Why did God create and place the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Eden?

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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
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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 2:15–17
In the context of today’s world, it difficult to live without coming face to face with suffering in one form or the other. This is a world that cries out loudly for Justice with a voice pregnant with the tears and broken hearts and the blood of innocents. It is said that in the 20th century more people were killed than all previous other centuries combined, thanks to the World Wars, the Holocaust, systemic genocide, gulags and famines, earthquakes, diseases and so forth. The blame for so much suffering can be laid at feet of the problem of Evil.
Pain exists because there is evil in this world. And Evil first entered the world because Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had forbidden them. It is therefore natural to think of God’s commandment forbidding Man to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as ironical since God Himself had planted this very same tree in the garden. If God hadn’t placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden in the first place, Adam and Eve wouldn’t have sinned and the world’s problems would be moot.
In a way this question places the blame of evil and suffering solely on God, since it follows that God was responsible for planting the very tree responsible in the fall of man in the garden. Instead of issuing commandments to man to not eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God should simply have not created this tree in the first place if He was concerned that man should not sin. It simply doesn’t make sense that God should create a tree that could result in mankind’s fall, and then order man to not eat from it!!
So how do we give an answer to this problem? Is God truly to be blamed for all the death, pain and suffering in this world?
I believe that the way we have come to this conclusion is erroneous. Why? Because we have neglected crucial data in the above analysis. What is this crucial data that will throw light on this ghastly affair?
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
– Genesis 1:27
What does this verse mean? Man is created in God’s own image. Putting it another way, what separates Man from other animals is the image of God on him. Man, unlike other animals has the ability to choose between right and wrong, and it is this ability to make a moral choice that separates man from the rest of creation. This is the greatest gift that Man received from God at the moment of his creation.
It must also be mentioned that by giving Man this gift, God was taking a great risk by creating Man as an autonomous being and giving him the ability and freedom to choose between right and wrong. Man was free to choose to follow God or even to rebel against God by virtue of this choice. In this way Man was made NOT to be a puppet, i.e. to be programmed to follow God, because after all what is the meaning in having a bunch of programmed beings obeying God, not by choice but because they do not have the freedom to choose any other path?
Man without the freedom to choose is, in modern terminology, no better than a ‘zombie’ that is driven only by its hunger for flesh and has no other choice to make.
Let me put forth another example. In the fantastical world popularized by the series — The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Shai’tan(the author of evil) is loose in the world. The only person capable of defeating Shai’tan is the prophesied Dragon Reborn — Rand al’ Thor. In the final battle with Shai’tan, the Dragon Reborn goes toe to toe with Shai’tan in a battle that is almost philosophical concerning the fate of the world if one of the contenders win. In this philosophical and psychological battle, turn by turn they create mock worlds where each one’s opponent has lost the final battle. During Rand’s turn, Rand creates a picture of the world that is completely rid of Shai’tan — Shai’tan is completely erased from existence. Rand finds that the people now have no choice to choose evil, since evil will essentially be erased with the destruction of Shai’tan. To his utter discomfiture, Rand finds that this removal of the ability to choose between good and evil, has now transformed people into one dimensional beings — people who are happy not because they are happy but because there no longer is the choice to be sad, people who experience only positive emotions, because they have been robbed of the choice to experience a ‘negative’ emotion such as sadness, pain, suffering,etc.
This shows how important the ability to choose between right and wrong is for us, because it is that line that separates us from being humans or mindless slaves — ‘robots’ in modern terminology. God didn’t have slaves in mind when He created Man. After all what need of slaves does an omnipotent Being have? God created Man out of love. Beings He could pour out His Love on and who in turn He hoped, would choose to love Him out of their own free will, not because they were programmed to behave that way!
Now that we have established the need for a choice, let us progress to the next important question. What good is the ability to choose, if there is nothing to choose from? Imagine a man who has the ability to choose to walk on any road that he wished to. Now if there is only one road, he can only walk along that road, since he cannot choose to walk on another road — because another road does not exist. In this case, the fact that the man is able to choose, holds no meaning because there is an absence of choices for him to choose from!! If however there were a second road, then of course the man could choose to walk on one road or the other!
In the same way, although Man was created with the ability and freedom to choose between right and wrong, if the choice for wrongdoing did not exist, then this ability would be meaningless — just like in the above examples. So by essentially placing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and commanding Man to NOT eat from the tree, God was providing Man with the choices of good and evil. Man could CHOOSE to OBEY the commandment and so CHOOSE to do GOOD, or Man could CHOOSE to DISOBEY the commandment and so CHOOSE to do EVIL. Through this Man had the chance to Love God by Obeying Him or rebel against God by Disobeying Him.
In light of the above thought, it is not possible to lay blame on God for creating the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The blame falls solely on Man for rejecting and rebelling against God. It is another matter that God in His Mercy did not allow the story to end there!
God has provided us with another crossroad of choices with eternal ramifications. We can choose to repent of our sins and accept that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and accept Him in our lives as Lord and Master. Or we can choose to reject Him and His sacrifice. Either way the choice is ours and the ramifications eternal!

This was originally published in https://imageofyeshua.wordpress.com

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