Tree of Knowledge – Fear of Death

Between studying the Tree of Knowledge and Jesus being a high priest like Melchizedek in the Book of Hebrews I saw a verse on the “fear of death” that tied the two ideas together.  Hebrews 2:15 – To free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (NIV). The verse is addressing Jesus as our High Priest but the “fear of death” is what caught me by surprise.

Where is this fear of death first mentioned or talked about?  This topic of fear and death (yes, I replaced of with and on purpose) made me look through the verses with the word fear in them.  (NOTE: This is a study blog, not a theology blog you can argue this elsewhere.). Fear is associated with death and punishment in most of the verses in the Bible.  Well, what about “the fear of God” that just means we are to reverence Him, not be afraid of Him.  Back to this later.

The first place where the “fear of something” and death are together is in the Garden.  No, not when Adam and Eve were afraid because they heard God and they were naked – that is the second time.  You may call it another phobia but Eve wanting the fruit, I believe, is associated with the fear of not knowing what God knew about death. It is clear that Adam and Eve were superior, intelligent humans but I am not sure that everything made sense to them. They had never seen death or anything die, not that we know of.  The first recorded death is their son.  So, MAYBE the serpent mixed her not knowing death with a nice-looking piece of fruit and his assurance that nothing would happen and we now have FEAR.  I know most preachers call Eve’s action stemming out of lust, but lust is really fear that someone has something you do not have.  This still makes me wonder how long those three had been talking together and did all of the animals talk.  Talking to the devil about a fear instead of walking with God, could be a problem.

Adam expressed their fear of God because he was waiting for the “you will die” to happen.  With the knowledge of good and evil came what we call fear.  You can fear for good reasons and you can fear for evil reasons. 

So, back to the fear of God.  Do you fear Him for good reasons or for bad?  We know we should fear God.  Is the softening of the word fear by calling it reverence, really a good thing? We need to hold God as important but in my Strong’s Concordance reverence is part of the definition of the word fear and it still means “fear”. 

This line of thinking will quickly lead to the argument of “once saved always saved” or “God never unsaved someone”.  No matter your thoughts on that topic we are still to fear God.  What about 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18 where perfect love is casting out fear.  That is true, perfect love will cast out fear, and Jesus, our perfect love, will cast it out.  If I may, as an example of softening the thought of fearing God for good reasons.  1 Corinthians 13: 10 “when perfection comes” has been misused to be talking about the King James Version of the Bible, and not Jesus.  Grace is given to us by Jesus, our perfect love, to help us not live in fear of what God could be doing to us because of our sin.

Hebrews 2:15 and Proverbs 14:27 – The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death (NIV), talk about death holding us or being a snare.  That fear was put into humans in the Garden by Satan and we pass it on to our children.   

The Tree

My thoughts of the Tree of Knowledge are changing.  We know what eating the fruit did for mankind.  What about touching it? How about the branches, trunk, and roots?  The whole conversation between Eve and the snake now seems even stranger.  Was the snake talking about the “touching” part when it said, “You will not die” and then slipped in the eating phrase to finish off his lie and deception?

In Eve’s mind even touching “knowledge” would bring death.  When she did not die why not taste it and see what happens.  The immediate “death” that happened was they now knew there was a “good” and an “evil”, that is why they hid and made “religious” or fig leaf clothes.  They could finally see that God was holy (good) and now they were not (evil).  The whole time when He would walk in His garden, and they enjoyed perfect fellowship with a perfect God they had no fear of Him.  For them to see a difference must have been horrible. Sorry for such a simple thought – The rest of the Bible is about bringing man back to walk with God and enjoy perfect fellowship again.

Branches and Roots

The root of Jesse, the root of David, the branch of David is taking on new and different meanings for me now.  Paul says we are grafted into the stem so we can enjoy the life-giving sap.  I will pass on the roots of the Tree of Knowledge but will marvel that Jesus is the root, the fruit, the branches, and the leaves of the tree they should have eaten from.

I can see fear sitting in the branches of the Tree of Knowledge. It is waiting to jump on the knowledge you have chosen to focus on.  Good fear will bring you to obey God and want to follow Him because He has the power to do mighty things. Fear of evil will have you blaming God for things that do not fit in your paradigm. Is fear a neutral thing?  Does it depend on what we do with it?

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 12: 13 Fear God and keep his commandments. (NIV). Through the Tree of Knowledge, we got the fear of death but the fear of God was not far away.  Fearing God is not bad and is needed in today’s society.

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What If

This “What If” post started as a reflection on the Tree of Knowledge series and in particular The Tree They Could Eat post.  However, as Christmas 2020 and Epiphany 2021 has come and gone my “what if” post started to look and feel different – it does help if you wait on God.  So, please read on as I either ramble or expound (readers’ choice) on the topic of – What If. 

Tree of Life – The “what if” here will require some imagination. What if Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life first?  Would the great religious term “original sin” have been draped on our necks? Following this thought would there have been a need for religion at all?

Proverbs 3:18 connects the tree of life with wisdom.  What Adam and Eve got was knowledge, not wisdom and we have seen how that worked out.  Would the serpent be able to temp them at that point?  Adam had imparted what he knew to Eve, how the “don’t touch” phrase got added is open to debate. That add-in became the first religious, not righteous, statement ever made – humanity has been adding their thoughts to God’s words and not doing His will ever since.

Besides living forever could the Tree of Life impart wisdom?  We can see that at the end of all things the “overcomers” in Heaven will be able to eat from the Tree and be healed forever.  Would Adam and Eve be able to ignore the temptation of the serpent and stuff a fig in his mouth thus changing history?  Well, that did not happen so let’s go to God’s Plan B.

Christmas – I am going to ramble first so please bear with me.  Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit we get to sing about figgy pudding at Christmas time.  On the bright side, we don’t have designer fig-leaf and accessory lines to deal with.  The Christmas Carol and most modern rom-com Christmas movies are really “what if” stories.  (Spoiler alert- Amazon Prime actually listed one older version of the Christmas Carol as a horror movie.)  Time-changing ghosts or angels, bumps on the head, or unusual “portals” allow people to change their lives and fulfill a “what if” in their lives.  Lost loves, missed chances, or bad attitudes and behaviors are some of the “ifs” that will get changed.  Okay, now I will expound some.

Jesus and the Christmas story had to happen because the fruit looked good.  Eve had no context to know if it would taste good or give her any advance mental abilities (Gen.2:6).  Well, the knowledge part could have come from the name of the tree (God said that) and a crafty, lying snake.  The “good for food” part is still very much up for debate in my mind because not all good-looking fruit tastes nice.

Israel’s history up to the time of Jesus showed God’s mercy, compassion, and love for His people and His willingness to give second chances.  Before you distort the “God is love” fact, please remember the fall of Jerusalem, the exile of the Northern Kingdom, and the horror stories that caused “judges” to have to arise and set things up for a “what if” story.  God did allow judgments to fall on the People because they followed their concepts of “good and evil” and not those of the Father.  Jesus’ life starting with His first coming (Christmas) and going to His crucifixion and ascension is the fulfillment of the types and shadows of the Old Testament.  Jesus’ life, teachings, and ministry speak of the history and feast of Israel.  They should shift our thinking back to the Father’s Kingdom and what it would have been like if Adam and Eve had eaten from a different Tree.

I believe Psalm 8:5-8 gives us a glimpse of our true position here on earth and why Satan tempted Eve and Adam.  Mankind had a place of his own, a job, authority, and (verse 9) was to praise God.  Satan wanted all of it, especially the praise.

The Gospel – The story of Jesus had to happen because Adam and Eve choose the wrong “if”. The Good News is a “what if” story in action- what can happen if I believe and follow Jesus.  The main problem here is that you have to choose Jesus as your Lord. (Adam and Eve choose a different lord.) 

I so wanted to somehow make faith into a “what if”, it is not!  Hebrews 11:1 ended that thought – Faith is being sure of what we hope (NIV).  This could easily go to a “big wheel” argument (it just keeps going in circles).  Stepping out into something new may be a “what if”.  Missing the perfect way can allow God to do a “what if”, so things surrounding faith may be or turn into “what ifs”. 

Ramblings – In the secular movie Letters to Juliet the protagonist “What-if” shows up early in the movie- hidden and screaming in silence but trying to catch its voice.  You don’t really see its full influence until the end, starting with the marriage feast.  The antagonist “Win-win” really steers the early direction of the film starting with the trip to Italy.  Win-win is a perfect hero for one character but leaves one gasping and grasping.  As the film ends, you know that Win-win lost but What-if’s final status looks good but hidden in the haze of a beautiful setting sun.  (If you watch the movie know it has some questionable themes.)   

Win-win has snuck into churches and is in a constant battle with What-if.  For 2000 years Win-win has taken Kingdom terminology, thoughts, and actions and have misused them.  Win-wins have twisted all sorts of Kingdom ways into paths that do not have JESUS AS LORD.  I have asked people if they are Christian.  The answer was not yes or no but what denomination they belonged to.  Some people might say they are saved, but they cannot tell you from what.  While other pew-sitters are sure that the Epistles are the wives of the Apostles (lol).  

Final Thought – You will have what-ifs when you are following the Holy Spirit as He leads you to Jesus.  Some will and some won’t be what you expect.  Grace, however, is our game changer.  Jesus is in the forgiving and second-chance business.  Mercy is new every morning, but you have to take it.  I am sure that the Father has a Plan A and a Plan B for you and all will work your “what if’s” together for your good. 

Tree of Knowledge – East

The first cardinal direction mentioned in the Bible is East. Genesis 2:8 has God in the east planting a garden, so He must have come from the west.  I know this is a simple thought but directions come in pairs – west and east, and north and south.  This simple thought is also important – where is the east?  You can face the east, something can come from the east, go to the east, or be of the east.  

Many important things in the Bible face east – the Temple (especially the one in Ezekiel), the Tabernacle, and I believe the throne of God.  The etymology of the word east deals with where the light comes from and how we orient our position on earth.  Like many other things in the Bible “modern man” picks and chooses why something is important by current standards.  My example here is the direction north – we choose that to be the top of the map or the best/positive direction to go, and it gets the biggest letter on the compass.  A study of “east” in the Bible will include many things, with each bring a different significance to the table for discussion. Several examples are:

  • In Exodus, the children of Israel went east from Egypt to the Promised Land, and the east wind blew in locust, and the east wind parted the Red Sea. The locust became a plague while at the Red Sea the wind provided deliverance. 
  •  In Israel, east winds are a problem, they come in from the desert and dry the land out.
  • The camp around the Tabernacle was laid out with an east/west axis as its prominent feature.  The position of a tribe around the Ark showed birthrights and importance.  I started a study of that in the post – Marching Order.
  • The Christmas star and the Magi also bring east into the discussion.  The star “was in” or “it rose in” the east which joins it to Jesus in many ways.  The Magi came from the east to worship the newborn King.
  • Scripture shows several west to east movements – God to the Garden, Israel leaving Egypt going to the Promised Land, and Jesus, as a young boy, returning to Nazareth. 

An important feature of the east/west axis is the light.  Starting with Genesis 2 we see the metaphor of west (darkness) and going to the east (light).  (No, there is not a problem with the west and it is not a negative “area”.  The little cloud that Elijah’s servant saw would have come from the west – it ended the drought.  In Israel most rain showers come from west or northwest.)  God started in the west heading to the light to plant the Garden.  The two trees in the center of that Garden can carry a dark/light context.  Knowledge of good and evil led to darkness while the tree of life would have led to the light.  Like the study of numbers, the study of directions can add much to your Bible reading, but be sure you are looking EAST.  

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?

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