“From every tree of the garden you may surely eat but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not eat, . . .” Genesis 2:17
Surely Eat – “What’s for lunch?” “Fruit salad.” “Oh, great! That’s all we ever have. Fruit salad, fruit salad, fruit salad! I’m telling you, Eve, sometimes I wonder why God put us here. There’s just no variety.”
Was the commandment given to Adam really about eating? Think about it. Does that really make any sense? Why would God put so much emphasis on an activity that is essential for life itself? Adam has to eat. That’s patently obvious. And whether he eats from this tree or that tree really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, does it? If he is permitted to eat from any of the trees except one particular one, then why make a big deal about eating? That’s what’s happening in this particular Hebrew word arrangement. You see, the text says achol tochel. It’s really the word achal used twice. It’s as if God repeated Himself in order to underline the idea. “Adam, I don’t want you to just eat to live. You can really feast on whatever is here in the garden. Let your eating be a joyous consumption, a celebration of enjoyment. Go for it!”
Do you suppose God was encouraging Adam’s gluttony? I doubt it. Was it just about fruit salad? I don’t think so. We need to examine the Hebrew verb achal in order to see something beneath the surface. Let’s start with the pictograph. Aleph-Kaf-Lamed paints the picture of “the strength to control what is allowed.” In other words, this verb for consumption already contains the concept of control. It isn’t eating until I am stuffed. It’s eating for enjoyment and delight. This is not “all you can eat” night. This is gourmet tasting. The act of consuming acknowledges our responsibility to control what God allows. We can feast because He gives us permission, but we are still responsible for how we consume.
This picture changes a few things. First, achal is no longer just about food. Did you think this story was about apples, pears, peaches and plums? No, it’s about everything God gives in His place of delight. Remember, ‘eden is God’s pleasure palace. He puts ha’adam in the place dedicated to everything delightful because He wants the earth-creature (Adam) to experience the doorway to life (the pictograph of ‘eden). So, food for sustenance is only a tiny sliver of all the delightful things God has given. Start thinking of Eden as the place of endless wonder, joy, excitement, pleasure and celebration and you will begin to understand the emphasis on achal. Feast on life in the place dedicated to delight.
Here’s the best part. Eden is located where God permits pleasure. Eden marks the spot wherever God puts the earth-creature in circumstances that permit delighting in His gifts. Achal is about consumption, not about eating food. And what is it that we may consume with God’s delight? Well, start your list. How about consuming the beauty of morning skies, the wonder of bird songs, the smell of freshly cut grass, the delicious coolness of a mountain stream, the delight in the smile of a child, the exquisite tenderness in a lover’s kiss, the joy of community fellowship, the mystery of God’s presence. Did you think Eden was paradise lost? Think again. And surely eat whatever God allows.
Topical Index: eat, feast, achal, pleasure, ‘eden, Genesis 2:17