Book 1.1 – Knowledge of Good and Evil

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.

Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land.” (Deuteronomy 30)

My dear child in the Lord,

What I’m sharing with you is knowledge that I have found from listening to Christ, as I have been able. But I am just a man. Anything I can share with you will be partial and prone to error. (That applies to this whole book.) So if you learn nothing else from me, learn this: where to get good knowledge, reliable knowledge, the true knowledge. Not from me. Get it directly from the source, from God’s Word. God’s Word does not have error. Listen to Christ.

What is knowledge? Let’s get our knowledge about knowledge from God’s Word too. Now, people have come up with lots of complicated ways of talking about knowledge. They may have good points to them. I don’t care about those ways here though. What does the Bible say? Listen to God.

The Bible starts off in Genesis by talking about knowledge, with Adam and Eve in the garden, so knowledge must be important. Hopefully, you have been taught the history of Genesis already. Let’s look through it again. Let’s know it. Let’s learn about knowledge of good and evil. It’s something we often overlook.

“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2)

God says that everything He made during those six days of creation was good. That includes the tree of life. That includes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil too. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1).

That includes Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve didn’t know good and evil when they were created as perfect people in God’s perfect garden. They only knew good. They knew life. When God declared them good, He also declared what the good work was that He made for them to do in His good creation. 

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’“ (Genesis 2).

God gave them life and put them in a living garden, and He wanted them to be good gardeners within the garden, to grow with life and make it grow too. That was all good, very good.

And God, being good Himself, also gave them the choice to know evil too, if they wanted. Don’t let anyone tell you that they didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t have known not to eat from the tree. God told them! He let them know what evil looked like so they could avoid it. He told them that the choice between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the choice between life and death. 

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely 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 surely die.’” (Genesis 2)

They knew all they needed to know, if they listened to God. 

But Adam and Eve—ack! They didn’t listen. The devil lied to Eve (before she was named Eve), saying, “You will not surely die,” and “You will be like God knowing good and evil!” (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve knew good, but the devil convinced them to want to know evil too. That was not good!

A lie is false knowledge. The devil told Eve a lie. He gave her false knowledge, and she listened to him. She let that false knowledge fill her head. God had given her good knowledge, “You shall not eat,” but she let the false knowledge replace God’s Word in her head. Eve listened to the devil instead of God. Adam then listened to Eve instead of God too, and he also ate. They rejected God’s Word.

Then they were ashamed, and they hid from God. They didn’t want God to know they disobeyed Him! Then when God found them, they tried to hide their guilt and blame it on other people, as if they could confuse God.

“The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 3)

But God knew. He knows everything. God did give the woman to the man, and the devil did deceive the woman, and the woman did give the fruit to the man. But the woman and the man both chose to listen to the devil’s words, and they didn’t listen to God’s Word.

Because Adam and his wife chose to stuff their heads with forbidden knowledge instead of life, God took away the tree of life. 

“‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3)

And you see the fundamental problem here for Adam and Eve? They didn’t want to take God’s Word for it when He said “You shall not eat.” They wanted to know for themselves. God gave them the choice between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil for themselves. They didn’t listen to God. They didn’t choose life—not until after the damage was done, anyway.

But still, God loved them. He promised that He would send a Savior through the woman’s offspring. “The Lord God said to the serpent, . . . ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’“ (Genesis 3). Jesus would come to separate mankind from the devil and from the death that comes from listening to him. He would bring life. Like Jesus said when He finally came, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10).

So God offered them life, even after they chose death. And God clothed Adam and Eve to cover the shame that they had tried to hide from God.  “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3)

Life comes from Christ, who was the promised offspring of Adam and Eve. Good knowledge comes from Christ—good knowledge for life, not knowledge for evil too. As John writes of Jesus,

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20)

So we’re back to that question. What is knowledge? What is good knowledge?

Knowing something means, very simply, that it’s in your head. It’s inside you. You fill your mind with it. It’s in your brain—part of your brain—and therefore part of your body. For example, if your mom asks you where you left your shoes and you tell her you don’t know, you are telling her that the knowledge of where your shoes are is not inside your body. (Still, your shoes were given to you to take care of, so you really ought to know where they are.) How do you get knowledge? You see something, or hear something, and the sight or the sound leave a mark inside you. Your memory of it is an imprint on your brain, inside your body. This sentence you are reading right now just left a mark in your brain. Try to forget it! Can you? (Actually, don’t forget it, please; then you’d just have to read it over again.)

But there are two ways knowledge can be inside you. First, you can know something because someone told it to you. In that case, your knowledge is something you receive from someone else. Second, you can know something by direct experience.

For example, I might tell your mom that your shoes are out back in the shed, but that we shouldn’t go look for them now because it’s raining and we’d get wet. She might not see that your shoes are there, but she can trust me when I tell her. So she knows because she listens to me. Alternatively, your mom might not listen to me, and decide she wants to see for herself. So she wanders outside in the rain and sees your shoes with her own eyes. In that case, rather than know about your shoes by letting my words leave a mark inside her, she got knowledge about your shoes by having the sight of your shoes leave a mark inside her.

In other words, a person can know something either by faith or by sight.

Now, if your mom did go outside to check your shoes for herself, she’d get wet. If she had listened to me, she could have stayed dry. But in this example, she chose to know by sight instead of by faith, and so she got wet.

Adam and Eve were presented with the choice to know what good and evil were either by faith or by sight. In the beginning, Adam and Eve knew only good things. They knew only God’s Word. And God’s Word told them what evil looked like. They could know about evil by faith, by having God’s Word inside them. But in order for them to know evil by sight and not by faith, they’d have to let that evil directly inside themselves. Why would anyone want to do that? Why would your mom want to get wet just to know something I had just told her? Only because she didn’t trust me.

Why would Adam and Eve not trust God? The devil tempted Eve to experience what evil looked like for herself. The devil told her to doubt God’s Word. He encouraged her to know by sight rather than by faith. He convinced her to let evil leave a mark inside her directly in the place of God’s good Word.

And Eve listened to the devil. The devil’s words reached her ears, and she listened to them. She willingly let his words override God’s Word inside her. By eating of the tree, she put her faith in the devil’s words. She could have chosen to reject the devil’s words and cling to God’s Word that she already had. But she did not. She ate. Chomp. When Adam and Eve chose to know evil by disobeying God and by experiencing evil for themselves, they chose to mix evil knowledge in with the good knowledge that God had given them. So Adam and Eve got what they wanted, knowledge of good—and evil. And their children also became tainted with the knowledge of evil. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5).

So you see why it is important to know things by faith. There are lots of things you can put inside your body. But not all of them are good. Listen to Christ, and by believing, have life in His name.

Now, look again at what happened with Adam and Eve. First, God created the garden and the trees and Adam and Eve. And God told them to be fruitful and multiply, and to eat of the good trees in the garden, including the tree of life. And He told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because then they would die. (And you can’t really be fruitful when you’re dead.) But Adam and his wife chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil anyway instead of the tree of life. Then God promised that their Savior from death would come from the woman’s offspring. And then, Adam named the woman Eve, which means Life. Then Adam and Eve did come together to be fruitful and multiply like God first told them to, and God says, “Adam knew Eve his wife” (Genesis 4).

You see that there are competing types of knowledge here. There is life and good, and there is death and evil. 

Adam filled his head and heart with Eve, as God had intended. Being fruitful and multiplying with your spouse as God commanded is something that fills both your mind and body with knowledge of your spouse. And that is good. This is what good husbands and wives do for each other. They know all they can about each other, and they concern their thoughts and actions with each other so that they can serve and love each other. That’s their job.

Even while you aren’t married and don’t know another person as closely as husband and wife do, you still have jobs too. And you need to know things to do your jobs. You have a family God has given you to love. You should still fill your mind every day with whatever you need to be a good member of your family. Listen to your parents, care for your grandparents, learn how to help out around the house, and so on. Fill your body with whatever knowledge you need to be a good friend to your friends too, and to be a good caretaker of your pets, and to be a good steward of your shoes. (Where are they. . . ?)

And as God’s people, we are all to fill ourselves and our minds first and foremost with God and His Word. Listen to Christ. That’s how you know good. That’s how you have life.

You’re not missing out by knowing good instead of evil. You can only ever fit so much knowledge in your body, and there is always more good that you can know. There is more good out there than you can ever fully know. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11). You never have to put curiosity to rest.

God knows the difference between good and evil. Trust Jesus to tell you what good and evil are so that you don’t have to experience evil directly inside yourself. Jesus is the only way you learn the true good. Everything else on this earth is tainted with evil. Trust Him. Love His Word. Fill yourself with Him.

Listen to Him.

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10)