Genesis 2:16
(16, 17) The Lord God commanded.--Probation is the law of man's moral condition now, and it began in Paradise, only the conditions there were different. (See Excursus at end of this book.)

In the day. . . . --Used, as in Genesis 2:4, for an indefinitely long period. But just as on the third day God gave the whole law of vegetation, though trees as the highest development of that law may not have been reached until after the appearance of animal life on the earth, so the law of man's mortal life came into existence with the eating of the forbidden fruit. Contemporaneously with that act, man passed from the paradisiacal state, with the possibility of living for ever, into the mortal state, with the certainty sooner or later of dying. It was a new condition and constitution of things which then commenced, and to which not Adam only, but also his posterity was subject. And thus this command resembles the words of Elohim in the first chapter. By them the fundamental laws of the material universe were given and established for all time; and the word of Jehovah-Elohim equally here was a law, not for the day only on which Adam broke the command, but for all men everywhere as long as the world shall last.


The great object for which the world is constituted such as we actually find it to be is evidently the trial and probation of man's moral nature. We cannot wonder, therefore, at finding Adam subject to a probation; and even if he had remained innocent we have no right to suppose that his posterity would always have withstood temptation, or that the world would not finally have become such in the main as it is now. But the manner of Adam's probation was different. In Paradise he had unlimited freedom, except in one small particular, and no promptings of his own nature urged him to take delight in disobedience and sin. But if thus he was free from passion, on the other hand his conscience was undeveloped, even if it could be said to exist at all in one who did not know the difference between good and evil. He was devoid, too, of experience, and his reason must have been in a state as rudimentary as his conscience. For as there was no struggle between passion and conscience, man had not then learned to choose between opposing ends and purposes, as he has now. Nevertheless, Adam was an intellectual being. He must have had a deep knowledge of natural history; for doubtless he called the animals after their natures. In Genesis 2:23 he calls his wife Ishah, and himself Ish. Now, this name signifies a being, and in so calling himself Adam seems to claim for man that he is the one creature upon earth conscious of his own existence. And when Eve appears he simply adds a feminine termination to the name, recognising her thereby as the female counterpart of himself; but in so doing he shows a mastery of language, and the power of inflecting words according to the rules of grammar. There is proof, after the fall, of even increased insight into the nature of things; for in the name Eve, life, Adam plainly recognised in her difference of sex the Divinely-appointed means for the maintenance of human life upon earth. But man now, to balance the corruption of his nature, has, in addition to intellect, the help of conscience, of increased knowledge and experience of the effects of sin, and of largely developed reason. Devoid of such assistance, a difficult probation, such as is the lot of mankind now, would apparently have been beyond the power of Adam to sustain; whereas, had he not been tempted from without, he might easily, with his passions as yet unstirred, and most of his intellectual gifts still dormant, have endured the simple trial to which he was subjected. But temptation from without was permitted, and Adam fell.

It would be easy to lose ourselves in reasoning upon the possibilities involved in Adam's trial; but there are points upon which there can be no doubt. First, if probation is the normal law of our condition now, it would be just as right and equitable to make Adam subject to a probation. And alike for Adam then and for men now, probation seems to be a necessary condition of the existence of beings endowed with free will. Secondly, the fall was not all loss; St. Paul affirms this with reference to the gift of a Saviour (Romans 5:17-19). And besides this, higher qualities are called into existence now than were possible in the case of one who had no experimental knowledge of evil. We may even say that in giving this command Jehovah was appealing to qualities still dormant in Adam; and this exercise of the Divine attribute of foreknowledge makes us sure that the Divine purpose was to develop these qualities: not necessarily, however, by the fall, for they would have been to some extent exercised by resisting temptation. Thirdly, Adam, had he remained innocent, could nevertheless have attained to no higher happiness than such as was possible for a being in a rudimentary and passionless state of existence. He would have attained to the perfection of innocence, of pure physical enjoyment, and of even large scientific knowledge; but his moral nature would have developed very slowly, and its profounder depths would have remained unstirred. He would have been a happy grown-up child, not a proved and perfected man. The sufferings of this fallen world are intense (Romans 8:22), but the product in those who use their probation aright, is probably higher than any product of Paradise could have been. The holiness attained to by Eloah, the seventh from Adam, was of a different and higher kind than the most perfect innocence of a being who had been called to make no earnest struggle; for it was as the gold tried in the fire (1Peter 1:7).

Verses 16, 17. - And Jehovah Elohim commanded the man (Adam), saying. Whether or not these were the first words listened to by man (Murphy), they clearly presuppose the person to whom they were addressed to have had the power of understanding language, i.e. of interpreting vocal sounds, and representing to his own mind the conceptions or ideas of which they were the signs, a degree of intellectual development altogether incompatible with modern evolution theories. They likewise assume the pre-existence of a moral nature which could recognize the distinction between "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not." Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; literally, eating, thou shalt eat. Adam, it thus appears, was permitted to partake of the tree of life; not, however, as a means of either conferring or preserving immortality, which was already his by Divine gift, and the only method of conserving which recognized by the narrative was abstaining from the tree of knowledge; but as a symbol and guarantee of that immortality with which he had been endowed, and which would continue to be his so long as he maintained his personal integrity. This, of course, by the very terms of his existence, he was under obligation to do, apart altogether from any specific enactment which God might enjoin. As a moral being, he had the law written on his conscience. But, as if to give a visible embodiment to that law, and at the same time to test his allegiance to his Maker's will, which is the kernel of all true obedience, an injunction was laid upon him of a positive description - But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. Speculations as to what kind of tree it was, whether a vine, a fig, or an apple tree, are more curious than profitable. There is no reason to suppose that any noxious or lethiferous properties resided in its fruit. The death that was to follow on transgression was to spring from the eating, and not from the fruit; from the sinful act, and not from the creature, which in itself was good. The prohibition laid on Adam was for the time being a summary of the Divine law. Hence the tree was a sign and symbol of what that law required. And in this, doubtless, lies the explanation of its name. It was a concrete representation of that fundamental distinction between right and wrong, duty and sin, which lies at the basis of all responsibility. It interpreted for the first pair those great moral intuitions which had been implanted in their natures, and by which it was intended they should regulate their lives. Thus it was for them a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It brought out that knowledge which they already possessed into the clear light of definite conviction and precept, connecting it at the same time with the Divine will as its source and with themselves as its end. Further, it was an intelligible declaration of the duty which that knowledge of good and evil imposed upon them. Through its penalty it likewise indicated both the good which would be reaped by obedience and the evil which would follow on transgression. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die; literally, dying, thou shalt die. That this involved death physical, or the dissolution of the body, is indicated by the sentence pronounced on Adam after he had fallen (Genesis 3:19). That the sentence was hot immediately executed does not disprove its reality. It only suggests that its suspension may have been due to some Divine interposition. Yet universal experience attests that permanent escape from its execution is impossible. In the case of Adam it was thus far put in force on the instant, that henceforth he ceased to be immortal. As prior to his fall his immortality was sure, being authenticated for him by the tree of life, so now, subsequent to that catastrophe, his mortality was certain. This, more than immediateness, is what the language implies. For the complete theological significance of this penalty see Genesis 3:19.

2:16,17 Let us never set up our own will against the holy will of God. There was not only liberty allowed to man, in taking the fruits of paradise, but everlasting life made sure to him upon his obedience. There was a trial appointed of his obedience. By transgression he would forfeit his Maker's favour, and deserve his displeasure, with all its awful effects; so that he would become liable to pain, disease, and death. Worse than that, he would lose the holy image of God, and all the comfort of his favour; and feel the torment of sinful passions, and the terror of his Maker's vengeance, which must endure for ever with his never dying soul. The forbidding to eat of the fruit of a particular tree was wisely suited to the state of our first parents. In their state of innocence, and separated from any others, what opportunity or what temptation had they to break any of the ten commandments? The event proves that the whole human race were concerned in the trial and fall of our first parents. To argue against these things is to strive against stubborn facts, as well as Divine revelation; for man is sinful, and shows by his first actions, and his conduct ever afterwards, that he is ready to do evil. He is under the Divine displeasure, exposed to sufferings and death. The Scriptures always speak of man as of this sinful character, and in this miserable state; and these things are true of men in all ages, and of all nations.And the Lord God commanded the man,.... Over whom he had power and authority; and he had a right to command him what he pleased, being his Creator, benefactor, and preserver; and this is to be understood not of man only, but of the woman also, whose creation, though related afterwards, yet was before this grant to eat of all the trees of the garden but one, and the prohibition of the fruit of that; for that she was in being, and present at this time, seems manifest from Genesis 3:2.

saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: a very generous, large, and liberal allowance this: or "in eating thou mayest eat" (y); which was giving full power, and leaving them without any doubt and uncertainty about their food; which they might freely take, and freely eat of, wherever they found it, or were inclined to, even of any, and every tree in the garden, excepting one, next forbidden.

(y) "comedendo comedas", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, &c.

Genesis 2:15
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