Of forbidden fruit and …. see ham (cockles)

“I was once expelled from the hostel I stayed in while attending English College in Johor Bahru because I sneaked out with two friends to eat see ham (cockles) on Lido Beach!” R shared with a bashful smile and a twinkle in his eye.

“You didn’t!” I laughed, “Why did you do it?”

“The food in the hostel was so bad! We just couldn’t take it and went out to get something decent to eat” R said.

“What happened next? What did you do then?” I asked R.

“My friends then nominated me to write a letter of appeal to the Warden which I did. The Warden accepted our explanation, and we were allowed to stay on condition that we didn’t do it again and complied with the rules on curfew,” he explained. “The Warden knew we weren’t bad boys; we were just hungry!”

As I thought of R’s escapades in his youth, I recalled the well-known story of beginnings, the story of Adam and Eve eating a forbidden fruit and their eventual expulsion out of the Garden of Eden.

  • Was God too harsh to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden merely for eating one fruit? Is it “one strike and you’re out?!”
  • Why didn’t God give them a second chance and let them stay in the Garden of Eden?
  • Isn’t God supposed to be forgiving and merciful? Where was forgiveness and mercy for Adam and Eve?
  • Why was there a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil there in the first place?

Perhaps the story of Adam and Eve deserves a second look. The story seems illusory, even mythical, yet paradoxically, it is so real. Why? Because the DNA of Adam and Eve courses through all our veins: our conscience are pricked by the voice of good and seduced by evil. Sometimes one voice is stronger than the other. Often, we battle against evil and try to do good. Other times, we mute the voice of good. Good defeats evil yet some have effectively numbed the voice of good. We, the human race, have a great capacity to do good and (sadly) to do evil too.

I surmise that in order to answer the questions above, the crux of the matter comes down to the following:

  • Q1: What exactly was the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (“Forbidden Fruit”) that eating it was so cataclysmic that it cannot be undone?
  • Q2: What was the motivation that led to Eve and Adam eating the Forbidden Fruit in the first place?

The Bible describes this Tree as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (in dialectic language). In order to fully grasp what Good is, Good is compared with its opposite, which is Evil[1].  I see this Tree as a Tree that defines what is Good or what is Evil. This Tree sets the standards of Good and Evil and puts the laws of the Universe in place.

An analogy helps me grasp it. By analogy, if this Earth is like a computer, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is its Operating System. The Programmer of this Operating System is God Himself. That to me explains why this Tree is placed in the Garden of Eden in the first place. And it clarifies why God forbade them from eating the Fruit of this Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for this Tree is designed by God to set the Earth in order and no human is to interfere with it. The original plan was that Man was not meant to know evil in the sense of experiencing evil personally.

What was the motivation that led Adam and Eve to want to eat this fruit? They were not hungry like R was hungry for see ham. They had plenty of food in the Garden of Eden.

I think the answer lies in Genesis 3:5, when the serpent said to the woman

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

I surmise that man wanted to be like God, not in the positive sense of emulating and following God. If Adam and Eve wanted to emulate God, they would’ve obeyed Him and wouldn’t have eaten the fruit in the first place!

No! They chose to surreptitiously eat of the fruit behind God’s back because they wanted this knowledge for themselves so that they became their own god[2].

I surmise that when they ate of this Fruit, they corrupted the Operating System of the Earth. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve were also one of the programs of the Operating System. So, by corrupting the Operating System, Adam and Eve corrupted themselves. This cannot be undone. They also learnt a new thing, how to do evil against the other. Original Sin entered the world.

God only came to know after the event. After the milk was spilled, what could He do? He couldn’t bear to see Adam and Eve live forever in a life of corruption. Just imagine if Hitler lived forever. It would literally be hell on earth for all eternity. He had to stop them from eating from the Tree of Life and live forever. He had no option but to expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. To let them stay on in Eden would be catastrophe. Hence forth, their corrupted life on Earth is given a limited shelf life. The expulsion from the Garden of Eden is the act of mercy. And God set in motion the path of redemption when His Son Jesus would one day take the place of Adam[3].

Is God a kill joy? In the initial chapters of the Bible, in Genesis 3:22, God restrains us from eating from the Tree of Life (and live forever). Yet, in Revelation 22:14, God invites us all to eat from the Tree of life. He says:

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. ….

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life.”

The year 2022 is coming to a close. 2023 looms. For many, this is a time for making new resolutions. Instead of making and breaking new resolutions perhaps a better way is to focus and accept God’s invitation for us to eat from the Tree of Life. We are the descendants of Adam and Eve knowing good and knowing evil in our hearts. Let us choose to do good. Come and eat.

[1] Another example is that we can only fully understand light when we are shown darkness.

[2] This is confirmed by God in Genesis 3:22. See the Social Psychology of Adam and Eve by Jack Katz

[3] Genesis 3:15, 1 Cor 15:45

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