WHAT DOES THE ‘TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL’ MEAN?

In Genesis 2:17, God said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”. Why didn’t God want Adam and Eve to know good and evil? Isn’t that the one tree that they should have eaten out of? If you were God, wouldn’t you have said, “whatever you do, be sure to have a bite everyday of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because i want you to know what’s right or wrong. the other question that it raises is, what’s this business about, “the day you eat of it, you’ll surely die. Well they didn’t drop over and die; instead we know they lived on and populated the earth after that. Adam in particular whose age is mentioned as 900 something died a long time after this. Well, here the key to understand this is to know the meaning of some of the terminology, and how it is used. It is not complicated to do; first what you need to know is this – in the Semitic language, the style of speech called ‘Merism’ is widely used and a very popular figure of speech. ‘Merism’ is an expression of totality by means of polarity, polarity > opposites, and totality > everything. An example of Merism in the Bible is the verse, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) which means “I have totally taken your sins away.” You use two polar opposites, east and west to indicate totality. Another is the statement in Psalms 139, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! Does that mean that God is only in the highest heaven, or in the lowest hell (sheol)? No. He’s everywhere! It’s a way of saying God is everywhere. Or in Psalm 121:8, “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” – does that mean it’s only when you are in your threshold that God blesses you, and otherwise, no? No, it means God will bless everything about you in your life. This is simply a classic and typical Hebrew Merism. So, ‘good and evil’ means ‘All Knowledge’. That is what the ‘Tree’ represented. It represented the temptation to want to know everything. Did it happen? Yes, in fact it did. What happened to human beings in their sin against God is that they followed the temptation of Satan. What did Satan say to them? “God knows that if you eat of that tree, you’ll be like God knowing everything.” – that’s what Satan says, “your eyes will be opened” (cf. Gen. 3:5). So what happened was, human beings got this huge amount of knowledge. But what’s the problem with having a lot of wisdom or knowledge? Well, the problem is, the human dilemma now existing since the fall is that humans have a lot of knowledge more than they know how to handle – that’s what really happened with the Fall. Human beings got all kinds of knowledge that they do not have the moral and ethical ability to use appropriately. What happened to Adam and Eve is that suddenly they got all kinds of embarassment about sexuality and so on. They became afraid of God that they hid from Him. They tried to cheat Him, they tried to fool Him. They did all sorts of things that wouldn’t be necessary had they not sinned against Him

In modern times, man now has the ability to harness nuclear power, and how would they use it? Well, they can use it for good as in the generation of electricity. But they can also use it for ill, to make thousand of bombs in their arsenal ready to kill as many people on the face of the earth as possible. Or fire, you can use it for good or for bad; you can warm yourself with it, or the arsonist in you can burn down your own house. Or gunpowder, or a knife, or an axe, or anything there is – human beings can figure out either to use it not just for good but for bad. So that’s the human dilemma – we have more knowledge than we can handle. We have a lot of intellectual capacity and a very low level of moral capacity, and conflict always occurs as a result. But there’s a second result to the Fall, and that is – although Adam and Eve did not die on that day, but they became mortals, and that’s the consequence of the Fall – Mortality (cf. Romans 3:23). People now live with the constant awareness that they’re going to die sooner than they would like to, and death governs people’s lives. And you’ll see ageing people frantically trying to relive their youth; or people frantically trying to fulfill their lusts of sorts before death catches up on them. And you have people with various kinds of sinful attitudes that come from the recognition of their mortality, as it constantly haunts them. But then there’s also the good recognition of mortality – the fact that we’re all going to die, and that’s foolish to try to build up wealth and prosperity, and everything in this life. The problem is, that kind of good recognition of mortality only comes when people really know the rest of the story which is, God’s Plan of Redemption (cf. Gen. 3:15). So, the good emphasis of mortality is that it drives you to seek God for the answer to the question, “Am I just going to die like any other animal, and that’s it?” And so for those people who turn to God, and get the answer through Christ, Yes you can live forever, though this mortal body that you’re in now cannot live forever; that’s for sure. That’s a wonderful thing, that’s positive but sadly, most people don’t approach the question that way. Most people just say, “Okay, I’m going to die as we all are, so what I’m going to do is to live it up now”, and awful selfish behavior comes out of that recognition of the inevitability of mortality. So, the Fall has two consequences at least: more knowledge than we can handle and the sentence of judgment of mortality. And of course this judgment sentence is carried out individually in each person’s life depending on how God opts to terminate that life, and at what time.