“Your Word Is Truth”
What Was Eden’s Forbidden Fruit?
“IF Adam and Eve had not eaten the forbidden fruit, no babies would have been born. And so where would we be?” Persons who bring up this point believe that the sin of Adam and Eve involved sex relations. But is this belief reasonable? More importantly, is it Biblical?
God’s command, as found at Genesis 2:16, 17, reads: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”
At the time this command was given to Adam, he was alone in the garden, for the creation of the woman is not mentioned until later in the account. (Gen. 2:21, 22) The command itself likewise shows that Adam was by himself. In the original Hebrew text, the word “you” is in the singular. Therefore in languages that have both singular and plural forms for “you” (such as French, German and Spanish) the singular form appears in the prohibition, “You must not eat from it.”
So, how could the forbidden fruit pertain to sex relations, when Adam was the only human on the earth?
One’s interpreting the command about the forbidden fruit to signify sex relations also contradicts the positive command given to the first human pair to procreate. They were told: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28) How unreasonable, unjust and unloving it would have been for Jehovah God to encourage the filling of the earth and then to prohibit, under pain of death, the having of sex relations!
The narrative of Genesis chapter 3 provides still further evidence against the forbidden fruit’s involving sex relations. The Bible record states: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.” Manifestly, not sex relations, but the fruit of a literal tree could be described as “good for food.” Noteworthy, too, is the fact that Eve did not present some of the fruit to Adam until she herself had partaken of it. Since Eve was not with Adam when she ate the forbidden fruit, how could her sin have been sex relations with her husband?—Gen. 3:6.
But some persons may feel that the reference to a fruit on a tree must be a childlike way of illustrating something much greater forbidden by God. The Biblical narrative, though, provides no basis for this conclusion. It should be remembered that, with the exception of the one tree, Adam was permitted to ‘eat from every tree of the garden to satisfaction.’ So if the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” was not an actual tree with real fruit, what were the other trees in the garden? There is no reason for believing that they were anything else but literal trees. Genesis 2:9 plainly says: “Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” Thus all the trees, including the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, literally grew out of the ground. However, the kind of fruit borne by the tree of the knowledge of good and bad is not specified in the Bible.
While the Genesis account may appear very simple, what it says has deep significance. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad was not poisonous but wholesome, literally “good for food.” So God’s restriction regarding this fruit was the only thing that made eating of it bad. The tree was therefore a fitting symbol of the right to determine or set the standards of good and bad, which right God reserved for Himself by forbidding Adam to eat thereof. This prohibition emphasized man’s proper dependence on God as his Sovereign Ruler. By obedience the first man and woman could demonstrate that they respected God’s right to make known to them what was “good” (divinely approved) and what was “bad” (divinely condemned). Disobedience on their part would have signified a rebellion against God’s sovereignty. This understanding of matters is acknowledged in a footnote of the modern Catholic translation known as The Jerusalem Bible: “The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.”
The command itself was of a nature that we would expect from a God of love and justice. There was nothing unreasonable about it. Neither Adam nor Eve were thereby forced into a difficult situation. They were not being deprived of necessities for sustaining their life. There were many other trees in the garden from which they could eat to satisfaction.
The command also showed the highest regard for man’s dignity. Originally given to Adam, it attributed no base or degraded inclinations to the first man, inclinations that needed to be kept under control by a specific law. For example, Jehovah did not say to Adam: ‘You must not commit bestiality.’ No, the command involved something that was completely natural and proper: eating.
Simple as the command was, it could reveal what might be expected of the first man and woman in the way of loyalty. This is in harmony with the principle enunciated by Jesus Christ: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Both Adam and Eve had the capability of maintaining perfect obedience. On this basis, no one today can say that the death sentence was unjust.
For us today it is vital that we exert ourselves so as not to fall into the same line of reasoning as did Adam and Eve. Though Adam was not deceived, the rebellion of his wife apparently caused him to lose faith in his heavenly Father’s ability to work out matters to his blessing. Seemingly he even took offense against Jehovah God, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate.” (Gen. 3:12) As for Eve, she was completely deceived. Through the serpent’s words, Eve came to believe that Jehovah God was keeping her low and in ignorance. Thus she came to view disobedience, independence from God, as the way to happiness.
Remembering that what Adam and Eve did in eating an actual, but divinely forbidden, fruit signified rebellion against Jehovah’s sovereignty, we should want to make it our determination to remain loyal subjects of our Creator. Never do we want to be deceived into thinking that God’s laws are unjust and not in our best interests. Regardless of what circumstances may develop, we, unlike Adam, ought to keep before us the fact that Jehovah God can and will bless his devoted servants. We have the Biblical assurance, confirmed by numerous examples throughout human history, that Jehovah God is the “rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.