Why did God create the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

A friend of mine recently asked me this question:

I’m often asked questions like this: why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden if he knew that Adam and Eve would disobey him? I’d be interested to know how you answer that question.

Here is how I responded:

You ask an important question, a question theologians, philosophers, and believers have been puzzling over for hundreds–if not thousands–of years. There is much we do not know about that time, so whatever we say about it must be held humbly. People of good faith debate whether we are to read Genesis 1-3 as literal history or as a metaphor broadly of who created us, why, who were are as human beings, and what has gone so terribly wrong. Regardless of how you read it, there is a looming question: why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden if he knew that Adam and Eve would disobey him?

I don’t know if there is AN answer to that question, but I do have some thoughts which may be helpful. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts. He said that God’s thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the stars in the heaven. So whatever God had in mind when he did it is not available to us, unless God’s chooses to reveal it to us plainly. Genesis 3 tells us what God did but not why.

Of all God’s creatures human beings are made in his image. This means, among other things, that we have a will of our own and make choices. Animals cannot choose. A species of bird driven by instinct to build a nest in the trees cannot decide to burrow beneath the ground for its home. Human beings, though, uniquely fashioned from the earth are not only able to make decisions, they must. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was there, in part, to provide humans with a choice: to obey the Voice of God or not. Had there been no choice, there could be no obedience. The ongoing question for us is whether we will choose to follow, love and obey the One True God. Yes, I think God knew that some people would choose to follow. Others would choose to follow their own designs. That is not a failure in God but in us. Had God made us so that we could only love him, then it would be no love at all. Love is at the heart of creation.

Another matter which comes to mind. The knowledge of good and evil seems like a good thing to have, but the question is: where should this come from? The “sin” of Adam and Eve is that they want to be “like God.” This means that they do not want to depend on God for the guidance of what is good and evil. They want to know it for themselves, which makes them the judge. They want the option in the future to say what is good and what is evil. In fact, God is the only judge in these matters. The Hebrew word translated “knowledge” may imply “knowledge by experience” rather than theoretical knowledge. God did not want young Adam and Eve to know evil by experience. As a parent, I can understand that. I want my adult son to “know” that adultery is evil and will harm him and his family, but I don’t want him to have to experience it to know it. Adam and Eve, however, chose disobedience; they apparently wanted to experience for themselves good and evil. That experience changed them and the world in profound ways.

Now it is your turn. How would you answer?

80 responses

  1. With my good heart I do not understand the division in life the beautiful the ugly the rich the poor thr healthy the sick the loved the ones never loved unfair none asked to come here none are responsible for the war in the beginning of good and evil the riddles in scriptures the unknown what happens to one after death the oppositions of the bible the horrific crucifixion of the lord for our saving I dont understand we were put here no fault of ours evil was allowd to stay to tempt. Man all want to have fun all want to be loved its normal ?????? Was there a mistake somewhere in the plan god said it was good but not perfec

  2. I believe that satan was already here and the bible doesn’t state that God placed the tree there. It says he made all the good trees come from the ground and in the midst of the garden was the tree of good and evil which I believe could denote it was already there. The enemy satan was already there in the earth so when I hear good and evil who else would have knowledge of both aside from him and God. I see it as the tree represents the kingdom principles of evil that deceive men and cause separation from God or the spirit and now we will be ruled by those principles of the devil or flesh! The moment that man partook of the tree or flesh he became separated and now fear, guilt, shame etc entered man and now he (man) becomes Gods enemy because God is light and when He shines on the man he immediately feels judged but when we was in the light with God he didn’t experience these attributes. The enemy was in heaven with God and experienced good which is God and when cast out he was in complete evil! This is my take

  3. I believe the tree represents the ability to choose good or evil. There must be opposition in all things. Adam and Eve were in a state of pureness. They had to eat the fruit as to know what it was like to know good from evil. Otherwise what is the point of being on the earth if it is not to learn how to obey Gods commandments? If Adam had not fallen what would have been the point of Christ’ atonement?

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