My brother recently started reading Genesis for the first time. Not a believer, he’s curious to know what’s in the Bible. A few chapters in, he started grappling with a question that many of us have also asked ourselves. “If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to eat the fruit, why did He put the tree there in the first place?”
At first glance, it might seem like the ultimate form of entrapment. Perhaps it feels like God decided to play a game of cat and mouse with His new creations for the sake of His own amusement. Or maybe it feels like God was conducting a divine experiment, the outcome of which He did not yet know. Nothing could be further from the truth. God had a perfect plan for the trees.
Yes, trees. There were two special trees in the garden: the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Adam and Eve were only forbidden from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
There was nothing unfair or deceptive in God’s placing the trees in the center of the garden. Nothing that Adam and Eve needed was being withheld from them—at least nothing that would improve their lives. They had all that they could need. There was also nothing in God’s command that was beyond their capacity to keep it.
The garden was the place of perfect fellowship with God—a holy place. At the center were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was put in charge of the garden but he failed in his duties. He allowed a foul creature to desecrate the holy place and gave dominion of it to Satan by falling for his scheme and eating of the fruit. Sin did not originate with Adam; it originated with Satan. Adam had no predisposition to sin before the fall but He gave into the temptation from Satan (through Eve). It’s interesting how easily we can be made to believe that we “deserve” something we don’t have, and then disobey God to get it, rather than trust Him for what He has provided.
God would actually banish Adam and Eve from the garden for their protection so that they would not eat of the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). It they had eaten of that tree in their sinful state, they would have existed forever as fallen beings without hope.
God reveals His justice in condemning the serpent (Satan and his seed). He also reveals His mercy in dealing with Adam and Eve by providing a Way of salvation for the guilty. The first mention of the gospel in the Bible is in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (Jesus) will bruise you on the head (destroy evil forever) and you (Satan) shall bruise him on the heel (unsuccessfully attempt to destroy his plan).” The final outcome will be that those who are in Christ will live in a restored Eden (heaven) without the presence of evil.
Apart from a fuller understanding of Adam’s sin and its impact on all humanity, it is not possible to understand how Jesus’ sacrifice restores our fellowship with God. Jesus reverses the curses; He is the One who rescues the guilty, making it possible to “pass from death to life” — eternal life. (John 5:24)
Did God place the trees to trick Adam and Eve? Certainly not! God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is perfect in all of His ways. He is love. He has numbered every hair on our heads, and holds every one of our tears in a bottle. He knew us before the foundation of the world, knit us together in our mother’s wombs, and is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. God loved the world so much, that He gave his only Son as the payment for our sin, so that whoever believes in him could have eternal life.
So how can we let this grow our faith? First of all, take comfort that God doesn’t do anything lightly. He does it purposefully. He has our best interests at heart. When hard things happen, when awful tragedies strike, and when life seems its most unfair, God can be trusted. He will be faithful to you. His plans are perfect, and His motivation is that the world would come to see Him as He really is and glorify Him.
Secondly, He will not abandon you. I believe it is good to ask these questions of the Bible. Study reveals time and again the great lengths to which God will go to save and provide for His people. He has promised that He will not forsake you in your time of need. He is the God who saves.
And lastly, He longs to be in a relationship with you. Do not harden your heart. Today can be the day of your salvation. Accept the payment for your sin that Jesus made on the cross, and believe in Him for eternal life.
The tree of life means that God’s intent for humanity was always life and not death. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was there because God is holy and we are to obey him. Those who trust in Jesus Christ by faith will live in the restored Eden and partake of the tree of life.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)
(This post is co-authored by Betsy Corning and Laura Irion)