Genesis 2:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 2:17, NIV: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.'"

Genesis 2:17, ESV: "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”"

Genesis 2:17, KJV: "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."

Genesis 2:17, NASB: "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.'"

Genesis 2:17, NLT: "except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.'"

Genesis 2:17, CSB: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.""

What does Genesis 2:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The previous verse contains the first use in the Bible of the Hebrew root word for "command:" tsavah. Even so, that command to man began with a statement of permission. The man could eat freely from every tree in the garden. God had graciously provided all of that for him. God is not placing man inside a tiny fence of rules: He's locking evil inside a small box. God is allowing the man complete freedom in this new environment…with one exception.

Here, God provides a boundary for the man's freedom. The command turns to the negative, the restriction: man must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he does, he will die. This simple prohibition underscores the Bible's basic view of sin and salvation. Mankind will not fall into sin because he fails to keep some impossibly long list of rules. Nor will humanity fail because the restrictions are too demanding. Given near-complete freedom, and one single restriction, humanity will still choose to sin and fall.

Knowing the outcome of the story as we do, this feels like a precarious moment. We are tempted to question God's judgment. Why place that tree in the garden in full view of the man? Why allow even the possibility for disobedience right from the start of this brand new relationship with a brand new person? Of course, we are not qualified to answer why in any great detail. However, the fact that God does this tells us some essential things about His character and the way in which He intends to be in relationship with human beings.

From the very beginning, God wanted a relationship based on His provision, our trust, and demonstrating that trust through obedience. God's proposition to the first man is fundamentally identical to what He will say to Moses' first readers many years later: Obey, and I will give life and blessing. Disobey, and you will lose both (Deuteronomy 30:15–20.)