What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. What gets our attention is usually their disobedience, which makes sense. Disobeying God is a serious matter.

But have you ever wondered why it was so terrible to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? How could this lead to the fall of all mankind? And when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of that tree, was it just a test to see whether they would obey Him?

Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree of knowledge, God couldn’t just look the other way. He’s absolutely righteous, and this righteousness required Him to punish them and banish them from the garden.

But is that the whole story?

The bigger problem

Let’s suppose a mother tells her child, “Don’t drink from this bottle. What’s in here is poisonous.” Does she give the child that commandment simply to test whether he will obey her? Of course not; rather, her commandment is a loving warning. If the child were to disobey and drink from the bottle, certainly his disobedience would be an issue. But the child would have been poisoned, which is a much bigger problem.

This scenario is very similar to Adam and Eve’s situation in the garden. The issue wasn’t merely that they’d disobeyed God; rather, the much bigger problem was what they took in and the effect it had on them. And because Adam represents 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. That tree represented Satan, the source of death, so He warned them that if they ate of it, they would die.

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 as the divine life.

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

Satan deceiving Adam and Eve

In dealing with Adam and Eve, God was honest about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that eating of this tree would result in death, but he left the choice up to them.

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

Satan craftily twisted God’s words to Eve and even lied outright, insinuating that God was withholding something good from the couple. He made her doubt His 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 their act of disobedience, they took in the poisonous nature of the devil. The consequences of what they did were profound, affecting all humanity—even until today.

Make sure to read the second post in this series, where we discuss what these consequences were in detail, how they affect our lives today, and the steps God took to save us from the effects of what happened in the Garden of Eden.

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