Genesis 2:15-17 God Gives a Choice

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Gen. 2:15   The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,
17 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.” (emphasis added)

 

Genesis 2:16 is a very important passage since it marks a huge change in the relationship between God and man. Up till now all of mankind’s needs have been met by God.

  1. A need for Blessing (1:26–27)
  2. A need for Purpose (1:28–30)
  3. A need for Physical Life (2:7)
  4. A need for Food (2:8–9)
  5. And a need for Companionship (2:18–23)

Suddenly in verse sixteen the relationship is changed as God gives a command.  Man receives his first responsibility, and consequences for disobedience

He was told (and it was later explained to Eve) that they could eat from any tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he ate from it, God promised that death would be the result.

So now we see the relationship changed from one where God meets all of the needs, to one where man is responsible to obey Him or face consequences.

The question many people have about this is “why did God change that relationship?” After all human beings won’t be able to live a perfect life [2] and God knew this…Even while giving Adam this command He knew they would fail miserably.

God continues this kind of relationship (knowing men would fail Him) throughout the Old Testament. It usually looks something like this:

  1. God gives a specific command
  2. There are positive blessings attached to obedience (staying in Eden)
  3. There are negative consequences for disobedience

We see this clearly in God’s relationship with Israel based on the Ten Commandments, and extensive blessings or curses that would be placed upon them in Deuteronomy 27–30 that the Jews would recite to one another publicly [3].

Later the challenge of obedience was given to kings, religious leaders, and prophets. But they all failed.

So why did God change the relationship?

because He wants us to choose Him willingly

In my opinion a big part of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) and having dominion over creation (1:28–30) is the ability to make our own decisions [4]. The Lord created us this way because He knew true glory would come from people who willingly chose to obey Him.

God could have forced us to obey but this wouldn’t bring Him glory since our motivation would be fear or complete control (we couldn’t choose anything else)this freedom allows us to obey out of love instead of obligation.

Of course it wasn’t quite enough for God to give Adam and Eve a free-will [5]. He had to also give them and OPPORTUNITY to choose Him or their own will.

Okay I understand that” you might say, “but why give us commands when we can’t obey them? I mean God KNEW Adam and Eve would sin!

This points to a deeper reason for God’s testing our obedience (giving us a choice). Primarily it’s so that we as Christians will serve Him out of love instead of fear or obligation. But the Lord also uses this to show us our brokenness (inability to serve Him on our own).

In other words on my own I will never truly choose God.

My brokeness (and the brokeness of all mankind) is extremely important because Satan wants us to believe we can do a better job of being God (making decisions) than God (Genesis 3:3–5). And today the voice of Satan hasn’t changed. It still whispers “Oh you don’t need God’s help, you’ve got this every moment.

This is why the Lord in love reminds me of my brokeness with every test that I fail.

God doesn’t do this in anger or to humiliate me…but instead those failures are a call to rely on Christ instead of myself.

To admit my brokenness and fall upon the one who can never be broken.


  1. the first one we see in Scripture  ↩
  2. even in the garden of Eden Adam and Eve weren’t strong enough to withstand Satan’s temptation  ↩
  3. one group stood on one mountain and quoted the blessings, another on the other mountain quoted the curses  ↩
  4. no other creation really has that decision making ability  ↩
  5. ability to choose  ↩

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