Tree of Knowledge – A Tree of Good and Evil – The Cross

I am asking you to put yourself into the mind frame of anyone in the Roman world before the resurrection of Jesus and the writings of the first apostles.  If we transported such a person into our timeframe and they saw crucifixes and crosses around our necks, on our books, and being used as decorations on and in buildings; what would be their first thoughts?

  • Are these people marked to die?
  • Is that a jail building where you are sent to wait?
  • Can there be that many people working for Rome to kill people?
  • There are countless variations of these questions.

One thing I am fairly certain of is they would only follow you if they wanted to see someone die a slow painful death.

Since Jesus’ death we had smoothed the cross out, lost the blood (for the most part), made it huge or much smaller, and made then shiny.  Most of these actions can and will be defended.

Alright, back to my post.  The Romans did not invent the idea of killing someone on a pole, they just perfected the practice.  Ezra 6:11 and Esther 9:13 refer to people being “impaled on a pole” (NIV).  The Romans added a cross piece and that extended the length of time it took for someone to die.  If you said “cross” in Israel it was an evil thing and they took it as a curse.

Before you start thinking that I don’t like the cross in artwork or on a building, you are INCORRECT.  It has served people as a point of meditation and comfort for a long time.  I do have an issue if you make it a “good luck charm”. 

Now, imagine people who are under Roman rule with Herod in charge of your nation being told “if you want to be my worthy disciple deny yourself and carry your cross as you follow Me”. (Matthew 10:38, 16:24) The Sermon on the Mount, yes.  Healing sickness and disease, yes.  Food for 5000 plus people, yes and yes.  Carry my cross, not so much.  To be made a public “spectacle” would be “foolish”, so why “endure its pain and shame”.

Yes, there is evil associated with those two pieces of wood.  The leaders of the religious classes in Jerusalem made that clear in Matthew 27:42 with their challenge for Jesus to come off of the cross.  Simon of Cyrene, probably, was not too happy with having to pick up Jesus’ cross – Matthew 16:24. (That statement is very subjective depending on who is preaching in the morning.  His sons are mention later in the Book so good did come from it.)  But, just like the Tree in the Garden, we know its evil side and its good side.  

Hebrews 12:2 clearly speaks of Jesus knowing the cross carried shame.  He went past that for the joy it would give when He could sit next to the Father again.  In enduring the evil, He perfected our faith and disarmed the demonic powers by His triumph on the cross. (Colossians 2:15, Yes, I am mixing verses.  I will reference them and I used the NIV.)  As Peter witnesses to Cornelius in Acts 10 about what Jesus did and how the Jews hung Him on the cross; I can hear Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – When I was perishing the message that the cross was good was foolishness, but now it is the power of God in my life.

Exercise, sugar, and many other things in life have an evil side but also a good side.  We know things like this because Eve wanted the fruit and Adam took a bite, thus getting knowledge. 

Tree of Knowledge – Trees and Garden in Ezekiel

In this post, I will focus on the trees in chapter 31 of Ezekiel.  In studying the topic of trees in the Book of Ezekiel I saw four groupings of trees throughout its chapters:

  1. Chapters 6 – 20 – are a mixture of unfaithfulness and judgment. 
  2. Chapter 31 – Pharaoh and his hordes being compared to Assyria.
  3. Chapters 34 and 36 – a promise of provision and “more than enough”.
  4. Chapters 40 and 41 – palm trees (art) in the new temple.

Fact – Bible Gateway (NIV) has Ezekiel with thirty verses that have the word trees in it.  That is more verses with the word “tree” than any other book in the Bible.

Chapter 31 starts with a timestamp of the “eleventh year, the first day of the third month” and verse 29:20 has the “eleventh year, the seventh day of the first month” so some background is in order.  I will digress and talk about world events outside of this chapter to help explain what we are reading.  The two timestamps are Ezekiel’s time in exile with King Jehoiachin (see 1:2) and possibly referring to the Hebrew calendar.  So first, it is after Passover and in the time of the “Counting of the Omer” that leads to what Christians call Pentecost (see Leviticus 23).  This is from the month and day portion of the timestamps.  The eleventh year is placing this just before the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:2).

The Other Prophets – A part of this study that has been eye-opening is that Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel where all alive at this time.  Jeremiah was nearing his death and the fall of Jerusalem.  Daniel was in the time period of his first four chapters – the fiery furnace, golden statues, and dreams interpreted.  (Like Jeremiah, I do not believe that Ezekiel and Daniel are in chronological order within their chapters.)  I wonder just how much of their doings and prophecies were known to the others?  We know from Daniel’s fast that he was aware of the seventy-year exile that was spoken by Jeremiah. Zephaniah may be the oldest of the group but little of his background is known except that he was active during the reign of Josiah (1:1). 

World Events – This will be a brief placement of Tyre, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt in context with Ezekiel 28 through 31.  You will need to do your own searches on these topics as I am not giving references.  There are too many and they seem to overlap or not go far enough on any one topic. 

  1. Tyre – In chapter 28 the king of Tyre is given the characteristics of Satan and his fall into pride is discussed (See the Bad Guy post).  Tyre was destroyed by Babylon, even though it was on an island.  It was part of the Assyrian Empire and is associated with Lebanon. 
  2. Assyria – This is the nation that defeated and exported Northern Israel and brought the “Samaritans” to take their place.  By Ezekiel’s time, Assyria had been defeated by Babylon, so they were a good object lesson. 
  3. Babylon – They are a good/evil tree in the history of mankind.  In their day they were a chosen instrument to do the bidding of God, unfortunately, they took things to unneeded levels and reaped that reward.  But the empire did do much for humanity.  The use of Babylon as an example goes all the way into the book of Revelations.
  4. Egypt – The focus of Ezekiel 29 through 32 is Egypt.  By this time, they had been defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish.  Josiah had been killed in the fighting with Neco, as he was going to Carchemish.  Neco also changed who was king in Israel setting the stage for Jerusalem’s fall.  They are given to Babylon as plunder in 29:17. This verse’s timestamp seems out of place!  The twenty-seventh year may refer to his age but that still is out of place (1:1), or this was his very first word from the Lord. Very little of Egypt’s and Israel’s interactions could be considered good.  Starting with Abraham Egypt has been a snare for Israel and all of the words from the Lord are about to be fulfilled.  Egypt would still be a “player” but never the world power that it had been.

 Trees and the Garden – The analogy of Pharaoh and Assyria uses the metaphor of trees to explain the fallen angels and Satan with the men/nations who supported them.  I am going on the premise that the “garden of God” and “garden of Eden” are being used to separate the ideas of angels and men.  To me the trees in the “garden of God” in verse eight are angels and a transition occurs in verse nine to bring both realms together, and then in verses 16 – 18 it shifts to the men who are the allies.  The end results of these comparisons were that Babylon did humble Assyria and that Egypt would fair no better.  

In the Bible – The Book of Jonah was written about the city of Nineveh, which at that time was the capital of Assyria.  

The words to Ezekiel are not done with the enemies of God before He sets up the New Jerusalem.  The “unfaithful shepherds”, Edom, and Gog are still to be dealt with before the “valley of dry bones” becomes God’s army and the new Temple comes.  Edom is the land of Esau, Jacob’s brother.  Gog has been referenced as Russia or China, but I am starting to think that it is Europe and the coalition of the Beast.

So, starting with the trees of the garden in chapter 31 I wonder if the rest of the Book is a “timeline” of events before the return of Jesus?

pic ; http://clipart.christiansunite.com/Bible_Characters_Clipart

Tree of Knowledge – The Bad Guy In This Story

In the story of the Tree of Knowledge and the Garden, a look at the “bad guy” is in order.  No, this is not Adam but the serpent.  Why not just call him Satan?  Good question.  According to BAS (Bible Archaeology Society), the term Satan was not in use when Genesis was written.  I have no problem in the thought that it is Satan; let us look at a set of scriptures that connect a “type” of Satan with the Garden and his fall.

Ezekiel 28: 1- 19 is three different prophecies to the ruler/king of Tyre, again the word Satan is not used in this chapter.  Parts of these messages are directed at a “man and a physical place” while other phrases make no sense if we try to imagine them talking about a human.  The verse that is important for this study is #13, “you were in Eden, the garden of God”.  Verse 14 identifies this ruler as a guardian cherub, #15 says he was blameless, but #16 talks about trade, violence, and sinning.

Verse 2, 5, and 17 mentions that pride was the reason for his (Satan’s) downfall.  Verse 17 mentions that his wisdom was also corrupted because of his beauty and splendor.  (All my references are from the NIV.)  Place these ideas into the Garden narrative and there are similar problems that Eve and Adam faced.  The fruit was “pleasant to the eyes” and “desirable for gaining wisdom”.

Other interesting facts about Tyre are: 

  1. It would have been in the land that had belonged to the Tribe of Asher.
  2. Jesus healed a little girl that lived in that place.
  3. We tend to lump it together with Sidon.  But starting at verse 20 Sidon gets its own judgment.  Verse 24 to 26 seem to reference Israel, this is interesting because Asher and the people of the northern kingdom were relocated many years before this prophecy.
  4. The town of Zarephath is in Sidon just up the coast from Tyre.

Humility and pride are opposites.  It is very easy now to see why the Father used Moses (most humble man) and opposes anyone that is ruled by pride.

Tree of Knowledge – The Tree They Could Eat

The other tree, the one they could eat, that is specifically mentioned in Genesis is the Tree of Life.  I have always thought in interesting that Adam and Eve were not forbidden to eat of the tree of life!  So, of course, the serpent did not tempt them on that one.  If we skip to the end of the Bible we find out that the Tree produces twelve crops and the leaves are for healing the nations. 

Some comparing and contrasting is in order here.  In Genesis the Tree of Life is mentioned three times, in Revelations it is referenced four times (but three thoughts), in Proverbs, it is mentioned four times, and has a possible reference in Ezekiel 47: 12.  A look at its physical location is also important.

Genesis: 2:9 – the tree’s physical location, at the center of Adam and Eve’s world (the Garden).  It is connected with a river that waters the whole earth. 

            3:22 – the command to not eat of the Tree of Life and live forever.

            3:24 – the way “back” was blocked/guarded. 

Thoughts – 1. Would eternal life have been passed on to their children?  2. It would have been horrible to live on and see all of the sins they allowed into the world.

Revelations: 2:7 – “overcomers” get to eat of the Tree.

22:2 – Its location by the River of Life on the main street in the City.  This location and river are in Ezekiel 47:12 and Zechariah 14:8. This also mentions the leaves being for healing, as does Ezekiel.

22:14 – repeats who may eat of the Tree.  Overcomers and those who “washed their robes” may be similar ideas.  This stands in contrast to Genesis 3:22 where the ability to eat of the tree is blocked.

22:19 – This is a way to be blocked from eating the fruit or leaves.  If you use the KJV the Tree is not in this verse it is a book. Since I do not have a great reason why except that “paper” is from trees.  The KJV is the only translation I found that uses “book”.

Thoughts – 22:2 mentions twelve crops.  Some translations use twelve fruits.  The Vulgate has twelve fruits of the Spirit instead of nine.  My best feeling on this is it shows God’s continuous provision.  Artists, in some renditions, will also put twelve trees along the river.  I will wait to see it for myself. 

Proverbs: 3:18 – Wisdom is a tree of life.  Jews will use this to represent the Torah.

11:30 – the fruit or things the righteous do are a tree of life.   

13:12 – longings fulfilled are a tree of life.  

15:4 – a soothing tongue is a tree of life.  

Thoughts – I am viewing these four as “Leaves” on the tree of life.  

Tree of Knowledge – The I’s

In Genesis 2 God has planted a garden for man to enjoy.  The center of His garden has two special trees – life and knowledge.  The tree of life is referenced too again in Proverbs 11 and in Revelations 22.  The tree of knowledge, apparently, has references in Proverbs but English translators don’t expand on the metaphor.  To be fair this study is going to cover more than just this tree, I will be looking at several concepts and ideas in Chapter 1, 2, 3, and probably 4.  To clear away a possible problem let me stress that the tree is the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil.  This tree is NOT good and evil.  

Since the Garden is where mankind started I saw the grace and love of your God and Father starting in Genesis 1:29 + 30.  This is a simple thought but this post focus will be on the word “I”.  God says it four times and Adam adds five more by verse twelve, which is where the conversation spreads out, and God’s tone changes.

God’s uses of the word “I” are in 1:29,30; 2:18; and 3:11.  They flow this way – I give, I give, I will make, and I commanded.  The command actually comes in 2:16 but “I” is not used at that time.  So, the first thing God does is to give Adam and the beast plants with seeds and every green plant for food. God commands against the eating of just one tree and then turns His attention again to man and his need for companionship.  

Some Thoughts1. The disobedience of Adam changed the plants as food, as some plants are not suitable for our consumption now.  2. Chapter 2:4 is actually another story of creation that Moses compiled when he wrote Genesis.  Chapter1:1, 4:1, and 5:1 are also separate stories that were possibly oral traditions that he wrote down at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  3. Notice the only command Adam is given is to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam was not given instructions about the tree of life.  

All four of God’s “I’s” are directed for Adam’s good, not his harm.  Well, why did God even put that tree in the garden!  Since I try not to judge God, this is my thought.  God has always wanted people to willingly follow Him.  The tree was a simple thing and Adam failed.  Jesus is the only human to not fail the Father, which is why we need to be found in Him.

Adam’s five “I’s” are the result of nibbling on knowledge.  His response to God is one of “shame and blame” and mankind has lived with that since then.  Adam’s shame “I’s” are – I heard, I was afraid, I was naked, and I hid.  The confession of “I ate” comes after he blames God for supplying the woman which he was singing about in 2:23 + 24.

Adam’s “I’s” are about himself while God’s “I’s” are about doing good for man.

Some More Thoughts1. Most translations quote Adam as saying the poem/song of 2:23 and leave verse 24 as an included explanation.  That would mean Moses or someone else added to the text later.  It just sounds better to extend the quote to include verse 24 and make it a prophecy about his children. 2. I am confident that Adam and Eve were intelligent and that they talked with God about things.  I have always wondered how they would have had a contextual understanding of the word “die” since they had never seen death!  That may have been part of the knowledge that Eve was so eager to get when she chose to eat the fruit.

Well, enough for the intro more will come later on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.