Genesis 2:16-17, A Matter of Abundant Life and Death
And Jehovah God layeth a charge on the man, saying, `Of every tree of the garden eating thou dost eat; and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die. (Genesis 2:16-17, YLT, emphasis mine)
On Genesis 2:15, I saw Adam was to “work” and “guard” the Garden, which is a parallel to labors in the Kingdom of God, and its preservation through the guarding (or keeping) of His commandments. As this passage continues, we now understand Adam was to guard the Garden from perversion by keeping just one commandment (to not eat from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil). Adam’s labor and keeping of God’s commandment was reasonable service for his prototype-of-salvation experience. [Note: The “work” Adam would do is implied throughout several chapters – to gather food, to keep the fruit producing, giving names to animals, and other labors inspired by God]
Today I used Young’s Literal Translation because it is the only English version that captures two similar and glaring linguistic patterns which amplifies our understanding of Adam’s mitzvah (commandment). The phrases “eating thou dost eat” and “dying thou dost die” are translated repetitions of one Hebrew word:
way’tzah yahweh elohim al-ha-adam lemor miKol etz haGan akhol tokhel
wme-etz haDaat tov wara lo tokhal mi-menu kiy b’yom akhal-kha mi-menu mot tamut.
Obviously, this is no accident; it shows a specific choice given to Adam: to feast for eternity, or to experience the long process of dying.
Grain for Sustenance, Fruit for Feasting
We must keep in mind that it wasn’t just fruit that Adam could eat:
“Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.” (Gen. 1:29)
The difference is that grains and herbs of the field appear literally “over the face of the whole earth”; they are abundant and designed for sustaining life (sustenance) as they can be produced in a single growing season. Fruiting trees are much rarer and sparse in the wild, and may not set fruit for 20 years! However, it was not so in the Garden – every fruit tree created was present and productive.
As I previously noted, this fruit orchard in the Garden would have been considered a treasure by the ancient Hebrew culture. We may have lost sense of how much our ancestors valued fruit as a delicacy (we’ve been spoiled by the ‘produce section’ of supermarkets), but if we could pick any fruit in his own backyard – at any time of the year – who would complain?
Adam had just seen the land of dust and clay where he was made, but then saw the “pleasant to the eye” Garden, complete with every delectable fruit. God has told him that not only will he eat the grains of sustenance (ref. Gen. 1:29), but he would spend his life eating fruitful delicacies (Gen 2:16).
Therefore, God actually gave Adam the option to feast in a type of abundant, luxurious life that would never end, versus experiencing the process of dying and decay. By stating it through a redundancy of words, God captured Adam’s attention to weigh his options seriously. As we were all in the loins of our common ancestor, God was trying to get our attention as well.
A Matter of Abundant Life and Death
We only have one ultimate choice to make in this life: we partake of God’s blessing, or part ways to death! This is no false dichotomy, but a fact of life. This may be the first time this choice is presented in Scripture, but it’s certainly not the last! Our covenant relationship with God has always been a choice between a blessing of an abundant life, or one that leads to destruction:
Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of Yahweh your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you today, to go after other gods, which you have not known. (Deut. 11:28-29)
“…one who doesn’t enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep’s door… If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture. The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:1-10)
Since the time of Creation, we have been presented with merely one choice: Shall I live life to the fullest, or shall I just wait to die? If we are not walking with God, we are simply “dying until we die”. On the other hand, if we accept God’s salvation, we can have purpose and vision, and feast on all His benefits. The invitation to know God is still open, as is His promise of abundant life. This one choice culminates with the fullness of God found in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), as His death and resurrection is also a blessing and a curse. Just as God took Adam from the land of dust and clay, He can take us from our ‘waiting-to-die’ routine and bring us into an abundant life – one of power, purpose, and joy. Don’t let anyone rob you of your opportunity, make that one and only choice today!♦