And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And 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 2:8-9, 15-17)
Many take this to mean that God didn’t want Adam and Eve to have knowledge of good and evil. Isn’t possessing moral knowledge a good thing? Is God keeping them ignorant for selfish motives? What can be wrong with desiring such a noble thing?
Firstly, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not evil. God does not create anything evil. He is not the originator of evil. In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that everything God created was good. That includes this tree. Moral knowledge is not inherently evil. As the story of the Bible unfolds, we learn that the law is good.
Secondly, God did not leave Adam in the dark. He explicitly warned Adam that eating the fruit would result in death. I believe that constitutes a basic form of the knowledge of good and evil. That is, it is good to not eat the fruit, and it is bad to eat the fruit. But as we established earlier, the fruit is not poisonous, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not the tree of death. This brings us to our third point.
It is the act of eating the fruit that is evil, not the fruit being eaten. Adam disobeyed God’s explicit command to not eat the fruit and suffered the known consequence. This constitutes the true knowledge of good and evil. Any word, thought or deed that is in line with the word of God is good. Anything else is the path of evil – and foolishness. For God does warn us of the consequences of disobeying his word. If the sign says that the bridge ahead is out, only a foolish man will continue driving to his grave.
So the wise man pays very careful attention to every single word of God. He is not the kind of man to pause in mid-bite trying to remember whether God had told him to eat or not to eat the fruit, a little worried about the bitterness in his mouth and wrecking pain in his stomach.