In the last part of our study we learned about the “work” of God in creating “the heavens and the earth.” That work included God creating human beings in His “image” and “likeness.” When God finished creating He looked at what He had done and saw that it “was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
If we stopped reading the Bible at the end of Genesis 1 and looked around at our neighborhood and community and watched an hour of the evening news, would we say that God’s creation “was very good?” I don’t think so.
What happened? If God is Almighty and All-Knowing, how could His eternal plan have gone so terribly wrong? It didn’t.
What we see in the world today is part of God’s eternal plan – a plan He chose “before time began, before the foundation of the world.”
Let’s go deeper into this plan to see what He chose to do and why.
The Garden Reveal
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2: 8-9
Genesis 1 is a ‘broad’ view of God’s work over a period of six creative days. Genesis 2 is a ‘narrow’ view of one aspect of God’s creative work, specifically how He created human beings.
God “formed” the human male in Eden and took him to the garden that was located “eastward in Eden.” That’s where the rest of the events of Genesis 2 and 3 take place. It may be that Eden was where God ‘lived’ and ruled while He was on earth.
God planted a garden nearby for humans to begin the process of being fruitful and multiplying. Remember that the goal was to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28), so it doesn’t appear that the garden was the final home of humans. They had an entire planet to fill and subdue.
That process began when God brought animals and birds to the man to see what he would call them .. “And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” (Genesis 2:19-20)
Here’s what we know about the “garden in Eden” from the early part of Genesis 2 –
- It was a real place that existed on earth and it was “eastward in Eden”
- God put the man He formed in the garden
- God made every tree grow in the garden that was pleasant to the sight and good for food
- God placed the “tree of life” in the middle of the garden, along with the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
Since the types of trees are not mentioned in Genesis 2, we can assume the trees in the garden that were pleasant to the sight and good for food included some of the trees we are familiar with today. Types of trees mentioned in Genesis and other Old Testament Writings include terebinth, poplar, almond, chestnut, acacia, palm, cedar, algum, cypress, pine, and box.
In Genesis 1:11 we read that God created “the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so.” The Old Testament mentions several fruit trees including fig, pomegranate, olive, and apple.
Trees of Life and Knowledge
What we want to focus on for a few minutes is the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” These trees play a significant role in the eternal plan of God and have been the focus of major concern and debate through the ages – “life or death.” Which will it be?
The “tree of life” that was in the Garden of Eden is mentioned in Genesis and Revelation –
“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations … Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 2:2, 14
The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” that was in the Garden of Eden is mentioned twice in Genesis –
“And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
“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
We will learn more about the “tree of life” in future studies, but let’s start with the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
הַדַּ֖עַת (hadda‘aṯ) “of knowledge”
ט֥וֹב (ṭōwḇ) adjective that means “beautiful, choice, good”
וָרָֽע׃ (wārā‘) adjective that means “adversity, bad, evil”
The word ṭōwḇ is the same word used in Genesis 1 to describe God’s creative work –
“And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.”
“And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”
“And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
“and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
“And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”
As for the word wārā‘ (evil), it’s not used until Genesis 2:9.
So, where did “evil” come from? It’s not part of God’s creative works in Genesis 1 because each day ended with the word ṭōwḇ (good). There is no hint of anything “bad, wrong, evil” until we see that God planted a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
The word for “knowledge” is hadda‘aṯ and means “to know” something that can be known. What was that something that could be known? Did God do something during His creative work that could be known as “evil?” Not that we can see from the first words “In the beginning” to the words “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.” Whatever was to be known as “evil” had to have occurred prior to “the beginning.”
That brings us to the works of Satan.
The Works of Satan
The Bible gives us many reveals about Satan and why he does what he does. One reveal is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. It concerns qualifications for overseers in churches –
“… not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:6-7
It would appear that Satan’s “pride” led him into “condemnation.” Any other reveals about that in the Bible? Yes, several.
The first one is in Genesis 3 –
“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5
Satan contradicted what God had told Adam about dying if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Instead of dying, Satan said humans could be “like God, knowing good and evil,” as if that was a good thing.
Think about that for a moment. Here is the angel Satan, disguised as a beautiful serpent, saying that God knew good and evil. How did God know about evil? We’ve already seen that everything He did in creating the heavens and the earth was “good.” How? Well, He’s God. He knows everything.
Here’s another question. How did Satan know that God knew about evil? Was Satan just a casual angelic observer who happened to be near God one day when God said something about knowing good and evil? Did Satan just overhear that conversation and pass along the information to the first humans as an interesting point of discussion?
Not at all. Satan is the one who introduced evil into the real world of the created angels and God condemned him for it. Did that surprise God? Did God find out about evil from Satan and then have to find a way to deal with it? Not at all. God knew about it in eternity, before He created the angels.
Satan’s Evil History
There is some disagreement among students of the Bible about whether the description of Lucifer in the Old Testament refers to Satan or the king of Babylon, but let’s take a look –
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. ‘Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’ ‘All the kings of the nations, All of them, sleep in glory, Everyone in his own house; But you are cast out of your grave Like an abominable branch, Like the garment of those who are slain, Thrust through with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit, Like a corpse trodden underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, Because you have destroyed your land And slain your people. The brood of evildoers shall never be named. Prepare slaughter for his children Because of the iniquity of their fathers, Lest they rise up and possess the land, And fill the face of the world with cities.” Isaiah 14:12-21
The description God gave to Ezekiel does sound more like Satan –
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. ‘You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. ‘By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. ‘Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.” Ezekiel 28:11-19
The reference to the “king of Tyre” being in Eden, the garden of God, and being the “anointed cherub who covers” doesn’t sound like a description for a human, but does fit the description of an angel.
However, even if these two references are about earthly human kings of Babylon and Tyre, we remember the words of the Apostle John – “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8) All of the vast array of sinning we see in the world today is because of Satan.
That’s an interesting statement – “for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” Sinned from the beginning of what?
We saw in an earlier study that the angels sang together and shouted for joy when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:1-7). If Satan was one of the angels singing and shouting at that event, then the answer to our question might be that the devil may have sinned “from the beginning” of time.
However, if Satan sinned against God prior to Creation then the words “the beginning” may refer to the beginning of the devil’s pride and God’s condemnation.
Whenever it was, Satan’s sin brought “evil” into existence. It was because of the devil’s sinning “from the beginning” that the Son of God was revealed “that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
So, what are these “works of the devil” that the Son of God had to destroy? If it was only Satan’s pride, why didn’t the Son of God destroy Satan prior to creating the heavens and earth? Why wait until Satan had infected humans with his prideful rebellion?
If that was God’s eternal plan, that’s what would have happened. But that was not God’s plan, as we have seen before –
“… the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:8-10
The “good news” (Gospel) is that God has “saved” us according to “His own purpose and grace” which was given to us “in Christ Jesus before time began.” The great reveal was “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
God had something much bigger in mind for His eternal plan than just dealing with Satan’s pride. He could have dealt with that as man might deal with an annoying gnat. No, God had something much, much bigger in mind; something of a truly epic nature.
In the next part of our study we will see how God revealed Satan’s plan and how the devil took his first step to get it started.
[Read the first seven chapters of The Great Reveal in this free Ebook]
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.