Knowledge of Good and Evil

Way back in the Garden of Eden, God planted a tree that would reveal the knowledge of good and evil.  The man and woman were not supposed to eat the fruit of that tree.  We are not told the reason they were supposed to avoid its fruit, except that when they ate it they would die.  In a spiritual sense, at least, the fruit was poison.

Well, we know the story.  They ate, and death came to humanity.  They lost spiritual life and they were evicted from the Garden.  It was all downhill from there.

But what was this knowledge of good and evil?  Did they really get it?  They thought the fruit would make them wise.  Did it?  The story is a little complicated because so much happened on the day of their disobedience.

Here’s what I think happened: On the day they ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were introduced to good and evil.  For the first time they understood that there was an alternative to following the Lord.  Before, life was simply what it was.  After, there were decisions to make, choices with consequences.  They saw that there was good in following the Lord and they saw that there was evil in disobedience.  Their innocence was lost.

You see, on that same day, their choice led them to a new path.  From that time on they would decide whether or not to obey the Lord.  They would weigh their options and try to determine what was best.  The only problem was that their hearts were separated from the Lord.  Before, they had a direct line to His will.  He walked with them and talked with them.  They knew Him as a friend.  But after, they had to reach out to Him to find Him.  They had to choose to hear His will.  Adam and Eve had reached full human consciousness just in time to discover that they had stepped into big trouble.

This knowledge of good and evil is what we might call the conscience.  All the conscience could do was shout to them that they were in trouble.  Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve lacked the assurance of the good.  Now they would live in a world where evil had power over them.  And they would face a continual struggle between their desire to go their own way and the shame they felt in their separation from God.

They received their conscience that day, but it held nothing good for them.

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2 responses to “Knowledge of Good and Evil

  1. You said in this post that one that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and for the first time they understood there was an alternative to following God. But wasn’t the choice to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil an alternative to following God. So they must have seen there was an alternative before they ate…because they disobeyed when they ate. right?

    • Hi Kerry!

      This is a good question. Obviously, I won’t have all the answers about these things. My point is to try to understand the conscience. That said, I think there is a difference between the ability to choose and the knowledge of choosing. It is clear that Adam and Eve had the ability to choose. It is also clear, from the story, that they were deceived into choosing against God. They didn’t make the choice alone. They disobeyed, but they disobeyed in the same way a little child disobeys when he is led into sin by an older child. Adam and Eve were punished, but the real punishment was the loss of their innocence and the subsequent loss of the things that depended on that innocence (Eden).

      Now, I don’t want to lessen the idea of their accountability. Obviously, they sinned. But they didn’t know sin until after they had sinned. They knew about it, but they didn’t know it. That may seem like twisting words, but both Greek and Hebrew interpret “knowing” as “experiencing.” So maybe it would be better to say that they knew about good and evil before, but they didn’t know evil (on the basis of experience) until after. This knowledge, and the weight of responsibility for the personal choice, is what I would call the conscience. This is what Adam and Eve received from eating the fruit.

      I appreciate the question! These are challenging concepts. Read the upcoming posts to see if they help or if they muddy the waters further.

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