Did God give the command not to eat from the tree only to Adam?

Q. Did God give the information about not eating of the tree’s fruit to just Adam, or was it for Adam and Eve? Or did Adam give the information to Eve after God created her?

As I read the narrative in Genesis, it seems pretty clear that God gave the command just to Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that Adam passed this command along to Eve.

Specifically, it was only after God told Adam not to eat from this tree that God then said to himself, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him,” and God created Eve. There is no subsequent record of God repeating the command to her. But when the serpent asks her what God said about this tree, she doesn’t respond, “This is the first I’ve heard anything about that.” She knows that they’re not supposed to eat from it. We can only infer that Adam told her this.

Significantly, it appears that Adam actually added something to what God said. God only told Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But Eve tells the serpent that God said, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it.” This is admittedly speculative, but we may infer that Adam was so concerned about the consequences of disobeying God that he figured, We better not even touch the fruit, and so that’s what he told Eve.

Later in the Bible there are warnings not to add anything to what God commands, and we can understand why. God gives us the grace to obey all of his commands so that they are not burdensome. But anyone who tries to require people to do more than God commands is asking them to do something they aren’t being given the grace for. Then it’s only too easy for someone else to come along and persuade them that they don’t have to do that. This was actually the serpent’s strategy—to persuade Eve that God had asked too much of her and that she didn’t need to obey. He just had a different version of too much,” initially. He asked whether God had really said, You must not eat from any tree in the garden.” Eve knew that God hadn’t said this, but she didn’t realize that He hadn’t actually said that they couldn’t even touch the fruit. And this gave the serpent something that could legitimately be contradicted, with tragic results.

So one lesson we can take from the story is that those who have the responsibility to communicate God’s commands to others need to be careful not to add anything to them. We may have a good motive, to keep people as far as possible from disobedience. But God’s grace can keep willing hearts obedient without that kind of assistance.


Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

6 thoughts on “Did God give the command not to eat from the tree only to Adam?”

    1. It is possible that it was Eve who added to the command, but it seems she had the impression that God had said not to touch the fruit, and so it may be more likely that Adam added that part when he passed the command along to Eve. Either way, as you say, one of them became the first religionist.

  1. According to what is written in the Bible especially in the first chapters of Genesis, reading chapter 1 from verse 27 to verse 29, here God is talking to two people. In this conversation men has not fallen from the grace. chapter 2 verse 17 they were commanded not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. verse 25 they were two in the garden, staying together naked. i understand and believe they were two. i thank you and be blessed

    1. The first account seems to quote God’s instructions to the human pair as a kind of general summary: “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” The second account seems to back up and relate the creation of the man and woman in more detail. In that second account we see that God gave the command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to the man before the woman was created.

  2. If you read the serpent says to Eve, “ Did God say to YOU that you will die”… God did not say to Eve, He said to Adam… The evil one uses the smallest details to manipulate us

    1. While I agree with your overall point, I should observe that when the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” the word “You” is plural. That means it applies to both Adam and Eve. In other words, the question was, “Did God really say that the two of you are not to eat from any tree in the garden”? Nevertheless you are right that the evil one tries to use the smallest details to manipulate us. God did say that there was one tree they were not supposed to eat from. The serpent tried to take that and make it a general condition that suggested God wanted something bad, not something good, for Eve and Adam.

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