared his willingness to act independently from God, there was room for nothing but death, as man cannot live apart from being in a right relationship to God.
You see, the tree of knowledge of good and evil didnt have any unique wisdom or knowledge stored inside of its fruit. Contrary to the lie of Satan, God wasnt withholding any good thing from Adam and Eve. The only knowledge that Adam and Eve would gain from eating of the tree is the knowledge of what it is like to live life independently from God. That is how they would come to know both good and evil. The good God had already blessed them with in abundance, as everything God had created was good. But the evil they would only know through their willingness to act independent of Him.
In their revolt against God and expulsion from the garden, Adam and Eve were cursed to know nothing but pain, misery, and perversion. Thus, man in his independence from God would be forced to sustain his own life by sweet of his brow. Women would experience pain in child birth, yet, they would still have a desire for their husband. And having known nothing but everlasting life, Adam and Eve would one day see a life come to an end, when they discovered the dead body of Abel, who had been slain at the hand of his brother Cain. And one day, they themselves would die. From dust they came, and to dust they returned. And all for what? To know what it was like to act independently, and to be like God?
God never desired for Adam and Eve to know this way of life. Such is why they were commanded to not eat of the tree of knowledge. God was not robbing man in withholding such knowledge from him. For God knew that by gaining the knowledge of what it was like to act independent from God, that man would only be robbing himself, as independent from God, he would ultimately lose not only his life, but his intimate and personal knowledge of God, who alone could sustain life. There is nothing to gain in death.
Therefore my brothers and sisters in Christ, in light of this essay, consider your attitude towards God, and the fruit of the trees that are available for you to eat from in your own life. Though the two trees at the center of Eden are long gone, those two trees still exist for our consumption. We can embrace Christ, who is our tree of life, and confess our dependence upon being a partaker of Him. Or, we can choose to act independently of Him, and through our sin, gain a knowledge of things God simply does not want us to experience. We may believe the fruit we are going to partake of will bring us some sort of delight, as Eve was deceived into believing. But contrary to what Satan would have us believe, the wages of sin have always, and will always be death.
I have set before you the way of life and death, the blessing and the curse. I would urge you, in everything you do, choose life.