“In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Gen. 2:10
Sometimes things jump out when I read the Bible. Two days ago, I was reading Genesis, and it struck me:
There were two trees mentioned in the garden
The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….
and God only told Adam and Eve they could not eat from one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God did not forbid them to eat of the tree of life.
That suggests that they could have eaten of the tree of life without prohibition, and it struck me: What if Adam and Eve had chosen life? Would there have been a fall? Would God have allowed them to remain in the garden with the tree of knowledge after having partaken of the tree of life?
We can only speculate because Genesis tells us Adam and Eve chose knowledge instead of life. They were drawn to the one tree that God forbade them to eat. It dawns on me that the very act of choosing was a sort of an introduction to that knowledge, and I suspect God knew that they would choose it: the one thing He told them they could not have. What is it in us that we are drawn to the things that we cannot have? Why are we drawn to the things we know we should not have, even over the things that we would rather have?
I suppose some people might choose knowledge again, even knowing that life would be forfeited. Even so, one theme of great literature and art over the centuries is a longing for eternal life. The fountain of youth is the coveted grail. Nothing strikes more darkly at the heart than the certainty of death and takes more of toil on the human heart than the loss of a loved one to its clutches.
I am certain that God foresaw and knew the path that His crowning creation would take. We are created in God’s image and for a purpose higher than our own designs. God must have known that Adam and Eve may have chosen (wold choose?) knowledge over life. He gave them that choice, and he must have been prepared to respond to it. In that sense, it seems to me that knowledge was a part of the plan, even if meant that we would be separated from life and separate from God by it.
Ironic it is that partaking in the knowledge of good and evil would mean loss of fellowship with God and loss of a personal knowledge of God.
It had to be part of God’s plan as, without the ability to choose, and without the knowledge of good and evil, there would be no truly free will, and without free will, no true love. There would be no place for God’s mercy, no reason for Him to extend it. Without the knowledge of good evil and the opportunity to exercise truly free will, people would be one directional beings, not different in kind from every other animal, unable to appreciate God or to love Him fully.
Knowledge, however, could only come with a price. After gaining the knowledge of good and evil, there would need to be additional work done in the hearts of men, work which could not have been done without that knowledge, work that could not have been accomplished if knowledge were combined with eternal life, work that could take root only in the shadow of inevitable death, separation from God and the need for God’s redemptive mercy.
I do not believe that God could have (or would have) allowed the knowledge of good and evil to be gained along with eternal life. Knowledge, alone, puffs up. Indeed, it was the temptation to know what God knows and to be like God that induced Eve to eat. Sin, separation from God, toil, pain and inevitably death remind us that we are not in control, that knowledge, alone, cannot save us from this condition – that we are the creatures and not the Creator.
Knowledge alone does not make us like God. It does not ensure character, heart, mercy, justice, kindness, goodness and ultimately love. Those things must be chosen, and evil must be rejected. The knowledge of good and evil ensures that there is a choice to be made. It cannot be avoided. And in having to make the choice to embrace good, even though the tendency of man is to choose that which is forbidden, is where God meets the heart and does His work.
God placed the trees side by side; He forbade one, but made them both available. God made eternal life available in the Garden, and He makes it available to us still. God put eternity in the hearts of men. (Eccl. 3:11) He gave us the desire for eternal life. God desires that no one perish; and that all come to eternal life. (John 3:16) … but, men must choose. We must choose God, who is good, and His ways over ourselves and our ways. We must choose the merciful redemption of God, embrace the goodness of God and reject our own ways.
In the end, believers will have both knowledge and life, and that life that God gives freely will be given precisely because we choose goodness – because we choose God. The knowledge that was chosen in disobedience to God puts the horrible responsibility on us to choose, and by choosing, to end up with goodness and God for eternity … or separation from God. It would have been so much simpler and better for us if we had chosen life, instead of knowledge. Instead, it is a matter of life and death.