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 – 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.