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Almost all the English translations of Genesis 2:9 make a break between the trees for food and the other two trees, often inserting "was." Compare the translations from KJV and NKJV, which has the "was" added:

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.

NKJV:

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

When I look at the presentation of the Hebrew in BibleHub.com, it seems like "made to grow" is the only verb, closer to the KJV. So, why don't most translations follow something like this:

God made grow out of the ground every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.

I guess basically I want to know why translations like NKJV seem to want to avoid having the text say that God made the the Trees of Life and Knowledge grow out of the ground. Is this an interpretive matter in translating, or is it clear in the Hebrew?

Maybe this is a no-brainer if one studies Hebrew grammar. If so, sorry.

Edit: Because of Der Ubermensch's answer below, I want to clarify my question... Is there a reason that the Hebrew could not be interpreted to mean "God made 3 things grow out of the ground: 1-food trees, 2-life tree, and 3-knowledge tree."? Is there something in Hebrew grammar that prevents this interpretation?

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  • Good question. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 16 at 9:57

2 Answers 2

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It is clear from the literal Hebrew translation that there are three different descriptions of trees.

... And made spring Jehovah God from the ground every tree pleasant and good for food ...

... and the tree of life in the midst of the garden...

...and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...

Greens Literal Bible 1986 Edition.

  1. The trees in the garden which God made to spring from the ground.
  2. A tree which is in the midst and which is not stated to be made by God.
  3. A tree which is not stated to be made by God and which is not stated to be in the garden.

The description diminishes at each statement.

If one accepts that concepts are being visualised, then there is one aspect of human existence expressed by trees which God made - branched areas of human apprehension and experience which relate to the physical and substantial arena that God created.

Then there is something that is central within the provision of God that he did not make but it is there. And there is Life. Nowhere else. It is in the midst of what God has specifically arranged and provided for human existence. In the midst.

Then there is something that is not made by God and is not stated to be in the garden at all. But it exists by consequence. There it is, and it is pointed out.


Later, God warns that this last thing is deadly. Partake of it, imbibe it, 'eat' it, and death will inevitably follow.

These are concepts for us to understand.

Some have added to the text and their addition detracts from the wisdom of the arrangement of the concepts. The additions do not help, they rather mislead.

I suggest that the addition of 'was' ... in the midst ... is not detrimental but it is unnecessary and it does add an emphasis which the Hebrew avoids.


There are forms of knowledge and experience which are necessary for humanity to reproduce, to look after their progeny, to form families and communities ; agriculture, food preparation, medicine, chemistry, construction, government and so forth.

There is also - centrally - the word of God, the word of Life, which, later, will be manifested. Humanity must be patient and must wait for further instruction and for further revelation. Uncreated, He will appear, in manifestation.

There is, also, by nature of a creation which contains intelligent and sentient life-forms (humanity and angelic spirit) a form of knowledge which exists but it is not life-giving. To imbibe it as a means of attempted living . . . . will be catastrophically fatal.

These are the concepts presented to us to be understood.

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  • If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn't made by God, then who made it? There's only one main verb in 2:9, וַיַּצְמַ֞ח, lit. "and he caused to grow/sprout", and there's really nothing other than an atnach (the strongest disnjunctive accent) separating the two other trees from the rest that God created. The argument that God didn't create the latter tree and that it wasn't in the garden is shaky at best.
    – user41226
    Commented Feb 21 at 3:39
  • Also, note the context in 3:2-3: The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” Eve is clearly referring to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which means it was definitely in the middle of the garden. Please don't take verses in a vacuum.
    – user41226
    Commented Feb 21 at 4:56
  • @biggles5107 The Tree of Life was in the midst of the garden - is what the text says. Eve is unable to discern which tree is which. (A common situation of many people who make Law central rather than the Word of Life - which is The Christ.) Please kindly do not instruct users what they should and what they should not do. You are welcome to express your own views in your own answers.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 21 at 6:02
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The Hebrew text could be translated and understood as follows:

Yahveh God caused every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food to grow out of the ground, even the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The וְ (vav) prefixed to עֵץ (i.e., וְעֵץ) need not be conjunctive (“and”); it is more likely epexegetical (“even”). Certainly the tree of life was to be reckoned among the trees that were pleasant to the sight and good for food. But, if that is so, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must likewise be reckoned among them, as the epexegetical vav connects both of the following trees to the previous trees.

Here, then, is the difficulty: understanding how the tree of the knowledge of good and evil could be included with the tree of life as a tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food, if Yahveh had forbidden Adam and Eve from eating of it.

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  • Understanding the "and" as "even" seems much more sensible to me. However, if we retain the understanding "and," is there is a reason that the Hebrew could not be interpreted to mean "God made 3 things grow: food trees, life tree, and knowledge tree."? Is there something in Hebrew grammar that prevents this interpretation? @Der Übermensch
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 15 at 4:44
  • From 3:6 we learn that Eve saw that the tree (of the knowledge of good and evil) was good for food and pleasing to the eyes. Eve was, of course, deceived by Satan at this point, but it is worth noting that the fruit at least appeared good.
    – user41226
    Commented Feb 21 at 3:32
  • @user41226—Satan lies, yes. To what extent Satan lies, is the question. Typically, Satan does not state absolutely falsehoods, because those are easily discerned. Rather, he mixes truths with lies, hence he is earlier described as “cunning”. For example, in Gen. 3:5, Satan states, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Compare that with Gen. 3:22 where God states, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil”. As you see, that specific statement was not a lie. Commented Feb 25 at 18:08
  • @user41226—Also, the author is speaking in Gen. 3:6 (whom some assume is Moses). The author does not say the women was duped into believing (i.e., thought) that the tree was good for food, etc. He says that the woman saw that tree was good for food, etc. He seems to be stating a historical fact: “saw that the tree was good for food”. I don’t know — but it seems to me that the tree was indeed good for food, pleasant to the eyes, etc., which is substantiated by Gen. 2:9 where it, like the tree of life, are included among the “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food”. Commented Feb 25 at 18:13
  • @DerÜbermensch "The וְ (vav) prefixed to עֵץ (i.e., וְעֵץ) need not be conjunctive ('and'); it is more likely epexegetical ('even')." By the same token, could the וְ (vav) that precedes the tree of knowledge also be epexegetical and rendered as "even"?
    – Nhi
    Commented Mar 10 at 15:09

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