The Ark

What was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Wed February 21st, 2018

In the centre of the garden of Eden were two trees – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The first tree we see fulfilled in Jesus – we gain eternal life from Him. What was the second tree though and does it have any impact on us today?


For some reason the apple has culturally become a representation of the fruit of this tree, but I think that the basis for that is in English culture that the apple is the common fruit, but John Goldingay, Old Testament theologian suggests we would be better calling it an apricot as that was what was common in that part of the world.

People ask what would this fruit have been like, but that is almost irrelevant, as it isn’t the fruit of the tree that was necessarily unique but the word spoken over it.

Genesis 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

It wasn’t the fruit that carried something insidious and damaging – it was the eating of it that did! In other words God could have said this over an apricot tree, and apple tree or any sort of tree – but if you ate from that particular one death would result. That isn’t to say that it couldn’t have had a unique fruit, but it certainly wasn’t necessary that it did.

Let’s examine what God said:

Genesis 3 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.


There was no ban on eating from any other tree – especially the tree of life, only the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What a wonderful state Adam and Eve were in that good and evil were not an issue to them. Can you remember as a child not worrying about thieves, violence or perverts? How wonderful it would be to not have locks on our doors (maybe not have doors at all?) That state of naivety is long gone, and it is so because of our belief that God was keeping something special from us. That was the devil’s strategy – to convince us that the reason for the prohibition was so God could keep it for himself, when it was because God didn’t want to inflict it on us! That we would be as God being aware of good and evil seemed like a tempting offer, but it was a burden we were not designed to bare. God is judge and at the end of time he will bring a fair accounting to all, but we are not in a position to judge in that way, yet the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil demands that we judge.


So, we judge that you are better off by the brand of car parked in your drive, by the watch on your wrist, the phone you carry and the designer name on your clothes. We judge that we are good according to our own standards and we judge that you are less good by those same standards. We produce a pecking order in our own minds and plan what you should pay for not meeting our standards and what we think should happen to you in our judgement.

You are different to us so we consider you to be less than we are. In our judgement you are not as good to your children as we are to ours, and God cannot think as highly of you as he does us. After all, we are not guilty of the sin we know that you have committed – our own sins are not as heinous as yours.


The issues we face in life can all be traced back to our ancestors’ choice of which tree to eat from. How much better if they had been content with the tree of life? The tree of life produces the fruit of love. We want everything and everyone around us to share this life and we choose to love them because our tree of life - Jesus – has told us to love them.

The only way forward from our obsession with judgement is to eat from the tree of life and to love.

Matt 7v1-3 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?

Focussing on the tree of knowledge of good and evil makes us look for splinters and ignore great big planks of wood. Focussing on the tree of life enables us to do what Jesus said and not judge. It’s hard – because it is engrained in us, but with consistent application it can be done.

When we had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, why did God ban us from Eden? – Because it would have been a living hell to then eat from the tree of life. We would have been eternally kept in a fallen state and preserved in a judgmental nature. God then offers us a way to the tree of life where we stumble along the way, where we bow before Jesus and repent of our judgmentalism – the way of the cross – the way in which we choose life, just as our ancestors chose death.


Church Growth

If there is one thing that hinders church growth it is the judgmentalism of some people in church. When we came to Christ most of us were in a terrible state, but we sometimes are very intolerant of other people in the same position. In church we need to be loath to judge but quick to love. Loving people when they come through the door whether they are from our culture or not, share our sexual morals or not, in fact whether they have any of our values – on NOT, is what the church needs to do to grow. We do not say behave like us and then you can belong, but we first invite people to belong, having faith that the Holy Spirit will teach them how to behave.

Turning away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a one-time thing, but a lifetimes commitment, and we all need to remember that we should love rather than judge and that the life offered by Jesus is the ultimate and most desirable thing.