God and Creation—Part 9

Temptation and Fall

“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
—Genesis 2:16,17

THE CREATOR HAD ENDOWED MAN with the ability to know right from wrong. Having created our first parents perfect, they possessed the necessary moral strength to resist temptation to do wrong. But they did not, intuitively, know what was right and what was wrong. This knowledge had to be communicated to them by their Creator who, in so doing, became their lawgiver. The laws, which God communicated to them, were simple and understandable, quite within range of full comprehension, even by the inexperienced Adam and Eve.


Certain things were expected of them. They were to multiply and fill the earth. They were to subdue the earth. God’s law provided that they could freely eat of all the trees in Eden with one exception, which was ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ The Scriptures do not indicate what sort of tree this was. Perhaps it was not greatly unlike many of the other trees in the garden. Nor are we to suppose that the fruit of this tree contained a mysterious element which, if eaten, would give one understanding that he did not previously possess. It was the act of disobedience in partaking of this tree, and the sequence of circumstances to follow, that would lead to a full knowledge of good and evil.

God’s love had made wonderfully full and rich provision for our first parents. They were perfect, and had been given dominion over earth’s animal kingdom. A marvelous home had been furnished for them, and they were bountifully provided with life-sustaining food. Their loving Creator had a just right to ask that they obey him. From every standpoint, it might be reasoned, they were under obligation to render the obedience he demanded.

The restrictive commandment, or law, which God gave to our first parents, was simple and understandable. Man-made laws are usually complicated and obscure in meaning. In most cases, one feels a measure of insecurity as to the intent of certain laws unless a lawyer is consulted, and these professional interpreters sometimes disagree. Even in the Supreme Court of the United States there are frequently split decisions over the meaning of laws, and this despite the fact that the Supreme Court judges are the most highly trained men in the country in the interpretation of the law.

But Adam and Eve did not need a lawyer to interpret the plainly stated law concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were not to eat of this tree. There were no obscurely stated circumstances under which they were to have the privilege of deciding whether or not they could properly eat of the forbidden fruit. There were no exceptions of any kind. ‘Thou shalt not eat of it’ was the law, ‘for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’

This law was given to Adam before Eve was created, but he fully informed her concerning it. This is revealed in the first three verses of the next chapter. We quote, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”—Gen. 3:1-3


The average human reactions today indicate that when something is forbidden there is an increased desire to indulge. This may well have been so even from the beginning, when our first parents were perfect. Of Mother Eve it is written, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”—vs. 6

Even the forbidden tree was ‘pleasant to the eyes,’ as well as good for food. This was true of the garden as a whole. Normally, all nature is pleasant to the eye, and it is evident that God planned it so for the legitimate joy of his human creation.

Delectable and nourishing food has also been provided by the Lord for man’s enjoyment and sustenance. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God wants his people to eat poorly prepared and unpalatable food, and thus deprive their natural senses of enjoyment in order to live closer to him. These are among the distorted notions pertaining to the worship of God that have been handed down to us from the Dark Ages. The forbidden fruit in Eden was not forbidden because it was pleasant to the eye and good for food.

It was wrong to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil simply because God had forbidden it. This was the supreme test of obedience that the Lord placed upon our first parents. It was a test of their faith and confidence in him. It was a legitimate test, because God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than man’s that of necessity they are nearly always beyond human understanding. So, if man were to obey God’s laws only when he decided they were proper, chaos would have always been on earth.

There is a modern saying that we should trust God even where we cannot trace him. This is true. God does ask us to reason with him (Isa. 1:18), and to the extent that it is possible to understand the whys and wherefores of his laws, this information is revealed to us. God does not arbitrarily withhold from his people an understanding of his will, but he does expect them to obey even though in his wisdom he does not always give the reason. The One in whom we live and move and have our being, and whose thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth, has the right to expect our obedience, even though many times it must of necessity be a blind obedience. We should love to obey him under these conditions. The poet has well said:

I would rather walk in the dark with God,
Than go alone in the light,
I would rather walk by faith with him,
Than go alone by sight.—Hymns of Dawn

This was the opportunity that confronted Eve, and later Adam. There was nothing wrong with the forbidden tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the reason God had forbidden it was withheld. Consequently, the question of whether they would obey or disobey was a test of faith, a test of their confidence in their Creator. How appropriate that such a test should be placed upon them! All the inanimate creations of God obey him, not by chance, but by force. The sun rises and sets in obedience to a split-second timetable arranged by the Creator. Should not his intelligent creations also obey him?

But, coupled with an intelligence that reflected many of the principles by which the Creator himself is governed, man was given a free will. A part of the image of God in man was his freedom of choice. God desired his obedience, but only if man, because of his trust in his Creator, desired to obey. If such an objective could not be attained, the man would have to be destroyed—‘In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die.’


Eve yielded to the temptation. She offered the fruit of the forbidden tree to Adam, and he also partook. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Tim. 2:14) Eve’s deception was apparently in believing the serpent’s assurance that death would not result from her disobedience—“Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) Adam was not deceived by this falsehood, nevertheless he joined his wife in the transgression.

One of the motives, which induced Eve to disobey her Creator, is stated in verse six. It was a tree to be desired because it would make one wise. There is nothing wrong with this motive, not if the wisdom one craves is along right lines, and there is nothing in the record to indicate that Eve desired a knowledge of sinful things. Had she exercised proper trust in her Maker, she would have reasoned that in his own due time, and under circumstances which would be best for her, she would be given wisdom. But she lacked such faith.

Being deceived into believing that the threatened penalty of death would not be exacted, Eve no doubt felt that she had nothing to lose, and probably much to gain, by disobedience. In this another important viewpoint is revealed, that true obedience to God must spring from the heart, motivated by a sincere desire to please him. But Eve was willing to disobey since, as she was deceived into believing, she would not be punished.

Nothing is said to reveal Adam’s motive for joining his wife in disobedience. The record states merely that Eve “gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (vs. 6) It has been conjectured—and we believe reasonably so—that Adam, realizing he would lose his wife in death because of her disobedience, decided that he did not want to live without her, so deliberately and willfully partook of the forbidden fruit, knowing full well what the consequences would be.

Adam also revealed a lack of faith and confidence in God. He should have known that if he obeyed, especially under such trying circumstances, the Lord would surely compensate him, and that he would not be left permanently alone. But he did not take this viewpoint. The tragic fact that his wife must die took possession of his reasoning and, in reckless abandon, he joined her in transgressing the Divine law.

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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