Read the series so far.
Adam Is Tested
In the next section (2:15-17) we read of God giving the man a straightforward command:
Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was an actual tree. It is not called a symbol and need not be seen as one. I agree with Merrill that we should not think of “good and evil” in this place as contrasting values so much as an idiom for comprehensive knowledge.1 Certainly, ethical knowledge would be included, since all knowledge bears an ethical stamp, but the innocence of our first parents does not at all lead us to think they were ignorant of the meanings of the terms “good” and “evil.” God is communicating meaningfully to Adam, not speaking over his head. Every word which God speaks to Adam presupposes his ability to receive and comprehend it. Thus, the expression “to freely eat” was just as well understood as the designation “every tree of the garden.” Again the warning “in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” was God speaking to a comprehending and responsive creature. He was not speaking into the air.2