According to O. Palmer Robertson, being forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not just an arbitrary rule, but rather the focal point of man’s testing. The physical and spiritual are not separate parts of man’s existence, but rather an integrated whole. Everything man does has spiritual dimensions, because God created him to manage the world to God’s glory.
Theories and questions abound about what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents. For instance, how can a literal fruit infect human beings with a disobedient attitude? Is the tree figurative? Why does God put it in a place where humankind is most likely to be tempted by it?
One approach that is increasingly common is that the tree represents the beginnings of human consciousness. Here is an example:
I would like to propose that there IS an importance to this tree. That it is not just something to be taken as a stand-in for any-old act. That there is a reason that it is something that gave to mankind the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Because this is the birth of contrasts and opposites. This is the birth of distinguishing or perceiving something as good and another as evil; one thing as pleasant and another as unpleasant; right and wrong, this verses that, man and woman, me and you, us and them… to cut-it-short: this was the beginning of objectification – this was the birth of self-awareness.
If you take most regions or heritages [sic.]“beginnings” stories back far enough they have some kind of similar account or notion to them. I know that in Taoism they paint the picture of a time where mankind live in a peaceful “Eden-like” state with all of creation, and that they fell from this when they started to distinguish themselves as other-than and greater-than the rest of the animals and nature. In Kabbalah it describes more of a vast organism of Spirit in which some of the working parts became self-aware and forgot their roles in the organism – thus creating a vacuum. Picture it like a bunch of cells that make up a larger organism that somehow become aware of themselves and consider themselves to be apart from each-other, and the organism that they make up… then spreading like a cancer.” Source: thenewheritics.wordpress.com
There are many versions of that basic idea. Some of the more new-age versions make it sound like taking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was necessary for us to become intelligent and/or masters of our own destiny.
For Robertson the creation covenant involves the entirety of life-decisions and work. The prohibition about the tree underlines the radicalness of the obedience that God demands of his creation.
Man had been given the privilege of eating from every tree of the garden. As God’s vice-regent, all was his. Yet now, one marked exemption is introduced. One tree stands in the midst of the garden as a symbolic reminder that man is not God. All has been given to him graciously; but the one exemption reminds him that he must not confuse his bountiful blessedness with the state of the Creator. He is a creature; God is Creator. (The Christ of the Covenants, pp. 83-84)
A similar view points out God’s word of command is not contradicted lightly, as below:
O course Adam, and by extension mankind, was condemned to death (loss of eternal life) not because they ate some fruit, but because they broke the commandment of God, and breaking God’s commandment is sin. Eating the fruit of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ was the only thing God command they could not do, there was just one commandment.
A rational and objective person would surely conclude that, this one commandment would be an easy commandment for man to keep. That it would be beyond reason for Adam or Eve to even consider eating the fruit of one particular tree, where such a heavy punishment was associated with it, and where Adam and Eve could freely eat from every other tree in the garden.
For Adam and Eve to break that one commandment, they would need to have disregarded it and the penalty. The condition of their heart would certainly have been at the centre of any consideration, their heart must surely have said, ‘I know God said don’t, but…’
We find out from reading scripture that Satan was in rebellion with God, and perhaps if he wasn’t, Adam, Eve and their descendants (us), would still be living in a world you could describe as paradise. Instead we see Satan is actively working to destroy God’s creation, and so sets about to deceive Eve, and get her to focus on the one tree that was forbidden. Source:springburst.net
Some of our members wondered if Adam and Eve really understood what death meant, assuming that they had not seen it in the garden yet. We don’t know whether they had been exposed to death or not, so we cannot know the answer to that question.
Robertson notes that this test is about willingness to submit “to the specific word of the Creator. Blessing and eternal life come from obedience. Disobedience brings curse and death.”
Robertson also notes that this is a test about limits to eating. As you look through the scriptures, testing about eating occurs in many ways. Sometimes it is fasting, such as on the Day of Atonement or Jesus fasting 40 days. At other times it involves abstaining from certain foods, such as Israelites with pork products and seafood without fins and scales. Aside from any potential health benefits of abstaining from pork and crustaceans, the point seems to be about God’s right to tell his people what they may or may not do. As Robertson points out, the deprivation of material substance is a sure way to test for obedience to God’s word.
The fall of man occurs due to one act of disobedience. Appropriately enough, the restoration of man hinges on one act of obedience by Jesus Christ, the Second Adam (Rom. 5:18-19). Even Jesus had to obey God in the midst of the most incredible deprivation of food during his temptation by the Devil in the wilderness. “Once this initial covenant of creation has been violated, no way of relief from the death-curse may be found other than a bloody substitution. Only as Jesus the lamb of God bears in himself the ultimate curse of the creation covenant may restoration be accomplished.”
Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ has done just that o our behalf, clearing the way for us to enter into His New Covenant of eternal life in a newness of life that will extend into an entirely new heavens and earth.