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We read this interesting account of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden at Gen 3:24 :

He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

One wonders as for whom the guarding of the Tree of Life was intended. Adam and Eve had not been prohibited from eating from the Tree of Life, which was separate from the Tree of Knowledge ( Gen 2:9 and 2:17). With the bad experience with Tree of Knowledge,they were less likely to eat from the Tree of Life, even if given a chance. Were there other human beings around, who were likely to enter the garden and eat from the trees ? Was it possible that animals with a certain level of intelligence were also attracted to the trees ? ( Unfortunately, Chapter 3 ends with Verse 24 and Chapter 4 starts with an account of the birth of Cain and Abel).

My question therefore is : against whom was the Tree of Life guarded after the fall of Adam and Eve ?

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    There was still a presence of God on earth. "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." So Adam's household was a household of faith (after he believed the promise and named his wife Eve and was clothed with the skin of the sacrificed). And where there is faith, there is One in the midst. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Feb 16, 2021 at 10:04
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    Young's Literal Translation And Jehovah God saith, `Lo, the man was as one of Us, as to the knowledge of good and evil (But now, he is not, so he is banished.) The KJV translation (is become one of us) is utterly illogical and supports the lie of the serpent.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 17, 2021 at 16:51

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Hmm I am not so sure about the question not referring to Adam...if one reads Genesis 3.22... And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

"The man" in chapter 3 vs 22 is clearly Adam. I think there is no doubt it also refers to any man that comes after Adam, however at this particular point in history, its just Adam (and Eve obviously).

God determines to prevent Adam from eating of the tree and living forever...hence the angel is stationed at the east entry blocking the way in.

24So He drove out the man and stationed cherubim on the east side of the Garden of Eden, along with a whirling sword of flame to guard the way to the tree of life."

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  • Correct. Adam's fallen state would have been forever confirmed. The expulsion was grace. Feb 16, 2021 at 13:29
  • Agreed. Also, if not prevented, Adam and Eve might well have tried to eat the Tree of Knowledge again. After all, they've already suffered the punishment, and maybe there is some extra knowledge to be gained? The history of Mankind since then is a clear indication that just because doing something wrong the first time had bad consequences, humans won't try it again. Feb 16, 2021 at 14:52
  • @DJClayworth I think you mean «just because doing something wrong the first time had bad consequences, that won't stop humans from trying it again». Or in a more graphic way: xkcd.com/242
    – Ángel
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:06
  • If Adam had of eaten from the tree, Jesus”s coming would have been a waste of time. It (guarding the tree) was an act of Love. Adam was put out of the garden in Love, not for punishment!
    – Dave
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:49
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It appears the fruit of the tree of life had to be eaten on an on-going basis, and by preventing on-going access to the tree, death would ultimately follow. It's as though the fruit of the tree of life repaired their bodies when consumed.

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On the basis of the scriptures and with the help of answers given so far, I would like to draw a chronology of events:

A. God plants two trees in the middle of the garden viz. Tree of Life and Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil ( Gen 2:9)

B. God allows Adam to eat of any tree in the garden except the Tree of Knowledge lest he should die . Thus, the Tree of Knowledge is also the Tree of Death (Gen 2:15)

C. As time passes, Adam and Eve forget about the Tree of Life and do not eat of it though they had been permitted to do so. When the Serpent approaches Eve, she points to the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the garden , which in fact shares space with Tree of Life , calling it the forbidden tree (Gen 3:2-3)

D. The Serpent succeeds in tempting Eve to eat the fruit of Tree of Knowledge & Death (Gen 3:6)

E. Adam and Eve get the prospect of death along with knowledge (Gen 3:19) .

F. God sees it dangerous for man to have both knowledge and immortality of physical body . So he draws man out of the garden and keeps a guard so as to stop man from coming back and eating the fruit of Tree of Life( Gen 3: 22-24).

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The answer to this question is actually in the previous verse: Gen 3:22-24 -

22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. And now, lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever...”

23 Therefore the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

24 So He drove out the man and stationed cherubim on the east side of the Garden of Eden, along with a whirling sword of flame to guard the way to the tree of life.

From this passage we observe several things:

  1. The tree of life was in some way, the source of eternal life according to V22 - with it, the man did not die, and without it, he would die.
  2. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden to prevent access to this tree of life

The stated purpose of this is specifically to prevent sin and sinful mankind living forever. Thus, until the flood destroyed it, access to the tree of life was prevented by guarding cherubim with the "whirling sword" (whatever that was).

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Against whom was the Tree of Life guarded after the fall of Adam and Eve?

God allowed Adam and Eve to eat from all the trees except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, warning him that death would result.

“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Most of us remember the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but there was another important tree.

Sometimes, in remembering Adam and Eve, we forget that there were two important trees in that garden. Along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there was “every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden” (Gen. 2:9).

Right there, near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the tree of life. Not much is said about this tree — except that God expels Adam and Eve before they can lay hands on it. God said nothing about eating from this tree until Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Then God said, “Now, what if he (man) also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever? The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden” (Gen 3: 22-23).

In fact, God is so concerned about Adam and Eve and their descendants not getting back into Eden that he stations “cherubim and the fiery revolving sword … to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Archbishop Denis J. Hart of Melbourne, Australia once said the following about the tree of life:

God hastened to evict Adam and Eve from the garden - not as a punishment, but because he feared “lest the man put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever”

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God did not have to plant "any" trees at all for Himself. Therefore, the Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge were planted for Some(one) Other than God. But why? God's immediate admonishment to Adam and Eve was to NOT PARTAKE. In human terms, this is tantamount to leaving a loaded gun in the living room and telling a child not to touch it. Why leave it in the first place if the outcome is certain death? What was the point? Further, if the Tree of Life was NOT meant for Mankind, why did Jesus then Overturn God's admonishment by granting it later on? And what happened to the tens of generations in between?

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    – agarza
    Aug 1, 2022 at 17:43
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Tree was guarded against Adam and Eve. Had they partaken of the fruit they would have lived forever in their sins.

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    Aug 1, 2022 at 21:36
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This is a great question. I think it's better to not focus solely on the tree of life but the entire garden, as this gives a better picture.

God could have put a flaming sword around the tree of life and let Adam remain in the garden. But he chose to expel man from the entire garden and set the flaming sword and the two cherubs to guard the entrance to the garden in order to prevent access to the tree of life. Why? The garden somehow was associated to the tree of life and could not be separated from it.

So what did the garden have in common with the tree of life?

I believe the garden was filled with life. "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." (Gen 2.9)

Thus the garden was fertile or brimming with life, and out of this fertile life sprang the tree of life, which is the apex of life giving fruit.

Thus we have the beginning of a holiness code, in which God says "this area is for life, and this for death". Man was made not from the fertile ground of the garden, but from ordinary ground, and only put into the garden after God breathed the "breath of life" into man (Gen 2.7) so that man became living nefesh. It's interesting that nefesh and hayyah are two words that both have the sense of living and the parallel the promised two deaths if the tree of knowledge was eaten (מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת or mot tamut in Gen. 2.17).

Only after the man was imbued with life by God could he enter this garden. This suggests that there were already requirements for entrance, and one of man's jobs was to "guard" the garden (shamar in Gen 2.15, which means both "take care of" and "guard" as does the Elizabethan word "keep".)

At the fall, man was defiled and dead (2.17), and thus could not step on the holy ground and so was sent back into the (now) cursed ground, to work it, in contrast with the holy ground that he was cultivating before the fall.

Thus this is the beginning of the various holiness codes as well as temple layout. You have:

   blessed garden                         cursed ground

 |              Holy                  |
 | Most holy    |                     |
 | tree of life |         cherub+fire |   outside
 
                   

Many temples in the ancient near east followed this pattern, of a holy place, and an inner "Most Holy" place[1]. At the entrance to the holy place would be a sacrificial altar of fire. Cherubic imagery would be used throughout.

Thus you have this concept of holiness, or being set apart for God, in which the world is divided into life and death, clean and unclean. Therefore the main source of uncleanness is touching a dead body. When God said "you shall surely die", man became dead, and thus could not remain in the holy area.

Later on, God would say that all of the promised land was holy land, and all of Israel was a holy nation, and thus everyone in Israel had to avoid touching a dead body, and a number of related ritual purity requirements were instituted and grew out of this basic conception.

Moreover the garden was guarded by the flaming sword and the two cherubim, symbolic of divine fire.

Later on, the temple area had to be ritually purified by sin offerings consisting of the blood of the scapegoat for the nation, as well as bulls for the priesthood, male goats for the priest, and female goats for ordinary people, all of which were put on the altar and burned (although only the purification sacrifices whose blood was sprinkled on the holy of holies were entirely burned). There was also the red heifer which was fully burned, and the ashes of the red heifer mixed with living water purified the unclean (Numbers 19).

So out of this basic picture of the divine fire at the gate came the sacrificial system for restoring holiness (there were other types of offerings that I think are less relevant). Note that the brazen altar was lit with divine fire from Heaven (Lev 9.24) and this fire was never to be put out but was to be kept burning continuously (Lev 6.12). When Solomon dedicated his Temple, divine fire again fell from Heaven to light the altar (2 Chron 7.1).

After the fall, God clothed man with animal skins, which required the sacrifice of an animal, and then Adam wore its skin, and was driven out. Thus there were two identical animals, the one sacrificed and the one driven out. This ritual supposedly cleansed the garden from the defilement of Adam's sin, and so similar purification practice was used in the scapegoat sacrifice (Lev 16) and the pair of two birds (Lev 14.3-7), both involving two identical animals, with one sacrificed and the other sent out.

So rather than just looking at the tree of life (the most holy area), look at the entire layout and see within it the same general principles that form much of the Levitical system that enforce the separation of life from death.

Thus the answer to the overall question would be that life was to be separated from death. Holy things containing life were to be separated from cursed things that contained or touched death (such as man and his decedents). Eden was holy, and the tree of life, as something that gave endless life, was the most holy and thus most in need of separation from the world of death.


[1] https://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/rel390r/Reading%20Assignments/What%20is%20a%20Temple%20JML.pdf

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