Gen 2:9 Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
While these have, for the most part, been understood as two separate trees, I believe they are the same tree, and the difference they represent is the difference between man operating in the flesh toward God, and God operating in the spirit toward man. These two trees are two facets of our God, which we can trace progressively throughout scripture. The first picture God paints of these two facets is of course recorded here in Genesis. We have no problem identifying the tree of life as representing the life of God, for God is life. However, by progressive revelation, God shows us the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is also representative of God. In other words, just as God is life and is the source of it, he is also the source of good AND evil, and that which results from it, death.
Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Jer 32:42 For thus says Yahweh: Like as I have brought all this great evil on this people, so will I bring on them all the good that I have promised them.
Mic 1:12 For the inhabitant of Maroth waits anxiously for good, because evil has come down from Yahweh to the gate of Jerusalem.
Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create evil. I am Yahweh, who does all these things.
Lam 3:38 Doesn’t evil and good come out of the mouth of the Most High?
Consider that God acknowledged what the serpent knew already, that God knew good and evil, even before Adam and Eve sinned.
Gen 3:5 for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Gen 3:22 Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil."
I know most will object to this, because they do not understand what evil is. Let me just say that evil is not the same as sin, or wickedness. Sin and wickedness are evil, but evil is not necessarily those things. Good and evil come from God, but not sin and wickedness. There is a big difference.
The word "and" that is inserted between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not used here to indicate two separate trees in the middle of the garden. There is only one tree specifically mentioned in the middle of the garden here. It is the tree of life. The one tree has two aspects, one as a tree of life, "and" the other as a tree of knowledge. They are one tree in essence, with two different results that grow out of it, coming from how man would relate to the tree. The tree is meant for life, but it ended up resulting in death. We will see this also concerning the next picture God gives, the law covenant.
We can find this same idea of two different things spoken of as coming from one essence in other scriptures. Consider the following:
Gen 9:2 And the fear of you and dismay due to you shall come on every living animal of the earth, [aspect one covering everything] even on every flyer of the heavens, and in all which is moving on the ground, and in all the fishes of the sea. [aspect 2]
Psa 31:11 Because of all my foes I became a reproach, [aspect 1] Even to my neighbors, [aspect 2] exceedingly so, And an alarm to my close acquaintances; Those seeing me in the street would bolt away from me."
Psa 71:23 My lips [aspect 1] shall be jubilant when I make melody to You, Even my soul, [aspect 2] which You have ransomed."
In each example, we can see that although 2 separate things are being spoken of, they relate together to, and flow out of, one thing-living animals, foes, and lips. I bolded the word "even" because it is the same prefix "and" that is put in front of the phrase "and the tree of knowledge..."
So then, here is another way to translate the verse in Genesis:
Gen 2:9 Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life [aspect 1] also in the middle of the garden, even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [aspect 2]
Another point which I believe bears this out can be found in Eve's response to the serpent. here is what she said:
Gen 3:3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Remember, there was only one tree specifically said to be in the midst of the garden, the tree of life. If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were a separate tree side by side with the tree of life, then Eve would have made that distinction. She did not. She did not even name the tree for she knew there was only one there, a specific one, the only one, in the middle. Interestingly, in every other depiction from every other culture, there is no mention of two trees, only one, through which the first man and woman came to be as they did.
It is assumed that God told Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of life. He did not. Think carefully here. This is exactly what he told Adam:
Gen 2:16,17 Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.”
Here God highlights the one aspect of the tree, that from which grew the knowledge of good and evil. For God to say not to eat from it, he was, in effect saying not to try to gain anything by fleshly efforts. One cannot gain life through the flesh. The tree of life was there as a means for them to continue living, as long as they did not disobey the one command they were given. I believe for them to take of it as they did is to do what religion has attempted ever since, to reach God, or gain life, by our own efforts, when God himself is the only one who sustains it by himself, for he is life.
That tree represented God in his fullness. The other trees they could eat from freely were specifically to satisfy their physical hunger. However, in relating to God himself, he was beginning to demonstrate that to try to relate to God according to the flesh, by reaching out our hands, using our efforts, to partake of God, or gain anything from him, will only result in death, not life. We will see that the same held true with regard to the law covenant. Instead of bringing life as they were told if they kept it, because they tried through their own efforts, it only brought death.
When God put man and woman in that garden, they were alive. They were made in flesh. God breathed of himself into them, his breath, or spirit, and in that state they were alive to God. Then when God gave the commandment to Adam, there was something that sought to be born, called sin. It did not yet exist in the world, but that was about to change. It sought to find expression, and that vehicle of expression would prove to be man's flesh. The commandment came and sin used it to trick Eve into disobeying the very command given by God. Paul wrote of this same thing in his own life:
Rom 7:8,9,11 But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died...for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.
The serpent provided the seed-temptation, which united with the egg-lust, and it brought sin into the world, into the flesh of man.
Jas 1:14,15 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
Adam and Eve, fleshly creatures, although their spirit was alive, were given two choices-Life, and death. A precedent was established in that garden, one that Paul wrote of, a principle that has always been true throughout history, and it is this:
Rom 8:7,8 the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God.
Even in the garden, with both spirit and flesh alive, they found out that the flesh was indeed hostile toward God. They came to believe that God was holding out on them, depriving them of something they thought they wanted-knowledge. Thus we see the truth that the tree which was meant to bring life, when presented to the flesh, brought the opposite, which is death. We will trace this same theme now a bit further down in history.
These two trees are further pictured and defined in the law covenant given to fleshly Israel. The essence of the law is contained on two tablets of stone. There are two because they represent the two trees in the garden, which represents two facets of God, life and death. They were written on stone by God himself because stone pictures God, who does not change.
This one law contained the same thing that the two trees did. Notice that the same choices are given to Israel:
Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed;
That law was like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which is another way of saying knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:20 For through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Rom 7:7,8 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn’t have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn’t have known coveting, unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting.
See the connection? To know the commandment "not to covet," is both good AND evil. Good, in that it is good not to covet. Evil, in that it defines what in fact is evil, in this case, sin, and brings knowledge of it by experience as it is produced by sin through the commandment. Therefore, the knowledge of good and evil is the knowledge of sin, represented at first by the two trees, then further by the two tablets of stone.
Unlike Adam and Eve, fleshly Israel was dead to God. Their flesh was alive, but their spirit was dead. Of course, Adam brought that about through his sin. So here we have Israel after the flesh being yoked to the Law. They were given the choice to obey it and live, being blessed, or to disobey it and die, being cursed. Why could they not keep it? For the same reason that Adam and Eve could not keep the first commandment. Law and flesh do not mix. Notice how these scriptures relate:
Rom 8:7,8 because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God.
Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire.
Rom 8:3 For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh...
God is spirit, and anything of his nature is spirit, spiritual. Flesh cannot relate to spirit, which is to say flesh cannot relate to God. The reason is because flesh has desires which are totally different from those of the spirit. They cannot coexist in peace. This is why God said in his law to Israel,
Deu 22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.
It is from this law that Paul spoke of this spiritual reality:
2Co 6:14 Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
So what does this have to do with Israel's not being able to keep the law? That law, just as the two trees, represents God himself. While we hear many things about the law, there is one truth that is rarely mentioned, and it is a little statement Paul makes in Romans 7:
Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual...
According to the context, he is referring to the same law he has been speaking about all along in the 7th chapter, one of which is "do not covet." Now it makes so much sense. To give the law, something spiritual, to Israel, people who were fleshly, in marriage, yoking them together, was an uneven yoke. It would only produce the opposite of what it was intended to produce. This is why Paul said,
Rom 7:10 The commandment, which was for life, this I found to be for death;
Can you see the two trees represented here?
1) The tree of life...the commandment which was for life
2) The tree of knowledge....I found to be for death.
The same law containing both life and death. God himself, from whom life and death come. God was here teaching man a valuable lesson. From Adam all the way through until Jesus came, man has tried to relate to God according to the flesh and has always fallen short of that goal. It is an impossible situation.
Because of this marriage covenant, according to God himself, that marriage was for life.
Rom 7:1-3 Or don’t you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man.
A death had to occur in order for what God wanted all along to take place, which was to be united with man in spirit. In this example, we are the woman, and God is the husband, and the law is what bound them together, flesh to spirit, an unequal yoke. The husband had to die in order for there to free the woman from the law so she could marry another. But another issue needed to be dealt with. Man's spirit was dead, while his flesh was alive. Who he truly was was spoken of as,
dead in transgressions and sins Eph 2:1
Alive physically, dead spiritually. God is spirit, so in order to bring about God's desire, he brought about a reversal.
Rom 7:4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God.
God, in the person of Christ, died, thus freeing man from the law to remarry. However, he also did something more. The flesh of Jesus, his body, died, and in that death, our flesh died as well.
Rom 6:6,7 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.
Col 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
So that part of us that was against God was killed, emptied of the power within it. At the same time, the life of God, his spirit, was joined to our spirit, causing our once dead spirit to live once again. However, unlike Adam and Eve, the life was no longer our own, but the very life, the very spirit of Christ himself. He is our life. We are now one spirit with him, evenly yoked by the new covenant.
1Co 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
The reversal was complete:
Gal 2:19 For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God.
Rom 8:10 If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
This is pictured as well in the book of Ezekiel, where he is shown a valley of dry, dead bones. Notice what happens:
Eze 37:5 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
This is reminiscent of what occurred back in the garden of Eden, when the first man and woman were alive. Their spirit died the day they ate because the Lord removed his spirit from them. This breath is his spirit, for Ezekiel speaks again about causing them to live, this time saying:
Eze 37:14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live...
The breath, his spirit, which keeps all things alive, breathed on man's spirit, causing him to live. He lived both physically and spiritually. When man sinned, God removed his breath, his spirit, from man's spirit, and man died that day. He was now just as the other animals, alive only physically. Here, through Jesus, God once again breathes his spirit into man, once again causing his people to live. The house of Israel, alive physically, yet dead spiritually, would now be alive spiritually, as God intended from the beginning.
Now the picture is almost complete. We have seen that God, the giver of life and of death, who is spirit, taught a great lesson in creation. He showed that spirit cannot be yoked to flesh, but only to spirit. The first man was misled into thinking otherwise. He chose to relate to that side of God which would only bring death, thinking he was doing it for life. He rebelled against God, just as flesh always does, and suffered the consequences of it.
God went further, wanting to demonstrate his grace in an even more abundant way, and so gave Israel, not one, but several commandments. This would serve to make sin abound, as Paul said:
Rom 5:20 The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly...
One commandment, one sin, many commandments, many sins. That is what he is referring to here. How did grace abound even more? Consider that all God could have chosen to do was to forgive us our sins. He could have left Jesus dead, which would have paid for sin. However, grace abounded because he has given so much more, has he not? Unlike the trees, and the law, which were outside of man, for man to try to deal with according to his flesh, God, in Christ, the reality of those shadows, became the very life of man, and now dwells in man. In other words, the laws of God, which he at one time told Israel to write on their hearts, which he knew they would fail to do,
Pro 7:1-3 My son, keep my words. Lay up my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live! Guard my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers. Write them on the tablet of your heart.
he did himself, by placing himself in their hearts, in the person of Christ, by means of his spirit.
Jer 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people:
The tree of life, which once was outside of man, now became fulfilled in the many-membered body of Christ. We can see this clearly by comparing two visions, one given to John, the other to Ezekiel. Concerning John's account, we read:
Rev 22:1,2 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On both sides of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Look carefully here. There is ONE tree of life, yet it (this single tree) is on BOTH sides of the river. This is spoken of here twice as the TREE, not the TREES. It is plainly a single tree. This tree represents Jesus Christ, who is life. Why though, is he spoken of as being on both sides of the river? Here is where we come in. Notice Ezekiel's account of this same vision:
Eze 47:7,12 Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river were very many trees on one side and on the other. By the river on its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall its fruit fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because its waters issue out of the sanctuary; and its fruit shall be for food, and its leaf for healing.
Ezekiel speaks of 'many trees' and 'every tree,' on both sides of the river. This speaks to us the wonderful truth that we, the many-membered body of Christ, are that tree of life! Notice too that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is nowhere to be found. Why not? Because it has been dealt with by Christ, so that no longer does man relate to God according to law, to flesh, to sin, for it has died. The shadows are no more! The realities have come!
How good it is that we no longer relate to God according to the flesh, knowing that it only resulted in experiencing good and evil, resulting in death. Our flesh, our old man, is dead, and we are alive, relating to God according to the spirit, knowing that it results in Life.
And this is true, not only for us who believe, but for the whole world. God is using those of us who believe as his mouth to bring this wonderful news to a world that does not know the freedom that is theirs, if only they would believe it.