In our Sunday morning youth class we’ve been walking very slowly through the opening chapters of Genesis. It’s been 6 Sundays and we’re just now into chapter 3. There’s just so much there!
Anyway, it’s incredible how we often have those aha! moments in passages that we’ve read and read and read and have even taught and written about.
I had one of those last week.
I have often heard the question: Why did God put the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” there in the first place?
The assumption is that the tree itself was bad. The first humans were not allowed to eat of it. Ever. Never ever were they supposed to touch or eat of this tree because it was bad. God must have put it there because there could be no free will where there was temptation, i.e. God created temptation…?
But throughout the first chapter of Genesis, EVERYTHING God created was declared “good.” In fact, the only thing that was labeled as “not good” was the fact that the first man was alone. So follow this: 1. God created everything; 2. Everything God created was good; 3. God created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; 4. The tree itself was created GOOD.
God did not create anything bad or evil. So the Tree was good. But how can that be?
Listen to the language used to describe the first humans. They were naked and they felt no shame. They had no knowledge of good and evil. Their understanding of cause/effect and action/punishment were not highly developed. All of this sounds very child-like.
And notice in God’s command concerning the tree that he does not say, “For if you eat of it,” but “when you eat of it.” When the woman relays the command to the serpent, her version is very different. She says they aren’t supposed to eat it or even touch it or they will die.
So our first false assumption is that the tree was somehow bad or evil itself, thus God created temptation. Our second false assumption is that the garden was meant to be a permanent dwelling. We assume that the humans were never supposed to eat of the tree and thus live a blissfully ignorant, childlike existence forever in paradise.
On this assumption we fall more in line with the woman’s understanding of the world and less in line with God’s bigger picture. There would come a time when the humans would be ready to eat of the tree, leave the garden, and face the world on there own. Much like there comes a time when it’s up to the child to leave his parents and make it on his own out in the world.
So the tree was good, and there is indication that they would one day be ready to eat of it and leave the garden. The real problem came when they were enticed by the serpent to eat of the tree before it was time. They didn’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. They didn’t truly grasp cause and effect. They weren’t ready.
The good news is that the garden makes a reappearance. All the way at the end of Revelation, John describes his vision of a city coming down from heaven. The tree of life was at its center. The garden has now become a city. So not only was the garden not intended to be a permanent dwelling place, but the garden itself had changed and grown and evolved into a city – which is a permanent dwelling.
The tree of life is there, but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This city is built for those who have eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge but have proved themselves worthy to eat of the the tree of life once again.