What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? Part 1

10 Jun 2013

Most of us are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. (If you’d like a refresher, you can read it here.) Adam and Eve disobeying God is usually what gets our attention in this story, and rightfully so. Disobeying God is a serious matter.

But have you ever wondered what was so bad about eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge? How could that lead to the fall of all mankind? And when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of that tree, was He testing them, just to see if they would obey Him?

Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of that tree, God couldn’t simply look the other way. He had to punish them and banish them from the garden.

But is that the whole story?

The bigger problem

Suppose a mother tells her child, “Don’t drink from this bottle. It’s dangerous.” She says that because the bottle contains something poisonous. Is that commandment just a test? Of course it isn’t. The mother’s commandment is actually a loving warning. If the child disobeys and drinks from the bottle, certainly that disobedience is a problem. But now the child has been poisoned—and that’s a much bigger problem.

This is very similar to the situation in the garden with Adam and Eve. The problem wasn’t just their disobedience. The bigger problem was what they took in.

Two trees

God’s command to Adam and Eve, who represented all mankind, was to protect them from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That poisonous tree represented Satan, the source of death.

Satan, God’s enemy, wanted Adam and Eve to disobey God because he knew that by eating of the tree of knowledge, they would take in his evil nature and be corrupted by sin and death forever.

But besides the tree of knowledge, another tree was also in the garden—the tree of life. That tree represented God, the source of life. God wanted man to partake of the tree of life to receive Him, the divine life.

But God wanted man to use his free will to choose Him. Man could listen to God’s warning or not. It was up to him.

What Adam and Eve took in

Satan came to Eve disguised as a serpent and spoke craftily to her. Twisting God’s words and even speaking outright lies, he insinuated that God was withholding something good from the couple. He made Eve doubt God’s good heart for them.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make oneself wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)

By disobeying God, Adam and Eve took in the poisonous nature of the devil, represented by that tree. The consequences of what they did were profound, affecting every one of us even today.

Be sure to read the second post of this series to find out what these consequences were, how they affect our lives today, and what is God’s way of dealing with them.

This post is based on chapter 1 of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, vol. 1. Bibles for America gives this book away for free; order your free copy here. You can also download a PDF version from the publisher here.

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