Troublesome Topic: Were They Eating from the Tree that sustains Life?

Lesson 6 of 14

Genesis 3:22



ELOHIM (read Adonai Elohim) said, “Behold,

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the man has become like one of us,

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knowing good and evil.

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Now, lest he stretch

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out his hand and take even of the tree of life and eat, and live long …  (See comments below.)


Then THE PERSONAL AND ETERNAL GOD, who is also THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS, said, “Consider this, the man and his wife have acquired another attribute of deity, specifically that they understand that moral issues have consequences. Now, in order to prevent them from reaching out and taking fruit from that other tree that has important consequences, the tree that sustains life, and eating it and living worry free for a very long time… [we need to do something].  (See comments below.)

I Believe They Had already Been Eating from the Tree of Life

Allow me to give the basis for that statement:

1. A short cut:  If man had been obedient, he would have slowly learned the positive consequences of doing good and then wanted those consequences so much he would never do anything to lose them. However, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil provided a short cut. By eating from it, man learned quickly about the consequences of doing evil; he learned the hard way (more about this later).

2. Designed to live forever: How long would man have lived if he had not eaten from the forbidden fruit? Was man created as a mortal that would die, or as an immortal being who would not die?

Didn’t death enter the picture due to man’s sin? Yes. So if he had not sinned, man would not have died. If you think God made man as a mortal being to begin with, what is your explanation for death if there were no sin?

Consider that the bodies of people and animals are self-repairing and self-restoring. Here are some examples: Your bones are constantly being torn apart and restored with new bone material; your skin is constantly pushing one layer of cells up to the top and replacing the lower two layers with new cells. Red blood cells have a life of about 4 months and are being replaced (created by the bone marrow and destroyed by the liver) at a rate of 2 million each second!

It appears that God made these bodies so they could last forever, or at least a very long time, meaning much longer than 900 years.

3. Cursed with death: After his disobedience, man was already cursed with death before he received his punishment, so he could not live forever physically just by eating the fruit of the tree of life. It was impossible.

Remember that the biblical use of “death” was first of all a “separation.” However, as God designed things, a separation from Him will eventually result in us being separated from our bodies; spiritual death leads to physical death. The point here is that since man was already cursed with the punishment of spiritual and physical separation, eating once from the tree of life would not stop him from dying (as many have supposed). 

4. The meaning of “forever”:  The Bible’s term “forever” comes from a word meaning “long duration, long time, either in the past or in the future.” Context must indicate if that means a long time with limits, or a long time without limits, i.e. for all eternity. This context can actually go either way, but I think these other factors I am sharing with you seem to favor “a long time with limits,” meaning longer than 900 years. The “concern” of the Godhead was that, by eating of this fruit, man would sustain his life for an undue length of time in a way that would require no work or hardship, and would avoid feeling the full consequences of having disobeyed.

5. The name of the tree: Notice it is not called “the tree of eternal life,” just “the tree of life,” or “the tree that provides/sustains life.”

6. Only one tree was off limits: Why did God only prohibit eating from one tree and not both? In the common method of interpreting this verse, if they had eaten once from the tree of life and then eaten once from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would live forever in their new state of being “enlightened to sin.”

7. The use of imperfect and perfect verbs in this sentences is inconclusive. I don’t see any commentators arguing for their interpretation from the choice of verb tenses (which change part way through the statement). The sticking point is the use of the word “also/even.”  It communicates that at least one thing was similar to the time he ate from the tree of knowledge. Was the way they ate the fruit similar (they ate it once), or was the tree somehow similar? I believe the emphasis is on the tree because it, like the other one, was special. Eating from the other trees of the garden brought no lasting consequences. Therefore I choose to use “even” rather than “also.”

This verse can be interpreted to mean that Adam and Eve could continue to eat from the tree of life on a regular basis and thus sustain their lives for a very long time in an easy way. Wouldn’t this mean that they would fail to properly learn the harsh consequences of sin because life would remain easy until physical death came? Yes, I think that is exactly what it means.


I think they had been eating regularly from the tree that sustains life because God told them to do so. When they sinned, they gained a partial awareness that moral choices have consequences. I say partial because they felt shame, but that was not a strong enough punishment to teach the true danger of sin because they felt they could cover up their shame with a few twigs and leaves. God knew that if they continued living in the garden (the protected enclosure) and continued eating from the tree that sustains life, they would get the impression that they could do what they wanted now, and pay the price later, and that price would not be a big deal. Therefore God had to expel them from the protected enclosure in order to teach them the full reality of the consequences of disobeying God’s clear commands. Yes, they gained the knowledge they needed about good and evil, but only after they felt the full brunt of evil’s consequences, which gave them the full perspective on the matter.

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is What Is Meant by “Knowing Good and Evil”?

The next lesson in Lessons From Genesis Chapters 1, 2, and 3 is: What Is Meant by “Knowing Good and Evil”?



“Behold” would be a good translation of this word if not for the fact that we no longer speak like that. The word means “look!” and is intended to communicate amazement, or to call attention to something. I think it best to use a variety of English phrases to communicate its meaning depending on the situation in which it appears.

2: “like one of us”

We can be confident from the New Testament that God is three-in-one. However, until that doctrine is more fully developed through the full story of the Bible, many see the use of plurals such as Elohim, as signifying God is so powerful and capable that He cannot be described by a singular noun or adjective. Either explanation could be the right one here.

3: “knowing good and evil"

See my lengthy comment at the end of this verse.


This verb usually means “to send” but it can also mean “to stretch or extend.” It is used in a nice play on words in the very next verse.