It’s go-time—Part 2b. Two trees in the Trees, Serpent, Lies series. The Promise (Tree of Life) and God’s Love Test (Tree of Knowledge). Who knew two trees could play such a big part in the human soul’s condition?
[This series is related to a spiritual call (started in the early 90s) for me to walk a bridge—from the Judaic camp reaching out to the Messianic/Christian camp and then vice versa—crisscrossing it, realizing and later sharing who and what the real bridge is. Walk with me to discover God’s revelations and passionate plan for our souls.]
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HIGHLY SUGGEST READING FIRST: God’s Story Threads: Trees, Serpent, Lies [Part 1] and God’s Story Lens: Trees, Serpent, Lies [Part 2a]
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES.
THE TWO TREES
T wo garden trees—one with a promise, the other with a command. Their impact on the soul? Humongous. Here’s how.
THE PROMISE: TREE OF LIFE
Admittedly, it’s usually that other tree that gets much of the press. That’s because our co-protagonists’ fruit-eating episode birthed a chasmic rift in the God-creation continuum, ripping through physical and spiritual realms.
So in our Garden-of-Eden plot line, the Tree of Life may seem to have a minor role. And yet, it is an enduring, indelible, and powerful thread—symbolically and otherwise—throughout God’s story line.
It’s unclear what the tree was like and, even more curious, why Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the Tree of Life—there was no hands-off command for it. But it turns out, it’s a good thing.
Because whatever spiritual condition you’re in when you eat from the Tree of Life—you’re eternally locked into that condition. You could say that our co-protagonists dodged a bullet. A fatal one.
It also explains why God kicked humanity out of the garden and stationed powerful Cherubim (Keruvim) and a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life from any future attempts.
For now, that is.
(1). Tree of Life and the rabbinic correlation. The Torah (first five books of the Bible) is like the Tree of Life because it lays the ground rules of how to grow your roots deep in His stream, how to interact, manage, lead, bless, build, grow, sustain, step back, spiritually walk and be with others (in our own tribes and outside them) and with our holy God.
(2). Tree of Life and spiritual fruit. Both Proverbs 3:18 and Proverbs 11:30 say that the fruit of the righteous is a Tree of Life, bringing happiness to the soul. The Hebrew says it like this: Etz chaim see l’machazikim bah—she is a tree of life to those who grasp her.
(3). Tree of Life and God’s desires. Proverbs 13:12 says that when we hope in God again, His righteous desires will spring up within us and become a Tree of Life.
(4). Tree of Life and the future blessed hope. For those on the Judaic side of the bridge, you might not know these scripture references that help tie it all together: Revelation 2:7 and Revelation 22:2.
They’re from the last book of the Bible and focus on the end of days (aḥarit ha-yamim, אחרית הימים) and speak of the Messiah (God’s Redemptive Plan, His Salvation, Jesus/Yeshua).
“Those walking with God and His Salvation
will eat from the Tree of Life,
which is in the midst of His garden Paradise . . .
and it will bear twelve fruits,
each tree yielding its fruit every month—its leaves, the healing of the nations.
Those obeying the LORD will have the right to the Tree of Life
and may enter the gates of His holy city.”
—Revelation 2:7 and Revelation 22:2
THE LOVE TEST: TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
It’s the same story then as now. The thing we can’t (or shouldn’t) have is the one that catches the eye, captures the soul, and drives the soul to hunger, fixating on the wrong choice.
The Tree of Knowledge. A test, indeed. Nothing capricious or superficial about it. It’s God striking deep—way down to the truth-core of His free-will creation. Even the angels had to decide: follow the one, true God or hop on the rebellion train and follow its instigator/leader, Lucifer/satan.
God already knew their decisions—the angelic realm’s and humanity’s. He knew, as always, even before He created them what was in their hearts, their souls. The test is so the truth of their inner condition is exposed and the reality from God’s righteous perspective is brought forth, revealing the dichotomy so they would know as well.
Remember, when it came to creating the world, God did it for the sake of redemption. Redemption to show His mercy and grace. Redemption to show His holiness. Redemption that involves humanity realizing, knowing Him, and seeking His face, appreciating the giver and sustainer of life, God.
The word “knowledge” in the Hebrew is da’at. But what is this knowledge, anyway? Rabbinic thought varies. Some say it’s . . .
— an academic or intellectual understanding
— an experiential understanding of good/evil [per Aleph Beta’s insightful Rabbi David Fohrman]
— a transformational awareness [per Maimonides, the Rambam, famed medieval philosopher/Torah scholar]
— a Tree of Desire [per translations by the Ramban, citing other biblical references—the Ramban (Nachmanides) was a medieval rabbi/scholar]
DA’AT (KNOWLEDGE): MULLING IT OVER
Years ago I heard a Torah teaching on this—possibly Rabbi Schweiger from Pardes Institute in Jerusalem—about how humanity wasn’t ready for the knowledge from that tree. They lacked the maturity to understand what that da’at/knowledge would present to us.
In my mind, that could mean being introduced to a world where the veil was removed. Making the Tree of Knowledge an unmasking, a ripping away of childlike innocence and awakening what’s hidden in the crevices of the human soul or what’s been simmering just under the surface.
In other words, a step into the abyss of self-desire—culminating in millennia of collateral damage to boot. Self-fixation, outright rebellion, desire of every kind and on every level, a betrayal of God’s love and gift of life.
Because that level of desire only produces one thing: death, spiritually and otherwise.
The soul had been moving about on a different level prior. Innocent, seemingly clean, set apart. Neither the tree nor the fruit had mysterious properties. The test—eating/disobeying or withholding/obeying—unlocked what was already within.
Adam and Eve’s unmasking caused them to see and enter another dimension of da’at (knowledge).
A dimension that stripped them from the idyllic, realizing their physical nakedness but not yet comprehending their spiritual nakedness which will hunger for self-desire at the cost of a relationship with the living God—and with anyone and everything else.
A VISUAL OF SORTS
It’s a troubling example, but it demonstrates what may have been happening soul-wise to Adam and Eve.
Being robbed of innocence is disquieting on many levels. The serpent—a.k.a. satan—didn’t (doesn’t) care. He had (has) his own agenda. Robbing, stealing, destroying are his everyday strategy tools.
Think for a moment of the chilling news stories you hear. Child abuse, rape, children’s drug use.
In each case, a soul was violated or seduced, the veil of some kind of innocence violently torn away, forcing a new da’at (knowledge) of another, seamier dimension of life that they didn’t ever need to know or experience.
And it was something their souls certainly weren’t capable of understanding—as if anyone could or should. The underbelly of someone else’s self-desire invading, disrupting another soul.
Adam and Eve’s began with grooming—satan’s.
In those prior scenarios, the harmed souls were victims, eclipsed by the profane. And, yes, Adam and Eve had a choice. But their inherent propensity for disobedience—evidenced by fractured humanity even now—had been masked until the test came to expose it.
The results of satan’s cunning seduction of Eve were no different soul-wise than those disturbing abuse examples mentioned above. What Adam and Eve used to see and walk in via their previous level of da’at (knowledge)—their innocent lens—vanished in an instant.
Satan’s suggestive voice resonated with their inner voice, the one that had been under the radar. The one that was subtly stirring deep within.
But as it stirred stronger, they surrendered to it. Self-will. Self-desire. Self-focus.
God and His desire and commands were in their soul’s rearview mirror. Rebellion had raised its ugly head. The bridge broken. The God-humanity relationship tested to near destruction.
You and I would have made the same choice. It’s as if our nature had to eat from that tree. We had to cross the line . . . so we could ultimately embrace with unending gratitude what God has waiting for us—His Redemption Plan, the gift prepared before the world was brought forth because He knew what our struggle would be.
Now Genesis 3 tells the rest of the story, and we’ll head there. But first we need a closer look at our co-protagonists and the supporting cast.
UPCOMING POST: God’s Story Threads: Trees, Serpent, Lies [Part 3]
Targum Onkelos commentary (Genesis 2:9) on Sefaria.org
Gershom Scholem commentary from his book, The Messianic Idea in Judaism: And Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality, as listed on Sefaria.org.
Gershom Scholem biography: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Oxford Bibliographies.
Tree as man: Chabad articles
Pomegranate tree by Tal Suraskon Unsplash.com