Why Wouldn't God Want Adam and Eve to Have Knowledge of Good and Evil?
by Rich Deem


The Bible says that God created Adam and Eve and put them in a beautiful garden full of trees with good fruit. However, God also created a tree that would give the eater the knowledge of good and evil - commanding Adam not to eat its fruit. Why would God create something that was banned and, specifically, why would it be a tree whose fruit offered knowledge of good and evil? Isn't knowledge good?


Genesis 1 describes how God created the universe and life on earth. God's last creation was humanity, being created in His image. Genesis 2 provides the details of how human beings were created. Like most other creation accounts in the Bible, the one in Genesis 2 is brief. Here is what we know. God created Adam "from the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7) and placed him in a garden He had created specifically for him, in a place called Eden (Genesis 2:8), which is described as being "in the east" (from Israel). We don't know exactly where Eden was, but from the description, it seems it was in what is now Southern Iraq, probably in the Persian Gulf, which would have been dry at the time of the last ice age. Although God had created previous hominid species on earth, modern humans were the first to possess a spirit with which to communicate with and worship God. The Bible makes it clear that Adam was created outside the garden of Eden and placed in it when everything was ready (Genesis 2:15). We don't know how mature Adam was at his creation, but presumably he was a young adult. God had created many different kinds of fruit trees for Adam to eat. Of all the trees, Adam was commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the middle of the garden (Genesis 2:16-17). Sometime after Adam was placed in the garden, Eve was created (Genesis 2:21-22), and the scene was set for Adam and Eve to obey or reject God.

Why set Adam and Eve up to fail?

Skeptics often complain that God set Adam and Eve up to fail. However, God had to give Adam and Eve a choice. Without free will to choose, Adam and Eve would have been mere puppets. True love always requires choice. God wanted Adam and Eve to choose to love and trust Him. The only way to give this choice would have been to command something that was not allowed. Since God had planted in the garden all the different trees from which we now get fruit,1 the test was not too difficult. Adam and Eve had plenty to eat and a large variety of fruits from which to choose, and could have chosen to believe God. They were only commanded not to eat from one tree out of the many.

Why did God choose the knowledge of good and evil?

Since everything else God planted in the garden was good, the natural choice of something to choose from would be knowledge of evil. God's plan for Adam and Eve was to enjoy each other and their fellowship with Him without the influence of evil. God did not want Adam and Eve to experience evil or even know about it. However, Satan had already rebelled against God and then tempted Eve to join him in rebellion against God. Satan used the oldest ploy in his playbook of deceit - God is a cosmic killjoy who is trying to keep something good from you.2 Satan first asked Eve about the tree from which they were told not to eat.3 Eve told Satan they were not to eat of the forbidden fruit or they would die. Satan's reply indicated that God was a liar and that He just wanted to keep something good (the fruit) from them, saying, "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."3 So, Adam and Eve gained knowledge of the difference between good and evil through direct experience, instead of through instruction by God. The text suggests that Adam and Eve had enjoyed daily walks with God through the garden prior to their fall (Genesis 3:8). The knowledge of evil brought fear and shame to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:10).4 So, the knowledge of good and evil was not a good thing, since it ruined their innocent relationship with God and each other.

Return to innocence?

This is somewhat speculative, but I believe that we believers will lose our knowledge of evil in heaven. Isaiah 25:85 says that God will wipe all the tears from us and our reproach will be removed (see also Revelation 7:17 and 21:4).6 We will be able to experience and enjoy God directly7 without influence or knowledge of sin and evil.

Conclusion Top of page

Skeptics claim that God set up Adam and eve to fail by giving them a test that was either too difficult or deceptive. However, the Bible makes it clear that God gave Adam and Eve all they needed - with lots of different trees from which to eat fruit. It is clear that Eve knew she should not eat from the one tree in the middle of the garden that she was instructed to avoid. Instead of believing God and trusting Him, after all He had done for them, Eve chose to believe the lies of Satan (in snake form), and believed that God was lying to her. She ate the forbidden fruit and convinced her husband to do the same, resulting in their loss of innocence and a broken relationship with God and each other. Yes, they now had knowledge of good and evil, but it wasn't quite as originally advertised by the snake. We still have the same choice as Adam and Eve. We can gain the knowledge of evil by directly participating in it or we can believe God and avoid the things He has said are bad for us.

References Top of page

  1. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)
  2. Adam and Eve were not the last to fall for the ploy that God is trying to keep good things from us. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, has indicated that God is "obsessed with sexual restrictions," probably referring to the Bible's "overly restrictive" commands against adultery, rape, incest, prostitution, bestiality, and sodomy.
  3. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 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." (Genesis 3:1-5)
  4. He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10)
  5. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)
  6. for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)
    and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
  7. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (Revelation 21:3)
    Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE." (2 Corinthians 6:16)
    "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;" (Job 19:26)

Last Modified June 3, 2010


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