A Home Provided for Man: Part 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
The Lord God made “to grow every tree,” and the trees, as we have already mentioned, were pleasant to look at and were also good for food. There was the beauty of them and the practical side of them; both were combined in them. Perhaps it can be compared to going into a furniture store and having the salesman say, “This article of furniture is very beautiful, but it’s also very functional.” That was the important thing in the Garden of Eden—they had some beautiful trees, but they were also functional. In fact, they were very practical—they were good for food (All kinds of fruit-bearing trees, whether of the pulpy fruits, such as apples, etc., or of the kernel or nut kind, such as dates, and nuts of different sorts, together with all edible vegetables. On this earth on which we live, we still see something of its beauty. In spite of the curse of the fall of man which is upon the earth—the fact that it brings forth the thorn and the thistle—there is still a beauty here. I can still remember my first trip to the Appellation Mountains. It was the fall season and there was such a variety of colors to the leaves that it was absolutely beyond beautiful!
It is likely that the “tree of life” which was placed in the midst of the garden was intended as a symbol of that life which man would live eternally, provided he continued to be obedient to his Maker. And probably the use of this tree was intended to be twofold; first, as the means of preserving the body of man in a state of continual vitality; and second, as an antidote against death. This seems strongly indicated from Genesis 3:22 (see above). Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had free access to the tree of life; after their act of rebellion, two CHERUBIM guarded the way to its fruit. I do not believe this tree exists anyplace on earth today, but that God removed it after Adam and Eve sinned. Now Christ is our tree of life—“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7; KJV); and the bread of life—“I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews, therefore, strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:48-53; KJV).
“The tree of knowledge of good and evil” was placed in the Garden to test their obedience, whether they would be good or bad, obey God or break His commands. Actually, it could have been anything. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17; KJV). What was important was the command; He could have said “do not touch it” or “Do not drink from that stream “or “do not pick the roses.” The test that God made for Adam was that He was not to eat from this one particular tree. Adam and Eve’s inability to eat from this tree after their sin showed that they failed to gain immortality, or eternal life. Because of their sin, they were subject to death and dying. This condition lasted until the coming of Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who offers eternal life to all who believe in Him—“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12; NKJV). (Also see John 3.16).
“The tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” was given that name, not because it had any virtue in itself which would produce or increase useful knowledge (if it did, surely it would not have been forbidden), but, First, Because there was a positive revelation of the will of God concerning this tree, so that by eating of it he might know moral good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree. What is evil? It is evil to eat of this tree. The distinction between all other moral good and evil was written in the heart of man by nature; but this, which resulted from a positive law of God, was written upon this tree. Secondly, Because, it had in it the ability to give Adam an experimental knowledge of good by losing it and of evil by the awareness of it. Just like the covenant of grace has in it, not only Believe and be saved, but also, Believe not and be damned (Mk. 16:16), so the covenant of innocence had in it, not only "Do this and live,’’ which was sealed and confirmed by the tree of life, but, "Fail and die,’’ which Adam was assured of by this other tree: "Touch it at your peril;’’ so that, in these two trees, God set before him good and evil, the blessing and the curse, Deu. 30:19. We will cover this tree further in the next chapter.
10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
Most readers are amazed by the vast variety of opinions that are held by different commentators concerning the location of the Garden of Eden. Some put it in the third heaven, others in the fourth; some within the orbit of the moon, others on the moon itself; some in the middle regions of the atmosphere, or beyond the earth's gravitational attraction; some on the earth, others under the earth, and others within the earth; some have placed it at the north pole, others at the south; some in Tartary (a historical region with indefinite boundaries in Eastern Europe and Asia, inhabited by Bulgars until overrun by the Tatars in the mid-13th century: extended as far east as the Pacific under Genghis Khan), some in China; some on the borders of the Ganges, some in the island of Ceylon; some in Armenia, others in Africa, under the equator; some in Mesopotamia, others in Syria, Persia, Arabia, Babylon, Assyria, and in Palestine; and others have argued that it either does not exist, or is invisible, or that the whole account is to be spiritually understood! There is no reason to doubt that there was once such a place; the description given by Moses is too specific and dependent to be capable of being understood in any spiritual or allegorical way.
The most probable location of Eden has been suggested by Hadrian Reland. He theorizes that it was in Armenia, near the sources of the great rivers Euphrates, Tigris, Phasis, and Araxes. He thinks Pison was the Phasis, a river of Colchis, emptying itself into the Euxine Sea, where there is a city called Chabala, the pronunciation of which is nearly the same with that of Havilah, or Chavilah, according to the Hebrew. This country was famous for gold. He thinks the Gihon is the Araxes, which runs into the Caspian Sea, both the words having the same meaning, namely a rapid motion. He supposes the land of Cush, which was washed by the river, to be the ancient country of the Cussaei. There is general agreement that the Hiddekel is the Tigris, and the other river Phrat, or Perath, is the Euphrates. All these rivers have their beginning in the same region of mountainous country, though they do not begin from a single source.
These rivers brought water that contributed so much both to the pleasantness and the fruitfulness of this garden. The land of Sodom is said to be well watered everywhere, as the garden of the Lord, (Ge. 13:10). Notice that that which God plants he will make sure to keep watered. The trees of righteousness are set by the rivers—“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:3; KJV). In the heavenly paradise there is a river substantially surpassing these; for it is a river of the water of life, not coming out of Eden, as this does, but proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb—“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1: KJV); a river that “makes glad the city of our God” (Ps. 46:4: KJV).