What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?

29 Mar 2015


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.) The disobedience of Adam and Eve is usually what gets our attention in this story, and this makes sense. Disobeying God is a serious matter.

But have you ever wondered what was so bad about eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? How could doing 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 whether they would obey Him?

Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the tree of knowledge, God couldn’t just look the other way. His righteousness required Him to punish them and banish them from the garden.

But is that the whole story?

The bigger problem

Suppose a bottle contains something poisonous, so a mother tells her child, “Don’t drink from this bottle. What’s in here is dangerous.” Does she give the child that commandment simply to test whether he will obey her or not? Of course she doesn’t. Her commandment is actually a loving warning. Let’s say the child disobeys and drinks from the bottle. Certainly his disobedience is a problem. But now, because he drank from the bottle, the child is 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 that they had disobeyed God. The bigger problem was what they took in and the effect it had on them. And because Adam represented all mankind, what happened there affected every human being.

Two trees in the garden of Eden

God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in order to protect them. He said that if they ate of that tree, they would die, because that tree represented Satan, the source of death.

But in the garden was another tree—the tree of life. The tree of life represented God, the source of life. This was the tree God wanted man to partake of to receive Him, the divine life.

As much as God deeply wanted to share His divine life with man, He wouldn’t force the man He created to eat of this tree. Instead, God wanted man to use his free will to choose Him. Man could heed God’s warning or not. It was up to him.

Satan deceiving Adam and Eve

God was honest with Adam and Eve, commanding them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that doing so would bring death to them. But God let them have the choice of which tree they would eat from.

Satan, on the contrary, was deceitful and came to Eve in the garden disguised as a serpent. He wanted Adam and Eve to disobey God because he knew that if they ate of the tree of knowledge, the human beings God created to express Him would take in the poison of his evil nature and be corrupted by sin and death forever.

Speaking craftily to Eve, Satan twisted God’s words and even lied outright, insinuating that God was withholding something good from Adam and Eve. He made Eve doubt God’s good heart for them. Genesis 3:6 tells us what happened next:

“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.”

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

Be sure to read the next post in this series to find out what these consequences were, how they affect our lives today, and what God did about it.

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