After giving the initial overview of Creation, the Biblical narrator circled back in for a closer look:

YHWH Elohim had planted a garden in Eden from what was more ancient, and there He placed the human[s] He had formed. And YHWH Elohim caused to spring up from the ground every kind of tree that is aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for food. The Tree of Life was also in the middle of the garden, as was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” (Genesis 2:9) 

Scripture implies that the root of all the bad things in the world was that second particular tree that is mentioned. Or at least it was the catalyst that started the ball rolling, for YHWH later told Adam and Chawwah (Eve), “In the day that you eat of it, you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) Though it looked “good for food”, the way that seemed right led to death. (Prov. 16:25)

If anything else had been the test, would the result have been the same? Was it just the act of disobedience that caused all our ills? Or is there something about the name of the tree that clues us in on what went wrong? Was there even something in the fruit itself that contributed to the way life on earth has turned out? “Just” is a dangerous word! I suspect that each of these factors is important.

Some see this story as only symbolic, just one of many creation myths known the world over. This one is certainly full of archetypes, but I think this tree was also a physical reality, since there were physical results, not just spiritual ones.  

A psychological shift in the brain seems to have been the first effect of the death that took almost 1,000 years to play out completely at their time in history. And that has only gotten worse; death comes much more quickly now. But it did begin right away, as YHWH warned. Long before their bodies returned to dust, they were definitely dead—i.e., something had died in them that they never recovered. It was as if they had come “unplugged” from their source, and were running on stored battery power, which would eventually run out. Humans had become much less than we were before, to the point that our Creator almost didn’t recognize us as the same thing He created anymore. In Dr. Arthur Custance’s words, “After Adam had disobeyed and destroyed his original constitution both physically and spiritually,…God cried out, 'Adam, where art thou?' (Genesis 3:9). I do not think that God was searching for fallen man (whose whereabouts He surely knew) but for unfallen Adam who had simply disappeared.”  

In the primary text above, this tree is technically just said to have been there; it is not directly stated that YHWH planted it like the others, or that it was appropriate for food like those He is said to have planted. This may not be an important detail. But what if it is?  Yeshua said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (Mat. 15:13) Could that be true of this tree?

Bad Genes

One of Yeshua’s parables speaks of an enemy planting a worthless look-alike among someone’s wheat crop. (Matithyahu 13:24) Could something like that have occurred here? Yeshua adds a detail: the enemy did this “while men slept”. This may not seem integral to the story, but nothing in Scripture is irrelevant. How would he have said “men” (human beings) in Hebrew? Either anashim or… adam! Could this inclement tree have also been planted by an enemy while Adam was in his deep slumber when YHWH took the Eve side out of him? (Gen. 2:21) Might Yeshua even have been alluding to this?  

The Torah also gives a curious command: “You shall not sow your field with different kinds [of seed]...” (Lev. 19:19) Why? Because they can cross-breed and the original pure breed can eventually be lost. Genetically-modified organisms like the kind of wheat we currently have are thought to have caused the all-too-common gluten intolerance that no one ever heard of when wheat was still the way YHWH created it. It’s a change in DNA, a mutation to the crop. Could the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil have been such a hybrid between the Tree of Life and something else? (After all, the deceiver has continued to use this mode of operation throughout history, like mixing the worship of YHWH and Baal or Ashtoreth in Israel, and later mixing paganism with Biblical truth to form the Church as we know it. One of the purposes of the Torah is to teach us to make distinctions, per Lev. 10:10-11; 11:47.)

Hybrid or not, it seems clear that its fruit was not suited to human bodies and caused a physical change in those who ate from it. Dr. Custance suggests that there was some kind of poison in it which changed our constitution by causing a mutation in the genes of our first ancestors. Many aspects of what they had been before they disobeyed were lost, and right away they recognized that something important was missing. (Gen. 3:7-11)  

And this change was passed down to all their descendants. (Psalm 51:5) Adam was made in the image and likeness of Elohim. (Gen. 1:26; 5:1) But after he and his wife ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, the children they begot were said to be only in Adam’s image and likeness. (Gen. 5:3) That is a major change! They no longer bore the complete image of Elohim.  (Some of it remained, per Gen. 9:6.)

If you have children, you know it does not take long for evidence of this venom to show up. We’re all broken; there is something wrong with every one of us. Not equally so (in some it is more easily apparent), which is part of the injustice perpetrated on us unwittingly by our first ancestors who did not have the foresight to imagine what a far-reaching effect their lust for power would have. But we are all affected, so it seems the DNA of our first parents was mutated in a way that was passed on to everyone.

So what we call “natural” now is really not the norm; it is a “new normal”, but a definite comedown from the real normal, so everything we see and are now is really subnormal.

The rest of the natural world was affected too, whether directly or indirectly. By letting Adam name all the animals, YHWH effectively made him the ruler over them, since the one with authority to name something has some jurisdiction over it. With the rulers now twisted from their original shape, our rule over the animals would now be imperfect and the animals would learn to do things that weren’t part of the original plan—like preying on each other and even on us, at times. Even they are held accountable for this aberration (Gen. 9:5), but ultimately the fault is ours that “nature”, too, is now unnatural.  

The whole world became a series of vicious cycles as described in the opening verses of Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes); as long as there is not a perfect master, the subjects will suffer bad conditions. YHWH also seems to have placed some kind of temporary sentence on the rest of creation, probably to limit how bad it could get since we were no longer capable of keeping it in subjection. Paul describes it like this: “The creation was subjected to futility, not by its own volition, but through Him who subjected it, being certain that the creation itself will also be released from the bondage to corruption into the liberty of the glory of the sons of Elohim. We know, of course, that with this time in view, the whole creation is groaning together, feeling the agony [as] of difficult labor.” (Romans 8:20-22)  

YHWH mentioned that a specific consequence of our stepping out of line would be that we would now have thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:18)—something that apparently would never have occurred had we obeyed. So, at least indirectly, this tree corrupted every other plant on earth as it had every human.

Our capacity to guard the Garden as we had been commanded was now greatly diminished, and we could no longer keep up with the new “fires” that needed to be put out every day and still cultivate what we had established beforehand. Dr. Custance noted that thorns are actually aborted branches that did not develop properly because they were left to grow on their own while we were sweating elsewhere just to have enough to eat. The next line of the sentence about thorns was that we would eat “the herb of the field”. (3:18b) “Of the field”, in Hebrew, is an idiom for being wild rather than cultivated, for the same term is used of animals that are not domesticated. No more free fruit.

What Did You Call That Tree?

We need to be clear about another thing: It was not just “the Tree of Knowledge”, as I have heard some call it--maybe just as shorthand, but it has misled some to think YHWH was using reverse psychology—i.e., He really wanted us to eat of the tree and gain knowledge, and therefore made us want it more by forbidding it, knowing how we humans think. But Scripture does not give us the sense that the Pandora’s box that He said would be opened if we took this route would be in any way beneficial.  

No, knowledge itself was not the issue; the book of Proverbs makes it abundantly clear that YHWH wants us to gain all the legitimate knowledge we can. One of the descriptions of the Spirit of YHWH is even “the spirit of knowledge”. (Isaiah 11:2) But there are many far better ways to get knowledge than to go around its Giver. Knowledge in general was never the problem, but a particular type of knowledge, as the rest of the tree’s name reveals.

So let’s unpack just what that is. It’s not as impossible as it might seem, because the rest of Scripture interprets it for us.

Moshe (Moses) chided the doubting older generation who came out of Egypt because they thought he inhabitants of Canaan would devour their children. Moshe took this as an insufficient excuse, and told them that they would never see the Land, but with a sad irony, “your little ones, whom you said would be a prey, … who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there, and to them will I give it, and they will possess it.” (1:39)  

But notice that phrase “no knowledge of good or evil”. It’s the reverse of the description of that tree back in the Garden! (Gen. 2:17) It was the parents who had done wrong; the children were not at fault, because they had made no choice in the matter.  
It parallels YHWH’s description of the Ninevites: “who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”. (Jonah 4:11) I.e., they do not know any better, not having received the same spiritual knowledge Israel had (and yet they, unlike Israel, repented at that point, so YHWH had mercy on them but used them to chastise His people). “Knowledge of good and evil” therefore represents a contrast with innocence, for by reaching for that forbidden type of knowledge, we lost our innocence. Before that we did not see anything as evil, and probably did not know anything could be bad.

Rabbi David Fohrman says this was the only thing “roped off” from our first parents because this realm of knowing good and evil was only YHWH’s prerogative, for only He knew how to handle that kind of knowledge. It was His special territory, off limits to us; it could not harm Him, but it could harm us.  

YHWH was not trying to keep us from advancing; He just knew what consequences would result if we stepped outside certain parameters, and wanted us to have a better quality of life. As astronauts in zero gravity have found, we cannot operate well without some fixed points of reference.

We are not meant to stay innocent forever, but we are only supposed to move past it through a particular pattern, as exemplified by marriage. If we wait for YHWH’s timing, we can lose our innocence but, having passed the test, become righteous instead; Adam and Chawwah “jumped the gun” and were demoted rather than “graduating” to something higher as they could have, had they not taken what the serpent touted as a shortcut. It cast doubt on YHWH’s integrity, making it seem as if YHWH wanted to keep us in the dark and at a disadvantage! The serpent said, “Elohim knows that in the day you eat from it, … you will be like Elohim—knowing [both] good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)  

But YHWH had never said that, nor was it even accurate. “Know” in Genesis often implies intimate knowledge—a direct experience of something. (e.g., “Adam knew his wife”, 4:1) Elohim only knows evil as that which is not Himself, or anything that does not work the way He designed it. We, on the other hand, opted to experience evil up close, and thus made it part of ourselves—which is NOT the case with Elohim. So we did not become any more like Elohim. It was the experience of good and evil that He wanted to keep us from. When you have learned certain things He would have taught us in better way, you can understand evil (as YHWH does) it without having to participate in it (as He does not).  

In Genesis one could get the impression that as soon as the first Sabbath was past, this temptation came about. Wouldn’t YHWH be unfair to let us be tested when we were just getting our bearings in the world? The book of Jubilees, one of the books that was included in some ancient canons of Scripture, tells us there were a full seven years before He allowed the snake to subject us to the test of whether we would trust this Elohim with whom we had walked in unmixed joy for so long. (3:18) That should have been long enough to know His character.

At that point, in order that we would not to be like robots but be able to demonstrate love for Him when there was actually another option, YHWH gave us this choice, but clearly told us what was best. The ramifications of our abuse of free will soon became so exponential that to lovingly resolve the problems we created, YHWH Himself often only had the choice of the lesser of two evils—the flood, the cross of Messiah, capital punishment, letting us eat meat (yes, that resolved some problems incurred before or during the flood), or the curses He put in place to deter us from straying even further or prod us to repent. He thus experienced the effects of evil, but it did not change His nature as it did ours.  

So What is So Evil About This Knowledge?

In Hebrews 5:14, the mature are described as “those who by virtue of extensive experience have accustomed their senses and trained themselves to distinguish between good and evil.” There it seems like a good thing—a growing beyond childhood in a way that benefits others. So “the knowledge of good and evil” is clearly different from “discerning good from evil”. The emphasis is very different.

And that may be just the point. We’ve seen that YHWH does not like mixtures of things that He meant to be distinct. He does not want men to dress (or act) like woman and vice versa. (Deut. 22:5) It causes confusion. Likewise, evil and good are meant to be kept separate, not mixed together, as they were in this tree. Until this point, everything YHWH had created had been either “good” or “very good”. Now we had something that was only partly good. The mixing of good and evil made the whole tree evil, just as a half-truth is really another kind of lie. We can no longer see anything as unmixed good. The glass is half-full, but it’s half-empty too. And once we start down that road, the joy in what we do have is lost.

I am afraid lest, just as the serpent baited Chawwah through his crafty sophistry, your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that lead [us] in toward the Messiah…” (2 Cor. 11:3-4)

Simplicity is certainly something the world lost on that tragic day:

If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness, and if the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!” (Mat. 6:22-23)

This is what that fruit caused—the dividing of the eye from something once single, in which both eyes focused together and therefore let what was seen be clear and with the right depth. Now the eyes were operating separately. We had double vision. One eye saw things as good, the other as evil, so to speak. This in turn led to what Yeshua’s brother Yaaqov called being “double-minded”, which results in one becoming “unstable in all his ways”. (James 1:8) We waver in faith and can no longer count on receiving anything from YHWH (1:6-7), because we can’t act with confidence or be sure of anything.

The full claim of the serpent was, “Elohim knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim—knowing [both] good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)  

In one sense their eyes were opened; the first result after they ate was that they saw something as bad. They were unclothed before, but were not ashamed. (2:25) Now it was suddenly something to hide about. Such a thought grew and grew until, as in the Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady”, the title character refuses to bathe because to do so she would have to undress and, after all, she was a “good girl” and would never do that! It was always wrong to be naked!

Common sense tells us this can’t be right, yet we so often tend to think along similar lines. We see a drunk driver injure someone and so we want a rule that says, “Never drink alcohol.” YHWH never said that, but we think the world would be better if we added that rule. A mass-murderer uses a gun, so we want to outlaw all guns. This shows us that we did not really gain anything with that knowledge the serpent proffered; we actually lost much. Our eyes were opened—but to a wrong way of viewing things.  

Such rules “indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any [real] value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23) Why? Because the problem is not the gun or drink, but the one who is using it. Even anger, which often leads to murder, can be used for good purposes. The problem is not in the action but the motive: 

To those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; rather, even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Titus 1:15) Our way of seeing makes us find bad uses for things He—or even we--designed for a good purpose. We take them out of their proper context, and thus make them “evil”. And they no longer work, because, well, a hammer is very bad at cutting wood.

But what YHWH is aiming to get us back to is this: “To the pure all things are pure.” (also Titus 1:15) No particular thing as such is either good or evil; how it is used makes it a means to one or the other. “Nothing in and of itself is defiled; however, to the one who considers it to be defiled, it is indeed defiled.” (Romans 14:14) It’s in the eye of the beholder—and that eye has been corrupted.

Even sin is not an entity in itself, but the missing of whatever target we were aiming for—or were supposed to aim for. Sin is a negative idea—the reverse or absence of reality, something that occurs only when we start seeing double, ceasing to fix our eyes on YHWH.  

The Appearance of Independence

And that may be the main reason what Adam and Chawwah did was wrong.
The serpent claimed that if they ate, they would “become like Elohim, knowing good and evil”. (Gen. 3:5) The drawing card was that we could have it within ourselves to determine the right course of action in any given dilemma. We would be independent moral agents. The right choices would just come naturally, or maybe we just had to plug each decision into the rule or equation and let the math play out, and we’d automatically know what to do. No need to consult with anyone else, even YHWH.

It was not really that simple, for there were weightier matters—relationship, for one. All those walks in the Garden in the cool of the day seemed to mean nothing once this new prospect was offered them by the grand manipulator. Just as when Israel wanted a king though they already had YHWH, He felt jilted. He let us have our way, but put strict parameters on who that king could be and how he could act. And as when Israel did not want to hear directly from YHWH since He seemed too scary, He put a buffer between us and Himself, I submit that His handing us laws—as helpful as they are in so many ways—was still only “Plan B”. It was not His original intent.

In some much-misunderstood texts, Paul went so far as to say that even YHWH’s Torah (100% His idea) could become a bad thing—not it in itself but the ends it was used to serve: “The law is good if one uses it properly.” (1 Tim. 1:8) We have all seen people who turn obedience into a cause for pride, unfair comparison, control, or a way to extract tithes from others. It got to the point where YHWH had to tell Israel to stop bringing the offerings He had told us to bring, and to stop coming for His appointments, because they were not accompanied by treating one another with mercy and justice. (Amos 5:21-24) Paul confessed that the command to not covet stirred up in him thoughts he never would have had if it had not told him that such desires could exist. “The commandment that was designed [to bring] life turned out in my case to [be bringing] death…The Torah is spiritual; however, I am [still] fleshly, having been sold into [slavery to] sin.” (Romans 7:7-14) 

​Who sold us? None other than our first parents who ate the deceitful fruit--a much more disappointing return on such a high price than Jack’s famous beans. We are slaves to the one we obey (Romans 6:16), so by following the serpent’s tantalizing carrot, they ended up not independent at all, but under the authority of one who is cruel and malicious, and unable to free themselves from these shackles.

Laws may temporarily hold sin back, and we may succeed in reforming ourselves for a while, but one day we slip back into temptation, and in one stroke we have lost the plateau of growth that we had worked so hard to attain. As long as we deal in such fragments, just making an improvement here or there, but with no fundamental internal change, we are still “barking up the wrong tree”—or should we say eating of it?  

YHWH’s original plan was not that we know anything as good or evil, but that we would bring every question directly to Him. Because of how easily we go off on tangents and how limited our knowledge is, we need His much-wiser input every time, not just once.  

Instead, we snubbed YHWH by valuing our own ability to judge more highly than the friendship they had always had with Him. Every parent feels a taste of this when his or her children grow up and want their independence. They are meant to eventually have it, but not at the expense of the love between them and their parents. It is intended to come in incremental growth where they are given one freedom after another in a safe sequence so nothing falls through the cracks and the goodwill remains intact.

But because, like the prodigal son, we chose to have the whole dump of knowledge all at once, we wasted whatever potential for good judgment we did have and ended up struggling to just survive.

When we add to the instructions YHWH gave us (as Eve seems to have done—for YHWH had never said she was forbidden to touch the fruit, only to eat it), we can no longer recognize where the actual boundaries are, and the enemy has yet another way to manipulate us. So YHWH told us not to add any of our own. (Deut. 4:2) The added rules are thus as much a form of rebellion as the removal of His laws (the practical effect of their disregard for His one negative command). If YHWH did not see fit to give them to us, how can we expect them to work every time, everywhere, as the ones He did give us do?  

The Antidote to the Poison

What would life have been like if we had chosen differently? Our premature loss of innocence started a series of “dominoes”, so we have never had exactly the same scenario available again to be able to backpedal. But there was one 4,000 years later who was called the Second Adam. (1 Cor. 15:47)  

He said something that sounds strange to our normal ways of thinking: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to them who ask Him?” (Mat. 7:11) We don’t usually think of people who are good to their children as “evil”! But he says that even the best of us are still in that category. Yeshua could be objective, because he was a different kind of man—or had the potential to be (The rest of us no longer had such a choice.). He did not claim to have arrived yet, for when someone once called him “good teacher”, he asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but YHWH alone.” (Mat. 19:17) 

Keep that in mind, because therein lies the key to the solution. After calling supposedly-good people evil, Yeshua goes on to explain—and it brings us full circle to our theme in Genesis: 

Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Mat. 7:17-18)

This relates to what he said about having to be “born again” to see YHWH’s Kingdom (Yochanan 3:3, 7) or to have righteousness that exceeded the most scrupulous (Mat. 5:20)--because the difference is qualitative, not quantitative. A “change of tree” is necessary for anyone to be considered “good”.

How does this work? As I have detailed elsewhere, the Second Adam is the only person since Adam who was not directly affected by the poison in that fruit. He was not yet good, as he said, but neither was he evil. He therefore had the potential to undo what the first Adam had done, and represent the whole human race (as Adam had) in the process. The conditions on earth by now weren’t exactly the same because of the twists and turns of all the choices humanity had made since the first Adam, so any disobedience on his part would have had a different kind of result than the venomous fruit did, but the second Adam had a clean slate like no one since Adam had had, unlike us who have the genetic predisposition to fail most of the time. He did not carry the physical effects of that forbidden fruit. He was again someone who started out truly innocent.

What had tempted Adam and Chawwah was the prospect of being on the same level as Elohim in some sense. So the Second Adam had to face the same issue. He was probably a lot hungrier when tempted than Adam had been, and illicitly-gotten food was even part of the test. But he combatted temptation with his Father’s words. (Luke 4:4, 8, 10) That’s why we need to “hide them in our heart”. (Psalm 119:11) And like Yitzhaq (Isaac), he was obedient even when an undeserved death was what his Father asked him to undergo.

His final test also, fittingly, took place in a garden. (Yochanan 18:1) But he responded differently—by trusting the choice his Father had made instead of doubting that He knew what He was doing. What he said there--“Not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42)—was precisely the reversal of the fall. 

By not grasping for equality with Elohim, being content to instead remain in His image, and being obedient even to the point of death (Philippians 2:6; cf. Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15), the Second Adam passed the test and graduated from innocent to righteous. (2:9) Like the prodigal son, he was willing to be only a servant, but ended up being given the best robe and a legitimate feast which would not poison his “descendants”. That’s right; having made the right choice where the first Adam did not, he was made the progenitor of a new spiritual race that would one day (even physically) restore that image that Adam had lost (Gen. 1:27; 5:3) so we, too, can be changed back into that likeness that we had forfeited along with our innocence. (Rom. 8:11, 29; 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10)  

If the mutation could go one way, it could be reversed, restoring the original gene sequence that had been rearranged. The original pattern was held in reserve in the heavenly realm, beyond the reach of earthly corruption, until the day when another man could redeem all that Adam had lost.  

The counter-history that began with Abraham had finally reached the point where it could overcome the curse. Because the price was now paid to buy back what was “sold under sin”, YHWH took not the Torah but its curses out of the way. (Colossians 2:14) We now have a better source of goodness--“YHWH's own empowering.” (Rom. 6:14). We can thus legitimately obtain the understanding that Adam and Chawwah tried to steal, without losing the relationship, but strengthening it instead.

It’s the difference between trying to be like Him independently, by imitation only, and being in complete tandem with Him, receiving not just something like His nature but His actual nature, directly from Him. Focusing on the gift rather than the Giver and His reason for giving it, as they did, is like trying to make a fan work without electricity. It won’t do much cooling if you push it by hand, but connect it to the right source, and there is no difficulty at all. A branch separated from the trunk cannot bear fruit because the sap that gives it life is no longer running through it. (Yochanan 15) But when it is connected, it is as natural as anything to be fruitful. Yeshua has the sap because he is planted in the “soil” of YHWH; apart from him, we are not, but he has given us a way to be reconnected.

So you are born guilty, but you don’t have to stay there. YHWH can transfer anyone who is willing to rejoin Him from the old economy into His new one. He cannot just forgive, for despite all His love, there must also be justice. But Yeshua took the penalty of Adam’s race; the sentence has been served, and our sin was actually done away with. When he died with our sin upon him, Adam’s race is considered to have died; the very real wrongs we did can actually disappear from YHWH’s memory—as if we not only never did wrong, but always did right. The new race to which He transfers us has always been righteous: “His seed remains in us, and cannot sin, because it is born of Elohim.” (1 Yochanan 3:9) If we accept His invitation to reconnect with Him through the Messiah, we are counted as being “in Messiah” (Romans 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:30, etc.), and “everyone who remains in Him is not sinning.” (3:6) Sin does not exist in YHWH’s new economy, which will one day be a fact on earth “as it is in heaven”. Then, “search will be made for your sins, and none will be found” (Yirmeyahu 50:20), so thoroughly has He dealt with them.  
But even now, our personal history has been changed; what is true of him is now true of us. We are given Messiah’s history, which includes the righteousness he earned when he chose to end his innocence not through erring like Adam did. We have been transfused with his blood and its purity, replacing the tainted blood that had been in our veins. Sin (and the poison that kept us debilitated and unable to fully function as intended), though still a nuisance, no longer has a claim on us. “The sons [of the king] are free.” (Mat. 17:26) 

Free from the Tree

What YHWH counts as our true self now is the new heart and new spirit He puts in those who participate in the renewed covenant (Y’hezq’El/Ezek. 11:19; 36:26), which was accomplished by Messiah’s untainted blood. Tapping into it (Ezek. 18:31) is described as “putting on Messiah, and making no provision for the flesh”. (Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14) Our physical bodies are still affected by sin, but you can rise above it “if Messiah’s spirit inhabits you.” (Romans 7:16-20; 8:8-9)

Thus we can “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” (Heb. 10:22) That “evil conscience” is that double-mindedness, the vacillating between fear and confidence, hesitation and certainty. “Anyone who is in Messiah is a new creation; old things have passed away…” (2 Cor. 5:17) He has “deleted” them; remember them only enough to remain humble and grateful, for only the transfusion of Messiah’s pure blood got us there. But our past is taken out of the way, so we can concentrate on the current work He has for us.

Just as nothing is always evil, nothing is generally allowable all the time either. The same act can thus be sin one day but not another. ANY act is a sin if YHWH hasn’t told you to do it this way this time. That requires some close listening to His specific leading. Sometimes that may mean setting aside even your spiritual habits when He wants to do something special. He told Shmu’el and Yirmeyahu to STOP praying for certain people. If they thought only of the rule rather than the One who made it, they would have felt that they were sinning, because at another time Shmu’el said, “YHWH forbid that I should sin against you by ceasing to pray for you.” (1 Shmu’el 12:23) But that was not what was needed this time.

Is it right to go to war? To hate certain people? To buy or engage in recreation on the Sabbath? Don’t try to figure out ethics in a vacuum, but only in a context. There are not clear, one-size-fits-all answers in Scripture, which says, “All things are lawful for me, though not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any [of them].” (1 Cor. 6:12)  “All things are lawful for me, but not all things build up.” (1 Cor. 10:23) But they are all in our toolbox for when He tells us to use them—which might only be once in a lifetime for some of them.

The question is not whether a particular thing is good or bad, but what YHWH wants you to do right now. Don’t assume that if He gave you a particular direction one day, you can obey it whenever you like. “There is a time for everything” (Qoheleth/Eccles. 3:1), and even the same person may fall out on a different side of an issue today than yesterday, for YHWH may be doing something new. (Isaiah 43:19)

“All things are lawful”, but that does not mean we can just do anything we want any time we want. Remember, it’s about the relationship and keeping it current, not about predictable patterns. We don’t need to theorize about what YHWH would think of this or that; we can ASK Him!

Remember what resulted when Y’hoshua made a decision based on other people’s pleading, without bringing the question to YHWH. (Joshua 9) Even Yeshua, who had a more open channel to YHWH than any of us do yet, said, “I can’t do anything [lasting] on my own initiative—only what I see the Father doing.” (Yochanan 5:19, 30)

Of course, this can become very subjective, and especially with fallen brains and an enemy (the same one who was in the Garden) who has no qualms about illegally impersonating YHWH’s voice, we need an objective way to know that it is really Him we are hearing from. That’s where the written Scriptures come in. They set the parameters for the “paths of righteousness” in which YHWH will lead us. (Psalm 23:3) And because of these dangers, most of His leading will probably be directly from His word, the right passages brought to our attention at the right time, tailored to what we need right then.

Don’t worry; the letter of His Torah is not in conflict with the spirit behind it, which gives it broader application than the particular examples that are written. As Yeshua showed in several examples in the Sermon on the Mount, there are principles that underlie the specific laws YHWH gave. (Mat. 5-7) Those are what He will apply to our particular situations as we internalize His broad themes like (His definitions of) love, justice, righteousness, mercy, faithfulness, wisdom—and that leads us to our final point. 

What About the Other Tree?

Though the original Tree of Life was mercifully put off limits so we would not live forever in our fallen condition (Gen. 3:22-24), and the actual physical Tree of Life (in multiple locations this time) will not be restored to the world until during (or possibly after) the Messianic Kingdom (Rev. 22:2, 14), still Scripture says there are some things that give us tastes of it or analogies to what it is about:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when what is desired comes about, it is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12)

"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness in it [the tongue] is a breach in the spirit.” (Prov. 15:4)

In other words, things that revive our souls (literally, bringing back our breath!)--one of them being YHWH’s Torah (Psalm 19:7) have the same kind of effect as the Tree of Life, whose leaves are described as “for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2)—in short, a reversal of the effect of the other tree about which we have been studying.

But didn’t we just see another way that tree’s effects have been reversed? There is no contradiction; they all partake of the same spirit. To bear fruit, branches get their sap from the main vine (Yochanan 15), which we have seen is Yeshua, progenitor of the new “family tree”, and he, having gone far beyond where the first Adam got, is called “the righteous” (1 Yochanan 2:1) and in turn, “our righteousness”—as well as our wisdom, sanctification, and redemption! (1 Cor. 1:30). That one relationship accomplishes all these things that we thought we had to strive for separately. With that in mind, read the following:

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he who brings souls along, leading them by the hand, is wise.” (Prov. 11:30)

Wisdom itself—one of those big underlying principles behind the written particulars--is called “a tree of life” (Proverbs 3:18), and “The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10)--the first step on the way back to the Tree of Life. HaSatan undermined that healthy fear by calling YHWH’s integrity into question, and the downward spiral began.  (Not surprising, since in his pride, haSatan had already “corrupted [his] wisdom” though having been in Eden, per Ezek. 28:13, 17)    So regaining it starts us on the road to restoration.

Israel did not always have that fear, and went astray again after having been given a headstart into the path to life. Moshe was warned that after his death, it would get even worse. (Deut. 31:27) But Yeshua began a deeper reversal. In one of YHWH’s great paradoxes, the tree that meant death and even a curse for Yeshua (was hanging on a tree a reminder of that bad fruit?) turned out to be a tree of life for us  --“the love of Messiah that surpasses knowledge”! (Ephes. 3:19)

He promises, “Him who overcomes I will allow to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of Elohim.” (Rev. 2:7) My friend James Campbell pointed out that the other tree is never mentioned in that context, so by that time, like the tares, it may have been uprooted!

But Paul saw the opposite traits already appearing in his proteges:  “Beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more so in my absence, with fear and trembling bring deliverance to a full outworking for your own [case], because it is YHWH who is operative within you, energizing you both to make you want to do what pleases Him well and to actually carry it out.” (Phil. 2:12, 13) All the provision we need is available to us!

It is not a straight line to success; we are still in a war, and there are setbacks. The other tree prevails at times, but the way has been opened to accomplish great things even before the serpent concedes his defeat—especially the “bringing souls along” that we saw above, as Abraham did, which we can only do in this age. The Torah shows us what is profitable and what will keep us from being unfruitful in YHWH’s service or useless in this world (2 Kefa/Peter 1:5-8). It is “law” in the same sense as natural laws—showing us the way things work. In it, YHWH saved us much trial and error by telling us how to make relationships with our neighbors outlast the inevitable conflicts that this fallen world brings about. After all, He created our psychological makeup and knows how things work best.

That’s why, at the end of his life, as Moshe wanted to sum up everything he had relayed to Israel from YHWH, he said, “Today I set before you the choice of life and death. Therefore, choose life!” (Deut. 30:19)

The Torah gives us the broad strokes and samples of how it is to be lived out, and as we let ourselves be led by YHWH’s spirit for the specifics of our time and place, He tailors the outworking to what is needed in each situation, as we push on toward the day when He removes the evil and life is again all we know.  
Where it All Went Wrong:
The Knowledge of Good and Evil
Last Adam