When You Eat From it You Shall Surely Die

photo by Sabrina Mesk

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

And the LORD G-d commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'”

What does it mean that ‘you shall surely die’?


Genesis 2:16-17 is probably one of the most popular Bible verses in the Christian community. It states the only “you shall not” commandment until ‘The Fall of Man’ in chapter 3. Which is then followed by dozens if not hundreds of commandments. Sigh… that’s way too many, so let’s just focus on Genesis 2:16-17.

Although being 2 verses long, you could ask a myriad of questions:

  • What is this tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
  • Why did G-d create this tree?
  • Why does eating from this tree lead to death?
  • Is death caused by the consumption of this tree or by the disobedience of G-d’s commandment?
  • Did G-d give this commandment to Eve? (according to Genesis 2, Eve was created after the commandment was given to Adam)
  • Did Adam know what death was?
  • Is it right to not eat from the tree? Is it wrong to eat from the tree? Assuming there is right and wrong, did Adam know what’s right from wrong?
  • What does it mean that ‘you shall surely die’?

All these are good questions, but today I will be focusing on the last one. What does it mean that ‘you shall surely die’? This question is probably the most important because in a sense it also asks what life is. Not what life is according to you nor anyone else, but what life is according to the G-d who designed it.

Also, “how one interprets it sets the tone of one’s view of divine judgment in the remainder of Scripture” ~ Stephen Bauer, Ph.D


  • Primer: Genesis Chapter 1 Summary
  • Literal Translation: Dying You Shall Die
  • What is the You That Dies?
  • What is Death?
  • Okay, So We All Eventually Die, Now What?
  • Summary

Primer: Genesis Chapter 1 Summary

The commandment was given in chapter 2. But in order to understand that commandment, it would be best to go over chapter 1. Both of these chapters describes creation from 2 different perspectives:

  • chapter 1 tells the creation story as 6 separate days plus the sabbath (rest) day
  • chapter 2 tells the creation story from the perspective revolving mankind

Now let’s go over an outline of chapter 1 (reading the chapter wouldn’t hurt too!):

  • In the beginning, there was not nothing but there was darkness and no life
  • On the first day, G-d decides to bring light and life into existence
  • On each day, for the first 6 days, the following things happened:
    • G-d spoke
    • a piece of creation was added to the greater whole
    • G-d saw that it was good
  • On the 6th day (it’s a bit special):
    • G-d spoke
    • mankind was created in His image
    • G-d saw all that he had made, and it was not just good but very good
    • all of creation is complete and nothing is missing (picture 6 slices of a circle sealed together to form a perfect whole circle)
6 Days of Creation

If there is one thing you should get out from chapter 1 it is this:

G-d’s voice brought life into existence. And because G-d saw that it was good, we too can see its goodness

SIDE NOTE 1: You too can speak and bring lively conversations onto the table. Your voice is a powerful form of expression if not the de facto standard for communication. It brings joy and it brings laughter. It brings people together. It is the tool used to form and maintain relationships.

SIDE NOTE 2: You are told to speak the Word to all people (i.e. The Great Commission) because it brings eternal life. Your voice is a gift from G-d, so use it not for yourself but for what lasts for eternity. Remember, you are the salt and the light of this world.

Literal Translation: Dying You Shall Die

Now that we got Genesis 1 out of the way, let’s breakdown Genesis 2:17.

for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die

Sounds like

The Hebrew text “you shall surely die” is an idiomatic construction that literally translates to “dying you shall die.”


dying you shall die


What is the You That Dies?

TODO – okay okay so we know are dying and dying until we die. but what exactly dies?

We all know the body dies. But how about the spirit? Can that also die? What does it mean for the spirit to die anyways?

Most Christians believe in the body/spirit. I’m broad-stroking here but that’s what I experience here in Texas.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being

Genesis 2:7


What is Death?

What is death? What is Life?

Or actually what isn’t life? The Bible actually have something to say about the last question.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” ~ Jesus

Luke 12:15 NIV


“work, do something useful with your own hands, that you may have something to share with those in need”

Ephesians 4:28b

In life we work, but work is not life. We work so that we may share with those in need. We share so that we may form relationships. Relationships is life.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes” ~ Jesus

Matthew 6:25 NIV

TODO – What a contradiction to science, specifically Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Okay, So We All Eventually Die, Now What?


like all relations broken when mankind sinned, these relationships can be restored. Restored by G-d and only G-d. insert quote on “with man, it is impossible with G-d all things are possible”

I am the bread of life, I am real food and real drink ~ John 6

Ephesians 5, “speak to build others up” just as G-d spoke during creation and built everything we see today.



Is it not strange that when we want to find the meaning of a word we look it up in a dictionary, but when we want to find the meaning of life we find it in the Word

the question is not whether you are eating but what you are eating

for each section bold one point

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