The Forbidden Fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil
The forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is mysterious as the tree itself. But what was the forbidden fruit and what was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden?
It is a Christian tradition that it was an apple, but this could have been a tradition associated with the pagan traditions involving Athena with an apple (in the Greek mythology, Athens is a goddess of wisdom and useful arts and prudent warfare, identified with Roman Minerva).
However, the forbidden fruit might have been a fig and this would make sense since the man and the woman used fig leaves to cover themselves, as it was natural for them to reach for the closest tree they could find to cover their nakedness and shame.
Is the deceiver in Genesis 3 a real snake, or something else is meant in the text?
In the Hebraic mindset, thoughts, actions, and character are more important than the actual appearance. For instance, in the Gentile mind, the serpent in Genesis 3 is a snake (nachash). But in the Hebraic mind, the nachash is also something that moves or behaves in serpentine manner, i.e. like a snake, before it strikes like a snake.
The nachash (serpent) was more crafty than all the living YHVH Elohim had made, and one day he said to the woman,
Also, has Elohim indeed said, ‘Do not eat of every tree of the garden’? (Gen 3:1)
And the woman said to the nachash,
We are to eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, Elohim has said, ‘Do not eat of it, nor touch it, lest you die’. (Gen 3:2-3)
To which the nachash said,
You shall certainly not die. For Elohim knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be like Elohim, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:4-5)
This is how the fall of mankind started, and the rest is history.
The serpent is here described as a creature of the Creator with craftiness that is a natural characteristic of the serpents (Mat 10:16), which led the narrator of the creation story to use it as a metaphor for the evil one who had deceived the woman.
Its craftiness was manifested in the simple fact that the nachash turned to the weaker of the two, the woman, and said: “Has Elohim indeed said, …?”
What he indeed implied in his words was this: “Is it true that Elohim has prohibited you from eating of every tree in the garden?” The context is obvious that the meaning of his scheme to distort the words of the Creator was, “You shall not eat of any tree”.
We should note here that the serpent called the Creator Elohim and the woman did the same, although she knew the Name of the Creator. Thus, the nachash obscured in a more general and indefinite way the personality of the One who said,
Eat of every tree of the garden, but do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall certainly die. (Gen 2:16-17)
Why did God prohibit man from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? First and foremost, we are not to regard the tree as poisonous or having some fatal property resided in the fruit. Even in the case of the tree of life, the power is not to be sought in the physical fruit, because no earthly fruit possesses the power to give immortality to the life.
Hence, we may deduce that the tree of life and tree of the knowledge of good and evil are metaphors for two sources of knowledge of life and knowledge of good and evil.
Second, we should note that it was the Creator who made these trees and “planted” them in the garden: the tree of life in the midst of it and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a unspecified location, perhaps next to the other tree.
Third, we should also note that there were no restrictions of access to the trees, such as the heavenly guardians, the cheruvim, except the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; also, no command with such a prohibition was given concerning the tree of life.
Had the mankind continued in obedience to the command of Elohim, he might have eaten of it, but more properly he might have had access to the source of life, for he was created for eternal life.
But after he had fallen through disobedience into the power of death, the source that gives immortality could only do him harm, because immortality in a state of sin is not what the Creator had designed for the mankind.
Did Adam immediately die?
It is assumed from the traditional translations that when Adam and Chavah eat of the forbidden fruit, they will die that day. Some scholars advocate that the passage is to be understood as “one day equals a thousand years for God”, therefore, Adam indeed died in the same day, because he died in the same millennium, or the same day after the manner of a thousand years for a day.
Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1:1:4, gives explanation of the issue,
God therefore commanded that Adam and his wife should eat of all the rest of the plants, but to abstain from the tree of knowledge; and foretold to them, that if they touched it, it would prove their destruction.
And the Book of Jubilee 4:30 further expounds it:
And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.’ For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.
Therefore, what we learn from these sources is that on the day Adam ate from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, he began to die, i.e. he became mortal, and indeed died that day considering he was created to be immortal.
What the woman did wrong
But after the deceiver obscured the Name of the Creator and to attain his goal, he went to exaggerate the prohibition not to eat from that tree, with the intent of exciting in the woman’s mind a doubt as to the truth of His words.
But the deceiver’s words were listened to, because instead of turning away, the woman played right in the hands of the nachash. Not that she was unaware of the prohibition, she was, but her fatal mistake was that she added the words “nor touch it” and proved by this very addition that she was the proper target of the deceiver.
And here was the beginning of the mankind’s fall. The tempter took it from there and from the addition to YHVH’s words, advances even further (Gen 3:4-5) by implying, “It is not because the fruit of the tree will kill you that Elohim has forbidden you to eat it, but because He does not wish you to be like Himself”: a truly satanic ambiguity in which a doubt is secured and planted into the mind of the humans.
But the deceiver did not lie to her, because by encroaching what was forbidden, the mankind indeed obtained the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like the Creator. That is why it has been said that the nachash is more crafty, cunning, than all the living.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. (Gen 3:7)
The satan’s scheme
Now, when it was said that the serpent was cunning, what is the connection of this matter of nakedness here?
In order to answer this question we need to juxtapose the statement, “And He made for Adam and for his wife shirts of skin, and He dressed them”.
What does this juxtaposition teach us but that the nachash saw them naked engaging in a love-game, and he desired the woman, because she was very beautiful. This we learn from Gen. Rabbah 18:6.
This idea of a connection between crafty and naked comes from the common origin of the Hebrew words. The word עָרוּם arum, crafty, cunning, prudent, is a passive participle of עָרַם aram, a primitive root which means to be or make bare, but used only in the derived sense through the idea of smoothness, hence “naked”. Another Hebrew word that comes from aram is עֵירֹם eirom, which means nudity, naked (-ness). Hence, in Hebrew “craftiness”, arum, and “nakedness” and “nudity”, eirom, are closely related terms.
It is the opinion of the Sages that Adam ate of this fruit by knowing his wife, because this is the phrase which Torah uses for carnal copulation: Adam knew his wife (Gen. 4:1), Kain knew his wife (Gen 4:17), etc.
Also, the consequence of obtaining this mysterious knowledge was that the man and the woman were both ashamed of their nakedness and began to cover their shame: the natural consequences of their knowing one another.
And further, it is said that after the obtaining that knowledge, Adam called his wife Chavah because she was the mother of all flesh (Gen 3:20), hence we deduce that he knew her in the garden before the expulsion.
Note: Chavah means “giver of life”. It is interesting to know that Adam gave her this name after their transgression, when she gave birth of their first sons.
As we said above, the fall of mankind began because the woman added to the words of Elohim; she changed and added two things: (1) she said, “from the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden”, while Elohim had only said (Gen 2:16-17) not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; (2) she said, “do not touch it”, while Elohim had only forbade eating it.
And that was what the satan was waiting for: the woman changed the words of the Creator. Because, she said that she was not supposed to touch it, he in order to fulfill the words that he is the craftiest living, he probably went and touched the fruit, so that she could be assured she would not die, and indeed she did not.
According to the Sages, he even pushed her until she touched it. And he said to her, “Just as there is no death in touching, so is there no death in eating” (Genesis Rabbah 19:3).
But of course, the whole scheme of the satan was to get at Adam.
As we learned from the Sages, the satan desired her for her beauty, because in Gen 6:2-5 and the Book of Enoch, we learn that the fallen messengers indeed came down onto the earth and copulated with the beautiful daughters of men.
For many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants. Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1:3:1
The name of the first Jeqon: that is, the one who led astray [all] the sons of God, and brought them down to the earth, and led them astray through the daughters of men. And the second was named Asbeel: he imparted to the set-apart sons of God evil counsel, and led them astray so that they defiled their bodies with the daughters of men. Enoch 69:4-6
And as a result of this rebellion against the Creator, a mixed breed of half human and half celestial beings, the nephilim, were born. That brought in the necessity of the universal flood to purge the earth from the impurities in the human genes.
How the satan seduced
By the blessing in Gen 1:28, the Creator not only bestowed upon the mankind the right to multiply and fill the earth, but also dominion over the earth. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, yet they were not ashamed. (Gen 2:25)
It is probably that when the satan saw Adam and Chavah engaging in some sort of intimacy, he became very jealous of the man and desired her. He approached the woman with the words of his preconceived plan: “Has Elohim indeed said, ‘Do not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
Wherein the woman brought the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in her answer, something the deceiver did not ask for, but he used it to lure her. He craftily asked her whether Elohim had forbidden the eating from every tree of the garden. The simple answer from the woman should have been, “No! He had not said so!” and then she should have walked away, and that would have been the end of the story.
But, she stayed there and for some reason she involved the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in her answer. Why?
As with the covering of their nakedness and shame, when they reached for the first thing they could get, so is with the answer of the woman. She answered the satan’s question with the first thing that was in her mind when they were engaged in their intimacy: the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She must have felt confused and the reference to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil came as slip of the mind, just as with the fig leaf.
What was the tree of good and evil?
How then was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil related to the situation?
When the crafty (arum) satan saw the naked (eirom) woman and he suggested the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for eating, he must have had something in mind.
As we learned above there was a connection between the satan’s craftiness and the nudity of Adam and Chavah, which the narrator of the story, the Messenger of His Face, made it very clear to Mosheh, as seen in Hebrew.
However, the narrator continued in hinting us,
And Yehovah Elohim said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The nachash deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:13)
The narrator has intentionally selected these words to hint the very nature of the nachash and how he deceived and continue to deceive mankind.
The phrase the nachash deceived me in Hebrew is pronounced like this: הִשִּׁיאַנִי הַנָּחָשׁ hanachash hishiani. Notice the Hebrew poetry of using words that sound in a similar way: hanachash hishiani; it is not accidental.
The Hebrew word נָחָשׁ nachash, means snake, serpent (from its hiss). The noun nachash comes from the identical primitive root nachash, which means to hiss, whisper a magic spell; generally, to prognosticate. It also means divine, enchanter, as seen in Gen 44:15, Lev 19:26, Num 24:1, Deu 18:10.
The second Hebrew word is נָשָׁא nashah, a primitive root which means to lead astray, that is, mentally to delude, or morally to seduce: beguile, deceive.
From here we may conclude that the nachash is the one who whispers magic spells, soothsaying, and divinations to morally seduce and lead astray the people of Elohim.
Hence, we understand why the nachash was used as a metaphor for the satan. As a snake moves and behaves in serpentine manner, before it strikes deadly, so does the satan like a snake approaches, behaves, and speaks serpentinely, that is, craftily before he strikes deadly.
The deceiver will never come to a believer and say, “There is no God” or “His Son did not die for your sins”, but he will start with something too little for us to notice, too subtle for us to pay attention; he will come and whisper, “Has God indeed said …?”
His words are like a subtle poison that erodes the believers from within.
This is how he started deceiving from the very beginning and this is how he keeps on deceiving even today: “Has God indeed said His Torah is not for you?”
Hence, it will not be far stretched to assume that the satan (through the metaphor of “snake”) showed the first man and woman immoral ways of copulation (through the metaphor of the forbidden fruit) to morally seduce them, as the very word “nachash” means so.
He still does this even today through homosexuality, transgenderism, and even bestiality.
That what the satan suggested was immoral is deduced from the context that Adam and Chavah felt naked and ashamed. This guilt of being naked and ashamed did not come from having had a sexual act, because the first people were told to be fruitful and multiply. This guilt must have come from having done something that had already been forbidden.
But, Adam and Chavah could not have possibly known what was forbidden before the satan first showed them by opening their eyes, that is, by giving them knowledge of evil. Then and only then, they could have felt guilty and ashamed. Before the satan’s act of deception, they were naive and innocent as they were born.
And YHVH Elohim said to the nachash,
Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all livestock and more than every beast of the field. On your belly you are to go, and eat dust all the days of your life. (Gen 3:14)
The Hebrew word for “belly” is גָּחוֹן gachon. Probably, it comes from the primitive root גִּיחַ giach, to gush forth (as water), generally to issue, to break forth, labor to bring forth, come forth; it also means the external abdomen, belly as the source of the fetus. We can also compare גִּיחַ giach to גִּיחוֹן Gichon, which comes from giach, and means stream; Gichon is also a river of the Garden and a valley or pool near Jerusalem.
The idea is that from gachon the life breaks forth and the gachon is the place where the birth pangs begin, and the water in the mother’s womb breaks through.
However, this curse upon the nachash to crawl on its belly is not be taken literally either but metaphorically, since the satan (the deceiver) was not a snake in the Garden but an angelic being, otherwise we will have difficulties to explain as to why YHVH told Mosheh to lift up a bronze serpent set on a pole that whoever would look at it would live (Num 21:8, Joh 3:14).
Hence, the metaphorical expression of the curse is to be probably understood, as follows: the satan was cursed in the place where he deceived the woman, and in a more literal way: the satan was deprived from the ability to come into the daughters of men, as his followers did, because of the lusted after Chavah.
The curse on the satan came along with the first ever prophecy in the Scripture,
And I put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall crush His heel. (Gen 3:15)
That was the first promise of the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the Savior of mankind. Or, as the present author prefers to say: the first verse of the Messianic Scripture. From that verse on everything that would be said and written would be for no one else but the Messiah, as the Sages have rightly said. Read more on the Messiah and what the Sages of blessed memory has said about Him in the article “Revealing the Name of Yeshua secretly guarded by the Rabbis“.
This declaration of YHVH was not done to Adam and Chavah but to the satan that He would do with sin in a very particular way.
Until that moment the satan did not know what the plan of YHVH was. But the satan went immediately to do his work, to do two things: (1) to nullify what Elohim just said and his first step was to eliminate Avel, then Mosheh, and Yeshua; (2) to counterfeit the real things with false ones.
But, there is one more curse upon the nachash which will be ultimate one,
In that day Yehovah with His severe sword, great and strong, punishes Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent. And He shall kill the monster that is in the sea. (Isa 27:1)
In this verse, and in the context of the end-time prophecy in the Book of Revelation, nachash called here Leviathan is the same nachash in the Garden of Eden. But, for a deeper insight on the events of the last days in Revelation, the reader is encouraged to refer to the series of articles in The Revelation from YHVH, a part of the teachings of Time of Reckoning Ministry (TORM).
As we concluded, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a real tree but a metaphor for a source of knowledge, since naturals tree and fruits cannot possibly be such.
And as the tree of life is mystical so is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because they are relatives by way of opposition being the trees of life and death.
Therefore, since the one is the law of YHVH, “Do not eat …”, the other must be the inclinations of the flesh, “I can eat whatever pleases me”, expressed in the first desire of the flesh,
And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, (Gen 3:6)
And that was the very idea Apostle Shaul developed in his teaching in Romans,
Because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards Elohim, for it (the mind of the flesh) does not subject itself to the Torah of Elohim, neither indeed is it able, and those who are in the flesh are unable to please Elohim. (Rom 8:7-8)
Shaul must have understood very well the real reason of the fall mankind, namely, the desire of the flesh. The satan must have known it very well, too, because he used it to deceive the woman. But for more knowledge of this controversial topic, the reader may refer to the article “You are not under the Law of God“.
To eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil signifies the acquiring of knowledge, but what that knowledge was is difficult to say. What we know is that it is called the knowledge of good and evil, because it indeed brought the knowledge of both.
The satan deceived by telling the truth
It is a common and incorrect assumption that the satan did lie to the woman. However, he did not lie, and in fact, he told the complete truth.
In Gen 3:2-3 we see that the woman changed the words of Elohim given to Adam in the garden. Then the satan made the statement in Gen 3:4-5 which confirmed the statement of Elohim in Gen 3:22 more particularly that the humans would be like Elohim who knows good and evil.
Therefore, we see that the serpent did not lie, but he told the truth.
Let us again read the narrative by the Messenger of His Face, and notice the words the satan craftily chose in his scheme:
Has Elohim indeed said, ‘Do not eat of every tree of the garden’? (that was a question that did not constitute a lie). And the woman said to the serpent, “We are to eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, Elohim has said, ‘Do not eat of it, nor touch it, lest you die.’ (she was wrong) And the nachash said to the woman, “You shall not immediately die. (true, she did not die) For Elohim knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be like Elohim, knowing good and evil. (true, they indeed received the knowledge of good and evil) (Gen 3:1-5)
The serpent did not lie but he deceived the woman by telling her the truth. How was it possible? Well, he is called the master of deception for a reason. He took advantage of the woman who added to the words of Elohim, thus he deceived her.
The curse on mankind
And in conclusion, we will elaborate on the curse upon the mankind,
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 forever. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Gen 3:22-23 KJV)
Here, while the traditional translations read “the man is become like one of us”, understood as “the man became like God” to know good and evil, as a result from the sin. But, the Hebrew word behind “of us” is mimenu meaning “from us”, which brings quite different rendering of the curse, which makes much more sense in the context: “the man is become apart from us” meaning the mankind was separated from the Creator, as a result of the sin.
Do not add to the Word
So, why is it so important to know the true story of Adam and Chavah in the Garden of Eden? This is why.
Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of Yehovah your Elohim which I am commanding you. (Deu 4:2)
This is how Mosheh began to lead the new generation born in the desert into the Covenant of YHVH, as their fathers were at Mount Sinai: “Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it.”
The observance of the Torah required that it must be kept as it was given to the forefathers: nothing should be added to it or subtracted from it, but that men should submit to it, as it was originally given.
Not by omissions only (as in the Christianity), but by additions also (as in the Rabbinic Judaism), were the commandments weakened, and the Word of YHVH was brought to no effect and turned into ordinances of men.
nullifying the Word of Elohim through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such traditions you do. (Mar 7:13)
The command in Deu 4:2 is repeated in Deu 12:32; it is then revived by the prophets (Jer 26:2, Pro 30:6), and in Rev 22:18-19.
Why is this so important not to add to nor take away from Torah?
This is the subtle difference between the Hebrew letters hey and chet: one stroke of the pen. A single wrong stroke can create a huge difference as the difference between hallel, praise, and chillul, curse.
In the same tone Yeshua the Messiah also made the strong statement that He had not come to destroy the Torah nor the prophets, not a one tittle, but to fulfill them, that is, to substantiate them (Mat 5:17-20).
For the truth whether the Messiah has abolished the Torah of YHVH, continue here.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.