Genesis 2:16-17

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Genesis 2

Law Analysis overview

16 YHWH God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17WEB


The Command

This passage contains a negative command, preceded by a restatement of man's freedom (Genesis 1:29), "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it". The command is immediately followed by a description of the penalty, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die".


This command belongs to the Moral Law. It has a penalty associated with it; the penalty is issued by God and not by a human government.

This law is understood to establish a distinction between man's ability to determine what is good and evil, and God's authority to determine what is good and evil; it is a command against moral Autonomy. The penalty is described as death; we understand it to mean spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-10), but it is nonetheless arguably related to an understanding of Capital Punishment.


This command, when understood in terms of its reference to the distinction between Theonomy and Autonomy, has abiding relevance for humanity as a whole, because Adam sinned in this way and caused death to reign on earth (Romans 5:12-14). It finds its fulfillment in the lives of believers in Jesus Christ, who by living a life of perfect submission to God's Law (Romans 5:15-21, 1 Cor 15:21-22), and then offering himself as a sacrifice to receive the death penalty and then defeat death, made it possible for us to have our spirits brought back to life (Eph 2:1-10) and become slaves of righteousness rather than slaves of sin; Theonomists rather than Autonomists (Romans 6:16-23).


This command has direct relevance to an understanding of the following topics:

Notes on Interpretation/Application