And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.'”
There is a tendency among readers and scholars of Genesis 2:16-17 to focus on the prohibition of verse 17: “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” Indeed, this is a crucial limitation and we’ll examine it more closely in tomorrow’s devotion. But, today, I want to pause to consider with you verse 16: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.”
We have already learned in Genesis 2 that God “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (2:9). Now we hear that the man, and by implication all human beings, may eat the fruit from every single tree in the garden, save one. God is giving us all kinds of fruit from all kinds of trees, inviting us to enjoy it. The Hebrew phrase which could be rendered literally as “from all the trees of the garden to eat you may eat” underscores the opportunity and freedom for human beings. We may “freely eat” the fruit of every single tree, with one exception.
I’m struck here by this picture of God’s generosity. God did not give us just one kind of tree with one kind of fruit. God did not provide just what we need to survive. Rather, God created a great variety of trees with a great variety and quantity of fruit. If you’ll permit me to read into the text a bit, God created apple trees and orange trees, lemon trees and pineapple trees, cherry trees and plum trees, almond trees and coconut trees, peach trees and pear trees, pecan trees and olive trees. (If I have missed your favorite fruit tree, please add it to the list!) God made all of this variety and then said, not, “Eat just what you need” but “Freely eat” from all of this. “And as you enjoy the taste and benefit from the nutrition, enjoy the beauty of the tree as well, not to mention its shade.”
Many Christians were raised in homes and churches in which God was not seen to be generous. God was stingy, giving us only what we really need and no more. Moreover, God was the rule maker, who formed our lives principally by telling us what not to do. As we’ll see tomorrow, God does tell the man not to do something. But the balance of this passage weighs heavily on the side of provision and freedom, reflecting the gracious generosity of God. (Ironically, or perhaps providentially, God’s most generous gift will also come on a “tree,” a tree formed by Roman hands. But this story will have to wait for later.)
Today, you would be well advised to heed God’s prohibitions. But, even more, may you accept God’s generous provision, delighting in the ample “fruit” of his creation.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Is your image of God one that emphasizes prohibition or provision?
Where did this image come from?
What image of God were your raised with (if you were raised with any sense of God at all)?
How does the generous provision of God in Genesis 2:16 strike you?
How might you enjoy God’s generous provision today?
Gracious God, thank you for all the gifts you have given us. Today, I am especially thankful for your bountiful provision of food, yes, especially fruit. It’s hard to imagine how my life would be impoverished without the fruit you have so generously provided to me. Thank you for apples, peaches, pears, and the rest. Thank you for the trees on which they grow, for their beauty, not to mention the shade they provide.
O Lord, you do indeed provide limits in life. You tell us not to do certain things, not to eat certain fruit. But your generosity and grace are truly overwhelming. Thank you for all you have given to us. May we enjoy it with gratitude. Amen.