Reconsidering Genesis – My Theory on the Tree

Udawalawe National Park

This notion of the tree of knowledge being so tempting and desirable to Adam and Eve has been bugging me lately.  Why was it so very tempting to them if God clearly told them not to eat it?  Was it that these trees, the one of knowledge and the one of life, were more aesthetically pleasing than any other trees in the garden?  Did the leaves have different shades of all the colors of the rainbow?  Did they glow in the dark?  Perhaps every time we consider this story, we tend to treat the temptation too superficially.  We often think of this story in terms of Adam and Eve being like children, when the temptation itself expresses the inner prideful desires we have even before we act out in sin.  The temptation to eat the fruit of knowledge was the temptation to be like God–to know right from wrong and to have authority over it.  We want to decide for ourselves what consititutes right from wrong.

Rather than blaming the serpent for Eve’s mistake, we should really be asking this question, “What temptation already lay within both Adam and Eve that was pushed over by Satan?”  Because, it’s the enemy that always provides outside encouragement for an inner temptation anyhow.  Temptation wouldn’t be what it is if a person, you or me, hadn’t already desired whatever it is within ourselves.  Therefore, what we should be looking into further is the desire Adam and Eve had shared prior to any third party pushing them along their own passions.

Imagine being the first humans on Earth.  God created you with His image implanted on you–the freedom of will, the sense of value, purity of thoughts, and good nature.  Sin is not even a thought on your mind, for all you know is holy.  Nakedness doesn’t exist, although nude is what you are, because there is no shame for being exposed–everything is good.  However, in this beautiful abode you are shown a tree that appears no visually different than any other.  It is just as pleasing to your appetite as every other tree, and appealing it remains.  God points out this tree, though, in the middle of the garden and reveals that its fruit bears the knowledge of good and evil–the qualities of this fruit have now set this tree apart from the rest.  Another tree like it has been revealed to possess qualities giving those who eat of it life.

Stop right there!  These two characteristics, knowledge of morality (righteousness) and eternal life, have until now been solely under the authority of God, your Father.  Until the creation of these two trees only God had access to righteousness and life, He has since been your source of them–you trust Him for that.  However, you  now have access to this knowledge, to this life, in a created form.  Now, though, God decides to command you not to eat of them–you trust Him–He has always been good to you and given you life.  But something stirs within, for the likeness of God you possess doesn’t seem good enough with this option available.  Rather than trusting in God for these very essential qualities, you now have the desire to trust yourself for them.  I wonder–isn’t this the very state we see the world in?  Doesn’t the world around us seek the authority of righteousness, being able to define right from wrong?  Isn’t that one of the primary traits of atheism?

God tells you not to eat the fruit, and for the most part that command is sufficient for you to abstain from this inward desire.  But then another creature lures your eyes upon the fruit you had already found desirable.  Your heart beats faster, your body becomes warm, and your mind becomes foggy as you become entranced by this delicious delight.  The serpent asks Eve all the right questions, and her desire for the fruit is already so strong that her response isn’t even quite accurate.

“Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

…asks the serpent…

“From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)

…responds Eve.  Wait a minute!  Does God actually say that?

…you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:17b)

…was God’s actual warning.  Eve was so caught up in her temptation for eating this fruit that her reiteration of God’s warning was a manipulative way of implying, in a sense, that God was being unreasonable.  The persuasive approach Satan takes in tempting Eve affirms my theory when he says,

You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)

God was hurt after they ate.  He was heartbroken.  He wasn’t offended that they disobeyed, but because of His great love for them He was absolutely devastated–for He knew the damage it would create in them, between each other and between them and Himself.  As He asked about the situation, all they did, after covering themselves up their newly realized nakedness in their own way after experiencing shame for the first time, was to appease their own guilt by blaming the other party–scapegoating their sin.

They could no longer live in Eden–not because God “punished” them, as is usually the interpretation, but because they were forever changed within.  They had become mortals doomed to death.  God removed the temptation of the trees, primarily the current focus being the tree of life, so they could once again rely on Him as their source of life and righteousness.  They’re human, they are not supposed to have the knowledge of evil.  And, their pursuit of acquiring authority over morality only engulfed them in the consequence of its power.

Adam and Eve, just like us, were not equal to God.  We simply cannot handle the power of evil.  We don’t hold the keys over death–it is greater than us.  God, however, possesses the authority of life and death, and He undoes the eternal gash Adam and Eve made in our humanity with Jesus Christ–power over life and death in and through the resurrection!

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10 responses to “Reconsidering Genesis – My Theory on the Tree

  1. beautifully discussed. we usually dont ponder on this subject, as you said yourself. loved your point of view, i too am not much of a blind follower type so i can understand their psychology a bit.

  2. Hi Christopher,

    Great post and what an interesting theory! I’m leaning toward disagreeing with you, but only by a few degrees (unless I am misunderstanding your reasoning). I agree that the possibility (seed) of being tempted was already within Eve, but Satan more than implied that God was being unreasonable from the get-go (v 1).

    In Eve’s defense, she was firm in stating God’s command (v 3a). She even prefaced this by noting that God gave her and Adam a degree of liberty of eating fruit from most of the trees (v 2). When she said, “you must not touch it”, I don’t think she was saying God’s commandment was too strict. I believe she was being resolute.

    However, I think her biggest mistake was what she meant when she said, “you will die”. As evidenced by tone and wording, she was not as adamant and firm when describing the consequence of disobeying God. God was definite: “you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Eve’s lax attitude seemed to be: “God forbid the fruit from this tree because it’s probably poisonous. It may make us sick and we will die from it.” (Or something like this; as if it the command wasn’t a big deal). This is where I think she may have been implying that God was being unreasonable. She gave Satan an opening and he walked right in (v 4)!

    So I guess the difference between your argument and my argument is to what degree was Eve implying that God was being unreasonable. Thanks for letting me share!

  3. Great post! This part particularly resonated with me, having had a very similar conversation recently with a friend:

    “We often think of this story in terms of Adam and Eve being like children, when the temptation itself expresses the inner prideful desires we have even before we act out in sin. The temptation to eat the fruit of knowledge was the temptation to be like God–to know right from wrong and to have authority over it.”

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  6. Good stuff, Chris. I agree with you in that Eve’s response shows what little she understood about the command not to eat. I hear a lot of fear in her response, too. A couple of things stuck my attention: 1. The difference between being “naked” and “nude”. Is there something inherently wrong with nakedness, after all, was that not the word used to describe pre-fall man & woman- naked and unashamed? 2. I was interested to read about us “not supposed to have the knowledge of evil.” That was strong and provocative.

    Bonhoeffer said that every sermon should include a “hint of heresy”, and I see this in your writing. He meant that pastors (and writers!) get into the habit of rehearsing what everybody already knows to be true. We are prone to commit the sin of making the things of God boring. I like your resistance to this. You’re bold to go and re-think what we have long-since closed the book on and I salute you for it!

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff in the future!

    • Btw, thanks for giving this commenting after giving this some thought! I like that statement from Bonhoeffer, and agree–having a hint of heresy doesn’t mean you blaspheme God, but rather question our understanding of His revelation. We need to understand that what we hold as dogma may very well be interpretations that man has produced, even sincerely.

      On the note about ‘naked’ vs ‘nude’:: From the very first mention in Genesis 2, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed”, correlates shame with nakedness. As the reader, we already understand in our post-fallen present the amount of exposure of a person being alluded to here. The writer of Genesis even has that note, “and were not ashamed”, to convey the purity of this time in the Garden. References to nakedness from that point on were based on a person’s private self, things that should be kept private. They “knew” they were naked upon eating, although they were married and had only known God also. Here’s a quick search on “naked” from Bible Gateway–

      http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=naked&qs_version=NASB

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