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Two Trees in the Garden


Two Trees in EdenHere’s an interesting piece from Ivan Maddox of West End Bible Fellowship in Atlanta GA.  He brings up some intriguing points concerning the trees in the story of the Garden of Eden.

I have often thought that the Tree of Life contained some kind of medicine or perhaps something that replenished our cellular structure – preventing the body from deteriorating.  If Adam & Eve would have obeyed God and always had access to it, then they would have lived forever.  And though they disobeyed and lost access to it, because they did previously eat from it, this is why they (and their resulting initial generations) had such long life-spans.  Their cellular genetics were vitalized by the Tree of Life to such a degree that they aged at a slower rate and had stronger/healthier bodies.  Perhaps the finite number of times that a cell replicates had its number bumped up by the properties of the Tree of Life.  And that’s why when they no longer had access to the tree, death (though much longer away than it is for us in our generation of today) was bound to come at a future point in time.

Interesting to think about!


Two Trees In The Garden

by Ivan Maddox

West End Bible Fellowship

Atlanta, GA


In the second chapter of Genesis, the man and the woman God has created are placed in a garden, at the center of which are two trees.  One of these is called “The Tree of Life,” and seems to offer the possibility of eternal life.  The other is called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and seems to threaten to bring about God’s judgment against His newly created man and woman.

Genesis 2:8-9

8  And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9  And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

An obvious question comes to mind:  are these real trees?  Or do these trees each represent something else?  How could the fall of man have possibly been caused by something as insignificant as eating a piece of fruit from the wrong tree?

The question of whether or not these were literal trees is answered, at least in part, by other references to the tree of life in the scriptures.

In some of these, it is clear that a literal tree is not being referred to.

Proverbs 3:18.

18  She [Wisdom]  is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Proverbs 11:30.

30  The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Proverbs 13:12.

12  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 15:4.

4  A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

In other passages, though, the reference seems to be to a literal tree that does not now exist on the earth, but which will exist at some time in the future.  One such passage is found in the Book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 47:1-12.

1  Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.

2  Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.

3  And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles.

4  Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins.

5  Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.

6  And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river.

7  Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other.

8  Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.

9  And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.

10  And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.

11  But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.

12  And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.

This passage looks forward to the time of Christ’s thousand year reign on earth, when there will be a Temple in Jerusalem.  These verses describe a river of living waters that begins at the Temple, and flows from Jerusalem both to the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea.  On either side of the river grows a tree which brings forth new edible fruit each month, and whose leaves serve as medicine.

These trees are described again in Revelation 22, which jumps ahead to the new heavens and new earth in the age after Christ’s thousand year reign.

Revelation 22:1-2.

1  And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2  In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

This passage tells us that in this age also the tree of life grows alongside the river of living water, that it bears twelve different kinds of fruit, that it bears fruit once a month, and that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, or Gentiles.

According to the scriptures, then, the tree of life is a literal tree.  It does not exist on the earth right now, but it will exist in Israel when Christ returns.

We learn something else from these passages, though, that shed some important light on the record in Genesis.  In Genesis 3 we read:

Genesis 3:22-24.

22  And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23  Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

From this, some have presumed that if one were to eat once of the tree of life, on would live forever.  But that is not what the other records indicate.  The twelve different kinds of fruit on the tree of life are, according to Ezekiel 4:12, fruit for food.  Eating the fruit provides nourishment and, presumably, enjoyment, but no other benefit.

It is the leaves of the tree of life that are exceptional.  Genesis 3:22 suggests that they are meant to be eaten.  But eating them does not impart eternal life.  Instead, the leaves of the tree seem to act as a universal medicine.  Regardless of what is wrong with you, if you have access to the tree of life and eat of its leaves, you will be healed.

God’s concern in Genesis 3:22 does not seem to be that the man would eat of the tree of life and immediately gain eternal life.  Man had unrestricted access to the tree of life before the fall.  There is no reason to believe that he had not already eaten of it.  Instead, God’s concern seems to be that continued access to the tree of life would provide man with a way to cheat death.  This is important because God’s plan of salvation was based on death:  death as the penalty for sin, and the death of a righteous substitute as payment for the sins of the guilty.  Fallen man having access to the tree of life undermined God’s provision for man’s redemption; therefore God had to remove access to the tree of life from sinful man.

If the tree of life in the midst of the garden was a literal tree, then the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had to be a literal tree also.  It makes no sense for two trees to be described together, in the same location, and one be literal and the other figurative.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil never appears again in scripture after Genesis 3.  We are given no description of it.  Even if we were standing right next to it, eating of its fruit, we would have no way of knowing what it was.  But the fact is, its identity now is irrelevant.  The damage has already been done.  Man has already eaten of the tree once, and fallen.  Eating again of the tree would do no further damage.

Both the trees in the middle of the garden were made and put there by God.

Genesis 2:8-9

8  And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9  And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

God did not put one good tree and one evil tree in the middle of the garden.  God didn’t put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden as a trap for man.  In fact, after He had finished all His work, God determined that everything He had done was “very good.”

Genesis 1:31.

31  And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

And, as James pointed out in his epistle, God does not tempt man with evil.

James 1:13-17.

13  Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

16  Do not err, my beloved brethren.

17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

In fact, the two trees in the garden each fall into the category of “good” and “perfect” gifts from God.  Both were designed by God to be a blessing to man when used as God intended.

What possible godly use could there have been for the tree of knowledge of good and evil?  We don’t know; God’s word does not tell us. 

At least two possibilities present themselves to us.  These are speculation, not the testimony of God’s word.

One possibility is that God may have meant for the tree to remain in the garden indefinitely, and for man never to eat of it.  In that case, the tree would have continued to serve as the standard by which righteousness with God was determined:  One either did not eat of the tree and remained righteous, or ate of the tree and became unrighteous.

Another possibility is that God may have intended for man to eat of the tree at some future time, at His command.  Had man not fallen, he would have needed a way to understand evil without participating in it.  It may be that this tree was God’s provision for providing for such an occurrence

One thing is certain:  the tree did drive home the point that it takes very little sin to destroy a right relationship with God.   Adam and Eve did not fall by committing murder or adultery; they did not fall by stealing or lying.  It was not violence that brought about their downfall.  It was eating a piece of fruit that God told them not to eat.  That’s all they did.  Today that might not even register on our sin meters!  But that’s all it took to corrupt mankind, for we were all counted as being in Adam when he sinned, and thus as having participated in his sin.

God’s answer to this problem is Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins so that we don’t have to.  When we confess Christ as Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10), we receive God’s gift of life in the ages to come.

Through Jesus Christ, God will once again give man access to the tree of life.

Revelation 2:7

7  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 22:14

14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.


6 Responses to “Two Trees in the Garden”

  1. on 04 Apr 2011 at 5:32 pmRandy

    Very interesting. It is a question I have considered often, regarding the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden. Gen 3:22 seems to imply that if Adam and Eve partook of the Tree of Knowledge just “once” then they would gain eternal life. It is also noteworthy that the same tree mentioned in Revelation produced twelve different fruit yearly. Are the saved to eat of it monthly to maintain eternal life? Is that the gift promised by God to those who endure to the end?

    Was there an unmentioned prohibition to Adam and Eve to not partake of the Tree of Life also?? The aforementioned results of their eating as to what it might do to the body and cells is merely speculaton on the part of the writer.

    Did God take the Garden away? Was it destroyed also by the flood? So many questions to ask once we have gained entranced into the Kingdom. But then, would we even care at that time?

  2. on 04 Apr 2011 at 6:07 pmDoubting Thomas

    You said, “So many questions to ask once we have gained entranced into the Kingdom.”

    I also have many questions to ask, and I’m sure “all” of our questions will be answered in time (when God decides we are ready to fully understand and comprehend the answers).

    You also asked, “But then, would we even care at that time?”

    I think all humans have a built in desire to know what the truth is. We all spend our lives trying to understand the world around us, and we wonder about many things like, Why we are here??? etc.. Of course everyone has some questions that can’t be answered (at this time anywaze). But, I do look forward to being resurrected and eventually learning the “complete truth”.

    Of course I also hope, on that day, I will find favor with God and be included among the sheep (although really I deserve to be with the goats)…

  3. on 04 Apr 2011 at 6:42 pmRandy

    Yes, I understand that one, “deserve to be with the goats”. Guess that is what makes the “calling” special in that we are all undeserving, yet God in His Grace calls us. Tis a daily struggle for sure.

    That same verse, Gen 3:22, the appearance of the “us” word returns. Too bad it is not more specific as to who He is referring to when He says “us”. Is it the angelic host? Gabriel, Michael or other angels mentioned in the book of Enoch referred to by Jude. Interesting reading there too.

    It would appear, Adam and Eve, enjoyed a more intimate relationship with God before they disobeyed. Another question which has been argued and debated often and never really answered is: Did God know they would sin or disobey?? Did God know the Israelites after leaving Egypt would rebel and those above the age of twenty would be doomed to die in the desert? Questions, questions, questions. I guess a hunger for knowledge and truth is a good thing. I am thankful for this website, Restoration Fellowship, and many of the writers here who search the scriptures and give us the truth backed by scripture.

  4. on 04 Apr 2011 at 8:54 pmDoubting Thomas

    I am also thankful for this website, Restoration Fellowship, and the many writers here that speak from their hearts, what they believe to be the truth, based on the scriptures. I believe God guided me to this website where even someone with unusual beliefs, like myself, can feel welcome as a fellow brother in Christ…

  5. on 10 Apr 2011 at 6:37 pmRay

    It seems that after Adam and Eve sinned in eating from the wrong tree that the judgment of God was to prevent them from receiving eternal life.

    The tree of life in the garden reminds me of Jesus.

    Satan was in the garden and it seems to me that there was a time once when he had only known good.

    Jesus had to come to this earth in the flesh and minister according to the will of God, becoming the sacrifice that was necessary for man to eat freely of the tree of life that is mentioned in the book of Revelation.

    We who have partaken of the good fruit of Christ (for we have been partakers of the word of life) do have a real hope of eternal life because of Jesus.

    Until we realize our hope to the end, we will have to overcome Satan.

    Those two trees in the garden certainly do seem to be different than all the rest of the trees in the garden.

  6. on 22 Nov 2011 at 12:15 pmKenneth

    May I suggest an idea. Is it possible that the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden in Eden points to a greater spiritual truth? The Garden in Eden Tree of Life was the pipeline for Adam and Eve to enjoy the presence of GOD. Man, having a free will to make choices, was required to stay away from the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man was tempted by Satan to test GOD… and succeeded. The Tree of Life was immediately off limits, guarded by angels with flaming swords.
    Remember, this was an “outward” battle. Adam and Eve lost. When Jesus Christ came – He only obeyed His Father inwardly. He also was tested by Satan. He died and rose from the grave. And now, by the working of the Holy Spirit – does He not offer to “rebuild” an inner “tree of life” within believers. I find overwhelming biblical evidence that points towards us as individuals having opportunity to having the Kingdom of GOD within – David says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against Thee”. This prompts such questions as – where is the biblical heart? How can I hide the word in my heart? What is the biblical heart? Is the biblical “heart” at the center of our personal, individual universe? Why hide the word in the heart? What is the connection to “that I may not sin against Thee?” And of course, there shall be the ultimate manifestation of the Tree of Life as referred to in Revelation. In the meantime, I am wondering what is missing in us now? Here is a clue – the biblical heart of man is the “thought-life”, the “movie theater of the mind” , the imagination.


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