The Jewish Institute.com

DEATH BEFORE THE FALL? LOOKING AT THE HEBREW

One of the questions I receive when speaking to someone about sin and death is, “When did death enter into creation? Was death always around or did it come at the fall?” These questions are important because many pastors teach that sin and death came into creation at the fall and was not present from the beginning. I will be answering these questions from the Hebrew text and explain the only possible interpretation for these answers from the Hebrew. Let us look at the verses in question and see what the Hebrew has to say.

וּמֵעֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע–לֹא תֹאכַל, מִמֶּנּוּ:  כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ
מִמֶּנּוּ–מוֹת תָּמוּת

This passage in the Hebrew scripture is Bereshit (Genesis) 2:17. It says in the English translations,

“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'”

So Elohim tells the man that if he eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil then he will surely die, “mot tamut” in Hebrew. This phrase, “you will surely die” in Hebrew expresses in time and not an immediate death or a sudden death. In other words, adam would eventually die if he ate from that tree. But how? Before we answer that question lets see what the serpent told the woman at that same tree.

וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה, אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ:  מִפְּרִי עֵץ-הַגָּן, נֹאכֵל וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ-הַגָּן–אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ,
וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ:  פֶּן-תְּמֻתוּן

“And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Bereshit 3:2-3)

First we must see that the woman got it wrong according to the Hebrew text. The woman said, “you will die”, temutun in Hebrew. This means immediate and sudden death. Elohim told adam that he would, “mot tamut”, in time die and not a sudden or immediate death. The woman did not fully understand what Elohim had told adam. Now the serpent responds with,

וַיֹּאמֶר הַנָּחָשׁ, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה:  לֹא-מוֹת, תְּמֻתוּן כִּי, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים, כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ, וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם;
וִהְיִיתֶם, כֵּאלֹהִים, יֹדְעֵי, טוֹב וָרָע

“And the serpent said unto the woman: ‘Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.’ “ (Bereshit 3:4-5)

The serpent corrected the woman and told her that she will not suddenly or immediately die, “Lo mot temutun”, as she was thinking. The serpent did tell her the truth that if she ate from the tree of knowledge then her eyes will be open and she would be like Elohim, knowing good and evil. The serpent deceived the woman with the truth of Elohim. But what happened next is very interesting and always overlooked in the text. When the man took the from the woman and ate Elohim kicked them out of the garden and did something very interesting to keep them from going back in.

“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.’ Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden the
cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life.”
(Bereshit 3:22-24)

Elohim placed the cherubim at the east of the garden to keep them from eating from the tree of life. The tree of life was the source of life from the beginning to keep them from dying. Without the taking from the tree of life they would have died long ago and now because they sinned against Elohim they were removed from the garden and forbidden to eat from the tree of life again. In doing so they would now die in time. Death was always present with man but the tree of life kept death away from man. If this was not so then why did Elohim block the east entrance where the tree of life was? Why did he kick them out and put the cherubim there? It was to keep them from eating from the tree of life and living even though they sinned against Him. The Hebrew and the context as a whole could not be more clear. The Hebrew understanding and grammar cannot be challenged.

Yeshua speaks of the tree of life in the book of Revelation and says plainly,

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14)

How? “With the blood of the lamb” (Rev. 7:14), that is, through the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah, so that their robes are “white”

Published by The Jewish Institute.com, written by Al Garza PhD

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