And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3.22.
This verse is the first time in the Bible that the word hand is used. It presents a number of difficulties, but the overall message is clear.
Man became like God, knowing good and evil, and that served as the reason for removing him from the tree of life. But how can that be justification for depriving him of eternal life?
Understood, but unstated, in this verse is the means by which man arrived at that knowledge. God knows it by his very nature; man came by this knowledge through disobedience. Man was not created for this. To achieve it, he went against the will of God.
In his desire to be like God — to be his own god — man left the place assigned to him. Like the angels, Adam and Eve “did not keep within their proper domain” and so they were evicted from “their own place of residence” Jude 6. Unlike the angels, who had a greater vision as spiritual beings of the divine nature and plan, man would be given a way back into the fellowship of God. That way back, however, would come only in the fullness of time.
Man would be forbidden to “stretch out his hand” and take from the tree of life and eat. Earlier, as she looking longingly upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve “took some of its fruit and ate it” Genesis 3.6. The hand that took the fruit of the tree that brought death could not now stretch forth and take the fruit of the tree of life.
Why could man not now live forever? Bob Utley says it was “because it would be a curse for mankind to live forever in his current fallen state.” Perhaps even better to say that man’s choice to be his own god excludes walking in the presence of the one true God.
On earth, that tree of life is never to be seen again. But it appears at the end, in Revelation 22. The Lord says, “To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God” v. 7. Our hand can once again stretch forth and take and eat. We can do this once we “enter into the [heavenly] city by the gates” v. 14, because it is not available to all.
This is why we must take the greatest care now to obey all the words of God’s Book, because we might lose what is promised.
And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book” Revelation 22.19.
These are some of the last words of Scripture. Taking away from, or adding to, the Word of God has serious consequences. As serious as that first hand that wanted so much to taste what it was like.
Where is your hand reaching?
The editor has also written the book: O Soul: The Book of Exhortations.