Would Adam have died by touching the Tree?
Answer: No. God explicitly said not to eat of it.
First, it might be helpful to recognize that, at no point did God ever labor under any illusions that Man and Woman would not immediately be lured by the cunning of the serpent.
Indeed, He paved the way for everything to occur as it did to hasten the Fall. This was necessary for every human being to be allowed to make a conscious decision either to choose the life that God intended — or to reject that Life in favor of "the World".
Perhaps we should consider several reasons why Eve may never have received an explicit command from God. Let us examine some of the evidence:
- Note the wording in Genesis 2:16-17: “The LORD God commanded the man [only], saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die’” (emphasis added). God never told Adam that touching the Tree would bring forth death.
- Why did God not wait to inform both the man and woman equally? We must remember that Eve had yet to be created: Her physical origin occurs five verses later in Genesis 2:22. So, why did God not wait until both were present before making such a pivotal announcement?
- It seems most plausible that Eve did not misquote God at all since we never read that God told Eve: “Do not touch [the Tree] or you will die.” In fact, we never read that God warned Eve about the Tree anywhere. We assume as much based on Eve's words in Genesis 3:2-3.
- Adam was certain to have told his new bride: “We must not eat of the Tree nor should we even touch it lest we die!” This underscores Adam’s concern that his wife should never disobey this sober warning. In modern vernacular: “Eve darling, that Tree in the middle of the Garden is ‘hands-off!’”
- This all makes sense if Eve’s decision was based, not on what God told her, but on what her husband related. Adam’s warning would never carry the weight of God’s imposing character regarding this abomination, one deliberately placed directly in the middle of the Garden (which itself is very curious).
- Had Eve been told directly by God never to eat of the Tree, it seems exceedingly unlikely that she could have been so easily duped. It is one thing to be warned by Adam; it is quite another to be warned by Almighty God. Such an encounter with deity would surely have been deeply etched in Eve’s consciousness.
If we believe that God did explicitly command both Adam and Eve not to "touch the tree [or you] will die", then it necessarily follows that God's command to Adam was inadequate: Yes, Adam would die merely by touching the Tree.
So, which is easier to believe:
A. God instructed Adam incorrectly about His one great command to humanity;
B. God then decided to correct His error when speaking later to Eve, or,
C. Eve received a different message, most likely from her own husband Adam, since the duty to lead falls on all heads-of-households.
I would suggest that (C) is the only option. If correct, Eve was likely evaluating whether the serpent was more astute and reliable than her husband in the matter. Weighing the warnings of Adam against the promises of the serpent, Eve may never have fully grasped the gravity of the circumstances. She may even have felt that her husband was mistaken, which seems to be one of the points the serpent is making (although his real target is God Himself).
God’s explicit words would surely have instilled great fear and trepidation in Eve. There would have been no doubt in her mind regarding the dangers of the Tree.
It seems that God expected every human being to be just as accountable as every other beginning with the first couple. His Plan was to ensure that each of us has the same culpability and the same avenue of redemption.
These thoughts are grounded both in Scripture and logical congruity. There will always be those who disagree, maintaining that God spoke directly to Eve after He spoke to Adam, and that he apparently did so with a different message. But this makes absolutely no sense at all, especially when we are contemplating the spiritual death of humanity. No, the Fall was ordained by God, One whose omniscience exceeds that of all human capacity.
Adam and Eve were perfect human specimens. They had never suffered the consequences of hundreds or thousands of years of mental and physical degradation as we have. It is highly unlikely that Eve would ever misquote God on something as crucial as this: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” And, it is also highly unlikely that she made a mistake about something so vitally important.
Note her words carefully: “God has said…” Why would Eve not simply tell the serpent: “God told me? or God told us?” If Adam had related what God had said, that would naturally have been exactly the way Eve conveyed the warning.
There is even more to consider.
- Why, for example, did Eve not tell the serpent that “the tree which is in the middle of the garden” was, in fact, “the Tree of Knowledge?” Notice what God told Adam:
Genesis 2:16b-17a: "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat...”
Why did she not identify the Tree if God explicitly warned her? One wonders whether Eve knew the name of the Tree at all.
- Eve’s account sounds suspiciously like someone relating a narrative that was conveyed to her secondhand. And, lest we forget, someone had to commit the one disobedient act that would inexorably follow. The stage was set: Eve was the perfect choice to fall victim to the circumstances set before her — according to God’s expectations.
The point of this exercise has been to demonstrate that while God obviously spoke to Adam (Gen. 2:16-17), we cannot conclusively state that He explicitly warned Eve: we have every reason to believe He did not, and her actions seem to confirm this.
We also know the man is responsible for his wife (Eph. 5:22-23). The most plausible explanation for the discrepancy lies in the fact that Adam assumed his proper role by relating God’s severe warning to Eve. It is not possible that God delivered a different message to Eve — assuming He ever spoke to her about it at all.
Yet, that is what so many will adamantly claim based solely on Gen. 3:2-3. Merely assuming that God issued this command directly to Eve is conjecture, although it is not unreasonable.
Such naturally follows from Eve’s: “God has said... lest we die.” Since God told Adam, Adam would surely instruct her. Understanding the severity of God's command, he probably added: "nor even touch it" in case Eve entertained any doubts.
Neither Adam nor Eve would die by touching the fruit: God is incapable of error — and Eve did not misquote Him either.