What does Genesis 2:17 mean?
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.”
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.'
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.'
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."
NLT: except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.'
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.
Verse Commentary:
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.)
Verse Context:
Genesis 2:15–25 returns to provide details about the sixth-day creation of human beings. After being crafted out of the substance of earth, man is placed in a garden by God. He is then given responsibility to care for the plants and trees there. God's first and only prohibition to the man is not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in the middle of the garden, on promise of death. Man is also charged with naming the animals, an act reflecting his God-given authority. God recognizes that it is not good for man to be alone and makes woman to be his helper, companion, and wife, establishing the pattern of God's design for human marriage.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 2 begins with a description of the seventh day of creation, in which God rested from His work. Then it returns to the sixth day and describes in more detail the creation of man, the garden God placed him into, and the work God gave him to do. God recognizes that it is not good for man to be alone and makes a helper for him out of his own rib. This woman becomes Adam's companion and wife, setting the original example of God's design for marriage. The two exist in pure innocence, naked yet unashamed before sin enters into the world.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 2 concludes the description of God's week of creation and then zooms in on the creation of man, his work, his perfect environment, and the creation of woman as his helper and wife. It is our last glimpse of the world before it is ravaged by human sin and death with the disobedience of Adam and Eve in chapter 3. Where chapter 1 gave a full overview of creation, this chapter focuses more on a few specific events. These are crucial to understanding the fall of man.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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