As far back as the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolized a spiritual issue. Eating from it would bring death but not because the fruit was physically poisonous. Indeed, its fruit was “good for food” (Gen. 3:6). Nor was the death that resulted on “the day” (2:17) that Adam and Eve ate the fruit the physical death of their bodies (although that would inevitably come). Rather, the act of eating from the tree constituted a spiritual decision that Eve and her husband made regarding the criterion by which they would “know” good and evil. The issue was whether their moral judgment and behavior would be controlled by what God had said (2:16–17; 3:1, 3) or by their “independent” (really, Satan/serpent-influenced) perception of what is good and desirable (3:6). Their autonomy itself and consequent alienation from the Creator who is life’s source and sustainer, symbolized in their expulsion from the Garden, was the death that ensued immediately. As the Lord later indicted Israel, using another vivid metaphor, “they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Thus from the beginning of the Torah, Moses invites his readers to recognize a spiritual depth to events in the physical world.
Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 219–220.
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