And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:…
I. THE LARGE AND BOUNTIFUL PROVISION WHICH GOD MADE FOR THE HAPPINESS OF MAN. It is this which leaves our first parents without excuse. There was but one forbidden tree.
II. THE TRIAL OF MAN'S OBEDIENCE. The having some command which we can break is evidently essential to our first notions of moral accountableness; but further than this the restriction placed upon our first parents seems not intended to go. You will observe, from its terms, that it interfered with no one form of rational enjoyment; it left no one of man's mental appetencies ungratified; it involved neither pain, nor effort, nor self-denial, nor cost; it was just an acknowledgment which God required from man of his submission; it was, in fact, a mere nominal quit rent, which he had to pay to the great Landlord of the universe, for having an estate worthy of an angel. With regard to the manner in which all this mental and moral confusion could be connected with the mere gratification of the bodily appetite, it is not wise to speculate. Analogies are not wanting to show to us how the fruits of the earth may be converted into a moral as well as a material poison. We have heard of those who are said to "dig their graves with their teeth"; of those who for a mess of pottage would sell the birthright of immortality; of those who put a thief into their heads, to steal away reason, reflection, thought, ay, their very hopes of heaven; and it may have been so with regard to "the tree of knowledge."
III. THE THREATENED PENALTIES OF DISOBEDIENCE. Where you may first notice the terms of the sentence, in respect to time. "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Some persons see a difficulty in this passage, because the sentence of death was not executed upon the day of transgression; but this arises from overlooking the exact import of the Hebrew words used, which would fairly admit of being rendered as referring not to the actual infliction of death, so much as subjecting man to the liability to die. It imports, that he should from that moment become mortal, that there should be the beginnings and seeds of dissolution incorporated with his very being, from the time he tasted of that tree. This rendering will receive some elucidation, if you look at the marginal rendering which is proposed. You will observe, it is there said, "dying, thou shalt die." Now, this is a common Hebraism for some continuous and gradually accomplished act. And therefore the import of the words is, that from the moment this tree was tasted, there should be the beginnings of a death which should reach to all his posterity. The same continuousness of action applies to a former part of the verse; for there too, you observe, the same marginal reference is given. It is said, "eating, thou shalt eat," just as here it is said, "dying, thou shalt die"; and therefore the two expressions may be interpreted alike — the one as saying, "Eating, thou shalt eat," or, "This tree shall be for thy perpetual life," the other as saying, "Dying, thou shalt die," or, "The taste of this tree shall be for thy perpetual death." Let us close with two reflections.
1. The history we have been contemplating should impress us with a sense of the transcendent evil of sin. The fruit, as it hung in all its seductive and inviting clusters, was a type of all the evil that is to be found in the world. It was pleasing to the eye, it was exciting to the appetite, it was easy to grasp, and, if the eye of God would but slumber, it might be partaken of unobserved. But what were its immediate effects? Disease, mortality, loss of paradise, tormenting fears, the shunning of-the very presence of God. And such is sin now, and such do they who have entered upon its courses know to be its consequences.
2. Then, once more, this history should fill us with gratitude for the greatness of our deliverance through Christ. If we would know the infinite evil of sin, if we would be inspired with a holy aversion from its contact, if we would be won to love and gratitude to the Father of our spirits, we must go and gaze with the eye of faith on the wonders of the cross.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: