Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was prohibited by God. He commanded them not to eat or they would die when they ate. They ate.
Evil is more often used for moral violent corruptness, but good means anything pleasant or right. The tree is the tree of good and bad. Bad like good is a broad word including evil but also painful, adversity, rotten things.
Knowing bad is more than our sin. It includes:
- Sin and evil done by us and to us
- Thorns, difficulties, and pain in our lives
- Believing the lie to be truth, “knowing” evil
- Good and bad are our preferences not our reality.
Knowing Good and Bad
Ge 1:31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
“Good” means anything pleasing or worthy and includes righteousness. God made our world very good. Good is ṭôwb (טוֹב) means good, pleasant, well, etc. The Hebrew word means good in any sense.
Ge 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God’s garden is good, the trees are pleasing and good for food. “Evil” means corrupt or causing harm, wrong. The tree is about knowing good and bad. Bad is raʻ (רַע) means adversity, affliction, distress, rotted and evil. Good and bad means more than righteous and evil.
Ge 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
God declares it not good for man to be alone. “Good and bad” contains things that are neither righteous nor evil. Evil is different than bad but is bad. Eating the tree results in knowing evil and experiencing bad.
God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad (evil) is more than a test of faithfulness or a law to be disobeyed; it was a warning. Eating ends in death. It is a father warning his child not to play at the edge of a cliff or they might fall to their death.
Ge 3:4 The serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! 5 For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves waist coverings.
The Fall is disobedience and rebellion and more. It is the rejection of their true identity in a quest to find their own authentic self, to create their own meaning and purpose. They make their own meaning by rejecting God’s role and purpose for them. The tree looked able to make one wise. But instead of knowing, a true belief, that what God commands is true, they believed, “knew”, that the tree could make them wise.
Wise is what Satan promises. They will no longer be His creatures but find their own meaning. God told them that they would become meaningless, that they would die.
What does it mean to know good and bad? By disobedience and rebellion they suffer God’s judgement in death.
Adam and Eve, having eaten from the tree, have their eyes open. They are naked and exposed. They realize that they not only know bad, but they are bad.
Dr. Raymond Monroe is the Executive Vice President of The Steel Founders Society of America, a national technical and industry manufacturing association based near Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University and his PhD in Manufacturing Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic University. Raymond and Renee are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, IL where Raymond serves in teaching and leadership roles.