I think it's safe to say I have read my Bible a good 5 or 6 times in my life. I've definitely read Genesis a dozen times or more. But I'm starting a new study where I'm reading the Bible chronologically (which I've never done) so I find myself back at Genesis. Back at the beginning. I'm reading along, nodding my head at the familiar days of creation. I read the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve, a story with which I consider myself very familiar.
Tonight, as I read, though, I was struck by an act of mercy that I have never noticed before.
Right after God speaks his curse to the serpent, Adam, and Eve, Genesis 3:21-23 states, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 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 for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.'"
I'm pretty sure that every other time I read this scripture I was assuming the tree of life was the same thing as the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
See, back in Genesis 2:9, we read that God grew trees out of the ground to be pleasant to our sight, as well as to provide food. This included the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 2:16-17, God tells Adam that he can eat from any tree except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Aha! Is the tree of life how God planned to extend the lives of Adam and Eve? Without getting too deep into theology that I don't know a lot about, I do believe that God intended for Adam and Eve (and mankind) to live forever in perfection. It would make sense that he would have this tree for them to eat from and it would have a sort of "life-giving" substance.
Now, after Adam and Eve have sinned, God has to punish them as a consequence of their actions. One consequence for Adam is that he is going to have to toil and work and labor, for the rest of his life (Genesis 3:17-19).
What would happen if Adam had that curse placed upon him, and then ate from the tree of life? Is it possible, perhaps, that his life would be extended - in which case so would his toiling? his laboring? his work load?
That's why I placed that word "therefore" from verse 23 in bold when I typed out the verses previously. God steps back and says (verse 22) that Adam now knows about good and evil, and it is a good possibility that he could reach out and eat also from the tree of life, and thus live forever. Therefore God sends him out of Eden. For his own sake. Out of love. Out of extreme mercy.
I'm so thankful for the grace and mercy of God. I'm like Adam and Eve. I take my beautiful life for granted. I waste time. I miss opportunities to witness. I'm impatient. I try to do things my own way. I try to go faster than God. But this passage serves as a reminder to me, that God is always watching over me. Trying to steer me back onto His path. Diverting me from temptations or decisions that aren't right.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have on this passage. Have you ever thought of this before when reading this particular scripture?