In Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve are booted from Eden after God curses them with mortality. Verse 22 says:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good
and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of
life, and eat, and live for ever: (KJV)

So my question is, why would it matter if God cursed them at all if they had eaten the fruit of the tree of life, since seemingly they would have lived forever?

  • God does indeed know both good and evil. But, unlike us, He embodies the former perfectly, and avoids the latter completely. We, however, succumb to sin and temptation on a daily basis. So, what would have been the fate of mankind, if they would have been granted access to immortality while trapped in their fallen state ? Perhaps the same as that of the Struldbrugs of Gulliver's Travels, whose physical body continued to age and deteriorate continually, without the actual possibility of dying. The same might have happened to man on a spiritual level.
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2017 at 19:16
  • Ancient Greek paganism, for instance, was familiar with the myth of the Centaur, who, despite having been granted physical immortality by the gods, nevertheless chose death over the unbearably agonizing prospect of living forever in excruciating pain.
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2017 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


At the heart of the question is: Were these 'Trees' actual trees, and if not, what is the significance of them?

Since there is no tree in nature that can give one "life", nor is there a tree that in itself can confer knowledge. Augustine, in City of God(XII:20) says,

the tree of life is the holy of holies, Christ; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the will's free choice.

He further says it is not a mere allegory, but a historical event; but one can understand these truths figuratively, has opposed to literally.

If Christ therefore, is the Tree of Life, which if one 'partakes' in an ongoing relationship, will live forever, what is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? As Augustine mentioned, the "will" that opposes Christ; infused by "knowledge" that may appear beneficial or detrimental, but both are forbidden by God.

It is my contention that this "Tree", the one 'tree' that Satan had access to, and with it access to man, although allowed by God, was one of Satan's 'creation', it offered a "false life" to man through the knowledge that Satan had acquired by being an angel of light(Lucifer) and would make man a 'co-conspiritor'(becoming like us(elohim) knowing good and evil-Gen 3:5). Since God Himself is not the Author of evil(He is All-Good), to have a 'tree' in which evil is present is not of His Making. The evidence of the fruit of this tree is "nakedness", when one acquires knowledge apart from God, one is "naked" from the Presense of God; totally contradictory from the Tree of Life, in which the individual who 'eats of Christ', becomes in time "embued with Him" and lives forever.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.(John 6:51)

And to those who struggle with this statement, He says,

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.(John 6:63)

To answer the question: There is no commandment about eating from the Tree of Life, in fact that's the choice that they(and all men) are to make. The "Tree of Life" was withheld from them because one cannot actively partake of sin, and eat from the Tree of Life.

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.(1 Cor. 10:21)

Those that are Christ's are freely given to eat from the Tree of Life; it was(and is) God's Plan and Purpose that they do so. God "allowed" the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil-Satan's 'tree', to give man a choice and allow man to exercise his will; would he choose Christ and live forever, or choose Satan and die forever?

  • Genesis 3:23-24 ESV " therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life." - Do you think this is summarizing the curse as part of being sent out, or is this a distinct event in the sequence of ch3? If it is in sequence then it would suggest that eternal life was something they could gain or regain. Could eating it have overriden the curse if its loss was part of the curse?
    – Joshua
    May 7, 2015 at 16:11
  • 1
    @JoshuaBigbee Redemption had been prophesied to the man through 1) the woman's seed crushing the head of the serpent, 2) the fact that God made skins-a sacrifice involving who's blood was shed to cover man's nakedness. But he would have to live under the dominion of the enemy, who's allegiance he gave when he disobeyed God's commandment. The 'curse' was only covered by the blood of animals-it wasn't removed until the finished work of Christ gave him redemption from it. Also, 'work' was given before the Fall, "toil" and opposition came after it.
    – Tau
    May 8, 2015 at 0:52

According to Leon R. Kass, author of The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, it was not until they had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that Adam and Eve became aware that their destiny was to die. Once they had become aware of this, God knew they would seek immortality by eating of the Tree of Life. By eating the fruit of the first tree, Adam has become like the gods (3:22: "now the man is become like one of us"), except that he was still mortal. It is for this reason, that he drove them out of the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the path back in to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). With immortality the only remaining distinction between himself and Adam, God had no choice but to curse Adam to a life of hardship outside the paradise of Eden.

If your question is whether God would have cursed Adam and Eve had they eaten from the Tree of Life instead of from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we can only assume that this would have applied equally although, as Kass tells us, the purpose of the story of the Garden of Eden was to have them eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then learn about the events that ensue.

Kass tells us (page 69) that the Garden of Eden was a purely mythic place and that once they are aware of their mortality, immortality becomes at once a conscious desire and a known impossibility. By placing a tree of life in our mythical original condition, and by showing original man's indifference to it, he says the story speaks more to the impossible longings of its readers than of the desires of innocent man.

  • Since they were told they could eat from any tree EXCEPT the tree of knowledge, it would seem they were allowed to eat from the tree of life prior to the fall. So your assertion that it would have been the same seems baseless. I've always thought it a far more likely scenario that the effects of the tree of life were suspended by their disobedience, either the eating of the tree of knowledge or by God's curse afterward (which is the core of this question) However eating of the tree of life afterward would have doomed them to a cursed life for eternity.
    – Joshua
    May 7, 2015 at 16:26
  • @JoshuaBigbee The Q seems to allow in its "parallel universe" for the Tree of Life to be forbidden, for Adam to eat of it and then for God to curse him for doing so. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that you hold different views about the story of the Garden of Eden than do people such as Kass. When you speculatively say, "thought it a far more likely scenario ..." this should be in another answer, not a comment to this one. May 7, 2015 at 20:57
  • I understood the question to be assuming they had already eaten of it, as I said was possible. But he is a bit unclear how he says it, I admit. I think he's asking why kick them out to stop them from eating it after the curse if they had already eaten it before UNLESS the curse had reversed it's effects, thus the question. That's how I understood it.
    – Joshua
    May 7, 2015 at 21:18
  • Great answer Dick. It seems like Kass is of the opinion that the tree of knowledge was really a good thing and that they would become more godly by eating thus the reason for barring them from it. I always thought that the snake's statement that "God knows that as soon as you eat... you will be like divine beings" (3:5) was true and the real purpose of the prohibition. Indeed to this day i'm bothered by the fact that the biblical authors included this creation myth which intimates that god was jealous and overprotective, willing to hold back godly powers from humans.
    – bach
    Nov 13, 2018 at 19:10

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