In Genesis 2:9, the Lord God made every tree that was "good for food"....

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food. (Now the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the orchard.) Genesis 2:9 NET

However, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be eaten as it would bring death. I think that would make it not "good for food."

How did that tree get there? Did God make it?

  • What would be the alternative to God making it???
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 0:34

6 Answers 6


Let’s see how the 72 Jewish scholars translated Genesis 2:9 from Hebrew into Greek. In the Septuagint, we read that after God created Adam, he planted the garden of Eden and placed Adam there. Retaining the Greek word order, the narrative continues with

And caused to rise up God yet from out of the earth every tree beautiful to sight and good for food and the tree of life in midst of the paradise and the tree to perceive knowing good and evil.

The word “yet” is Strong’s 2089, which can also mean “again,” might be interpreted either as a special collection or a special creation of trees for humans. Notice that a plain reading does not compel us to group the final two trees listed with those that are beautiful and good for food.

In Genesis 3:6, we read

And beheld the woman that good the tree for food, and that pleasing to the eyes to behold, and is beautiful for contemplating.

How would the woman know that this tree was good for food unless the serpent told her? Adam had told her that God instructed him that this was not to be eaten as food. In Genesis 1, God had restricted the diet of humans to grain and seed-bearing fruit. Perhaps a similar quention might be, "Why would God create beef, bacon, chicken, and lamb, but forbid Adam and Eve from eating this delicious and nourishing protein?"

We learn that God caused the two final trees to appear as well, but without explanation. Continuing in Genesis 3:22, we learn

And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest at any time he might stretch out the hand, and should take from the tree of life, and should eat, and will live unto the eon . . .

Thus, we know that fruit from the tree of life had not yet been eaten.

From here, we can speculate whether the Tree of Life was also forbidden, whether the manifestation of God who walked with Adam in the garden would eat from these two trees, whether the intelligent animal species known as serpent had already eaten from the forbidden tree, or whether this sapient creature simply wanted his species to usurp humans from their dominant role.

We don’t know.

Quotes are from The Apostolic Bible Polyglot.

  • There is nothing to indicate that it was the serpent who told her the tree was good for food. The text specifically says that she 'beheld' - she saw that it was good for food. The wording suggests that she compared its appearance to the other trees in the garden and found that it looked the same - that is, 'beautiful to sight and good for food'. So she responded to what information she gained from nature (the serpent) plus her own observations, and ignored what someone else told her that God had said. This is common human reasoning. Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 14:52
  • Possibly. This intelligent animal raised the question whether God was telling the truth (you will surely die) or whether God was trying to withhold divine knowledge from Adam and Eve. The animal accused God of lying with an ulterior motive. Then, Eve may well have made her fateful decision based on the appearance of this fruit, comparing it with the fruit of the other trees.
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 5:40

The Masoretic Text, translated into literal English by the Hebrew Scholar, Robert Young, states :

. . .and the tree of life in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It is not stated that the second tree was in the garden, only that the tree existed. What was in the garden was of God's provision to the man. But God made it clear to the man that something existed that, if 'eaten' or 'partaken of as a means of life' (which is what eating is) then it would result in death.

It would poison the man, fatally. And God warned him of that fact.

The tree of such knowledge came into existence because of God's creation. It was an inevitable consequence of God's creation.

But God warned - that is not the way to live; try to live that way; and you shall die.

But in the Garden of Eden, in the very midst of it, was the Tree of Life. For God revealed himself - when he spoke, he revealed his own existence. Here is the Tree of Life - his presence, expressed in his own word.

In the beginning was the Word. And God was the Word.

He is there, in the midst, from the beginning.

  • That the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was outside the garden is an interesting hypothesis. Also note that Adam and Eve were already restricted in their diet to green plants and fruit. That God created a garden separate from the rest of creation ties in, as does God's instruction that humans were to work the garden and to guard it. Guard it from what? For this site, I would encourage you to employ scriptures guard your perspectives. For example, state the scripture that you used to justify your assertion that "It was an inevitable consequence of God's creation."
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 16:47
  • @Dieter The scripture which demonstrates that fact is Genesis 2:9. The wording expresses it.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 17:56
  • Nigel, I don't understand how "It was an inevitable consequence of God's creation" is demonstrated in the wording of Genesis 2:9. Or perhaps you were referring to the location of the forbidden tree. In that case, it would help if you expanded on the syntax of that verse. . Note that I should have written in my previous comment ". . . already restricted in their diet to seeds from grasses and seed-bearing fruit."
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 19:50
  • 1
    @Dieter It is a metaphysical tree. That is clear from it not 'growing out of the ground'. These things are not literal. That is clear from the expression 'The Tree of Life'. They are spiritual matters which is why they are first mentioned by a Divine Spirit - God - and then mentioned by a Serpentine Spirit. And if it is a spiritual item and if God did not make it - and it is obvious that he did not - then it has to be something spiritual that exists as a consequence of creation and not as a purposeful act within creation. This is all logic. Pure, simple logic.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 19:57


This is a Good Question: What is asked is, "Did God create evil?"

We have no problem with the "good" in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; in Gen. 1:31 it says,

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."(KJV)

In commenting on what "good" means, Keil and Delitzsch write in their commentary,

"God saw His work, and behold it was all very good; i.e., everything perfect in its kind, so that every creature might reach the goal appointed by the Creator, and accomplish the purpose of its existence. By the application of the term "good" to everything that God made, and the repetition of the word with the emphasis "very" at the close of the whole creation, the existence of anything evil in the creation of God is absolutely denied, and the hypothesis entirely refuted, that the six days' work merely subdued and fettered an ungodly, evil principle, which had already forced its way into it."

Therefore, everything that God created was good, in it's purpose and kind, including the venom of the snakes, the dangerous animals, the quicksand pits, and yes, even the mosquitoes. Each had a purpose, given by God to fulfill; there was nothing created that was not "good".

So then, how can God create a Tree that is both "good" and "evil"?

One could create a hypothesis that "to God it is good, but to man it is evil", but then the snake venom, dangerous animals, and mosquitoes would have also been added as "evil", but that's not the case-they are good, fulfilling their purpose, just not for man's direct benefit. In Isa. 45:7, it says

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."(KJV)

Again, in Keil and Delitzsch's Commentary, they say,

"The meaning of the words is not exhausted by those who content themselves with the assertion, that by the evil (or darkness) we are not to understand the evil of guilt (malum culpae), but the evil of punishment (malum paenae). Undoubtedly, evil as an act is not the direct working of God, but the spontaneous work of a creature endowed with freedom"

Under this constraint then, the word "רָ֑ע"(ra‘) is understood to mean "calamity", which is an outpouring of judgment against evil, and not the act of evil itself.

Did God Create Evil?

If evil is the response of a fallen creation, endowed with a free will from God, their creator, then what do we make of a "Tree" which possesses the knowledge of "Good" and "Evil"?

To respond to this, we must recite the attributes of God: 1) That He is a Holy God.

All throughout the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, God is holy, and we, if we are to enter into His Presence, are to be holy also. The Psalmist in Ps. 5:4 says,

"For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee."(KJV)

Again, it says in Hab. 1:13,

"Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity".(KJV)

A holy God, of whom the cherubim in Isa. 6:3, and in Rev. 4:8 say,

"and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."(KJV)

cannot be assigned with evil, indeed it is blasphemous to say so.

2) God does not tempt man; this is made clear in James 1:13-15,

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death".(KJV)

What can be verified from Scripture is that God tests man, to see whether or not he will obey Him. In Gen. 22:1, it says,

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.(KJV)

The word "tempt" here is "נִסָּ֖ה"(nis·sāh) which in the BDB means

*test, try, prove, tempt [but not in modern sense of the word: see Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalms 453, 483]

a. God tests or proves Abraham Genesis 22:1 (E), Israel Exodus 15:25; Exodus 20:20 (E), Exodus 16:4 (J), Deuteronomy 8:2,16; Deuteronomy 13:4; with בְּ Judges 2:22; Judges 3:1,4; tribe of Levi Deuteronomy 33:8 (poem); Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 32:31; psalmist Psalm 26:2.*

So, in reference to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God tested Adam and Eve, to see whether or not they would obey Him, and only in that regard can it be said that the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" was good.

How Are We to Understand the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

This answer gets to the heart of the question, "Did God create evil?", because understanding in what context the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" exists confirms whether or not God created this "Tree".

We understand from Gen. 2:19,

"And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."

that there is a distinction from every other tree; in Gen. 1:29 He says,

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."(KJV)

But we have to be reminded at this point, that man is body, soul, and spirit, as God created him. In 1 Thess. 5:23, it says,

"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It is in the context of the "soul"(mind, will and emotions) that we are to understand the 2 "Trees" which are mentioned parenthetically 'after' the seed bearing trees, which we know from Gen. 1:29 were good to eat. The term "eat" can be used both physically and figuratively; the word "אֲכָלְךָ֥" allows for both meanings. We see throughout Scripture that "eating" is used figuratively; in Ps. 34:8 it says,

"O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."(KJV)

In Jer. 15:16 it says,

“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”

Again, "וָאֹ֣כְלֵ֔ם"(wā·’ō·ḵə·lêm) is a derivative of "אֲכָלְ" which uses the word "eat" to describe both physically and spiritually the action of digestion.

What is interesting is both "trees" are to be understood figuratively, as acquiring knowledge and life both dwell outside of the realm of physical digestion; yet the commandment not to eat only pertains to the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil", it does not pertain to the "Tree of Life". They were allowed, and I believe encouraged to eat from the Tree of Life, all that they wanted, and as much as they wanted.

So, who or what is this "Tree of Life", and how is it distinguished from the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil"?

Jesus said in John 6:35,

"I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."(KJV)

He further says,

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever:"(KJV)

He even goes further to say, vs 57,

"As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."(KJV)

Jesus, therefore, is the "Tree of Life" in the middle of the Garden of Eden; Adam and Eve, who were sinless from creation, were encouraged to 'eat' from this "Tree". In Rev. 22:14 it says,

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."(KJV)

The choice for Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden was to choose Christ, who was identified in the Garden as the "Tree of Life". There's would have been eternal life, and in Gen 3:22 God said,

"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)

Therefore, by man choosing to "know evil", he not only forfeited eternal life, but he also relinquished "knowing good", because everything on the Tree of Life was beneficial to man-as opposed to the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" which an individual would have to discern the difference-apart from the knowledge of God.

Where Did the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Come From?

We have shown that God is not the author of evil, neither was it God's intention that man would "know evil". The Problem was that evil existed in God's creation, in the form of Satan, an angel created by God, who used his will to defy and oppose all that God did.

We 1st encounter Satan in Isa. 14:12,

"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!"(KJV)

and we further see from Ezekiel's description of the King of Tyre that he wasn't talking about the "king",

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. 13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

We see that God had an enemy, who was with Him and saw His creation, who was created by God as an angel of light(Lucifer-Bearer of Light), and yet through his rebellion, became ha-Satan, the "Opposer" of all that God does.

What is important is that God never told Adam and Eve about Satan, His intention was that man would never know evil. He 'allowed' Satan in the form of a "Tree"-the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to test man, to see whom he would obey. In order to test him, he had to offer an alternative-"death" as opposed to "life". Jesus said in John 8:44,

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."(KJV)

When the serpent spoke to Eve in Gen. 3:5,

"For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

he was offering a lie, "You shall be as gods(elohim)" to know only what God knows-that He has an enemy, and you have to choose who you will obey; Satan, who is presented here as the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil". or God, who is presented as the "Tree of Life". The means by which man would know either was through knowledge, acquired from a "Figurative Tree" which gave that knowledge. God was represented by the Tree of Life, Satan was represented by the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" in that he had known the works of God, and could dispense their knowledge, yet was perverse and corrupted(evil) which he used to harm God and His Purposes.


The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a figurative representation of the knowledge that Satan had to corrupt and harm the Purposes of God through man. Though all true knowledge is from God, God was and is not the 'author of evil", therefore a "Tree" containing evil can never be associated with God. Since we've proved these "Trees" are figurative, rather than Literal, they are associated to the choices which man must make: The Tree of Life-which is Christ, and the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" which is Satan's tree. These "trees" are mysteries: the "Tree of Life" is the mystery of Godliness(1 Tim. 3:16), and the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" is the Mystery of Iniquity(2 Thess. 2:7). Satan is a hideous monster- described as a "serpent" or dragon in Rev. 20:2,

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

and indeed, he spoke through the mouth of a serpent in Gen. 3. But the means by which he tempted Adam and Eve was in the form of a tree which,

"and 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."

This is Antichrist, which was seen from the Garden of Eden as opposing the Will of God, offering men the 'lie' that if they just 'eat' more knowledge, they can be as "God".

  • While I don't agree on some of your poionts, your answer is cogent and well-supported, IMHO. +1
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 5:48
  • @Dieter Thank you! This was the 'right question' for my response. There are a number of steps which I briefly summarized for clarity, and certain steps(divinity, pre-existence of Christ, etc) which I felt wasn't necessary to elaborate on-there are numerous responses to these in other answers. The "Antichrist" portion can be proved from Gen. 3:15(the 2 'Seeds' of which neither the woman, or the serpent has 'seed'), but again, it went beyond the OP's query.
    – Tau
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 19:28

Yes, God (Yahweh) made the tree of knowledge of good and evil (TKGE) because he made the whole garden (Gen 2:8). Before then, there were no plants to speak of and the earth was barren (Gen. 2:5).

The TKGE needs to be understood in light of the ancient Near Eastern background of sacred trees and in conjunction with is partner, the tree of life.

Sacred trees were viewed as being charged with the divine and as conduits for humans to access the divine, so they were venerated throughout the ancient Near East (and elsewhere). Our author is alluding to this tradition. On the one hand, trees were taken to symbolize life, because they live a long time, renew their leaves each year (or are evergreen), etc. Life is a divine force. As such, sacred trees were associated with and were venerated in association with the goddess, who gives life. In Canaan/Israel, this would have been Asherah, whose symbol was a stylized tree. On the other hand, another important meaning of sacred trees was to connect people with their deity, who possessed wisdom and and could know the future. For this reasons trees were used as oracles. In religious sanctuaries, sacred trees were the centerpieces, because union with the divinity was the most important thing; they served as an "axis mundi" for accessing divinity. In the Eden story too, the 2 sacred trees were in the middle of the garden (Gen. 2:9; 3:2).

These 2 meanings associated with divinity play out in the Eden story. In the ancient Near East, being divine entailed having 2 qualities: immortality and (divine) wisdom. (See Johannes Pedersen, "Wisdom and Immortality," in Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, pp. 238-46 (1969).) The 2 trees in the Eden story represent these 2 prongs of divinity, because Adam and Eve sought to become like gods. The TKGE represented the wisdom prong, and Adam and Eve indeed achieved a godlike degree of knowldege, so much so that they had to be prevented from accessing the tree of life, lest they fully become like gods, hence that tree becoming guarded by Yahweh's cherubim and the expulsion from the garden. The story's author wanted to draw a line between the earthly and the divine, between humans and God. In the author’s view, we should have a relationship with the divinity/the divine, but must not directly connect with/partake of the divine like in the pagan tradition, lest we become like gods as the serpent promised Gen. 3:5 (the Hebrew here is plural, "gods," and so is the Greek in the Septuagint). I think he was also using this tree and the serpent as foils to polemicize against veneration of the goddess Asherah, which was still rampant at the time.

For your further reference, I have summarized this more fully at https://mythologymatters.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-sacred-trees-in-the-garden-of-eden/ and have elaborated in much more detail in chapter 6 of my book, The Mythology of Eden.


God made every tree

"And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (RSV Genesis 2:9)

The NET translation appears to be one of only a few translations where it can be implied these two particular trees might have been created separately, but the evidence is underwhelming. God made to grow every tree, which would include the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They are mentioned separately only because they are significant to the narrative; additionally indicated by their position 'in the middle' in some translations, while others simply use the phrase 'in the midst'.

The tree is good - and so is the serpent

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate." (RSV Genesis 3:6)

According to Eve's observation, the tree of knowledge of good and evil was also pleasing to look at and at least seemed like it was good for food, just like the other trees. And despite instructions that they mustn't eat it or they would die, becoming wise like God simply by eating from a tree would be pretty cool.

What did it mean to die anyway? Adam and Eve had no concept or experience of death - they had no fear of it to stop them from following their own desires. They ate plants, trees, nuts and fruit (Genesis 1:29), and likely hadn't even witnessed the death of a plant or animal, let alone taken a life. And even if they had, they had no awareness of good and evil, no understanding that death was something to be feared. All of nature, the life and death, destruction and decay of animals and plants, was simply part of God's creation.

"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (RSV Genesis 1:31)

If everything God made was 'very good', then what is death to Eve that she should avoid it? Even the serpent, who is said to be the most subtle/crafty/cunning/shrewd of God's creatures (Genesis 3:1), was still part of everything that He made, and therefore also 'very good'.

"But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (RSV Genesis 3:4-5)

The serpent invites Eve to doubt what she doesn't understand or cannot see, and to trust only what she sees and feels instead. This is not evil - this is the law of nature, the basis of science. This is what drives humanity to push the frontiers of knowledge at the expense of universal life: this evolutionary instinct that drives all animals to ensure the survival and ultimate dominance of their unique genetic code.

So it appeared as if God was withholding this knowledge in order to maintain the pecking order. But what is this 'knowledge of good and evil' anyway? If it were knowing the difference between good and evil, then we wouldn't have to teach this to our children - they would just know.

The 'knowledge of good and evil' is self-awareness

The primary definition of knowledge - as 'facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education' - describes a process of gaining knowledge. But the secondary definition of knowledge - as 'awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation' - fits more accurately with what happens in the narrative:

"Then the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened and they realised that they were naked." (NIV Genesis 3:7)

This description of Adam and Eve acquiring the 'knowledge of good and evil' shows that what they gain is a deeper perception of the world - a realisation or awareness. But it's not just of good and evil. This awareness is what separates Adam and Eve from all other animals: it is an awareness of themselves as active participants in life. And the first thing they realise about themselves is that they are naked.

Being naked in front of someone else is the most vulnerable a person could ever be. No barriers, no shield, no interface, no pretence. And no weapons, either. Nakedness exposes us to every potential danger that we know: from cold and pain to assault, criticism and rejection. When we are naked, we have nothing to help us deflect or absorb the injury - we must bear it all, physically and emotionally.

In science, we know that humans are just like other animals in most respects. When an animal senses danger, it responds instinctively by preparing to fight or to flee. But an animal is aware of danger only as a stimulus. It has no concept of self, so it cannot be afraid, and therefore it has no awareness of good or evil. Like the serpent, all it knows is what it sees, feels, tastes, hears, etc. So the serpent encourages Eve to respond according to her physiology: her instincts to survive and to bring her specific biological system to dominance.

In eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve acquire the knowledge or awareness of themselves interacting with life. By knowing ourselves to be participating in each interaction, we are no longer confined to 'fight or flee' in response to threatening stimuli - we can also apply change to ourselves. Covering the body with fig leaves is different to a chameleon who changes colour to hide from predators. We are able to learn and adapt how we interact with life in a way that changes how life interacts with us. And even though it has so many other, much more productive applications, we mostly apply it to try and protect our vulnerable, naked selves from potential danger.

So despite what God said, Adam and Eve didn't die. But what they gained was an awareness of the potential for death, as well as pain, fear, despair and shame. Can you imagine what life would have been like for Adam and Eve if they had continued to see the world only as good, with the level of protection that only God could provide...?

As parents, we do our very best to keep an awareness of pain, heartache, death and despair from our own children for as long as possible. What words could one use to explain to an innocent child what it means to fear death, and why they're better off not being aware of it just yet? This is the dilemma being explored in Genesis 3.

God's knowledge of good and evil vs Adam's

The difference between God's knowledge of good and evil and Adam's is one of perspective. God sees His creation in its entirety, is aware of every tiny part of it and the role each part plays in perpetuating the whole and maintaining a perfect balance.

"I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who do all these things." (RSV Isaiah 45:7)

"He has made everything beautiful in its time" (RSV Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Everything He sees is good because He knows exactly how everything works and interacts with each other to benefit the whole, not just at this moment but from before Creation and forward into eternity. There is nothing 'evil' when Creation is viewed and understood as a universal, purposeful whole.

Adam's perspective is significantly limited in comparison. He has no idea how anything works. All he knows are the names he has given to everything, and what little he has experienced so far. He has barely grasped the concept of day and night as a continual cycle, let alone a million years or the delicate balance at work even in his own body.

So Adam's knowledge of good and evil is equally limited. What Adam sees as 'good' would be anything that is pleasing to him, such as beauty and taste, or that offers direct or indirect benefit to himself. What he sees as 'not good' or 'evil', therefore, would be anything that is potentially harmful to this newfound awareness of his vulnerable, naked self interacting with everything. More than simply fighting or fleeing to avoid potential harm, he constructs coverings from fig leaves, hides himself, and then tries to blame Eve for his transgression, who in turn seeks to protect herself by blaming the serpent.

Evil was not created by God or Satan, but by Man

God does not label anything as 'evil' - that word is ours alone. He created everything and declared all of it to be 'very good'.

Just as Adam "gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field;" (RSV Genesis 2:20), so 'evil' is a name we have given to elements of God's creation - to anything that would intentionally harm us specifically. Even the 'wickedness' God saw in the world came directly from the hearts and imaginations of humanity.

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (RSV Genesis 6:5)

Satan also plays no part in the narrative of Genesis. Any parallel drawn between 'the serpent' of Genesis and later references to Satan, 'the satan' who tested Job, or the 'ancient serpent' of Revelation is a contrivance that cannot be confirmed. The 'curse' inflicted here refers not to a specific being but to all ordinary, everyday snakes:

"Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (RSV Genesis 3:14-15)

This conclusion simply observes the existing opposition or hostility between man and snakes, 'explaining' why we are so keen to blame them for evil. But the snake is not the only one punished by God in this story. By focusing on the serpent and the woman, we continue to avoid the truth of Adam's culpability in his own downfall.


The 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' was created by God, along with 'every tree'. The serpent was also created by God - both the tree and the serpent are therefore 'very good' as God himself declares.

Evil, however, is not a creation of Satan or of God. The only evil in the world is what man has created with 'every imagination of the thoughts of his heart'. We have named the serpent as scapegoat for all the evil we imagine in the world, so we can continue to avoid what we cannot deny: this acquired awareness that - despite all the barriers, shields, interfaces and pretences we have created in our mind and our world to protect the survival and dominance of our vulnerable, naked selves - we know that how we interact with life affects how life interacts with us (not the other way around).

We can only fulfil God's plan once we acknowledge the extent of this responsibility in how we interact with all life, and all matter, and accept that 'evil' is simply a result of our limited perspective, experience, awareness or understanding of everything the universe.


The bible is stuffed with apparently unexplained metaphors, which is one of the reasons why people have speculated over it for thousands of years. Yet it is possible to discover what the tree and its fruit really was with gematria, and thus learn why God made it and what it was doing there.

Gematria is the art of assigning numerical values to letters so that words can be calculated as part of a mathematical sum. But to discover the secret level of meaning (the ‘sod’1) of the bible, you have to use the right gematria. This has (until relatively recently) always been a carefully guarded secret however, so the chances are that you’ve never heard of it before.

The gematria of the Torah was an intrinsic part of the Merkabah[2], but it became a forbidden topic of conversation for Jewish people after the second century C.E. Judah the Patriarch (who edited the Mishnah) banned all discussion of the Merkabah[3] and so the gematria values published in the Talmud and the Mishnah are wrong for the Torah; infact they are a deliberate blind intended to throw eager seekers of the Torah’s hidden level of meaning off the scent. Nevertheless some academic scholars that believe there is gematria in the bible[4], and they trace the origins of the practice to Mesopotamia where it was first used with the cuneiform script.

The Zohar’s ‘Book of Concealed Mystery’ contains a riddle – the solving of which reveals the Seven Palaces[5]. This diagram is an alpha-numeric logo-graphic arrangement.

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It contains the letters of the Hebrew alphabet assigned to Palaces (similar to sephiroth) and Paths, and it allows us to decipher the hidden gematria of the Merkabah [6]:

א 1 ב 2 ג 3 ש 3 ד 4 ת 4 ה 5 ו 6 ז 7 ח 8 ט 9 י 10 כ 20 ל 30 מ 40 נ 50 ס 60 ע 70 פ 80 צ 90 ק 100 ר 200

To discover the identity of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge we need to consult בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (Genesis) 3:3. You can check the following calculations by following the link, and even if you don’t know how to read or speak hebrew you can still study the gematria of the Torah using the modern interlinear feature. Not to sound too much like the mouse in Disney’s Ratatouille – but everyone can count. You need to memorize the 22 letters and numbers above, and that’s it! You’re ready to roll.

“And the fruit of the tree which in the middle of the garden”. – Genesis 3:3

ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך ־ הגן

In my experience of the calculating art, typically the use of the words such as בְּתוֹךְ ‘middle’ or ‘’between’[7] denotes the function of division by 2 of the following noun, which in this case is הגן ‘garden’ 58. Therefore: 58 / 2 = 29 and when we add this to ומפרי ‘and the fruit’ 336 results in 365 (days in a year).

In the rest of the verse Eve says to the serpent “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” This is couched in mathematical metaphor with ‘eating’ being ‘to subtract’ from the number while just ‘touching’ is ‘to add’ to the number. But in any case the prohibition is against altering the 365 day year in any form because the light of days was divinely decreed to fall to earth. The garden of Eden was situated above the earth in a realm that was before (and after) manifestation on the cosmos of the Seven Palaces. Therefore when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge they had to descend with the light of days to earth, and all beings that descended to earth were subject to the cycle of death and reincarnation.

When הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה ‘the woman’ 14 and לְאִישָׁ֛הּ ‘to the man’ 49 is subtracted from 365 (through the eating of the fruit in 3:6) it results in 302, which when converted from base 60 to decimal[8] = 182. 182 which is the length of Summer and the sum of the name of Jacob[9].

365 – 45 אדם (Adam) is 320 עֵירֹ֥ם ‘naked’, a state which Adam finds himself in Genesis 3:10. Conversion of 320 from base 60 to decimal gives 200 which is עֵֽינֵיכֶ֑ם ‘your eyes’ 200 in Genesis 3:5, where the serpent promises Eve that their eyes shall be opened should they eat the fruit.

They are כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים ‘as gods’ in the sense that have become the personifications of the Summer, and they know ט֥וֹב ‘good’ 17 + וָרָֽע ‘and evil’ 276 = 293 because their eyes have been opened. Whereas in their unenlightened state, they knew only God because 293 – 200 = 93 = 31 אל x 3, they have gained the light of the Sun (the Resh 200).

Until relatively recently it could not have been appreciated just how many verses of the Tanakh and the NT were not intended to be read, but counted instead. Frequently the results thrown up by the Merkabah argue against reading the open text of the bible in a literal fashion; either as a historical document or a collection of stories about the ancestors of the Jewish people, because the characters in these stories (including Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph and Jesus) appear as personifications of natural forces or periods of time.

1 Strong’s definition: “assembly, counsel, inward, secret counsel. From yacad; a session, i.e. Company of persons (in close deliberation); by implication, intimacy, consultation, a secret – assembly, consel, inward, secret (counsel)”: http://biblehub.com/strongs/hebrew/5475.htm

[2] Reader’s Guide to Judaism, by Sarah Pessin, page 457: https://tinyurl.com/ycb6gcca

[3] The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision, by David Joel Halperin, page 14: https://tinyurl.com/ybwslfqa

[4] Lieberman concludes that, given the employment of numerological techniques before and during the composition of the Hebrew Bible, it is entirely possible that Gematria was employed in the biblical text itself, encoding hidden messages. A Mesopotamian Background for the So-Called Aggadic ‘Measures’ of Biblical Hermeneutics?, by Stephen J. Lieberman, Hebrew Union College AnnualVol. 58 (1987), pp. 157-225: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23508256

[5] The Seven Palaces are at the core of Merkabah literature. Kabbalah came about largely in response to the prohibition upon free study of the Merkabah, and the Seven Palaces was derived into the Tree of Life so that students could discuss the Merkabah in an enciphered fashion. http://bethshebaashe.com/conformations-tree-life

[6] A mathematical analysis of the Seven Palaces shows an interplay of numbers upon each of the faces, with each depending on the others for support and existence, and conveys a sublime insight into the interdependent functioning of the cosmos as well as providing a checksum for the gematria.

The reason why there are two incidences of the value 3 (gimel and shin) and 4 (daleth and tav) is because the number system is logo-graphically keyed to the closed cosmological system of the Seven Palaces and was not constructed as an open number system. With all the letters in the correct placement then the order of the alphabet sums to 217:

1 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 15 + 16 + 17 + 18 + 19 + 20 = 217.

217 was of great significance to the ancients, being:

  1. אל ‘El’ (31) x 7 = 217.

  2. The gematria of the Seven Palaces = 217; [Beth (2) + Aleph (1) + Aleph (1) + Resh (200) + Dalet (4) + Dalet (4) + Heh (5)].

  3. The gematria of the Holy of Holies = 217; [Beth (2) + Gimel (3) + Heh (5) + Zayin (7) + Resh (200)].

[7] If something or some person is “between” בֵּ֣ין some other thing or person then the scribe is trying to tell you to halve the value of whatever is between.

For instance: ויבא בין ׀ מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל ויהי הענן והחשך ויאר את־הלילה ולא־קרב זה אל־זה כל־הלילה

“So it came between the camp (103) of Egypt (380) and the camp (103) of Israel (244); and there was ‘the cloud and darkness’ (217), it lightened (217) ‘ath’ the night (80). Thus the one did not come near the other all night (80)”. – Exodus 14:20.

In this sum we begin by dividing Egypt and Israel in two – ‘getting between’ them: Egypt 380 / 2 = 190 Israel 244 / 2 = 122. 190 + 122 + 217 ‘the cloud and the darkness’ + 217 ‘it lightened’ – 80 ‘the night’ = 666.

[8] In some texts of the bible, it is common for Hebrew scribes to employ this type of conversion. Modern people still use base 60 for time measurement, thus 3:02 minutes (base 60) is 182 seconds (decimal). It was originally invented by the Babylonians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_numerals

[9] The seasonal character of Esau and Jacob as the personifications of Winter and Summer start at Genesis 25:27:

ויגדלו הנערים ויהי עשו איש ידע ציד איש שדה ויעקב איש תם ישב אהלים

“When the boys grew up, Esau(79) became a skillful hunter (104), a man(14) of the field(12), but Jacob(182) was a peaceful man, living in tents(26).”

Esau 79 + hunter 104 = 183 Jacob = 182 183 + 182 = 365 (days in a year) Man + Field = 26 Tents = 26 26 + 26 = 52 (weeks in a year).

The origin of the story is Mesopotamian – typological to the Myth of Emesh and Enten (The Debate between Winter and Summer) which was recorded during the mid to late 3rd millennium BC.

  • This seems to be an advert for a book.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 10:24
  • 1
    Also, I couldn't help noticing that the gematria of the word gematria (גימטריה) is 277, which in the Jewish gematria works out to "Rebel Archangel" and also "Big Apple." So, could gematria actually be the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? ;-)
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 17:16
  • Genesis 1.14 tells us that gematriot is concerned with the days, years, seasons, sun & moon etc. because the 'signs', in Hebrew 'oth', means the letters, so archangels of any stripe or the city of New York would not have been any concern of the ancient scribal authors of Genesis using gematria. It just didn't work like that Dieter, but if it did your comment would have been funny. :) Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 21:30
  • You seem to have a suspicious mind Nigel. An advert for a book would not give away so much information freely, would it? Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 21:33
  • Bethsheba, I had meant "Big Apple" as in a large, crunchy fruit often associated with the forbidden fruit. You're right, though. New York City was not likely to have been anticipated. ;-)
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 23:10

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