Genesis 2:9
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.—It has often been noticed that while the ancients do not seem to have had much taste for the beauty of the landscape, they greatly admired large and umbrageous trees. This feeling seems like a reminiscence of the joy of our first parents when they found themselves in a happy garden, surrounded by trees, the beauty of which is even more commended than the fact placed second, that they supplied wholesome and nutritious food. Two trees in the centre of the garden had marvellous qualities; for “the tree of life” ad the power of so renewing man’s physical energies that his body, though formed of the dust of the ground, and therefore naturally mortal, would, by its continual use, live on for ever. The other, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” must have acquired this name after the fall. As long as Adam and Eve were in their original innocence they had no knowledge of evil, nor could any mere mental development bestow it upon them. They must either feel it in themselves, or see it in others, before they could know it. We conclude, then, that this was the tree to which God’s command, that they should not eat of it (comp. Genesis 3:3), was attached; and only by the breach of that command would man attain to this higher knowledge, with all the solemn responsibilities attached to it. Besides this each tree had a symbolic meaning, and especially the tree of life (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2). The Chaldean legends have preserved the memory of this latter tree, and depict it as the Asclepias acida, whence the soma juice is prepared.

Genesis 2:9. Every tree pleasant to the sight — That was calculated to render this garden the most beautiful place on earth; and good for food — That is, agreeable to the taste and useful to the body. So that both man’s mind and body were gratified and enriched. The tree of life also — So called, it seems, not only because it was intended to be a sign to Adam, assuring him of the continuance of life and happiness, on condition of his persevering in obedience; but also because God had given to the fruit of it a singular virtue for the support of nature, the prolongation of life, and the prevention of all diseases, infirmities, and decays through age, as appears, Genesis 3:22. The tree of knowledge, &c. — So called, not because its fruit had any virtue to beget useful knowledge, but because by it God would try Adam’s obedience, and by eating of it man would know the good which he had lost, and the evil into which he had fallen by his disobedience.2:8-14 The place fixed upon for Adam to dwell in, was not a palace, but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach to innocency. Nature is content with a little, and that which is most natural; grace with less; but lust craves every thing, and is content with nothing. No delights can be satisfying to the soul, but those which God himself has provided and appointed for it. Eden signifies delight and pleasure. Wherever it was, it had all desirable conveniences, without any inconvenience, though no other house or garden on earth ever was so. It was adorned with every tree pleasant to the sight, and enriched with every tree that yielded fruit grateful to the taste and good for food. God, as a tender Father, desired not only Adam's profit, but his pleasure; for there is pleasure with innocency, nay there is true pleasure only in innocency. When Providence puts us in a place of plenty and pleasure, we ought to serve God with gladness of heart in the good things he gives us. Eden had two trees peculiar to itself. 1. There was the tree of life in the midst of the garden. Of this man might eat and live. Christ is now to us the Tree of life, Re 2:7; 22:2; and the Bread of life, Joh 6:48,51. 2. There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so called because there was a positive revelation of the will of God about this tree, so that by it man 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. In these two trees God set before Adam good and evil, the blessing and the curse.Having located the newly-formed man of whom he had spoken in the preceding paragraph, the author now returns to detail the planting and the watering of the garden. "And the Lord God made to grow out of the soil every tree likely for sight and good for food." We look on while the ornamental trees rise to gratify the sight, and the fruit trees present their mellow fare to the craving appetite. But pre-eminent among all we contemplate with curious wonder the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These will come under consideration at a future stage of our narrative.9. tree of life—so called from its symbolic character as a sign and seal of immortal life. Its prominent position where it must have been an object of daily observation and interest, was admirably fitted to keep man habitually in mind of God and futurity.

tree of the knowledge of good and evil—so called because it was a test of obedience by which our first parents were to be tried, whether they would be good or bad, obey God or break His commands.

The tree of life; so called, either symbolically, and sacramentally, because it was a sign and seal of that life which man had received from God, and of his continual enjoyment of it upon condition of his obedience; or, effectively, because God had planted in it a singular virtue for the support of nature, prolongation of life, and the prevention of all diseases, infirmities, and decays through age.

In the midst of the garden, or, within the garden, as Tyrus said to be in the midst of the seas, Ezekiel 28:2, though it was but just within it.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil; so called with respect, either,

1. To God, who thereby would prove and make known man’s good or evil, his obedience and happiness, or his rebellion and misery; or rather,

2. To man, who by the use of it would know, to his cost, how great and good things he did enjoy, and might have kept by his obedience, and how evil and bitter the fruits of his disobedience were to himself and all his posterity. So it seems to be an ironical denomination: q.d. You thirsted after more knowledge, which also the devil promised you; and you have got what you desired, more knowledge, even dear-bought experience. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food,.... That is, out of the ground of the garden of Eden; and this was done on the third day, when the whole earth brought forth grass, herbs, and trees: but a peculiar spot of ground was fixed on for man, and stocked with trees of all sorts for his use, not only to bear fruit, which would be suitable and agreeable food for him, but others also, which would yield him delight to look at; such as the tall cedars for their loftiness, spreading branches and green leaves, with many others; so that not only there were trees to gratify the senses of tasting and smelling, but that of sight; and such a sightly goodly tree to look at was the tree of knowledge, Genesis 3:6. These trees may be an emblem of the saints, the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and made to grow by him through the influence of his Spirit and grace; and whom he plants in his gardens, the churches, and transplants into the heavenly paradise, and are often compared to palm trees, cedars, olive trees, pomegranates, &c.

the tree of life also in the midst of the garden; set there as in the most excellent place, where it might be most conspicuous, and to be come at; for before Adam sinned, as there was no prohibition of his eating of it, so there was no obstruction to it; and as he had a grant to eat of it, with the other trees, it was designed for his use, to support and maintain his natural life, which would have been continued, had he persisted in his obedience and state of innocence, and very probably by means of this chiefly: hence the son of Sirach calls it the tree of immortality,"The knowledge of the commandments of the Lord is the doctrine of life: and they that do things that please him shall receive the fruit of the tree of immortality.'' (Sirach 19:19)and it might be also a sign, token, and symbol to him of his dependence on God; that he received his life from him; and that this was preserved by his blessing and providence, and not by his own power and skill; and that this would be continued, provided he transgressed not the divine law: and it seems to have a further respect, even to eternal life; by Christ; for though it might not be a symbol of that life to Adam in his state of innocence, yet it became so after his fall: hence Christ is sometimes signified by the tree of life, Proverbs 3:18 who is not only the author of natural and spiritual life, but the giver of eternal life; the promise of it is in him, and the blessing itself; he has made way for it by his obedience, sufferings, and death, and is the way unto it; it is in his gift, and he bestows it on all his people, and it will lie greatly in the enjoyment of him. The situation of this tree in the midst of the garden well agrees with him who is in the midst of his church and people, Revelation 1:13 stands open, is in sight, and is accessible to them all now, who may come to him, and partake of the fruits and blessings of his grace, which are many, constant, and durable, Revelation 22:2 and who will be seen and enjoyed by all, to all eternity:

and the tree of knowledge of good and evil; so called, either with respect to God, who by it tried man, when he had made him, whether he would be good or evil; but this he foreknew: rather therefore with respect to man, not that the eating the fruit of it could really give him such knowledge, nor did he need it; for by the law of nature inscribed on his heart, he knew the difference between good and evil, and that what God commanded was good, and what he forbid was evil: but either it had its name from the virtue Satan ascribed to it, Genesis 3:5 or from the sad event following on man's eating the fruit of it, whereby he became experimentally sensible of the difference between good and evil, between obedience and disobedience to the will of God; he found by sad experience what good he had lost, or might have enjoyed, and what evil he had brought on himself and his posterity, he might have avoided. What this tree was is not certain; there are various conjectures about it, and nothing else can be come at concerning it. Some take it to be the fig tree, as Jarchi, and some in Aben Ezra on Genesis 3:6 because fig leaves were at hand, and immediately made use of on eating the fruit of it; some the vine, and particularly the black grape, as in the book of Zohar (d); others, as Baal Hatturim on Genesis 1:29 the pome citron, or citron apple tree (e); others, the common apple, as the author of the old Nizzechon (f), and which is the vulgar notion; evil and an apple being called by the same Latin word "malum": in the Talmud (g), some say it was the vine, some the fig tree, and others wheat (h): the Mahometans say it was a tree, called by the Africans by the name of Musa (i).

(d) In Exod. fol. 59. 4. & in Numb. fol. 53. 3. So in Bereshit Rabba, sect. 12. fol. 155. 2.((e) Vid. Caphtor Uperah, fol. 49. 1. & 60. 2. & 63. 2.((f) P. 147. Ed. Wagenseil. (g) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 40. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 70. 1. 2. So in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 15. 2. Tikkune Zohar correct. 24. fol. 68. (h) Vid. Bartenora in Misn. Roshhashanah, c. 1. sect. 2.((i) Leo. African. Desriptio Africae, c. 9. p. 772.

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the {g} tree of life also in the midst of the garden, {h} and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

(g) Who was a sign of the life received from God.

(h) That is, of miserable experience, which came by disobeying God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. And out of the ground, &c.] The characteristic feature of the “garden,” or “enclosure,” is not its flowers, but its trees. This evident, also, from the traditional belief as to the Garden, which is reproduced in Ezekiel 31:8-9. To the Oriental, the large well-grown tree was an especial object of reverence (“pleasant to the sight”): and man was to live on the fruit of the trees (“good for food”). It is implied that the trees of the “garden,” like the man who is put into it, were from the first fully grown.

the tree of life] There are two wonder-working trees in the “garden.” One is called “the tree of life,” whose fruit imparts immortality to those who eat it (cf. Genesis 3:22-24): the other is called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” whose fruit conveys moral discernment. These gifts of knowledge and of immortality are the special prerogatives of Jehovah (Genesis 3:5; Genesis 3:22).

The mention of the two trees in this verse comes in a little abruptly. “The tree of life” is spoken of as “in the midst of the garden”; “the tree of knowledge” is then mentioned, but without any description of its position. In Genesis 2:17 the Lord God forbids the man to eat of “the tree of knowledge”; but does not mention “the tree of life.” In Genesis 3:3 the woman refers to “the tree which is in the midst of the garden,” as if there was only one tree that had been forbidden to them, and Genesis 2:5 shews it is “the tree of knowledge.” It is probable that we have the trace of some little confusion between two Hebrew traditions about the sacred trees. The mention of “the tree of life” has here, and in Genesis 3:22; Genesis 3:24, been added to that of “the tree of knowledge.” At any rate, in this verse, “the tree of life” is given the place belonging to “the tree of knowledge” which is “in the midst of the garden.” The story of the Temptation and the Fall turns on the tradition, according to which there was one tree, that “of the knowledge of good and evil,” “in the midst of the garden.” The expression “tree of life” was used as a common metaphor of health and fruitfulness in Hebrew language, cf. Proverbs 3:18, “She (Wisdom) is a tree of life”; Genesis 11:30, “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.”

the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] What is signified by this is doubtful. Some say it is the knowledge which infancy lacks and experience acquires, cf. Deuteronomy 1:39, “Your children which this day have no knowledge of good or of evil.” Judging by the context we should rather identify it with moral judgement: the fruit produces the exercise of conscience, which is accompanied by the realization of evil, though not necessarily by the forfeiture of innocence. See Special Note on Genesis 3:24.

Palms as sacred trees are frequent objects of representation in Assyrian and Babylonian art.

On the possible connexion of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” with the date palm, see Barton’s Semitic Origins, pp. 93–95.Verse 9. - And out of the ground made the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim) to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight - literally, lovely to see; i.e. beautiful in form and color - and good for food. In the preparation of man's pristine abode respect was had to ornamentation as well as utility. Every species of vegetation that could minister to his corporeal necessities was provided. Flowers, trees, and shrubs regaled his senses with their fragrance, pleased his eye with their exquisite forms and enchanting colors, and gratified his palate with their luscious fruits. Hence the garden of the Lord became the highest ideal of earthly excellence (Isaiah 51:3). In particular it was distinguished by the presence of two trees, which occupied a central position among its multifarious productions. The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That these were not two separate trees, but only one tree distinguished by different names, has been maintained, though with no weightier reason than the statement of Eve in Genesis 3:3. The opinion of Witsius, Luther, Kennicott, and Hengstenberg, that classes of trees, and not individual trees, are meant by the phrases "tree of life" and "tree of knowledge," is precluded by the language of Jehovah Elohim in Genesis 2:17 and Genesis 3:24. As regards their significance, consistency requires that they should both be explained on the same principle. This, accordingly, disposes of the idea that the tree of life (literally, the tree of the lives: cf. ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς, Revelation 2:7; 20:19) is simply a Hebraism for a living tree, as by no sort of ingenuity can the tree of knowledge be transformed into a knowing tree. It likewise militates against the notion that the two trees were styled from the peculiar effects of their fruits, the one conferring physical immortality on Adam's body (Scotus, Aquinas, Fairbairn, Kalisch, Luther), and the other imparting moral and intellectual intuitions to his soul (Josephus, Kalisch). But even if the life-giving properties of the one tree could be demonstrated from Genesis 3:24, proof would still be required with regard to the other, that the mere physical processes of manducation and digestion could be followed by results so immaterial as those of "rousing the slumbering intellect, teaching reason to reflect, and enabling the judgment to distinguish between moral good and moral evil" (Kalisch). Besides, if this was the immediate effect of eating the forbidden fruit, it is difficult to perceive either why it should have been prohibited to our first parents at all, it being "for their good to have their wits sharpened" (Willet); or in what respect they suffered loss through listening to the tempter, and did not rather gain (Rabbi Moses); or wherein, being destitute of both intellectual and moral discernment, they could be regarded as either guilty of transgression or responsible for obedience. Incapacity to know good and evil may be a characteristic of unconscious childhood and unreflecting youth (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:15; Jonah 4:11), or of debilitated age (2 Samuel 19:36), but is not conceivable in the case of one who was created in God's image, invested with world-dominion, and himself constituted the subject of moral government. Unless, therefore, with ancient Gnostics and modern Hegelians, we view the entire story of the probation as an allegorical representation of the necessary intellectual and ethical development of human nature, we must believe that Adam was acquainted with the idea of moral distinctions from the first. Hence the conclusion seems to force itself upon our minds that the first man was possessed of both immortality and knowledge irrespective altogether of the trees, and that the tree character which belonged to these trees was symbolical or sacramental, suggestive of the conditions under which he was placed in Eden. "Arbori autem vitae nomen indidit, non quod vitam homini conferrer, qua jam ante praeditus erat; sod ut symbolum ac memoriale esset vitae divinitus acceptae" (Calvin). For a further exposition of the exact significance of these trees see below on vers. 16,17. The abode, which God prepared for the first man, was a "garden in Eden," also called "the garden of Eden" (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:23-24; Joel 2:3), or Eden (Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:9). Eden (עדן, i.e., delight) is the proper name of a particular district, the situation of which is described in Genesis 2:10.; but it must not be confounded with the Eden of Assyria (2 Kings 19:12, etc.) and Coelesyria (Amos 1:5), which is written with double seghol. The garden (lit., a place hedged round) was to the east, i.e., in the eastern portion, and is generally called Paradise from the Septuagint version, in which the word is rendered παράδεισος. This word, according to Spiegel, was derived from the Zendic pairi-daêza, a hedging round, and passed into the Hebrew in the form פּרדּס (Sol 4:13; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Nehemiah 2:8), a park, probably through the commercial relations which Solomon established with distant countries. In the garden itself God caused all kinds of trees to grow out of the earth; and among them were tow, which were called "the tree of life" and "the tree of knowledge of good and evil," on account of their peculiar significance in relation to man (see Genesis 2:16 and Genesis 3:22). הדּעת, an infinitive, as Jeremiah 22:16 shows, has the article here because the phrase ורע טוב דעת is regarded as one word, and in Jeremiah from the nature of the predicate.
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