“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” (NIV)
Explanation and Commentary of Genesis 3:22
There are certain elements of the story of the fall of man in the garden of Eden that are mysterious. Some things we cannot fully understand because the language and literary style of Genesis 1-3 are not simply that of historical reporting, although there is some of that. While the account should be taken literally, it should also be understood that God intends to imbed deep mysteries in the order of things in the story, in the exact phrasing, and even in what is unsaid in the accounts.
This particular verse describes God’s reaction to the sin and rebellion of Adam and Eve. They were promised that they would die if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is for certain that God had forbidden them from doing it, and it is also certain that God could have prevented it from happening and did not. We must say that the whole tragic event, for which Adam and his wife were held accountable, was part of God’s plan, including the reality that he would one day send his Son to restore what was lost.
God always works providentially through our mistakes to accomplish his purposes, and we can only understand a portion of what he is doing, or what he has done. But that we were barred from the tree of life was only a temporary measure for the children of God who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. We will see this tree again in the new heavens and the new earth at the end of the age and the beginning of eternity (Rev 22:2).
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Genesis 3:22
#1 “And the Lord God said,”
God’s words are authoritative decrees.
#2 “The man has now become like one of us,”
The majority of scholars believe God is referring to himself in the plural and is talking to God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Some think he may be speaking to heavenly beings who also know good and evil, but the former is more likely.
Man was created in the image of God before man sinned, so it doesn’t make sense to think that man sinned and thus became like God. Perhaps the better translation of this verse is found in Young’s Literal Translation, which reads instead that, “Lo, the man was as one of Us, as to the knowledge of good and evil; and now, lest he send forth his hand, and have taken also of the tree of life, and eaten, and lived to the age.”
#3 “knowing good and evil.”
It is difficult to know what the scope of this knowledge was. Scholars focusing on the NIV translation think it might be more than that they merely knew what God knew. Something about this new knowledge caused them to become ashamed of being naked (Gen 3:7). It also caused them to hide from God and shift blame when confronted. It was not a good thing for man to have a knowledge he was not supposed to have, though God has providentially worked through it.
Looking at Young’s Literal Translation, it seems clear that Adam and Eve had knowledge of good and evil like God does, and then came the fall.
#4 “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
There was no reason to believe that Adam would refrain from taking this fruit for himself, having proven himself a rebel who now had a sinful nature. They were cast out of this garden forever, but at the end of this age, the tree will again be available to us who believe.
Bible Study on Genesis 3:22
Expert Overview of Genesis Ch. 1-11
Biblical Translations of Genesis 3:22
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.”
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.