Tree of Life

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding;…. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.”

- Proverbs 3:13, 18

The Tree of Life was one of the trees in the Garden of Eden. We read in Genesis 2:9, "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." Some believe it was symbolic of God providing immortality in the Garden of Eden while others believe it was a literal tree that provided immortality. God obviously knew Adam and Eve would fall and after the fall, the Bible says, "So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). The specificity implies that this was a literal tree and it comes up again in Revelation 2 and Revelation 22.

The concept of a Tree of Life was also not unusual in the ancient Near East, and archaeologists have uncovered many ancient depictions of what looks to be a tree full of life in that area. In many of these images, animals and people are clinging to the tree as a picture of how true life is impossible without the tree. As the story was passed down generation to generation through Noah and his family after the flood, it became part of other legends, religions, etc. The idea of a tree could also have sprung up on it's own in some of these as trees are by their very nature a symbol of life.

Human beings everywhere are in a quest to regain access to this tree that was lost when our Adam and Eve broke God’s law in Eden (Gen. 3:22–24). Our neverending attempts to extend our lifespans and the search for salvation through various world religions represent some of the most easily identified ways that mankind is trying to eat of a Tree of Life once more. We all know that something is wrong and that we were not meant to suffer death and decay.

Only Scripture, which tells us about the true “Tree of Life”, can tell us how we can get back to the blessed eternal life possible to those who lived in Eden. Since Adam’s and Eve’s fall resulted from their attempt to bypass the Lord’s wisdom as they grasped for knowledge where God told them not to look (2:15–17; 3:6–7), only by submitting ourselves to God’s wisdom shall we find the Tree of Life again. Proverbs 3:13–18 represents a further development of the Tree of Life theme that was first introduced in Genesis 2. Wisdom is likened to a “tree of life” to those who will cling to her (Prov. 3:18), which makes sense because those who hear and trust in God’s wisdom — who is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:24) — are those who will be granted the right to eat of the Tree of Life forever (John 14:6; Rev. 22:14). Receiving and eating of the Tree of Life of God’s wisdom now will enable us to eat of it forever in the world to come.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 2:8-3:24
Ezekiel 47:7–12
Revelation 2:1–7
Revelation 22:1-5

© Todd Tyszka
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