In the narrative of Genesis, God has given human beings many positive instructions, either explicitly through commands or implicitly through story. We are to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (1:28). We are to eat the fruit produced by the earth (1:29). We are to “till” and “keep” the garden in which God has put us (2:15). All of these instructions, both the explicit and implicit ones, are positive. They tell us to do certain things, opening up vast areas for discovery, productivity, and delight.
In Genesis 2:16-17, for the first time God gives a negative instruction, a prohibition. The man may “freely eat of every tree of the garden,” except for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The fruit of this tree is forbidden. Eating it leads to death.