Knowledge of Good and Evil (2 of 2)

knowledge good evil 1

(Continued from yesterday)

I think the figurative meaning fits the serpent’s temptation better, because if the literal meaning was meant, why should Adam and Eve’s desire to know good from evil be a sin? Isn’t moral knowledge good? When Solomon asked God for wisdom to discern between good and evil, wasn’t God pleased? Isn’t the ability to discern good and evil for the mature? So why would God punish Adam and Eve for desiring a good thing? The problem is not with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. There is nothing inherently bad about the tree. God could have used any tree to test Adam – whether he will trust and obey God.

However, if the figurative meaning was intended, then the serpent’s suggestion makes sense:
Gen 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
• Gen 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
• Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; …

The serpent insinuated that God had an ulterior motive in forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – to prevent them from knowing all things and become omniscient like God. The sin is in disobeying God and believing in Satan, the very sin of pride Satan himself committed:
Isa 14:14 I will make myself like the Most High;
• Ezk 28:2 Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, … although you make your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:6 Because you have made your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:9 Will you still say, “I am a god”;

Prior to Gen 3:6 Adam and Eve knew good and evil only cognitively. They knew to obey God is good and to disobey is evil, and the consequence is death or alienation from God. After they ate they knew it experientially. They became aware that they were naked. Previously the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25); now they are ashamed and covered themselves up.

Lastly, what does Gen 3:22 mean – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil”? God could not have meant Adam and Eve had become omniscient like Him and knew everything. They are creatures and will forever be finite, and could not possibly have infinite knowledge, i.e. become omniscient. Never! The serpent was dead wrong. I believe the literal meaning was intended and God simply meant Adam became like Him in the sense of being able to discern good from evil. Unfortunately of his own free-will he refused good and chose evil. Some commentators added that God might be stating this in a mocking tone i.e. the man has become like one of Us – NOT! but we have no way of ascertaining whether this is the case as the text did not say.

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Knowledge of Good and Evil (1 of 2)

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Q. What is the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17? What did the serpent (Satan) say it is in Genesis 3:5? In Genesis 3:7, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed, this is not knowing good and evil. What did God mean in Genesis 3:22 ?

A. This is a good question, missed by many Christians. There are two levels of meaning. First, the literal. The knowledge of good and evil is moral knowledge to discern, to refuse evil and choose good, based on the following:

Discern good and evil:
2 Sam 14:17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and evil. And may the LORD your God be with you.’
• 1 Kgs 3:9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
• Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Knowledge of good or evil:
Deut 1:39 Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
• Isa 7:15-16 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

Second, the figurative. Good and evil is a figure of speech, an antithesis, a contrast of two things which are direct opposites. Biblical writers use two extremes to represent everything in between. A well-known example is Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that:
• neither death, nor life, i.e. all physical beings;
• nor angels, nor principalities, i.e. all spiritual beings;
• nor things present, nor things to come, i.e. all time;
• nor powers, i.e. all forms of power;
• nor height, nor depth, i.e. all space;
• nor any other created thing, a catch-all phrase;
will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here Paul used 10 things, including 4 pairs of antithesis, to indicate that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love. Everything is included, with no exceptions. In Gen 3, good and evil is used as antithesis to represent all things in between; knowledge of good and evil therefore means all knowledge i.e. omniscience.

(To be continued)