Genesis 2:16-17 - And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree ..."

And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)
This is an allegorical description of something that happened to each of us. "Man" here is being translated from the Hebrew word אָדָם ('adam), which can mean a particular 'man,' or 'mankind,' according to the lexicon. Furthermore, it can indicate a 'being' or 'beings' in general. In this case, as we've shown with earlier verses, this event is describing something that happened to each of us, as spiritual beings, in a section (or "garden") of Eden - the spiritual world.

Why shouldn't they eat from that tree?

As we described earlier, the 'trees' of the 'garden' represent the relationships and activities of the spiritual kingdom:
And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8)
These are not physical trees. They are symbolic. Have we ever seen a tree of life or a tree of knowledge growing anywhere?

Within the spiritual world there are so many activities. These all revolve around the various relationships that exist between the Supreme Being and each spiritual living being. In other words, each of us has a unique relationship with the Supreme Being, and there are different types of relationships. Each type of relationship comes with particular activities, as we render loving service to the Supreme Person - and exchange our particular flavor of relationship with Him.

These relationships with God are symbolically 'trees' - because they give 'fruit' that is "good for food" - because these loving relationships are effectively our spiritual 'food.'

The verse then describes two important 'trees.' Why are they in the "middle of the garden?" This is not the geographical "middle" being discussed. This indicates the center: these are the most important 'trees:' These are the central 'trees.'

The 'tree of life' is love for God. It is central to the various relationships that exist within the spiritual realm because all of these relationships are based on feelings of love for God.

And the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' represents the ability to reject the Supreme Being and try to become God-like – essentially becoming envious of God. This is why God says eating the ‘fruit’ of this ‘tree’ would cause them to “surely die.” This is because rejecting our loving relationship with God causes us spiritual death: The death of our loving relationship with Him.

Does Love requires freedom?

Yes. The ability to choose is critical in the spiritual realm because in order for real love to exist there must be freedom of choice. God created this tree of choice because without the choice to not love God, we could not truly love Him. It would be slavery if God created us without the choice to love Him. We would effectively be robots.

We have to remember that God put the 'tree' of 'knowledge of good and evil' there. Why would God put a 'tree' with attractive 'fruit' in the middle of the 'garden' and then ask Adam not to eat its 'fruit'? God didn't have to put this 'tree' there, let alone in the 'middle' of the 'garden.' If He really wanted to make sure Adam didn't eat of its fruit, He would not have put it there in the first place. This only confirms that putting the 'tree' there and then asking 'Adam' not to 'eat' the 'fruit' of the 'tree' symbolically means that God has given us the freedom to love and serve Him, or not.

God created each of us in order to freely exchange a loving relationship with Him. This is why we are all so crazy about love. Just listen to any song or watch any movie. They are all mostly about seeking love or exchanging love. Everyone needs love because we were created to love. Love is in our nature.

But we are never happy with the so-called love we find here in the physical world. It never seems to be enough. Why? Because God created us to love Him. And until we are loving the Supreme Person, God, we are never satisfied.

What is 'the knowledge of good and evil'?

So what does the "knowledge of good and evil" have to do with the freedom to love God or not? "Good" here is taken from the Hebrew word טוֹב (towb) which does not mean "good" in the sense of righteousness, as it insinuates when placed next to the word "evil." טוֹב means something that is 'pleasant, agreeable, rich, happy, prosperous' and 'valuable in estimation' according to the lexicon.

Furthermore, "evil" is being translated from the Hebrew word רַע (ra'), which can mean 'evil' or 'wicked,' but these are fairly low in the grammatical hierarchy of the word. The more practical translation, according to the lexicon is 'bad, disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant, giving pain, displeasing, sad, unhappy' and so on.

In other words, the "knowledge of good and evil" is a poor translation of the Hebrew, put forth by those with a poor understanding of the event Genesis is describing. The more precise translation would be something akin to the "knowledge of pleasure and displeasure," or the "knowledge of pleasure and pain."

What about enjoyment?

What we are talking about is enjoyment. If someone has the knowledge of pleasure and pain, or the knowledge of pleasure and displeasure, then they become aware of enjoyment. They become able to enjoy. Just consider if a person does not know what is painful or displeasing. They won't be able to understand what is pleasing or enjoyable. They cannot enjoy unless they understand ("know") the opposite of enjoyment.

So why is knowing enjoyment a big deal in the 'garden'? It is because God is ultimately the Enjoyer in the spiritual world. He enjoys the love and the loving service of His children. Because He understands ("knows") pleasure and pain, He is the ultimate Enjoyer. In the spiritual dimension, we enjoy God's enjoyment. When God is pleased, we experience pleasure. So our pleasure is connected to His pleasure. This exists within the loving relationships of the spiritual realm.

But we know from Genesis that God also offered us the choice to also know pleasure and pain. We have the choice to try to become independent enjoyers. Though it is not our natural position, we still have the choice to seek enjoyment independently of God.

This sort of "knowing" enjoyment is all about wanting what God has. By wanting to experience enjoyment independently, we are effectively wanting to be in the position of God. This is confirmed by the serpent later in Genesis:
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
Again, the "good and evil" here is taken from the Hebrew words described above, which are better translated to "pleasure and pain," ultimately meaning enjoyment.

And the operator in the serpent's statement is: "you will be like God."

The bottom line is that we were created as God's lover and loving servant, and God is our Beloved. This makes God effectively the Enjoyer. He enjoys our loving service, and we (in our natural position) enjoy pleasing Him and exchanging a relationship with Him.

However, we can also desire to be the enjoyer, and be the beloved. We can strive to enjoy for ourselves and try to attract others to love and worship us. This is our choice: To love God or be envious of God. Being envious of God is the same as striving to take His position as the enjoyer.

Essentially this is none other than self-centeredness. And self-centeredness is the "fruit" of the "tree" that God instructed us - symbolically, Adam - not to eat.

What about envy and self-centeredness?

By "eating of" this "fruit" of self-centeredness we become envious of God, and effectively lose our loving relationship with Him.

By becoming self-centered, and envious of God, we "die" in the spiritual sense. As we read on in Genesis we find this confirmed: Adam does not die in the physical sense from eating the fruit. Does this mean that God was lying to Adam? No. The type of death God is describing is the worst type of death: It is losing our natural position within the spiritual realm. This is confirmed:

So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:23)

The event being described in Genesis is our falling from the spiritual world. Because the spiritual realm is populated with love and loving relationships, envy and self-centeredness have no place there.

Each of us comes from the spiritual realm, but we do not have to stay there if we don't want to. Each of us has the choice to love God or decide to love ourselves first and foremost.

Those of us who have chosen not to love God by default become self-centered and envious of God. We have eaten the fruit God asked us not to eat, and thus now find ourselves banished to this hellish physical world, away from Our Best Friend God and our natural loving relationship with Him.

This is why this physical world is so full of sadness, wars, violence, greed, and envy as everyone struggles to enjoy at the expense of others: We have fallen from the spiritual realm and have forgotten our loving relationship with God and our natural position as His loving servant.

Consider another translation of these verses in Chapter Two of the New Book of Genesis.