In Genesis 2:16, 17 when God commanded Adam not to eat the fruits from the tree of knowledge. what fruit was he referring to an apple or sexual sins

Gen 2:16, 17 - And the LORD God commanded him, “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, 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.”

  • Neither. The tree is 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil' Genesis 2:17. It is clearly a concept, the expression of something that divides and has many, many branchings, a multitude of applications. The context plainly indicates that a certain kind of knowledge exists in a creation which contains sentient beings. But that form of knowledge is not a means of producing or sustaining Life, that is to say spiritual life beyond a mere natural existence.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 10, 2023 at 17:24
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    – Dottard
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  • Why "apple" is commonly associated although not in the biblical text: npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/04/30/526069512/…
    – aschepler
    Nov 11, 2023 at 1:23

2 Answers 2


Actually, "fruit" is never mentioned in Gen 2. The first time we hear about fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is in Gen 3:2, 3, 6 & 12.

The operative word here is פְרִי (peri) which is used in one of only three ways:

  1. Literal fruit from of plants whether trees or other crops, eg, Gen 1:11, 12, 29, 4:3, Ex 10:15, Lev 19:23, etc
  2. (quite rarely) human offspring, ie, fruit of the (human) womb, Gen 30:2, Deut 7:13, 28:4, 11, 30:9; or cattle Deut 28:4, 11, 51, 30:9
  3. (figuratively) the fruit (= consequences) of actions, eg, Isa 3:10, 10:12, Ps 58:12, Hos 10:13, Prov 1:31, etc.

However, when this word is used in the phrase "fruit of a/the tree" or similar, it ALWAYS refers to literal fruit of a literal tree.

Therefore, we must conclude that in Gen 3 when Eve says,

Gen 3:2, 3 - The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You must not eat of it or touch it, or you will die.’ ”

... we must conclude that this is describing literal fruit from a literal tree. Further, "sexual sins" are never mentioned in these stores, nor are they even hinted at.

[However, it is also true that the consequences of Eve's (and Adam's) actions were far-reaching.]

  • Genesis 2:17 speaks of eating of the "tree of knowledge." Fruit is clearly implied, isn't it? Nov 11, 2023 at 0:55
  • @DanFefferman - not necessarily - in the other end of the Bible, people eat the leaves the tree Rev 22:2.
    – Dottard
    Nov 11, 2023 at 5:13

The interpretation of partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as symbolizing sexual sin is not entirely without biblical basis. Arguments supporting this idea include:

  • After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve realized their nakedness, felt shame, and concealed the sexual areas of their bodies (Gen. 2:25, 3:7), not their mouths.

  • In the Bible and elsewhere "to know" a woman means to have sexual relations with her (Gen. 4:17, 25, 19:8).

  • The Book of Deuteronomy several times connects fruit with a woman's reproductive organs: “Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb..." (28:4, etc.)

  • In Christian tradition, Mary is thought by many to be a New Eve who restored the first Eve's disobedience. Elizabeth declared, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke 1:42) Some interpret Mary's virginal obedience to restore Eve's sexual sin.

These examples are not definitive. Although many of the Church Fathers saw a connection between sex and the Fall, they did not interpret the fruit of Gen. 2-3 to represent sexual sin per se. Some of them did see sexual desire as a consequence of the fall. See this question for examples. The apocryphal Infancy Gospel of James ch. 13, however, implies that Eve's transgression may indeed have involved a sexual act. When Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant, he exclaims:

Who stole the virgin from me and defiled her? Has not the story of Adam been repeated with me? For while Adam was glorifying God, the serpent came and found Eve alone and deceived her and defiled her - so it has also happened to me.

In Jewish tradition:

The fall of mankind is explained to him (Abraham), just as in the Slavonic Book of Baruch and Pirḳe R. El. xxi. Adam and Eve are led to commit sexual sin by Azazel (Satana-El in the Book of Baruch; Sama-El in Pirḳe R. El.) through his causing them to eat from the forbidden fruit, a grape from the vine (compare Slavonic Book of Baruch and Ber. 40a).

Later, Augustine held that Original Sin is transmitted through unruly feelings of lust inherited generation after generation through the sexual reproduction.

Conclusion: The idea that the forbidden fruit of Gen. 2 symbolized sexual sin is generally not accepted, but it does have some basis in biblical interpretation and Judeo-Christian tradition.

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