Genesis 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
The Hebrew word translated “evil” is found over 500 times in your Bible. It was also translated “wicked, wickedness, mischief” and several other words that we all understand all too well. Evil is a reality in our world that cannot be denied, but it was not so in the Garden of Eden. When God created Adam and Eve they were innocent, free from the influence and guilt of evil. God’s wonderful creation was not stained by the presence of evil, and man’s responsibility concerning evil was fairly simple. In their innocence, Adam and Eve had only one stipulation when it came to choosing what was right or wrong, and that had to do with the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” That tree produced a fruit that, although most pleasant to the eyes and edible, was nonetheless a tree that was the most poisonous of all the trees of God’s creation.
When the European explorer Ponce de Leon led the first expedition into Florida in 1513, he found the new world to be one of incredible beauty and tremendous wealth. He returned to Florida in 1521 to settle the peninsula, but found resistance from Calusa fighters. These warriors had learned that a tree native to South Florida, the Caribbean and Central and South America, the Manchineel Tree, to be one of the most poisonous trees on earth. The tree produces a small crabapple shaped fruit that is sweet to the taste, but one bite can cause extreme sickness and pain, and can even result in death. In fact, even the leaves, bark and the sap of the Manchineel tree are poisonous. The Calusa fighters made poisonous arrows from the sap of the tree. Ponce de Leon was struck in the thigh by one of these poisonous arrows. The famous conquistador fled to Cuba where he died from the wounds he had received from the arrows tainted by the sap of the Manchineel tree. The Manchineel tree, however, does not hold the disctinction of being the most destructive tree on earth. The “tree of the knowledge of good and of evil” holds that dubious place, for it had the ability to toxically infect the entire human family, a potential which was sadly realized by Adam and Eve, and passed down to every son and daughter of Adam.
What made that forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so destructive to mankind? Was it’s poison contained in the fruit that was so sweet to the taste? Or, was the toxin in the peeling of the fruit? Actually, the poison of that famous tree was in the fact that it appealed to Adam to Eve to be disobedient to their Creator. That simple act of disobedience, which we will examine later, robbed Adam and Eve of their innocence, separated them from their loving God and plunged them into the bottomless abyss of evil that would infect all of their progeny from that time forward.
Pastor Steve Smith