Two Trees

Genesis 2:8-9

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Luther’s Commentary
“This ‘tree of life’ would have been as it were a general medicine which would have preserved his natural life and powers in perpetual and complete vigor. Some may here interpose the question, How could this corporeal food or natural fruit effect such a conservation of the body as to prevent it from being weakened or debilitated by time? The reply is easy and divine. ‘He spake, and it was done!’ Ps. 33. For if God can make bread of a stone, why should he not be able to preserve the natural powers of man by a fruit? Even since the sin of the fall we see what powerful properties the smallest herbs and seeds possess.”
“God then creates a tree of knowledge and of distinction between good and evil, in order that Adam by means of that tree might have a certain sign of worship and reverence of God. For after all things had been delivered into the hand of Adam that he might enjoy them according to his will or according to his pleasure, God next requires of him that by means of this ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ he should show his reverence and obedience towards God as his Creator; and that he should hold fast, as a sign of this exercise of his obedient worship of God, that he would not taste any of the fruit of this tree; thus refraining, as in obedience to God’s prohibition…this tree of the knowledge of good and evil was itself to Adam his church, his altar, his pulpit; near or under which, as the place appointed of God, he might perform his acts of obedience to God, might acknowledge the Word and the Will of God, might offer his thanks to God, and in which spot he might also call upon God in prayer against temptations.”
“Not that there was anything in the nature of this tree, or of any one of these trees, to cause death; but such was the Word of God pronounced concerning it or them, which Word of God was ever attended with its efficacy to all creatures; and the efficacy of which Word still preserves all creatures, that they degenerate not nor alter nor fail of their original form and intent; that all creatures may be preserved in their original form and nature by an infinite propagation! Hence it was that by the Word the rock in the desert gave forth its waters in all their abundance, Ex. 17:6, and that by the same Word the brazen serpent healed all those that looked unto it, Num. 21:9. By this same efficacy of the Word of God’s prohibition, this one tree or this certain species of many trees in the middle of paradise killed Adam by his disobedience to that Word of God; not that the tree itself was deadly in its own nature but because it was appointed by the Word of God to be so in its effects. In the same way also are we to understand the nature of the tree of life, of which God commanded Adam to eat as often as he needed to restore his powers. It was by the Word of God that the tree of life produced that restoration…the tree of life gives life, by virtue of the Word which promises and ordains that life. ‘The tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ produces death by virtue of the efficacy of the Word which prohibits the eating of it on the penalty of death in case of disobedience.”
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 2989-2996, 3025-3099).

2 thoughts on “Two Trees

  1. It’s interesting that God places an object – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – in Adam and Eve’s vicinity that He then forbids them to use. We usually say, as Luther does, that it’s so we can have an option, we can show true love and worship via obedience. That’s fine. But why must it be like that. Particularly when we can’t seem to respond correctly – even in the absence of a sin nature, as with Adam. Which takes me back further. Why Satan? Again, a created being with presumably no sin nature yet defies his creator. All God’s plan to give us an option to obey? Heaven, to which we have access through the second Adam, won’t be that way.

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