And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Yesterday, we covered the idyllic conditions of the Garden of Eden and why those conditions initially existed. In Genesis 2:9 we are given more detail about the choice God gave the first human beings.
Two distinct trees were planted in the garden separate from all the others. The first tree was called “the tree of life,” and the second tree was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The first humans were told that “every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:16-17). God’s intent was for them to eat from the “tree of life,” which would eventually result in eternal life (Genesis 3:22).
But God gave them a choice. He didn’t want humanity to obey Him because they were like robots, programmed to do what He said, or because they had no option or opportunity to make another choice. God put them in the garden, showed them the perfect benefits and blessings of living under His government—and then presented them with the choice.
They had to decide, in essence, whether to choose God’s way and live a perfect, blessed life and eventually live forever, or choose another way and live with the consequences of a life cut off from God. This was the same basic choice He gave the nation of Israel: “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15).
Let’s look closer at what these trees symbolized:
- The tree of life ultimately symbolized the way of life that would eventually lead to eternal life (Genesis 3:22). It represented the entire way of life characterized by dependence on, guidance from and obedience toward the true God (Deuteronomy 30:16). This essentially describes the life of a person “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit is the source of eternal life (John 6:63; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Galatians 6:8).
- The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented the way of life that would eventually lead to death (Genesis 3:17). This is the way of life characterized by rejection of God and His guidance (Romans 1:28; 8:7; Colossians 1:21) and living life driven by self-will (Proverbs 14:12; Judges 21:25; Romans 2:8). We should also note that God specifically labeled this tree “the knowledge of good and evil” (emphasis added). Even when mankind operates apart from God, good can occasionally be chosen and produced. But sin (the result of living outside of God and His law) still results in death (Romans 6:23).
This was the choice set before the first human beings. The stakes were high. Their decision would set the course of all human history that would follow them. Unfortunately, they made the wrong choice.
The same choice is still set before us. We still have two trees—or ways of life—to choose from. Jesus Christ set the choice before us, using slightly different wording: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Whatever terminology is used—two trees, two ways or two gates—the same essential decision stands before us today.
Which tree have you chosen to eat? Read more about the right choice in the article about “The Tree of Life.”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Man’s Need for a Helper.”