Gen 2:17: Dying thou shalt die

Bill Ross wross at
Wed Aug 23 09:59:01 EDT 2000

Adam and Eve were created mortal. They were always going to die.

This does not seem explicit to me in Genesis, nor its opposite. It almost
seems that they were in "limbo land" since they had to eat the one tree to
die, the other to live forever!

They were kicked out of the garden because God was afraid they would eat of
the Tree of *Life* and so live forever (3:22).

I wouldn't have chosen the word "afraid", but the concern was not present
prior to the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Had they chosen to eat from that tree they would have lived forever, but
they didn't. God hadn't forbidden them from eating from that tree, they
could have eaten from it but they didn't. Why didn't God want them to eat
from the tree of life?  Because as the snake said, man has now become like
one of us (like a god), knowing good and evil (3:22). If he ate from the
tree of life and lived forever, he would truly be a god.

Adam was a creature. That gap between creator and creature could never be
crossed. The concern was not God fearing that he would lose his uniqueness
(because he wanted Adam to bear his image) but rather that it was Adam's
judgment for his transgression that he should not live forever.

The point of the story is to ask what does it mean to be human. Prior to
eating from the tree of knowledge, man was one of the animals. He ate only
vegetation, went naked, and talked to the animals. Prior to eating from that
tree there were only gods and animals. As soon as they ate from the tree of
knowledge, man no longer talked to the animals, no longer went naked.
Instead of talking to the animals he ate them and wore them.  So now humans
are midway between the gods and the animals. But if they reached out their
hand and ate from the tree of life they would become gods, because the
difference between mankind
and the gods is eternal life. So to keep man from living forever he kicked
them out of the garden.

The account of the original creation of man clearly distinguishes man from
the animals, identifying him as uniquely hand made in God's image, given
dominion, given the breath of God, and communicated to by God, and tested by

Gen 1:
26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing
that creepeth upon the earth.
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him;
male and female created he them.
28  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply,
and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that
moveth upon the earth. {moveth: Heb. creepeth}
29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which
is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit
of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. {bearing
: Heb.
seeding seed} {yielding
: Heb. seeding seed}
30  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to
every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have
given every green herb for meat: and it was so. {life: Heb. a living soul}

God didn't kick them out because they sinned, there is no mention of sin at
all, the word never occurs. God kicked them
out for one reason only, to keep them from becoming gods.

It was clearly because of Adam's transgression that he was denied access to
eternal life. God was not afraid of Adam bearing His image and living
forever - he forbade Adam from, in corruption, living forever.

The story is not about the origin of evil (for that you have to wait till
Gen 6:1). The story is about what it means to be
a human being: it means to be different from the animals in that you have
moral discernment, and yet to be different from the gods by being mortal.

It seems to me that the account covers a great deal of ground:

* creation
* exaltation
* fellowship with God
* ordination as image bearer, gardener and obeyer
* disobedience
* condemnation to death and troubled existence: child bearing and gardening
woes, marital strife
* the origin of conscience
* the origin of death
* alienation from God
* the pervasiveness of sin

And a great deal more.

Bill Ross

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list