The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

וּמֵעֵ֗ץ הַדַּ֙עַת֙ טֹ֣וב וָרָ֔ע לֹ֥א תֹאכַ֖ל מִמֶּ֑נּוּ כִּ֗י בְּיֹ֛ום אֲכָלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מֹ֥ות תָּמֽוּת׃

And of the tree, the knowledge, good and evil, you shall not eat, from it; because, in the day, your eating from it, you shall certainly die.

There are many ways to look at this verse, and the solemn promised YHWH made to Adham. Some hold that it does not mean the literal day, and even suppose this is symbolic of the “day of YHWH is as a thousand years.” Adham died when he was 930, 70 years shy of the thousand years of days.

The problem I have with this interpretation is that there is no mention of any thousand-year comparison. From the time Adham was made until the time he was commanded not to eat of this tree, a day was governed by the sun. Indeed, the phrase “in the day of your eating” specifies that the death would result in the actual day that the infraction occurred. From Hawwah’s point of view, the penalty was understood to have been of an immediate nature.

Adham was told by YHWH that the result of eating of this tree would be certain death. He did eventually die, but almost a thousand years after his “day of eating.” On the other side of this paradigm, there is the serpent. This wise creature explained to Hawwah that she would not certainly die. The concern Hawwah had was that the death would be immediate, and she includes a further injunction: the injunction against approaching the tree.

The serpent explained to Hawwah that she would not die from eating the fruit of the tree, but would become like God, knowing good and evil. In all this, the serpent did not lie. In fact, YHWH later confirmed the serpent’s words that the two had indeed become like God knowing good and evil. This knowledge was what led YHWH to expel them from the garden, “lest they live forever.” The death of Adham was not caused by his eating of the tree, but by the expulsion from the garden and the denial of the right to the tree of life. YHWH explains to the heavenly court, the reason they were to be expelled was not that they had eaten from the tree, but that they had become like God, knowing good and evil, and should not then be allowed to live forever.

I find several things a bit strange in this narrative. 1) The prohibition against eating of the tree seemed to carry immediate consequences: these consequences were not immediate. 2) The serpent was punished, though he had not violated the command of YHWH.

The punishment meted out was severest to the serpent, who was cursed above all the beasts of the field. Then the woman, who along with her pain in childbirth, lost her position of equality with Adham, though she did not coerce him to also violate the command. Adham, who knowingly ate of the tree received the least of the punishment, in fact, the earth itself took his punishment as it was the earth and not Adham who was cursed for violating God’s command.

Another question that I have is of the verse concerning Hawwah looking at the tree.

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טֹוב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְיֹ֖ו וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּמ־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל׃

And the woman saw, that the tree was good for eating and that it was desirous for the eyes, and the tree was coveted for causing understanding, so she took from its fruit and she ate; she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

How could she look at the tree and perceive it was good for eating? The prohibition of eating from its fruit was only to humans, not any other creature. The serpent, who was wisest of all other beasts of the field, and also who could communicate with the humans, could have demonstrated to Hawwah that the fruit was not poisonous. The threefold description of the tree was “good for eating,” “desirous for the eyes” and “coveted for causing understanding.” Indeed, even before she ate from the fruit, it was deemed to be wholesome and a source of enlightenment. This could have been a source of the serpent’s wisdom and shrewdness, as well as his ability to communicate with humans. Once demonstrating the fruit was not poisonous, Hawwah would have thus been led to believe it was, in reality, safe to eat. This could be the meaning behind Hawwah’s statement that the serpent tricked her. A close look at how the verb לְהַשִּׁיא lehashi’a (to deceive) is used in the Hebrew Text we can see the deception was perpetrated by action, or by demonstration and not necessarily by words.

What, exactly, was the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowlege of Good and Evil? Both are referring to the Torah.

The Torah is the true tree of knowing good and evil- as well as the tree of life.

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַֽאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה־ה֣וּא לָֽעֵינַ֗יִם וְנֶחְמָ֤ד הָעֵץ֙ לְהַשְׂכִּ֔יל וַתִּקַּ֥ח מִפִּרְי֖וֹ וַתֹּאכַ֑ל וַתִּתֵּ֧ן גַּם־לְאִישָׁ֛הּ עִמָּ֖הּ וַיֹּאכַֽל׃

And when 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 [lehaskil], she took of its fruit, and ate, and gave also to her husband with her; and he ate. Genesis 3:6

לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ סֵפֶר֩ הַתּוֹרָ֨ה הַזֶּ֜ה מִפִּ֗יךָ וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה לְמַ֨עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַֽעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכָל־הַכָּת֖וּב בּ֑וֹ כִּי־אָ֛ז תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ וְאָ֥ז תַּשְׂכִּֽיל׃

This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written on it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then shall you make wise [taskil]. Joshua 1:8

הַֽעִדֹ֨תִי בָכֶ֣ם הַיּוֹם֘ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֒רֶץ֒ הַֽחַיִּ֤ים וְהַמָּ֨וֶת֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לְפָנֶ֔יךָ הַבְּרָכָ֖ה וְהַקְּלָלָ֑ה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּֽחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ׃

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live. Deuteronomy 30:19

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Jakob Ivri

I am simply a man with questions and trying to figure out the answers; my greatest joys are found in the study of Torah: its language and exegesis.

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