by Dr. R. Dean Davis
The ancient Hebrews had a relational understanding of God—they knew Him by what He did for them. They also related events in ever-increasing levels of detail, so beginning with Genesis 2:4 we find ourselves at the third level of detail of the Creation story.
Man is clearly the centerpiece of God’s Creation. He is His magnificent accomplishment—created in His own image and likeness. Adam has a special relationship with God because he is the crowning act of Creation. He has rulership, under God, here on earth.
Because of this he is given the ability to create (or reproduce) life, to create words (in naming the animals), and most importantly, to make choices—none of which were more important than his continual choice to obey God, insuring his eternal life.
The Garden of Eden—The First Sanctuary
The Hebrew word for garden is gan, meaning “an enclosed garden,” and the word edan (Eden) literally means “pleasure” or “delight.” God longed to live right in the center of things, surrounded by His children, so He created the earth’s first sanctuary—a sacred place where He could dwell with them in a special relationship.
God’s careful attention to detail had provided Adam and Eve all that they needed to be happy and productive. He provided a river that flowed from Eden and divided into four riverheads. Biblically, the number four represents the whole earth (think of the “four corners of the earth” in Isaiah 11:12). Ezekiel 47:1 describes this same river of living water as coming from the temple, and in Revelation 22:1 it comes out from the throne of God.
He also planted two trees in the midst of the Garden. In Hebrew thinking, anything that is singled out, or placed in the center of something, has great importance. Why have two trees, side by side, as if they’re equal? The simple answer is that Adam and Eve were given a choice. Both trees bore fruit, and fruit meant food and life. However, one choice would bring life, and the other would bring certain death.
God named the first one the Tree of Life. It provided life-sustaining food and represented Him as the Source of life. The second was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—of which Adam and Eve had been carefully instructed never to eat of, or they would most certainly die.
Surely Adam and Eve must have regularly eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life in order to live. This tree was to be used for coming generations, as well, judging by the literal translation from Hebrew: “the Tree of Lives” (plural, indicating successive generations).
The trees no doubt were planted close enough to each other to give them a choice, and the fruits of both trees were pleasing to the eyes. But God’s instructions were unmistakable. If they chose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would reject God’s wisdom, thinking they might exalt themselves to His status (Genesis 3:4–5).
God provided Adam and Eve everything they needed: a beautiful home, food, water, work, companionship for their social needs, communion with Him for their spiritual needs, and a Sabbath rest in His sanctuary. However, in His wisdom, He knew they must form their own characters by continually making choices, so He gave them free will.
Even Jesus Christ was not born with a developed character (Hebrews 5:8–9; 7:28). He had to choose His Father’s will continually. In fact, everything written in Scripture about salvation indicates we have to choose God continually, as well.
The choice Adam and Eve had is the same one we have today. We must all choose between obeying God, or defiantly picking our independent course, relying on ourselves.
Next time we’ll take a closer look at the fall of man as we strive to learn through the eyes of the ancients.
—From the October 2011 issue of 3ABN World