God created man in His image and likeness, though the body was formed from the dust of the earth, man’s spirit and soul carried Godly imprint. Adam and Eve were assigned three roles in the Garden of Eden – first, ‘tend to the Garden; second, be fruitful and multiply and thirdly replenish the earth and subdue it’. The two were given dominion over everything that was created by God on the earth and after completion of the creative process “God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:26-31). God was satisfied, for the creation was fully equipped to undertake the given responsibilities.
The mystery of man’s creation – A careful study of the process of creation we find a difference in the creation of animals and man. First God commanded the “the waters to bring forth abundantly the moving creature that has life —-And God created great whales….” Thereafter “God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature…And God made beasts of the earth after his kind (Genesis 1:20-21 & 24-25). Thus God first commanded the natural expected habitat of the creature to bring forth and then He Himself created that, implying that the water and earth formed the shape at God’s command and He then gave life to that shape.
On the other hand creation of Adam was a twofold process of consultation between the Godhead – the Holy Trinity, and then God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). In another account “God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). In either case the first part of formation from the earth and creation – breathing life, were both carried out by God Himself. This is the uniqueness of mankind as different from the baser animal life.
The Scripture provide the history of mankind – its past, present and future. Man’s existence is divided into four distinct stages – in the Garden of Eden; after disobedience and sin; after redemption and finally in the Kingdom of God. In each stage God never abandoned man but remained true and faithful but it is the man that turned away. God’s power continued to operate in and around man in each dispensation.
What are the special characteristics of man? – The Hebrew word Adam contains three different letters of the alphabet and as per Jewish tradition these impart different traits to Adam.
Aleph, the first word is shaped with two things – a shepherd’s staff and a king’s crown – two horns. Thus Adam needs to lead, guide, command and control. From Aleph only the word ‘Aluf’ meaning a tribal head or chief and Adam is created to teach and control – have dominion over the earth and other creatures living on it and in the waters.
Dalet and Mem, are the two words that spell blood, which contains life and is forbidden to be consumed by mankind. According to legend blood also provides various attributes to each individual – his temperament. Blood provides the baser instincts of man related to anger, lusts and evil desires and needs to be controlled by Aleph, since this letter precedes dalet and mem.
Man has a choice to follow the earthly pull to go under or to rise up towards the heavenly existence. He can choose to control the animal instincts and emulate God or animal among whom he was placed in the Garden. The animals walk or crawl on the earth looking down and remain connected to their instinctive and earthly nature. On the other hand the standing vertically straight position not only provides an anatomical difference but also gives man the capability to look ahead and towards his Creator to become like Him. We have the choice to follow the pull of the earth to go under or look towards heaven and go there to be in communion with God.
The Choice – The name Adam on one hand ascribes to us the nature to bow down to the downward force of evil or to control and attain oneness with God – in His image and likeness and eternal life in His Divine presence. God made man a little lower than the angels and then crowned him with honor and glory (Psalm 8:5). Man is blessed with honor and glory to achieve what angels are incapable of achieving – oneness with God to become like Him.
Man was surrounded by various trees producing fruits of their respective kinds to bless man by nourishing him. Man has also been planted by man on earth in like manner to bear much fruit through benefitting others. Despite being made lower than the angels the same angels are appointed “as ministering spirits to those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). The name Adam reveals the true identity of man and defines his earthly role while remaining focused on his heavenly Creator.
Why did God plant the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ in the Garden? – God created man from the dust of the earth and breathed ‘chayim’ – lives into him to energize the body, soul and the spirit of man. Man at that stage was like a young child needing guidance, knowledge and wisdom to understand the functioning of God’s creation and ways to tend to it. Man was and is not complete in himself and needed a partner to help in this onerous task but even the two required knowledge and wisdom. God visited the two everyday during ‘the cool of the day’ to reveal to them the mysteries of His creation.
The sea/water creatures have their existence only till they remain connected to water; take the fish out of water and it dies. The animals and birds were formed from the earth and they cannot exist without their direct connect to the source of their existence. God desires man to learn and teach the other creatures living around him, over whom he was given dominion by God. Man’s life is also dependent on his continued connect to God and that is the reason for God to warn him to stay away from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.
A tree has its roots that connect it to its source of nourishment. It has branches, leaves and fruits. The capacity of the tree to bear fruit, the quality and quantity depends on the source of its nourishment. God visited the two every evening to ensure accountability as well as to provide guidance about their life. During such meetings, it was imperative that Adam and Eve would share their day’s experiences to seek Godly approval and guidance. God personally became their source of all information, knowledge and wisdom thus negating the very requirement of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To partake of this fruit would thus amount to rejecting God as the source of all knowledge and thus accepting any other source, recognizing it as better than the original source.
God desired to open the mind, eyes and ears of man “That He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man” (Job 33:17). God as Creator planned to provide this knowledge to man to save him from getting filled with pride for having gained this understanding on his own. Also man in his innocence was likely to misinterpret God’s laws and commands concerning the universe and thus fail in ‘tending to it’. Man is created by God to fellowship with Him and God’s love is expressed in man being in His image and likeness. To further confirm this likeness, the soul of man had to be establishes in Godly wisdom to have all desires and feelings in conformity with God’s will.
Man as an independent being is enabled by God to take decisions on his own and to exercise a free will to choose his way. The Garden was planted in a part of the earth and Adam had the option to reject the offer from God to stay in the Garden, to tend to it and expand it as per the need of his family after children were born or to move out to any other part of the earth to settle on his own. Likewise the tree of knowledge of good and evil was provided to allow man the chance to choose between God and self to receive the knowledge. Adam rejected God and decided to seek knowledge through the fruit of the tree.
Why was ‘Tree of life’ planted in the Garden? – Adam in his nascent stage was living with the animals and with Eve, who was also in no place to teach him anything. Man would thus learn from the animals and would try and imitate them in his life. Man thus had in him an animal instinct and an instinct to be like God. God had breathed life into man and the ‘All knowing God’ was aware of this. For a living man and woman why the fruit of the Tree of life was made freely available, while he was forbidden to eat the fruit of the other tree? The command was rather to encourage them to eat of this tree freely. An eagle in its old age plucks its feathers one by one through a very painful process to allow new ones to grow to give him a new life. In like manner animals have been granted the power to heal their wounds by licking the same since their saliva has a healing power. Also, animals do not have fixed relationships that need to be mended from time to time to restore the damage caused due to negligence or a busy life.
On meeting Eve Adam declared “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). Leaving parents and joining the wife would create fissures in relationships and new responsibilities would cause further pressures.
But what has this to do with the tree of life? The Hebrew word used for life is “chayim” and is written in a plural form meaning ‘lives’ – life for each part on man – his body, soul and spirit. This word has two consecutive ‘yods’ implying that this cannot be lived alone and the two components of the word ‘chai’ live and ‘im’ meaning if. Thus lives are revolving around man’s union with God and not independent of Him. The word ‘chayim’ also means ‘revive, restore or resurrect’. Thus a man in union with God is entrusted with the power to live eternally, revive, restore or resurrect the dead relationships, feelings, finances and even body affected by misuse/overuse. Separation from God destroys our relationship of holiness with God and we lose this power. The warning to Adam was death on eating the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil, for it was not a simple act of disobedience but of rejecting God to be the only source of every blessing.
This death was also of two types – one was spiritual because of separation from God through the loss of direct communication with God. It was this visible in the command from God to Moses to inform Aaron, the High Priest, to enter the Holiest part of the Tabernacle only once a year and that too after performing various rituals for atonement of sins. For God did not abandon His creation because of Adam’s sin but still came looking for them in the Garden and provided them covering of animal skins for their nakedness as a means of protecting them. The body covers formed an immediate wall of protection for both of them.
God also placed His mark on Cain to protect him from the vengeance of others who were ready to kill him for the murder of his own brother Abel. In our sinful state God does continue to provide protection from all dangers but we are unable to see the same with our sin impacted eyes.
God blessed Adam and Eve with all authority and power to command and control all creatures and also natural forces operating on the earth. Man used his free will and choice to surrender to the pull of earthly and satanic forces to choose the path of decomposition and death. The gifts of the Holy Spirit and powers were freely available through the Tree of life for man to bear much fruit and rise from an earthly to a supernatural realm through rejection of the baser things and choosing God’s ways. The Tree of Life was available to lift Adam and Eve from their lows – physical due to any natural injury, soul from any relational injury and spirit from any evil forces’ attack; for its fruit had the power to revive, restore and resurrect.
The two trees in the Garden of Eden symbolize the earthly and the heavenly – the tree of knowledge of good and evil connects man to the earth where these exist. The Tree of Life provides a connection to the Creator, the Life Giver Himself and leads us towards heaven – the ultimate destiny for man. Knowledge gives sorrow and pain; the more you know the more is the urge to forget whereas life brings joy, the more you have the more you want – for life is in and with God where there is holiness, peace and rejoicing. The Tree of Life is about eternity while knowledge is about now but affects our future eternal living.
Adam and Eve chose the wrong tree but we must exercise the right choice by ‘looking unto Jesus – the Tree of Eternal Life’!!!