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but of the tree

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of the knowledge

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of good

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and evil

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you shall not eat,  for in the day you eat from it, in dying you will die.  (See comment below.)

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but you should not eat from the source of wisdom that gives discernment about what will bring about pleasing results

and what will bring about unpleasant results, for on the very day you eat of it you will definitely suffer separation; there will be no escaping it, no alternative, no “ifs, ands or buts.”

(See comment below.)



Was it an apple tree? NO! We can be confident that it was not any of the fruit trees we are familiar with. According to the writer of the Jewish blog, the myth of the apple got started because the Latin word for “evil” sounds similar to the word that Latin borrowed from Greek meaning “apple.”


This word means “knowledge” and also “wisdom.” It is often used in the proverbs for wisdom although it is not the only word for “Wise or wisdom” used in Proverbs. This word focuses on the knowledge needed to make good choices, whereas the other word for wisdom focuses on the act of choosing well between the choices available. One is the knowledge necessary to make a good choice, the other one is a demonstration of that desire by having made the right choice. The word “discernment” can be used of each of them and is thus the point where the two words overlap.


This is the most commonly used Hebrew word for “good.” It is usually not moral in connotation, but it can be moral goodness depending on the context. The word means “pleasant, pleasing, agreeable, favorable, advantageous, and right.” God is calling this choice of action good because it will bring pleasing and favorable results, not just “because I said so.”


This word means “disagreeable, unpleasant, unhappy, evil, and malignant.” It is often used of moral issues. Once again the emphasis is on the consequences of the action.

5: “In dying you will die.”

For emphasis the author employs two forms of the word “die” back-to-back, just like he did with the word “eat” in the previous verse. The Hebrew text is beautiful in its balance and symmetry, but it is a struggle to know how to convey the power of the Hebrew phrase without sounding ridiculous in English. In my paraphrase column I have shown what I think is the true intent of this emphatic phrase.

Notice that this command was given to Adam before Eve was separated from him. It was his responsibility to communicate it properly to her later.


In Bible times the death of a loved one was often described with the words, “He slept with his fathers.” Death was not seen as a termination, but as a separation. In Modern America we think of death with finality, as an end. We use phrases like “the death of a dream.” The Bible talks about a “second death;” that would not be possible if death were a true end. The loved one who had died had not ceased to exist altogether, but had been separated from the ones still living. “He is not with us, he is now with our ancestors.” If death is a separation, then there is hope for a future reunion. Therefore, “In dying you shall die,” can also be rendered, “in being separated, you will be truly and utterly separated.” The extent of our separation, a separation which is complete and total, gives testimony to the extent of God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness in doing everything necessary to bring us back to Him. Our separation was full, but God’s love is fuller; the distance between us was vast, but God’s forgiveness is “vaster;” the brokenness of our relationship was complete, but God’s acceptance is “completer.”

We don’t know the language inwhich God was communicating to Adam so we don’t know the nuances of the word “die” as used that first time. At that point there was no such thing as physical death, which presented a conundrum. Either God was talking about something that Adam could not fully understand (an end to physical life) or God used a word that emphasized separation and Adam did not realize it would come in the form of the end of life. Either way, this was hard for Adam to fully grasp. In retrospect we know that it involved both a separation from God and also a separation from the body and from one’s loved ones.


The consequence of death is the primary thing that points to this initial relationship of God with man as being a covenantal relationship. An ancient covenant was a carefully defined relationship leading to life or death. This was a covenant because it had this primary characteristic of resulting in either life or death. Other elements of later covenants were not present in this one but were developed as the years went by.  (I encourage you to read my study series on covenants.)