Question 11: How could Adam & Eve do wrong if they didn’t know good from evil?

***DISCLAIMER***The following is far from an exhaustive post. Instead, it makes a best effort to sufficiently answer the question.

Recently someone asked me about Adam and Eve’s knowledge of good and evil prior to the fall. What follows is the person’s question followed my by answer.

QUESTION

If before the fall Adam and Eve knew nothing about good or evil, how could they do wrong because surely they knew no better? Obviously they had God’s command but they didn’t know good from evil.

ANSWER

While the Bible does not say verbatim that Adam and Eve did or did not know good and evil prior to the fall, the Bible DOES say what God commanded to Adam. Furthermore, Eve had a bit of knowledge (albeit not as accurate) of this command as well. Genesis 2:7-3:13 gives us what we need to know regarding this matter:

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The Fall of Man (Beginning of Genesis 3, starting at verse 1)

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

In this section, God forms man from the dust of the ground (2:7). He then places this man in a garden He created, called Eden (2:8). After a description of the trees that grow and the river that flows from Eden (2:9-15), the LORD gives the man specific commands regarding all trees. This includes the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17). Furthermore, Eve shows how she herself understood a little bit about the same command God gave to Adam (3:1-3). Unfortunately, as we see here in this comparison, she added to God’s command:

God’s command to Adam (2:16-17):

 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Eve’s understanding of the command (Genesis 3:2-3):

 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

As you see, Eve added to God’s Word, thus showing her lack of fully understanding the command God gave to Adam. She had to have understood a bit about evil (or wrong) given the fact God gave a clear command of what not to do. Furthermore, if Eve did not recognize her action as wrong, there would not be a need for any kind of fallout from Eve’s action (3:6-13). This specifically involves Eve’s admission of the serpent’s deceiving her (3:17). If there is no knowledge of what’s good or evil at this point, how can Eve know the serpent deceived her? Good and evil would have to exist and be known about in order for someone to understand the concept of deception.

To conclude, Adam and Eve knew a little bit about good and evil. While the Bible does not state as much verbatim, Eve had to have had a basic concept of wrong/evil given the fact she recognized that the serpent deceived her. Furthermore, they most certainly knew better given what God commanded.

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