Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever -“ Genesis 3:22 NASB
Knowing – What does it mean to know good and evil as God knows good and evil? That is apparently the threat involved in God’s concern. To be like “one of us” somehow involves this kind of knowing. Why is this any threat at all? Isn’t God the Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent Ruler of all creation? Why would a puny man knowing good and evil make one molehill of difference to God?
The question is even more complicated by the fact that the verb here is yada’, the completely common verb for “to know.” Occurring 960 times in the Tanakh, it covers nearly every kind of knowledge associated with sensory data. It is the way human beings are in the world, before or after the Fall. We might have expected some other specialized verb here that would distinguish this particular kind of knowing from all the other common ways we gather information. But, no, the word is the same. So what makes this such a threat? What makes this “knowing” like “one of Us”?
Ellul provides the answer. To know as God knows is not just gathering facts or forming principles. “To be like God is to be able to declare that this is good and that is bad. This is what Adam and Eve acquired, and this was the cause of the break, for there is absolutely nothing to guarantee that our declaration will correspond to God’s. Thus to establish morality is necessarily to do wrong. This does not mean that a mere suppression of morality (current, banal, social, etc.) will restore the good. God himself frees us from morality and places us in the only true ethical situation, that of personal choice, of responsibility, of the invention and imagination that we must exercise if we are to find the concrete form of obedience to our Father. Thus all morality is annulled. The Old Testament commandments and Paul’s admonitions are not in any sense morality. On the one side they are the frontier between what brings life and what brings death, on the other side they are examples, metaphors, analogies, or parables that incite us to invention.”
In other words, to know “like one of Us” is to determine for myself what is good and what isn’t. But this is God’s exclusive prerogative. It is never Man’s place to determine, to decide, to choose what is good and what is evil. That action, in any form, is sin because it asserts the independent moral judgment of Man.
When I was a teenager, I lived in a small community in Michigan. The church that I attended enforced a morality that included no dancing. They taught that dancing was a sin. Were they determining a morality independently of God? How many other examples can you think of where the religious community has “known good and evil” like “one of Us”? There is but one code of conduct and it is not ours to change as we please. You might laugh over the “no dancing” rule, but then what do you do about Sabbath? The “Lord’s Supper”? Christmas? Easter? Circumcision? The Shema? The marriage ceremony? Who “knows” what is good and evil now? You? The Church? Or “Us”?
Topical Index: know, yada’, good and evil, Genesis 3:22
 Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, p. 15.