Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Continued from yesterday's post

Me: If Adam had to wait and ask to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, what did God intend to give him by means of the fruit of this tree?

7th-grade boys: Well something that had to do with knowing good and evil, but not something simple like knowing right from wrong.

Me: How would we determine what this tree stood for or what it symbolized and what God would give them through it?

7th: We don't know. You tell us. You're the pastor!

Me: Well, I could just tell you, but I think you can find out yourself if you just think about looking in the rest of the Bible for the phrase "the knowledge of good and evil." When people have this "knowledge," what is it that they have? Start by looking in 1 Kings 3. Look at what young Solomon asks for in verses 7-9.

7th: He needs the wisdom to rule the people. He asks for "an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" Is "discerning between good and evil" like "knowing good and evil?

Me: Yes. It's pretty much the same thing. Solomon is asking for the wisdom necessary to judge or discern what's right and wrong when it comes to the many difficult cases and issues that a king must determine when governing a nation. Look what happens in the story immediately after Solomon's request. God immediately answers his prayer and gives him the ability to discern good from evil in the matter of the two prostitutes.

7th: What's a prostitute?

Me: I'll answer that in a minute. Just wait. Do you remember the story? [Retell the story.] So this is what Solomon asked for when he asked to discern good and evil.

7th: So was Solomon like a new Adam or something?

Me: Exactly. Not the New Adam, but a new Adam in the story of Israel thus far. Jesus, of course, will be the final and lasting New Adam. Notice that God commends Solomon for his appropriate request and gifts him with "a wise and discerning mind." Solomon, the Son of David, is a new Adam. The text of First Kings calls attention to this shortly after Solomon's prayer for wisdom, recounting the accomplishments of Solomon that remind us of Adam's naming of the animals (1 Kings 4:29-34).

7th: So would the first Adam have eventually needed to have this wisdom, this knowledge of good and evil, when there were more people on the earth? He would have then known to ask for it?

Me: Yeah, something like that. Adam began his life like an infant, even though he was physically full-grown. Children do not know "good and evil" in this judicial sense (Deuteronomy 1:39), which is why elders, not young people, are given the privilege of ruling on difficult cases in most nations and states. Even though Adam and Eve began their biological life as adults, they were nonetheless children in their experience of life and the world. It seems evident that God's program for them was to gain wisdom through their experience of life and the world, patiently waiting for God to grant them the gift of royal authority symbolized by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As Adam faithfully ate of the Tree of Life, giving thanks to God for his life, and as he diligently guarded and served the Garden and his new wife situated in the midst of the Garden, he would slowly mature into the kind of man qualified to rule over God's creation. That was the plan anyway.

In other words, God promised kingly wisdom to Adam if he would but be patient and wait for God to mature him. When it became necessary Adam would ask God to eat of the tree and the Lord would have commended him, like he did Solomon, and Adam would have been granted wisdom and discernment to rule.


Jim said...

"But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Heb 5.14).

pdug said...

But what's a prostitute?