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Is there one or two trees in the midst of the garden of Eden?

Theory: The tree of life in the garden of Eden is one in the same as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

My proof of this is found in the way it is written in the original Hebrew, and its location. (see the links below to view the verses Genesis 2:9,3:3,3:22 in the Interlinear format)

Here are the verses to look at.

Genesis 2:9 (KJV)

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.

Genesis 3:3 (KJV)

But of the fruit of the tree which is [in the midst] of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Genesis 3:22 (KJV)

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:

You might then ask: If it is the tree of life, and Adam ate from it, why did they die?

My answer is that they disobeyed the command not to eat from it, and were blocked access to it. Although it gave them long life and knowledge, it must be eaten on a continual basis, to continue living. The Hebrew words in brackets are the confusing words in question. They can be read as follows:

Genesis 2:9

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 center]⁸⁴³² of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 3:3

But of the fruit of the tree which is [in the center]⁸⁴³² of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

If there are two trees, we now know both are in the same location, although not necessarily the same trees; however, Adam’s wife is here saying she cannot eat from the tree in the center of the garden, that is to say, she cannot eat from the tree of life mentioned in Gen2.9, since it too is in the center of the Garden, thus they must be the same tree since all other trees are available for food.(see Gen 3.2&2.16,17) Moreover, she only mentions one tree.

Genesis 3:22

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 [again]¹⁵⁷¹ of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

H8432   (Strong)
‎תָּוֶךְ
tâvek
taw'-vek
From an unused root meaning to sever; a bisection, that is, (by implication) the centre: - among (-st), X between, half, X (there-, where-) in (-to), middle, mid [-night], midst (among), X out (of), X through, X with (-in).
Total KJV occurrences: 419

H1571   (Strong)
‎גַּם
gam
gam
By contraction from an unused root meaning to gather; properly assemblage; used only adverbially also, even, yea, though; often repeated as correlation both... and: - again, alike, also, (so much) as (soon), both (so) . . . and, but, either . . . or, even, for all, (in) likewise (manner), moreover, nay . . . neither, one, then (-refore), though, what, with, yea.
Total KJV occurrences: 761

https://scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen2.pdf

https://scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen3.pdf

https://scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen3.pdf

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  • "... in the original Hebrew" - Where did you find the original Hebrew? We have the Masoretic Text, but not the original Hebrew.
    – user33515
    Nov 29, 2022 at 23:43
  • Point noted, the Hebrew from Strongs
    – user44949
    Dec 1, 2022 at 12:35
  • Yeah, that's not the original. Strongs is based on the Masoretic Text and a manuscript from around the 11th century AD (Leningrad Codex). We don't have the original and even Jewish scholars will admit that the Masoretic Text is mangled and meaningless in many places (see, e.g., Oxford Jewish Study Bible). Few Bibles show this - the RSV is an exception. You might compare with the Septuagint for clarity. It's true that it is a translation, but it is by Jews and points to a proto-original text that is older than the Masoretic by around a millennium.
    – user33515
    Dec 1, 2022 at 18:48

5 Answers 5

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Is there one or two trees in the midst of the garden of Eden? If it is the tree of life, and Adam ate from it, why did they die?

The Genesis is inconclusive as to the number of trees located in the midst of the garden of Eden, but the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil are not the same. Elohim's prohibition only covers the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Adam and Eve ate from that tree (not from the tree of life).

The proposition that they are the same tree is inconsistent with the agglutination [when depicting the qualities of all other trees] that just precedes the mention of these two specific trees (Gen 2:9). The contrast, in the same verse, between that agglutination and the two separate references that immediately follow it rule out an identity of the two trees. To supersede such contrast, the Genesis could have added "and that [was]" (ו הוא) in between "the tree of life in the midst" and "the tree of knowledge".

Nor does Eve's mention of only one tree suffice for concluding that both trees are the same. First, that rationale would lead to the conjecture that Adam and Eve never ate from any other tree in the garden of Eden.

Second, Eve's paraphrase of the prohibition that Elohim stated to Adam might reflect a confusion on her part as to the number of trees located there.

Third, and most important, the serpent's argument is notoriously limited to the incentive of gaining knowledge of good and evil. Were both trees the same, the serpent would have been more persuasive or assuring by telling Eve [also] the benefits from eating from the tree of life, given how the fear of death --rather than the fear of continued ignorance-- hitherto had a dissuasive effect on Eve.

The suggestion that גם may have a connotation of repetition or frequency seems inapposite. The suggestion is too vague (as in by contraction from an unused root) and does not elaborate on how it ingrains with other elements of the passage.

it must be eaten on a continual basis, to continue living

The same could be posited about "continue possessing knowledge". But Elohim's reflection in Gen 3:22 does not purport that continued knowledge of good and evil is at risk if Adam and Eve never eat from there again. The prohibition having become moot, Elohim's concern henceforth is only in terms of them eating from the tree of life and living forever.

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Of great significance is the fact that no fruit from any tree on earth can give anyone eternal life. Likewise, there is no fruit from any tree on earth that can give knowledge of any kind to anyone. Whatever Genesis means regarding the two trees you ask about, they are symbolic in application. After the Genesis opening accounts, the only one of those trees that is ever mentioned again in the Bible is the Tree of Life, which is no longer on earth, but in heaven. It is mentioned in conjunction with the river of the water of life - see Revelation 21:1-5. But the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is no more mentioned after the end of Genesis chapter 4.

Here is an extract from a book that deals with this point - the first point of importance being to know what this 'knowledge of good and evil' is that is warned about by God, in the opening chapters of Genesis.

"The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not food. 'Thou dost not eat of it' says the literal Hebrew [Young] Gen. 2:17. Thou dost not eat of that because it is not edible! 'In the very day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die' because you can't digest it!

...Life needs to be initiated, increased and sustained by the Tree of Life. And that Tree is in the very midst of the garden. "Of the trees of the garden thou mayest freely eat". These very words are the Tree of Life. The Word. The Word which was from the beginning. Eat that word. First. Eat it and imbibe it and understand that thou art to eat to live. Thou are to eat of that which is freely given - to live. Turn away from that, and you die...

For God is a Spirit. And can only be approached and worshipped in Spirit. He cannot be approached by that which is natural and of creation. It is not possible. To attempt it, is to die. But word is required. Yet not the word that is mere knowledge. Not the various trees that came out of the ground, in the garden though they be. And not, absolutely not, that word of mere knowledge that pertains to good and evil. Which presupposes the presence of life capable of performing that which is required.

The first utterance of the word of God shows how utterly essential it is for us to understand this primary concept. And this is what repentance is about, above all. Having another mind about this very matter. Else, we cannot progress to anything else. Hear. Eat. Live." Knowledge and Life, Nigel Johnstone, pp 17-19 (Belmont Publications 2013)

That quote is designed to show that until we grasp what the Tree of Life is, we will never understand what the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is. Everyone gets waylaid with thoughts of apples and fig-leaves. But it's not about literal objects made out of matter! Discover the meaning of the Tree of Life first, and then you may be able to partake of it as described in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, when God has restored all things to the perfection of Eden and the Tree of Life is made available to the nations.

The answer to your question is that there are two "things" mentioned as being central to the Genesis Eden account. But they are not literal, material things, such as trees with roots underground, a wooden trunk, branches going off and bearing leaves and fruit. They are two diametrically opposed "things" which humans must choose between. One choice leads to everlasting life from God, the other leads to death due to disobeying God's way of life. Adam chose the latter, and died in sin. Had he stuck obediently to God's way, he would have been allowed to 'partake' of everlasting life. He and Eve were prevented from doing that because they had cut themselves off from the source of Life, their Creator, by their wilful choice. This proves that the two symbolic 'trees' were not one and the same 'tree'. Yet God, in mercy, provided a way back to that original perfection, where there was no sin and, therefore, no death for humanity.

If we 'partake' of Jesus Christ by faith, he who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, he who is the eternal Word of God, then we pass over from death to life. As the Word of God has told us,

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, 'He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life'." - John 5:24

"It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall be all taught of God.' Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto him. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, 'He that believeth on me hath everlasting life'." - John 6:45-47

That is why Christians are told to "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16); so that "Christ [may] dwell in your hearts by faith" (Ephesians 3:17 - 4:6); and "The word is nigh thee, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:8-10)

To do that is to depend on the Tree of Life, not in claimed knowledge of good and evil that actually leads to death, for it is not of God, it is not the Word of God. Those who will partake of the Tree of Life in Paradise have already passed over from death to life eternal by putting their obedient faith in the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

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There were two trees both on a central portion of the garden of Eden:

Tree of Life

  • Gen 2:9 - Out of the ground the LORD God gave growth to every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food. And in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Gen 3:22 - 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...”
  • Gen 3:24 - 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.
  • Rev 2:7 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant the right to eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God.
  • Rev 22:2 - down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
  • Rev 22:14 - Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by its gates.
  • Rev 22:19 - And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this book.

There are many other references to this metaphorically such as Prov 3:18, 11:30, 13:12, 15:4, etc.

Thus, the tree of life appears to be essential for preserving eternal life because when access to it was prevented by the angelic flaming swords, man was mortal. Access to the tree of life will be restored in the heavenly paradise.

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil

  • Gen 2:9 - Out of the ground the LORD God gave growth to every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food. And in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Gen 2:17 - but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”

It appears the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had the opposite effect of the tree of life; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cause man to become mortal and die.

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  • What’s the point of living forever if one has no wisdom? The tree of life also gives wisdom as is promised in Proverbs chapter 8. Proverbs 8:35-36 (KJVA) 35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. 36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
    – user44949
    Oct 15, 2022 at 16:26
  • @user44949 - I do not understand your question - I have also said that the tree of life will be in the paradise of God where we live forever.
    – Dottard
    Oct 15, 2022 at 20:20
  • You found many verses about the tree of life, can you find one about the tree of knowledge after access to the garden was blocked? I cannot find any mention of such a tree; however, I do find many verses on gaining knowledge, understanding and wisdom, and it usually results in gaining life.
    – user44949
    Oct 16, 2022 at 0:52
  • @user44949 - there are only two references that mention the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The other references to which you allude are about spiritual wisdom and knowledge and NOT about the knowledge of good and evil.
    – Dottard
    Oct 16, 2022 at 1:46
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Following the OP’s lead, this response explores the symbolism behind the two trees to see whether they could be considered as one and the same. In the text, the trees are mentioned together, though the tree of life is first.

The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – Gen 2:9

If we start with the premise that there is only one tree of life, then the knowledge of good and evil points to a duality within life. That duality is understood to be of flesh and spirit. Though they are not equivalent, the dichotomy of good/evil parallels and corresponds to the duality of flesh/spirit: good with spirit and flesh with evil. Based on this premise, God’s words to Adam can be reconceived as a command to abstain from the flesh and to live by the spirit.

But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die – Gen 2:17

The moment evil entered the heart of man, that is, when he desired the fruit of the tree, it was as though flesh was sundered from spirit, and the tree of life that had been one was split in two. Separated from the spirit, flesh became subject to the reality of death.

For you are dust, And to dust you shall return – Gen 3:19

It also became a source of shame.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked – Gen 3:7

While there is no definitive way to answer the OP’s question, there is insight to be had by considering the possibility of there being one tree. In pondering the separation of flesh from spirit, I believe it forms a narrative that resonates with and informs our human experience, that of being incomplete and lost, and explains man’s restless longing for a reality beyond what we can touch and see.

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  • Years ago, I looked at the knowledge of good and evil as if it meant: good is obedience, evil is disobedience, it’s deeper, because the tree did give them knowledge. Adam did rename his wife, out of that knowledge, and he saw her sexual parts, she too gained knowledge and noticed his sexual parts. They where both sexually aroused, but with arousal, also shame. Thus the insufficient attempt to hide those parts creating the arousal. The animal skins likely made from clean animals, would be a figure of Christ the lamb of God, covering those who take up the cross & walk in obedience. Lev 18.
    – user44949
    Oct 22, 2022 at 16:01
  • @user44949 (Edited) For me as well, the text now has an added dimension, that of flesh & spirit. The moment that evil entered the hearts of men, it was as though flesh was sundered from spirit, and the tree of life that had been one was split into two. With this separation, the flesh (and sexuality) became a cause for shame. Though our thoughts take different directions, I am deeply grateful for your question and comments as they have enriched my understanding of the text. Most notably, I now understand God's words to Adam as a command to us all to live by the spirit.
    – Nhi
    Oct 23, 2022 at 15:44
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The Hebrew does not indicate that the two trees are the same. It is easily possible that there could be many trees "in the midst" of the Garden. To think that only one tree could be "dead center" of the Garden is to miss what the Hebrew is saying--it never says, nor implies, an exact center.

First, Genesis 3:22 makes clear that the two trees are distinct from each other.

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: (Genesis 3:22, KJV)

Secondly, that there are two trees is clear from what is said of each tree. One continues one's life, potentially forever. Eating from the other, on account of disobedience, would result in death.

As an aside, for it is a point on which some may stumble, in Genesis 2:17, the text says that the "day" (Heb. "yowm" which can also mean "time" or "year") they ate the fruit, they would "die die" (Heb. muwth muwth). This repetition is used for emphasis, meaning it would be certain to happen. Note that one "day" in God's sight is as a thousand years to us, as recorded in Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8, so when Adam died at 930 years of age, he was well within the time allotted by God.

The angels guarded the entrances to Eden after sin to prevent Adam and Eve from again eating of the Tree of Life. Had they continued to eat from it, they would have lived as sinners continually--potentially forever. This was not a desirable outcome, and God prevented them from returning to the Tree of Life. That the Tree of Life was actually removed from the Garden and taken to Heaven at some point prior to the Flood of Noah's day is evident in the Revelation where John sees the Tree in Heaven, awaiting the saints' arrival to again partake of it. (See Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14.)

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was nothing to be desired. The one telling them it gave "wisdom" was the same Tempter whom Jesus called "the father of lies." So to say it gave actual wisdom is to believe one of the most primitive of lies. That "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" (Genesis 3:6) is no endorsement of her perceptions as being reality or actual truth. Obviously, she was incorrect about the desirability of eating from the tree, as we know from hindsight of the tremendous toll of sin and misery it brought, and she was equally incorrect about the "wisdom" of wanting to know evil along with the good which she already had.

God did not desire for us to have an acquaintance or knowledge of evil. Such was never necessary, and we would have been far happier without this knowledge. It is not "wisdom" to suppose this knowledge is necessary or helpful. To know what is good is all we should ever want.

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