“Sentences in Eden” is one coherent and consecutive article and best read from the beginning. But in order to find later more quickly the single sequences the Subtitles are listed here.
God’s Sentences in Eden -
are they Good News ?
It is the morning of creation. Before the eyes of the universe God has created a world full of miracles. The sun shines on meadows and lakes, and a great variety of animals populate the earth. In his harmonious environment God has married the first couple. In addition He had planted for them a most magnificent garden, the Garden of Eden. And He ‘made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food. Now the Tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the orchard. God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. Then God commanded the man, "You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die." (Gen 2:9,15-17 Net)
When this report was written down a word for ‘die’ was used in Hebrew, which is an intensified verb, which means that men would surely and completely die. They would be extinguished in death, there would be no living on. In this respect the tree of knowledge of good and evil is basically the opposite of the Tree of Life. With another passage in the Bible it becomes more clear what the ‘knowing good and evil’ means, since there it is written: ‘Your little ones who this day have no knowledge of good or evil – (who cannot yet determine what is good, and what is evil) – shall enter there.’ (Deut 1:39 Nasb). ‘To know’ means in Hebrew: to unite with something, to make something one’s own, to adopt something. So with this tree is about determining oneself what is good and what is evil.
The Tree of Life stands for God the life-giver, and for the truth about God’s character and his principle of love, for to know God is life. (s. Jn 17:3). The other tree on the other hand stands for determining oneself good and evil, to set apart from God one’s own norms – with all the terrible effects of godlessness and lawlessness that arose from it. Since time immemorial, since the time when sin first evolved a great controversy exists in the universe, which is reflected at these two trees –
it is about the great controversy
between light and darkness, between God and Satan,
between truth and sin ... between life and death.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil is a tree of self-determination what is truth and what is sin, and thus it is a tree of separation from God ... which ultimately means death. The first people hat the choice to listen to God’s caring warning ... or not to listen to it. Would it only have been their request: “Give me a hearing heart that listens to You, so that I may be able to distinguish between good and evil.“ (i. 1Ki 3:9).
But Satan disguised as a serpent ‘was more crafty and said, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1 Esv).
Satan had demanded the right to put before men the choice, whom they want to follow – God or Satan. But as it was typical for his character, he didn’t do it openly, he worked with cunning. He spoke through the serpent on this tree, sowed mistrust and questioned God. As a reply to his question, whether they are not allowed to eat of all fruits, Eve answered, "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.'" (Gen 3:2-3 Nasb).
They shouldn’t even touch those fruits. Obviously, God wanted to help and protect the two people as best He could, so He said to them, “Don’t even touch the fruit.” This addition was not written down together with his warning, but He certainly has talked a lot more with the two of them. The Bible is a condensed summed up record. If everything had been written down in detail, we would need a library for the Bible.
But repeatedly it has been said of Eve, she did exaggerate with her statement of not touching the fruit. But the following fact speaks to it that she must have said the truth: Eve at this time has been created undefiled, pure and perfect, she possessed such a high intelligence, which stands unrivaled by a humanity, which is now strained by sin and decay. Eve was neither thoughtless nor forgetful. She had a crystal-clear memory and certainly knew exactly what God had said, especially since was such a serious warning and matter of life or death. This means: If God had never said anything about touching the fruit, then Eve’s statement would not have been a slight exaggeration, but she would have deliberately lied and imputed to God something He had never said and that is therefore not true. In that moment she did not even would have needed to eat the fruit. Deliberate lies and allegation are sin. Eve would already have fallen, and Satan would have triumphantly laughed, no further comment on his part would haven been necessary. We know, however, from the record in the Bible that Satan didn’t laugh. He knew it was true. So He had to go further and clamed now: “If you eat the fruit you surely will not die!“ (i. Gen 3:2-4).
Satan thus brought up the lie about the immortal soul, and between the lines the suspicion that God threatens them to kill them – that He is evil. Satan continues with his accusations, “God knows, however, that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing and deciding for yourselves what is good and what is evil.” (i. Gen 3:5).
Satan thus presented himself as the good one, as the benefactor of mankind. He flatters, “You are yourself wise enough, you can decide independently and freely what is truth and what is sin. Eating a fruit can’t be possibly a evil sin. Say now, who is it speaking the truth: the severe God, or me? Determine the norms yourselves. God’s law isn’t good. Away with his severe law! Be free!“
But what is the law of God? Which is the highest commandment? When Jesus once was asked this, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40 Net).
It is about love. And this regularity and principle of love has never been abolished. The result, when this is dismissed and rejected, is the decline and fall of a man. His character develops negatively when he replaces the law of love with his own norms, and determines what is right and what is wrong. Then there are ruling egocentricities, domineering tyrannical nature, unkindness, narrow-mindedness, always wanting to have one’s right, and even being angry, if the other one is not as he should be according to one’s own views. And that is what God wanted to prevent.
The seemingly severe commandment of God about the deadly tree was a warning of love. And the seemingly good serpent on the tree was the ruination. The essence of what happened here at the tree can be expressed by what later God made the prophet Isaiah write down:
‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who acquit the guilty, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as a tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so (they) will be as rottenness, and like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord and have despised the word of the Holy One.’ (Is 5:20-24 Esv).
Satan called evil good, and the truly good one – our God – he called evil. He presented his dark lies as if they were enlightening. And the light of the truth of God he presented as sinister threats that darkened the picture of God. Satan was unrighteous, but presented himself as being the righteous one, and the truly righteous God he presented as unrighteous. The people took the fruit, which he praised as sweet, but yet it was so bitter. They rejected the law of love of God and didn’t believe the word God had said to them ... the result would be now that in death they would be completely extinguished and disintegrated into dust.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil brought to them only this terrible knowledge. They had lost their purity and tried to cover their nakedness ... with witting leaves. And although their turning away must have hurt God very much, how much compassion He may yet have felt with them in their terrible lost state.
When the day came to an end, and suddenly it became cool, ’they heard the Lord walking in the garden, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called to the man, "Where are you?"
And he said, "I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." (Gen 3:8-10 Esv).
The reaction of the two people to God’s presence was to hide. They had lost their garment of innocence and purity.
God called for them. Didn’t He know where they were? He knew well, but He showed them with his call that He missed them. He did not let them down or abandoned them, He went after them, and took care of them, though – or especially because – they feared Him. Would they have needed to fear Him? Surely not, God was still their merciful and deeply good Father. He never changes, even if He is rejected. But sin causes one to fear the One who loves unconditionally. Thus the seeds of the serpent had come up. There was mistrust instead of trust.
When God stood before the two people, He gave them the opportunity to confess their unfaithfulness and guilt, and take responsibility for it. Therefore ‘He asked Adam, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had warned you about and told you, you shouldn’t eat of it?”
The man answered, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she brought me fruits from the tree, and so I ate of them.”
Then God turned to the woman, “O, what have you done?“
She replied, “The serpent deceived me, and so I ate.“‘ (i. Gen 3:11-12).
Here it was revealed how fast the pure character of both of them had changed. Sin isn’t just something that is done, and that by regret and confession is forgiven and canceled – the terrible thing about sin is that it changes us. Selflessness is replaced by self-justification and by shifting responsibility for of fear of punishment. “The other people and the circumstances are guilty of me being as I am and that I have done that”, both of them excused, instead of saying that simple sentence: “Father, forgive me.” And much worse, actually they made God responsible: “You are to blame, You gave me this woman, and You created the serpent.” No longer man is guilty, but God. For if God is love, how could He possibly allow all of this to happen.
But with his commandment God wanted to protect them from this to happen. He does not force anyone, but gives the freedom to act responsibly. He has always loved them both, and still loved them now, even though they accused Him. It must have hurt Him, but He didn’t defend himself. He would instead act to prove his love and to save them ... And He already now began to unfold the plan for it.
Thus ’He said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be condemned among all the animals. You will crawl on your belly and swallow the dust your whole life long. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel.“ (i. Gen 3:14-15).
This is our amazing God: Before He pronounced any judgement on the guilty men, He already here promised them the Redeemer and Savior. For ‘the Seed’ in the Hebrew language means ‘the descendant’. And this descendant is Jesus, who would defeat Satan. But Satan would make Him suffer: On one hand on the cross. On the other hand, the Hebrew word for the name ‘Heel-holder’ has become a synonym for ‘deceiver’. And all those who symbolically hold on to the heel and remain in their self-deception will be destroyed by Satan. When one’s heel is crushed it’s an incredible pain ... and when symbolically God’s heel is crushed, and by this also all who hold on to the heel, it hurts Him incredible to lose those of his children who remain in stay their self-deception.
’God then said to the woman, “I will have to multiply the hardship of your pregnancy. With pain you will give birth to children.“ (i. Gen 3:16).
And that seems superficially looked at to be really a severe word and sentence for the woman ... until one understands what the birth and children are symbols for. God uses it to make something clear to us, for He tells us in the Bible: Jesus ‘came into his own and his family did not accept Him. But to all who received Him He gave the authority and right to be children of God, to all who believe in His Redeemer-Name, who were born not by the will of a man, but were born of God. – So do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ (i. Jn 1:12-13; 3:7). We humans are all the earthly children of our heavenly Father, but by faith we will be born again through God as his spiritual children – to a new life with Him. And if we want to know how much pain our new birth cost God, we only have to look at the cross on Calvary. Jesus ’was despised and forsaken of men; He was a man of pain and acquainted with suffering. He was despised and we did not esteem Him either. But our sufferings He himself bore, and our pain He took upon himself.’ (i. Is 53:3-4).
He in addition says to you, 'Can a woman forget her child so that she would no longer feel compassion for the child of her womb? Even if she would forget, but I never will forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.’ (i. Is 49:15-16). And his He truly did – on the cross with the marks of the nails in his hands.
Do we understand how much He took our birth-pain upon himself, and how much pain He felt, because we went astray? Each one of us is a hard birth for God. How much pain and hardships does He endures until He has reborn his children!
In connection with pregnancy and childbirth, a further detail shows how precious and highly esteemed are women as such in God’s eyes, how much He has ennobled them, although in this world they so often have been put at a disadvantage. For through whom did Jesus come to this earth? He came to us through a woman. He was carried and born by a woman. God did entrust the most precious being He had in heaven to a woman ...
With the next saying, however, the woman really seems to be put at a disadvantage, since God continued to say to her, ”Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.“ (Gen 3:16 Nasb). But in the Bible ‘to rule’ does not mean to ‘dominate’, but ‘to take care of someone, to protect him, to care for him like a shepherd’. Thus also this sentence of God becomes a picture by which He describes himself. For Christ is our Lord, He is the head of his believing church. He knows we can’t make it on our own; He protects us and cares for us in lovingkindness. He is the good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep. (s. Col 1:18; Jn 10:11). Concerning marriage, therefore, God says too: ’Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave his life for it. And a wife should respect her husband and esteem him.’ (i. Eph 5:25,33). Thus as Jesus cares for us as God’s children, as much God wanted husbands to care for their wives. In this sense a husband may lead his family responsibly with prayer and, in agreement with his wife, for the good of all ... and in a love that is ready to die for his wife. Then a women will gladly entrust herself to her husband, for whom she longs, just like we are longing for the care and love of Christ and will gladly stay under his protection.
Thus this saying and sentence of God becomes an assignment and task for the man, becomes a protection for the woman, and becomes a parable God applies to himself. For there is no better Shepherd than Him, He who sacrificed himself, carries us and protects us like the apple of his eye, and who was ready to die rather than to lose all of his earthly children.
After God has said these parables in his sentences to Eve, He turned to Adam: Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to what your wife said, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat from it', therefore an oath will be upon the ground because of you. In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” (i. Gen 3:17).
God declared, “This is so because of you”, that means also, ‘it is for your sake, for your good, for the benefit of you’. For the work is intended for our best to teach us self-control and to save us from ruin. So even this one is meant to be a blessing.
But there can be much more found in it. On one hand, God knew that in Jesus one day He would be on this earth and would bear every toil and hardship with us. This sentence and oath He put on himself as well.
On the other hand in the picture of the field also his parables can be discovered. For ‘the kingdom of God is like a person which sowed good seeds on his field. But while all of the men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.’ (i. Mt 13:24-25). ‘The seed is the Word of God. The seed which fell beside the road is a picture for people who heard the Word, but then Satan comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they won’t believe and be saved. But the seed in the good soil, these are the people who after having heard it the word, hold it fast in their honest and good hearts, and bear many fruits with perseverance.’ (i. Lk 8:11-12,15).
And that was exactly what happened in Eden: God sowed good things. Satan, on the other hand, tried to destroy the good seed and sowed evil things, and his seeds grew in the hearts. Thus the ground of men’s heart ran wild and became hard. ‘You have troubled me with your sins’, said God. (i. Is 43:24). We and our hearts are his field, which causes Him sorrow, which He has daily to work painstakingly, that He would be able to sow the seed of love. And we begin to understand God a little more by having to work hard too.
Further on He said to Adam about the field:
'Thorns and thistles it will bring forth for you, and you will eat of the plants of the field, and you will eat your bread in the sweat of your face.’ (i. Gen 3:18-19).
Anyone who has ever had to fight with thorns and thistles in his garden and got stung, may have wondered, why God expressly made them grow. We wish, He at least would have speared us of those. But have we ever noticed that when He said this, He knew exactly that He himself would have to bear this sentence? The only place where Jesus is mentioned in connection with thorns is ... when the crown of thorns was pressed on his head. He allowed thorns to grow, which He once would bear as a crown of thorns. Thorns and thistles are a symbol of enemies and sinners in the Old Testament. (s. Num 33:55; Ezek 28:24). Thus, the painful crown of thorns receives an even deeper meaning, for Jesus willingly carries us sinners with all the pain we cause to Him ... until He even carried our sins to the cross and therefore died the death that was ours as being sinful humans.
When He came to our earth, He himself worked as a carpenter for many years in the sweat of his face ... until in bloody sweat of his face He knelt down in the Garden of Gethsemane and took the cup of death into his hands. With bloody sweat on his face, Jesus struggled to reach our hearts. It costed Him incredibly much to win us and our hearts. Let’s not allow it to happen that it was in vain. Let’s not harden our hearts like the hard ground of a field, but let it be worked on by his gentle and patient hand. He is ready to remove our thorns in there, though we sometimes make it very difficult for Him, by holding onto them and thus hurting Him. But He has so much patience. Let’s therefore let Him prepare our hearts so that the seeds of love can come up in there. He does not give us up, He loves us more than his life.
Therefore, it must have hurt Him more than anyone else, when He finally had to tell Adam: 'You will return to the ground from which you were taken. For out of the dust you were taken, to the dust you will return.” (i. Gen 3:19). Even though this is indeed true of men, who in death are gone like dust, still God has taken the sentence of death upon himself. Jesus took death and separation upon himself. And by his own death He will not leave us to the dust, but He has promised that at his return at the end of the world He will all of us, who believe Him, raise from the death and out of the dust, and He will give to us eternal life. (s. Jn 6:39-40.44; 1Thes 4:16).
All of his judgmental words, which He spoke at that time, are parables on Him, and in addition He himself was affected the most by these sentences. No one suffered as much of them as He did. Do we see now the deep meaning in his words, which reveal to us the thoughts of his heart? With these parables, He unfolded in front of us the whole Gospel – all the Good News of his good character and his way of Salvation.
But this record does not end here. For ’God took skins and made garments for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.’ (i. Gen 3:21). Where did those skins come from?
In the following records on offerings and sacrifices in the Bible, we can see that the first people already knew the sacrificial system. God must have explained it to them after their fall, so that Adam sacrificed the first lamb ... as a symbol of the sacrifice of the promised Redeemer God had already announced in his first sentence. Thus these skins must have been taken from these first sacrificial lambs, for they contain an important symbol: We humans had lost our innocence through sin, and tried to cover the nakedness of our guilt behind poor arguments, which can never give us real peace. But like the white lambskin, God gives us the white garment of purity and righteousness, and wraps us in it. He wraps us in his safety and security by forgiving and cleansing us und helping us to become a new man.
Nevertheless, He at that time had to make some arrangements that were not easy for the two people. Their home, the pure Paradise, could no longer teach them what they now needed. In Eden stood also the Tree of Life, which represented eternal life. But men had separated themselves from God, the true live-giver, and from his principles. ‘Thus God said, “The man has become like one of us, by determining good and evil himself. But if he stretches out his hand to the Tree of Life, to take from it and eat, because he wants to live forever, so he surely will be prevented to so.“ (i. Gen 3:22). This kind of statement is a Hebrew oath that made clear, that this will be certainly prevented and under no circumstances would happen. ‘Therefore God sent them out form the Garden of Eden to cultivate the ground from which man was taken. He took them out, and told the Cherubim angels to stay east of the Garden of Eden with their flames that flashed about like a sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.‘ (i. Gen 3:23-24).
Thus God made it clear that people have no access to the Tree of Life, that is, they cannot and will not live immortal forever on their own. God alone possesses immorality. (s. 1Tim 6:15-16). And Jesus says of himself, ”I am the life.“ (Jn 14:6 Nasb). God is the source of all life. He is the real Tree of Life. Separated from Him as being Tree of Life, there is no eternal life, and therefore also no eternal hell and no immortal sinner therein. This would be incompatible with his character. Otherwise, Satan would have been right with his assertion that God is a hard, merciless tyrant. But fortunately this is a lie, since mercifully God very clearly shows by the separation from the Tree of Life that no one can reach it anymore ... unless there would be a way back to Paradise ...
But when God took the people out of Eden, Paradise was lost to them for the time being. But was it just for us humans lost? God once predicted of his redeemed people: “They may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.’ (Is 61:3 Nkjv). The Garden of Eden with its trees and the Tree of Life, is thus also a symbol for the panting of God and its trees, in the middle of which He himself is the Tree of Life – so Eden is a symbol for his redeemed people with Him in their midst.
But back at this time, He had lost his glorious planting – with his fallen companions He had lost his Eden. But He was very attached to his companions – to men. He did not give them up, He did not want to lose them ...
Is there a way back to Eden? Back at that time, men had to leave their home. The Cherubim angels with their flames like swords guarded the way to the Tree of Life. But exactly that is the redeeming way: through the sword-like flames ...
For ’the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God’, which ’is living and active’; (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12 Nasb), and his ‘love is stronger than death, and is a flame of the Lord.’ (i. Songs 8:6-7). God himself ’is like a fire. He will purify and refine them like gold and silver’, (Mal 3:2-3 Nasb), 'so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’ when He returns.’ (1Pet 1:7 Esv).
Therefore, the sword it a symbol for God’s Word and the flames are a symbol for Him, for his love and his purifying power. His love is so strong that He took death upon himself and overcame it. Jesus says of himself: ”I am the way, and the truth, and the life.“ (Jn 14,6 Nkjv). He guides us by his Word of truth on the right way back. And through what He does in our lives, He leads us to our faith proving itself, until He returns and gives to us eternal life ... and takes us home.
Thus, the seemingly so hard sentences and regulations of God in Eden turn out to be in reality God’s blessings if we recognize and understand the symbols in them. They contain the whole Gospel, the whole Good News about our good God, who pronounced sentence on himself and died for us. By them He showed to us what is in his heart: He longs for us, He misses us, and He calls for us.
Satan on the deadly tree, on the other hand, seemingly promised good things and represented himself as the benefactor of mankind, but in reality he dragged men into his own destruction.
But God gives to each one of us a new beginning and says to us through the Holy Spirit:
'Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as on the day of temptation. See to it, that none of you has an unbelieving heart that turns away from God. But encourage one another each day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’, so that none of you will be hardened by the sin which deceives us. For if we hold our initial confidence firm until the end, we have become companions of Christ. For the Good News has been proclaimed to us as well as to the people at their time. But the word they have heard did not profit them, because they did not believe it. We, however, came to rest, for we have believed it and do trust.’ (i. Heb 3:7- 8,12-14; 4:2-3).
We become ‘spiritual mature people, who have their senses trained in order to be able to discern, what is good and what is evil.’ (i. Heb 5:14). ‘Therefore do not blindly believe every spiritual preacher, but test them to see if they truly come from God. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And the victory, by which we have overcome the world, this victory is in this, that we believe God.’ (i. 1Jn 4:1; 5:4).
The Holy Spirit wants to guide us, so that we will grow and become mature, to get the right view and the power of discernment. In Eden, God has wrapped up his good will and his desire in parables, so that we may see that He had already then prepared his good message and his plan of Salvation. He wanted us to recognize the right way. May therefore also our request be:
“Lord, give me a hearing heart that listens to You,
so that I may be able to distinguish between good and evil.
Since your Word is a light unto my path,
You lead me on the way to life.
And that You are here with me
this is my sheer joy and delight.“
(i. 1 Kings 3:9; Psalms 119:105; 16:11)