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 Lens: 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 the 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). The rabbinic correlation is straightforward: 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). 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). And 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). For those on the Judaic side of the bridge, you might not know this one. A future look in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 2:7 and Revelation 22:2 via the Messiah, gives this blessed hope: 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.
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]
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.
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.
So here’s a visual of sorts. It’s troubling but 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 everyday strategy tools to him.
Think for a moment of the chilling news stories you hear. Child abuse, rape, young adult 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 something their souls certainly weren’t capable of understanding—as if anyone could or should.
The underbelly of self-desire. Unconscionable. Irresponsible. Unholy. Profane. Evil.
Now in those scenarios, the souls were victims. Adam and Eve had a choice. But their inherent propensity for disobedience—revealed about all of us throughout the Bible, from Genesis onward—was ignited by satan’s grooming.
The results of satan’s cunning seduction 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 da’at, their innocent lens, vanished in an instant. Satan’s seductive voice resonated with their own inner voice, the one that was subtly stirring within.
But once realized, they surrendered to it. Self-will. Self-desire. Self-focus.
God was in their soul’s rearview mirror. Rebellion raised its 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 we had to eat from that tree. We had to cross the line . . . so we could ultimately enter into God’s redemption story plan.
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.
GET READY TO MEET THE CHARACTERS CLOSE-UP.
UPCOMING POST: God’s Story Lens: 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
PHOTO CREDIT: Pomegranate tree by Tal Suraskon Unsplash.com